One upcoming game that I’ve been finding myself more and more interested in is SNK Playmore’s King of Fighters XIV. Then again, increased interest is only natural considering how much their initial trailer was a laughing stock and how much better every subsequent trailer has been in comparison. Seriously, that was a bad, bad first impression.
When it started in 1994, King of Fighters used to be an annual series. The fighting game version of Madden. It helped that they kept the same mid-90s graphical style for years, all the way into 2005. Then they tried to redo the animation style from the ground up, which looked beautiful, but King of Fighters XII was basically a starter pack and it took a while for them to build up a respectably-sized roster for King of Fighters XIII in 2010.
Now they’re going with CGI characters, much like the side series King of Fighters: Maximum Impact. Regardless of the more modern appearance (relatively more modern, that is), footage has shown that it plays just like the classic games and they’ve promised a massive roster of 50 fighters.
What’s interesting in all of this is that there’s a leaked list of the roster that’s been around the internet for months. No big deal, since anyone with “an uncle who works at Nintendo” can make stuff up. It’s just that every single piece of news since then has supported it. Not only the 20+ confirmed characters, but even specifics like how Chang Koehan has gone back to being dressed as a prisoner as opposed to the way he’s been dressed for the past 20 years.
Then this leaked image found its way online.
Outside of what looks like a placeholder graphic in the Women Fighters Team, this looks pretty legit and it’s widely accepted as the real deal. It also matches up perfectly with the other leaked list.
Keep in mind, none of this is official. Likely? Yes. Very, very likely. 99.99% likely. But until SNK Playmore says anything, this still counts as rumors.
So here are our teams.
Japan Team: Kyo Kusanagi, Benimaru Nikaido, Goro Daimon
Even without Goro officially announced, this one’s a no-brainer. These guys have been the staple team since 1994, though with a couple variations here and there. It wouldn’t be King of Fighters without them. Sorry to hear that Kyo’s student Shingo won’t be making the leap.
Art of Fighting Team: Ryo Sakazaki, Robert Garcia, Yuri Sakazaki
Another staple, the Kyokugen Karate students have been in every installment, though occasionally with Ryo’s insane father Takuma stepping in as a replacement. Of the trio, the only one we’ve been able to see in action so far is Robert and hew newfound mustache.
Only now do I notice that it’s been 20 years since the last Art of Fighting game with no sign of any kind of revival whatsoever. God, I am old.
Fatal Fury Team: Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, Joe Higashi
Fatal Fury’s three heroes are, much like the previous two teams, no surprise whatsoever. Terry and Andy have footage to their name while we’re still waiting on Joe. The real sting comes from the lack of Blue Mary and Rock Howard. Hopefully they’ll show up as DLC down the line.
South America Team: Three newcomers
Thing about the leaked list is that it didn’t give the names of the new characters. Instead, it just labeled some of them by description. While we don’t know who these three are just yet, they’re described as “Pretty Latin Girl,” “Brazilian Ninja,” and “Handicap Boxer.” I’m not sure if that means the boxer will be missing a limb or in a wheelchair, but either way should be fun.
Official Invitation Team: Sylvie Paula Paula, and two other newcomers
Originally referred to as “Teenage Girl Singer with Electric Element,” Sylvie appears in the new trailer. She’s…something. The other two are “Mysterious Hooded Man” and “Acting Mask Girl.” Yep, that’s a girl, apparently.
Coincidentally, the leaked list referred to them as the “Palace Wan Team.”
Another World Team: Nakoruru, Mui Mui, Love Heart
This is another team of new characters, but only new to King of Fighters. Nakoruru is from the Samurai Shodown series and while having a character from another game is usually no problem (after all, this is essentially a gigantic SNK crossover already), Shodown takes place centuries ago in the age of samurai. Go figure.
Mui Mui hails from the SNK game Dragon Gal while the pirate girl Love Heart is from Sky Love. Those are pachinko/slot games in Japan, so their crossover status will be lost on American players.
K’ Team: K’, Kula Diamond, Maxima
Finally, a trio that’s 100% confirmed. These guys were the heroes of the series from King of Fighters ’99 to King of Fighters ’01 and haven’t left since. Well, outside of King of Fighters XII, but that had only 20 people in it, so whatever.
Ikari Warriors Team: Ralf Jones, Clark Steel, Leona Heidern
Once again, no surprise here. Ralf and Clark are pretty standard and ever since Leona showed up, the three of them have always stuck together. The other Ikari characters Commander Heidern and Whip have never been popular enough to shove any of these three into the background.
Yagami Team: Iori Yagami, Mature, Vice
The antihero to Kyo’s hero, Iori tends to hate the whole team concept and would rather fight on his own. He’s been on a handful of teams and it usually ends with him attacking his partners. This includes his King of Fighters ’96 team with Mature and Vice, where he lost himself to bloodlust and slaughtered them.
