I’ve always found that SNK releases haven’t had the same sort of mainstream attention as more popular fighting games like Street Fighter, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat, but The King of Fighters XV has been popping up everywhere. Besides showing up in showcases such as The Game Awards and PlayStation’s State of Play, I’ve also seen a lot more interest and buzz from casual fighting fans.
Does the fifteenth entry in the series offer enough to keep them interested for the long-term though? Well, it certainly offered more than enough for me, with its rich roster, robust fighting mechanics, and slick online play helping The King of Fighters XV stand out as an essential release in fighting game genre.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
My favourite feature of any fighting game is its roster, so I was happy to see that The King of Fighters XV launched with thirty-nine fighters to battle it out as. As expected, there are plenty of returning favourites such as Mai Shiranui, Kyo Kusanagi, Terry Bogard (who some may recognise from his Smash Bros appearance), Blue Mary, Joe Higashi, and King, whilst new faces appear in the form of Isla, Dolores, and Krohnen. It was a little disappointing to see characters like Geese Howard and Rock Howard omitted from the main roster, but at least they’re coming as DLC in the future. There’s no sign of Choi Bounge though, which is a big shame – I’ve always liked that little Freddie Krueger-looking weirdo. But still, at least we’ve got the King of Dinosaurs…
There’s a strong roster of characters to play as that have their own fighting styles to learn, so gamers won’t be disappointed there. The classic gameplay formula returns in The King of Fighters XV too, so returning players will feel comfortable from the get-go. It’s a three-versus-three fighter that takes place over a 2D plane, with players able to dish out a mixture of both strong and light kicks and punches in order to string together combos. Special moves can also be performed by hitting movements on the stick in combination with button presses, whilst things like the Rush system (which allows players to combo by mashing the light punch button) make it easier for beginners to string together a chain of special attacks.
Whilst it’s easy for newcomers to dive into the fighting and find some success, The King of Fighters XV brings with it plenty of little features that more experienced players can take advantage of to really lay down the smackdown on their foes. Things like MAX Mode allow players to deal extra damage whilst taking less from foes, whilst MAX Mode Quick allows them to string actions together without leaving an opening at the expense of the strength boost. Then there’s the power gauge, which can be consumed to unleash Super Special Moves, MAX Super Special Moves, or Climax Super Special Moves to REALLY dish out the hurt to opponents, with effective timing of their use being an absolute game-changer mid-battle. Then there are things like the Shatter Strike which can defend against counters, Emergency Evasions to roll out of the way of attacks, and the different varieties of Cancel that can flow special moves into more powerful variants.
“Whilst it’s easy for newcomers to dive into the fighting and find some success, The King of Fighters XV brings with it plenty of little features that more experienced players can take advantage of to really lay down the smackdown on their foes.”
There really is a lot on offer when it comes to the actual fighting, and it helps make The King of Fighters XV a varied and dynamic fighter that offers lots of strategy to players. It’s a bit of a cliché to say it, but it’s ‘easy to learn but difficult to master’ – thankfully, there’s a robust training system in place to teach players the ins-and-outs of each mechanic.
When it comes to game modes, I couldn’t help but to find The King of Fighters XV a little bit lacking. You’ve got your traditional Story, Training, Versus and Mission modes for single player, but no Survival or Time Attack to boost the longevity. The Story mode felt a little lacking too, and whilst it is satisfying to unlock different endings, it felt more like a typical Arcade mode when compared to the more fleshed-out and interesting Story modes seen in modern fighting games. It’s not a big deal really, but it would have really strengthened the narrative elements of the experience if it was a bit meatier.
Luckily, the online play is sublime, with next to no issues encountered during my time playing so far besides a couple of disconnects (though I think that was more of a player issue as opposed to a game one). There’s both Ranked and Casual play which suits different types of players, or you can make a private room and just battle your friends – it’s up to you. A fighting game’s strengths often lie within its longevity with competitive play and The King of Fighters XV certainly hits the nail on the head with its top notch and consistent rollback netcode.
“It’s a bit of a cliché to say it, but it’s ‘easy to learn but difficult to master’ – thankfully, there’s a robust training system in place to teach players the ins-and-outs of each mechanic.”
Visually, The King of Fighters XV looks great, with characters fluidly animated and the varied backdrops full of detail and colour. The series utilises 3D character models as opposed to 2D sprites these days, but they’re well-crafted and capture the fast-paced action of the combat perfectly. Add to that some of the visual pizzazz which comes with all of the fancy moves you pull off and it’ll be easy to find yourself in awe of the action. Just don’t expect a massive upgrade between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 versions – whilst the newer console does look prettier, there weren’t as significant a difference as I’ve seen in other cross-gen titles.
The King of Fighters XV Review
The King of Fighters XV is a robust and content-rich fighter that’s a ton of fun to play, with the only real sour point being a lack of single player content. Sure, the Story mode is fine, but it’s missing the depth of similar fighting games, whilst the lack of a Survival or Time Attack mode is a shame – especially for players who love trying to best their previous efforts.
Thankfully, it delivers everywhere else, with the slick fighting, rich selection of characters, and sublime online play making The King of Fighters XV an easy game to recommend to fighting fans. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, the game offers everything you need to dive right into the action and nail those combos and super moves in no time.
Publisher: Koch Media
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC