After five long years, SNK released another King of Fighters. While King of Fighters 14 isn’t as pretty as past iterations, it’s still a lightning-fast endeavor.
Picking up a new fighting game is difficult, but spending several hours in training mode will help you understand the basics so you can stop mashing buttons and start stringing combos together. In this guide, we’ll show everyone from beginners to veterans how to win.
King of Fighters 14 is a fighting game, so the first thing you need to know is how to fight.
While it might not have a comprehensive tutorial, King of Fighters 14 benefits from a simple four-button layout, consisting of a light and heavy punch button (LP, HP) and a light kick and heavy kick button (LK, HK). With these four attacks, you can trigger everything in the game, from command inputs with the directional pad and a single button, to combination button presses that initiate special moves universal to each character.
King of Fighters 14 also features a rush mechanic that lets you explore basic combos by literally mashing the light punch button while attacking an opponent. (I know: I talked about moving away from mashing above, but you can actually use this concept to explore more advanced maneuvers.) For instance, the initial rush can be used as the first in a string of combos, where you follow up that set of attacks with another ability. Try using a rush with your character of choice in training, and identify the exact moment when it either ends, or it sends your enemy careening away.
That’s right about when you want to cancel (segue into) another move, whether it’s a standard command attack (like an uppercut) or a super (a more powerful ability that costs meter, which we’ll get to in a moment). Experts usually study frames to be completely precise, but with enough practice you can ingrain that timing into your muscle memory.
Your super meter
Finally, your super meter, denoted by numerical values from one to five (known as MAX) impacts special advanced mechanics (that we’ll talk about more in detail below), supers (which take one or two meter charges), and climax moves (hyper-charged supers that take three meters). Your meter will charge when attacking and taking damage, so you’ll always have the chance to experiment with it in any given match. As a note when playing three-on-three battles, your meter will carry over to the next character after one is taken out.
The second thing you need to know about in a fighting game is defending yourself against an opponent’s attacks. In this section, we’ll teach you all about defense in King of Fighters 14.
Your defensive options are many, but a good place to start is understanding that there are multiple jumps in King of Fighters 14. It sounds strange I know, but understanding how all of these work is crucial to countering or avoiding enemy attacks.
Take the hop, which is initiated by merely tapping the direction pad up momentarily. It’s a small leap that can clear many abilities (like Iori’s ground-based fireball) and quickly put you in a place to launch your own attacks. If you were to use a bigger leap, you’d more easily clear a projectile, but you’d take longer to recover from it, and your window of opportunity will be lost.
Dashing, both forward and backward, is another great move to laterally escape certain moves and still get back into the action instantly.
It’s an especially useful tactic against grapplers, who have a limited range to work with. Back-dashing out of range of a command grab and counter-attacking can help you chip away at their (usually) large lifepools.
Offense as defense
As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. That’s especially true in games like King of Fighters 14, which has a guard crush mechanic.
In short, by constantly hammering on an opponent who is blocking, you’ll chip away at a guard crush meter near their lifebar, which can eventually break" leaving them momentarily vulnerable. (You can also enable that state by beating down an opponent mercilessly without reprisal to dizzy them).
Identify and exploit
Your job during each match is to identify what type of player your opponent is and exploit that weakness. If you notice them turtling" (guarding often), or "zoning" (using projectiles or other means to keep you away from them) be more aggressive.
Likewise, if you need to take a breather and find yourself in trouble or in a corner, you can use the blow back move (HP, HK) to push your enemy away. Just be sure you have a plan after, whether it’s using a large leap (press down, then up) to get away or some other command move method specific to your character.
There are many, many esoteric terms in the fighting game community, but here are a few concepts that can help you with King of Fighters 14.
- Anti-air. A strike that either deters or otherwise counters an aerial strike. A perfect example is Terry Bogard’s Rising Tackle. By holding the down direction and then pressing up and a punch button, Terry will rise directly up to attack his foe. In many cases, this move has priority (it hits first or hits instead of an enemy attack), making it a great anti-air move that can shut down a leaping combatant.
- Cross-Up. This is one of the most useful skills you can learn with a character, and likely one of the first advanced tactics you’ll start picking up on. The term refers to using a move that will trick or confuse your opponent directionally, so that they block incorrectly and open themselves up to either a damaging normal attack or the start of a combo. Look for unconventional moves that strike backward while moving forward, many of which can be triggered by a directional press and a heavy attack while in the air.
