STAFF REVIEW of King of Fighters XII (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009.
by Rick Wallace

King of Fighters XII Box art Have you ever longed for those days where you spent all day in the local arcade, slugging quarters into the latest and greatest fighting game? Do you wish you could go back and be the champion taking on all comers young and old? Well, here?s your chance to relive those days with The King of Fighters. Marking the 15th Anniversary of The King of Fighters, Ignition Entertainment and SNK PLAYMORE bring you The King of Fighters XII, the legendary 3-on-3 fighting game series masterpiece that united rival brawlers from SNK PLAYMORE?s classic arcade game.

This installment of The King of Fighters continues the epic martial arts showdown and reemerges with a complete graphical overhaul. All sprites used over the past 14 years of the game franchises history have been discarded and replaced with brand new 2D high-definition, high-resolution sprites on detailed 2D backgrounds. This game brings you 22 hand-drawn characters from SNK?s arcade history. While 22 characters may seem like a lot, this is the lowest amount of characters for any of the KOF games. However to make up for this, each character was hand drawn over a period of months to bring you the best character models they can offer. The outfits on each of the characters are colorful and tasteful at the same time.

While lacking a story mode, the game does offer a few choices of game modes for the player to choose from. Arcade mode pits your team of 3 fighters against 5 other teams of 3 fighters each. Each match can consist of up to five rounds, and the match is over when all 3 players on one team have been eliminated. After the third round, a short cut scene is shown, and then it?s back to the action. After the fifth match is completed, you have the option of uploading your clear time to the Xbox Live leader boards. There are achievements to be gotten by clearing the Arcade mode under a certain time. There is also a Versus mode that you can fight one-on-one or three-on-three. These fights can be either single player or two player fights.

Also included is a practice mode that you can use to practice learning your combinations of punches and kicks. Some of the options available to you here to better your game playing skills are what your opponent will do. For example, you can set the opponent to be a computer, an opposing player for sparring purposes, or even as a dummy. The dummy is exactly that, he or she will just stand there and take whatever you have to dish out. If you choose the computer as your opponent, you can even determine how the computer acts. Some of the options you have are whether the computer will move and how it will move, whether or not the computer will attack, if the computer will guard, and even the difficulty of the computer opponent.

There are a couple changes from the past versions of the franchise. The Tactical Shift System from The King of Fighters 2003 has been removed from this version of the game. However, this installment introduces the ?critical counter? system. How this works is when a player lands a close strong punch or kick as a counter, the opponent is temporarily stunned allowing the player to unleash a volley of attacks for a short period of time. If a Super Special move is used the moment that a Critical Counter occurs, the player will see more special effects than usual. Also, introduced with this installment is the new ?Guard Attack?. This allows the player to intercept and hit and incoming strike damage free. One other feature introduced is called SOUSAI, or Deadlock. This occurs when both fighters hit each other with equal attack, and therefore cancel each other out and push the characters away from one another back into a neutral stance. You can even set the Critical Counter Gauge to max so that you can practice the critical counters and perfect your volley of attacks.

The Online Mode provides you with the opportunity to flaunt your skills online against other players in the world. In the online mode, you have a few choices as to the types of battles you want to participate in. Arcade matches reward you with battle point rankings. In arcade mode, a maximum of 8 players can join the room to fight. Players await their turn while the matches go on. There are also ranked matches for players to choose from, in which players can increase their ?True Skill? ranking. The last option for online play is a player match, which does not increase either battle points or ?True Skill? ranking.

Also in the Online Mode, the player also can view the leaderboards to see how they rank up against the rest of the world. Within the leaderboards, there are several different tabs to look at. First and foremost are the Battle Point leaderboards and the True Skill leaderboards. Here you can find the top ranked players as well as see your ranking in the leaderboards. Also, there is a leaderboard for the Time Trial, which is how quickly Arcade Mode was completed. Another of the tabs covers character usage. It shows percentages of how much you use each character. And last, but not least there is a tab for all the replays that have been uploaded so that you can see how well others have done.

One nice feature that I did come across while playing online is the Replay option. This option gives you the choice to save the replay of the fight that you just participated in and upload it to the leaderboards so others can watch in awe your mastery of the game. Replays can be saved from both online mode as well as versus mode. You also have the option of viewing your online profile, which includes your rankings as well as your record of wins and losses.

When it comes to the sounds in the game, it?s what you would expect from a Japanese fighter genre. The music and the sounds that the fighter makes are what you would expect from a stand-up arcade back in the late 80s or early 90s. While the music is rather enjoyable, the sounds of the fighters are very repetitive. The only gripes that I found with this game are the slow response in multi-player, the lack of ability to see how your friends rank on the leaderboards, and the inability to back out of the character selection screen.

All in all, SNK PLAYMORE has more than fulfilled expectations of what would be expected from this series. The artwork of the characters is beautiful. The reworked backgrounds only add to the eye candy. Even though many games are going the 3D fighting route, The King of Fighters has done extremely well by sticking with what works for them. The animations in the background are extremely well done and with a variety of locales to choose from, the controls are relatively easy to learn. The only thing I could find a gripe about was the Online Play. Every match that I competed in seemed to be a bit slow to respond.

It would be nice to see improved online playability, as well as the ability to find your friends on the leaderboards and some improved menu interactions, such as the ability to back out of character selection screens.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.1 / 10
Sound: 7.4 / 10


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