This week has been chalk-full of fighting game news, from Capcom’s continued campaign of announcing new characters for Street Fighter V to the unveiling of The King of Fighters XIV at the Tokyo Game Show. While the former already has the FGC on the edge of its seat, the trailer for the newest entry into the KOF series has players scratching their heads.
Let’s get this out of the way first: the graphics for this trailer are awful. They look like a game for the original Wii, but that’s not necessarily representative of what KoF XIV will look like on release. This has to be footage of early development, yet it begs the question of why SNK Playmore would show it off in its current state to begin with. In the current age of gaming, graphics matter. Companies are trying to convince players to upgrade to the current generation of consoles, and games like Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X are doing a great job in that regard. If SNK was dead set on showing off their franchise mascots, then they could have at least given this trailer the same kind of treatment that their KoF-themed pachinko machines received.
Despite its problems, the reveal of The King of Fighters XIV means a lot to the fighting game community as a whole. Here are five reasons to be excited about KoF XIV, even if the trailer left you disappointed.
5. The King is Back, Baby!
No matter what you think about KoF XIV, the fact that a new The King of Fighters is being developed means that SNK still believes in its most popular franchise and in fighting games in general. This means a lot for the FGC, especially after SNK’s buyout and addition focus towards pachinko and mobile gaming. A fighting game community without KoF would be a sad one indeed, but its continued existence leaves a wake of possibilities for growth and success for the beloved fighter series. This may be a tipping point for SNK, so I hope that it plays and sells well, but even in a worse case scenario, I’d rather live in a world where KoF XIV sucks than one where KoF stops being developed altogether.
4. The Switch from 2D Sprites to 3D Models
This is already a touchy subject for many KoF fans in the FGC, but the reality is that 2D sprites are very expensive to develop, especially when they’re up to SNK’s high standards of quality. It’s much easier to create a 3D model and animate it, than create thousands of frames of animation for a cast of fighting game characters. If KoF XIV sells really well, then maybe we can get another classic sprite-based KoF, but I’d rather see SNK delve back into the third dimension than not have a King of Fighters game at all.
Gorgeous 3D models are also a great way to bring in new players. I know from personal experience that most non-fighting gamers are turned of by 2D sprites, despite the artistry and work that goes into making them. “This looks really pixel-y” they’ll say. Trying to convince the mass market that sprite art is amazing is going to be a lot harder than giving them a comfortable starting point for entry into the series. It’d also be much harder to convince players to buy a 2D sprite-based fighter on the Playstation 4, because it will inevitably be compared to other fighters in terms of graphical fidelity.
3. A Chance for New Characters
Fighting games are all about their characters. Games like Street Fighter are often compared to Chess, but even the most analytical player will admit that their initial interest in fighting games was due to the characters’ personalities and design. Everyone already loves Ryo, Iori and Terry Bogard, but KoF XIV brings with it the potential for an all new roster of characters that could be loved just as much.
2. A Chance for Old Characters
The most exciting promise of a new King of Fighters is that old fan favorites will return to fight. For those that don’t know, KoF is SNK’s dream roster fighting game, meaning that they combine the rosters of their most popular fighting games under one roof to duke it out. A new KoF could potentially include anyone from SNK’s extensive game collection, despite the fact that only specific entries in the series allow for non-canonical match-ups. There’s always a chance that KoF XIV will include many of the fan-favorite characters left out by previous installments.
1. The Road to CvS3
I know this may seem backwards, because it isn’t specifically about KoF XIV, but we know so little about the game that I think I can be excused in my fanboy-ish behavior for a moment. Rather than speculate about possible gameplay mechanics or how 3D will change the game, I’d rather talk about how a new KoF may be foreshadowing the potential for a new entry into the Capcom vs SNK series. I understand that Capcom’s “Versus” series has been through the wringer, with Disney failing to renew contacts after buying Marvel comics and the Street Fighter X Tekken series failing like a wet banana rocket ship, but I would love to see them rekindle their relationship with SNK. If KoF XIV puts the company back on the map, maybe Capcom would be more willing to share their intellectual properties for one last hurrah. One can only dream.