- Normals. When newcomers play fighting games, they are generally wowed by command moves, like the classic hadouken (fireball) and shoryuken (uppercut) from Street Fighter. But what most people don’t tell you is that regular attacks (with LP, HP, LK, HK), usually in tandem with just one cardinal direction, can actually operate similarly to a command attack. Try forward + HP or down + HK out on most characters, and you’ll find some powerful new tools for your arsenal.
- OTG. Also known as "off the ground," this is an opportunity to combo a player that you’ve sent flying with another previous move.
- Punish. As one of the most important concepts in any level of play, learn how to punish and you’ll go far. While the term literally refers to punishing an enemy for missing or whiffing an attack (usually something that has a high recovery time and leaves them open), it’s hard to actually pull off consistently. Punishes can involve combos, but in low-level play they usually just involve supers (or the more powerful climax version for at least three levels of meter). Some characters have what’s called a full screen punish, where they can fly across the arena to instantly meet their opponent. A perfect opportunity to use this is when someone is in the middle of missing an uppercut or command move. In some cases (like Kukri’s Nessa Goku Totsuha super) you can actually fly over a ground projectile and instantly punish someone. Practice with the tools your character has and learn how to punish with each of your supers.
- The Lab. This is what pros call training, and you’re going to be doing a lot of it. Spend time with your favorite fighter in training against a dummy CPU.
Once you’ve picked up the basics it’s time to graduate to higher level play.
Start mixing in some advanced mechanics, like the emergency evasion, triggered by LP and LK (which is the same button combination for triggering a recovery, putting you back on your feet if pressed right before you hit the ground). While evasions have a multitude of uses, you’re going to want to practice your timing by dodging projectiles with it first. Once you’ve gotten that under control you can start moving about the arena without taking guard damage and start controlling low-level players who merely spam fireballs or other zone-centric commands, punishing them accordingly.
Next up is learning Max Mode. If you’ve ever played Street Fighter 4 (or Street Fighter 5, for that matter) you’ll remember its signature EX moves. For the uninitiated, an EX ability is basically just a super-changed command attack, like a more powerful fireball that may have extra hits, damage and priority over other weaker fireballs. But in King of Fighters 14, you’ll have to enter Max Mode first by pressing both LK and HP, kicking off a short window in which you’re allowed to use it. You can also cancel into Max Mode by attacking first, then pressing LK and HP while you’re in the middle of an assault.
Finally, you can use your EX gauge to initiate EX supers too with the same "press both heavy attacks" setup, which will expend two super meters to go straight into a more powerful attack.
Who’s the best starter character?
Everyone learns how to play fighting games differently and at their own pace, but after nearly 30 years of experience in the genre, there is one commonly accepted method: You learn one character first.
In Street Fighter, Ryu or Ken (also known as Shotokans, or Shotos) are great starters because you can build off of their basic kits (movesets) that loosely apply to most of the core cast. Ultimately, if you want to stay competitive, it’s important that you play every character in the game so you can learn their movesets, and thus, what they’re capable of. But at an absolute minimum, mastering one character will help you start to win games. Climb up a small hill before you start climbing a mountain.
Unfortunately, this Shotokan intro crash course doesn’t really apply here. King of Fighters 14 is different, which I’m sure isn’t something you want to hear with a roster of over 50 characters. There are anomalies, such as Kyo, who’s easy to grasp at first due to the similarities between some of his moves and the aforementioned Shotos. The same goes for Terry, who has a wide toolkit available (with half-screen punishes and plenty of anti-air), but is tough to fully master.
Still, I would posit that this series is one of the easiest fighters to learn in the history of the series, a principle that also applies to King of Fighters 14. King only has three command abilities in this game, which are all tied to the two kick buttons — a projectile (Venom Strike), a gap-closer (Tornado Kick), and an anti-air move (Trap Shot). She has a tool for just about every situation, and all you need to do is memorize three abilities to start with (five if you count the two supers and one climax, the latter of which is a deadly mid-screen punish).
Master all of the core principles, then become laser-focused on a character. Play the tutorial, then practice your combos in training mode, then against AI, then online in unranked play. Write down each command move on paper until you memorized them. After you’ve dedicated a considerable amount of time to the game and still aren’t cutting it, move on to another character. After all, you have plenty of choices.