I was initially worried how SNK would handle how they would add new characters in the King of Fighters XV. As this was a team based game, I was afraid they would get greedy and release individual characters instead of complete groups of characters. This wasn’t the case, thankfully, as SNK did reveal they were releasing full-fledged teams for KOF 15 in the future. The first couple of teams announced were Team Garou, consisting of Fatal Fury mainstays Rock Howard, B. Jenet and Gato, and the next team to come out, Team South Town, will include the baddies from the Fatal Fury series, Geese Howard, Billy Kane and Ryuji Yamazaki.
As King of Fighters XV is my current obsession, I instantly went out and bought the DLC pass for both teams. I’m honestly more interested in Team South Town for some strange reason. Anyway, while I wait for Team South Town to be released in May, I can sink my teeth into Team Garou in the meantime and check out how Rock Howard, B. Jenet and Gato play.
I will talk about them in the order of who I think is the weakest to strongest and, sadly, B. Jenet comes off as the member of Team Garou who comes off as the most lacking. I said “sadly” because B. Jenet is definitely the most aesthetically appealing character of the team. I’m not just talking about her fighting in a fabulous dress, by the way. I’m talking more about her animations. She has a lot of cute little touches to the way she moves. I love the way she confidently puts her arms behind her head when walking forward, how she fidgets with her hair when she crouches and how her backdash has her blowing little hearts at her opponent. It’s these nice little touches which gives her a lot of personality.
Unfortunately, B. Jenet’s toolkit feels a little anemic and you have to spend quite a bit of effort and meter to really do some damage. She does have some decent poke like her far standing heavy punch and heavy kick. Her far standing heavy punch is exceptional as you can cancel it into her specials. Too bad both of them don’t hit crouching opponents! Her defensive options also feel limited because she doesn’t have a really definitive anti-air move. She can still push on the offensive but it seems to take more work to get in a clean hit to combo into a lot of damage. Most of her specials don’t really do much damage and, in order to extend combos, you really need to use the EX version of the specials. Unfortunately, she does seem to have trouble building meter herself. She might be good to insert her in the middle of the lineup but she can be a little meter hungry and you do have to work a bit harder to do well with her.
The next character on the list would be Gato. He’s a lot stronger than B. Jenet but just a hair weaker than Rock Howard. Now, I just find his look rather boring. He’s your serious Chinese kenpo martial artist who hits really hard and that’s about it. His design looks pretty generic but, since he is the silent and stoic type, it does work for him. His attacks are fluid looking, though. I just wish SNK gave him a little more flair.
Gato does have a lot of options to put the hurt on his opponent. He has some really good pokes. I really like his crouching heavy punch as it has good range and is cancelable to all his specials. He has a couple of command normals but the one which uses the light kick is weird as it doesn’t hit crouching opponents and leaves Gato in a jumping state even though he doesn’t have any air specials. Gato’s specials are extremely good as he has several follow ups he can do from most of them. This makes him a really good toolbox character who can switch up his attacks depending on the situation. The drawback, however, is the risk to reward ratio as a lot of his more damaging specials leaves Gato wide open for counterattack. If you whiff an attack, your special is blocked or drop a combo, you can be sure you’ll be eating a lot of damage as a result from your error. The reason why Gato is in the middle when it comes to usability is he can hit hard but a lot of his moves are unsafe. I do see him as a good starter as you don’t really need to burn meter to do damage with him.
We finally get to talk about who I think is the strongest character of Team Garou and it’s easily Rock Howard. For one thing, I really like his look. It does feel kind of generic but all the little niceties like the design elements on his jacket and the flourishes he does with his hair after some special moves gives him a lot of personality.
The biggest reason why I think Rock Howard is the best character in his team is he can inflict a lot of damage while still being relatively easy to use but has a good number of defensive options. He’s basically a great all rounder but he does suffer a little with his range lacking range as his normals can be outpoked by opponents with longer ranged attacks. Even with that against him, he can make it up with his speed. He can zip across the screen with a couple of his specials easily. However, what makes Rock Howard exceptional is how things just seem to work together. It was quite easy to create your own combos with his tools as his attacks just seem to flow together without any hassle. He can build meter thanks to his simple combo structures but can definitely do much more with a little meter. Because of this, Rock Howard can be placed anywhere on the lineup, however, I would prefer to put him in the middle and reserve the last slot for the real monster of the team.
I will say Team Garou came off as much more effective than I thought they would. Although B. Jenet may need a few buffs in the future to climb out of the lower tier section, both Gato and Rock Howard can be monsters with the right people controlling them.
Have you tried out Team Garou? Who do you think is the strongest? Let me know in the comments section below!