The King of Fighters series has been around for a long time, with its first game releasing all the way back in 1994. With this as its 15th main game entry, you’d think that SNK’s style of fighting would have become more refined over the years. As much as I pine for the old days of SNK, I just can’t get into the modern version of King of Fighters, and King of Fighters XV, while having a whole lot of good going for it, doesn’t really get me excited for its release to the general public.
The King of Fighters XV is a side scrolling team-based fighting game. In it, you’ll (usually) take control of a team of three fighters and fighter the opposing team until one side has no more fighters standing. With a roster of 39 fighters, there are many returning characters, with only a few new names added to the roster. The teams got shaken up quite a bit too, with familiar faces changing teams, and other teams forming anew.
The story of King of Fighters XV picks up where King of Fighters XIV leaves off—after the defeat of the extra dimensional being, Verse at the end of the previous King of Fighters tournament. It’s another King of Fighters tournament, and trouble is brewing on the horizon. While some games like the Injustice and Mortal Kombat series under Netherrealm have made some great leaps in storytelling in fighting games, King of Fighters XV appears to make a minimal effort. And while I played through Samurai Shodown wishing for more of a story mode, after playing King of Fighters XV I actually wonder why they even bothered. I always felt like The King of Fighters had a problem with it lacking iconic characters like other fighting game series, but its story mode doesn’t do much to alleviate that problem. Still, no one plays these games for the story.
I wish I could say that I enjoyed King of Fighters XV as a fighting game. While it’s definitely not bad, it’s not exactly my preference for a number of reasons. I used to think that the Injustice and Mortal Kombat games were slow compared to Street Fighter, but it’s almost like The King of Fighters XV is competing for that title. Even characters that are considered fast felt sluggish. Hit do feel impactful, however, and The King of Fighters XV roster of 39 fighters means that it’s possible to find a team of three that matches your playstyle.
Most modes in King of Fighters XV have you fight in teams of three versus another team of three. And while your familiarity with each of your fighters and their moves are important, so is knowing how to use your team—or knowing how to make the best three person team you can.
There are multiple ways to play The King of Fighters XV, including solo modes, local versus, ranked/unranked matches and more. In fact, I was a little surprised how many different modes there are. If you prefer to play against friends locally (or solo against the AI) you can do so in a 1v1 or 3v3 mode in a single fight or in a tournament in addition to the aforementioned story mode. There are also training modes, including online training lobbies where you can match up with other players and swap pointers. There are also completive lobbies where you can make custom rules, alongside the regular casual and ranked versus online modes. There are a lot of different ways to play King of Fighters XV, but if you play against the AI, it won’t be nearly as fun as playing against real players, and that’s mostly because the AI is a little disappointing. I found it easy to trick the AI into attacks, and spamming certain attacks at certain points defeated them easily.
The King of Fighters XV has a much improved online experience now with its GGPO Rollback Netcode. SNK has started implementing rollback netcode in its other The King of Fighters games, including The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Final Match Edition. To say it simply: rollback netcode is network trickery used to eliminate the feeling of latency from online fighting games. This is the first The King of Fighters game to ship with it at launch.
I really wanted to get into The King of Fighters XV, but its biggest drawback is how sluggish it feels to me. I like my fighting games a little snappier. Still, if you like fighting games, there is plenty to like about The King of Fighters XV, especially with its huge roster of 39 fighters—with more to come through planned DLC. SNK isn’t the king of fighting games anymore, and The King of Fighters XV, despite its delays, feels like a mostly lackluster entry in the long running series.
An Xbox Series X|S key was provided to us for this review.