The King of Fighters XV Review (PS5)

The King of Fighters XV Review: Long Live The King

 

The King of Fighters XV Review

 

When it debuted in 2016, The King of Fighters XIV pushed SNK’s long-running 3-on-3 fighting game series in a bold new direction with its updated mechanics, fresh characters, and a new 3D engine. Now, six years and one console generation later, The King of Fighters XV aims to drive the series forward even further by building upon the rock-solid foundation of its predecessor.

The game certainly has a lot going for it on paper with its sleek, Unreal Engine 4-powered visuals, an overhauled fighting system, and colorful new additions to its roster. But all the vision in the world can’t save a game if its execution is flawed. So, does The King of Fighters XV burn to fight, or does it simply crash and burn?

 

Getting Back In The Arena

 

The King of Fighters XV Review PS5

The King of Fighters XV’s overhauled visuals bring the heat.

 

The King of Fighters XV‘s story picks up after the previous game’s events. With the evil Verse seemingly vanquished, a new tournament beckons the world’s strongest warriors. However, Chizuru detects something isn’t quite right with the Seal of Orochi. Sensing danger, she joins forces with Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami to unravel the mystery. It’s hardly Shakespeare. Nonetheless, as far as fighting game plots go, it’s a good enough excuse to get the cast of the Orochi, NESTS, and Ash sagas together for another massive melee.

The first thing you’ll probably notice upon firing up The King of Fighters XV is just how impressive it looks compared to the previous installment. While the game may not be as eye-catching as last year’s spectacular Guilty Gear -STRIVE-, it’s plain to see the jump to Unreal 4 has paid dividends. Of course, the character models are the stars of the show. The cast of combatants no longer have that plasticky, doll-like appearance found in The King of Fighters XIV. Instead, they’re all well modeled with tons of little details that make each combatant pop with a cel-shaded style that feels like a natural evolution of what SNK accomplished with 2019’s Samurai Shodown reboot.

As someone whose been a fan of the series since its inception with The King of Fighters ’94, I have a real soft spot for the sprite-based era of KoF. However, after spending the last week soaking up The King of Fighters XV‘s overhauled visuals, I can’t help but feel the cast of SNK’s flagship fighter has never looked better.

 

Finely Polished Pugilism

 

King of Fighters XV review

The Hungry Wolf Terry does a little landscaping, much to Joe’s chagrin.

 

When it comes to its fighting system, The King of Fighters XV smartly builds upon the solid foundation of the previous game in incremental but meaningful ways. For example, the Shatter Strike mechanic adds another defensive tool to players’ arsenal for starters. By pressing QCF along with hard punch and hard kick, you’ll unleash a rapid counterattack that’ll knock your opponent off their feet, buying you some breathing room or giving you the chance to take the offensive. However, Shatter Stike comes at the cost of a power gauge, so you’ll want to use it strategically.

Of course, Shatter Strikes aren’t the only new addition to this fighter’s formula. The Rush Combos introduced in The King of Fighters XIV are back, albeit with a twist. They function similarly to how they did in the previous game. By tapping light punch repeatedly, you’ll still initiate an auto combo. But depending on how many power stocks you have in reserve, the fourth button input will end the combo in various ways. For example, if you press light kick for the final attack, you’ll trigger a Special Move. But if you end it with a hard punch instead, you’ll unleash a Super Special Move. Lastly, ending your Rush Combo with a hard kick will execute a Max Super Special Move. By pressing light punch, you’ll perform the most potent attack available depending on how many power stocks you have at your disposal.

There’s no denying Rush Combos were met with a mixed reception when KoF XIV launched in 2016, with many fans complaining that they dumbed down the proceedings. That said, many purists will probably take issue with how this installment makes them even more versatile than before. As for me, I don’t mind them so much. They give fighting game novices a chance to dive in and have a good time. My only real complaint is that I’ve found it a little too easy to accidentally trigger a rush combo in the heat of a match, effectively pissing away all of my power stocks in the process.

