KOFXV Fan Review : Part 1: Graphics

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KOFXV Fan Review : Part 1: Graphics

THIS IS FOR THE PLAYERS. If you are still on the fence about buying KOFXV, here are some points you will want to know.

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

Update: the concert models look better now, and now I can’t find the ring girls… but that Road Warrior looks great!

The King of Fighters XV is a worthy successor to the series; it didn’t have any glaring negative community response at launch, unlike other titles (cough cough) but it does have some minor problems. It should be a success, however there are some issues which may affect its longevity in the mainstream, and this is a universal problem for all fighting games.  As for actual fighting game fans, with its strong netcode, array of characters with a minimum 12 more in the pipeline, it is the de-facto KOF of 2022 and the community will be playing it for a good few years to come.

The graphics are much improved, the gameplay is more accessible, the content is as expected for a fighting game while the netcode needs visual polish and, annnnnnd the sound and music is fantastic.  The wider community reception has been 98% positive, and media reviews have been overall positive too, which is surprising when you dig deeper, because there are definitely some issues.  Let’s break it down:

Graphics

SNK isn’t going to tell you which artists they outsourced for which character but there is a definite difference of style in the faces of the characters. Some seem a lot more natural than others.  Some don’t seem to have made a good transition into 3D like Maxima and Kyo, while others just look amazing such as Iori, Andy and Mary.  Andy gets a special mention after becoming the most memed face of KOFXIV, his look being more fit for the cast of Tekken 2.  With the launch of KOFXV, his redone face made people meme him into shampoo commercials – he’s just that pretty now!

While other fighting game companies worked on model faces due to response (for example MVCI Chun Li and SFV Sakura), there hasn’t been any outrage over the character graphics in KOFXV.  That’s not to say they are perfect: personally I prefer the old Maxima and I think the new one looks too much like a monkey but I guess there won’t be any improvement because he’s simply not a popular waifu that the majority will be fussed about. And here is the point, the waifus in KOFXV look great: Vanessa and Elisabeth look absolutely lovely and when you see some freeze frames for Blue Mary close up, she’s extremely pretty.  Athena gets a new costume every episode but this time, perhaps it’s just me, but she actually looks sexy, like, 18+ sexy, Lady Gaga sexy, none of that ambiguous loli filth, and now you really understand how Kensou gets a nosebleed, and you’re trying to respect that she’s the descendant of a goddess, but the impure thoughts… anyway, I know I’ll upset some fans but this is the best update Athena has had and in my opinion that obsession with school girls was getting a bit old in the tooth, was it not?   Still I won’t be surprised if SNK brings out a school uniform dlc skin like they did for Nakoruru in KOFXIV. I’d love to know how many fetishists actually bought it, or didn’t, and taught SNK another lesson: some people cry but don’t buy.

Now, 3D models, like real people, can look ugly depending on the angle on which they are seen, but KOF15’s creative director Ogura, working with Yusuke Amano, the art director, are likely responsible for the look of the game and it seems that they has chosen to go with the trend of having a roster of beautiful or cool characters: the cute (Chris), hench and handsome (Ryo, Terry), sexy and strong (Shermie & Luong) but there are still gorillas (Yashiro & Maxima) and uhhh facial hair (Maxima again and Antonov).  There isn’t anyone who is really ugly in the game, and even with the upcoming DLC, that’s pretty much a constant.

ryo and maxima

Who is supposed to be bigger here?

The women of KOF always spark a more complex discussion.  There are also some strange visuals in the game, like how does Shermie’s spine actually work?  Some people have even wondered why Mai appears so fleshy and thicc, prefering her to be skinny (albeit with big boobs).  Angles again and in this particular case, shadows, at some points it looks like Mai has rolls of cellulose, but it’s in fact the shadows of her huge chest! This seems like an oversight.  Mai’s breasts actually changed shape during development, from triangular to round, and the movement from jelly to something more… realistic.  In my opinion, Mai looks great as she is right now, and there’s more lovely ladies to come.

For Mary fans, her ‘noodle’ arms will always be a point of contention and if I’m honest, all the women have big busts with a range of other body parts, at least they aren’t all the same.  At least I’m not hearing any other complaints.  Let’s finish off talking about appearances. So, everyone is pretty or has huge muscles?  I guess that’s what entertainment is about?  What happened to the freaks and geeks?  The less attractive fighters?

Well, gone are the real ‘eyesores’ of the game (Chang, Choi, Chin, Xanadu), and it’s kind of sad because they still have their charm, but we have to face facts, they just are not as popular as the rest, and in a time of reduced capability due to covid (which caused a halt of at least two months), it’s hard to argue they should have been kept. SNK gave players 50 characters for KOFXIV, in the face of complaints about dlc and small rosters, at the cost of a poor reception due to the graphics (ignoring the more important gameplay, of course).  What would have happened if SNK had produced KOFXIV with 12 highly polished characters and two seasons of DLC?  While enraging fans, they would have done much better, critically and financially.  Sadly, SNK is probably done with listening to these particular fans and will follow the industry standard.  It’s a shame really, but they  did try.  What was very surprising was the omission of Kim Kaphwan, which personally I don’t care for, but as the resident Korean representative and seemingly popular in the last tournaments, it was simply surprising.  It’s interesting to note SNK has data on which characters were played, so they could see through any social media protest (which tellingly didn’t really happen for Kim). With hard evidence SNK won’t have to try hard to know which characters to keep, or which to sell as DLC…   Something else they tried was bringing back anime to KOF.

