The King of Fighters series by SNK was one of the pioneers of the arcade scene from the mid-’90s to the early 2000s, but the history of its characters goes back even further. The original game, King of Fighters ’94, brought together characters from SNK’s other fighting games, including 1991’s Fatal Fury, 1992’s Art of Fighting, and even from non-fighting games such as 1986’s Ikari Warriors, and 1987’s Psycho Soldier.
The KOF games were being released yearly, with King of Fighters ’94, King of Fighters ’95, King of Fighters ’96, etc., and each new entry always created some of the most exciting, intense, and action-packed matches at arcades, home consoles, and gaming tournaments. After various spinoffs and a six-year hiatus after King of Fighters XIII in 2010, King of Fighters XIV was finally released in 2016, which reignited SNK’s iconic franchise and lead to King of Fighters XV arriving on home consoles in 2022 and continuing its legacy.
The story takes place after the events of the previous game, focusing primarily on Shun’ei and Isla who have multiverse-related supernatural powers, amongst other various fighters returning for the next tournament. Following Antonov’s retirement, the new commissioner Anastasia sent invitations to fighters new and old to enter the tournament. Along with the mayhem, deceased fighters from past tournaments are also resurrected by mysterious powers.
Gameplay-wise, it doesn’t feel a whole lot has changed from the previous game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The 3-on-3 system and all the familiar moves, Super Specials, and Climax Super Specials are back with some slight touch-ups and visual upgrades that add so much to their presentations. The one-button combos that can also lead into Super Specials depending on your Super Meter are also back, which is handy for beginners. Hardcore players aren’t overly fond of this feature, so an option to switch it off would’ve been nice, especially for esports events, but thankfully it doesn’t give casual players an advantage over experienced players. Overall it makes King of Fighters XV more welcoming to beginners, casual players, and longtime fans of the series.
The biggest upgrade is its online play with its rollback netcode, which is exactly what KOF needed with the slowly fading arcade scene and during a pandemic. The rollback netcode was tested in the 2020 port of King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match with excellent results, and after various BETA tests with players around the world, was brought to King of Fighters XV. Playing KOF online has never felt so good, even matched up with players across the globe. Whether playing offline or online, all the fast-paced, bone-crunching action feels as good as ever.
The Story Mode is pretty straightforward and acts as its Arcade Mode. Players can select a team of any three characters they wish, but by selecting all members of a whole team, ending movies can be unlocked and viewed anytime. The ending movies are just still images (which are very detailed) with text to read. It may not compare to recent Mortal Kombat and Guilty Gear games, but it’s nice to see the outcomes of each team and see their interactions with each other when not in a fight. Secret ending movies can also be unlocked by selecting particular members for their team.
Story Mode is also where players can try their luck against the two boss characters; Re Verse, who isn’t to be taken lightly, and Otoma-Raga, who is a sight to behold and will really push players to their limits, just like all KOF final bosses that came before her. KOF has always had some of the most challenging, brutal, and unfair bosses, and Otoma-Raga is no different. This is where KOF players will really be put to the test.
KOF has always had some of the most interesting character designs and even find ways to keep their older characters feeling fresh and not outdated. Most of the KOF games used 2D graphics and longtime fans still prefer that style. The series did go the 3D route before in the early 2000s with the Maximum Impact games receiving mixed feedback. When KOF14 was revealed, fans were quick to criticise the new 3D design, feeling they belonged in the PS2/Xbox/GameCube era, but praised its gameplay and breathing new life to the series. KOF15 sticks with its new 3D look but improves on everything, giving it its own unique style and presentation that fits really well in a KOF game. Even characters who looked bland and uninspiring in the previous game, like Andy Bogard, look so much better in this latest installment. SNK has gone above and beyond with KOF15’s presentation, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with future games.
Another thing KOF is best known for is its large base roster. Currently, 39 characters are available with more on their way via DLC. It’s slightly less than KOF14’s base roster of 50 characters and it’s a shame certain characters are missing, like Kim Kaphwan, but the characters included so far will still give a wide variety of options for players new and old. It’s certainly much better than the very small base roster in Street Fighter V, despite their huge library of popular characters. The DLC characters are definitely something to look forward to with old favourites coming back such as Rock Howard, B. Jenet, Gato, Billy Kane, Yamazaki, and Geese Howard, with even more to be announced.
King of Fighters and its long history of iconic characters have always maintained relevance in the gaming scene. Whether it’s their characters appearing in other games, such as Terry Bogard in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Fighting Layer, Mai Shiranui and Kula Diamond in Dead or Alive 5, or Geese Howard in Tekken 7, KOF is a legendary series that has always found its way back into the spotlight. King of Fighters XV keeps that momentum rolling while bringing back longtime fans and attracting newcomers to determine the King of Fighters.
- All the King of Fighters goodness
- Exciting, fast-paced and competitive gameplay
- Large base roster and more to come via DLC
- Rollback netcode providing excellent and smooth online play
- Improved graphics and presentation over the previous game
- Brutal and punishing bosses
- Certain characters missing from previous games
- No option to switch off One-button combos
- Story Mode feels a bit lacking when compared to other fighting games