The King Of Fighters XIV: OST Review
Review by Neil Mc Allister
Publisher: Atlus U.S
Hideki "sha-v" Asanaka, ZOE, Minori Sasaki, Mayuko Hino, Naoki Kita, Rio "88" Hashikawa, Shinsekai Gakkyoku Zatsugidan, Steven McNair
The classic sleeper hit series of fighting games, King Of Fighters marked it’s return with a release with it’s fourteenth (yes, fourteenth) instalment. While being the first of the main series to use 3D graphics, KOF XIV holds on to it’s traditions as it’s OST is concerned. SNK has not only been a long time team of game developers, but excellent musicians as well.
Featuring 16 teams comprising of three characters per team, each team featured in every KOF game has had a musical theme to accompany them or at least one of the individual characters. A lot of the mainstay teams have had specific genres associated with them, and it’s no different in KOF XIV.
The protagonist team, Team Japan, continues it’s trend of fast-paced heavy rock in “Yappari
ESAKA”, with various synth stocks to provide the main melodies. It also goes into an interesting breakdown, where the guitars drop out for a brief solo. The usual rival team, Team Yagami, keeps the tradition of sax-fuelled funk rock in “Saxophone Under The Moon”. The harmonies between alto and tenor sax are a delight, and it’s effortlessly groovy.
Team Korea’s theme, “Belief” has a fast rock beat with dual harmony guitars melodies and an aquatic sound synth-arpeggio, before breaking down into a luscious lead guitar solo and then going full throttle with dual harmony guitars again. The oddly named “WA” is also equally odd musically for the Villain’s Team. It’s a weird blend of industrial, doom and nu-metal. It laters goes into trippy territory with a fuzzy synth melody accompanied by a relaxed backbeat, and then layers lots of obscure percussions instruments in it’s bridge before it’s elongated guitar solo.
“Departure from Southtown” is the main theme of the Fatal Fury team, having an extremely Guns N’ Roses vibe; filled to brim with distorted guitar licks and bottleneck slide playing. The oddly named “Soy Sauce for Koyadofu” is the theme of the Southtown Team, a blend of mid-tempo heavy rock, with various ethnic Japanese instruments. The breakdown in particular is quite cool, featuring some traditional chanting.
The Art Of Fighting Team’s theme “Tiger & Dragon” has an interesting mix of instrumentation; virtuosic acoustic guitar playing, 80’s synth playing and bongo beats. I would consider this one of the lesser themes in the OST since he doesn’t evolve much as a piece. “Survivors Under The Sky” on the other hand, is one my favourites, a fast-paced heavy rock anthem that doesn’t lose it’s energy, especially in it’s two part guitar harmony chorus.
The Psycho Solider’s theme “Tachi Bou Ke” goes full-out J-Pop, awash with synthesised female vocals in Japanese, with some Chinese-style pentatonic arpeggios in the background. It later goes into a brief instrumental section, sounding very disco tech, and then going into a typical J-Pop chorus. This track probably will only be genuinely enjoyed by weeaboos. “Magical Sky”, The Another World Team’s musical theme is sort of in the same vein, albeit entirely instrumental this time. Using a very quirky instrumentation (from ska guitar to dance to sitars). It’s final section is admittedly well thought and quite epic in it’s own, very anime-esque way.
The Women Fighter’s Team once again go into a speedy and airy jazz style piece in “Splendid Soldier”. Violins provide the main melody, backed by the trumpets, before the keys take the melody briefly to give back to the violins, keeping a frenetic pace of role-swapping. The K’ Team, being a team comprised of cyborgs and androids, have a very futuristic sound to their theme in “KD-SR”. A synth arpeggio ostianto is the main backbone to the piece, with a punchy bass line and electronic drumbeat to give some grit to the rest of the instrumentation, which is awash with Synths.
With all those veteran teams though, KOF XIV introduces a lot of newcomer teams. The first of which is Team China, and their theme “Inheritance” sounds as one would might expect. Lots of airy pentatonic melodies, provided by violins and synths against a relaxed backbeat of more traditional Chinese instruments. The South America team, naturally blend in summer rave and samba in “COCO”. With a keyboard vamp providing the main backbone of the piece, a lot changes in instrumentation in occur frequently, from funk guitar to synth bass to going all out on Samba with drums and whistles.
Team Mexico have a frantically paced jazz piece with a little of D n’ B mixed in, in “Sky Blue”.
Against a lightning fast bongo beat, the lead trumpet shrieks before the eventual main melody, pairing with a smooth sax. The Official Invitation team have the most classically-styled piece in “Venator Ballare”. Starting off in 4/4, the piece has Latin Opera vocals amongst a large accompaniment of string, brass, and percussion instruments. It goes at a faster pace but also into more waltz territory (ie. 3/4), the string section providing the main melody. There is a breakdown, with the vocals and violins constantly changing role of providing the main melody, before a tempo increase section where both provide the main melody.
Much like the boss himself, Antonov’s theme is old-fashioned and testosterone-fuelled, starting off as a shuffle rhythm hard rock tune, with Hammond organ and wah-wah guitar solos. It later goes into a much more grand atmosphere, filled with a 1980s action-movie style of orchestration of horns, timapani, male choirs etc, so cheesy yet so epic. The final boss Verse’s theme is much more foreboding, filled with exotic chimes and drums, complemented by tribal male vocals and a distorted guitar riff. It begins with mostly letting the silence of the room build the atmosphere, before all the instrumentations builds up toward’s it’s climax.
Overall, there is a phenomenal amount of diversity in KOF XIV’s soundtrack as there is in it’s
character cast. Much likely as someone will find a character or several, that they like, the
soundtrack will have something for anyone to put in a playlist.
As of yet the full OST has not been released but due to the popularity of the game it looks likely to happen in the near future.