With King of Fighters XV getting added as one of the disciplines here at DashFight, we want to mark this occasion by giving you a beginners guide that could address the concerns and answer questions of any players who are looking to get into this revered series.
If you don’t feel like reading it all in one go, you can only read through the parts that interest you or come back to it later.
What is King of Fighters?
The King of Fighters franchise has been around for nearly 30 years. Many of you have probably heard about it or even seen it before. However, many people still don’t know about what KoF is about or have major misconceptions about how it plays. So, what is KoF?
King of Fighters is a fighting game where you play a team of three characters. Sometimes this leads people to believe that it’s a tag game, but outside a few entries that used tag or assist mechanics, KoF is mostly a very traditional fighting game.
Before starting a match, you will have to select your 3 characters, and then decide in which order they will go. We will go over the importance of order a bit later. You might also notice that character select divides characters into “teams,” but that’s only related to the story and has no impact on the gameplay.
The goal of a match is to defeat all 3 characters of your opponent one by one. Every time you defeat or lose a character, a new round will begin, with the surviving character restoring a bit of health depending on how much time was left on the timer. However, they can’t restore less than 150 HP or more than 300 HP, out of 1000 total.
The amount of characters you have left also determines how much meter you can use. The first character can only have 3 stocks, the second character can have 4, and the last character can have 5.
I have to learn 3 characters? That’s too much!
Don’t worry, this is a common concern among new players, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. While games like Tekken, Street Fighter, or Guilty Gear require you to know the completely unique character gimmicks, meters, stances, and other things, KoF puts much more emphasis on universal systems.
Outside a few specialist characters, you will find that most of the cast has many similarities in how they work, from their neutral buttons to combo structure. For example, if you play anime fighters like Guilty Gear or Melty Blood, you should be familiar with confirming light attacks into command normals and cancelling them into special moves.
So, how do I make a team?
Building a team in KoF is fairly simple. The main principle is always to just pick characters that you enjoy first and foremost. While there is an element of strategy involved, KoF is not a MOBA or an RTS. Virtually every combination of characters is viable and will ultimately depend on your skill.
That said, you do generally want to consider the order your team will fight in. As we mentioned before, your first character can only use 3 stocks of meter, while middle and last character get to use 4 and 5 respectively. This means you generally want characters who don’t rely on meter to go first, while putting your stronger or more meter hungry characters towards the end.
For most people, this will mean that their last character will be their strongest one, as they will have to know how to properly use meter that they got over the match. From defensive techniques like shatter strike, to doing MAX mode combos.
Ok, I got a team, how do I play?
When you start playing KoF, you’re going to have to forget many things that you learned in other fighters. It’s a very fast game with a lot of strong and safe pokes where movement and defensive mechanics further encourage a very active playstyle.
The game does have fairly standard running and backdashing, but things get very interesting when you get to jumping. KoF has not one, not two, but four different types of jumps. First you got hops and jumps. Normal jump is done by pressing an up direction, while hop requires that you only tap one of the up directions, which results in a shorter but faster jump with a lower arc.
After that you got the hyperhop and hyperjump. Both are done the same way as their normal counterparts, except before pressing or tapping up, you have to input one of the down directions.
Hops and especially hyperhops are a crucial part of movement in KoF as they allow for nearly unreactable jump-ins that enable pressure and the close range RPS. There are many exceptions, but as a general rule you can keep in mind that quick jabs beat jump-ins, sweeps beat jabs, and jump-ins beat sweeps.
For universal defensive mechanics you have a dodge that avoids can avoid most projectiles (anything that doesn’t travel along the ground) and strikes, or you can do the Shatter Strike, a powerful armored move.
Some inputs in this game are insane!
Yup! Although the actually crazy part is that you don’t have to actually do most of them. King of Fighters has a relatively obscure layer of shortcuts and tricks that make execution much easier, but the game is in no hurry to tell you about it.
One of the major ways of making things is easier is in simply holding the buttons after you complete the motion. Since the game stores your inputs for some amount of frames, it allows you to activate the move on first possible frame.
Listing all the examples and nuances would be a little bit out of the scope for beginners guide, so we recommend you check out Rooflemonger’s great explanation of this mechanic and some of the possible shortcuts that will make your life easier.
What is a meter, and what do I do with it?
I’m glad you keep asking these great questions. Meter mechanics in King of Fighters are a bit different from other games. To start things off, the meter does not reset between rounds, and as we stated before, you get more stocks with each character. Just like in most fighters, getting
The way you use it is rather simple. For just half a stock you can do EX attacks, powered up versions of your special moves. For 1 stock you can do your Supers, and guard cancel moves, which can be used to either dodge (your standard evasive roll) or challenge opponents. The latter can be done by either using your standard CD attack, or the newly added Shatter Strike, which is an armored blowback that will absorb any attacks other than throws and can be used to extend combos.
For 2 stocks you can either do a MAX Super or activate MAX mode, which deserves its own explanation. And finally, for 3 stocks you can use Climax Supers. That’s your ultimate super attacks that deal incredible damage.
MAX mode, what’s that?
MAX mode is one of the unique features that exists in one form or another in many KoF games. In KoFXV in particular, there are two types of it. Normal MAX mode can be activated by itself, while Quick MAX is activated when you cancel your current attack with MAX mode.
During normal MAX mode you gain increased guard damage and normal damage, and instead of consuming your normal bar, most things will only consume your MAX bar meter, unless you choose to do a Lvl. 2 or Lvl. 3 supers (MAX Super and Climax Super).
Quick MAX is very similar, but since you can activate it much faster, it has shorter duration overall and doesn’t grant the increased damage.
Primarily, activating MAX mode can be a great way to put more pressure on your opponent, as it will be much easier to guard break them. Meanwhile, activating Quick MAX is a great way to extend your combos and dish out massive damage.
Ok, I think that’s all.
That covers the basics of KoF, but it’s still quite a complex game where there’s much to learn. Luckily for you, KoF has one of the most welcoming and dedicated communities. To aid you on your path of improvement, we recommend checking out the Dream Cancel wiki that has a lot of minute details and insights into the game.
As well as the KoFXV community discord where you can find matches, chat with, or ask for advice from the KoF’s great community.