It seems that KOFXV’s Producer, Yasuyuki Oda, seems to be quite the fan of Masami Obari, who directed the Fatal Fury movies and also did work on Gundam, not to mention Battle Arena Toshinden and Voltage Fighter Gowcaiser plus, in 2019, Pop Team Epic.  Finally onboarding the director for the KOFXV project must be quite the personal achievement for Oda, and the old school fans were delighted.  There was concern that the old school style wouldn’t win over younger fans, but Obari has treated the cinematic introduction piece with care, allowing more modern styles to come through, alongside his trademark style of line flecked cheeks and flowing drapes of hair or cloth with shard edges.

The tweet below is in Japanese but it shows how the team were given some freedom to draw while considering the wishes of fans, and some of the team were fans as younger people themselves!

Heaven knows what was researched in many of the pitifully-thin-on-knowledge-yet-high-scoring reviews of KOFXV, but fans are now finding attention to detail that shows love and care in not just the sound but the graphics too.

The hit effects of KOF15 were initially of some concern, but generally approved in the community. KOF15 has three lanes of graphics. It places the hit effects in front, the character models behind and the huge super move graphics at the back.  While the character model is sandwiched between these effects, some players didn’t like it, but with this it is easier to track the fighter and is better for positioning.  From development, we could see the liquid fire style of special attacks become more solid, although Joe’s short hurricanes will take some getting used to (they could have simply lowered the hitbox but eh, SNK being friendly to players again).

The stages are very nice, especially the dragon garden. Not surprisingly, when fans asked for day and night renditions, people countered to say these are just recycled and we should have more different stages.  Can’t win eh?  Ignoring that, the stages are very nice but some of the background models look a bit too fuzzy, for example the band in the concert stage (trivia: which is actually made up of the prisoners from KOF14).  The Esaka stage is a nostalgia trip!  There are probably more easter eggs to find in the stages too.  Yikes, I totally forgot to mention the amazing Metal Slug stage (but no MS characters?).

While the age of 3D graphics is here, there’s a lovely amount of 2D artwork around the game, by artists Tonko, Tomohiro, Ogura and don’t forget there is a KOFXV manga too!

Don’t mind me, I’m just gonna slip in a criticism here about the graphical notation which is hard to read at first but will be universally understandable in future. Good move, SNK.  I feel sorry for videos and websites, that notation is gonna still be a mess.

Let me also just slip in here to talk about the clothing textures which are unecessarily amazing like Angel’s boots, Iori’s coat, Maxima’s new RGB LEDs, K’ new leather outlines, Whip’s detailed canvas material and stitching but weird headshape.  Yes, the clothing has really improved from KOF14, it’s impressive!  And the idle animations! Sorry, I forgot to mention the care and attention there.  Some really cool ones, like Antonov raising his hat, and Shun Ei exercises his neck and just looks at you for a while with those silly arm bandages, his buckles glistening.  Can there be too much detail?  No. It’s great.

KOFXV Mary close up

The difference between KOF14 and KOF15 is night and day

After the frankly just-bearable graphics of KOFXIV, some people are still complaining, but if put side by side, KOFXV’s graphics are on par with and in some instances, better than Street Fighter V character models.  This may be a moot point, however, as SF6 may be announced very soon and will no doubt up the ante (update: it was and ooof it did).  To be fair, it’s unlikely that either can look better than Tekken, DOA and Strive (update: wellllll we’ll see).  KOF could have just looked like another ASW joint, which would be cool, but at the same time, a bit … samey.  In fact, SNK has listened to the clamour for a more anime look, rather than realistic.  You can see this with the face of Luong in particular, her face is more flat and her character seems more sultry in general. In KOF14 she had this unique melancholy look, but to be objective, the KOF15 look will be more appealing.  This blend of realism and “anime” will work well for SNK as they go on to compete with other fighting games as it will boil down to a visual preference.  Don’t forget, there’s a freaking dinosaur in the game.  The girls are cute and the boys are cute too, it’s pleasant on the eyes and that’s all we need really.

GRAPHICS: 8/10

The game looks great but if you look closer, some of the models look off and there is some debate about the effects. If we compare to other fighting games and consider the improvements since KOF14, KOF15 can hold its own, for now. Ralf’s climax super is even better and still steals the show.  There’s honestly books to write about the little touches but it’s time to stop.

After the graphics and lovely art, at this point you, as a player, have to focus on what looks good to you and then what type of fighting style you enjoy playing. That’s all.  So what does KOFXV offer players, new and old?

Tomorrow on Orochinagi: KOF XV Review: Gameplay