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


Bruv, it’s KOF; that means a rushdown offensive style, focused on tricking your opponent into blocking in the wrong direction or simply hitting them before they can block.  However in KOF15, they’ve made it a bit more slow & accessible, and compensated for the global connection issues (finally working with the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t have Japanese infrastructure), which should be appreciated as players are often still trapped at home due to the pandemic (with wifi that can only transmit consecutive data packets)…. so anyway, the fighting should be easier to handle because it’s more neutral based rather than rushdown. There have been some changes that older fans do not like… Still, it feels great, online especially but adapting to the new timings may be difficult for those older players with muscle memory almost set in stone.  Either that or there really is an issue with the controls.

The Max Mode, which the more casual player used to dread, where your character sparks into a special mode to do unlimited combos for a short time, is even easier now, because they slowed it down by 200%. It’s so obvious, players should feel more comfortable and have time to think of lots of lovely combinations.  In KOF14 you could only do EX moves inside max mode, but now it’s back again like KOF13, meaning high tempo matches, with some new tweaks added on top!


There is  a new mechanic called Shatterstrike which is like the comboable CD blowback from KOF12 but now it has 1 million guard points!  It’s early days but it may well be the key to damage.  Right now I’m not even sure what the point of max mode combos are, as they seem to less damage… Too early to say, but it’s good to see that SNK are trying to refresh the style of play; this  is risk to upset the core players but this is good, because doing the same old thing is simply stale.  KOF15 is a familiar yet fresh loaf of bread outta the oven.  The potential for new ways certainly has some players salivating!

Wow that was some .. kind of writing there. Yeah anyway, In the clip below you can see both wake up priority and shatterstrike in action!


While they have slowed the game down somewhat, it’s necessary to retain players in an ultra competitive market. Other fighting games aren’t really the competitors here, it’s the mobile games, which are super simple and yet as frantic and satisfying. To help players, there is more buffer on moves, meaning that they are easier to execute by simply holding down the button – the system will hold it in memory for at least a second. This greatly helps your execution for  online fighting, where any input delay can mess up the timing of your combos.  However, at time of writing some players are questioning their timing as they believe some inputs are being eaten.  Either that or the game is strangely strict.  This is a reversal in trend as KOF has become easier and easier.  Is it stricter? Is it just that the timing is different?  But what about the buffer?  Or is it the netcode which is incorrectly predicting inputs?  There is also some weird command throw mis-detection. This remains a question, but SNK usually addresses these types of issues with a patch, but right now we are still waiting for some communication.

Shall we … mix it up?

Some changes will definitely not be patched.  Some controls have been significantly changed for some characters. Sliding kicks that used to be on the B button are now on the D button. This is great as it will avoid accidental command moves when you’re crouching and trying to do light hit combo starters. It’s quite hard to adjust after 20 years of pressing that button. Overall, it’s welcome and actually overdue.  Again, SNK responding to player feedback is great to see.  

Characters like Ralf have had mashing moves changed into motions.  I’m totally shocked but it makes things easy on the fingers!  Yeah, it’s good!  And it hasn’t stopped players creating Joe stun combos at all! I wonder if they were trying to stop the kara-cancel…

I’m assuming, due to his title, Game Director Kaito Soranaka is responsible for these changes (btw it should be stated that being “responsible” doesn’t mean that it was his idea). When Neo G (Hidetoshi Ishizawa, an essential battle developer for Capcom’s SF3 3rd Strike, SNK’s MOTW, SNKH, Samsho and KOF14) departed from the company, there were quite some shoes to fill. SNK declined to give interviews during the development, likely saving them for Famitsu etc., so perhaps we’ll hear more later but I think, so far, Kaito has pushed in the right direction to refresh KOF controls and at the same time make it more palatable for the mainstream.  This has had some resistance in the community, however.


All this accessibility sounds great until you realise what they’ve done in regards to the high level ability players. We all love watching these high execution matches but we hate trying to replicate them. SNK has tried to please the crowd and remove the advantages that the super players have and level the playing field into a more “fair” neutral game. Instead of back-turned cross-up how-am-I-supposed-to-block-this set-ups, there are more pure “reads” and honest punishes.  You have to make an intentional mistake in order to get hurt.  Some players hate losing their advantages, and some believe the gameplay is worse. However, looking over social media, the majority are very happy and players from other games are loading up the game; thanks to the netcode, they don’t have much to complain about, at all.  Some haven’t noticed, but this is a significant change to KOF.

Kazunoko is certainly famous for playing SF, here he has a ranking match and annotates the video! We need more of this from English speaking players!

Nobody has complained about the meter bonus that a losing opponent gains, carried over from KOFXIV.  This was a sore point as a reversal mechanic that some players thought was too much.  It’s been accepted now and makes the final rounds almost guaranteed to have a big explosion of some sort!

Oh another thing, the tutorial sucks, but we’ll talk about that in the content section.

