Published on February 18th, 2022 | by thec0re30
The King Of Fighters XV Review
Summary: A big visual improvement though game modes are lacking when it come to overall content. While gameplay plays it safe, the new addition of shatter strike certainly adds a new intensity that is sure to keep fans engaged for months and years to come. Barring issues with certain online features, the new netcode for this title is phenomenal allowing for a great experience with long distance connections.
It has been three years since SNK revealed their next entry in the king of fighters series. Today, the wait is finally over as the team based brawler has arrived on both current and last generation consoles. Shattering expectations has been SNK’s driving force behind what felt like a very lengthy ad campaign and so the only things that’s left is to see if the new King of Fighters XV truly lives up to its bold claim.
I thinks it’s best to start by addressing the biggest elephant in the room which are the new visuals for Kof XV. Since the previous entry in the series, SNK has slowly been trying to make improvements as we saw a decent jump in quality when Samurai Shodown released in 2019. The utilization of the unreal engine 4 proved to be fruitful for SNK and it would seem the experience was a positive one as they have once again chosen to use the same engine for Kof XV.
Right off the bat, there is a noticeable increase in quality compared to Samurai Shodown with the new skin textures giving off a very silk like look that plays incredibly well with the lighting and shadow effects used for each character. The overall colors of Kof XV are far more brighter and expressive making both the backgrounds and characters pop in a way they haven’t before with the last three SNK fighting game titles.
While I feel like the textures and character models have greatly improved for most of the cast, animations still feel a bit stiff with certain characters. Like with the last title, this is mainly apparent with veteran cast members as new comers like Luong, who was introduced in The King Of Fighters XIV, had nothing to draw comparisons to.
Another big gripe are some of the max activations which are in some cases stripped directly from the previous title making it feel a bit underwhelming for those who wanted to see a fresh coat of paint on these devastating attacks. Super desperations moves also seemed to have been given a bit of a downgrade as the dynamic camera zoom in from the previous title has been replaced by a simple graphic effect to convey the difference in each DM.
It’s more than apparent in some cases that SNK were certainly ambitious in making an enjoyable experience and it’s definitely hit and miss in certain areas. The new game announcer is certainly a highlight to the overall experience though at times it doesn’t quite feel like they are tracking the evolution of the match as it unfolds each round. I found it would often make me feel like the 2nd player had some sort of advantage going into the final round when they really didn’t have a chance of mounting any real comeback…reverse psychology maybe? Only SNK knows.
There are also new introductions for characters ala Soul Calibur which feel unnecessary in my opinion and I quickly found myself skipping over the cutscenes after experiencing just two character monologues. Some may find it to be humorous but personally, I just was not to enthused about this addition. The return of character interactions also feel a bit forced and unnecessary as well. A small rival intro animation would have been far more appreciated and less time consuming at that.
The final count for Kof XV’s launch is 39 playable characters. While it is wonderful to see characters like Chris, Yashiro, and Shermie make their long awaited return, I found the lack of returning cast members who were introduced in Kof XIV to be pretty surprising. This time around, only two new characters are introduced and while I felt Isla, rival to the new hero of the current saga Shun’ei, to be a great addition, I felt like Dolores needed more time to be fleshed out. There is also the very big absence of Kim Kaphwan who, up until this point, has been in every KOF that has released thus far.
Of course, there is the expectation of incoming DLC with 6 new characters already being confirmed for this year so there is hope that we will see the energetic Taekwondo expert back again with his glorious pants animations back in tow.
Another area were SNK seems to fall short are with game modes. Kof XV’s story mode is more like an arcade mode with the regular complimentary cut scenes after completing a few matches. Leading up to this release there was some what of an expectation this would be a little more involved but ultimately things were not as they seemed and leave you to playing with the original and secret teams like titles in the past to gain more insight.
The tutorial mode for XV is once again a basic display of the games mechanics never broaching the subject of strategy and the benefits of mechanics like hops or even there new shatter strike mechanic for that matter. While you can count on those within the fighting game community to give you more insight into the inner workings of KOF, it feels like a very big missed opportunity to keep new players from falling by the wayside after playing matches online.
There is of course the online mode but I’m going to be saving that one for later.
The new music of Kof XV does little to disappoint but if you’re not satisfied with the latest offering, look no further than the DJ station which houses stage and soundtrack music from all 14 previous titles. A customization feature let’s you change the stage music to any of your favorite tunes and it is a wonderful way to celebrate KOF’s 15th anniversary. There is unfortunately a caveat to grabbing these blasts from the past as you will have to go through story mode to unlock the music for each game in the series. On top of this, SNK thought it appropriate to have you guess the third teammates to unlock each titles soundtrack with the exception of Kof XIV. With the magic of the internet, you can certainly find out the missing teammates, but SNK’s choice to unlock music in this way is very much a head scratcher.
