The King of Fighters 15 beta pummels its competition with one secret

A keen appreciation for what makes this series unique.

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kind of fighters 15

The King of Fighters 15 beta proves this fighting game franchise remains worthy of its lofty namesake, and its secret technique involves refusing to pander to a wider audience.

After a brief stint in the training mode during last weekend’s beta, I dove right into an online match against someone playing a team starting with series lead Kyo Kusanagi, clad in his typical leather jacket.

Kyo hit me with a right hook to the jaw immediately, and I suffered through the wrong side of a monster combo. Then came an ambiguous jump-in attack that crossed me up enough that I fell to the ground. Then, I was clobbered from behind just as I tried to stand back up. It instantly gave me flashbacks to similar setups in earlier King of Fighters games.

“Man, it’s good to be playing a new KOF,” I thought to myself. You know, despite the total beatdown I’d just suffered.

The King of Fighters is one of the biggest series in fighting games, right up there with Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Street Fighter. The community at large was eager to get hands-on with the beta, and plenty of us have very high hopes for the newest title. Despite the odds, those high hopes have been met by an easy to play but difficult to master new game. We can’t call the game’s developer, SNK, liars for giving it the tagline, “Shatter all expectations.”

The King of Fighters 15 is a relatively simple fighting game at first glance, especially when compared to recent genre releases like Guilty Gear Strive, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, and Melty Blood: Type Lumina. It channels the simplicity of Street Fighter with even fewer attack buttons (light and heavy punches and kicks) but added meter possibilities, system mechanics, and movement options (i.e., short hops, hyper hops, super jumps, and dodge rolls) along with the added team function.

Each KOF game shares enough overlapping DNA that you instantly feel at home in the new skin. This, combined with the game’s simplicity, make it seem like The King of Fighters 15 has so much potential. “Wow, I can actually do that?” or “That really works?” I’d say aloud while experimenting with different combos. That’s the magic of SNK’s fighting games: Something new happens so often. It’ll either leave you swearing at your TV or falling out of your seat laughing as you bash your enemy over the head.

SNK has always taken a unique approach to fighting game design. Consider Melty Blood: Type Lumina and Guilty Gear Strive, for example. Both have completely redecorated the foundation of a classic fighting game franchise to make these latest titles more accessible to newcomers.

The King of Fighters 15 takes that philosophy and gives it Kyo’s Red Kick right to the curb.

With KOF 15, SNK simply builds upon the firmly settled series foundation. The game hasn’t shied away from adding new pieces to the formula, as new fighting games are expected to do, but it’s done it in a way that doesn’t subtract or restrict the creativity or playstyles found in older titles.

There are no wallbreaks here like Guilty Gear Strive or anything that “nerfs” the game for the old dogs. Instead, SNK learned some new tricks and introduces elements that give series veterans more to learn while bringing in newcomers for the ride as well.

The beta proved that The King of Fighters 15 embraces the best of the old, but for now, it seems like it also maintains the worst as well.

While the game is confirmed to use the refined netplay networking called GGPO rollback, it still chugged in some areas. For those not steeped in fighting game terminology, here’s why rollback matters, according to Infil’s Fighting Game Glossary:

“An approach to implementing netcode in a fighting game that plays your own inputs immediately, and then rewinds and resimulates (or "rolls back") the game if network delay causes inconsistencies.”

It functioned most of the time. I even saw an instance of a player from Thailand duking it out with another from Japan. But at times, my game would completely desync, leaving me with music, sound effects, and a black screen. These kinds of bugs, however, are the whole reason why games have beta periods.

The King of Fighters 15 isn’t a revolutionary fighting game by any means. But as it stands, it’s a fresh entry to an old series that keeps that same spirit alive. It doesn’t completely ignore veteran players to instead aim for a wider appeal, but it’s got enough accessibility and simplicity to make it worth trying for newcomers.

In the end, everybody’s got a lot to look forward to: More than 39 players and a training mode. The full release can’t come fast enough.

The King of Fighters 15 will be released on February 14, 2022.

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