Review – King of Fighters XV

Are You Okay?

Overview

Developer SNK
Publisher Koch Media, SNK Playmore USA
Genre Fighting
Platforms PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5(reviewed)
Release Date February 14th, 2022 (Early Access)
February 17th, 2022

It’s been six years since the release of King of Fighters XIV. Though it was released with generally positive reviews, it didn’t take long for me to drop the game after playing the arcade mode a few times; I was still too intimidated to take my skills online. Now that I’ve casually been a part of various online fighting game communities, I was excited to see what King of Fighters XV would bring to the table after quite a few years. You’d think those years would mean a more significant and improved entry to a series, but that isn’t the case. While the mechanics still hold up, King of Fighters XV feels nearly identical to its predecessor. Such a characteristic feels more akin to what we see out of annualized sports games rather than the evolution of the series or genre that I think it should have been.

Content Guide

Violence: Characters battle one another using various styles of martial arts and employ different elemental skills such as fire, electricity, ice, and energy blasts. Some use knives, tasers, and firearms within their move list. Fights take place in teams of three or one on one. Rather than blood, special flash effects appear when characters get hit.

Sexual Content: Many female characters have very revealing outfits, and during battle, those outfits will tear and expose their bra or underwear. Jiggle physics is also present and wildly exaggerated. One character has a move in which she pulls her opponent’s face into her chest.

Drugs/alcohol: A character puffs on their cigar.

Language: The word “s**t” is in the dialogue.

“Shatter All Expectations”

Review

What little story there is in King of Fighters XV revolves around the rivalry of two newer fighters and carries themes of the multiverse, time, and space manipulation. The story mode is an arcade mode but includes cutscenes in a few places. Not only will completing the story get you special team endings, but alternate cutscenes take place with specific team compositions. Using those unique team combinations brings some variety to a mode that gets old pretty fast. Sadly, if you’re not someone who plays fighting games online, the story mode is all you have.

The lack of gameplay options was also a problem in King of Fighters XIV; XV lacks the time attack and survival modes from that previous game. The only other option is a mission mode that is fit for experienced players to pull off big combos that you likely won’t see most people executing in online play. For those that want to take on other players online, you have ranked, casual, room matches, and the ability to save replays. I took part in online battles for the first time in the series; it was fun to engage with an online community in a King of Fighters game, which was a first for me. I got very close to winning some fights but have yet to get a win under my belt, which makes me think that KoF XV is an excellent opportunity for new players to jump in, but the people that have been playing for years will rule this digital space.

Isla is the one of the new characters entering the King of Fighters tournament.

I went with my usual team composition—Terry, Kyo, and Athena when first jumping into the game. I desperately needed to learn the ins and outs of the mechanics. I enjoyed my time online because I finally had to learn how some of my favorite characters worked if I wanted to survive. Kyo was perfect for rushdowns, I had to zone and play more defensive as Athena, and Terry felt like a good middle ground between the two. I had never considered that turn order is a vital part of your strategy. For those unfamiliar with the series, you can’t tag in other fighters like Marvel vs. Capcom or Dragonball Fighterz. How you set your turn order and how your enemy sets theirs can change the tide of a battle and is a fascinating aspect of playing online against real opponents. Once I got a feel for how my fights would play out, I decided to try some new and old characters.

The mechanics are relatively simple to understand beyond learning combos, but more experienced players have quite the edge. The new feature on which the game’s tagline was built is the Shatter strike, in which opponents can be stunned, which slows the momentum of your opponent. The second big change is a new MAX mode which increases offensive traits such as damage and guard crush. Lastly, the Rush mechanic returns, giving newcomers a friendly way to pull off combos. I appreciate that Rush is a little more than “push a single button” and has players pushing different ones to pull off some of the more substantial special moves. While I believe the mechanics attempt to put players of all skill levels on equal footing, an expert player has no problem melting a whole life bar in a single combo thanks to the ability to cancel one special move into another.

The effects on the special moves visually stand out.

King of Fighters XV offers very little in the way of extra content. The gallery lets players see cutscenes and endings from the story mode. A short animated film is available to watch in the gallery from “renowned” animator Masami Obari, who, while not a household name, has contributed to work like Bubble Gum Crisis and the Fatal Fury films of the early ’90s. Lastly, The DJ Station includes hundreds of songs from across the franchise for players to listen to at their leisure. Honestly, I can’t say I have any good ideas about what would fight nicely in the extra content other than a model viewer, but the current offering feels very sparse across the board.

I wish I had more to say, but with the lack of things to do other than doing the arcade mode and playing online, I have nothing left. I would have liked to see the series evolve in some way after six years, but being that it is too similar to the previous release is unacceptable; I would be more forgiving if there weren’t such a gap between the two. However, there isn’t anything wrong with the gameplay itself, and King of Fighters XV is a solid opportunity for new players to jump in. It is the most fun I’ve had with the franchise in a long while, but it’s disappointing that other developers are making huge strides in evolving their franchises and the genre itself, as this long-running and well-loved franchise makes such a minimal effort. SNK can do better.

Review copy kindly provided by Tinsley PR


The Bottom Line

 

While the core gameplay is at its best, King of Fighters XV goes largely unchanged from its predecessor.

 

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L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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