King of Fighters XII knuckles up next year

SNK's long-overdue revamp of flagship brawler set to arrive in Japanese arcades in April of 2009; producer talks about the troubles of next-generation 2D development.


TOKYO--Back in September of 2006, SNK Playmore announced that it was giving the formerly annual King of Fighters franchise a long-overdue graphic overhaul with King of Fighters XII. Today at the Amusement Machine Show in Japan, the game was finally presented to the world with a playable build and a release date.

It's about time.
It's about time.

Appearing onstage at the AM Show, producer Masaaki Kukino announced that KOFXII will be released in Japanese arcades next April. Kukino also took the occasion to introduce his game to the visiting press, and he talked a little bit about the development of the game.

Kukino started off by revealing that the concept behind KOFXII is "Rebirth." With 2009 marking the 15th anniversary of the King of Fighters series, the developers decided to take the game back to its roots and to give it a new start and new graphics.

KOFXII still plays in 2D, but Kukino noted that its graphics are different from the recent 2D fighters in the market that are colored in cel-shaded animation style (like the Guilty Gear X franchise or BlazBlue). Instead, KOFXII will feature characters that are drawn in more of the traditional, hand-dotted pixel art that the series has been known for.

KOFXII's first trailer didn't appear until this February, more than one year after the game's initial announcement. But from the smoothly animating characters, it seemed apparent that the developers had been making an effort to redraw the graphics from scratch. Kukino confirmed that, in fact, the character creation for KOFXII has been very time-consuming. According to Kukino, to give a three-dimensional look to the characters and to make them move smoothly, the artists created 3D models, took a 2D image of them, and used that as a guide to draw the pixel art.

"Overall, it's a very hard process that could take 16 months for even an experienced designer to do alone. In terms of data, the character size is about four times larger [than in previous installments]. But when considering the extra errors that come about in doing the [bigger] pixel art, the trouble is more than four times what it used to be."

"Each character in KOFXII has around 400 to 600 [sprite] patterns. Every single one of them is hand-drawn, and it's something that we're proud of. I'll only say it here, but we believe that this is something that no other company can imitate, something that only SNK Playmore can do," Kukino said.

Kukino then went on to talk about KOFXII's game system, and explained that the main concept behind it is sort of a man-against-man, "fist versus fist" battle. So as a result, the developers decided to abolish the multishift system from KOFXI and to return to the simpler 3-on-3 elimination format that the game originally pioneered.

Kukino confirmed that there will be a total of 20 characters in KOFXII, 11 of which are playable in the AM Show build: Kyo, Terry, Ryo, Ash, Robert, Kim, Ralf, Shen-wu, Benimaru, Leona, and Athena. KOFXII is currently 60 percent complete in development, and there will be beta tests before the game's proper release.

"We are aiming for the ultimate 2D fighting game and ultimate 2D pixel graphics," Kukino said in closing. "I've been working in this industry since the pixel-art days, so I know the importance of a single pixel. A single pixel can vitally change the expression on a [character's] face. We've taken that skill to an ultimate level."

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