The King Of Fighters XV (Xbox Series X) REVIEW – Live To Fight
February 17, 2022
SNK, Koch Media
PC, PS4, PS5, XBXS
SNK fighting games tend to cater to the more hardcore fans of the genre, with King of Fighters being the franchise that best exemplifies just that. The 3v3 team based gameplay, which forces players to master more than one character, the various meters and more complicated inputs for special moves means it isn’t the most new player friendly fighting game ever made, but those who love the series are diehard fans.
The last game, The King Of Fighters XIV, made moves towards more accessible gameplay, with auto-Rush combos by mashing Square and the reintroduction of the MAX Mode mechanic, allowing players to better extend their own combos. Since then, more SNK characters than ever have been popping up in other fighting games, growing the awareness of KOF as a whole, and now, with The King Of Fighters XV, the game’s available on more platforms than ever. With any luck, this could be a new golden age for one of fighting games’ longest running franchises.
A direct sequel to KOF XIV, XV sees characters old and new gathering together for a brand new tournament, but apprehension is in the air after the last one was interrupted by a nightmare dimension monster known as Verse. Now, new characters Shun’ei and Isla have become embroiled in this tournament’s latest paranormal panic, with the fate of the entire world at stake. As Story Modes go, it’s hardly comparable to any Netherrealm offering, but considering the franchise’s deep history, long-time fans will appreciate the love shown in various cutscenes, along with how the various “teams” that encompass KOF’s roster have been remixed here.
Light on newcomers, King Of Fighters’ more modern characters look great standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the longtime stalwarts like Kyo, Terry, Iori, Mai, King, K’ and others. Shun’ei and Meitenkun, along with newbies Isla, Dolores and Krohnen, visually look the part in the vibrant and wacky world of KOF, which helps considering that four of those five characters play a key role in KOF’s future.
Speaking of the vibrancy, KOF XV’s graphics are nothing short of gorgeous. While still images are great, seeing the action in motion is a joy to behold. Perhaps the muted and underwhelming graphics of the previous game have unintentionally made KOF XV’s visuals look even better by comparison, but these graphics are phenomenal regardless. If you’re looking for a fighting game to show off the power of the Xbox Series X, this is a good shout. Bonus note: the soundtrack absolutely rocks too, though if you prefer some of the older songs, there’s a library in-game that players can use to assign songs to different stages. For longtime fans, it’s a nice little touch.
As for the gameplay, it’s as fast and frenetic as King of Fighters has always been. It feels like there’s been a concerted effort to simplify the command list for players who might not be immediately familiar with the intricacies of SNK’s crown jewel. All of the Climax Super Special Moves are performed with a quarter circle back and half circle forward with heavy punch and kick, which is certainly a mark up from just your basic quarter circles and shoryuken motions. It takes some getting used to if you’re not familiar with it, but, with practice, you’ll get there.
While this universal move has a standardised input, it doesn’t mean that players will experience a game similar to Dragon Ball FighterZ, where the entire roster has the same moveset but does different things. Each fighter has plenty of their own moves and intricacies that’ll keep players occupied for hours if you’re looking to learn a character inside and out.
With a roster of 39 characters to learn, there’s enough to choose from that you can find 3 who play the way you want, whether they’re grapplers, rushdown characters or heavy zoners. It can take a while to find characters you truly gel with though. Personally, after struggling with characters like Shun’ei and Yashiro, I found more success with the most basic roster imaginable: the former protagonist team of K’, Kyo and Terry. Team Himbo rides strong-ish.
Once you get into the swing of things with KOF XV, it’s one of the most satisfying fighting games on the market. The brilliant graphics and gameplay combine to create a fighting game that feels confident in itself, offering an experience dripping with flair. The deep and enjoyable gameplay feels familiar for longtime fans of the series, while not diminishing the skill barrier required to execute the truly spicy stuff, but there’s enough of a lead-in for new players to dip their toe into King of Fighters’ gameplay and see if they enjoy it.
Despite that, there are a couple of issues with KOF XV that could be addressed in the future. The mission mode plays out like a command training area, teaching players some bread and butter combos with each character. However, there’s only five missions per character. There’s a fine line to walk between showing the player everything and letting the player discover it for themselves, but a couple of extra missions per character wouldn’t hurt.
Beyond that, there’s a severe lack of additional modes in King of Fighters XV, something that might not mean as much to many as it does to me, but it’s still worth mentioning. Aside from the Story Mode, which is your standard Arcade ladder with a few cutscenes thrown in for good measure, there’s little reason to keep coming back beyond the online mode. Even just a time trial and/or a survival mode would have been something.
Still, it’s hard to grumble when the core gameplay is as satisfying as it is in KOF XV. Whether you’re a long-standing veteran of the series since the 90s or a new player looking to see what all the fuss is about after experiencing SNK in Smash Bros, Tekken and other places, The King Of Fighters XV is an excellent addition to any fighting game fan’s library.
A digital copy of The King Of Fighters XV Standard Edition was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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King Of Fighters XV is the franchise’s biggest stage yet, and when the lights are on brightest, this game shines.
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