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.
As the actual Xmas days don’t count as vacation by any stretch of the imagination with all the madness and chaos and driving around, so today is the first day of my official holiday. I was up until 1AM getting in a game of Starcraft the board game–only my third or fourth play so I was up inside the rulebook most of the time– while the game has all these FF patented fiddly bits, the combat system is excellent. Four hours later I’m still up with the kids who were right on schedule screaming and crying at 5:30AM. After I get some sleep, I’m going to drum up some nerdery interest and try to get some painting in between rounds of KOF 13– that’s right– finally SNK’s masterpiece of punchery fell into my craven little hands from Santa Claus– while KOF 12 was all stripped down, 13 has all the extras you want on top of it’s already excellent fighting engine. I started playing straight away online and cheered after seeing King’s clothes rip off (I was using King and I lost of course) like earlier (MUCH earlier) KOFs. Now, I don’t want to be a sexist pig here, especially with KOF that has it’s share of cute little man-boys for the girl-otaku to pine over, but fighting games are all about the cheesecake at times. As silly as the clothes ripping off is, what’s indicative by little touches like this means SNK was confident enough in the engine an the rest of the game to throw in these extras. Well enough about KOF– except that you should get it. Fair warning: if you care about your Xbox rep, do not play online right away as the Japs will rate you a 1 if they play you and don’t feel you’re good enough.
I also got the second Legends of the Old West supplement (Blood on the Plains) from MAAT who will now have to suffer some old west miniatures gaming for his trouble tracking that fucker down.
This is make or break time for SNK as a purveyor of the fighting games. KOF 12, while it looked and played awesome was extremely stripped down and was missing some key features (no win poses at the end? no end boss? missing moves for characters? for shame!). Despite the gripes, the fighting engine for KOF 12 is extremely solid and fun. Always more of a fan of KOF than Street Fighter, there’s been a worry, and a very persistent one based on the news in the last year, that SNK was done with fighting games and was going to focus on their pachinko machines (we’ve heard this before too). However, KOF 13 has been in arcades for almost a year and people are just flat out loving it. The super-solid gameplay of KOF, updated with what feels alot like Garuo Mark of the Wolves influences and all new hand drawn sprites a la Blazblue make this a must have. Here is more on the scoop.
Though we won’t see this in the states for quite long time, King of Fighters 13 is looking solid. Adding the girl’s team and K’ team to the roster among a few others. Still no Choi Bunge, Chang, Eji or Billy though–where are all the bad guys?