It feels like only yesterday that I played The King of Fighters XIV on PS4. It was the first game in the series I spent months playing after only having never tried and entry prior. That might sound weird to most people given the developer’s amazing legacy, but I’m definitely glad I finally got into SNK’s fighters. I’ve grown to adore the developer’s releases and have been playing a lot of The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match on PS4 and the newest Samurai Shodown in recent years.
The King of Fighters XIV was excellent in many ways, but lacking in others. I was very curious to see how The King of Fighters XV would build on the base laid by XIV. Having played it daily since the Digital Deluxe Edition unlocked early last week, I think SNK have nailed almost everything in The King of Fighters XV, but could do better in some areas.
If you’ve not followed the game at all, The King of Fighters XV is a 3v3 team fighter with 39 characters available in the base release at launch and more to come as DLC. Your aim is to defeat each of the three fighters in your opponent’s team while surviving with at least one from your team. There is a common gauge for your own team and one for the opposing team. This lets you execute more powerful attacks and even superbly (for the most part) animated Climax Super Special moves. As with many modern fighters, a simple input combo option is also there which will execute different finishers based on how many bars you have filled.
Despite already having many favorites from the history of the series like Shermie, Terry, and Mai included, I made sure to try out the newcomers as well like Isla. Picking a team of three and the order before a match adds a bit of strategy to the mix. I definitely appreciate how varied the roster feels even in the base game making so many combinations fun to learn and play online.
The core gameplay can get very deep, but also accessible to newcomers who are willing to spend a bit of time in the tutorials and missions. If you did play The King of Fighters XIV, you will feel quite comfortable right from the start here as the gameplay feels like a refined take on that game with some good new additions. The new Shatter Strike system is pretty daunting at first, but it is very effective once you learn the ins and outs of it through the tutorials and experimenting in training. As someone who used to only play Mortal Kombat and Tekken many years ago, getting into The King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, and BlazBlue has been refreshing when it comes to gameplay.
Pre-release, SNK confirmed that The King of Fighters XV has proper rollback netcode with an excellent lobby and training system. The online training mode is excellent to let people play and train together to try out various things. Over the last week, I’ve played against people in Europe, Asia, and North America on both wired and wireless connections. I’ve had a great online experience across the board so far. After Guilty Gear Strive and The King of Fighters XV, I’m hoping we don’t need to worry about delay-based netcode in new Japanese fighting games going forward.
Visually, The King of Fighters XV is mostly gorgeous on PS5. The character designs are great with slick animations. Some of the special moves are amazing, but a few characters clearly had less care put in with special moves looking lacking compared to most of the cast’s unique and detailed animations. I’ve had no issues when it comes to performance or visuals barring shadow flickering on characters in some in-engine cut-scenes and some zoomed-in moments. Hopefully this can be resolved in patches. There is a noticeable delay in the menu animations though which was also annoying in the beta.
The King of Fighters is known for fantastic music and The King of Fighters XV delivers. It not only has excellent new music, but also a wealth of classic music from the series. The older soundtracks are available through unlocks from specific teams in the story mode. It would’ve been great to have this all available from the start, but I get why SNK made it so that you go through the story mode with different team combinations.
Voice acting in The King of Fighters XV is available in Japanese only. The voice acting is well done barring some audio leveling issues, but there are instances of dialogue without subtitles. These occur in some special moves and between rounds. It would’ve been good if SNK could’ve made sure all dialogue is subtitled since only Japanese voice acting is available.
The use of the PS5’s activity cards feature in The King of Fighters XV is great. Being able to skip most of the splash screens and get directly into training mode or story mode saves a lot of time. I didn’t notice any specific use of the controller features barring rumble though. Load times are mostly great as well in The King of Fighters XV on PS5, but I’m disappointed in the install size being about double of that on Xbox Series X. Hopefully a future update can improve this.
I’m hoping future updates can also bring back some modes like survival and time attack. Barring the omission of those modes, the biggest disappointment is the story mode in The King of Fighters XV. The story mode is basically a glorified arcade mode where you keep playing with different team combinations to unlock ending scenes and music. It is fun at first while looking for what team to play with, but the boss encounter gets old very quickly.
I was very excited for The King of Fighters XV after how much I enjoyed The King of Fighters XIV and the recent Samurai Shodown while checking out classic releases through collections and the recent online updates. SNK’s fighters always have great gameplay and music, but the other aspects are often hard to predict. The King of Fighters XV nails the visuals, music, gameplay, and online. It only suffers in its middling story mode that is a glorified arcade mode and the lack of any survival or time attack mode. I’m looking forward to seeing how the game evolves through its upcoming DLC and patches in the near future.