The dopey yet lovable hard worker has finally returned to King of Fighters, but how does he fare up against the current roster of 15?
The beginning of King of Fighters 15’s second season is officially upon us with sweeping balance changes, meta shifts and of course what is to some the most exciting part — brand new characters. The first of these is classic protagonist Kyo Kusanagi’s clumsy but well-meaning self-proclaimed disciple Shingo Yabuki who returns to the series after over a decade’s absence.
Generally viewed as a joke character for obvious reasons, Shingo is known to, despite his appearance, pack quite a punch as a fighter whenever he’s included in a game so what’s the story in King of Fighters 15? Is Shingo a formidable opponent indeed or simply a bad joke not worth investing time in? Here are my early impressions of Shingo Yabuki in King of Fighters 15.
Shingo Yabuki is a fairly popular character from the King of Fighters series who’s seen quite the extended absence. Personality-wise and for his story, he seems to be in the same position he always is — desperate to earn the approval of his role model Kyo Kusanagi, he strives to emulate his fighting style despite not having access to the Kusanagi flame powers.
Despite being a bit of a dope, he’s always an earnest character and friendly towards mostly everyone he meets. If you’re not overly familiar with King of Fighters lore, you can essentially consider him a gender-swapped version of Street Fighter’s Sakura Kasugano who idolizes Ryu and tries to emulate his fighting style.
This carries over to his gameplay as well, where Shingo has a lot of Kyo’s tools in essence but in his own style. They look visually similar and can even be functionally close, but all of them most definitely have his own twist to them. At first glance, he comes off as a fairly basic character with a variety of good options for both footsie play and rushdown tools.
And this is also where Shingo’s unique attribute comes in, namely the Critical Hit. A classic ability of Shingo’s, there is roughly a 16% chance that some of his special moves will end up with the Critical Hit property when he performs them, basically granting him a “lucky hit”, since it will make that move much more potent than otherwise, leading to extended juggles, longer knockdowns for stronger okizeme or other interesting enhancements.
Since Critical Hits are inherently random, this means that as a Shingo player you need to be much more situationally aware even after you start your combo routes. While fighting games, King of Fighters 15 in particular, do tend to have a fair bit of ad libbing and situational adaptations, Shingo brings this a step further by making it an integral part of his combo game even in his most simple strings into specials.
It’s not like his damage or combo potential is bad on its own — it’s far from exceptional, but it’s perfectly adequate — but to truly make the character shine you definitely need to be comfortable with constantly being ready to adjust your routes based on whether the game’s RNG happens to favor you or not at any given moment.
With Critical Hits being entirely luck-based, Shingo can get some absolutely devastating reward from hits at times but also end up with a comparatively lackluster result entirely dependent on something that is outside of player control. If you enjoy this type of adaptive gameplay and aren’t deterred from sometimes just getting a bad draw through no fault of your own, Shingo is definitely the character for you.
That just about covers the potential of Shingo’s special moves, but what about his normals? Surely he needs to have some good buttons to press to even get these opportunities to present themselves to begin with. Thankfully, Shingo has some good ones in his arsenal both at close and far ranges. You’ll be able to play the poking game decently, especially since he has several far normals which are cancellable.
Where Shingo really shines, though, is in his opponent’s face. His close light punch is a whopping +5 frames on hit and conveniently his close heavy punch has 5 frames of startup, meaning that Shingo is one of the privileged class who can actually link a light into a heavy for amazing reward. Getting to the point where you’re that close isn’t necessarily always easy, but once you do Shingo is truly a force to be reckoned with.
Overall, Shingo is an extremely funny character who is quite inconsistent and requires a lot of attention (and luck) to bring out the full potential of. That said, even if you’re unlucky and don’t get Critical Hits when you absolutely need them, it’s not like he’s bad or anything. He’s a solid character with a gimmick that seems to elevate him over being “just okay”, and if you can live with said gimmick inherently being outside of your control, you’re likely to enjoy Shingo a whole lot.
Although I enjoyed the team structure of the game’s first season of downloadable content for story purposes, shifting over to single entry combatants in the second season makes it much easier to justify a purchase. Now, you can simply get Shingo for $5.99 (price will vary by region) if you’re interested in the character himself without having to worry about having to pay for a pack of characters where only one might interest you.
The price itself is pretty standard in fighting games, so it’s hard to claim that it’s a bad deal if Shingo’s playstyle and unique attributes appeal to you as a player. What you see is what you get, and if you do appreciate the randomness inherent in him, then he’s definitely worth the price so that you can add him to your team.
There’s also a package price for all six fighters for $29.99 which makes the deal a bit sweeter, so if you already know that several of the characters appeal to you, that might be an even better buy to go for.
With Shingo’s release, King of Fighters 15’s second season has officially begun and throughout the rest of the year we will be seeing Kim Kaphwan, Sylvie Paula Paula, Najd and two as-of-yet unannounced characters rounding out the season. There’s also a mysterious seventh slot which is speculated to be a free release character similar to Omega Rugal last year, but as of yet, nothing has been confirmed on that front.
As always, you can rely on us here at EventHubs to give detailed breakdowns about new characters shortly after their release, with Kim Kaphwan being released at some time during Spring 2023.