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The King of Fighters XII
 


 

REVIEW
"Select de odor! Lound Won... Leadyyyyy... GOW!" That laughable accent could only mean one thing... The King of Fighters is back! The series has undoubtedly seen its best days in 2D, and arguably hasn't changed its "style" of 2D graphics since the original installment, KOF '94. Although the overall visuals subtly improved over the years, the series really never got a true 2D makeover... until this installment, that is.

SNK has abandoned the Atomiswave system and moved the KOF series to the Taito Type X2 arcade board, enabling the next-gen visual makeover that fans of the series have been waiting for for what seems like an eternity. The completely re-drawn 2D sprites are far bigger and bolder than their predecessors and even animate smoother than before! KOF XII features 22 characters, a modest roster when compared to the prequels, but of course it's an understandable sacrifice since the huge character sprites obviously took a hell of a lot of time to draw. That said, much respect goes to Nona and KOF XII's team of artists! The artwork in motion is beautiful.
 

A pretty selection screen... but a bit lonely.

 
Despite the 22 recognizable characters, a lot of returning fighters don't play exactly as an experienced KOF player might expect. In some instances, characters actually play completely different in this installment. In KOF XII, The development team decided to "makeover" a few characters' move-sets (and appearances) from the ground up. In some cases, it's nice to see the classic characters get a fresh start, but some hardcore KOF fans will no doubt be disappointed that many staple special moves are nowhere to be found. Iori Yagami for example, no longer has his purple flames (which Ash stole according to the storyline in the prequel). And with no projectile attacks, Iori has adapted a practically brand new fighting style. The good news is, even with these drastic tweaks, the characters still retain their personalities and general fighting style. The bad news is, character movesets are on the short side and many moves from previous games are missing... Terry Bogard's power dunk anyone?!? I'm sure SNK wanted as many characters in this game as possible, which in turn sacrificed the time that would've been used to create more animations for characters.

Speaking of "time," KOF XII definitely has a rushed kind of feeling. For starters, the presentation is more than lacking.... A simple menu design, laughably generic text during win quotes, no character intros before the fight, no boss character, and absolutely no story element to the game... to name a few things. KOF XII is an "arcade fighting game" if I've ever seen one, but another BIG downside to the presentation is that there are only six stages (five if you don't count the daytime/nighttime swap of one of them)... I can't think of another fighting game with such a low number of stages; I'm pretty sure KOF XII just set a record. The best elements of the presentation are seen in Arcade Mode, where you'll meet a trio of news anchor "clones" (wtf?) whom will explain the rules, in addition to some other - more stereotypical looking reporters who'll keep you updated on the progress of the tournament (which is, not surprisingly, always the same sequence). Jin Fuha from Art of Fighting 3 also makes a random cameo during the short ending sequence (WTF is he even doing there?).

Though far & few between, the backgrounds of KOF XII are beautifully drawn and are packed with an insane amount of details. Stages feature a countless (literally countless) amount of background characters that loop through their silly animations indefinitely, and even "speed-up" AKA "spaz-out" when the round is over... (yeah, old-school SF2-style indeed. Wow.) The stages also use graphical effects like color-tone/lighting and shadows that darken the playing area & the characters (sometimes too dark IMO, and ironically each of the stages that use the effect are dark in the same area). Even though the stages are colorful and flashy, I personally think they're a bit overdone. I actually prefer the two stages that have the least amount of shit going on. In closing, the development team should have spent less time drawing and animating that 37th fat pig-lady, and spent more time fleshing out the fighters and the all important gameplay. (Geez, good thing I'm not easily disturbed, or those pig monsters disguised as fat French women might give me nightmares. ...Be warned, your children are not safe from the pig ladies).
 

Creepy fat pig ladies... FTW?

