The King of Fighters XII Updated Hands-On - In-Depth With the Console Versions

We spend some quality time with the home versions of this visually revamped fighting game sequel.

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If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're familiar with the King of Fighters fighting game series, and we're going to assume you're familiar with head-to-head fighting games in general. So, you know that the King of Fighters series from developer SNK Playmore has been around for 15 years, starting in 1994, as team-based fighting games that let you pick three different characters and let you play as all three in a single session against other teams of three. We recently had a chance to hunker down with the console versions of The King of Fighters XII and have some new details to discuss.

Even though the KOF series has been around for 15 years, the appearance of its characters has remained more or less constant. Yes, all character sprites were made larger in KOF '96, and many of the characters have had other visual retouches, but they've otherwise still been the same old sprites with tweaks made here and there. KOFXII has the distinction of being the first game in the entire series to have a complete visual overhaul. It replaces the original 2D "sprites" (the two-dimensional graphics that represent each game character) of the series to date with all-new, much-bigger, more-detailed, well-animated sprites.

The game also has brand-new background stages that are very busy and have tons of animated characters milling around. Unfortunately, this visual overhaul comes at a price. Though recent games in the series have typically more than 30 playable characters, the original arcade version of KOFXII has only 20 characters, and the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions offer a total of 22. The console versions of the game have two exclusive characters, the evil secretary Mature and the riding-crop-wielding Elizabeth Branctorche (yes, that's actually how her name is spelled) from KOFXI. The single-player arcade version of the game has no "boss" character to challenge, either.

Shen Woo still has that one thing he does. You know, where he punches the other guy.

The art has been designed by SNK artist NONA, whose previous credits include the more-recent installments of the KOF series, from about 2000 onward. If you're a longtime KOF player, you'll probably pick up immediately on NONA's strong use of contrasting solid colors and sometimes-exaggerated character sizes, especially for the characters Ralf and Clark (the Ikari Warriors, who originally debuted in the arcade game of the same name), who are huge, bulky musclemen now. And like previous KOF games that bear NONA's artwork, KOFXII also has a darker, more-shadowy color palette than its brighter predecessors, such as KOF '95 and KOF '98.

But you probably already knew that, assuming you've been keeping up with the new releases of screenshots, trailers, and arcade gameplay videos trickling out of Japan and the precious few other locations in the world that have the arcade version of the game available for public play. So you probably also know that most of the game's older characters have had their list of fighting maneuvers changed and in many cases have been bumped back to older versions of themselves.

For instance, Robert Garcia--a character who has been reinvented multiple times over the years--has more or less been bumped back to his KOF '95 appearance (brown vest, straight hair, white pants, saddle shoes, and all) and fighting maneuvers. Terry Bogard has basically been bumped back to his KOF '94 version (complete with his old red jacket, cap, and blue jeans), though he also has his KOF '95 backfist attack. Even the mighty Kyo Kusanagi, who was ostensibly the series' main character for quite some time, has had his fighting moves bumped back to his KOF '95 arsenal. Some of the KOF faithful may find these changes puzzling, especially if they've gotten used to using their favorite characters' newer tricks in KOF 2002-2003 on up through KOFXI, but most of the game's characters seem instantly recognizable when you pick them up and play them. Terry plays pretty much like Terry. Kyo plays pretty much like Kyo. About the only exception here is Iori Yagami, Kyo's archenemy from KOF '95, who has lost nearly his entire arsenal in favor of a handful of close-range attacks. The console-exclusive Mature seems pretty similar to her older versions, minus a few tricks--she still has her running slash attack, as well as her hopping attack, though she no longer seems to have her triple slash attack. Elizabeth seems fairly similar to her KOFXI version, also minus a trick or two, though both characters' sprites are well detailed and well animated and seem to fit in just fine with the rest of the cast.

Many of the older characters have had their arsenals bumped back to older versions. The brothers Bogard have old-school movesets, for instance.

In terms of gameplay changes from previous games in the series, KOFXII does not have any kind of tag-out system to switch characters in the middle of the match, such as in KOFXI, nor does it have multiple levels of superattack--your character can store only one level, so the flashy leader attacks and hyper attacks of previous years are gone. In addition, you can still use the more recent games' system of short "hop" jumps and longer jumps. KOF XII also has a KOF '97-style forward and backward roll, plus a recovery roll after being knocked down--and you can perform any roll by tapping the light punch and light kick buttons together. One of KOFXII's new gameplay features is the ability to press (and hold) the strong punch and strong kick buttons together to initiate a ground-based attack that, when fully "charged" by holding the buttons down long enough, will perform an unblockable strike that can set your opponent up for a follow-up attack.

