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Video Game / The King of Fighters XV

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Shatter All Expectations.note 

"Dearest fighters, the time has come for THE KING OF FIGHTERS. I will be your host in place of Antonov, who bravely led the last competition. Your participation is, of course, expected. Until then."
Anastasia, host of the KOF XV tournament.

The King of Fighters XV is a 2022 fighting game and the fifteenth main installment in the long-running The King of Fighters series. SNK's third foray into 2D after The King of Fighters XIV and Samurai Shodown (2019) and the second game running on Unreal Engine 4, it was released on February 17th, 2022 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Steam, and the Epic Games Store.

Some time has passed since the last KOF in XIV, where a mysterious being named Verse hijacked the tournament and almost doomed the world. Antonov annouced his retirement and stepped down from tournament host, but a new KOF is held thanks to the efforts of a new KOF commissioner, with invitations being sent out to fighters. However, Verse's disturbance with dimensions and timelines brought unexpected faces back to life, including those who were thought (or confirmed) dead. Not willing to take any chances, Chizuru Kagura summons Kyo and Iori and suggests they team up and secure the seal of Orochi, the enemy of their past they fought back in KOF '97. Meanwhile, Shun'ei enters the tournament with his friend Meitenkun and KOF veteran Benimaru, still trying to better understand his powers. The plot thickens when he meets his rival Isla, who has powers similar to his, as well as her teammates: Heidern, commander of the Ikari Warriors, and Dolores, a mysterious mystic who believes that both Isla and Shun'ei are destined to stop deities from another world, who might be even more of a threat than Verse.

KOF XV plays mostly like XIV but has introduced numerous systems for new and old players. XV expands the Rush system so you can perform an automatic combo by pressing four attack buttons; the button you press determines your combo finisher. Additionally, XV simplifies some command inputs, like the Climax Super Move to have the same command for all charactersnote  and some half-circle commands cut in half to quarter-circle. EX Moves can be performed without having to activate the MAX Mode by spending the Power Gauge directly.

Also, KOF XV is the first mainline gamenote  in the series to have proper Rollback netcode in the launch version, specifically the widely-acclaimed GGPO variety, which all but ensures the smoothest experience for Online play (especially in a genre that's notorious for less than ideal netcode in a lot of cases).

This is the second (and final) installment of the ongoing Shun'ei Saga which started back in KOF XIV, introducing only three newcomers (as one of them is actually a remixed character who hasn't been seen in 20 years), with the starting roster consisting of 39 characters — a stark contrast to XIV, which had 50 at launch. Only two of the 13 teams available at launch retain their classic lineups: Fatal Fury and Ikari. Notably, this is also the first installment in the series where series regular Kim Kaphwan, who had been in every installment since the beginning, is absent from the starting roster.note 

The team compositions are as follows:

    Teams (Base Game) 
  • Team Hero: New series protagonist Shun'ei and his best friend Meitenkun return from Team China in XIV, no longer with their mentor Tung Fu Rue in tow, but now joined by veteran Benimaru Nikaido as a request by Kyo.
  • Team Sacred Treasures: Eternal rivals Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami join forces with Chizuru Kagura, returning after her last appearance in KOF 2003. While previously a special edit-based team in previous games, this is the first time this team has been made official in a canon KOF title.
  • Team Fatal Fury: The classic lineup of Terry Bogard, his younger brother Andy, and Joe Higashi, of Fatal Fury fame.
  • Team Orochi: The former New Faces Team returning from the dead after 25 years' worth of series canon, Yashiro Nanakase, Shermie and Chris. Shermie had already appeared in SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, with the other two making a cameo in her ending.
  • Team Art of Fighting: The disciples of Kyokugen-ryu, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, now teaming up with their on-and-off frequent ally King for this sortie.
  • Team Ikari: Another classic lineup consisting of Ralf Jones, Clark Still and Leona Heidern - being the mercenary group known as the Ikari Warriors.
  • Team Secret Agent: Blue Mary and Vanessa are joined by a new addition to the team, KOF XIV newcomer and returnee, Luong - who was a former member of the Kim Team alongside Kim Kaphwan and her lover (and Kim's master) Gang-il - both of whom are pre-occupied with other matters at the moment...
  • Team Super Heroine: As a result of both ladies being unable to join the Fatal Fury and AOF teams on account of them being full, Yuri Sakazaki and Mai Shiranui team up with popstar sensation Athena Asamiya to form the Super Heroines team, a spin on the recurring Women Fighters Team of which Mai and Yuri are long-time members of. This also marks the first time Athena has joined a variant of the original Women Fighters team in the mainline series, and the first time since KOF 2003 that she does not form the Psycho Soldier team.
  • Team G.A.W. (Galaxy Anton Wrestling): After the events of XIV led to a flood of lawsuits, Antonov, the host of the previous tournament, has teamed up with wrestlers Ramon and The King of Dinosaursnote  to form a new wrestling stable and stage a comeback.
  • Team Rival: Newcomers Isla and Dolores join forces with Ikari Warriors commander Heidern to compete against the Hero Team. Isla in particular having something of a rivalry with Shun'ei, pertaining to his unique powers, which she also happens to have.
  • Team K': Spurred by recent events, K', with his longtime partner Maxima and his sister Whip, have entered the tournament to rescue their friend Kula Diamond, who some unsavory characters have kidnaped. This marks the first time the original three members of Team K' have entered a tournament since, again, KOF 2003. Speaking of which...
  • Team Krohnen: Ángel and a familiar face, Krohnen McDougallnote , "kidnap" Kula (as in, sway her with ice cream and convince her to join them because she was mad at K' following an arguement) as a rouse to get K' out of hiding so that he can finally settle the score with him once and for all.
  • Team Ash: After his supposed death in XIII, Tales of Ash saga protagonist Ash Crimson is also brought Back from the Dead, this time joined by his former rival and adoptive sister Elisabeth Blanctorche, and XIV newcomer Kukri, who also has ties to XV newcomer Dolores.

