SNK used to be a dim segment of the fighting game community during the PS3/Xbox 360 era, but The King of Fighters XV shines bright on modern systems with stellar graphics and fighting that can appeal to anyone, not just the hardcore. This game firmly cements SNK’s place in the genre once again after two successful titles before it.
There’s something for everyone in The King of Fighters XV
The King of Fighters XV has a wide menagerie of 39 characters within its roster, split up into 13 different teams. They each provide various gameplay options for players of the game from a more traditional Street Fighter-like experience of the Art of Fighting Team to the super-powered antics of the Super Heroine Team. There’s a team for everyone, no matter your preferred style of fighting.
In addition, the action is fast, fierce, and most importantly, ferociously fun. Beginners can start learning the game with satisfying auto-combos, while experienced players can get a thrill from its well-animated foray of combo potential. The moves and abilities of most of the characters feel unique from other fighting game franchises, and those who haven’t played this series before, or for a while, will likely appreciate the creativity that SNK spins into its roster. It feels great to play, and I’ll be returning to the battle over and over and over again for months to come.
Room to grow
An auto-combo might worry intermediate to pro players that hard-to-perform moves are easily done in a matter of simple button presses. However, those worries can be assuaged. First, this game provides multiple ways to learn, and second, the auto-combo attacks are weakened from the standard version.
The Online Training mode lets pro players teach newcomers of the game 1-on-1. You’re in the same room, and the expert can progressively teach their pupil in a live setting. Also, the Mission Mode presents a decent way of teaching the player important bread and butter combos. One of The King of Fighters XV’s best traits is how it teaches newcomers the ropes and gives them opportunities to grow.
While most of the game feels polished, some features are simply missing. The lack of an English dub is a disappointment, for example. Most of it is subtitled, but when the characters enter the ring, you can’t understand what they’re saying. Providing some sort of dub would have been fantastic for the game. They could take a similar direction as the Tekken series, which uses performances from both a Japanese and an English cast.
The stages are a mixed bag
Unfortunately, some of the stages are quite terrible to look at. The concert-themed stage in particular was disappointing. The people in the crowd are straight from the PS1 era with their ugly textured models, while the band hardly looks any better. The text animatics on the screens surrounding the arena look stylish, however, and brings to mind Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s take on the Punch Out! series. The grand final arena looks fairly barren too.
On the other hand, quite a lot of the stages look fantastic, especially as some of them have day and night alterations. For example, the Abandoned Theme Park is oozing with personality and color. The creepy Mickey Mouse-like mascot is presented with a menacing tone while an illuminated park with all manner of rides pulls you into the landscape.
The lighting on this stage and the scenery are simply gorgeous in a creepy kind of way. Other stages like Freezing Forest, Subway Tracks, and The Sahara also feature strong set pieces within their designs, despite some feeling slightly empty.
Moonwalk to your heart’s content
All of the unique characters pull you into The King of Fighters XV even further. You can get a sense of their personalities just from their animations on screen. One cool visual flare is that everyone has a different backstep. The adorable Chris does a moonwalk when backing away from his enemy, while Kula Diamond bounces up and down in excitement. Their mannerisms and animations with each move exuberate the personality that SNK adds to this game. Compared to The King of Fighters XIV, the new sequel “shattered our expectations” when it comes to its graphics and animations.
Like many other fighting games, its story mode feels a little lacking. Only a couple of teams get fully realized cutscenes, while others simply go through the battles like it’s an arcade mode. The story itself wasn’t compelling, as it just came down to yet another big boss threatening the entire world. The positive is that you can get rare and unique cutscenes between characters as they get ready for battle, which fleshes out the characters and the world.
Once the story mode is completed, you’ll get two endings for each dedicated team. The first is strangely unvoiced with just text and music to accompany still shots, while the second after the credits is voiced. They give more context to each of the characters and can be entertaining, but they’re not as exciting as you may have hoped. To be honest, the first ending usually comes across as awkward. Team Hero and Team Rival, however, receive more storyline prominence as they’re deeply connected with the story’s central conflict.
How’s the online?
Lastly and likely most importantly, the online works well under its rollback netcode functionality. This is the first time The King of Fighters series has received it, and thankfully, it excels under this new system. Most matches play out as if the opponent is right next to you, but there are some slight issues with its predictive system.
At one point during a round, I was trying to jump diagonally, but the game made my character leap upwards instead. In another instance, the game jumped a few milliseconds and skipped a bit of the animation that I needed to see, so I can respond. Most of the time, the game runs as smooth as butter online. At the time of writing this review on February 14, we could not match up to anyone on its Ranked and Casual matchmaking system. As this was during the early access timeframe, players may not be looking for matches at this time, but we thought I’d address this.
An excellent fighting game, period.
The online system is mostly sublime with a few connection issues, but the local multiplayer/single-player experience in The King of Fighters XV is well worth the price. The characters have so much personality and provide entertaining movesets for you to explore. A majority of the stages look fantastic with the power of modern systems. Finally, the overall gameplay is refined and shows how strong of a developer SNK is. We just wish it had English voice acting and a more robust story mode.
9 / 10
|Mostly superb stage design
|Engaging fighting game mechanics throughout
|The story mode feels a little lacking
|No English dub is disappointing
Gamepur team received a PlayStation code for the purpose of this review.