55There was a lot of anticipation and build up for the first official next-gen, HD release of SNK’s venerable team fighting game, the King of Fighters. The King of Fighters XII is finally upon us, but the results aren’t quite what all the hype built up to in the past year. With so many other recent choices in the 2D fighting genre, KoFXII has some stiff competition that it simply can’t match up to–especially as a full-priced release.

Publisher: Ignition
Developer: SNK Playmore
July 28, 2009

SNK, and especially their Neo Geo console system’s fighters, have always had a special place in the hearts of fighting games fans. Since the early 90’s, SNK’s fighters for their super-priced super system were the main competition to Capcom’s Street Fighter II reign as coin-op and home fighting champ. When SNK decided to create a game that combined a huge portion of their roster (and throw in new characters as well), the King of Fighters was born. It was and remains a team-based combat game, with three fighters on each side.

That legacy continues in KoFXII, but the game has finally made the jump to next gen, HD glory. This was no easy task for the developers, as it meant carefully re-drawing every single character and frame of animation to compensate for the new, much higher resolution. The results are, overall, good, but certainly not as exceptional as fans might have hoped. In direct comparison to BlazBlue and Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, the graphics are noticeably more jagged and less detailed. The animation is excellent though–better than the SF2 Remix–and the action itself is amazingly smooth.

The action is also incredibly retro. If you’ve played a 2D fighter in the last 15 years, you know how to play KoFXII. It’s the same half- and quarter circles, and a few other familiar motions, that have been making rounds in every fighter since the original Street Fighter 2. While most of the Grade-A competition have found ways to evolve, there’s very little here that feels at all different than any other KoF.

Indeed, there’s actually a lot less here than in past KoF games. Though previous iterations often had over 30 combatants, KoFXII offers a paltry 22, and several key favorites are completely absent (notably Fatal Fury 2 hottie ninja, Mai Shiranui), and the two new characters–two female brawlers named Mature and Elizabeth–just aren’t that interesting. It doesn’t help that there’s no story mode whatsoever to help flesh out who these characters are.

In fact, there’s really only one main single player mode–the arcade mode, which is simply a series of five timed bouts and no boss characters. Other than that, you have a training mode and on- and offline versus modes, which makes the game an incredibly hard sell for people who enjoy fighters alone. Online gameplay has its share of issues as well. Though Ignition and SNK have released a patch to smooth out the online play, it’s still not as smooth as other fighters, which is a serious problem for a game where timing and precision are important.

It’s true that KoFXII adds a few new wrinkles to its combat system. There’s a stronger focus on juggling your opponent in the air by stringing combos together. There’s also the new critical counter system that lets you stun an opponent with a perfectly-timed counterattack. A lot of the characters have been retooled for the game as well, and diehard fans might not like the results since some old favorites have actually been toned down.

Blast Factor: The biggest problem with the King of Fighters XII is that there simply isn’t enough of it. There’s a pitiful lack of meaty game modes, the arcade mode is poorly done, the character roster is light for this series, and the presentation isn’t great. For the price, it’s impossible to recommend a game that should and could have just as easily been a $15 download. KoFXII essentially feels like a half-done fighter, where the developers focused purely on the HD graphics and decided to leave the rest of the work for the inevitable sequel.

King of Fighters XII is available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and retails for $59.99

About The Author

Jason D’Aprile has been writing about technology, games, movies, and gadgets for the last three decades. His musings on all of the above can be found at addgamer.com. Jason only condones virtual violence and wishes we could all just get along.

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