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King of Fighters XV Beta Hands-On Preview and Impressions

I hadn’t played any King of Fighters game all that much since the NEOGEO arcade days, but I did finally pick it back up casually when KOF XIV released back in 2016. With the announcement of KOF XV, I figured I’d give this one a shot and see how it handled. Here’s our preview for The King of Fighters XV beta.

The King of Fighters XV
Developer: SNK
Publisher: Koch Media
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (Played), Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC
Release Date: February 17th, 2022
Players: 1 (Up to 8 Online)
Price: TBA

Before we get into anything else, let’s just take a second to appreciate how incredible the soundtracks are for these games. KOF always delivers fantastic music to beat people’s asses to, and KOF XV continues this long standing tradition. The theme song – Now or Never – is an absolute banger. In fact, the full game promises to include a DJ Mode which will let you listen to over 300 pieces of music from across the franchise.

Anyway, this preview covers the KOF XV second beta test – so the available fighters were newcomer Krohnen (His team has not yet been announced), Isla (Rivals Team), Meitenkun (Hero Team), Antonov (Galactic Anton Wrestling Team), K´ (He’s his own team), Blue Mary (Secret Agents Team), Ryo Sakazaki (Art of Fighting Team), and of course SNK poster boy (who’s been in like everything at this point) Terry Bogard (Fatal Fury Team).

While I feel like KOF‘s roster has mostly gotten a bit stale in presentation at this point, Isla absolutely drips style and was easily the most interesting fighter available for play. She (along with her floating hands named Amanda) is the antagonist for KOF XV and subsequently Shun’ei’s biggest rival.

I’d really love to see SNK ask for some favors and get some cross franchise guests in KOF XV since they always seem to be loaning out poor Terry and getting nothing in return. Give me Kazuya or Hwoarang from Tekken (cause they got Geese Howard) and maybe a Nintendo character like one of the 412 Fire Emblem characters since Terry showed up in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.

KOF XV has a great look, and looks much cleaner than KOF XIV did – in fact I’d argue that it’s on par with Street Fighter V at this point, but it still doesn’t do anything that really sets it apart from other 2D fighters.

While Arc System Works games have that super detailed anime styling, and Mortal Kombat always looks gritty and grimy, KOF falls somewhere between the realistic look of Tekken and the bold comic book look that Capcom’s fighter has been using.

The backgrounds look good, but aside from being 2D versus 3D, if you were to put KOF XV side by side with Dead or Alive 6, the only way a casual fan might notice a difference is in the UI (aside from franchise specific iconic characters.)

There’s something to be said about sticking to tradition, but I’m really hoping that KOF gets something more unique for future iterations. Right now the biggest thing I’ve noticed are the neat looking particle effects.

Isla’s spray paint bombs leave behind a realistic looking cloud of smoke, while Meitenkun throws his pillow and it has a pearlescent effect that’s reminiscent of the way light shines on bubbles.

If I’m being honest, there’s a lot of recycled assets and things left over from KOF XIV, but if it’s broke don’t fix it, right? Thankfully, the biggest improvement seems to be fixing their absolutely horrific netcode.

KOF XIV was marred and extremely difficult to play online reliably, but I didn’t encounter much issue at all playing The King of Fighters XV beta during this period which speaks volumes for SNK’s ability to listen to fan complaints. Speaking of which, they’ve also added a new parry system called Shatter Strikes which make defensive tactics a bit easier for newcomers.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the auto-combos in KOF since I’ve always preferred to play these games like the 2D fighters of old, but thankfully they aren’t a huge deal in this game because you have to be extremely close to your opponent for the auto combos to even work, so they can mostly be ignored.

There’s also far more incentive to use your meter in this game since you can do EX moves at any time instead of being limited like previous entries. I still don’t ever use it cause I’m not that good at KOF, but it seems like there’s also new incentive to use the MaxMode instead of saving it to extend combos.

Ultimately, KOF XV seems to be moving in the right directions but the beta got dull pretty quickly due to only have 8 fighters available when you’re consistently playing as three man teams. We’ll keep our eyes on this one and hopefully be able to bring you a full review when the game launches early next year.

The King of Fighters XV beta is available exclusively on PlayStation through the rest of this weekend, and releases on February 17th, 2022.

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