  • Bosses
    • Mid-Boss: Re Verse - A reincarnated Gender Bender version of Verse from the previous game, using Amanda as a vessel.
    • Final Boss: Otoma=Raga - The deity who guards the Crucible of Souls, the realm where the dead go, summoned by Re Verse after her defeat to destroy the world and re-create it.


Season 1 (Teams)

  • Team Garou: Curious to see what the world of KOF now has in store after the calamity with Verse, B. Jenet has opted to reform the old Mark of the Wolves team by enticing her former teammate Gato with information about his missing father. Their third member and new team leader? The protagonist of Garou himself, Rock Howard. Released on March 17th, 2022.
  • Team South Town: The Big Bad of the Fatal Fury series himself, Geese Howard and his loyal right-hand man Billy Kane enter the fray once more, with Hein sitting it out in favor of hiring the services of Ryuji Yamazaki to complete the newest incarnation of Team South Town. Released on May 17th, 2022.
  • Team Awakened Orochi: As the name implies, this is the true face of Team Orochi, three of the Four Heavenly Kings of Orochi as Orochi Yashiro, Orochi Shermie, and Orochi Chris. Released on August 8th, 2022.
  • Team Samurai: A full Samurai Shodown crossover team finally joins the KOF tournament, composing of the series' main protagonist Haohmaru, the recurring heroine Nakoruru who is already familiar with the Tournament, and the newcomer Darli Dagger. Released on October 4th, 2022.

Season 2 (Single Characters)

  • Shingo Yabuki: Kyo Kusanagi's Ascended Fanboy gets ready to show the competition what he's made of and hopefully get taken seriously for once. Released on January 17th, 2023.
  • Kim Kaphwan: Series staple Kim gets ready to dish out some justice by himself this time around. Released on April 4th, 2023.
  • Sylvie Paula Paula: Former NESTs operative and teammate of Kukri. Released on May 16th, 2023.
  • Najd: A Saudi Arabian vigilante who first made an appearance at the previous tournament. Releases Summer 2023.

Free Characters

  • Omega Rugal: In addition to the standard teams, the franchise's original Big Bad Rugal, in his Omega form, was released as a free stand-alone DLC character, accompanied with a Boss Challenge mode featuring an even more beefed-up version of him. Released on April 14th, 2022.
  • Goenitz: Joining the fray alongside the other six standalone characters is the notorious boss of KOF '96 himself. Releases Summer 2023.

The King of Fighters XV contains examples of:

