Across the years, gamers have experienced some top-notch franchises. Each has a strong fanbase, and this causes some friction amongst friends. The genre that has undeniably the most recognisable names is arcade fighters. Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Soulcalibur, etcetera, etcetera! If you love this genre, you’ve probably tried all of them. Therefore, I’m sure you have been waiting with bated breath for The King of Fighters XV.
Developed by SNK and published by Koch Media, this is a fast-paced arcade fighter. It is set in a beautifully vivid world that is full of lore, violence, and OTT sexual imagery. There has been an overhaul to the basic gameplay, but fortunately, the developers have maintained many familiar mechanics. However, some new elements have been added to make it more user-friendly for newcomers to the genre.
The King of Fighters XV was worth the wait.
It’s been six years since the last instalment, and I couldn’t wait to get started. The previous game ended with the defeat of “Verse” and gave no indication of the possibility of a sequel. However, The King of Fighters XV is resurrected thanks to a new sponsor and a large roster of warriors. The story focuses on two elements; First, there is a team who must protect the seal of the snake demon, Orochi. Second, is the protagonist Shun’ei who has mysterious powers similar to “Verse”. He gathers his friends to enter the tournament and he must face off against a rival team whose leader has similar abilities.
The story has a mystical undertone but plays second fiddle to the many modes on offer. As a solo player, you can complete quests, challenge the computer, complete the thorough yet simple tutorial, or undertake the main story. If you have friends, or you are happy to take on strangers, then there is an array of game modes that await you. Sadly, though, none of them will surprise you! Consequently, its familiar approach may be a little underwhelming and understated for veteran players.
Three is the magic number.
SNK has retained their classic three vs three battle arrangement, and players must select from a large array of traditional or new warriors. There are 13 teams to choose from, and 39 players to select. You may pick from prearranged teams or simply choose the characters you love. This large selection offers new and experienced gamers a fresh approach to the much-loved gameplay.
Alongside the usual team setup, veterans will note the inclusion of the parry system (shatter strike). There is also the MAX mode ability that allows players to kick some serious ass. In conjunction with these tried and tested elements, newcomers can experience the rush attack option. This basic move allows you to string combos together and is a great way to get you into the swing of things.
I love how the developers have tackled the initial learning curve. It’s always daunting to start a fighting game, but The King of Fighters XV is welcoming from the off. There is a handy and thorough tutorial that takes you through the basics. Here you’ll understand the new mechanics as well as the genre’s staple moves.
The story feels like an afterthought!
I genuinely didn’t expect much from the story and that’s lucky, as it’s a bit of an afterthought. You undertake six 3 vs. 3 rounds of hard-hitting action. So, so far, so good. This then leads to the boss battles and the inevitable rival encounter. It’s sadly underwhelming and fortunately, the excellent action makes up for it.
Though it didn’t inspire me, I loved the cinematic at the beginning of each stage. The lore-infused imagery added depth and character to an otherwise lacklustre story. Without this, the central mode would have been a bust.
Alongside this, you can take on the computer in local matches, or compete online with friends. Furthermore, you can spectate others, or take part in ranked or casual fights. Thankfully, this is where the action shines, as it’s ultra-competitive. With a great group of mates, you’ll lose yourself in this stylistic and brutal fighter.
The King of Fighters XV looks fantastic.
The developers are clearly passionate about maintaining the franchise style. The use of character animation from previous iterations highlights their desires while complementing the new look. It was fantastic to see the slick and stylish arcade gameplay come to life on the next-gen consoles. Subsequently, the action is fast, hectic, but super smooth, and this adds to the drama and energy in each fight. I loved the powered-up attacks and the look of each combo. You’ll experience flames, lightning, and more as your Max mode ability is triggered. There are so many hidden elements that plenty of trial and error are needed to see them all. As well as the polished and amazing looking characters, the stage design is exceptional. With a vast array of levels on offer, you’ll love competing in every arena.
There was a sense of enjoyment and disappointment in the loud and energetic audio. It delivers exactly what I expected thanks to its high tempo soundtrack. However, I wanted it to be more experimental as I felt the developers were playing it too safe. Luckily, though, the excellent sound effects make up for it. The hard-hitting sounds resonate throughout, and the noise of your foes being beaten silly will make you laugh and wince.
Why use icons?
The aforementioned tutorial is a great way to understand the fundamentals. However, I was confused as to why the developers insisted on the use of icons. Instead of telling you the button to use, they depict it with a picture of a foot or hand. What’s more, there is a selection of backdrops to highlight a strong or weak attack. I found it to be unnecessarily convoluted and it would have been better to state the button layout. Other than this, the controls are responsive and easy to use. The action focuses on timing, defence, and counterattacks. It was a clever shift from the usual button mashing as it rewards tactical thinking.
Thanks to the competitive ranked matches and the fun of the casual battles, this is addictive. Where it is let down, however, is the weak story. If you play this genre for an in-depth plot, you are going to be disappointed. Yet, if you enjoy challenging friends, you’ll find plenty of replay value. On top of this, completionists will have to invest hours because of the meaty and tough achievement list.
The King of Fighters XV is one of the best in the franchise.
This long-running franchise has seen some excellent additions over the years. Therefore, it may be foolhardy to say that this is one of the best. Other than its obvious shortcomings, this is a brilliant game that enhances the fighting genre. I adored the mixture of classic gameplay with new user-friendly elements. If the developers had enhanced the story mode, then this would have been exceptional. Despite this, I still loved it and recommend you to buy it here! Will you become the king of the fighters, or are you destined to fall at the first hurdle?