Anyone who is an avid fan of fighters will, undoubtedly, know the name The King of Fighters – one of the first fighting games to introduce 3-on-3 style matches. Unlike most traditional fighting games (such as Street Fighter), players are literally forced to learn the fighting styles, special moves, and supers, of more than just one character. And if you’re one of those players that enjoy the challenge of learning the ins-and-outs of more than one fighter, you’d definitely have a blast with the older series (KOF 90 and KOF 2002 – which consisted of more than 40+ characters). Because of its extensive character list, the King of Fighters series usually required tons of commitment. Of course, this only applies to those of us who are serious players.
From the start, traditional players from the older series will notice a decrease in the number of selectable characters that The King of Fighters XII offers; Twenty-two characters, to be exact. Yea, I know what a lot of you are thinking: “Twenty-two? That’s it?” That’s it, guys. That’s all you’re getting. With the decrease in size of characters, the stages have become pretty roomy in length and width to beat the poop of your opponents across. You can, literally, slap people across the room. And, boy, does it feel good doing it. But, personally, I would have opted for a larger selection of characters. This one kind of feels a bit empty without having an entire screen full of playable fighters.
Of the biggest changes, however, aside from the dwarfed character selection screen and the spacious fighting arenas, is the graphical overhaul that The King of Fighters has gone through. For years, fans have cried and moaned about a graphical upgrade which would modernize the decade old fighting game. And after a couple of years, SNK finally decided to take the chants of their fans into consideration by upping the artistic direction of KOFXII. Although, at first, the graphics look appealing, players will notice a couple of oddities in the game. For example, it you notice how our kickboxing buddy Joe seems to have an eating problem – maybe bulimia, or something, from the looks of it. Compared to just about every other fighter, Joe looks like he was stranded in the ghettos of Somalia for a couple of years. Either that, or he wasn’t liking the way he looked in those skinny jeans from Old Navy. Raiden is a fat dude with more cuts than Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III; I mean, you’ll notice the difference in scale between fighters. There was a point when Terry Bogard and Joe were almost similar in mass. Now, it looks like Terry’s been excessively drinking protein shakes while poor old Joe was tortured in a P.O.W. camp in Vietnam.
One of my biggest beefs with the graphical upgrade is the character pixilation when the camera is zoomed. Granted, the game does have an option to put up anti-aliasing filters, but they do the characters absolutely no justice. Though the graphics are pretty to look at (character details and all), the pixilation will become very apparent except when the camera pans out (which will occur when fighters are at a distance from each other) – at this moment, everything looks appealing.
But we I can’t sit here and continue to point out the obvious deformations that SNK has molded out of KOFXII. There are aspects of the game that should be given credit to. Character design and mechanics were above my expectations (especially with characters like Kyo and Kim). Kyo, just like his former self in the previous KOF’s, comes back with his signature moves such as the flaming uppercut and the likes. While some characters were orgasmic to look at and play with, others made me want to punch my LCD TV a couple of times. A large portion of the cast possesses only one super move (which is a asstard move, by the way), while a couple have two. This is definitely one of those “WTF?!?” moments where SNK really made the game quite unbalanced, strategically. You would think that, in order to avoid any character mechanics problems, characters would, universally, be balanced and spontaneous and not disproportionate and repetitive.
Newly implemented mechanics, critical counter and guard attacks, feel more like things they just added to make the game “feel” new rather than being necessary to the player. Guard attacks automatically avoid moves and counters with an attack that will knock the crap out of your opponent; and you can, literally, guard attack anything – both normal and special moves, super moves and, get this… guard attacks… *cough* The biggest problem with guard attack is that it is so easy to execute. Had they made it a bit more challenging to use, then I would probably give credit for its use. But being that all a player needs to do is patiently time attacks, pulling it off is as easy as Paris Hilton. You want to piss off your opponent? Sit there and use guard attack all day. If they don’t stab you in the frakking head with a chopstick, they’re breaking the controller. However, if you’re a “G” like I am in the game, you will know that there are ways around guard attack like changing the timing of attacks.
Critical counters are as useful as a lead balloon. The entire idea, personally, is stagnant in the progression of a fight. What it does, basically, is, when activated, allow players to link combos that were unattainable before the activation (i.e. Street Fighter Alpha 2, for those of you who are familiar). A critical counter can inflict as much as 70 percent damage; causing the opponent to, dramatically, change their tactics in the battle. 99% of the time, players will just stand at a halt waiting for their opponents to make a move – funny as hell. Especially in an online match. And speaking of online matches…
Online matchmaking is the worst element of this game. It became disappointing and frustrating all around. The menus are convoluted and confusing; there were problems with connections. And, of course, when there are problems with connections, there are problems with players rage quitting. One of the biggest problems with the matchmaking menu is the inability to search for games by connection type or latency. You search for a game, and, at times, you can end up playing someone from Cambodia. Honestly, you’re better off playing offline with either the CPU (which can get tedious), or inviting some random hobo in your house just so you can get the satisfaction of beating someone else’s rear.
If you’re a fan of The King of Fighters franchise, you’ll be disappointed with this one. Although it did get a graphical boost where characters look a bit malnourished or excessively injecting steroids, it’s not something that will please a lot of the old-schoolers. It just feels wrong taking Terry or Raiden and fighting Joe. It’s like Hulk Hogan fighting someone from a concentration camp – It feels wrong. With the downsizing of the character list, the ten minute arcade mode, and the limited available stages, you’ll quickly get discouraged. If you’re looking for some versus action, KOFXII might cut it… momentarily. If you’re looking for some KOF2002, then you’re better off just playing KOF2002.
Overall, the game isn’t the worst of things. Aside from the sucky online matchmaking system, and a couple of character development issues, the game can be fun. I pray to Jesus that SNK learns from this and, in their next revision, polish up some of the defects plaguing this one. This is a “could have been great” title. Too bad it wasn’t.