  • 2D: The second game in the series after XIV to use it and SNK's overall third foray into the visual style after Samurai Shodown (2019).
  • All There in the Manual: Most of the game's backstory is presented through SNK's own site.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Downplayed. Certain characters have gear that are integral to their moveset, and switches sides depending on whether they're facing right or left, while everything else remains the same. Krohnen, for example, canonically has his blue glove on his right. It switches to the left when he's on the right side of the screen. The same goes for K's red glove, B.Jenet's open side of her dress, and Omega Rugal's cybernetic eye.
  • Amazon Brigade: Two canonical teams consisting entirely of women are Team Super Heroine, a revision of Team Women Fighters now featuring Athena Asamiya, and Team Secret Agents, which consist of Vanessa and Blue Mary alongside XIV newcomer Luong.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: A remake of King's Art of Fighting 2 stage is here as the home stage for Team Krohnen. Judging by how run-down it looks, it's clearly seen better days.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Beating Omega Rugal not only gets you his Omega armor from 2002, but you also get a new stage and song to go with it, too.
  • Announcer Chatter: Returns from the previous game, except even more verbose.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Tons.
    • The Auto Combos in this game have been revamped compared to XIV: now you can press a different button after pressing A (Light Punch) three times in quick succession for a different ender - A will automatically perform a Climax Super, B (Light Kick) will do a normal Special Move (which can be canceled into a Super Special Move), C (Strong Punch) ends in a normal Super while D (Strong Kick) ends in a MAX Super.
    • Combos and cancel windows are just as straightforward and lenient in this installment as they were in XIV, meaning you can pull off basic light confirms (such as cr.B, cr.A into L.Scarlet Phantom in Shun'ei's case) with relative ease.
    • Every Climax Super in the game is now a relatively straightforward qcb~hcf+CD (aka, the Orochinagi input plus the Blowback button) input. For reference, Shun'ei's Climax Super in XIV was a double half-circle input, which can be quite difficult for pad players (let alone a beginner) to pull off.
    • Some characters have had their move inputs changed for easier light confirms or just for quality-of-life reasons. Prime examples include Chrisnote , Ryonote , and Yashironote , just to name a few.
    • This also extends to some Super Special moves as well, notably Krohnen and Geese, whose (in)famous pretzel motion inputsnote  have been replaced with simpler double quarter-circle forward inputs or the Orochinagi input plus blowback for their respective specials - Infernal Prominence/Fusion Blaster and Raging Storm. Though in this instance, both can still do the classic motion.
    • In addition, characters who had special moves that required Button Mashing (e.g., Joe, Clark, Billy), have now had their inputs changed to motion inputs (though Joe and Billy are special cases in that you do a dragon punch motion first and then mash for Bakuretsuken and Senpuu Kon, respectively) á la Chun-Li to avoid getting the Rush Combos by accident.
    • EX Moves can now be performed freely like in XIII (as they could only be performed while in MAX Mode in XIV), and only cost half a bar instead of a full meter, unlike the latter game.
    • The Shatter Strike - an armored version of the standard Blowback - is reintroduced from XII and functions similarly to the Focus Attack where you can muscle through an opponent's offense while taking damage yourself, leading to a combo on hit. It's a very versatile tool that's as effective for offense as it is defense, but it's not without its drawbacks.
    • Many characters' far Standing Normals are Special Cancelable in this game for better punishment and a more neutral/footsies-oriented playstyle. Kyo is the prime contender since his new Far C is not only cancelable on hit, but he can also cancel it even on whiff, too.
    • Taking a page from the Maximum Impact series, you can now switch the characters and the stage instantaneously during Training Mode straight from the Pause menu. Thanks to the PlayStation 5's SSD, this action is near-instantaneous and takes less than five seconds compared to back out into the Member Select screen to select a different stage every time. You can even change the soundtrack that's playing in the background from the same menu, too.
    • There is a setting that allows you to adjust the Background contrast of the stages (of which we mean that you can make the background darker to the point where you and the opponent are literally fighting in the darkness if cranked up all the way), making it much easier to make out what's on the screen.
    • Despite being as cheap as you'd expect him to be, Rugal doesn't regain any lost health while fighting him as a Bonus Boss. Additionally, you still get an extra bar of meter for every character you lose against him, too.
  • Apocalypse How:
  • Art Evolution: Compared to XIV, the extra years of development have really come a long way for the series, with a much sharper, animesque (though not to the extent of the Guilty Gear series) aesthetic that is far more pleasing than its predecessor. Notable glow-ups include the likes of Andy, Ángel, and Kula, who look much better and less... uncanny here compared to their prior appearance.
  • Attack Reflector: In abundance. Though the 1.32 patch made it so that the Light versions of some characters' reflectors (notably Athena and Elisabeth) only absorb the projectile, while the Heavy version serves as the reflector instead.
    • Athena has her Psycho Reflector, as always.
    • The Heavy version of B. Jenet's Crazy Ivan is a slower example that otherwise plays it straight.
    • Chizuru also has hers (Tamayura no Shitsune) intact, nearly 18 years after her last appearance.
    • Elisabeth gains one for this outing, being Aurore.
    • The 1.32 balance update turned K's Second Whip into one, which makes his already renowned Ein Trigger that much better.
    • Rugal and his Dark Barrier make a return, being as reliable as ever.
    • Whip's Crescent Swatter plays with this. While slower than the above examples, it returns a slower traveling projectile that can't be nullified or reflected.
    • Yamazaki's Double Return is another interesting example. The Light version absorbs it, but when pressing the input again, Yamazaki can sling the kept projectile back at the opponent when they least expect it.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: MAX Mode. It increases overall damage by quite a bit and allows the ability to string together Level 1, Level 2, and Climax Super Special Moves together in quick succession, often leading to touch-of-death combos as soon as you land that first jump-in. While it sounds useful on paper, it sees little to no use in online and tournament play due to the telegraphed activation animation and far more practical uses for meter.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit:
    • Ash Crimson is pictured wearing one in his Team's Stinger.
    • Geese and Billy's new outfits have them wearing suits. Mostly as a call back to one of Shinkiro's Fatal Fury artworks, where they did wear suits.