And of course, KOFXII's most visible new gameplay change is the critical counter system, which works off of a separate counter meter that gradually fills up as you fight and will, when filled, let you interrupt an opponent's attack (if you time your own attack properly), opening your foe up to an extended series of free hits. Critical counters seem difficult to time properly and sometimes seem like they happen almost randomly--and getting hit by one won't exactly make your day. And as we've mentioned in our previous coverage, KOFXII's other jarring gameplay change is that standard throw grapples now require you to press two buttons (both punch buttons together), rather than just one. Then again, KOFXII's gameplay still seems to move about as quickly as more-recent KOFs and seems to have plenty of opportunities to perform "juggle" attacks on airborne opponents. Serious players will want to hunker down with their favorite characters and figure out the best juggle setups.

KOFXII's gameplay has changed, but it also has new ways to make your opponents hurt.

You'll have an opportunity to do this with the game's single-player modes, though curiously there's only an arcade mode (which puts you in five time-trial matches that, again, have no boss fight) and a practice mode. There's no survival mode, a standard feature in previous home versions of KOF, and no KOFXI-style challenge mode. Otherwise, you can play the game against another player in your living room or online using Xbox Live or PSN, check a "gallery" mode for portraits, purchase items from your console's online service, and fiddle with the game's options, including a visual "soft filter" that will antialias the characters up to three passes, taking some of the edge off the originally jagged arcade sprites if you wish. KOFXII ships out at the end of July.

Discussion

94 comments
flio83
flio83

to shinkada that said kof is rubbish, have you ever spent time playin kof or you too busy playin blazblue?...by sharing similar movesets you mean 10 characters can do hadouken?? i seriously havent notice that in this kof set. correct me if im wrong, if you said simplify then why until now ppl havent upload their outrages combos like in 02? not even iori the mighty beast in every series? where is the simplicity in that? To me really what makes kof interesting is its bug..kof filled with bug.infinite combos. in every series theres always characters that can do infinite combos if you know how to. now i cant wait to find the bugs inside this kof.. Blazblue to me its awesome, good material and really hard to master it and host of the online game are rude, racist and intolerable. example..jp only, this only..or to make the matter worse when you join the club that arent racist they kick you out to get back to their turn. Street fighter community are much better. Tekken is the new king of fighters as some guys said..hmm. a game where beginner can sometime kill the expert out of pure luck...not really..not gonna happen in 2d fighting mechanism..only expert can beat expert. imagine playin blazblue beginner vs expert...the beginner cant even come near the expert.

Shinkada
Shinkada

@Sleepy_dragon_Q I think you're confused. BlazBlue is balanced with amateur gamers, imbalanced when an amateur plays an experienced gamer, and balanced again when two experienced gamers play... ... LIKE ALL OTHER GAMES. V-13 is extremely easy to get close to when you know what you're doing because she has next to no mixups at long range. It's extremely easy to just guard all her attacks while steadily getting closer, then punishing any of her longer attacks with a poke, leaving you enough time to get into true close range. Also, there will BE no next Guilty Gear because Sega owns the rights to it now. The series is dead. To get back on topic of KOFXII... Rubbish. Fighting is simplified, less characters and half of them share similar movesets, and most of the actual INTERESTING characters are gone. More like KOF95 Turbo amirite.

eden9914
eden9914

where is mai shiranui???in the last game she was absent...I hope she'll be in this one cause she rocks

Sleepy_dragon_Q
Sleepy_dragon_Q

@jeffyjasta Blazblue have a huge depth in the gameplay and the balancing is well done. I don't see how you can say it's just like any other fighting games. Oh, no, sorry. It'll balance if you're amateur gamers. But with Professional gamers it doesn't balance anymore. V-13 is too dangerous when the professional gamer play it. You will hard to close her... (But I really like it when I'm waiting the next Guilty Gear version and TK6). If you're a professional gamer or want to be a professional gamer let's try playing it (Check youtube to search some tactic and style characters guide because it isn't simple like SF4). Have fun. Long live for 2D Fighting.

diabloakaSAHA
diabloakaSAHA

This game is out in japan, and it is an utter failure, tbh i hate kof characters, pretty much everyone wears long bell bottom pants. and everyone too looks good.

accesdenied
accesdenied

Game looks amazing. wish mai were there though and that iori had his blue flame

lokey013
lokey013

No boss? Boo....wish they added something for the console versions 'sides the two extra players...=/

diabloakaSAHA
diabloakaSAHA

ok guys i dont knwo whether this game is going ot be really good or not, but this game is out in japan, and the review scores it has beign reciving soo far are "pretty bad" , FAMITSU, the no1 gaming mag in japan has given it a mere "5". check this link . http://www.nintendoeverything.com/?p=20257

Gioh
Gioh

Tekken is obiously the only one desrving the name King of Fighters. A nono for me.

thepersianprinc
thepersianprinc

hmm for me its kof97 best so far but lets see if this one changes my idea /:)

ali-009
ali-009

looks awsome,i'm waiting for the demo.

