The King of Fighters XII for the Xbox 360 from SNK Playmore is, despite being graphically appealing, disappointing to fans of King of Fighters and is merely an average fighting game. The game, which I ranked as a C game, has little to offer aside from the typical fighting experience, improved graphics and online play, which seems to be the highlight for this game. Online play, however, is slow at best- if you can get it to work at all. More after the jump.
KoF XII follows the same ‘storyline’ that its predecessors have- the characters are fighting to win the title of the King of Fighters. The fighting system is the 3-on-3 battle that was introduced in earlier games, though single play is available for those that do not favor the 3-on-3 battle. However, to get through ‘arcade’ mode choosing three characters is a requirement.
The pros of this game unfortunately are far outweighed by the cons. The best thing about the game are the graphics- it’s clear from the redone character colors and designs and improved backgrounds that the majority of the effort for this game went into graphics. For a 2D fighting game, the graphics really are impressive. Also, the music is catchy and, even when it could go unnoticed sometimes, it was never annoying despite being slightly repetitive.
I’ve always been a fan of the 3-on-3 system, so I was very happy to see it again in KoF XII. Even if the character choices were slim- with only 22 character choices this time around- the team system made this game more exciting than I believe it would have been had they kept the 1-on-1 system typical of fighting games. Also, the ability to compete online against other KoF fans was an interesting idea, but the execution of it was far from satisfying. The move in that direction, however, probably will pay off in the long run, but for now it made this interesting pro more annoying than entertaining.
The game felt like it was trying to return to the style and characters seen in the earlier versions of the series, however, they did so by removing many of the positive improvements that have been added over the years. KoF is known for its wide collection of characters, but popular characters, including fan favorites such as Mai Shiranui and Yuri Sakazaki, were removed from this version. Oddly, Mature, a character not seen since KoF ’96, and Elisabeth, an introduction to the KoF world in XI, made it in while a surprising number of characters did not, which could leave followers of the series disappointed. While you most likely can still find three characters you at least mildly enjoy playing as, it’s still rather upsetting to expect to see your favorite characters and have at least one of them cut from the game.
Another removal from the game is the one I found to be most disappointing- removal of each character’s ‘back story’ and a set plotline. The plotline is merely to be the King of Fighters- in past games each character had a reason for this, either explained through the game or in the game guide. None of this exists in KoF XII- not even a list in the guide as to combos, which you only find in game. The fact that each character had a back story and motivation for being there was something that set it apart from other fighting games and honestly, the removal of it made the game boring, especially since I was looking for it within the game. Expectations like this, which were set by previous games, are not met which is one of the biggest reasons for the disappointment fans of KoF will probably feel.
For people not familiar with KoF but wanting to be, this game would be a good start- as it is a ‘new’ starting point for the series it seems- except for the fact that there are so few characters. It would be better to start with an older version- or wait for the next one. On top of that, KoF, which used to have a large cast and a plot outside of merely ‘lets fight’ to set it apart from other fighting games, now does not really have much to set it apart, aside from the 3-on-3 battle system that I personally am a fan of.
The replay value of the game, unless you are playing with friends, is almost nonexistent. Once you set the fastest score- your position as the King of Fighters is determined by how fast you complete the game- the only real reason you might want to play is to either beat your own time or unlock the art in the gallery. However, most of the art is connected to a specific character and is rather difficult to unlock, requiring a nice chunk of time playing through the game a few times. Unless you are a huge fan of a specific character- and as mentioned, many favorites were removed from this version- there is not a lot of motivation to unlock all the artwork unless you have a need to unlock everything in a game
The last major problem with the game is the online play- which should have been one of the highlights of the game. However, trying to get online is, in and of itself, enough to discourage you from playing. Connecting is slow and it’s difficult find people online. When you do find someone, they are not always online anymore, having given up on finding someone or having forgotten they were searching for an online challenger. Game play itself is not very rewarding either, with the slow connection making the game run slow. With all the problems faced one might as well just play offline, but as mentioned, offline play does not offer much either.
Overall, as a fighting game KoF isn’t awful- it just isn’t amazing. It’s basically average, with the beautiful graphics making it a little better than some of the other fighting games out there. If you’re looking for a good online fighting game KoF probably isn’t the one, though hopefully the next one- and yes, there probably will be another, there always is- won’t suffer from the same problems. As the newest King of Fighters game, I was greatly disappointed. Instead of wanting to play more, each hour I spent playing just made me want to pick up one of my older copies and play that instead. It’s hard to enjoy a game when you’re pretty much forcing yourself to keep going even though you want to play an older version of the series. In the long run, King of Fighters XII is about a C- an average game with awesome graphics but little replay value.