Regardless, they were considered the iconic partners for Iori and appeared with him in several non-canon dream match games. Then they returned in King of Fighters XIII as spirits. So yeah, Iori’s hanging out with ghosts now.
Mature is the only one yet to be confirmed.
Mexico Team: Ramon, Angel, King of Dinosaurs
This is when we almost got a curveball. The leaked list states that the third member of the team is Tizoc, the bird-masked Mexican wrestler from Fatal Fury and earlier King of Fighters games. Instead, we got footage of the insane King of Dinosaurs character who wasn’t on the list to begin with.
Thing is, King of Dinosaurs happens to have the same voice actor as Tizoc. He is – and I love this – Tizoc’s heel persona. That wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done that, since Fatal Fury character Raiden unmasked and became the face wrestler Big Bear. Then there’s SNK’s Three Count Bout, which featured several characters who were just different wrestlers fighting with a mask and changing alignment.
Another thing I love here is the inclusion of Angel. Ramon and King of Dinosaur are luchadors. Wrestling is their thing. Angel is a former member of a megalomaniacal villain organization. At the same time, she fits in perfectly because of her inexplicable zest for copying the Rock. I’m talking about mannerisms, spit-in-the-hand punch combo, and even the People’s Elbow.
Kim Team: Kim Kaphwan and two new characters
With all the staple teams staying together as expected, here’s something not-so-expected. Kim Kaphwan always captained his teams throughout the years, but most of the time he teamed up with Chang Koehan and Choi Bounge. They tossed in a couple other characters here and there, and they even replaced the two completely with Raiden and Hwa Jai in the last game, but even then, it’s always come back to Chang and Choi being under Kim’s thumb for eternity.
Now he’s teamed up with his never-before-mentioned master and Kim’s wife. The most we’ve ever seen regarding to Kim’s wife is a brief appearance in Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture. This is the first indication that she’s ever been a practitioner in the martial arts.
As it is right now, Kim is the only one we’ve seen in action.
South Town Team: Geese Howard, Billy Kane, and a new character
Fatal Fury villain Geese Howard is so rad that I honestly wonder why they don’t put him in more King of Fighters games. He’s legitimately one of the coolest villains in video game history. Love that weirdly-named crime boss.
As Geese returns, as does his lovable bodyguard Billy. There’s a new guy rounding out the team and he better be amazing because that spot easily could go to fan-favorite Ryuji Yamazaki.
Psycho Soldier Team: Athena Asamiya, Sie Kensou, Chin Gentsai
Yet another mainstay trio, Athena, Sie, and Chin have been around since the beginning with little variation. The annoying and terrible Bao isn’t there, so I’m good with it. For years, they’ve been building them up as part of this big storyline on the horizon, but nothing’s ever truly come of that yet. Maybe they’ll be important to the story in the next few games. Maybe we’ll see that honor go to the China Team or Official Invitation Team.
Women Fighters Team: King, Mai Shiranui, Alice
Naturally, the female characters get their own team. It’s usually a revolving door of women who didn’t make the cut on their usual teams. This time it’s regular Women Team members King and Mai and sort of newcomer Alice. Alice is the mascot for some SNK pachinko machines and has no real character to her yet other than being a total Terry Bogard fangirl.
Seems like the perfect partner for Mai, who can’t stop obsessing with Andy Bogard.
Villain Team: A new character, Chang Koehan, and Choi Bounge
As I mentioned before, Chang and Choi have always been part of Kim Kaphwan’s team…against their will. The dynamic being that he was a well-meaning slave driver, capturing, training, and abusing them in the name of teaching them to be better people or else. In the first two games (as well as Capcom vs. SNK 2), Chang dressed as a prisoner and Choi in a green shirt. Then in all the other games, they dressed like Kim.
Now they appear to be back to their own tricks, showing up on a non-Kim team for the first time ever. No idea who this new third guy is, but the fact that he’s shown first makes it seem like he’s the leader and not Chang.
Poor Chang. He doesn’t even have the best beard on the team anymore.
China Team: A new character, Tung Fu Rue, and other new character
No word yet on who the guys on each side are, but Tung Fu Rue is Terry and Andy’s elderly master with a tendency to buff up during his attacks like the Hulk. Crazy enough, despite being around since the first Fatal Fury game back in 1991, this is Tung Fu Rue’s very first King of Fighters appearance. As a playable character, at least.
Mid-Boss and Final Boss
Your guess is as good as mine about the bosses. They’re described as a “Russian billionaire” and “non-human species.” All I know is that being an SNK game, they’re both going to be gigantic pains in the ass to fight.
King of Fighters XIV will be released exclusively on the PlayStation 4. It’ll be out sometime this year, though no ballpark on when.
Gavin Jasper wishes they’d bring back Adelheid Bernstein. That guy ruled. Follow Gavin on Twitter!