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King of Fighters XII Review: Beauty And The Beast

King of Fighters XII

The “King of Fighters” series has a much more interesting history than most of its contemporary, fighting game, competition. Throughout its long life, the cast has been shrunk and expanded, move lists tweaked, and other various changes have been made to the three vs three format. However, one thing that has consistently remained the same is the character sprites, but with the release of “King of Fighters XII,” the sprites have finally received a huge face lift to meet the current HD standards. While this sounds all great to long-time “KOF” fans, is it enough to grab any potential new fans?

However, face lifting the sprites just isn’t good enough. To make a credible fighting game, you also need to have a decent cast of characters and “KOF 12″ only comes with 22. Considering the game is based on a 3-on-3 fighting system, this is actually a very small number of fighters, especially when comparing it to the older games in the series. To make this problem even more obvious, many fan favorites, and even “KOF”’s mascot, Mai Shiranui, are absent.

To make matters even worse, this is one of the most poorly presented fighting games to be released this generation. There is no storyline mode, and, while no one plays fighting games for the writing, some players may at least want to know who these guys are, and what their motivation is for fighting with each character. Unfortunately, due to lack of narration, no information in the instruction manual, and not even a pose before the round starts, players unfamiliar to the “KOF” series will be completely lost. You won’t even find a selection of moves for each character in the manual, so you must use the in-game training mode if you want to master any of the fighters.

King of Fighters XII

Unfortunately, the lack of a story mode isn’t the only problem. There is very little content throughout the rest of the game, making this is as bare bones of a package as you can get. The entire single player experience is just a time trial spread out over five matches. You could literally beat the game within ten minutes, and since the AI is absolutely terrible, you can simply spam projectiles to win on the hardest setting. For anyone that might be interested in online play, the interface is not user friendly and the netcode makes the game unplayable. This is not acceptable considering there is GGPO, a program that allows nearly lagless 2D fighting games via arcade emulation. In fact, “Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD” uses GGPO as a backbone, so there is no excuse for “KOF 12″ to have a crappy netcode in this day and age.

While the content is crap, there is a silver lining; the fighting engine is well done. The controls are very responsive, and, unlike other fighting games, you won’t be pulling off the “wrong” moves. Surprisingly enough, the Xbox 360 controller works very well with “KOF 12″ and doesn’t require a hundred dollar arcade stick to make up for the developer’s laziness. Furthermore, the game allows for a lot of flexibility, as it doesn’t rely on a flowchart mentality like “Street Fighter 4.” Because of the various maneuvers you can perform, such as rolling to dodge projectiles or short jumps to strike quickly, the game has a lot of creative methods to be offensive instead of turtling the entire match. To add some extra praise, it is a fairly balanced game and you won’t find characters that completely dominate over another.

King of Fighters XII

That being said, it doesn’t save the game from having poor content. With the lackluster cast, unworkable online play, and time trial as the only single player option, “KOF 12″ is a missed opportunity. If they put more time into fixing these problems, “KOF 12″ could have easily competed against the other big-name fighting franchises like “Street Fighter 4″ and “BlazBlue.” For a full price retail game, this is not worth getting.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

“King of Fighters XII” was developed and published by SNK Playmore and was released on July 24th, 2009 for the Xbox 360 and PS3. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

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