The King of Fighters 15
¿Quieres jugar KOF?
It's amazing to consider that just a year ago, in January 2021, The King of Fighters 15 was officially announced to the public. Since the initial announcement, SNK spent the next year, every week, revealing a character with a new trailer following suit. It was an interesting way to generate buzz, but it kept fans and interested players excited for Wednesdays. As the character reveals increase, so too did the quality of KOF 15's graphical fidelity. What was once compared to King of Fighters 14 slowly began to take a life of its own.
The King of Fighters series is compared to other 2D fighting juggernauts including Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat for its longevity. Beginning with King of Fighters '94, the KOF series marks the second fighting game franchise to have a presence in four different decades. From their yearly releases between the 90s and 00s, the release of KOF 13 and 14 during the 2010s, and now KOF 15's release in 2022. The first franchise to do this was Street Fighter beginning in the 80s. As one of the most anticipated titles released this year, is it all hype or does it...
Shatter All Expectations?
The presentation for The King of Fighters 15 is both no-frills and surprisingly in-depth at first. Players are introduced to the title screen in record time, no cutscenes or pending updates are required. The menu is also clean, with everything a player wants available without the busy work. Each option is grouped into sub-categories, including tutorials, online content, offline modes, and other bonus media. As the player dives more into the game's Story mode, they will unlock bonuses including voices, gallery content, and bonus music. Music from previous KOF titles can be enjoyed on top of KOF 15's impressive soundtrack giving long-time players the nostalgia they crave.
As this is shaping up to be SNK's most popular King of Fighters based on word of mouth and discourse alone, newer players must know what they're getting into. Thankfully, The King of Fighters 15 includes a tutorial mode explaining its mechanics. Topics such as movement, attacking, and its meter system is all explained concisely. Most tutorials tend to go in-depth like Guilty Gear Strive whereas here it's short and simple. The real tutorial begins in completing a character's trials, or "Missions."
Make No Mistake, King of Fighters Is A Challenge
While the bulk of KOF 15's offline lies in Story Mode, the Mission mode is the "engine" that powers the playstyle of a player. There's only so much the tutorial can teach. The best way to learn KOF 15 is by playing it. Mission Mode allows players to select from any of the 39 member roster and complete five trials. These trials range from special moves to bread-and-butter commands. It was here that I was stuck in a rut as the timing for KOF has always been on the strict side.
While other fighting games have leniency when it comes to linking moves into other moves, The King of Fighters always had a tight execution. For decades, it has always been misconstrued as "difficult," but the series had always lauded on visual cues. In most games, linking Move A into Move B is as easy as it states. For KOF, Move B can only link after a specific part of Move A's animation. What's the optimal cancel point? Great question! That's what Mission mode is for! Learning your character's visual cues and cancel points are so important, certain characters like Blue Mary saw buffs involving this very rule.
The Mission: Take Deep Breaths And Take Your Time
With this in mind, expect to spend some time in Mission Mode while trying not to beat yourself up from having difficulty with a rather easy combo. While recording footage, I wanted to show off Mission Mode by playing as Terry and his sick Garou: Mark of the Wolves outfit. Shout-outs to Deluxe Edition owners who own that as well as the Classic Leona outfits. Anyways, I spend almost an hour in Mission Mode trying to get this one combo down. It's a simple combo, connecting a normal attack, command attack, special attack, super attack, ANOTHER super attack, and finally the Climax Attack.
What made this difficult for me was the aforementioned "cancel points." Even the normal moves have a specific point that can be canceled into although the stronger the attack the more particular it is. For some reason, connecting to Terry's Burning Knuckle into Power Geyser was one piece of the puzzle. The trick to linking Power Geyser into EX Buster Wolf requires the player to cancel as soon as the Geyser comes out. A second sooner or later caused me to flail my fight stick and mash buttons to no avail. It also didn't help that I used a really terrible stick until I wised up and switched to a pad.
King of Fighters 15 Builds Upon 14's Design Changes And Improves them
Once everything flowed and I solved the puzzle, I felt a sense of accomplishment. That's all that King of Fighters 15 is as far as its gameplay, a puzzle figuring out which piece connects to what. Once that's figured out, it's honestly a simple game with universal defensive options and simple buttons. The commands may seem daunting at first, but the thrill of learning trumps the frustration. It also helps that this may be the most beautiful KOF yet.
With a beefy rig, King of Fighters 15 looks beautiful with Ray Tracing on. Reflections from the character models appear on stages, including water puddles and porcelain tiles. Unfortunately, maintaining a solid framerate with all the glitz and glam is a challenge. Fighting games are a genre that must keep a steady FPS as everything falls apart without it. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of graphical options in the game to change the most dynamic effects. Fortunately, on the PC, there are tweaks like turning v-sync off, forcing it to run in DX11, and even checking that all of the computer's cores are being used.
King of Fighters 15 Is A Special Gift For Fighting Game Fans By Fighting Game Fans
With the release of Guilty Gear Strive and Melty Blood Type Lumina, King of Fighters 15 joins the many fighting games available in the past year. The dedicated fanbase of the series transcends across four different decades and with its 30th anniversary imminent, KOF 15 is a special treat. I hadn't discussed the "Story Mode" on purpose as this first take preview was meant to focus on the mechanics of KOF. There are many Easter Eggs for various players including "Secret Teams" and endings dedicated to them outside of the base "Team Roster."
Cutscenes play after battles with special interactions among certain characters. A whopping 39 character roster spread across 13 teams ensures there's a character for everyone. Six more characters are expected to be released over the next several months, meaning the most difficult challenge is deciding who to play. It's easy to be a kid in a candy store as opposed to playing a game where none of the roster clicks. The King of Fighters 15 marks the return of SNK's placement of its importance in not just fighting games, but gaming history as a whole.
The King of Fighters 15 is available on Microsoft and Sony consoles as well as the PC.