The King Of Fighters 15 review – super SNK bros.

The King Of Fighters 15 screenshot
The King Of Fighters 15 – a royal beating (pic: SNK)

SNK’s new versus fighter has better graphics and multiplayer options, but is it enough to go up against Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat?

At time of writing there seems a good chance that Capcom will announce Street Fighter 6 by the end of the month. Considering the struggles that Street Fighter 5 has endured it will come at a difficult time for the one-on-one fighter scene, with only Mortal Kombat still enjoying mainstream success. There have been a number of great fighting games recently, but the likes of Samurai Shodown and Guilty Gear -Strive- were never going to be big sellers, no matter how good they are.

The same is probably true of The King Of Fighters 15, even though Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has raised the profile of SNK frontman Terry Bogard to previously unseen levels. Nobody seems to have told the developers though, as despite the box art featuring nine different characters none of them are Terry.

That does illustrate two positives about the game though, in that it proves this is not a quick cash-in and that it has such a large number of playable characters that it’s easy for even (relatively) famous ones to get lost in the shuffle.

As you might gather from the rather large number at the end of its name, The King Of Fighters has been going for a long time. For most of the 90s and 2000s it was getting a new sequel every year, with, as you’d expect, relatively little difference between each one. However, rather than an ordinary fighting game the series is essentially SNK’s equivalent of Super Smash Bros. or a Capcom Vs. fighter, in that its roster of characters is primarily made up of cameos from other SNK franchises.

The majority come from either Fatal Fury (from which Terry Bogard originally hails) or Art Of Fighting, but also occasionally Samurai Shodown and other more obscure SNK fighters. Other non-fighting games, like Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier, are also often included, as well as an increasingly large pantheon of original characters. As a result, The King Of Fighters 15 launches with 39 playable fighters, with another 12 being sold as DLC.

Although there are some key differences, The King Of Fighters has always borne close comparison with Street Fighter, with many of the same people working on both series. As you’d expect, that means The King Of Fighters 15 features purely 2D gameplay, although its predecessor from 2016 was the first time one of the mainline games used 3D graphics instead of animated sprites.

The King Of Fighters 14 was hardly much of a looker though, with the visuals coming across as very bland and old-fashioned. This sequel attempts to address that problem by using Unreal Engine 4, but the problem is not so much the technology but more the fact that SNK has not yet worked out how to fully translate the personality of the old sprites into 3D models. The King Of Fighters 15 has some decent animation but it’s seriously outclassed by Guilty Gear -Strive- and BlazBlue from Arc System Works. Some of the special effects for super moves are nice though and if nothing else this is definitely an improvement on the last game.

One of the key differences when compared to Street Fighter is that King Of Fighters (KOF to its friends) features 3 vs. 3 battles instead of literally being one-on-one. It’s not technically tag team though, because you can’t switch characters until the previous one is defeated, which seems a bit odd but is to ensure that your choice of characters, and what order they come out in, becomes an important tactical decision.

Traditionally, most characters’ special moves are similar to, if not identical, to equivalents in the Street Fighter series but KOF 15 goes back to using just a four-button control scheme, while also bringing back classic features such as dashing, dodge rolls, hops, and the MAX mode mechanic that gives you access to stronger moves as you fill the special meter. Most of these concepts will be immediately understandable to fighting game fans, even if they’ve never played a KOF game before, and the basics are simple enough for anyone to pick up.

KOF 15 also introduces new features, such as Shatter Strike, a variant of the old parry system that allows you to use up a chunk of your special meter to perform one extra strength blow. There are a number of other more complex techniques lurking beneath the surface, including multiple different types of cancel and super moves, plus the return of the blowback move to create space from a block, but none of that is necessary when you first start.

The King Of Fighters 15 screenshot
The King Of Fighters 15 – Terry is just one character amongst many (pic: SNK)

In typical fighting game style, the tutorials aren’t the best at explaining things – being, as usual, too focused on controls rather than tactics – but they do make more effort than most and at this point the amount of online help available is legion. Apart from that traditional oversight KOF 15 is very much trying to appeal to all types of players, bringing back characters and techniques to please older fans but also introducing new ones to make things easier for newbies.

The Rush system, for example, is basically an auto-combo, that gives newcomers instant access to easy-but-powerful moves, while still ensuring they have to think about how to use them.

The story mode is a disappointment though, since it’s not much more than arcade mode but with a few cut scenes and a generic storyline that veterans will notice as being suspiciously similar to the Orochi Saga. That’s not an unusual problem for any fighting game but SNK had promised big things for the main single-player mode and they haven’t really delivered.

More: Games news

zone post image for post 16124108

Today’s Wordle answer is extra hard and fans think it’s unfair

zone post image for post 16121197

Cyberpunk 2077 update problems continue as PS4 upgrades fail to work

zone post image for post 16123321

The King Of Fighters 15 review – super SNK bros.

 

What they have got right though is the multiplayer which, importantly, features GGPO rollback netcode, for much smoother and more reliable connections. For some players that will be worth the price of entry on its own but the online in general is very good, with lots of options to set-up your own tournaments, as well as casual matches and even online sparring.

Whether any of this will be enough to finally make The King Of Fighters a mainstream franchise in the West remains to be seen but the improved online play and large roster certainly won’t hurt, especially if the game becomes popular on the competition circuit. Fighting games almost always rely on incremental change but The King Of Fighters 15 is no workmanlike sequel, and deserves to retain the series’ crown as one of the premier fighting franchises.

The King Of Fighters 15 review summary

In Short: There’s still room for improvement but this is the best King Of Fighters has been for many years, with enough new features to please both veterans and newcomers.

Pros: An accessible fighting system with a good mixture of new additions and classic mechanics. Lots of characters and drastically improved multiplayer options.

Cons: Weak single-player content and while the graphics are improved from the last game, they still don’t have anywhere near the personality of the non-3D titles.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Price: £49.99
Publisher: Prime Matter/SNK
Developer: SNK
Release Date: 17th February 2022
Age Rating: 12

Email gamecentral@metro.co.uk, leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter.

MORE : Tekken’s Kazuya proves Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a great fighting game after all

MORE : Guilty Gear -Strive- review – the best-looking fighting game ever made

MORE : Mortal Kombat dev NetherRealm making Marvel fighting game claims rumour

Follow Metro Gaming on Twitter and email us at gamecentral@metro.co.uk

For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.

Original Article

Spread the love

Leave a Comment