KOF XV Review : P3: Content

  1. Graphics
  2. Gameplay
  3. Content
  4. Sound & Music
  5. Reception

Content

The trailer seems packed but in reality the KOFXV offers…. limited content, it’s really just a fighting game. But if you like that, you’ll be happy, very happy.

Think about how we became fans of this genre. It was at first, the fighting.  Then we fell in love with the characters. But once we got tired of fighting, it was game over, and then just collected pictures from the Internet.  The perversion began with the saturation of the market, there were too many fighting games, and the objective changed, we wanted to see the ending of a character,  then go to the next, rinse and repeat. Our skills were less honed, less focused. It was getting messy.  We lost the focus of fighting.  Then we had a fighting game crash, and life events also got in the way.  The scene went quiet until the revival around 2010.  That was a decade ago, yes, holy shit, indeed.  Zooming forward, games built up more content to satisfy gamers: peak content was customising your fighter, reading a good story and playing mini games. A fighting game with an arcade story mode isn’t enough, in terms of content for the average gamer; it’s in this area that SNK has excelled at in the past but hasn’t quite stepped up to the plate with KOF15.  However there are still some jewels to be found in the seemingly bare desert.

Update: There are character introductions, I just spotted Ralf vs Heidern!  Ralf vs Clark starts a dialogue!  This is great!

Did you know that around 400 people worked on KOFXV?  What did they work on?  It seems their focus was primarily the graphics, the sound and the programming for it to all come together, to make a premium fighting game.  What they didn’t have time for, or perhaps out of choice, was to make things for the player to do, aside from fighting.

It’s a fighting game, it’s about fighting, is that enough for a mainstream casual player? Well, if we look at other fighting games, there is usually a story mode… or just an arcade mode with a story.  Which is still light on story.  And that’s the problem with fighting games.  If you aren’t happy enough with fighting, there’s not much else to do, and after you watch the endings, it’ll be headed to the trade-in store (unless you bought digital, so uhhhh yeah hmm).

Time for a rant.

Some games had nothing but a fighting mode and managed to score a 10/10. Imagine that. Just imagine that. A fighting game so fun, you didn’t need any other content, not even an arcade mode, not even online, not even fighting someone else.  Do you believe it?  No, and you damn well shouldn’t.  A fighting game can be great playing on your own but the peak of your fighting game memories is when you played it with someone, with friends, with family, with anyone.  All games peak when you can play together.  Giving 10/10 for a fighting game where you didn’t even test the online, without any care for a story mode, means you are an absolute fighting game maniac and shouldn’t be writing reviews for a mainstream audience.

Fortunately, I’m also a fighting game maniac. And this review isn’t for the mainstream.  However, spoiler alert, KOFXV isn’t going to get 10/10 but if we go by the standards set by those reviews, KOFXV should get 11/10.

But let’s be realistic.  KOF fans are not all fighting game maniacs.  There are those who like story modes, galleries and stuff to do.  There’s a bit, but not that much, and SNK still has time to improve it. Other games did, and other games even charged people for it.

The player who loads the game up mainly to fight other players will be very happy.  Like other modern fighting games, SNK has focused on this content, the pvp section being the most supported, arguably I’d say that SNK is betting on eSports in the long term. However, in this mode, when you connect, they have favoured certain modes and regions over others which, in my opinion, is a mistake, if they wanted the online world of KOF to really flourish. For example, there is a fantastic mode called Party mode, but nobody will find it unless they actually change the default options.  These modes should be apparent and available immediately to show a variety of activities to the player.  Instead, it seems like SNK left players to reach out to others by themselves.  SNK is again focused on pure PvP, and that’s where we come to ranking.

