The King of Fighters XV

The King of Fighters XV

The King of Fighters XV

Posted by CJ Wilson

14 Apr, 2022


King of Fighters is probably the most well-known of their many fighting titles and has long been a favorite in the community. 

At its core, King of Fighters is a team-based, classic 2D fighter, more in line with Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat than, say, Guilty Gear -Strive- or Marvel vs Capcom. The team-based gameplay provides a unique level of pre-game strategy and balance, and the series has a reputation for fast-paced, fluid combat and insanely complex high-level combos. 

Until the most recent entry, King of Fighters XIV, it was also known for its hand-drawn anime-style artwork. The shift to 3D characters and art in King of Fighters XIV was a controversial one. While reviews for it were generally positive, it still received a more lukewarm reception than its predecessors. This means that King of Fighters XV has a lot riding on it—especially given the decision to keep the 3D character modeling.

Great… Menu Design?

Never thought I’d open a review of a fighting game by talking about the menu. But, here we are. First off, the menu is intuitive. Where some games like Guilty Gear -Strive- and Street Fighter V opt for “aesthetic” menus that are hard to navigate, it’s easy to know exactly where you need to go in King of Fighters XV. There aren’t any distracting bells and whistles… and this is true from the title screen, all the way to the battlefield. From setting up an online match to selecting your characters, the UI is smooth and clean. 

There are nice quality-of-life additions, too. Small ones, maybe, but they make you wonder why they aren’t standard. One example is on the character select menu. Instead of giving you icons at the edge of the roster for “random character” or “random team,” those options are mapped to the controller itself. So, if you’re having trouble deciding, you can just click L3 and get a random team.

Likewise, it’s possible to make pre-set teams that you can find by clicking the touchpad. That way, your favorite team is always a few button presses away.


Few genres care more about netcode than fighting games. It’s easy to see why, too, with the one-on-one nature of fighters and their fast pacing. Historically, Japanese developers (like SNK) have lagged behind on the netcode department, largely due to a refusal to use “rollback” netcode, the current industry standard. 

King of Fighters XV is the first in the series to use the well-respected GGPO rollback netcode framework. And it paid off.  In the dozens of matches I played, I hardly experienced any lag or difficulty. In fact, most of the time, it felt like I was playing in the same room as my opponent. The lobby loaded in quick, as did the matches, and they flowed clean all the way through.

In fact, it wasn’t until after I’d put the game down that I realized I’d even thought about the netcode. It accomplished one of the harder things to do in online play: making it feel as though we weren’t online.


Here is where the game really shined. King of Fighters XIV handled the transition to 3D somewhat roughly. The characters occasionally felt unresponsive or heavy, and it made the game feel a little off. That has been completely fixed, here.

The gameplay felt as smooth and fast as older entries in the series, like XIII. While some characters’ movement speed may have slowed attacks certainly have not. And the series’ well-known dodge roll shows more variation in how each character performs it than before, affecting the way that they can be played. 

Combos in the game are, perhaps, more difficult to execute than in other fighters, like Guilty Gear. But once you get used to them, you find yourself with a great fighting system on hand, one that seems to combine the speed of “airdashers” with the simplicity of more traditional 2D fighters.

Aesthetics: Form and Function

As mentioned, the previous entry’s transition to 3D character models was a little rough. While some of the blowback was misinformed (inspired by early character models, rather than those on release), the fact remained that it did make the game feel dated. 

That was not the case, here. While the models are 3D, their designs feel like classic anime from the 90’s (with the exception of some of the newer characters). Yet, the attention to detail and especially texture provides the models with a sense of realism. When you combine the anime base of the design with this realism, you get a rather unique aesthetic that feels very King of Fighters. It’s a different approach than that employed by say, Arc System Works. The game has style… but also simplicity. There’s something pleasant, in that.

What’s more, the cleanliness of the models results in some practical gameplay applications. First and foremost, it’s much easier to track a character’s movements. As a result, new players (or those rusty on the fundamentals) will find themselves with a much easier system to understand, simply because it’s easier to see.


About Author

CJ Wilson

CJ Wilson is a freelance writer and novelist specializing in game writing, journalism, and non-profit work. His writing expertise includes gaming, law, nature/environmental writing, literature, and travel. As a novelist, he specializes in character-focused fantasy and sci-fi.

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