Kainkillers
Kainkillers

this game looks awesome, the new system improved by SNK fits perfectly . Nos it's the time that those games we played on arcades finishes like that, as Street Fighter VI

SkinnZero
SkinnZero

worrying...I think the coolest part of KOF is the tag system! 3 against 3! and that of Iori's move changes (Iori is my favorite character) surely makes me think twice about getting this one. On the other hand, the visual overhaul look so AWESOME! I´ll have to do more research on this one

hamelkarl
hamelkarl

@jeffyjasta Blazblue have a huge depth in the gameplay and the balancing is well done. I don't see how you can say it's just like any other fighting games. @jtthegame316 What is important in a fighting game is not the number of characters. It's the gameplay and the balancing. Take a looks on game that features thousand of characters and you'll see people use always the same. Balancing make it less frustrating when you wanna play somebody that is not in the top tier.

hamelkarl
hamelkarl

@UB725 SF3rd Strike works well on Xbox and PS2. There's also a release for dreamcast but it's not the same at all. No unblockable in this one and a few minor stuffs different. It works on Xbox 360, but last time I did play on it I had some lags when I was doing sjc (super jump cancel) and stuffs mostly in the air or super. So if you want it for 360, might not be the best idea. If you do like SF2 Turbo. You should get SF4 for sure. You should check for GGPO if your computer is strong enough to run it. It's a CPS 3 Emulator that have some flaws but at least there's people still playing there. I have it for Xbox and mostly play it on my computer with GGPO. It's also now out for computer but didn't play the pc version yet.

clue942
clue942

This will be my first KoF game and I'm trying to get it but as I'm reading the article I see they are taking a lot out from previous installments...the tag out system would of been cool cause it woulda reminded me of MvC which I'm definitely getting but this is turning into a maybe, I'll have to see some good reviews to change my mind

Calverz
Calverz

Mistake releasing this in US same time as MvC2 imo. It may affect sales, they should have got it out earlier in July. Doesnt come out in Europe till end of August.

rexkim
rexkim

I love the King of Fighters series but to be honest, XII looks disappointing. Sure, it's prettier, but the system seems to have gotten worse, especially compared to XI. The tag system was awesome.

jtthegame316
jtthegame316

I love kof games and will get this looks great. however 22 characters there should be more.

jeffyjasta
jeffyjasta

I've played KoF since the '94 and I will buy this one coz I have to. I saw this game called Blazblue and it looks like any other normal fighting games, nothing special about it.. KoF has been played by many people for ages and it would be great to experience this new one on Xbox or Ps3 ONLINE!! I'm so excited about this KoF, I hope they didn't change the gameplay but improved it Peace

denicola_a_god
denicola_a_god

blazblue has the same graphical style as this game pretty muchh

Burning_Typhoon
Burning_Typhoon

I got Blazblue. I don't have anything against this, as I've never played a KoF game before. I don't care if the sprites were hand drawn, as long as they look nice, who cares? I've also heard this game's slower paced. But, what about air combos in this game? Is it grounded like Street Fighter?

Velantic
Velantic

I would enjoy a fresh wave of 2d games and bring a solid feal of the old arcade days

Jag-T1000
Jag-T1000

BlazBlue or KofF XII ? I have money for only one. Since Mai in not in KofF I'll be buying BlazBlue. I'll buy KofF six months from now when its on clearance or lower than $30. I can wait for it, Not really anxious to play it anyway.

TheDuskwalker
TheDuskwalker

Oops I forgot to add that 3rd Strike is available on both PS2 and XBOX as part of the Anniversasry Collection that also includes Hyper SF2 Anniversary Edition (which has SF2 The Animated Movie included in the gallery) if you ever want it. XBOX version is online and I think is bc with 360.

