The King of Fighters XII Hands-On Impressions

We take this fighting sequel for a spin at E3 2009.

Nothing says "summer" quite like a bunch of video games crammed into a convention center. And if there's anything that would make the summer better than having one of those games be The King of Fighters XII from SNK Playmore and Ignition Entertainment, we don't want to know about it. KOFXII, as the name implies, is the follow-up to KOFXI and is the latest game in longtime fighting game developer SNK's King of Fighters series, which has traditionally let players choose a team of three different characters to challenge other players' teams, rather than limiting matches to one character versus one character. KOF XII has the notable distinction of featuring all-new character sprites drawn from scratch; they're much larger and more vibrant. The new art seems to have come at a price because the game has a roster of only 22 characters (two of which are console-exclusive), a much smaller number than in previous games.

Who's Making This Game: SNK Playmore, the creator of the Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, and King of Fighters fighting series for the discontinued NeoGeo arcade hardware. SNK Playmore is also known for creating a handful of other memorable properties, such as the Metal Slug side-scrolling shooter series, but the company's main attraction has always been its fighting games.

What The Game Looks Like: The King of Fighters XII makes a huge visual leap away from all the games that came before it with completely redrawn 2D graphics. The character sprites are now much larger than they were and more smoothly animated. The same can be said of the background stages, which are all vibrantly colored and full of expressive, animated characters, many of which make cameo appearances from other SNK fighting games. Like Capcom's Capcom vs. SNK series, the game also uses 3D lightmap effects for its special effects, such as the mystical glowing energy attacks that many fighters use.

What There Is To Do: This is a one-on-one fighting game with teams, so what there is to do is choose a team and beat on any other player who steps up and chooses his/her own team or, absent other players, to beat up on computer opponents.

How The Game Is Played: The game's control scheme is pretty similar to the original four-button NeoGeo control layout: There are two punch buttons (light punch and heavy punch) and two kick buttons (light kick and heavy kick), and pressing both light attack buttons at the same time causes your character to roll forward (or perform a recovery roll after being knocked down). The big change to the control scheme is that throws are now executed by pressing both punch buttons. It's a baffling change that makes throwing harder to do (and who can say why anyone would want throws to be harder to do, since there are still throw escapes), and if you've been playing KOF for 15 years (like we have), we guarantee you'll have trouble getting used to it. In addition, KOFXI has a new "critical counter" system that lets you charge up a "critical counter" meter to full, and then, if you happen to stuff an opponent's attack with a strong attack of your own, there will be a flash of green light onscreen and an enormous "Critical Counter!" message, and your opponent will be briefly stunned. At this point, you can perform a "custom combo" not unlike those of Street Fighter Alpha 2, pounding on your opponent for several free hits. It's not yet clear whether this is a useful strategic technique since it seems to happen so randomly.

Otherwise, the game seems to have the sometimes slippery, sometimes jerky pace of the later King of Fighters games, and a lot of the standard combos that you've come to expect to work from your favorite characters still do. However, some characters have gotten completely revamped: Sie Kensou is no longer a pastry-devouring Hong Kong goofball but is now a Wu-Shu fighter in full garb; Iori Yagami has a new, darker outfit and a totally revamped move set with no projectile attack and nothing but various claw swipe attacks; and some characters, like Joe Higashi and Andy Bogard, have apparently reverted to older versions of themselves, in this case, their KOF '94 versions. In addition, as you've probably heard, the console versions have two exclusive characters. Mature, the beehive-haired blonde femme fatale, seems similar to her previous versions, though her moves have apparently been tweaked to have a much shorter range. The other exclusive character is Elizabeth Blantorche, the "magical girl" who fights with a riding crop and who first appeared in KOFXI. Elizabeth's move set also appears to have changed somewhat, though we didn't get a chance to spend much time with her.

What They Say: This is going to be a tremendous way to kick off the 15th anniversary of the King of Fighters series!

What We Say: This is going to take a complex combination of playing more combined with more playing before we can give a real verdict. It won't be long, in any case, since the game ships next month.

