For a game series that's lasted over 20 years and had more than 20 instalments, The King of Fighters series proves that it's more than retained its heart in the 15th main entry but may have lost the edge that veteran players have come to expect.
Focused around the titular annual tournament, this year held by a mysterious benefactor, KoF XV (PS4/5, Xbox Series X/S, PC) sees almost 40 characters band together into teams of three to compete for the title of champion.
From this impressive cast, new and old players alike can easily find a trio of characters that mesh well with them, thanks to some very simple and easy to grasp playstyles.
Not to mention, of course, how fun all of these characters are — not just to play but to see interacting.
Characters with special connections will have unique pre-fight intros, their own special battle music or even a special ending to the game's story mode if they're paired up. It might only be a few minutes of content but there's a lot of charm and attention to detail.
Plus, the fact that a lot of the characters join the tournament just to have a good time or resolve a petty dispute despite the world-ending calamity going on in the background is just a lot of fun. This game does not take itself seriously and that's a good thing.
However, despite the copious amounts of window-dressing, the game does suffer from some noticeable issues in terms of actual mechanics.
While the command inputs used for special moves generally aren't too difficult to remember or perform in game, KoF XV makes use of an "auto-super" system that will automatically chain a player into the highest power special move they have available if they manage to combo together at least four hits.
It certainly looks flashy to see your character pull off their ultimate move but the realisation that it wasn't really earned through your efforts can somewhat cheapen the excitement of getting the attack off.
I won't pretend that I'm good at fighting games but I do enjoy learning special move inputs and trying to implement them when I do play them, as it feels fun and rewarding to get these moves off by doing the inputs correctly. Having the computer just give them to me feels unearned.
The system is definitely great for new or casual players who just want to have fun with the game or learn the ropes but it can take away some of the sense of accomplishment of defeating a tough opponent if you know it was only due to the game essentially doing the input for you.
All in all, The King of Fighters XV is a lot of fun to play but a fighting game that I think is best enjoyed casually. Not every fighter has to be super complicated and meant for pro-gamer play. Some of them can just be silly, charming and good for a fun time with a group of friends, and I think KoF XV fits that bill fine. – The Tifton Gazette, Ga./Tribune News Service