TheDuskwalker
TheDuskwalker

Don't forget UB725, KOF02UM is coming out soon on XBLA, and most likely PS2 version will also be released outside of Japan. That game is amazing and arguably even better than 98 and XI (since 2002 had a lot of problems it's more than a simple update like 98UM). So if you do decide to skip out on KOFXII you have that amazing game to look forward to.

UB725
UB725

@hamelkarl I actually have SF3 Alpha for my PSP and I love playing it lol. I really want to find a copy of 3rd Stike but I don't think I have the right console. I'm going to go through with SFIV for now though, and I might consider picking up XII later.

SmartGhost
SmartGhost

ehh is there really any thing new in thing game other then characters

WannabeSeras
WannabeSeras

@TheTHCGamer Um....I'm putting down the game because I'm allowed to. After all, a huge part of this site is to criticize games. I'm not putting down PEOPLE for liking or wanting to buy the game. Why do you keep insisting that I wouldn't ever buy the game no matter what? The reasons why I hate the game aren't petty, they're logical and actually make sense. The reason why I'm not buying the game is it's going to be BAD in my opinion. It has nothing I want, why would I buy it? And you think I'm going to bash it and then buy it anyway? Please. I'm not a hypocrite. How sweet of you to assume that about me. You make no sense whatsoever. Thanks for calling me stupid, but the only person who looks stupid right now is you. I'm not trying to convince anybody, I'm stating my opinion like we're all supposed to. I can care less about what others think. But THIS is what I think. And I think it's going to be a flop. :]

damonkeypirate
damonkeypirate

why are finished games getting delayed so often now...if this was out a week ago i would be having fun right now on my day off...instead of bicthing about wanting to have fun.

hamelkarl
hamelkarl

@UB725 Being a fan of 2d fighting games also for a while now, I think I can add a bit of suggestion on here. 1st : If you like turtling and being turtling a lot's SFIV can be a good game to pickup. Or else you better go with SF3rd Strike or SF3 Alpha in the series. Any of the game I suggested here are fun to play and you will have plenty for your money. Didn't play online for a while so I ignore if there's still a lot's of people playing out there. If your Pc is strong there's always the possibility to play on GGPO or 2df to any of these games there 2nd : Blazblue and GG XX reload or Accent Core is two awesome game also. Games that are hard to play for sure. There's really hard stuffs to master in both of these game. The gameplay of them is really different than other games. Even if it is really different I strongly suggest one of the two. Be just aware that you gonna have to learn a lot's in one of these game to enjoy it. 3rd Choice I saw here was MvC2. Lot's of good players have been playing this and for a while now. Infinite are part of the game at high level of play. Character roster is kind of good. There's a few almost useless but it's still fun to pick them once in a while. It's also really different compared to KoF or SF series. If you don't play on sticks Blazblue, GG XX and MvC 2 will be a bit much harder to enjoy. It's not impossible to play, but still will take way much time to enjoy and master.

xraystar
xraystar

may I add - there always has been a boss fight at the end of a king of fighters game if I recall! so why the change! NO!!!!! whatever the reason, I'm still picking this up.

TheDuskwalker
TheDuskwalker

Also@Tro11 since my post turned out longer than I originally attended. SFIV added all SFII characters plus for console release they added most demanded characters based on what both casual and hardcore fans wanted which they got by doing polls and stuff. SNK said themself all KOFXII characters were there choice and not based on popularity of what fans wanted in Game Informer when they confirmed new console characters. So while I agree SFIV's roster could be better it's not a fair argument since they actually listened to what a lot of fans wanted while SNK posted brand new K' and Mai portrait art mixed in with the KOFXII characters on the KOF Anniversary Site when neither of those characters were in the game so they had no reason to do that and never explained why they did. If you think about it, that's actually kind of a unattentional middle finger and a insult to fans since those are the 2 most demanded which I say is a big reason why people are mad over those 2 characters not being in the game. I mean SNK used them both in promoting the game (even had models dressed as Mai passing out flyers at one event) when they are not in it which is false advertising. It's not hard to see why fans of those 2 characters are mad since it's rightfully justified. For your last thing. People are not allowed to point out there criticism of a game and why they aren't, or might not, be buying the game so developers will know what look at and think about improving on in future installments? Brilliant logic! Sorry for such a long post.

