If the 2019 Samurai Shodown revival had shown SNK was back, The King of Fighters XV shows they’re here to stay. The game fully realizes the ideas and ambition that KOFXIV laid out, with an accessible but complex fighting system, a wide range of characters to choose from, and legitimately good online.
The single-player offerings are a bit thin but for long-time SNK fans, everything else is more than worth your time.
Becoming the King
The King of Fighters offers a vibrant and slick selection of 39 fighters. The game is a good collection of old-school classic characters like Terry and Kyo and they look great. The models are vibrant and well animated, if any felt KOFXIV’s models looked cheap will be happy with the new costumes we got this time around. Although it is a bit lame that certain fan favorites like Rock and Geese have been relegated to DLC, likely since SNK knows people will want them.
In fact, the game is filled with SNK easter eggs and fan service. From the various endings and intros showing off more of the characters, being able to unlock and collect music tracks from the previous KOF games, and the gorgeous stages that are filled with cameos. There’s even a Metal Slug stage!
The most important thing part of a fighting game, however, is, of course, the fighting, and KOFXV does a great job at being accessible yet hard to master. The inputs for the majority of characters of far easier than previous titles, and each character now has an auto combo that leads into their hyper moves meaning that even those that have never played a fighting game can pull off the more flashy attacks. This does mean KOFXV continues the trend of more footsie-oriented modern fighting games but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The game is still far from simple and provides a lot of options for veteran players to juggle with. Like previous entries, King of Fighters XV sees players duel in 3 on 3 battles but this isn’t a tag system. Whichever order the characters go in, they must stay for the match. This put a lot of pressure on not only finding three fighters that suit you but how well they gel with each other, and what order would be best for them to go in to check your opponent.
You might want to start with a rush down the character to deal more damage and end the first match early but what if your opponent’s first character is a zoner like Athena, and they hit you from afar while preserving most of their HP. These are just some of the questions you’ll have to think about on the character select screen.
Other notable mechanics include the new shatter strike mechanic. This allows you to defend and counter against an oncoming attack at the cost of a power gauge. You also have the max mode that allows you to boost your attack power for a limited amount of time for two or more power gauges. There are even things as small as dodge rolling to avoid project tiles.
This means players are a lot of options to approach a match. Predicting and reacting to your opponent with the right move or counter will be paramount to winning.
The Confusing Saga
The King Fighters tournament is starting once again. Teams of three fighters from around the world join together to determine who will be the King of Fighters.
And that’s kind of all I can say about the story. The game does have a ‘story mode’ which also serves as the game’s arcade mode however the overall plot is barely comprehensible.
Through the arcade-style matches, there are cutscenes meant to present what’s going on; there is an evil entity trying to enter our dimension and this new character named Isla has this fierce rivalry with the main character Shun’ei, even though it’s never explained why, she’s just kind of a brat. In general, the plot was just confusing and clearly not a priority.
I actually found more backstory for each team on the KOFXV official website. It’s cool to read up on characters’ lore but it would be nicer if these were included in the actual game.
That being said, at the end of story mode you get individual endings for each team and these are more entertaining since you get to see more of the characters you’ve actually been playing with interact. They can be pretty funny and show off each character’s personality more.
The story mode is otherwise a fairly standard arcade mode. It does have a neat feature that when you lose, you can choose to reduce your opponent’s HP. Fighting game veterans won’t need it but it can help casual fans if they’re stuck on one particularly annoying enemy.
Practice Makes Perfect
The game has your usual practice and training modes. Training mode will give you a quick rundown of the different kinds of attacks in the game. There is also a mission mode where you can try out different moves and combos with each character.
It’s not as in-depth as say Guilty Gear’s training mode but it still lays out the different mechanics in a way that most people will be able to understand and pull off. It may still take some practice being able to pull the moves off in an actual fight, but that sort of goes for every fighting game.
Taking The Fight Online
The online in The King of Fighters XV is strong, and it’s all thanks to rollback netcode which has been implemented into every version of the game. Thanks to this, the rounds feel buttery smooth even on my somewhat faulty broadband connection.
The game has all the quintessential modes for online with both casual, private, and ranked matches so players can fight at their own pace. There’s even an ‘online training’ mode where you can train and get tutored by other players. That’s a nice way of encouraging the community to connect together and help each other improve at the game.
Expectations have been shattered
The King of Fighters XV strikes a great balance between being newcomer-friendly while still keeping true to the series for veterans. Its fighting system is easy to understand but with the large roster, and variety of mechanics, there’s more than enough for fighting game fans to sync their teeth into and attempt to master.
The single-player modes are a bit bare, with the barely-there story, it’s also paying a great amount of tribute to the series with fun endings, and cool stages.
The king is back, and he’s stronger than ever.
|The gameplay is accessible yet complex||Story mode makes no sense|
|Lots of fanservice for SNK fans||Fan favorites as DLC are kind of lame|
|Smooth and Strong Online|
The King of Fighters XV is available for PS4, PS5, PC, and Xbox Series X.