Ranking mode is excellent, it meets all requirements. It has nice options to put player names on the screen, for example.  If you had a fun match, you can now ask for a rematch even in ranking mode, whereas before they would disappear, although they can still rage quit. Saying that, there is now a mysterious penalty if players rage quit too much, and it’s visible on their profile.  If I were to niggle pick, I would say the “same region” default is going to hurt them again. This function boxes up the players and should be removed completely – the game should list opponents simply based on their ping and proximity.  This goes hand in hand with their motivation for the player to go online with a grading system, which gives them a bonus for going online once a day, reminiscent of gacha games without the gambling – that’s very good!  What’s also good is that players can’t run away from a match, you are presented with a connection icon, with no identity offered.  Once you accept, you’ll have to fight!  This is scary but good for a proper ranking system to be fair.

Connections are great due to the netcode using rollback.  Yes, rollback, that magical hype word that brings hope and then teleports to your online experience.  Even at its worst, it’s still the best netcode.  KOFXV rollback development began in the summer of 2021… does that make anyone raise an eyebrow?  No?

Remember the Fighting Game Developers Online Roundtable where some were complaining that Rollback was too hard to do and too expensive?  It seems that some of the devs there kept their cards close to their chest.

In September 2020, SNK had already announced rollback was coming to KOF2002UM with the help of Code Mystics.  At the roundtable, KOF producer Yasuyuki Oda didn’t say anything about rollback for KOF15.  But the community was rumbling.  There was a rising call for better netcode.   Rumbling so much, that Oda finally responded that they were indeed working on it.

Following the timeline, it seems that something happened. With my own experience of talking with developers, adding code like rollback has serious implications, with the potential to break other parts of code.  If they were working on rollback in February 2021, it’s interesting to note that Komi games (with Code Mystics) started / or continued work in the Summer of that year.  It may explain why the menu seems quite bare and lobbies seem so simple compared to KOF14.  This is just a pure guess, but I reckon they weren’t satisfied with their own work on rollback and ripped that whole chunk out of the code and then brought in Code Mystics and Komi Games.  In KOF15 the netcode is functional and connections are lovely, but the lobby itself doesn’t really look like it has a Graphical User Interface and can only hold one match at a time, where in KOF14 there were 6 rooms running at once, with an immediately visible chat room.  Perhaps there are limitations with rollback, but players cannot be blamed for feeling disappointed when we don’t get any explanations. Still, the game works online, a complaint that plagued KOF for years.  Running tournaments online will require a bit more organisation but ranking mode will be smooth.

For an arcade style fighting game, the content is standard, it’s a fighting game: versus mode, story mode, tutorials, galleries and the new DJ Station.  However, there were previous KOF episodes with much more content.  The casual player may find this content lacking until they stumble across the music, but if they are not a fan of good music or unlocking the gallery movies, then they definitely won’t be satisfied with KOF15.

Gallery

The gallery contains all the movies in the game and the voice clips, handy if you want to customise your phone’s ring tones or notifications!  Yes you may have heard that phrase before. Uncanny. Ok.  You can unlock more content by simply playing the game.  I’ll talk more about this in the sounds and music review but this is good, yet standard content.  We kind of expect this.  A lot of users won’t go through it more than once.  KOFXIV gave users all the classic artwork SNK had.  It was fantastic.  Now they can’t use it again. But that’s not strictly true, where’s all the artwork that we’ve seen for KOFXV?  That could have been added, it should be added. KOF97 had tons of fan artwork, and a lot of it was simple yet charming scrawls and doodles!  Why not get more of the same?  The community is huge!

SNK needs to start taking donated artworks from the community to boost their assets.  The artist gets credit and exposure, SNK gets material for their galleries… yes I know it sounds shady but I’m sure some artists would be very proud to have their artwork featured in a game.  It would probably be best if SNK agrees not to sell it on acrylic trinkets straight afterwards… Update: they ran a fanart competition on the 17th Feb but only to promote fanart, they wouldn’t even collect work to put on their website.  Oh well. Now, let’s talk about the best part of the game, after the fighting itself.