 
So how's the gameplay? After trying out Blazblue for the first time last month, it's actually very refreshing for me to play an HD-2D fighter with a slower pace and more traditional 2D gameplay. KOF XII's gameplay is also slightly slower than past KOF titles, and with less moves per character, feels a lot more "controlled". Call it dumbed down if you will, but there's something to like about the gameplay for a traditional 2D fighting game fan. Jump variations were always a unique and appreciated aspect to the KOF series, and thankfully there are 3 different jumps you can perform in KOF XII... a short jump, normal jump, and super jump (in any direction). For the record, I even prefer KOF XII's jumping mechanics over Street Fighter IV's. The selection of priority moves is decent for all characters, though some characters have noticeably more special and super moves than others... making the roster seem unbalanced. If I had to guess, I'd say SNK didn't actually plan for some characters to have less moves, but simply ran out of time to animate them and include them in the game.

New gameplay elements include the Critical Counter gauge, which appears under the life bar and increases as you receive damage, land attacks, or guard. When the gauge reaches MAX, a Critical Counter can occur if you counterattack with a strong punch or kick (depending on the character) at close range. This leaves your opponent helpless while you pummel them with a custom combo, and finish them off with a super move if you're able. The Critical Counter system is a pretty fun addition to the gameplay, but also leaves a lot to be desired and even seems like a bit of an afterthought. Other brand new gameplay elements include a universal counter move that every character can perform, which sends your opponent flying back if you time their attack with your counter; and a SOUSAI or "deadlock" which activates when two special moves or strong attacks of equal power collide, canceling each other out and dealing no damage to either player. 

Animation is no doubt one of the most important aspects of a fighting game these days, and there's some tough competition out there in 2009. Thankfully, in all its 2D glory, KOF XII can at least "compete" with the best. The characters in KOF XII have arguably seen their smoothest days ever, with most of their attacks & special moves looking nothing short of spectacular. Walking animations, running animations, and stance animations in particular are exceptionally fluid; and most priority moves also look like they hurt! You can really feel the impact as fighters are hit, as "ouch factor" is highly apparent in this game. On the flipside, falling animations are kinda plain for a "next-gen" 2D fighting game, as airborne characters just seem to fall and land flat. It doesn't look too bad, but I think the Street Fighter III series really spoiled us with its epic falling animations (will any 2D fighting game ever come close to the ouch factor in that series?). Also, if a character is KO'ed with a jab in KOF XII, they'll fall to their knees and then fall flat on their face, which looks good animation-wise, but unfortunately, everyone practically falls the same way... a little variety wouldn't have hurt SNK. Also, characters only have 1 win pose (most of which severally lack frames of animation) and NO taunts. Ouch.
 

Don't even try to count how many background characters there are. 

 
Other gripes I have about the animation? I thought you'd never ask. Projectiles and hit effects look outstanding in gameplay, especially in those super moves, but unfortunately when most projectiles connect on the last hit to cause a KO, they sort of "disappear" and reappear after the KO... which simply kills "the moment" of a KO. For example: When Ryo or Robert throw their huge fireball super-move, if it KO's the opponent, it shrinks to a little "blip" when the action freezes on the KO... then the hit effects and particles will initiate after the KO... yes, little things like that are important factors of a fighting game's overall animation & ouch factor. Also, when throws are performed for the final hit, characters being thrown should be seen with their backs or their heads contacting the ground, but instead... they're actually seen "on their feet" at the moment the action is paused for the KO... so it looks like they got knocked out by being thrown onto their feet?!?!? Come on now SNK... clean that $#!% up!

The home version of KOF XII features the staple modes: Arcade, Versus, Practice, Replay, Gallery, and Online... sadly missing are Survival & Color Edit mode. The Arcade mode is 5 matches and is actually based on Time Attack, an interesting yet odd choice. The more unique features in the Options menu include a the choice between an arcade style or home style HUD (life bars/super meter position), a "soft filter" which smoothes out the character sprites (I prefer setting it to "1"), and the option to change character voices from English to Japanese. Also included on the game's main menu is a link to the PSN/XBLA store, which heavily hints on future downloadable content which this game sorely needs! Would KOF XII be better with more characters & stages? Yes, but I'm afraid DLC won't save this game from some of its other quirks I previously mentioned. Also, the KOF series was always known for it's cool "teams of 3" each year, but KOF XII doesn't feature teams at all (just 22 "edit" characters to make your own team of three). It's definitely a bit disappointing and takes even more away from the story/presentation, but I guess KOF XII is supposed to be one of those "Dream Matches".

