KOF XIV sports a fighting engine that is pretty close to that of KOF XIII’s, with some changes of course. Each character has a myriad of Command Moves, Special Moves, Super Special Moves and one Climax Special Move. Special Moves are as they imply, they are your fancy attacks outside of everyday punches and kicks. Performing these Special Moves, connecting with attacks, or taking damage fills up your super bar. Super bars can fill up completely, stocking up to 3 bars for your first fighter, up to 4 for your second, and 5 for your last remaining fighter. This increasing of “Super” stocks has been common in KOF games, giving the team on their last legs a chance to bounce back.
A Super Special Move uses up one full super bar. MAX Super Special Moves are activated when the player inputs the commands for a Super Special Move while either using both of the Punch or both of the Kick buttons. These moves are stronger and flashier versions of Super Special Moves that eat up 2 full super bars. The biggest guns of every fighter comes in the form of Climax Super Moves, which deal the most damage that each character can dish out in a single move. These use up 3 full super bars and lead to some fancy cinematics unique for each character.
As you might expect, there are plenty of cancel mechanisms in play in KOF XIV where moves can be canceled (or “linked”) to moves higher in the move list tier. More specifically…
- Special Moves can cancel into Super Special Moves
- Super Special Moves can cancel into MAX Super Special Moves (as long as it’s a different Super Special Move)
- Super Special Moves and MAX Super Special Moves can cancel into Climax Special Moves
All of the above cancels require that the fighter has enough full super bar stocks available to fuel the Special Move being canceled into. That’s where the last fighter on your team can really flourish, having 5 possible super bar stocks. If you learn the right set of cancels and time them well, you are well on your way to make one costly yet devastating combo that deals serious damage. A fighter going up against the last person of their opponent’s team will have to be extra careful to not be caught in a tide-turning combo.
To help you deal that extra damage, a common KOF trope in the form of MAX Mode is also available. Simultaneously pressing Light Kick and Heavy Punch buttons will consume one full super bar to put your fighter into MAX Mode. While in MAX Mode, a timer bar appears, automatically depleting the super bar you used to activate it. While time permits, MAX Mode lets you perform EX Special Moves which are harder-hitting versions of Special Moves and lets you instantly perform a MAX Special Mode if you have a full super bar stock handy. You can also combo into Quick Max Mode, which will allow you to link and cancel your moves together more efficiently and seamlessly.
You can also use up super bar stocks in defensive ways. One example is with Blowbacks, where you use up a stock while blocking to push back an attacking opponent. You can also roll out of blocking to get out of dodge.
Very new to KOF is KOF XIV’s “Rush”. By connecting and landing attacks with the Light Punch button about 5 times in succession, your fighter will automatically perform a combo good for at least 5 hits. The combo of course varies from fighter to fighter. The combo ends with a predetermined connecting Super Special Move if the fighter has a single super stock handy. If not, the combo will connect and end with a Special Move.
KOF XIV’s fighting engine makes subtle changes to the sort of KOF fighting engines seasoned players are used to. It feels natural and standard, while KOF XIV’s Tutorial Mode does a pretty good job to get you over that learning curve. Any fighting game fan will pick up this fighting engine right away. I’d imagine that anyone dipping their feet into KOF for the first time would at least understand the mechanics thanks to the Tutorial Mode, but might may need some time in Training Mode to feel it out. Kudos to the Tutorial Mode explaining the nuisances to the features effectively. It made KOF XIV feel that much more welcoming.
The newly added Rush is an interesting addition to KOF XIV. It’s as easy as mashing a single button over and over as long as your fighter is close enough to land the hits. Rush gives a chance for novice players to do combos and get that sense of accomplishment. Meanwhile, a more experience fighter can use this to expand into other moves. The balance lies in the fact that you have to be especially close you your opponent to pull it off. The fighter who uses the Rush on a blocking opponent should expect to get punished since it leaves you wide open when it’s blocked. Rush is a nice attempt at closing the gap between a novice and a more experienced player.
Overall, the fighting engine is quite solid and enjoyable in King of Fighters XIV. It’s familiar enough for seasoned players to jump right into. Tutorial Mode answers the rudimentary questions the player may have. The game is actually pretty lenient with the controller inputs, allowing Special Moves and beyond to be activated easily enough. Command inputs for the moves are actually easier to get used to than with preceding KOF games. “Full circle” inputs, which were common for many of the grappler characters, were replaced with half circle inputs across the board. This made the somewhat more-elitist characters of old now tons more approachable.