TheDuskwalker
TheDuskwalker

@Tso11 I'm sorry Tso11 but some of us want to feel like we actually earned those unlockables instead of them just being handed to us, and like playing through arcade mode a lot to get a better score (especially now with online leaderboards) so having a boss makes that more rewarding if you can get through it without using a continue (I can now beat hardest in SFIV without using a continue and occasionally not losing a single round with Chun-Li, Cammy, and Akuma which makes me feel really accomplished). Just because you, and some people like you, probably don't like being challenged in a games single player, and don't play through it multiple times, doesn't mean the ones of us that do should suffer. Besides SNK have added the option of lowering the health of characters you lose to in arcade mode by 1/3rd or 1/4th depending on game, is that still not good enough for some people? Not being able to beat a boss with most of it's health missing is the actual sad thing I must say.

cojoc07
cojoc07

It's just a clone of Street fighter IV

IcedEarthaholic
IcedEarthaholic

I think I am gonna pass on this one, as much as I am certain it's going to play well, and the redesigned spirtes do look damn good, only 22 characters, no boss (come on,half the fun is trying to figure out how to finally kick the boss's ass), and probably only a limited amount of options for gameplay is just a bit of a turn off to me.

Renzoku
Renzoku

Seems like Andrew is not really happy about all the changes. I'm not a KOF fan, but seems like some features really disappoint.

majere613
majere613

I'm pretty much in the 'Yay, no boss!' camp. SNK Boss Syndrome has spoilt the Arcade mode of more than one of those games, and I for one won't miss those hyper-high-priority-insta-counter-oh-and-by-the-way-when-you-finally-unlock-me-my-moves-are-damn-near-impossible douchebags.

Tso11
Tso11

Are we really complaining about no bosses people? Wow thats kinda sad.. We go through Arcade mode just enough to unlock everything and we never do it again. We fight and practice till we can better, and look to fight other people..Not bosses..No offense, but look how much characters SFIV took out, and yet people still playing it. If you dislike the game so much why are you here viewing and posting about it?

forhekset
forhekset

I got to tell you that all sounds pretty awful. I prefer 98-99.

TheTHCGamer
TheTHCGamer

@WannabeSeras well either way there isnt a boss in KOFXII for better or worse i was just pointing out one of the bright spots (not seeing so many complaints about how hard the boss is). can you imagine with all the people complaining about seth how much theyd complain about previous SNK fighting game bosses? it doesnt matter if your not going to buy KOFXII thats fine but why keep pointing out flaws that you personally have with the game? i dont have a problem with you being dissapointed with the game but the fact that you have to keep putting it down. its funny how some of you keep saying your not buying KOFXII for petty reasons when in reality you werent going to buy the game anyway. also some of you saying you arent going to buy the game will probably end up buying it which makes you look stupid. if your not going to buy the game fine but dont try to convince us to feel the way you do by constantly bringing up problems YOU have with the game. some of us are actually looking forward to this game.

kurohubby
kurohubby

no boss no buy, no mai no buy. simple really

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

Not having a boss character is just another step back that this game is taking for the series. The whole idea of Arcade mode is to work your way up to and defeat the end boss. With no end boss, you may as well just go play a few vs. matches against the cpu.

WannabeSeras
WannabeSeras

@Cross_Bone: Yes, exactly. It is weird. But people still just fail to see that. >_>

WannabeSeras
WannabeSeras

@TheTHCGamer You're being ridiculous. So what?! If they complain: too bad! It's better than no boss. Fighting games are supposed to have bosses. Bosses are supposed to be challenging. I admit, I had trouble with Seth and it frustrated me. But you know what I did? I dealt with it and beat him. MAGICAL! *rolls eyes* Therefore, you have no argument and you keep fishing for RIDICULOUS "reasons" to post. Think about it: if there isn't a boss, the player has no reward for beating a game. Those who complain about bosses must have lost their common sense in their laundry.

Diernes
Diernes

No thanks. With all the other great fighters comming out this year I dont have time for this game. It seems a bit light on features and characters too. I have played it a little bit at the arcade and I found it a bit boring. Even the high level games I have seen on Utube and such dont look very interesting compared to a game like streetfighter IV, BluBlaz or Tekken 6 but each to his own

Testament
Testament

OK we have the technology to have all SNK (everysingle character) fight on one game so lets stop playing around and come on with it. Just like SNK vs Capcom 1, a major let down due to the lost of many characters. We can all learn alot from Mugen games

TheTHCGamer
TheTHCGamer

@WannabeSeras people new to KOF would just complain about how hard the bosses are. look at how many people complained about how hard seth was in SFIV and if youve played an SNK fighting game before youd know that those bosses arent easy to beat compared to other fighting games. so imo it might be a good thing that theres no boss character because lots of people might just end up complaining. besides you dont need an overpowered boss character for a fighitng game to be good.