  • Battle in the Rain: Strange Plateau's forecast seems to be plenty of rainy with a chance of getting your ass kicked by Rugal.
  • Battle Intro: Besides the typical ones that KOF uses, when going through the arcade ladder, the point character gets a special intro with the announcer describing them. In addition, a cutscene plays out between specific matchups, like Kyo and Iori, K' and Kula, Ash and Elisabeth, Shun'ei and Isla, etc. but unlike how it was implemented in XIV, these are full cutscenes. Note that if the cutscene is shown for the point character, it takes priority over the usual intro.
  • Beach Episode: Two of the stages are set in South Town Sound Beach, one during the day (serving as the home stage for both Team Fatal Fury and Team Garou upon the latter's release), and another at sunset (associated with Team K').
  • Bonus Boss: Omega Rugal, who was added free of charge in the April 14th update for the game. Being the very progenitor of the SNK Boss we've all come to know and dread, don't expect an easy fight against him.
  • Brick Joke: Shingo and Ash both get a Special Intro that references the Kyo & Iori Team ending of XI where Ash commented on Shingo catching a cold. Here, Ash says he could be the one to catch a cold this time.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • For several characters, the likes of whom haven't been seen for as long as 25 years of series canon. The base roster reintroduces Ash and Elisabeth,note , Chizurunote , Chris, Shermie, and Yashironote . Krohnen is an interesting example in that while he is K9999, he's assumed a different identity and changed his appearance so that he's more legally distinct from the character that he was originally a (very blatant) homage to.
    • This game also marks the 3D debut of Gato, a character that hasn't been seen since XI.
    • This is B. Jenet's second 3D outing after Maximum Impact 2/Regulation A.
    • Rugal - the series' original Big Bad - finally returns for the first time since his last canon outing back in KOF '95 (Dream Matches and crossovers notwithstanding), a whole 27 years after the fact.
    • Shingo Yabuki, who hasn't been playable since The King of Fighters XI, makes his triumphant return in 2023.
  • Call-Back: Plenty to the point of bordering Continuity Porn.
    • In an inverted example of Saiki's takeover of Ash (creating Evil Ash), Amanda breaks free from Isla to create Re Verse, an Eldritch Abomination that is essentially Isla's Superpowered Evil Side if it met Necalli and Bane.
    • Additionally, unlike in XIV, the Monster of the Week doesn't destroy the arena, but rather warp the heroes to another dimension, much like Magaki and Saiki did in XI and XIII, respectively.
    • Krohnen's special intro with Kyo has him say that he might not be the same guynote , but it's still a face he has to punch. Since Krohnen is essentially a clone of Kyo, it'd make sense for him to have this sentiment.
    • Krohnen has several quotes that call back to his original identity, chief among them being one of his win poses:
      K9999: Kore mo...ore no chikara na no ka?!EN  Hahahahaha...
      Krohnen: Kore ga...ore no chikara da!EN 
    • And another one in his Climax Super:
      K9999: Chikara ga...katte ni...uwaaaa!!EN 
      Krohnen: Kono chikara de...e...nejifuseruuu!EN 
    • Team Ash's Stinger serves as a heartwarming callback to a childhood photo of Ash and Elisabeth - now a teenager and adult in present time, respectively - enjoying themselves in a flower field.
    • Rugal definitely remembers his Arch Enemies if his win quotes to Kyo and Heidern are anything to go by.
      Rugal: (To Heidern) Maybe you'll remember the fear and despair I gave you if I take that other eyeball...
      (To Kyo) You really thought you could hinder me? The flames of Kusanagi are like pebbles on the roadside.
    • While everyone apart from Elisabeth forgot about him (Shen Woo and Duo Lon do regain some of their memories in Team Ash's ending, though), Ash himself still remembers the events of his self-titled saga like the back of his hand. Not only does he have a Special Intro with Chizuru acknowledging this, but he also has some win quotes directed at Kyo and Iori in Story Mode as well:
      Ash: (To Iori) Unsociable as ever, eh, monsieur? Not that it matters, now that I'm bored of your flames.
      (To Kyo) Thanks again for your assistance, Kyo. Not that I suppose you can remember.
    • As far as gameplay is concerned, Kyo's new Climax is a minor callback to his original Shotoclone moveset where he throws out a Yamibarai (as it is currently exclusive to Iori) projectile at the opponent.
    • Rugal also gets one to his intro from '98 where it's weaponized into his new Desperate Ray Super, having him zap the opponent with his eye laser a la Devil Jin.
    • Shingo's Special Intro with Ash is a nod to the Kyo & Iori Team's ending back in XI where Ash single-handedly saves him and Kyo from being outright killed by a Riot-induced Iori, though not before taking his powers. As expected, Shingo's memory of Ash is vague, owing to the Cosmic Retcon at the end of XIII that wiped the latter from existence for a time.
  • The Cameo: Tons from past contestants in the series in the Team Endings.
    • Team Hero has Tung Fu Rue from the Fatal Fury series, who was a part of the Hero team in the previous game before leaving his pupils in Benimaru's care.
    • Duo Lon and Shen Woo make a cameo in Team Ash's ending, enjoying a meal together with the latter and Elisabeth.
    • Team Sacred Treasures features an appearance from Shingo and, for the first time since KOF Neowave, a physical appearance from Saisyu Kusanagi, Kyo's father and the current master of the Kusanagi Arts, himself.
    • Both the K' and Krohnen endings feature Foxy and Diana, Kula's handlers and de facto maternal figures.
    • Team Fatal Fury features appearances from Hwa Jai, Billy Kane, and his younger sister, Lilly. In Billy's case, this would also double as an Early-Bird Cameo with him and the rest of Team South Town joining the roster as DLC in May.
    • Team Art of Fighting once again has cameos from Kyokugenryu master Takuma Sakazaki and Khushnoo-er, we mean Marco Rodrigues, of Garou fame.
    • Hein (albeit from behind) also appears as Luong's getaway driver and co-conspirator in the Secret Agents team ending, though he does make a full appearance in the South Town ending.
    • Daimon, Sho Hayate, Griffon (Dinosaur's original Face persona), and Zarina all cameo in the G.A.W. ending.
    • Hotaru once again makes a cameo in one of Gato's endings, this time in the Team Garou ending, just before that team's Stinger.
    • Goenitz reappears in Team Awakened Orochi's ending as he and the rest of the Heavenly Kings exterminate humanity.
    • Mizuki Rashoujin shows up in Team Samurai's ending, having been weakened due to her source of power being taken out.
    • Outside of the endings, the Ikari Warriors' Metal Slug-themed stage has Rumi Aikawa and several Prisoners of War (including Hyakutaro Ichimonji, the famous Ki Attack wielding legend you sometimes luck into releasing) as well as a Mars People's flying saucer.
    • Terry Rogers and Master Barnes from 3 Count Bout appear in the background of Team GAW's stage.
