REVIEW: "Select de odor! Lound Won...
That laughable accent could only mean one thing... The King of Fighters is
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.
abandoned the Atomiswave system and moved the KOF series to the
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
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 namea 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
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
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...
So how'sthe 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
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
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
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.
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...
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
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.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Apr. 10th, 2009
July 24th, 2009
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.