As you may have guessed by the title. We have reached the 15th main game in SNK’s long-running King of Fighters franchise. The series started way back in 1994. Releasing into the arcades, and felt like a natural progression following the games Fatal Fury and The Art of Fighting, featuring characters from each title.
King of Fighters XV – Is it the King of Fighters though?
Both developed and published by SNK, King of Fighters XV was set to release in 2020, and was being developed alongside its previous instalment. King of Fighters XV was eventually released worldwide on February 17th, 2021 on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
For the purposes of the review, I played it on the PS5. Now, Round 1 – fight!
As with most fighting games, bar the Mortal Kombat and more recently, the Tekken series, the lies a fairly barebones plot. Invitations are sent out to fighters to attend the next tournament following the defeat of Verse in King of Fighters XIV. This also awakens previous participants, some having powers reminiscent to Verse to enter.
What I particularly liked about this game is that you were fighting in teams of three rather than a single-player versus your opponent. I don’t mean Royal Rumble style, more so when your character is KO’d, the next one takes over. This really opened up the gates for some tactical decision-making when it came to choosing which order you have them fight in.
Before any DLC, there is a sizable roster of classics featuring old and new. This is presented as 13 preset teams of three, or of course, you can make your own team. That’s what makes this game so good though. Being able to mix it up a bit, experiment with your team choices.
In terms of the actual amount of content. I found it somewhat lacking modes which could have fleshed it out a little bit, but still enough to keep you entertained.
Starting off with story mode, it is pretty much as you would expect. You take your team of three and battle through CPU teams until you reach that team’s unique ending. There are even some bespoke endings for teams that you have created so it pays to experiment if you want to see each one. This will unlock music in the DJ Station mode, but you will have to figure out the team combinations for yourself.
As you would expect, the first fight is fairly easy. But it isn’t long before it ramps up the difficulty and leaves you looking worse than Kat Slater the morning after the night before. Don’t let this deter you though, because once you get into the swing of it, the hard-hitting combos look amazing once you pull them off. As with all fighting games, practice makes perfect. You will be countering with sexy suplexes in no time at all.
Versus mode is probably where I spent most of my time. At my core, my favourite thing about fighting games is beating the living crap out of the person sitting next to you and laughing maniacally in their face after you beat them ten times in a row. In versus mode, you can do this, as well as tackle CPU opponents. Mission mode is essentially your practice arena with some fairly decent tutorials to perfect those (not so) complex combos.
Then of course, what good is a fighting game without showing your mettle online. The ranked, lobby, casual, and online training modes are all here.
As an overall experience, King of Fighters XV is a fairly decent package. The fighting is exciting and it’s great to mix things up by choosing different teams. But, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in terms of gameplay and the overall package. That’s not really a negative, it feels like and more refined version of the previous game, and thus, the best game in the series for a long time.
Graphics & Audio
It’s expected that King of Fighters XV is going to be the best-looking game yet, and boy does it deliver! Every stage is a visual feast, enough to distract you from the fighting itself. From neon dancefloors to fantasy-esque snow scenes complete with Aurora Borealis, the game is beautiful. With all the fast-paced brawling, it is rather a lot to take in. But reactions and frame rates are key in this game, and I am pleased to say it’s a smooth operator at 60FPS.
As you come to blows, it’s difficult not to notice the soundtrack. It is sometimes stimulating to the point of intoxication, giving you hope that you really can win this and the next battle.
As with most titles of this genre, longevity will absolutely come down to the gamer. If you are a lifelong fan of King Of Fighters or this genre. Then chances are you are going to days, weeks, months, or even years in-game. However, if you have picked up King of Fighters XV because it isn’t a franchise you have invested any time in yet. Then ultimately it depends on how quickly you get bored and want to move on to the next title in your backlog.
It has to be said that King of Fighters XV is a fantastic game. For long-time franchise fans and newcomers, it is sure to please. SNK is at the peak of the franchise so far. But I can’t help but feel there is a little further to go to get to the summit. As I said, it is a great game, but it doesn’t offer much in terms of anything new. It feels like the previous game, but better. That’s by no means a bad thing. But, I feel that with just a little more content, this could have won the platinum award. It’s not quite an ‘SN-KO’, but it’s close enough. As such, I award King of Fighters XV the Thumb Culture Gold Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.