The King of Fighters XII Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

The marvellous Street Fighter IV didn’t only have excellent mechanics that translated into some of the most intense fights in a fighting game, but it also boasted a gorgeous art style that made the game look stunning, too. In short, it’s a game that is beautiful both in and outside, unfortunately The King of Fighters XII wholly only truly excels in one of these things.

The twelfth instalment of SNK’s cult fighting series has finally had a long overdue aesthetic overhaul, but the results leave me with mixed feelings. The backdrops are bursting with colour and detail and, similarly to Street Fighter IV, character manoeuvres have been refreshed by the increased level of detail. But the characters themselves can look dreadfully pixelated, especially whilst they’re still and when the camera zooms in. Obviously it’s far and away the best looking King of Fighters game in existence, but I still can’t help feeling disappointed that the character sprites are significantly less smooth than Guilty Gear and the forthcoming Blazblue.

It’s all the more worse that the game itself has been adversely affected by the development team’s efforts on finally improving the visual quality. There are just six arenas to fight in, but at least there isn’t a bad one amongst them, whilst there are only 22 characters, a dramatic drop from the previous game’s ludicrously generous 47 and actually less than The King of Fighters 94, the genesis of this great series.

The character roster consists of the usual favourites like Kyo, Terry, Athena, Joe and Iori, though because of the slimmed down roster number, many of the other most famous characters such as Mai, Billy and K’ are missing in action this time around. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the characters that are present are missing many of their moves, to the extent that some of them have a different play style, one example being Iori, who no longer has any ranged attacks to unleash. On the good side, such a small amount of characters has allowed the developer to make sure that it’s a largely well balanced game.

The single player, rarely of true importance to a fighting game is even less so here. The arcade mode is simply just five stages interspersed with a couple of boring cut scenes completely unrelated to your chosen fighters, and that’s your lot for solo play, I‘m afraid. It doesn’t even end with a horrifically cheap boss, which is good in a way but still a seriously anticlimactic way to end the mode on, as well as being uncharacteristic for a series notorious for such evil.

I’ve been seriously negative so far, but I’m glad to say that where it really matters, the fighting mechanics, The King of Fighters XII is wonderful. It’s the usual combo heavy three-on-three fighting that the series has become synonymous for during its fifteen years of existence, but with the absence of the shift mechanic (first introduced in the 2003 edition), which allowed you to tag in characters during combat, in its place is a more old fashioned taking it in turns format, which some may see as a step backwards, whilst others might welcome this return to its roots with open arms.

A new addition is the Blow Back attack, which functions similarly to Street Fighter IV’s focus attack, leaving your opponent completely defenceless to a barrage of attacks, and is all the more deadly in the nimble hands of an expert, though unlike Street Fighter IV, the move isn’t able to absorb attacks from your opponents.

Also new are Critical Counters. These are gained by filling a bar through dishing out or receiving damage, once full, and if you hit a successful counter with a strong attack, your opponent will be left unable to defend himself for a few seconds, whilst you as the aggressor get to build your own combination of attacks, which should leave your opponents with more than a few bumps and bruises.

Like every modern fighting game, The King of Fighters XII offers online play, sadly this has an abundance of lag, to almost slideshow like levels on some occasions, resulting in some fights simply being painful to play. For those who aren’t able to get human competition within the same room, this is likely be an instant turnoff.

The game may be limited in the amount of content it has to offer, and, if it had been a more generous offering, it could so easily have been a serious contender to Street Fighter IV, as the core fighting itself is just as good as it ever was. It’s still a great game, but because of the time consuming process of reworking the visuals, corners have obviously been cut, resulting in a slender game, but in spite of this, The King of Fighters XII is still a very good iteration of the beloved series.