Review – The King of Fighters XV

Even though I’ve been reviewing a steady amount of SNK remasters and retro collections over the past months, it never ceases to amaze me to think the company, touted as bankrupt and a borderline dead horse not even a decade ago, is still releasing higher-budgeted sequels to their mainline games. I really liked 2016’s The King of Fighters XIV, the first polygonal mainline game in the franchise, and was looking forward to finally playing its sequel. SNK was promising a lot: more modes, better visuals, better controls, new characters, and a revamped online netcode. After a few delays, The King of Fighters XV is finally out. Time to see if it was worth the (very long) wait.

The King of Fighters XV Ryo and Blue Mary

Fun fact: Ryo’s design was based on Patrick Swayze. Another fun fact: he was the inspiration behind Street Fighter’s Dan Hibiki.

Let me be clear that, despite all the glitzy marketing campaigns and previews, The King of Fighters XV is not a reinvention of the wheel, retaining a good chunk of what made its predecessor so fun to play, all while adding more content on the side, and removing a bit of content on the other. The end result is pretty good, despite the latter: this is, without a doubt, the best looking polygonal KoF game ever made, with the smoothest gameplay and performance of any game in the franchise. And yes, it does feature rollback netcode for its online multiplayer. Bless this game.

Is it perfect? Hell no. I love SNK, I grew up playing a multitudes of games on tons of Neo Geo cabinets and my trustworthy (and lethargic) Neo Geo CD. I also know that the SNK of today is just a mere fraction of what it once used to be in terms of size and financial prowess. The King of Fighters XV can’t compete with the likes of Tekken and Guilty Gear when it comes to visuals (which are good, but far from being considered a next-gen standard), animations, and amount of content. What’s in here is pretty great, however, with SNK optimizing the hell out of the limited resources at their disposal.

The King of Fighters XV Kyo

Yeah, SNK isn’t very creative when it comes to protagonist names…

I was surprised with the scope of the game’s story mode. First of all, this is not a story mode per se. This is just your run-of-the-mill single player arcade mode, just sprinkled with a handful of fully animated, fully voiced CG cutscenes. I didn’t exactly think they were the best cutscenes featured in a fighting game, with the overall plot and voice acting feeling like the most generic of shonens, but it was a nice distraction in between fights. This is what you’re here for: three-on-three bouts against dozens of different fighters, with flashy combos and unpronounceable move names.

The KoF has always been known for being a lot less newcomer friendly than its main competitor, Street Fighter. Its special gauges and tag team battles have always been a little bit less straightforward than the simplicity preached by Capcom’s franchise. One thing people have always complained about the series as a whole was the complexity when trying to pull off special attacks, since almost none of them were comprised of your traditional “quarter circle + punch” combos.


The King of Fighters XV’s story mode is as good as your run-of-the-mill shonen, but hey, it does have one…

KoF XIV introduced the “Rush” system, which allows players to perform more complicated attacks if they manage to successfully punch their foe a few times in a row without being interrupted. The King of Fighters XV retains the Rush method in order to appease to newcomers, but be aware that there are dozens of other special moves available for each fighter besides the one or two main attacks assigned to the system. The overpowered parry mechanic, known as “Shatter Strike”, is one of my favorite inclusions, not only because it lets you break a foe’s guard (and they do love to guard 80% of your blows), but also because it pushes them to the other side of the screen, giving you a few seconds to breathe and replan your strategy.

At the end of the day, this is still a KoF game, and one thing these games are known for is their ludicrous roster sizes. KoF XIV, for example, had FIFTY fighters available right from the get-go. This might be the only thing I’m slightly disappointed in The King of Fighters XV when compared to its predecessor. There are less characters available from the start, with some of the most noteworthy figures in the franchise missing altogether. Kim Kaphwan, one of the staple characters in the series, as well as my team alongside Joe Higashi and Ryo Sakazaki, isn’t featured in the game’s roster as of the writing of this review. What are the odds he will be released as a DLC addition?

I do have to explain that the roster size is still huge. There are thity-nine characters available from the start in The King of Fighters XV, and that would be considered a ginormous collection of fighters in any sensible fighting game. I will never complain about this game being devoid of content. With that being said, some of the brand new characters included in this game just don’t feel as charismatic or appealing as some of the old ones, with newcomers Shun’ei (also known as thrift shop Rock Howard) and Isla being utter charisma voids when put next to staples like Kyo, Terry, and Mai Shiranui.


Look, it’s far from being an ugly game. It’s just not what we should expect from a next-gen fighting title.

I do have to admit that The King of Fighters XV is basically better than its predecessor in almost every single regard, just being a bit more lackluster in terms of the amount of day-one fighters when compared to the ludicrous roster size featured in XIV. It looks sharp enough (albeit not by next-gen standards), its controls are responsive, and its multiplayer is more than solid. Sure, it might be a bit rough around the edges when put next to a few higher-budgeted fighting games, but The King of Fighters XV ended up being exactly what I wanted it to be. Kudos to SNK, for they have successfully delivered a banger after so many delays and setbacks.


Graphics: 7.0

A bit better than KoF XIV, but not by a lot. A pleasantly looking game, don’t get me wrong, just not exactly a staple of what a next-gen fighting game will look like.

Gameplay: 9.0

Fast-paced and responsive. What you should expect from a modern fighting game, with an excellent framerate and a lot of combos to pull off. Just bear in mind this is an SNK fighter: some special attacks are usually slightly harder to perform by design.

Sound: 7.5

Besides the expected shouts and grunts coming from each character, there is a bit more voice acting stemming from the game’s simple but enjoyable story mode. With that being said, I think the soundtrack is a bit inferior when compared to KoF XIV.

Fun Factor: 9.0

It doesn’t feature the absolutely ludicrous amount of day-one fighters from its predecessor, but it makes up for that with more robust single and multiplayer modes.

Final Verdict: 8.5

The King of Fighters XV is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S.

A copy of The King of Fighters XV was provided by the publisher.