The most recent instalment in the King of Fighters series, KoF:XV, launched not too long ago. We thought it was a pretty decent effort overall, and certainly the kind of title that competitive fans will enjoy.
We had the chance to get some very (very!) quick questions over to the director, Soranaka Kaito, and creative director, Ogura Eisuke, to collect some of their thoughts about the game and the broader fighting game genre.
Matt S: King of Fighters is well-regarded for being a fighting series for the technically proficient. How are you looking to balance out the need to find new audiences with the need to continue to give fans the complex and layered systems they’re used to?
Kaito S: There’s absolutely a need to acquire newer and newer audiences. If we don’t pull that off, then the game will usher in it’s last update only after a few years. That being said, if we don’t cater to fans who have been with us for years, then there’s also no point in continuing the series. We’re researching just how we can continue to offer fans what they want and also add new players.
Matt S: Character design – and characterisation – is so important to fighting games, and for many people, the fighting game they play is based on the characters they like the most. I happen to be a big fan of Athena (to put it mildly), and KoF clearly has got great characters, but do you have any particular goals and audiences that you’re looking to reach with the character design in the series?
Eisuke O: It’s really difficult to design brand-new characters. KOF is a series with a ton of just awesome looking characters already, and so each time I make a character, I strive to design them to beat out what came before. Their personality has to shine even brighter. That’s what it takes if they’re to become the face of KOF.
Matt S: Fighters are one of the most mature genres now, and to a great extent, we’ve seen the competition move away from the core engines to focus on other things. Some fighters focus on fan service. Some are narrative-driven. Others are all-in with the e-sports play. What kind of spaces do you see King of Fighters fitting into?
Kaito S: King of Fighters, as you know, is a game that is heavily focused on characters and their relations. So I think it can offer some really hype matches befitting the esports scene while also having a rich story that fans will just love.
Matt S: Fighting games are also so precise in terms of what they demand of game developers. Whether it’s the balance, the combo list, the size and breadth of the character roster, and other factors aside, there seems to be an almost scientific precision required of the genre. Where do you think the creative opportunities lie?
Kaito S: I suppose it comes down to how far fans can create and discover combos on their own. There are times when some combos are discovered that we didn’t even think of, so it’s always fun to watch it all unfold. Also I think there’s a creative opportunity outside of just fighting, like the relationship between fighters and how the story unfolds.
Matt S: Has there been any thought to take King of Fighters into other genres? An Athena action-adventure game, for example?
Kaito S: I think it’d be cool to create something like a KOF spinoff, like an action game or something. But KOF at its core is a fighting game, and so changing genres to something so different doesn’t seem likely.
Matt S: What is your vision for the fighting game genre in the future?
Kaito S: One where the fans are thoroughly pleased, and it has mechanics that allow for new players to join in on the fun easily. As for KOF, I’d like to make one that has three times the amount of characters KOF XV has.
– Matt S.