King Of Fighters XII: review

  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
  • Developer: SNK Playmore
  • Players: 1-2 (+Online)

There has been a renaissance in fighting games recently with the return of Street Fighter after a decade long absence. We’re also seeing Tekken making a comeback, and now we have the return of cult classic King Of Fighters (KOF).

King Of Fighters initially came into being in 1994 with KOF 94. Since then SNK have released various yearly additions and special editions to the series, until 2004 when they went back to the normal numbering of games with the release of KOF XI. Now we have the 15th anniversary of the series and the release of KOF XII.

On first play the backgrounds are particularly impressive.

On first play the backgrounds are particularly impressive.

 

When starting the game for the first time we got a strong retro feel from the game, with the soundtrack and graphics both having that old arcade sheen about them. From the menu there is a choice of Arcade, Versus (2 player offline) or Online modes. Arcade had us choosing 3 fighters from a roster of 22 to take into the 6 worldwide arenas to compete to be King Of Fighters.

During our first game we were impressed by the hand-drawn arena backdrops, which have wonderfully animated and humorous characters watching us fighting, although they are admittedly a bit close to being offensive ethnic stereotypes. The fighters themselves are impressively large and well drawn 2D sprites, but they suffer from being slightly pixelated when looked at closely. This can be amended with a smoothing option from the menu, but this does make the characters look slightly blurred, and we quickly reverted back to the default setting. We were, however, blown away by the silky smooth animation of the characters, which is particularly well done.

Animation is extremely well executed.

Animation is extremely well executed.

Gameplay is fast and fluid and the characters zip around the arenas with ease. There is the usual light punch, hard punch, light kick, heavy kick with various combinations giving us access to the special and super moves. The Critical Counter gauge is a new feature to the series, and when it fills up during combat, and we countered our opponent’s move with a heavy attack of our own, we were able to chain a massive combo together that is particularly satisfying and fun. The characters themselves are a mixture of previous entrants to the various iterations of the series. The characters we found ourselves liking and using the most are: Joe Higashi, who can string together a good selection of punch combos, and Ralf Jones (who was in the Ikari Warriors franchise, and various other games before making an appearance in KOF). He has some explosive (literally!) moves that, combined with Joe Higashi, makes for a formidable team. Finally our third choice is Terry Bogard, originally from the Fatal Fury series, who has a good combination of strength and speed, which makes him a tricky customer. We used this team to great effect whilst playing through Arcade mode and it didn’t take us long to complete it with our selection of characters. That’s not to say the other characters are a waste of time, as a lot of them are great fun to play as as well, and have quite different moves to learn and master. Chin Gentsai in particular is a hilarious drunken master of the apt “Drunken Boxing” and Kung Fu. His toothy grin and swigging from a bottle of Sake after a bout is particularly endearing.

Characters are large but slightly pixelated 2D sprites.
Characters are large but slightly pixelated 2D sprites.

The single player Arcade mode had us going through five rounds of bouts, with the first of our chosen fighters taking on the first choice CPU character. Whoever wins gets a small boost to their character’s energy and the opposing character is eliminated from the game. Whichever team loses all 3 characters loses the game. If the player wins, he advances to the next bout; but if he doesn’t it’s game over. Although there are continues, to give players a chance to progress. When the fifth round of fights comes around, and the last team is beaten to a pulp, that’s the game finished, with no Boss battle to bring things to a fitting finale. After a bit of practice it won’t take you long to finish the Arcade mode, and beyond that there really isn’t much more to the game bar the Online multiplayer mode.

The Online mode lets you take on fighters from around the globe, but we found this mode sadly lacking in features, and it was riddled with connection problems and lag, to the point where it was nearly unplayable. A fighting game really needs quick reactions, and any lag simply kills the experience. Perhaps a patch could help sort this out, because as it is this mode really needs to be fixed and you won’t get much joy from it.

The final problem we had with the game was the comparison between it and the superlative Street Fighter IV. This game simply doesn’t have the depth of gameplay or features that the latest Street Fighter has. KOF XII is a great little game to knock about on for a few hours with your mates, but we doubt it will hold your interest for very long. The dearth of unlockable content and the paltry 6 arenas that you get to fight in are also unacceptable, as is the broken online mode. Perhaps if it was a downloadable game on PSN or Live at a cheaper price it could be tolerated; but as a full price game it’s just not good enough.

 

6/10

 

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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