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Discussion

37 comments
gimboxno
gimboxno

I played it in the arcade, its very good. There's a good chance it 'Might,' just might surpass the Classic King of Fighters 95, maybe i can finally move on from kof95 after all. Thirteen year veteran.

raza3
raza3

it looks better than sfIV

marcilio
marcilio

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

neoand12
neoand12

Yes oh thank god for 2D to return to us. Blazeblue, King of fighters 12 oh how I miss 2D action. Anime 2D HD fluid animation we need more games like this. Thank you SNK for coming into the new Era!

Cyclonus86
Cyclonus86

I played this many times at the E3 & I liked it. But i only have one gripe and that's the pixelated look that the characters had. It may be the lcd screens that they were on, I hope its not like that when it's released.

9th_SolBadguy
9th_SolBadguy

still hoping the K' and Rock Howard make the line up on this game would really love that oh well just have to wait and see

Sdotmike
Sdotmike

this game is gonna pimp don't whine if ur favs aren't in it it's snk/playmore they're gonna crank out another one soon it takes a long time to develop new sprite for this but now they have the system down so2:1 the roster will jump even higher with the next release. note this is nothing like the maximum impact series. I've played this in china town multiple times and it's 2d to the fullest. if ur teams not here pick up new characters just don't write this off or you'll be missing out on one of the best 2d fighting games to date and i only say 2d so u 3d fanboys don't blow a gasket

Junior_AIN
Junior_AIN

Don't remember seeing anything about this game, but I'm glad that a Xbox 360 release will be applied.

gmax
gmax

If you've been waiting for more King of Fighters, here you go...

AmarSAcharya
AmarSAcharya

can you say "download more characters for more money off of PSN" ?

hadhuken
hadhuken

cant belive they kicked k' out frm the characters

AmarSAcharya
AmarSAcharya

I hated Chris . . . when I first played '96 (i think) i picked king to try that fighter out, it took me until the 2nd round to figure out that he was actually a she . . .

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

The only thing that pissess me off is the 22 characters. The only one left from my team is Terry, where are Yuri and Chris?

pakhair
pakhair

I loved KOF in back days...... Can't say about this one until I lay my hands cause Maximum Impact series were terrible...........

capmantay14
capmantay14

I can't wait for this game!!! Now if I can get a SNK vs. Capcom 3 or a Darkstalkers remake, I would be in total bliss. I love fighting games.....tear!!

BLuFAlc0n
BLuFAlc0n

I don't know...... Hey guys, which is better? This or Tekken? Which one should I get?

kevin_amadi
kevin_amadi

"...throws are now executed by pressing both punch buttons...we guarantee you'll have trouble getting used to it..." If I recall, SFIV changed throws to LP+LK, a change I don't recall myself (nor anyone else I know of) having trouble getting used to...

BilSabab
BilSabab

Good to see that true fighting games like this and SF4 have made a comeback this year, now whats left is that Capcom announces they're developing another of their franchises like Darkstalkers to made this year great, though it seems unlikely, I'll definitley get this one.

SSBFan12
SSBFan12

I am going to pass on this game.

IceJester45
IceJester45

Finally, fighters are making a comeback.

BC20FLY
BC20FLY

2009 is the year of the Fighters

gimboxno
gimboxno

i think i'll really love this one, the stable sprite movements are close to my favourite kof of all time 1995, before they change the sprites and gave them erratic and childish movements like in kof 1996 and onwards. grrrr!

shabulia
shabulia

I have this reserved but I may back out of it if Mai Shinrui isn't in it. She's my favorite SNK character.

madsnakehhh
madsnakehhh

I can't wait, i cannot wait anymore for this game.

ahadj
ahadj

I....CANT....WAIT

ocdog45
ocdog45

defently looking forward to this one.

Gamer4Iife
Gamer4Iife

Haven't played a 2D fighter in a while. Might give this one a try. :D

X-RS
X-RS

how long can a month be? try 720 hours plus, 101 for the extra week from now.

NeonNinja
NeonNinja

This game looks really promising. I hope it turns out good, because I only have two fighters on my 360 right now and a third one like this should hopefully help round it all out.