Other areas that have been retooled and refined are the MAX Mode and Max Mode Quick. The latter can now be activated even when attacks are blocked, giving you the chance to instantly combo into the next action so you can continue your offensive.

Overall, everything comes together quite nicely. Sure, Rush Combos will probably remain a divisive feature among fans of the series. But as a whole, I feel SNK has done a solid job of introducing some fresh offensive and defensive mechanics into the mix to keep things interesting.

 

Trimming The Fat

 

The King of Fighters XV Ash Crimson

Climax Moves do a great job of showcasing The King of Fighters XV’s impressive new character models.

 

If there’s one area where The King of Fighters XIV blew me away, it was with its staggering roster of 48 characters. With that in mind, I have to say I was a little disappointed to find The King of Fighters XV only features a total of 39 playable pugilists at launch. It’s still a respectable number, of course, but it’s hard to deny that seeing a lineup of nine fewer characters is a bit of a letdown. However, it’s worth noting we’ll be seeing 12 additional characters throughout 2022, bringing the final number to 51 fighters for those willing to shell out the extra cash for them.

As for the new characters the game introduces, there are only 3 at the moment. Isla is a funky graffiti artist and Shun’ei’s main rival who fights with a pair of wicked floating purple hands. Dolores is a witchy femme fatale who uses earth spirits to pummel her opponents, and Krohnen is the Hyde to K’s Dr. Jekyll, a troubled character unable to control his devastating flame abilities. Overall, they’re a fun trio who complement the rest of the roster well. None of them are particularly my style and they probably won’t be replacing my mains anytime soon. However, I’m sure some players will gravitate towards these fresh faces.

I was also a little dissatisfied with KoFXV’s somewhat lean selection of game modes. The game offers Versus, Story, and Training modes, along with your standard Training and Mission modes, to help you come to grips with the game’s mechanics. Still, I can’t help but feel that an Arcade Mode or proper shop to unlock some concept art and accessories would have been welcome.

One feature I immensely enjoyed was the DJ Station, though. Here, you can access 300 songs from throughout the series’ history. So if you rock out to classics like Esaka ’98 and the iconic Psycho Soldier theme, knock yourself out! As a nice bonus, you can even create up to three of your own custom playlists.

Speaking of modes, you can’t talk about a modern fighter without diving into the online portion. Taking the fight online in KoF CV is a breeze. The game features your usual options for ranked and casual matches. Additionally, you can create a room for up to 8 players for single, team versus, and party versus bouts. During my time testing the online component with Casey from Gamers Heroes, my matches unfolded largely without a hitch thanks to SNK’s smart decision to incorporate rollback netcode.

During roughly a dozen online matches during the review period, I only witnessed two moments where the action started to hitch. And even then, the match was back to full speed after about a second or two. Needless to say, I think fans will be more than happy when they get the chance to experience KoF XV’s multiplayer melees for themselves.

The King of Fighters XV Is Worthy Of The Throne

 

The King of Fighters XV is a knockout entry in SNK’s flagship fighting game series. Smartly building upon the foundation of its predecessor, it ups the ante in subtle yet meaningful ways that should satisfy even the most discerning fans of the franchise. While the ways the Rush Combo system has been expanded upon probably won’t change the minds of those unimpressed with it in the previous game and the character selection is slightly pared-down, the rock-solid online performance, breathtaking visuals, and satisfying fighting system that pins it all together will keep you coming back for more.


Final Verdict: 4.5/5

Available on: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox Series X|S, PC; Publisher:Koch Media; Developer: SNK; Players: 1-8 (online); Released: February 14, 2022; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $59.99

Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.

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Frank has been the caffeine-fueled evil overlord of HeyPoorPlayer since 2008. He speaks loudly and carries a big stick to keep the staff of the HPP madhouse in check. A collector of all things that blip and beep, he has an extensive collection of retro consoles and arcade machines crammed into his house. Currently playing: Chorus (XSX), Battlefield 2042 (XSX), Xeno Crisis (Neo Geo)

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