DJ Station

This is probably the most interesting part of the side game.  There are over 300 songs here.  These are OSTs however, and there is talk that there may be a rights problem for the ASTs as many were published by Pony Canyon or others.  Interestingly, looking up some ASTs, it still lists SNK as copyright holder, so the truth may be something different.  Anyway, still 300 songs to go through, and while you can casually flick through the tunes here, the real amazement comes from the custom settings.  Here you can assign your favourite tune to ANY of the stages.  That means the menu plays your favourite song, the Metal Slug stage will play your favourite track, if you really wanted, you could have your favourite track play through almost everything!  This is so great and hopefully will be the standard from now on.  When you play online you will hear your opponents choices too.  It’s just unlocking them which is a pain, even though they give you the first two characters, you need three to unlock and some combinations just don’t make any sense.  Once unlocked, players should be super happy.

Actually, what would have been better is a mini game, but then again, it’s supposed to be about fighting. But fighting with characters you don’t like takes the risk of boring the player, but if the game developer is lucky, the player might find something they like.

Please teach me!

They are the same as in KOFXIV – lacking. SNK knows how players feel from feedback to KOF14 and looking at other fighting games that actually immerse their players in real combat situations.  SNK has even done it before themselves (kof98um).  So why not now?  It may be that SNK is afraid of daunting and confusing the new player, and this is why we don’t have complex trials unlike the famous KOF13 ones that people still make reaction videos about. Ironically, those trials make KOF13 famous today, and make for better players.  KOF14 and KOF15 trials are just forgettable.  However, the new player will be able to complete them and get their platinum trophy without pain.  Don’t think I didn’t notice that Shun’Ei replaced Kyo and now we are all forced to learn him!

In fact, it seems that SNK has assumed that you’ve cleared the kof14 trials, so kof 15 trials are actually harder! That’s good but that’s also bad because now any new players find themselves just totally thrown in at the deep end.

And some of the trials don’t make any logical progression.  You go from taking 5 minutes to learn HP, fwd+P into special into EX and then the next trial throws you into by asking for a different move while pushing you to cancel and climax.  So you’ve already confused the muscle memory you just built. This is not a good learning curve, in my humble opinion as a teacher.

Simply, there needs to be more help for new players, always. An immediately visible demo button, while somewhat negating the concept of a challenge, would immensely help beginners; with options to display inputs, it would help teach them. What’s more important? Helping players get good or helping them just get a trophy? Some players are still struggling with trial number one.

The universal climax commands helps things somewhat. If they wanted to really dumb it down why not resign shatter strike to A+D? Why ask for a qcf motion? I suppose it’s difficult to strike a balance but it’s certainly confusing.

I still think there should be 5 easy trials that contribute to trophies and then 5 harder trials that don’t. Options, this is the key, in my opinion, to making everyone happy.  But of course, this takes time and development.  Once again, KOF15 was delayed and will always have to compete with some other title (fighting game or not) at launch.  They couldn’t keep delaying it forever.  Still, this content is not going to please a player who wants more than an arcade fighting game.  We are not in 1998, sadly, anymore.

THE NUMBERS

I need to go on about training mode.  They again try to make it simple while the casual player will probably wonder what all these numbers appearing on the screen are for.  This should be an option.  When they figure out that these are frames, then they’ll see these “plus” “equal” and “plus plus” indicators, to show frame advantage, but where did the numbers go here?  Why can’t they display “+3” in blue to show that the move has a 3 frame advantage?

Another thing they don’t teach you are the things that all players should know when it comes to execution.  If you’re trying to do a combo that used a forward + P or K command move, followed by a QCF 236 motion, you will often get a 623 dp motion as a result. To avoid this, everyone does 2369 QCF UF.  Telling the player would make them so much better and less frustrated. The website seems to have plenty of space for this, if they don’t want to patch the game.

I have to mention the notation graphics. They’ve left behind the NeoGeo notation of ABCD and due to various configs and languages LK HK LP HP has also disappeared!  The new notation is a punch or kick with a flash behind it.  The first time I saw them, I could not tell the difference between light and hard. Just looking at trial commands gives me a headache.  But I’m old, so who cares, that’s normal. After getting used to it, it should be great in the end.  Most agree.