    • From Fatal Fury, Michael Max appears in the background of the Beach Resort stage (specifically, its daytime variant), while Bob Wilson and Richard Meyer will occasionally show up to watch the fight at the Pao Pao Cafe stage.
  • Character Roster Global Warming: Played with. On one hand, while Daimon is absent for this one, you do have the likes of Antonov, King of Dinosaurs, and Maxima to fill the void of a big, lumbering fighter to play around with. On the other hand, the opposite is also true, as the game is also (no pun intended) short on the more petite and agile characters (e.g., Choi, Mui Mui), with Athena, Chris, and Yuri being the only notable Fragile Speedsters in the game. Everyone else is of average size at best.
  • Charge-Input Special: Ash, Heidern, Leona, and Meitenkun - once again. Interestingly enough, Terry's Rising Tackle used to be a charge-input move, but now it's a dragon punch motion like in '98 instead. Same with Rock and his version of the Rising Tackle.
  • Close-Range Combatant: Quite a few: Kyo, Yashiro, Chris, Ralf, Vanessa, etc.
  • Clothing Damage: Only for King and Yuri as an Easter Egg to Art of Fighting. Like in those games, knocking them out with a Special Move or better (Super Special Move, etc.) will cause their tops to be ripped off.
  • Comeback Mechanic: Like in prior entries, you gain an extra bar of meter for every character you lose. Furthermore, if your prior character already had the maximum amount of meter they can have in their position (up to 3 for the first, 4 for the second, and 5 for the third), then they'll gain an additional bar free of charge. MAX Mode is a more straightforward example, reducing cost on EX and Super Special Moves, increased damage, and other benefits.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The first half of the credits features colored silhouettes of the cast in a graffiti style and billing their voice actors. Starting with Shun'ei (Takashi Ohara) and Isla (Lynn), and ending with Team Secret Agent (Mayumi Hata, Sarah Emi Bridcutt, and Chika Kino for Vanessa, Mary, and Luong, respectively).
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • While the input changes to some characters' specials add up to some very nice quality-of-life changes (e.g., Andy's Zan'ei Ken going from db~f+P to a fireball motion, Mai's Hissatsu Shinobi Bachi being a quarter-circle input instead of half-circle, Clark's Gatling Attack going from a charge input to qcb+P, etc.), for veteran players, it can take quite a bit to adjust to.
    • Geese's Raimei Gouha Nage is now done with half circle back instead of a dragon punch input. Ditto for Raigou Reppuken - which went from a double quarter circle forward to quarter circle forward to half-circle back.
    • This also extends to some Super Special Moves, too; especially for the Climax Supers — whereas everyone in XIV had their own inputs for their Climax Supers, XV simplifies it so everyone's Climax Super input is the same: qcb~hcf+CD. So if you happened to play, say, King or Ryo in XIV, you might find yourself doing the old inputs for their Climaxes by accident.
    • MAX Mode, unlike prior entries, now costs two bars instead of one, which will almost certainly throw anyone who has played XIV extensively for a loop since MAX Mode (Quick) cancels were all but the metagame back in XIV. Though there is a bright blue display above the Power Gauge that says "MAX MODE OK" to remind you when it's available.
  • Demoted to Extra: Since Shun'ei is the current protagonist for this saga, the other three protagonists (Kyo, K', and Ash) have fallen to the wayside somewhat, with K' in particular being an Advertised Extra since he has the least amount of prominence in the game's plot if not little to do with it at all.
    • With Kyo being The Hero of the entire series, he's still plenty relevant in the game's plot since he, Iori, and Chizuru teamed up in order to prevent Otoma=Raga from unsealing Orochi after the three already did the deed back in XIV.
    • K' on the other hand has to deal with Kula deserting the team simply because he and Maxima were so busy that they couldn't fulfill their promise to take her to an amusement park. In fact, he doesn't even meet Krohnen at all (barring their Fated Battle in Story Mode) in the latter's or his team ending, either - Krohnen and Ángel simply drop Kula off with Foxy and Diana and carry on with their lives.
    • Downplayed with Ash. His actions in XIII were the catalyst for the Verse Incident in the last game, which led to his revival, as well as Otoma=Raga's involvement, but he has little to do in the grand scheme of things, as Kukri is the one carrying most of Team Ash's plot.
    • Despite being the Big Bad of the first two KOF titles and an Arch-Enemy for Kyo and Heidern, Rugal is completely detached from the main plot altogether, only being relegated to a Bonus Boss.
  • Desert Warfare: The Ikari Warriors' home stage is a straight example of this, albeit with a guest appearance by Metal Slug.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Whenever Kyo uses his Climax Super on any Orochi team members (Chris, Shermie, or Yashiro), his usual, "Misete yaru ze! Kusanagi-ryu no shinzui !"EN , is replaced with his trademark Badass Boast of "Misete yaru... Kusanagi no kobushi wo!"EN 
    • Likewise, when Iori uses his Climax Super on Team Orochi, he'll forgo the more threatening red eyes and possessed voice and incinerate CYS completely on his terms without succumbing to the Riot of the Blood.
    • Like Kyo and Iori above, having Chizuru do her Climax Super on Team Orochi will have the voice of her deceased sister Maki talk alongside her.
    • When Terry wears his Garou outfit, some of the animations involving his trademark Fatal Fury cap are slightly altered. For example, during his mid-match win pose, since he doesn't have a hat to toss in the air, he'll just point up and say, "OK!" as always. Furthermore, when activating Stardust Ignition, he'll also just point up without holding onto his hat before Power Charging the opponent into the dirt.
    • On the very rare occasion you get a double KO with King and/or Yuri, the sole characters with Clothing Damage, their victory screen will still have their clothes destroyed.
    • See Battle in the Center of the Mind above if you're curious about how Team Orochi interact with their Awakened selves.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Ángel, yet again, due to her unique Unchain Circle mechanic that grants her some of the longest, most damaging meterless combos in the entire game. Some Dexterity Required aside, she's also difficult because while her specials are fantastic combo glue, her normals are less so. She has little to no means of defense, and consequently is very weak against those that can keep her out with zoning or long-ranged pokes.
    • Ash can pull off all sorts of flashy and lengthy combos by Lag Canceling his Nivose into Germinal Caprice over and over again until he reaches the corner, with optimization routes that range from match-practical Stun combos to TOD combos for as little as three bars. However, this requires the know-how and commitment to pull off a basic Sans-culotte combo mid-match.
  • Downloadable Content:
    • Two costumes for Terry and Leona, based on their appearances in Garou: MOTW and KOF '96-2003 respectively, with the former as a pre-order bonus.
    • The Garou Team - B. Jenet, Gato, and Rock - launched on March 17th, 2022.