Another advantage that “pro” players had was alternate guarding, where the opponent presses down rapidly to become invincible against your command throws while looking like they are insulting you; this has been removed. Ohohoho, said Shermie, but while this seems like good news for grapplers, grapplers can’t wait with gleaming eyes hidden behind bangs, readying attack formations as their opponent gets up, as the chance to turn the tables is with the knocked down player: a normal throw has utmost priority.  That means players have to back off or try to jump.  Plenty of characters have an anti or even EX anti air so usually the oponnent has to back away after knocking over, so the game is more drawn out to a standing cat and mouse game, footsies, or neutral, if you like.  While this may stink of a more simple (and arguably boring) gameplay, the bigger brain will win and I think it will be just as pleasant to watch.  Anyway. there are ways around this, and I’ll try to collate the best info in our KOF XV pages.

Other reductions in advantages for those big brain kids are seen with the quarter circle forward up forward (or tiger knee) motions, where players could do an airborne move just off the ground, are much much harder to do, although more insane kids are finding ways around it, I’m sure SNK is trying hard to stamp it out.  They have also changed the reverse dragon punch (rdp) command to back, quarter circle back (4214).  This has been explained by SNK, again in response to player complaints in the first place.  This is another change that players are struggling with, but it’s better for them in the long run and less prone to giving certain characters advantages (option select blocking).  While the communication over these changes seems a little thin, SNK have made lots of changes to make KOF fighting as enjoyable as possible for everyone.

Speaking of advantages for everyone, that personally pesky auto combo remains in KOF15 with no option to turn it off.  Many players have adapted and don’t feel there is a problem with it.  Good, they don’t mash buttons like I do.  I suck.  SNK has improved the system so that you can mash LP three times and then choose your finisher with LK, HP or HK!  This is nice and all, but I don’t see how anyone who mashes can stop mashing the same button.  For intermediate mashers, if that even exists, it’s nice to have.  Still I would say an auto combo per button would be better or allowing random bullcrap to happen with different button presses would make KOF super fun for casuals.  Why do it this in half measures?  Make it a fun party game!  Eventually they will get tired and learn to block.  Or not.

The community is responding with guides and tutorials for these players to learn, so again I don’t think SNK will make any major changes to the system, apart from the odd frame or invincibility here and there.

To note, while it’s early days, nobody is complaining about character balance, apart from Robert’s 5 bar kill combo, but frankly that only happens once a game, at the same time it was very long to wait through and not impressive, while Ash can do the same thing but requires a lot more skill.  If you get hit by this, you should be impressed, not angry!

Oh and did you know just defend is in the game? No, it’s not surprising you forgot, because it’s not mentioned in the game. It can help you build meter…

Just quickly regarding PVP content, SNK has done something special with their draft mode. Here, much like sports teams, players have to pick from the roster one by one, not able to pick a duplicate.  This is a very entertaining way to run tournaments, but as it’s early days, it remains to be seen if there is a character that towers above the rest and simply nullifies the fairness of this mode, although so far it seems fine.

Now here’s a nice fun thing with Liz:

As for combos, the creative part of fighting games, players will be pleased to see properties have been mixed around, certain moves juggle anywhere, do there’s a nice freshness to the game, even though some classic combos are still the same, other combos have been changed. I felt absolutely stupid when I tried Benimaru and couldn’t do any nice combos (yes I was just recently playing kof98), until I discovered a video that showed his new combo route is simply fwd LK after EX rajiinken (qcf+LPHP)!  This is what fighting games should be about: learning how to fight, making nice combos and then actually using this against either the CPU or another human.

If you’re one of those players who are low on time and can only learn one or two characters, SNK got you covered.  Ralf doesn’t need combos, he can survive just pressing two buttons. This must not be patched.

For those who thirst for incredibly difficult combos, SNK also got you, have fun putting all the system features together to create some craziness!

The fighting system itself, which is a significantly new variant of the tried and trusted KOF gameplay, with less attack options and yet still feels like high offense, a more accessible combo mode, the return of high octane EX moves plus a shatterstrike reversal, plus of course with-who-knows-what sacrifices were made to get the online to work with rollback, the online experience is excellent and most importantly FUN.  SNK deserve mad props for this.

Gameplay: 9/10

Doesn’t get 10 because I like 3 hit combos that kill and some timings are hard for me and I like to complain instead of practicing plus honestly, not everyone likes the changes.  It’s really a first impression, and that is that it plays like KOF; I’m really happy to get online with an updated system and look, which is more or less the same old KOF that I like.  The tutorials to help you learn how to be a good fighter are non-existent but we’ll talk about content in the next part. Meanwhile, people are playing this game hard. Really hard.

Now let’s end with watching Score playing in Japan and you can tell me if it’s boring or exciting.  Reynald, Xiaohai and ET are also in training, watch out!  You can find more recommended KOFXV streamers on our streamer page.  Tomorrow we’ll look at content, and this is SNK will start sweating, because …. you know.


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