The King of Fighters XV Review

The King of Fighters XV Review

My favorite exposure to fighting games like this 3v3 style is Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium. It helped spark my interest in fighting games a bit more to learn combos, character matchups, and deal with online lag. Needless to say, that was almost 21 years ago.

The King of Fighters XV being a direct sequel to King of Fighters XIV and SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy means the show must go on. With all new characters, team stories, and the final part of the story, this aims to be fans’ dreams come true. What has changed and what should you expect? Find out more here with our The King of Fighters XV review.

The King of Fighters XV
Developer: SNK Playmore
Publisher: SNK Playmore USA Corp./ Koch Media
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X (Reviewed), Microsoft Windows
Release Date: February 17, 2022
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $59.99

Continuing from the Shun’ei Saga, The King of Fighters XV is the second part of the story found in the previous entry, The King of Fighters XIV. Even plot points of SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy take place during this saga as well. A new invitation was thrown to fighters for the next King of Fighters competition.

No longer being hosted by Antonov who has retired, Anastasia is now running the tournament. Fighting your way through other competitors from across the world, you await for Re Verse to appear with hopes of sealing it away. Hopefully though, you can defeat Re Verse and stop other beings from approaching.

A good conclusion and exceptional fighting game boss at the end of this game is worthy of being called an “SNK Boss”. Story endings are unlocked with any combination of characters, but to get specific endings for each team, you must complete the story with it. Every ending is followed up with cutscenes continuing other storylines between characters or more story that longtime fans will definitely enjoy.

New original characters like Isla and Dolores are introduced in KOF XV. More characters return from the prior two games and some even as DLC. Starting roster tallies 39 playable characters with an additional 6 characters from Team Garou and Team South Town in the coming months.

As for the gameplay, it’s tight and easy to pick up and learn. There’s tutorials and practice modes (online and offline) that will help you hone your skills. The meters and HUD are changed slightly from KOF XIV with a simpler look that may be a little bit of a letdown to hardcore players.

Max Mode and Quick Mode assist in fighting with special gauges. EX Moves now cost one half of the Power Gauge giving characters additional properties like greater damage, less start-up, and more. This also allows for multiple chances to get out special moves. Familiar players already have a grasp on their favorite characters, move sets, and matchups, so there’s no way around that if you plan to be a casual player online.

Rush combos help newer players stand their own in fights but special moves as a result of them are reduced in damage. More technical things apart of the gameplay are lost on someone like me but everything seems perfect from before. The gameplay is untouched and should be commended for being the same style.

Creative stages are SNK’s biggest strength nowadays, to me at least. The backgrounds are very colorful and some of them are reminiscent of the SNK of old. Stages like the Metal Slug stage have what we like to call “Soul”.

Graphically, characters have new looks and ones that fans will enjoy. Kyo Kusanagi’s default has a return to form to the Kyo from most titles as opposed to the white jacket from XIV so that’s always a positive. Characters do have a lot of depth and look better than they did before.

Additionally, there are great cutscenes that are still frames of art that show team’s specific endings. They are very high resolution and colorful just like stages and bring back a nostalgic feeling more than most other fighting games. KOF XV does also include HDR for consoles to make stages look more realistic.

One thing to note is that I confirmed that there was no Xbox One version of this game while there is a PS4 version available. The game is only available on Xbox Series S|X, probably due to some technical issues with the previous generation console. It’s a huge thing to note if you are a potential buyer.

Musical selections are perfect for the stages that they appear in like The Sahara (Metal Slug) stage and in story cutscenes that may be somber or comedic. Not much has changed in that regard of XIV to this newest entry but it should be noted that most things in the game have Japanese voice over.

That being said, endings do lack voice over entirely. Instead, they are presented with black bars top and bottom and do everything through the use of text like old school KOF. I can’t say one way or another if the endings would be improved if they had voice over, but I feel like it’s a missed opportunity to not at least try since it’s a huge, full release.

In conclusion, should you buy The King of Fighters XV? Yes, absolutely. Fighting game franchises like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter have had an interesting evolution (or de-evolution depending on who you ask). With some of those titles, there tends to be a big change, typically unwanted, due to a minority of players that want something like a “Get Out of Jail Free card”.

With SNK, even their smaller entries, they still stick by one rule, make a fun game for everyone. Whether or not they do is always subject to scrutiny, but I feel they kept it with The King of Fighters XV. Issues I had during the beta were simple and fixed in this final release, like the special meter underneath.

With DLC on the way in March and May 2022, I would say that if you are die hard for these games, pick up what you like. If not, I would almost wait for a good sale to pick up everything and play at your leisure, which is perfectly fine. The King of Fighters XV is a fine addition and a worthy sequel to a long running franchise and I’m glad I got to experience it again.

The King of Fighters XV was reviewed on Xbox Series X|S using a copy provided by SNK Corporation. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. The King of Fighters XV is set to launch on February 17th, 2022 on Windows PC (via Steam and the Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.


The Verdict: 9

The Good

  • Gameplay is tight and engaging
  • Great and creative stages
  • Music returns with bangers
  • Booba

The Bad

  • Rush combos help but not enough
  • Some other characters are DLC


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