    • Billy Kane, Geese Howard, and Ryuji Yamazaki returned as Team South Town on May 17th, 2022.
    • The Orochi Team's Awakened selves were released on August 8th, 2022.
    • Team Samurai - consisting of Samurai Shodown veterans Haohmaru and Nakoruru as well as newcomer Darli Dagger - launched on October 4th, 2022.
    • Six single characters - consisting of Shingo Yabuki, Kim Kaphwan, Sylvie Paula Paula and Najd, as well as two other characters yet to be revealed - have been confirmed so far, with Shingo releasing on January 17th, 2023.
    • A free update consisting of Omega Rugal and a Boss Challenge against him (with an extra stage, theme, and costume for him as rewards for defeating him) launched on April 14th, 2022.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Both Billy and Shingo made early appearances in the Fatal Fury and Sacred Treasures teams' endings respectively before becoming playable in later DLC (the first team pass for Billy, and the second season pass for Shingo).
  • Eldritch Location: The last two stages of the game take place in these.
    • Re Verse's stage takes a book out of Saiki's home stage from XIII, complete with a destroyed arena and Alien Sky.
    • Otoma-Raga's home stage is another alternate version of the arena, this one being covered head to toe in crystals.
    • Strange Plateau, as the name suggests, takes place in a stormy plateau covered in what looks like craters from people that were released by Verse, with Rugal being chief among them.
  • EX Special Attack: Returning from XIII and XIV. Comparatively, however, they work differently from either game - back in XIV, MAX Mode was required in order to use EX moves while in XIII, they cost one bar apiece compared to a conventional Super Special Move. Now, EX moves can be used at any time, costing only half a bar (giving the player upwards of 10 EX moves for their anchor).
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: All over the place, most especially throughout the key visuals of the game as pictured above. This is likely due to Shun'ei finally settling into the role of the Hero of the saga, as this juxtaposition is what defines his powers.
  • Flanderization: The team stories portray certain characters in a much more one-dimensional manner, namely Ryo and Kula. Ryo is uncharacteristically harsh to his sister, and Kula's airheaded nature is played up harder than ever before.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Downplayed. In contrast to the rest of the cast, whose renders have them facing their opponent, the boss renders all menacingly stare at the player.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser:
    • Starting from their revised team name alone, Orochi Team, the CYS trio being malicious servants of Orochi is known by most of the cast by now, and as such, some of them suspect the Heavenly Kings are out to resurrect Orochi again and cause trouble. However, Shermie does make true to her word that her team is just out to have some fun. Their story is completely harmless. They are focused on their band, and the idea of actually trying to sacrifice Kyo's girlfriend Yuki again is played as a joke, but Yashiro's evil grin by the end also reinforces they are completely unpredictable; they could go back to their evil ways on a whim if they wanted to (and in their Awakened counterparts' ending, they do, with catastrophic consequences).
    • And then there's Mizuki, who gets dragged by Team Samurai into exploring modern-day Japan with them in their ending.
  • The Grappler: In different flavors. If you want the classic Mighty Glacier variety, there's King of Dinosaurs. Want someone a little faster and tricky to punish? Ramon's your best bet. Or perhaps you want someone in-between? Go with Clark. Perhaps you want a pixie grappler with good poking and defense? Look no further than Shermie.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: During Kula's pre-fight intro, the announcer refers to her as a "Snow Bunny." For most, this is a harmless and fairly fitting nickname for a graceful young female fighter with ice powers. However, the phrase carries a much less innocent meaning in North America.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: This being KOF, there's no shortage of instances where some attacks that should connect on hit... either don't (at best) or even trade in the opponent's favor (at worst).
    • Billy's Counter-Attack has some amusing reactions when timed against certain Dash Attacks. If used against Iori's Hozuki, for example, the attack doesn't connect, resulting in Iori ending up right in Billy's face as if nothing happened.
    • As long as it connects with any attack, Geese's parry can work against even strikes that can hit him from across the screen, like Krohnen's Calamity Overdrive or even Whip's attacks.
    • Rugal's new projectile attack, Violent Ray, has such a high hitbox that smaller characters like Athena or Kula can dodge it by standing still.
    • Being a Long-Range Fighter, Whip's namesake weapon extends her hurtbox substantially every time she uses it, resulting in being able to hit her from ranges that shouldn't be possible.
  • Hurricane Kick: In abundance, of course. Notable cases include King, Kukri, Robert, and Ryo, among a few others.
  • Image Song: "Now or Never", performed by Bando Kando and sung by Steven McNair (also behind the title theme for XIV, "Follow Me").
  • Immune to Flinching: A new universal mechanic introduced in this game is the Shatter Strike, functionally similar to the Focus Attack. It grants armor frames that allow you to plow through an opponent's offense and either crumple them (if they're on the ground) or bounce them against the wall (if they were airborne); both grant a (heavily damage scaled) combo if they connect. Additionally, if it whiffs or gets blocked, it'll cost you one bar, but if it connects, you'll regain half of it.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Taunts are back after their absence in XIV; performed by pressing the Light Punch and Heavy Kick buttons together.
  • Kamehame Hadoken: Of course, the Haoh Shokoken used by Ryo, Robert and Yuri is still here.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The game is, of course, a follow-up to KOF XIV before it, so this comes with the territory.
    • Starting with the revival of Ash Crimson - who had thought to have been wiped from existence at the end of XIII. The Official Invitation's team ending hints and thus confirmed his (and also Elisabeth's) return.
    • While CYS also being revived might be a surprise to long-time KOF players, this was already foreshadowed in the (very much canon) spin-off SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, as Shermie had already appeared in that game.
    • Though this might be the first canon outing of the Sacred Treasures team (being an edit team previously), this was also hinted at back in XIV, specifically with the Yagami Team's ending. Them re-sealing Orochi, which Leona states with her special intro against Iori, is also shown in the latter ending.
    • Rugal is also back, as he was also one of the souls trapped in Verse.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness:
    • Kim was absent for the first time in the main series, having never missed a tournament since the very beginning before this one. He is set to return as a part of Season 2.
