Certain fighting games have spoiled us when it comes to stories. Their arcade modes can tell lavish tales, sometimes in visual novel form, that allow us unprecedented access to characters. The King of Fighters XIV doesn’t exactly do that. It’s Story Mode doesn’t give you incredible insights into each individual. That doesn’t mean we don’t get glimpses at who people are and what their personalities might be like. Rather, it means we actually have to fight it out to find what we’re looking for.
The King of Fighters XIV’s Story begins with Antonov welcoming people to a new KOF Tournament. We see a huge crowd as he welcomes all the men and women to the ring. Aside from this introductory segment and two ending scenes, there isn’t much exposition. A few videos are attributed to leaders of teams, showing them at an important moment in their storyline. Nakoruru, as an example, catches a glimpse of the otherworldly entity that brought her to the tournament. Aside from these brief asides, it’s completely fixated on the tournament itself.
This means most of The King of Fighters XIV’s flavor comes from the pre-battle conversations. Certain characters will have something to say to one another before a fight. These only come up in the Story mode’s battles, between your active fighter and his or her opponent. Some make sense. Angel and Sylvie Paula Paula are both former members of NESTS. The former recognizes the latter, resulting in a bit of a conversation before the match to establish a motivation for the fight. Andy and Mai are a couple and react as such when they meet. Athena and Mian greet each other as fellow performers, vowing to put on a good show during their fight.
As silly as it may sound, I think I enjoyed the nonsensical conversations more than the serious ones. When Mui Mui and Kensou meet, they talk about food. Dim sum, to be specific. Why Mui Mui and Kensou? I don’t know! That’s what makes it so much fun. Love Heart and Athena talk about love interests. Which probably won’t mean much to us, since we don’t have the Sky Love information necessary to appreciate that Athena and Kensou’s relationship is very similar to Love’s and Earth, a young man part of the Peace Pirate crew. Still, it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
Though really, each character’s moveset is helpful in sussing out elements of a character’s personality too. Sylvie Paula Paula is completely and utterly whimsical, using her electrical abilities to hurt others and help propel herself about the ring and cheering with orchestrated poses after a win. She makes a goofy face in her victory screen. We hear Maxima’s cybernetic parts moving and shifting as he fights, parts arranging and rearranging. The King of Dinosaurs is savage, moving as you’d expect a T-rex would, while still maintaining wrestling moves. His roars and stage presence is impressive, making it clear he’s a strong showman. Both Meitenkun and Chin Gentsai are the epitome of relaxed. They can even appear lackadaisical. Yet, their movements and attacks have a quality that shows their strength and skill, even while seeming accidental. The first few times you’ll see their attacks and stances, you may not notice the artistry and purpose that is evident after playing as the character for a few matches.
The cast of The King of Fighters XIV’s stories aren’t really told in the story mode. It’s more a means of seeing the actual tournament in action. That doesn’t mean we’re totally in the dark about all of these new and returning fighters. People paying attention during the story can learn all sorts of new and old things about the participants, if the timing and party arrangements are right. Between that and everyone’s unique fighting styles, it’s possible to see how unique each character really is.
The King of Fighters XIV will be available on the PlayStation 4 in North America and South America on August 23, 2016. It will arrive in Japan on August 25, 2016 and Europe on August 26, 2016.