For the most part, SNK has played it safe when it comes to the combat system of Kof XV choosing to keep all of their basic gameplay elements intact. EX moves are no longer locked behind max mode activation and cost half of your meter to use. Players will find that EX moves will unlock the potential for additional damage and it can definitely give certain characters a hefty boost when it comes to combo options and finding offensive openings against intermediate and advanced players.
As mentioned before, max mode has returned working a bit differently to how it did in the previous title. Activating max mode in Kof XV now gives your character a huge increase in damage…that is of course if you can land an attack in the allotted time given after activation. Like before, player positions determine the length of time max mode stays active. There is also a bit of a cost this time around for max mode as activating the mechanic will cost two meters compared to the one meter it used to cost in the past.
Activating max mode during a basic attack is now known as quick mode and while it certainly can help increase your damage output with combos, it does not come close to the damage boost of the regular max mode activation and still has the same cost with meter. With that being said, there is the benefit of no cost when using EX special moves, and Super special moves(Max super special moves costs 1 meter) so as usual Max mode feels like a perfect balance of give and takes.
The cancelation system for Super special moves the Climax super special move has also remained the same only requiring that you have the meter available when you are ready to pull the trigger for maximum damage.
The rush combo also returns with some peculiar changes to the mechanic. Now, on the fourth hit players can decide how they would like to end their combo which mainly seems to helps with reserving meter for decision making. Like before, general mix-ups can be utilized with the system but the damage is still not as good as doing things manually and there is still the lack of its effectiveness as it can only be used when you are in close proximity of your opponent. While I still think it’s a nice way for beginners to hop in and get a feel for game play, my worry is the potential dependency on its use and if it will truly motivate new comers into going beyond this mechanic into more unforgiving territory.
SNK’s newest mechanic to the KOF series is known as Shatter Strike and seems to share a pretty big comparison to Street Fighter IV’s focus attack. Offensively, this mechanic can put your opponent into a crumple state and has the ability to absorb an in coming attack, cancel out of any basic attack, and extend a combo for additional damage. What also makes this attack beneficial on the offensive end of the spectrum is the cost as shatter strike only requires 1 meter to activate.
It is especially beneficial on the defensive side of things where it can be used to turn the tide of battle instantly during blocks which makes gameplay that more intense as you need to be aware of the attacks you decide to dish out on your opponent while trying to push offensive pressure.
It’s fair to say that this mechanic in particular is really going to advance the game further in the coming months as players develop strategies on how to utilize and deal with shatter strike during matches so there is definitely a kudos in order.
With King of Fighters XIV there was without a doubt an overall improvement in the online experience but there was still the criticism of using an outdated netcode which hampered what I thought was an incredible effort. This time around SNK has ensured both its fans and new comers that online play will be the best it has ever been with the use of roll back netplay for this new title. In addition to the new netcode ,SNK has also offered up details like accurate ping before the start of a match and a rollback frame counter can be seen during gameplay.
While this definitely is a call for celebration, SNK is not quite out of hot water just yet as I started running into issues both on the second and third days of playing online. Trying to wait for matches in the stand by training mode for both casual and ranking has been giving me a could not connect message. And later when I attempted to search for regular matches, I found the same issue rearing its ugly head once again. As of this writing, Kof XV has not officially released to the masses so I’m hoping there are fixes on the way to resolve the current problem I am experiencing.
Outside of that, SNK has stream lined the online mode in a way that is more easier to grasp then it was in Kof XIV. Fights in casual and ranked matchmaking modes allow players to decide whether they would like to take part in a best two out of 3 set and the option is there to start a room if both players decide they want to go at it some more. Rooms have been revamped now only letting a maximum of 8 players come in at a time while also doing away with simultaneous matches.
The farthest connection I experienced was a ping of 100ms and the online play felt incredible as I never felt an issue with inputs. I also had yet to experience under water gameplay, lag spikes, or teleportation letting me know that Kof XV has truly benefited from the switch to roll back netcode.
The King Of Fighers XV doesn’t shatter my expectations but it certainly does meet them. The overall improvement in art direction ensures that I’ll stay interested and engaged in what’s to come in the form of stages and new character DLC for as long as SNK chooses to release new content. While there isn’t much there with the current game modes, unlocking tunes from the DJ Station will definitely keep you entangled in Story Mode but if you’re someone on the hunt for single player content, you are not going to get much here.
The new shatter strike system along with tweaks to the returning game mechanics definitely has me feeling like Kof XV is going to be one of the best experiences in the series game play wise and it has me excited about all of the possibilities that are to come once I gain my bearings and can really focus more on the strategy aspect of this title.
I can only hope that the current issues with casual and matchmaking modes are fixed as soon as possible as the online play has been a great experience thus far and I’m chomping at the bit to get some quick pickup matches rather than taking the time to create or jump into online rooms.
Overall, I do believe this is a fighting game worth picking up and now is the prefect time to find out why The King Of Fighters has stood the test of time leading into this 15th offering.
For those interested in purchasing The King Of Fighters XV, some minute details on online features, in game mechanics, and more head to our official webpage here