So, what happened to survival mode? Time Trial? Bonus mode? Smashing up cars? SVC Olympics Mode? Rythym of Fighters?  Metal Slug Defense?  Arm wrestling?  These are all your own ideas and material SNK. With a bit of chop chop and recycling, surely you could add more content?

Well, there’s some nice artwork… while fighting, there are many nods to the history of KOF, it respects the lore, you’re gonna love unlocking the special stuff, although you might want to follow a list rather than trying to figure out the combinations between 39 fighters. I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad that the gallery unlocks are the same as the DJ station ones.

I actually laughed out loud when I saw this ending.  A bit cheeky to call it a movie, but there was actual voice acting for it too (with the sound design doing good work again).

It’s interesting to note that the official endings don’t have voice acting while the edit endings do. Why not both? Expense? It’s not consistent.

No sex please we’re brutish head exploders

There are some interesting points about the content too.  It should be fair to say that guns and gun violence is the norm in video games to a point where people are desensitised to head shots and exploding testicles.  Whether that is good for society is another discussion.  Concerning SNK, it seems they are still worried about Whip using a desert eagle, and violence in the game is quite stylish whereas there are still clothes being ripped off women and their boobs univerally jiggle, although I would say compared to other games, this is fairly tame. Note that the clothes being ripped off is a “time honoured tradition”, a nod to the original Art of Fighting where King was revealed to be a woman by accident (nonsense for Yuri though), and while some may get upset about it, SNK doesn’t seem bothered, so then why do they even care about guns?  The CERO ratings system in probably to blame (I’m not going down that rabbit hole)… but from this modern cultural standpoint, it’s weird.  Either go for full fanservice and please the male fans or make it moderate, as clothes ripping is not moderate.  Ez solution would be to have some men being stripped, why not Robert?

Social response to sexual and violent game content is quite volatile but in the end SNK has to consider its main audience and keep them happy, at the offset of not offending and not gaining more.  The two instances of clothes ripping are cringe by modern standards and will upset some, while the moderate boob jiggling should still be a crowd pleaser – overall KOF15 is nowhere as fanservice heavy or contentious as SNKHeroines and doesn’t have the gore and violence that is present in other games, which is frankly more concerning.

Character Customisation

There isn’t much here at all.  In SNK Heroines you could change the voice of your character, not to mention their outfit and add trinkets as you wish.  In KOF15, you can…. pick uh… a few colours.  Well, it’s an improvement over KOF14’s six colours, by increasing the palettes to EIGHT.  Well, choice is nice. Let’s not talk about other games that have a billion colours and costumes.  I will continue to harp on why Mai never got any skins or colours to buy in KOFXIV and I don’t even like her. I just figured it would make SNK some money, but hey, they keep refusing it and focus instead on making more games or something.

As for the colours of the characters, I really like them.  They seem to have a bit more flavour this time around and finally Athena has the option to change into a peroxide blonde Lady Gaga-esque idol.  And she’s hot.

However there are questionable omissions, no Evangelion or Iron man colours for Maxima.  Like, what’s the point if we can’t do that?  Where’s the Piccolo colour for Athena?  Lots of popular cultural references should be in the game, and I don’t see any legal issues there.

Story Mode

SNK have been building up this story with their trailers, and nothing got leaked until the shops broke street release date.  That’s pretty good going!  The story was predictable for me, but I’m old, I’ve seen too much anime.  Hopefully it will have more impact with others.  It’s ok, but there are some holes in development, again the official website seems to fill in more details than the game, plus we know that dlc characters will fit into the game too, that’s awesome.

I do like the character introductions, this is new, cheesy and yet awesome at the same time! The “outros”, which are new to kof15, are very dynamic.

You may notice taunts are back! This will certainly bring some hype moments, if the opponent really doesn’t want to use that time to attack! While I live SNK fort bringing these back, we still don’t have special introduction poses, ah well.  Clark and Ralf even refer to it. But… the new special intros have a great cinematic quality, I’m quite happy to see these are as a replacement.

One thing that is still missing is having your team mates in the background, but it seems the fans aren’t too bothered about it anymore.