    • MAX Mode requires two bars instead of one, a change sure to throw off series veterans. Additionally, activating MAX Mode by itself gives a power boost that the player does not receive when activating it during a combo in an attempt to balance both activation methods.
    • MAX Mode itself has also been overhauled for this installment compared to XIV, now coming in two varieties - Regular MAX Mode increases damage output, grants free EX Moves at the expense of the gauge draining faster, and reduces costs on all supers - meaning you can cancel a normal Super Special Move into a MAX SDM into a Climax Super extremely high damage. Then there's Quick Mode, which gets a brief pause before your character automatically runs in exchange for a shorter timer than in XIV.
    • For the first time in the series, there are Stingers for every team after watching (or rather, skipping) the credits. Notably, unlike the normal endings, these are fully voiced.
    • There aren't Edit Team artworks like in prior entries. Instead, they too are stingers which are also fully voice acted.
    • Every team now has a logo that shows up on the versus screen in a 1 vs. 1, or a 3 vs. 3 match if all the combatants on one team hail from the same canon unit in this game proper.
    • As is the case with most modern fighting games, there are now cinematic character intros before every fight, albeit only in Story Mode and only for the Point (first) character. There's also an Establishing Shot of each stage much like in prior games (notably KOF XI).
  • The Multiverse: Confirmed to exist in this game since The Crucible of Souls (i.e., the thing that Isla nearly gets pulled into by Otoma=Raga in the Hero Team's cinematic outro) serves as a nexus for all of the possible timelines not just in KOF canon, but potentially everything made by SNK, period. Especially since Team Samurai are the same ones from their timeline, unlike Team Art of Fighting or Fatal Fury, whose counterparts in this series are established as Alternate Counterparts from their originals.
  • Mundane Solution: Both the Final Boss and especially the Bonus Boss are easier than they look to beat.
    • In Otoma=Raga's case, simply slowing down, jumping over and sweeping her, then repeating the process ad nauseum is one of the most effective ways to deal with her. Or, if you're fond of grapplers like Clark or Shermie, then feel free to get touchy-feely with her and spam their respective command grabs over and over until her health bar expires.
    • As for Omega Rugal, the solution is the simplest: roll right behind him. No, really. A lot of his moves have craptons of recovery frames on whiff (notably his Dark Barrier, the boss version's of which has way more active frames than the playable version) and his Genocide Cutter, while still as threatening as ever, is still a Shoryuken esque anti-air with all the downsides that it entails.
  • Musical Nod: The main menu theme contains several to prior entries. The electronic sounds, in the beginning, are taken from the Satella View of KOF '97, the first few seconds after that call to mind 2000's staff roll, then it transitions from the opening theme of KOF '94 to vanilla 2002's motifs, before capping off with XI's intro.
    • Additionally, several classic songs have been remixed for this one - chief among them being "Bloody" from '97, "Goodbye Esaka" and "KD-0084" from 2000, and "Sadistic Eyes" from '99. The intro to Garou: Mark of the Wolves is remixed for Team Garou as their Leitmotif this time around. Kim's solo theme, meanwhile, is a remix of his original song from Fatal Fury 2.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Much of the alternate color schemes serve as these and Shout Outs to other franchises, which you can check out here.
    • Ryo's motorcycle appears for the first time since Art of Fighting in an Edit Team ending.
    • Ash's Espoir Climax Super originated in the Maximum Impact series but functions differently. Ash now entraps the opponent in a flaming tornado instead of one coming from him. It even has the same input, albeit with the Blowback button instead of Strong Punch.
    • Team Super Heroine's namesake and line-up originate from a port of 97 for the Neo Geo Pocket, The King of Fighters R-1, under the name Heroines Team.
    • Haohmaru and Mai have a special intro where the former expresses surprise at seeing her again, while the latter confusedly states she has no idea what he's talking about. This is a nod to Haohmaru's ending in the original Samurai Shodown, where he dueled a kunoichi who looked exactly like Mai (and used her Fatal Fury 2 sprite).
    • Nakoruru has a special 8th color palette that references her EX variant, Purple Nakoruru, her more bloodthirsty counterpart. The kicker is that this variant gets a unique outro attached.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Esaka stage (the home stage of the Sacred Treasures) this time around is under construction. Hard hats are not included.
  • Put on a Bus: Due to the significantly reduced starting roster of 39, compared to XIV having 58 by the end of its lifecycle, many characters ended up shelved for the time being. Chief among them being all of Team South Americanote , Alice Garnet Nakata, Goro Daimon, Hein, Kim Kaphwan (and his master Gang-il), Mui Mui, Love Heart, Mature & Vice, Mian, Sylvie Paula Paula, and Xanadu, to name a few.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The DJ Station is an invoked example, but in addition to that, XIV's Image Song, "Follow Me", will always play in the tournament finals in Story Mode. (Funnily enough, the DJ Station classifies it as a song from this game instead of its actual source.)
  • Sad Battle Music:
    • The destined battle theme for Kukri and Dolores is appropriately melancholic given the circumstances of their relationship.
    • "Liberty," the theme for Team Krohnen, is also pretty somber.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: Omega Rugal has a Level 1 Super called Dead Mount Pressnote , exclusive to his boss fight. The move makes him invulnerable to almost every attack and counter. Projectiles are either deflected or do nothing, and the move is a grab. There are only four known moves that bypass this: Heidern's Gae Bolg (fittingly enough), another Rugal's Dread Fatal Wave, Re Verse's desperation grab, and Orochi Yashiro's Araburu Daichi.
  • Serial Escalation: This series has gone from a rich psychopathic black arms dealer as the Final Boss to a flat-out Destroyer Deity that can also revive the dead. Especially since Verse's true purpose was to gather the souls of deceased fighters so that Otoma=Raga can feast on them.
  • Shout-Out: Shares its page with the rest of the franchise here.
  • Skill Gate Character: This being one of the easiest KOF games to get into, there are tons of beginner-friendly characters to choose from, with Iori and Terry being the most common picks for newbies to pick. Although SNK rated each character in ease of use (the more stars, the easier the character), much like ArcSys did for Guilty Gear -STRIVE- on their site, which is linked above in All There in the Manual.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Team Ash's home stage takes place in one. It makes Ash's updated look very fitting for the weather.
  • SNK Boss: It's SNK themselves, of course this would happen.
