SNK’s King Of Fighters is a long running series that’s amassed a huge following of loyal and devoted fans. Now on its 15th anniversary, the series has returned for an all-new instalment, this time in HD.
King Of Fighters XII once again retains its three-on-three fight mechanic, and many of the game’s familiar warriors have returned for more action. This time around, the ageing character models and visuals have been redone with new, high res hand-drawn combatants and arenas. The question is; can KoF XII shine after the arrival of competing titles like Street Fighter IV?
As promised by SNK, the redrawn and beefed up visuals have made KoF XII visually far more appealing than its predecessors. Characters are detailed and the animation is fluid and impressive, and, as if to placate die-hard retro fans, the pixels have been left on show, making for a striking visual style. Backgrounds are equally impressive, and like the characters, are solely in 2D, but there are only a handful of them, sadly.
The actual game mechanics, despite SNK claiming that the series has undergone a revolution, aren’t really anything to write home about. This is classic KoF fare, and while some additions like the critical system, in which your character can do critical attacks that stun your opponent with a single hit, are welcome, for the most part, this is all instantly recognisable stuff. This isn’t a necessarily a bad thing, though, and in actual fact, I found this instalment to be more enjoyable that I expected, more so than some of the previous outings. The combat is tight and refined, and each character is well balanced as always.
The variety of combatants, although not as many as fans had hoped for, is good, and the scope for brutal combo attacks is as strong as ever. The game is slower than many competing titles, and this will be an issue for some, but the more sedate pace simply opens up a more tactical battle style which will reward practised players who spend time to refine and hone their skills.
Whilst the core combat mechanics are solid, there’s no escaping KoF‘s sheer unwillingness to change in order to match current trends, despite claims to the contrary. The combat system presented here is becoming increasingly long in the tooth, and with rival titles such as the aforementioned SFIV successfully proving that 2D scrappers can keep up with the times, KoF XII can’t help but feel like a relic. Hell, even older titles like the recently released XBLA incarnation of Marvel Vs Capcom 2, a game of many years age, makes KoF XII feel dated, and no amount of HD sparkle is going to change this.
SNK has managed to produce a good and solid title in KoF XII, and I’ve no doubt that long time fans will enjoy what’s on offer here, but there’s no denying that some serious re-jigging is required to keep the series alive. SNK needs to do much more than add a little visual flair to the series, and I hope that the team takes a long hard look at the competition when working on the inevitable KoF XIII.