Review: King of Fighters XII, Slow but Sprite-ful

KOF XII

At one time, King of Fighters was a fighting game for the Neo Geo that only “Rich Kids” played. Very few knew of a true Neo Geo owner so the rest of us relied on the good ol’ wood cabinet… King of Fighters at our local arcades. At one time, a pinnacle of fighter games, SNK Playmore has been developing the King of Fighters series since 1994. So how does King of Fighters XII’s next generation fighting game compare with others in the gaming market? We’ll break down KoF 12’s gameplay, online experience and comparisons.

After a tweak, artwork and character sprites shine. When I first popped in KOF XII, I immediately noticed clunky hand-drawn characters on my Hi-def LCD. My default settings kept the visuals at vomit inducing levels, until a quick tweak changed that. Under options be sure to make the necessary adjustments for “soft filter”. Night and day I tell ya. The larger than most 2-D fighting game characters took on a new personality and their fighting backgrounds looked beautiful. Although limited with only 6 places to fight, I found the scenery to be just good enough. The beautiful looking character sprites are worth mentioning again. Nice job, SNK!

KoF 12

Single play needs help. King of Fighters XII features a 3 on 3 fighting, elimination style (1 vs 1, next fighter steps in) stripping out the Multi-shift ability which allowed you to switch characters during a match as seen in KOF 2003. So on KOFXII you have to select in which order will you like your fighter to appear. The reaction times are responsive and the game mechanics are tight. In “Arcade mode” you’re put against 5 rounds of 3 opponents each in a “time attack” for the best times per round and finally Total fighting time. With Versus mode you fight against another player or computer, pretty much what you expected right?

Online feels 56k. One of the biggest complaints around for KOF XII is their online gameplay. I figured with the mandatory 750mb patch update upon putting in the disc, it would make the gameplay better… it didn’t. The tight mechanics have been rolled through molasses cause every came to a slowdown. The entire online experience needs to be updated. The should really take a page out of Street Fighter IV’s book for online gameplay since theirs is the best I’ve played. One positive note, their online game room is a nice addition. You can join an existing room with online gamers or friends, with a similar feeling of being in an arcade room. With the options set to “winner stays” you play head to head against other players with loser sitting out and watching the next contender. Felt like the old days of putting my quarter on the arcade glass yelling, “I got next!”.

Characters are well balanced. The addition of some classic KOF fighters brought back the nostalgia part of the game but with only 22 playable characters, their roster is shorter than usual. Unlike SFIV’s over-abused Ryu vs Ken, all the fighters exemplified even strengths and weaknesses. One of their new additions is called Critical Counters. After taking blows from your opponent, you’re then given a short window to counter attack which deals a considerable amount of damage in return.   Although very challenging to pull off, the result is very rewarding.  The in-game voice acting is done well too. Nothing says anime graphics without a soft tender news reporter giving you the in-game coverage. I like SNK’s approach to not locking characters. Fighting games should give you the access to all the fighters from the beginning. Enough of achievements or trophies that reward you for that stuff.

kof roster

Pros
Character sprites
Online game rooms
Tweaked graphics

Cons
On-line game play
Arcade “Time attacks”

Bottom Line: For fans of fighting games, King of Fighters XII delivers a hardcore followers bridge to this new generation of KOF. While online lag times were annoying and distracting, an improvement of smoothness would make this a good fighting game to own. Compared to Street Fighter IV, this game under performs all the primary elements of a fighter game. But if you’re into the genre of fighters, King of Fighters XII goes back to their basics. A fighting game that is fun with friends — offline of course!

6.5/10

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