    • For the Final Boss, there's Otoma=Raga. She is a character that has plenty of range on her attacks, does assloads of damage, and is just an all-around nuisance to fight. Though compared to bosses of yesteryear, the only thing keeping her from being downright infuriating is her lackluster AI.
    • Omega Rugal, who's a Bonus Boss added in a free update. Besides fighting like his usual Omega self, he gets a special move unique to this version of him.
  • Some Dexterity Required: Notably averted across the board. XV had made it a point to reduce the dexterity requirement by either cutting half-circles into quarter-circles or just changing the input entirely for ease of use.
  • The Stinger: Each team has one of these in addition to their own endings.
    • Team Hero: Shun'ei and Meitenkun are overseeing another big city, presumably Shanghai, and are in awe at how big it is, just like the game's intro.
    • Team Rival: Isla is feeling nostalgic about a photo of herself and Amanda while on her way to China to see Shun'ei.
    • Team Sacred Treasures: Kyo pays a visit to his girlfriend Yuki, probably after his spout with Iori.
    • Team Ash: Ash and Elisabeth are lying down in a field of flowers; the same one that they took a picture of at one point in their childhood.
    • Team Art of Fighting: The Kyokugenryu crew are out in the middle of the jungle, on their way to the training grounds. While Ryo is enthusiastic as always, Robert and Yuri are tired out of their minds from walking aimlessly through the jungle.
    • Team Fatal Fury: The Bogard brothers pay a visit to Joe in the hospital, after his fight with Billy in their ending. Joe of who is still determined to go on a date with Lilly despite her brother's disapproval.
    • Team G.A.W.: Antonov is celebrating his appointment as president of G.A.W. while Ramon and Dinosaur aren't exactly amused at the prospect.
    • Team Ikari: The trio are in the middle of a forest, looking for any signs of Gaidel, Leona's father.
    • Team K': The crew are enjoying themselves at an amusement park, finally fulfilling their promise to Kula.
    • Team Krohnen: Ángel and Krohnen are seen making a pit stop at a gas station before going about their ways.
    • Team Orochi: CYS are performing at a concert, proudly announcing their return to the world.
    • Team Secret Agent: Mary and Vanessa go out shopping together after Luong left them.
    • Team Super Heroine: Athena is seen getting ready for a magic-themed idol act with Mai dressed as a lion while Yuri is dressed as a clown, neither of whom are amused by this.
    • Team Garou: Terry, Jenet and Rock sit at the Pao Pao Cafe, talking about teaming up for the next King of Fighters tournament.
    • Team South Town: Geese sits in his chair after his fight with Hein and Yamazaki, musing to himself over how Hein's betrayal ultimately didn't matter much in the end.
    • Team Awakened Orochi: The team wander about in a ruined city, having just wiped out humanity.
    • Team Samurai: Nakoruru goes out shopping with Rashoujin Mizuki in tow, while Haohmaru and Darli enjoy themselves with food.
  • Super Special Move:
    • Besides Benimaru's Raikouken and Terry's Power Geyser returning, "newcomer" Krohnen has a special move called Heat Shield, and a super special move called "Infernal Prominence", a souped-up version of Heat Shield.
    • Omega Rugal returns with a new Special Move called Violent Ray. He also gets a souped-up super version called Desperation Ray, where instead of an energy blast from the eye, it's a straight-up Eye Beam that can even hit knocked-down opponents.
  • Surprisingly Good English: The Image Song mentioned above. It helps that its lead singer is a native English speaker. Ditto for the Rival Team's Leitmotif, "Time for revolution It's our generation".
  • Theme Tune Cameo:
    • "Follow Me," the theme for KOF XIV, plays during the Finals round.
    • A remix of "Going to R&D" from KOF '94 plays at the Omega Rugal's Boss Challenge select screen.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill: Par excellence for many of the Climax moves in the game, but in addition to that, everyone on the roster has access to a relatively straightforward touch-of-death combo from as early as four bars. If you're lucky enough and/or read your opponent correctly, you can use your Battery or Anchor character (which tend to have more meter to work with than a Point) to end a round almost instantly once they get that first hit in. Terry is probably the best example since he can destroy any unlucky victim with a combo like this.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • The announcer's reactions to Re Verse and Omega Rugal.
      Announcer: (VS Re Verse, Story Mode) Some kind of monster is attacking us! It's like... Verse!
      (VS Omega Rugal, Boss Challenge) I've got a bad feeling about this! Just what's going to happen?!
  • Travel to Projectile: Worth noting that being projectiles, all of the examples below are easily susceptible to the Attack Reflectors mentioned above.
    • Athena sends out a Psycho Shoot for her Psycho Remix Spark Climax Super.
    • K' and his Chain Drive, as per usual.
    • Kyo's Yakumo has him fling a Yamibarai fireball at the opponent before going to town on them with a fiery tornado.
    • Orochi Shermie kicks a Yatanagi no Muchi at a diagonal angle for her Raijin no Sabaki super, after which she zaps the opponent with a torrent of electricity.
    • Yashiro's Ultimate Billion Bash sees him punch the air in front of him so hard that he flings a full-screen projectile at the opponent.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A monster that heavily resembles the one that trashed the last tournament joined by a Destroyer Deity that threatens all of existence? At this point, a slow Tuesday for most of the cast.
    Terry: Another mysterious monster butting in? Wouldn't be KOF without it!
  • Variable Mix:
    • Team Awakened Orochi have three different mixes of their motif from '97, where the song's tempo changes depending on the character present. For example, if Orochi Shermie is present, traces of her own leitmotif, "Fanatic Waltz", will overlap with "Rhythmic Hallucination".
    • Re Verse also has this during their Boss encounter in Story Mode. The song increases its intensity for every character that you lose in battle, with the final character getting a very intense and guitar-heavy iteration of the same motif.
  • Victory Is Boring: Team Awakened Orochi's Stinger has Yashiro and Shermie lament that the paradise Orochi wanted to achieve bores them.
  • Victory Pose: Two varieties - one after every round and another after every match.
  • Victory Quote: Like in XIV, the winner will have a fully voiced version after every match. Notably, instead of being in front of a separate screen, they will now strike a pose from within the stage itself.
  • The Voice: Anastasia, the host of this year's tournament, is only ever heard once in the game's prologue and provides the page quote above.
  • What If?: While most endings that aren't the Hero's are of debatable canonicity, Team Awakened Orochi is uniquely far removed from the rest of the endings. The Four Heavenly Kings succeed in reviving Orochi and destroying all of humanity. For obvious reasons, this is far from the game's canon ending, but provides a logical conclusion to Orochi's ultimate goal.

All hell is coming
You'd better know
'Cause I ain't running
I'm right there with the battle blows!