|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SNK Playmore||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ignition Ent. / SNK Playmore||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (Local), 2-6 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The King of Fighters (KOF) is a well-known franchise that has always been known for its simplistic arcade structure and wild character designs. Having been around since 1994, it is one of the older fighters, and through the years has managed to really stay true to its roots. With The King of Fighters XII, fans of the series can expect a whole lot more of the arcade-friendly fighting that they've come to know and love from the franchise. But as the first KOF to debut on a current-gen system, is this enough?
One of the hallmarks of the KOF franchise has been its 3-on-3 structure, and that is very well preserved here. There are three different modes that all use the same format: Arcade, Versus, and Online. The Arcade mode is very basic and allows you to pick one character and then put them through a time trial-style tournament, which ends with them becoming the ubiquitous "King of Fighters." As this is the main single-player mode, I have to say I was very disappointed. With no story to speak of, and a very rigid time trial system, the mode just didn't feel complete, and the game would have been served much better by a more flexible arcade offering, or even a collection of single-player modes that allowed you to do more than 3-on-3 time trials.
Although the single-player mode was very disappointing, KOF XII's multiplayer help bring the title up to standard. While the local versus mode is basically a two-player version of the regular arcade mode, it is the online mode that really shines here. The online mode in KOF XII has several components. You can play single matches against ranked or unranked opponents, or you can take part in six-player tournaments. These tournaments are highly customizable, and you can set up cooperative team matches as well as competitive elimination matches. The competitive elimination modes are the most interesting, as you can set special rules that control how players move on, what happens to the winners and losers of each match, and how many matches constitute a round. Tournaments also have special friend slots for spectators. The game also has a very detailed "true skill" system that keeps track of your online stats and rankings.
The online mode really is the best thing about KOF XII, and if you are planning on picking it up, you should know that it is fairly obvious that the online play was the focus when this game was developed. The experience when playing sort of reminded me of Left 4 Dead, as they are both technically playable offline, but the experience just isn't very fun. While I certainly had a blast competing in tournaments and trying to raise my True Skill level to qualify for new matches, I know that there are many out there who value the single-player experience in fighters just as much as the multiplayer, and they will be disappointed with the poor arcade mode offering.
The graphics in KOF XII, however, were far from disappointing. The game uses a 2D engine, but all of the characters are animated using hand-drawn pixel art. Each character's moves are animated beautifully, and the sheer amount of detail in the visuals is just staggering. The look of the game is a lot like this month's other 2D arcade fighter, BlazBlue (which also uses hand-drawn animations), and comparing these two, I would say they are evenly matched in this respect.
The combat system in KOF XII is very faithful to the series' roots and features a very simplistic strike system that mainly relies on counterattacks for massive damage. Although I have become somewhat of a button-mashing fiend thanks to franchises like Tekken and Soul Calibur, KOF is all about the strategy and just randomly mashing buttons will get you nowhere fast.