Ten days ago was the second Beta/Demo for King of Fighters 15, a now ancient and renowned series of fighting games that used to come out with a new version EVERY SINGLE YEAR from 1994 -2003. It made the switch (for real this time) to 3D with XIV and while that game was good, it didn’t look all that great and had some pretty wonky new characters. What’s more it didn’t FEEL like KOF to me, something was just off…
In contrast, KOF XV looks good and plays exceptionally good. The first demo was fun, but had a few issues (it being a network test beta after all). To give it the college try, I went back and played a few of the older King of Fighters during the same weekend as the demo to see how the feel of the games compared, and while I think KOF 13 (the last sprite-based version) is my favorite gameplay wise, 15 is a close second place.
The toughest thing to do for one of these fighting game companies is to move from 2d to 3d, which only a few series have done successfully (Street Fighter with SFIV, Guilty Gear with Xrd and Strive). A lot of both soul and gameplay can be lost in translation which can be seen in the Street Fighter EX and early attempts at King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown. While most of those are OK games, they really could not hold a candle to their 2d versions when they were released. Nowadays, with the crazy good looking 2d games that Arc System works are putting out, we don’t even think about the struggle it was to get games to look as good as their 2d sprite-based counterparts. SNK has struggled like any other company and I would say nothing looked particularly great in 3D until Samurai Showdown 2019.
Gameplay wise, 3D games that mimicked 2D fighters tended to be slower than their 2D counterparts and rarely felt all that great. Meanwhile full bore 3D fighters worth bothering with (Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Tobal, etc.) were fun straight out of the gate and didn’t have ‘better’ versions to compare them to in the first place. Newer 2d games using polygons instead of sprites have certainly solved this issue and here we are with a good looking and extremely playable KOF!
Here’s some babbling about the game from the demo:
Character wise, I stuck with the old standbys, and I really don’t think most of the new characters are all that great (and there were a ton of lame ones added to KOF 14 that didn’t make it to 15 so far), with the exception of Meitenkun, the sleepy kid who falls asleep during his own supermoves. INSTANT MAIN.