Review: The King of Fighters XII
You know they say that 2009 is the year of the beat-em-up, well the year of the beat-em-up AND Modern Warfare 2 but that’s not the point. The point is that there has been a marked resurgence in the fighting game genre thanks to the popularity of two great fighting games, Street Fighter IV and Blazblue. SNK Playmore hope to cash in on this by releasing King of the Fighters XII which according to the Japanese developer is the re-birth of the series so will this brand now instalment of SNK’s most popular franchise put them back on the map or will it be just be another ‘also ran’?
Well first impressions while playing King of the Fighters XII are very good for the most part. The characters are well animated and are bright and colourful. The gameplay has kept SNK’s traditional three vs. three team battle system it was known and loved for and the gameplay is solid but after a while something starts to sink in, the dreaded realisation that King of the Fighters suffers from a serious aliment that effects a lot of old gaming series that have been brought to the current generation of consoles. King of the Fighters XII has PESlitis!
What is PESlitis? You may be wondering. Well PESlitis is a serious condition were a developer of a long standing video game series decides they want to release a new version of a game on the current generation of consoles and does everything in its power to tart up a game’s presentation. This is all well and good until you realise that the developer in question had to cut out content that was in previous games because of time constraints and thus what you get is a prettier looking but less filling gaming meal. The aliment in question was discovered by a Professor R. Harkness who named the condition after a famous football game franchise as it was a prime example of everything mentioned above. Of course the series would in time regain all of its old features but crafty developers will tout these as new selling points, cheeky gits!
Before I really get in to the negative stuff, yes the fighting in this game is excellent. SNKp have done a great job of adding some new ideas and credit must be given to them for at least trying to mix things up. There is a new counter system which when your character’s counter bar fills you can perform a powerful counter attack which stuns the opponent for the brief period. It’s also easy to set up combos and the moves are not too difficult to do unless you are trying to use the crap Xbox 360 d-pad of course. The fighting in general feels very satisfying and feels like every blow has a lot of weight behind it which is something SNK have always been good it.
But that’s not enough though is it? I mean don’t get me wrong I was asked to write this review because I am the biggest fan of fighting games on this site (especially the 2D ones!) but this is not the late 90’s SNKp. You can’t just have a solid but bare bones fighting game package anymore especially when Street Fighters IV and Blazblue have not only brought the genre back from the brink but they are both crammed with extra features and content and both have large (for a non-fps) online communities.
While I am not going to dock points for KOFXII’s character roster size (after all Blazblue only has 12) but many fans felt that too many characters have been cut but personally I think the roster is acceptable. KOFXII’s roster contains twenty characters plus an extra two characters that were added to the console port. What I will dock points for is SNKp’s overall laziness, they have left out many things that most fighting game fans like in their games and thus I can’t shake the feeling that perhaps this game was rushed, literally pushed out the door to capitalise on the whole resurgence of fighting games that’s currently happening.
If KOFXII is supposed to be the grand â€œre-birthâ€ of the series so why is there literally nothing explaining who these characters are? Please allow me to explainâ€¦ Unlike in most modern fighting games there are no storylines, no win quotes, no special match entrances (were characters would do something interesting before a fight begins), one victory taunt for every character, the list could go on and newcomers will have no idea who these people are. This is a shame because SNK were renowned for having really good character development in their fighting games and I would like to remind readers that again Street Fighter IV and Blazblue did not skimp on this kind of stuff and it did not compromise the games graphics, gameplay or content in any way.
Another thing that pales in comparison compared KOFXII’s rivals is its gameplay modes. Arcade mode now plays like a time attack mode and gets fairly boring after a while, even if you are like me and you like to try and get high scores on games. This is not helped by the fact that the game has no final boss and the achievements are boring. OK in the King of the Fighters games you are allowed to pick three fighters at a time but most of the achievements make you pick three fighters but only use one throughout the entire game, aren’t these achievements against the who team battle thing. There’s also a vs. mode but no challenge or survival modes which were present in last years game’s.
Unlike our man Danny I’ve never been a big fan of the tournament fighter and I’m sad to say KOFXII hasn’t done anything to convince me otherwise. When I did the CP for King of Fighter: Orochi Saga I loved the games lack of pretension with every one being a fun and easy to play button basher that you didn’t need to spend months learning button combos or some sort of specialist arcade stick to pull of half the moves.
KOFXII seams to have forgotten all this and would rather complicate things with a second-hand counter system and a severely reduced character roster that while slightly better than the original arcade game is missing loads of my old favourites. The lack of content (or should that be ‘effort’?) also extends into other areas with only five areas to fight in and only a few play modes to test your skills.
Oh yeah and less said about the load times and slideshow online play the better just save your shekels for the inevitable KOFXIII.
Secondary Score: 6/10
Then we have the online mode, which is pretty much unplayable be because massive input lag which makes doing combo’s and such almost impossible to do. Even when Street Fighter IV and Blazblue got laggy the games were never totally unplayable and yes even when I am playing Americans on Blazeblue and SFIV the game rarely lags while KOFXII the lag is horrible in most of the matches I played which is a shame because if the online was good this game may have something to recommend it for.
Overall while I am delighted that SNKp are taking the time revitalise the KOF franchise I wish they spent a little more time doing so before pushing this game out of the door. While the graphics and animation look lush and fighting mechanics are as fun and solid as ever the lack of content and the poor online component will ensure that most players will not be playing this game for very long, even the most dedicated SNK fans. You can buy Garou: Mark of the Wolves or a really good version of King of the Fighters ’98 on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft points so I would suggest buying those instead.
While KOFXII is not an inherently bad game (even though it’s been reported that the game bombed in the arcades) I just hope that SNKp will put back all the stuff that’s missing from KOFXII and that KOFXIII will be the real â€œre-birthâ€ of the series that the fans have been waiting for.