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Beyond Co-op Reviews: March 2022 - Page 2

Beyond Co-op Review: The King of Fighters XV

Review by: Paul Acevedo

Back when you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a new fighting game, SNK managed to create a distinctive new franchise by bringing together fighters from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and other games into one massive series: The King of Fighters. The series has outlasted many of its competitors, racking up fifteen numbered entries and numerous spin-offs. Six years after the last entry, The King of Fighters XV now makes an impressive debut on Xbox (which never got KOF XIV), PlayStation, and PC. Despite the long wait and a lack of earth-shattering innovations, this one’s a whole lot of fun.

Story Mode allows players to pick any team of three fighters and proceed through a series of battles. Between certain bouts, cinematics play out that tell the overall story of the new tournament and a dangerous, otherworldly threat waiting in the wings. These cinematics are a bit goofy and focused on specific characters rather than the team chosen by the player. It all culminates in a series of flashy boss battles and a 2D, team-specific ending. Story mode is basically a traditional arcade mode with some cinematics thrown in. It’s fun while it lasts, but rather insubstantial compared to the story modes you’d find in every other AAA fighting game. On the plus side, unlocking the numerous team endings will inspire plenty of playthroughs.

Other single-player modes include Training, Tutorial, and Mission. Training is the usual practice-against-CPU-dummy mode. Tutorial is broken up into two basic categories: Basic Moves and Attack Moves. The two do a good job of teaching basic and advanced game mechanics. Mission mode, the equivalent of Combo Challenges in the Dead or Alive series, offers five tough challenges for each of the game’s 39 characters.

Offline versus mode offers normal and tournament options in both one-on-one or 3-on-3 fighter configurations. That’s all expected, but the online modes are surprisingly robust. First, the game uses GGPO netcode, so the experience is as fluid as you’d hope. The actual menus are busy and unintuitive, but you get used to them after a while. Ranked matches are the standard fare, though players have to try out against three increasingly brutal CPU opponents first, just like in Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid.

Room Matches are where players can hang out, spectate, and spar in a variety of battle types, including Single VS, Team VS, Party VS, and Draft VS. Party is a 6-player team-based mode in which each player controls one character on a team of three during a 3-on-3 battle rather than one player controlling all three members. Draft VS forces players to take turns drafting characters with which to play. Each fighter can only be used by one player, so picking the right characters for your team of three before your opponent gets them comes into play. In total, Room Matches have quite a lot to offer.

The huge roster is always a selling point of this series, and KOF XV is no different. XV launches with 39 playable characters – more than the first game’s roster of 24 but fewer than some installments. Most of my favorites like Mai, Terry, Andy, Joe, Ryo, Yuri, and Athena are all present. So is Robert Garcia, though he now sports an awful pencil-thin mustache and goatee. New characters include Isla, a girl with ghostly hands floating around her; Dolores, a woman who fights with earth magic; and Krohnen McDougall, a goggles-wearing dude with a cybernetic arm. Some important characters from XIV and series mainstays didn’t make the cut, but the premium DLC Garou Team (led by Rock Howard) has just been released, and the South Town team (led by Geese Howard) will come next. A $29.99 Team Pass will get you both teams.

Premium DLC characters don’t mean much if the game isn’t very good. Thankfully, King of Fighters XV is very good. The game plays very smoothly, with both simple basic mechanics and advanced mechanics like guard crushes and emergency evasions. As a casual fighting game fan, I can hop in and have a blast without feeling overwhelmed or like I’m missing out on too much of the gameplay. The 2.5D graphics look great, too, other than some character models having gigantic necks (Ryo) or hands (pretty much everybody). Not only is the soundtrack very solid, the DJ Station also allows players to listen to stage music from three past KOF games (XIV, 2002, and ‘94) and assign songs to each stage. Although the single-player modes are a bit skimpy, KOF XV’s quality multiplayer modes make it a must-buy for anybody looking to face off with friends and online foes.

The King of Fighters XV sells for $59.99 in digital and physical formats. Grab the digital version on Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam or the physical version for Xbox, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. A digital deluxe version that bundles the game with the “Team Pass 1” DLC is also available for $84.99.

Our Rating: 4 out of 5