KOF XII's online mode started out as a disappointing lag-fest, but a little over a month after the initial release, SNK released a patch which significantly smoothed out the online gameplay. Playing the game online with a significant amount of lag sure was a good way to appreciate the game's great animation... though, I don't think that's what was intended... lol. I'm glad they fixed it up, and now the online mode's cool features can be experienced as they were meant to be. Up to 8-player battle lobbies, voice chat, replay saves, clan creation/rankings, and 3-on-3 player clan battles are some of the features in the PS3 version. The battle lobby design could be deeper and more user-friendly, but overall the online mode does the job if you can get a good connection.

Page Updated: October 8th, 2013
Developer(s): SNK Playmore
Designer(s): SNK Playmore
Artwork by: Eisuke Ogura, Nona
Platform(s): Arcade, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date(s): Apr. 10th, 2009    ( Arcade)
July 24th, 2009
     (PS3/360)
Characters Kyo, Iori, Ash, Terry, Andy, Joe, Ryo, Kim, Benimaru, Robert, Ralf, Clark, Athena, Duo Lon, Shen Woo, Leona, Raiden, Kensou, Chin, Goro, Elizabeth (console), Mature (console)

Featured Video:

Related Games: KOF XIII, KOF '94, KOF '94: Re-bout, KOF '95, KOF '96, KOF '97, KOF '98, KOF '98 Ultimate Match, KOF '99, KOF 2000, KOF 2001, KOF 2002, KOF 2002 Unlimited Match, KOF 2003, KOF XI, KOF: Maximum Impact, KOF: Maximum Impact MANIAX, KOF: Maximum Impact 2, KOF: Maximum Impact Regulation A, KOF: Neowave, KOF EX Neo Blood, KOF EX2 Howling Blood, KOF: R1, KOF: R2, KOF Collection: Orochi Saga, Art of Fighting 3, Blazblue: Calamity Trigger, Street Fighter IV
  

Gameplay Engine  7.0 / 10
Story / Theme  4.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.0 / 10
Animation  8.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  7.5 / 10
Innovation  7.0 / 10
Art Direction  8.5 / 10
Customization  7.0l / 10
Options / Extras  6.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  5.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  6.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  8.0 / 10
Characters  7.5 / 10
BOTTOM LINE

 7.0 / 10

 Review based on PS3 version

 

Final Words:

After years and years of using the same style of 2D sprites, SNK finally gave KOF the visual overhaul it needed and deserves (and thankfully didn't go back to 3D). This is definitely the direction I've been wanting the series to go in for years now, and KOF XII at least satisfies in the graphics department. Unfortunately, gameplay & presentation were sacrificed by visuals this time around, which simply makes the game feel "incomplete"... but at least KOF XII has its fun moments. I can see the potential for some epic sequels, and you know we'll play them. It just sucks when a new game comes out and I'm already looking forward to the sequel... it shouldn't really be that way.

My words for the gamers that "trash" this game up and down: Keep in mind every great new fighting game series has to start SOMEWHERE. Some people fail to realize how much work it takes to "wipe the slate clean" and build a 2D fighting game from the ground up. We're talking a countless amount of hours / days / months to even get started, and an incredibly frustrating "trial & error" process to create giant-sized 2D sprites and backgrounds that animate fluidly. Instead of creating 12 characters with deep movesets (like Arc System Works did with Blazblue), SNK gave us 22 characters with halfway-decent move-sets... understandable and forgivable, if you ask me. 

On the flipside, if you ask me if this game is worth your hard earned $59.99 + tax, I'd have to say no, it's not... unless SNK releases new DLC for free (which they didn't). I'm a KOF fan and all, so of course this was a "must buy" for me, but I'd rather SNK delayed KOF XII and took just a little more time with it.

The best part about KOF 12 is that it's "new" and it's KOF. Once you get past all the eye candy, you'll realize this game really is incomplete. Thankfully, the sequel King of Fighters XIII was a massive improvement over KOF XII.  
~TFG Webmaster  
 

   
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Click Here for all win portraits!

 

   
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Click Here for all character art!

 

   
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