We have been pretty spoiled for choice recently with a good flow of fighter titles trickling out into our hands. Street Fighter 4 set up the year and any title after it has sadly had to deal with the harsh comparisons and ever raising expectations of a current gen fighter. So apart from bringing back a nostalgic feel of an old school fighter, will King of Fighters XII meet long time fan expectations?
KoFXII is a pretty odd fighter to get released onto consoles this year, this is mainly because of how lacking in content the game is. Compare it to Soul Calibur IV, or even an early 360 title like Dead or Alive 4, there are at least story modes with unlockable costumes and characters to obtain. King of Fighters XII has everything you would want from a simple fighter straight up, all the characters and arenas ready to use, but the only real rewards you’ll reap from KoFXII are images for the gallery and a whole horde of online based achievements to unlock.
The actual fighting feels fluid and you can’t question the quality of animation they are presenting. Characters flow from one move to another with stylised 2D sprites. The game has a certain retro feel to it, which is reassuring for old time fans worried about any dramatic art changes. With all this attention in capturing each character's original art you would think the game would be wrapped with similar attention right? wrong, the menus are presented so poorly. At least the fighting arenas themselves are a joy to watch, travelling across the globe focusing on overly animated spectators, glossy fireworks and oddball surroundings.
There are two move sets, simple and normal. Simple lets the player use the left analogue stick and buttons to pull off advanced moves with ease and normal for those who like to input proper combo commands into their controller. It’s a great way to get newer players into the genre without having to get too technical, but the online modes strip away the option and the end result requires you to learn the normal move set in the end.
The game is separated into arcade, versus, practice and online modes. The arcade mode runs as a time trial event, which is briefly explained by an opening video on the tournament rules. You can pick 3 fighters for entering into a match with, and you can even select the order in which they roll out for each fight. During the fights, if one of your characters gets knocked out they are replaced with the next fighter in line, and if all of your fighters are taken out then it's game over. Arcade mode lasts 5 rounds of 3 fighters to beat, which means arcade mode can drag on for quite a while and there is no real story or fan service to enjoy at the end. Beating arcade mode felt very unrewarding and while the fighting is enjoyable, nothing compelled me to retry the arcade mode more than 5 times.
One important part of any fighter for me is a practice mode where I can grab a character and slowly learn specific moves and combos. While Dead or Alive 4 and Street Fighter 4 have more of a tutorial specific practice mode, that requires you to master certain moves to advance to more technical combos, King of Fighters XII just throws you into a match with a CPU rival. There was no option to select move commands or tutorials in the practice arena and this just reminded me how much KoFXII is lacking in content.
At least the online mode works just how it should. Out of the few ranked and player matches I played online there was no real lag to deal with. The one thing I did notice is how most players online are idle gamers with access to a turbo controller. You’ll notice as they constantly hold down a kick button to keep playing online to unlock the many ridiculous online match achievements, some of which require over 1000 played matches to unlock. The rather disappointing factor is the lack of online support from fans the game is getting, and you know this means the majority of the matches you will be playing will be against achievement junkies. Not including Mai, a popular character from the franchise, has damaged the games popularity and the “No Mai, No Buy” slogan spread across online communities pre-release seems to have damaged this versions reputation. The menu includes a marketplace option, which could suggest that Mai might be coming later as DLC and that more characters are on their way to the game.
I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with King of Fighters XII. While the overall 2D presentation of battles is impressive, the rest of the game is lacking in actual content. With a slowly dwindling online circle and no real rewards for pumping hours into the offline mode, King of Fighters XII has been added to a pile of fighters that just can’t compete with other fighters already out. With a little extra love in the practice mode, some online love and character development, KoFXII could have been a charming fighter for old and new fans alike.