Flashy 2D HD arcade fighting with superior graphics and some crippled features.
A new King of Fighters tournament is being arranged and 22 brave souls have gathered to prove their worth against the most powerful fighters in the world.
The King of Fighters XII is 2009’s mainline episode of the long running King of Fighters franchise. This is flashy over-the-top 2D arcade fighting at its finest, and this game introduces a slew of brand new features to the series. It is also the first game in the series to feature lush high-resolution character animation and it certainly is a visually appealing game.
The game has 22 playable fighters, each with their own colorful personalities and fighting styles. Fights are arranged on a team by team basis and matches are fought on a standard one-on-one set up. The team that is last standing is declared the winner.
The King of Fighters XII has been declared to be the ”rebirth” of the series. As far as game design goes the developers have chosen a “back to basics” route for the game. This means that it has been scaled down somewhat (if compared to The King of Fighters XI) in a brave attempt to find the essence – the heart of King of Fighters, if you will.
With the freshly drawn HD sprites and entirely reworked game mechanics it makes sense to reboot the series like this. If you’ve played King of Fighters before you’ll notice that the cast of characters, while still solid, has been cut down somewhat in numbers. Furthermore some fighting moves have been removed entirely, keeping only the most iconic ones, and some all-new moves have been added instead. The end result is a game where fighters are defined by a very concise set of fighting moves and unique combos.
If you’re familiar with King of Fighters from before, you’ll see that there are no new characters introduced in this game. Instead, the entire cast of characters consists of returning characters from previous games. Iconic personalities such as Terry- and Andy Bogard, Joe Higashi and Ryo Sakasaki are there. They’ve all been redesigned, and gotten their personal traits more defined – all for the better. It’s obvious that the entire cast of characters has been injected with a wealthy dose of sex appeal – the men are bulkier and the girls are prettier than ever before.
Some fan favorites didn’t make the cut such as Blue Mary, Mai Shiranui and Kasumi Todoh, but you can’t always have it all… Either way you look at it, there’s enough cute girls, pretty boys, cool chicks and muscle men to go around.
Depending on which fighter you choose to play as, you can pull off various special moves. King of Fighters isn’t supposed to be realistic, but instead focuses on flashy gravity defying or even supernatural moves – anything goes. Fireballs, flaming punches and flying whirlwind kicks are quite the norm here and the common factor of it all is that everything is awesome in one way or the other.
Each character also has its own Desperation Moves and these are extra powerful attacks that typically hits for multiple times, dealing massive damage. In order to pull off these turbo charged attacks you must first build up a power gauge found at the bottom of the screen. It accumulates each time you perform a special move or get hit. When the gauge is full, you can input the command of button presses and directional motions that triggers the Desperation Move. Combining normal attacks with special- and Desperation Moves is an important aspect of the game, as much as tactics and reading your opponent is.
All characters can also run forward, make evasive rolls and quick back dashing steps, so there is some nifty moves that you can pull off to better position yourself in the fight. With that said, the game is very fast paced and snappy – you can’t afford to lose concentration for one single second, because it may cost you an important attack opportunity or worse – your chance to strike the winning blow.
The King of Fighters XII tries to simplify the fighting aspect further by giving you the option to play in the Simple mode, as opposed to the Normal mode. Simple mode takes away all tricky special command inputs and instead allows you to do special moves and Desperation Moves by simply pulling one direction and pressing a button simultaneously. It is a nice try, but it’s obviously only meant for total beginners who have difficulties pulling of standard special commands.
To add further depth, the game allows every character to counter attacks with either normal counters or Critical Counters. A normal counter is a single counter attack that, if you successfully predict an incoming attack and time your counter right, will knock your opponent away potentially giving you the upper hand. This can also be used to counter incoming projectiles and even Desperation Moves without taking any damage.
