King of Fighters XII Review
The King is dead. Long live the King?
The King of Fighters is the much revered fighting series from the 90s that pitted players in 3-on-3 matches. King of Fighter XII marks the series' HD rebirth after a stilted foray into the 3D realm with the KOF: Maximum Impact series.
KOF XII's most welcome feature is also its most notable change -- yes, after 15 years of recycling character sprites, SNK Playmore finally introduces us to a whole new set of hand-drawn graphics, backgrounds and all. They look quite stunning -- albeit a bit pixelated, which gives reason to experiment with the 3 levels of soft filter in the system settings menu. The characters display spry animation that will surprise any veteran KOF player. Some were quite cool to see in a new light. With super-buffed out bodies, Terry Bogard and Clark Still looked like they got themselves Hollywood level trainers.
For a series known for its vast character roster, the fact that there are only 22 characters in this game feels stingy. It must have been a budgetary concession. Hopefully there will be DLC characters in the future. It's not so far-fetched since Marketplace is integrated and selectable from the Main Menu. But it still feels odd how few female fighters made the cut. Notable missing characters include Yuri Sakazaki, Mai Shiranui, King, K', Chang Koehan, Shingo Yabuki, Geese, and Blue Mary.
Despite its graphics revamp, this is not quite the return of the King that we all expected. The game is pretty bare-bones. There is an Arcade (aka Time Trial), Versus, Practice, Replay, and Online mode. Fights fans might feel disappointed from the lack of certain mainstays. There are no boss fights, no cutscenes, no story. There are just six stages to choose from and only one song per stage. What's more odd is the difficulty in accessing the moves list during Practice mode -- it's buried on the second page of the menu.
Fans will be happy to hear that gameplay is solid. The controls are comfortable and responsive. Special moves are easy to pull off and the special effects are cool. KOF XII has a new fight system called "Critical Counter" that lets players link attacks and finishing moves after executing successful counter punches. "Clash Timing" separates combatants when they land simultaneous blows on each other. At the character selection screen, choosing Simple mode lets people of low skill level and experts on Normal mode play together yet avoid feeling dominated.
The stages are surprisingly roomy and plays a part in introducing a new strategic element to the fighting game genre. The right hand side of stages are covered in shadow. The player on the left can gain a slight advantage by backing down his opponent into the shadows, making it a bit harder to view his character.
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The two versions of the game are practically the same, with the exception of each console's exclusive feature. The Xbox 360 version features an exclusive TrueSkill ranking system that allows players to record and upload their replays to LIVE for friends to see. The PS3 version offers clan support and allows friends to compete against rival clans, a neat idea for virtual rumbles and throwdowns.
There are some issues of lag and match-making difficulties in the online mode (even post-patch 1.01), but arcade and local versus mode are thoroughly enjoyable. Those wishing for complicated move sets should look to BlazBlue. Those looking for pick-up-and-play simplicity will definitely enjoy KOF XII. Perhaps in KOF XIII, SNK Playmore will achieve the true KOF rebirth.
Genre: Fighting Game
Developer: Ignition Entertainment, Ltd.
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Pros: New Character Sprites and Backgrounds, Fun Gameplay, Solid Fight Mechanics, Noob Friendly
Cons: Anemic Gameplay Modes, Ganky Online, Small Roster, Needs More Super-moves
PS3 Informer Score: 3/5