Still some subs are missing (as Isla and Heidern go off while Delores is musing).. and Otomo-Raga is insensible on purpose, I suppose. I also spotted a typo in the CYS ending. Nothing serious.

The bosses

Both of them, and the stages, look really nice. The colours really stand out, and it is reminiscent of some Aztec style, fitting with the story of how this was all forewarned.

But… the final boss is a little underwhelming to be honest, not really introduced well and you have no motivation to fight it. What they should have done is have her beat up Isla or something. HOWEVER when you get to 2nd form it gets scary… but then you beat “it/her/them” up and uhhhh it seemed pretty easy on default. Too easy.  The Samsho final boss was more interesting…  This is the first time I’ve beaten a SNK boss first try.  I was mulling this over when I noticed some reviews about a cheap boss and unpleasant experiences by so-called journalists.  Reading around, it does seem like game companies have to coddle some of these absolute cretins who have no skill to actually play a game.  Even if you couldn’t beat the boss, the classic SNK options appear to help you with taking away her energy, maxing out your powers etc.  The boss could definitely wreck you senseless and perhaps that’s why she’s not selectable… yet.  Otomo-Raga and Re-verse are definite ban material, as should be the case for any SNK boss.   Do I want to turn up the difficulty and face them at full power?  Eh… not really!  If you’re looking for a challenge, be my guest!  I think Otomo-Raga has a shatterstrike type maneuver which she comboed into her (hair) and took 50% off my life bar.  That’s just two moves.  A modder of the PC version reported that her raw climax should take 150%! Oh yes, they have been hacked and you can find a triplicate team of her on ranking mode on Steam. Good luck!

DLC

We now know that Geese and his cohorts will arrive, plus the team Garou, with two other teams following.  That’s a healthy plan which will keep us busy and hopefully SNK in the green for at least a year.  Hopefully fans will like these choices enough to spend.  Survey evidence shows it should be accurate.  If not, I guess SNK will get back to work on the next Samsho or Fatal Fury title…

I can only hope that SNK can sell tons of costumes for their waifus and most popular characters.  They need to stop forcing Shun’Ei skins down our throats till he’s confirmed popular. The KOF14 skins were a waste of resources, apart from Angel’s, but in my estimation, Angel is one of those characters people can’t even play… I’d love to know the sales data for that one.  I’m expecting skin packs such as classic Kyo and Iori, Mai Mi2 (or anything), but now it’s a bit of a risk for SNK because while the model is recycled, the clothing has to be polished to match KOF15’s quality!

I noticed Kusanagi skin colour for Kyo but why not the character itself?  Why not Dark Ash?  Orochi Iori?  It’s easy money as KOFAS demonstrated. They did the obvious things,  the obvious recycles. They were popular as predicted, and while players cried, and still bought it! These characters destroyed the balance of the game and newer characters continued the spiral.  Now it’s up to SNK’s producer to decide if they want to follow this dark path and make lots of money – at the risk of alienating a greater audience and not making money but having a larger playerbase.

Soooooooooooooooooooooo

So we have a great fighting game, poor tutorial mode, great netcode, bad visibility for the other modes, tedious unlocking method for the gallery and dj station, but a great dj station with customisation, ok story with underwhelming boss, great story cinematics and character interactions, great lore references, with a website that isn’t referenced in the game but contains a whole lot more content.  Barely any character customisation….

KOFXV Content for the casual mainstream player: 6/10

Why did I choose a fighting game?  What can I do?  Why is it all so sparse? Tutorial is rubbish. I have to pay for more characters and there’s only one waifu there? What?

KOFXV Content for the average fighting enjoyer pvp ranking monster: 9/10

You don’t need anything else, just beat stuff up and get those ranking points. You can unlock some cool endings and music to kick ass to! Still , well, character customisation would be nice. I need to put addidas and gold chains on my fighter please… but overall I’m happy!!! I want to embrace my friends like in fight club, win or lose!!  It’s such fun! The gift, the gift!!!

Next we’ll talk about sound and music in more detail… This part will be short!