Critical Counters are somewhat more special. There’s a Critical Counter gauge below your health bar, and it will build up as you take damage or block attacks. When it is filled up, it will automatically start flashing and gradually degrading. At this time you’ll be able to do Critical Counters. Much like normal counters you must predict an incoming attack and time it right, and if you get it right, you’ll knock your opponent so hard that he will fall down to his knees, giving you ample time to perform your most damaging combo.
While this is very cool and looks eye-melting you’ll quickly realize that a bit too much of the game revolves around it – its impact on a fight is way too huge, and wise players will know how to avoid being countered.
There are four basic game modes. Arcade, Versus, Practice and Online.
The Arcade mode is a set of five randomly selected battles. The goal here is to finish the five battles as fast as possible. The final result is simply the total time it took you to finish the tournament, but here’s the twist: you can retry each match once and your best score of two tries is what counts.
The Versus mode allows you to play standard matches against another player locally. Battles can be fought in teams of three or singles.
In Practice mode you have some basic tools to perfect your ability to pull off tricky chain combos and study damage output.
The Online mode allows you to search and play matches over the PlayStation Network in either ranked matches or friendly matches. The online match making rooms can hold eight players, and this is where you’ll see the connection quality between you and other players.
On top of these basic game modes there are some extra features that are all-new to the series. The most prominent one being the support for Clans, Clan Ranking and Clan challenges. You can browse through registered clans and apply to join them, or you could even start your own clan and challenge others.
Whenever you play ranked matches in the Online mode your stats are stored in your profile. It keeps track of your Battle Points, which are used as a ranking system, as well as your win-loss ratio.
You can also save replays of online matches as well as watch other people’s replays.
The replay value of this game is heavily based on that you’re willing to practice combos and ways to link together attacks, as well as that you have some people to play with locally – because playing online suffers from lack of players and severe lag issues.
To flesh out the single-player replay value there are 51 PSN trophies to hunt down along with an Art gallery in which you can unlock some nice high-resolution character illustrations. There’s also online score boards for the Arcade mode (Time Trial) and Battle Point ranking that you can compete on. But sadly the top spots on the Time Trial boards are held by people who have abused an AI bug that allows them to rake in some quick wins, and the Battle Point board is filled with people who have cheated and abused the system.
The King of Fighters XII has some issues pestering it. The AI opponents behavior is very random and are as mentioned above exploitable. Sometimes it will just stand still and swing blindly in the air, and it often repeats a pattern of moves that makes no sense.
Also, as mentioned above, there are very few players to be found on the online severs, and the fights are always more or less troubled with annoying lag.
The game can be installed on the hard drive to shorten loading times, and even though the loading times are notable, they aren’t long enough to break the game.
The graphics are very in-your-face and almost epilepsy inducing with all the flashy sparks and hypnotizing and wonderful color splashes. The characters all have very nice moves and its all well animated – the high quality shines through everything. Seeing all the details on the characters and the backgrounds is just awe-inspiring.
The camera zooms in and out depending on whether you are standing close or far from your opponent. It adds a cool visual effect but it is not optimized for pro-gaming where precision is key. It also makes the action harder to follow, especially if you happen to blink during a quick zoom.
There’s only six different stages to fight on, but they’re all very detailed and pleasing to the eyes.
The music and sound effects are also very much on par with the rest of the game. The songs have some very catchy and likable parts, and on the whole it sounds very appropriate to the game and its theme.
The game has both English- and Japanese voice acting selectable from the options screen. The English voice acting is laughably awkward. Luckily the Japanese ones are great, so why bother with anything else? As with many fighting games, characters will often yell out the names of their special attacks and it’s cool how they have added alternative yells on some moves. This simple detail may seem trivial, but it adds a whole lot of feeling and spirit to the game.
The King of Fighters XII has fantastic and inspiring graphics. It is a fast paced and flashy arcade fighter with lots of interesting characters to play. Sadly the online aspect has lots of shortcomings, and as a single player game, the game only offers a crippled AI and a basic Practice mode.
Playing locally is the highlight of the game, and as such it offers many intense battles and adrenaline rushes. While this isn’t the best game in the series, it does pack some serious punch – at least at a casual play level.