Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Slightly Disappointing Rebirth... The King of Fighters XII (PS3) Review

Please note: Videos consist of tournament-like level gameplay from the arcade version. The PS3 version does look similar to the arcades, but I just wanted to show high level fights of what the game's system is capable of in which I won't get with console videos right away that are in good quality.

There are high hopes for the King of Fighters XII to be a worthy fighting game in the genre's renaissance this year with such games as Street Fighter IV, BlazBlue, and Tekken 6. It is a reboot for the franchise to start over in attempt to bring new players in while keeping the hardcore fans satisfied with a new graphics engine meaning new sprites for the beloved SNK fighters. Along with spicing up the classic KOF gameplay with some new gameplay systems and the new style, it seems like this franchise is continuing on the right direction. Unfortunately, this console release comes up short of being a legitimate fighting game to be around for a long time. Basically, King of Fighters XII on PS3 does not feel like a complete package as a retail priced fighting game despite still having a good fighting system to play with.

What I mean by KOF XII not being a complete package? It is the lack of modes the game provides, which is only arcade, versus, practice, and online. That's pretty much it in terms of modes and as a full retail priced game, it doesn't feel like you are not getting enough for your money especially if you are not into the whole online fighting thing. The arcade mode is simply a time trial mode consisting of five stages of how fast you can beat your opponent to get a time on the rankings. Except this mode is pretty straightforward with no sense of direction because there is little to no story at all in this new entry in the franchise. There is no final boss that is ridiculously cheap, just five stages against the character roster and that's it as the credits roll. Practice and versus modes are also straightforward as they are what they meant to be as practice mode is your standard training mode to try out some moves and combos while local versus is what it is.

Then there is the online play, which is arguably the most disappointing feature of all in this game as the majority of the games you will play against the online competition will be very laggy to the point it is unplayable trying to execute anything at all. Even with the 1.01 patch on the PS3, online play did slightly improve as matches got better of handling the lag, but it is still pretty bad finding the occasional unplayable match. In addition, matches are handled quarter match style in which you're in a lobby with other players as two fight while others wait and watch. However, joining a room mid-game does not let you see the match in progress in which you stare at the lobby screen for a little longer. Other than the standard ranked and player match options, the online modes also have a clan option which is only in the PS3 version, except it is not a really a clan-like feature you see in first person shooters as it is just an easier way to play certain players. If the online performance does not improve any time soon, then it is likely the game will be dead especially with other fighting games around that have better online play.

The core fighting system in the King of Fighters XII saves the game from becoming a big disappointment as it is still appeals to both casual and hardcore crowds in terms of executing special moves by your favorite characters. This also still feels like a SNK fighting game in which crazy execution is still required to pull off the tougher moves, specifically the supers for the majority of the roster. While some characters have an easier learning curve like Joe, Ash Crimson, and Kyo, other characters have a tougher time to get things going especially if their movelist has been drastically changed. Iori is the major example of a character's movelist that is significantly to a point he is a totally different character due to his storyline of having his Orochi flames removed or something like that. This new KOF introduces some new gameplay additions like the guard attack, which is more like a focus attack in Street Fighter IV where a fully charged attack stuns the opponent for an opportunity to deal some quick damage. This guard attack is also a parry counter attack if timed correctly to disrupt your opponent's momentum. The critical counter system is the biggest gameplay addition in King of Fighters XII as a timed back and strong punch or kick (pending on the character) unleashes a big stun counter allowing an opportunity to dish out more damage or a devastating combo. This critical counter can change the match to some one's favor really quickly, but not as game changing in the end. All in all, the fighting system still feels like classic KOF with a heavy focus on close-range combat as the new additions do spice up the gameplay a little bit, but not much.

Graphically, the new art style in this current generation of consoles looks great for King of Fighters XII. Everything is redrawn for this modern era of gaming as the new sprites still feel 2D, but definitely bulked up for the high definition scene. Sure, some characters' new looks may feel hit or miss like some characters looking like they took too much steroids, but I don't see any problem with the character's appearances as they look fine. The backgrounds and animations are standouts of this new visual style for the franchise as they are vibrant and colorful especially with random spectators doing crazy things that make you laugh at times. There are a noticeable lack of stages as there are only a handful to choose with, but they still look beautiful regardless with lots of things happening at the same time. The animations also flow great when the game runs at a consistent framerate with no slowdown unless you're playing online. As for the sound, the game sounds okay with options for both English and Japanese voice overs. I generally prefer the Japanese ones as the English voices can be obviously too cheesy at times not fitting the characters' personalities, so it is recommended to keep it pure with Japanese voices. The music consists of generic tunes when fighting with nothing that much memorable worth listening to, but it definitely sounds like a SNK fighting game.

Even though it is a rebirth for the franchise, I still feel slightly disappointed with the King of Fighters XII. The game had so much potential to be a proper fighting game with a good enough fighting system for both newcomers and veterans as well as a new visual style for the current generation, but the game just does not live up to standards these days in the console fighting genre of not being a complete package. It just feels like it was a straight up port from the arcade version with not many more features added to be worthy of the 60 dollars. Even with the lack of offline modes, the online is perhaps the most disappointing feature of them all with the majority of matches being filled with lag to a point of the match being unplayable not being able to execute something you wanted to. Sure, there are other complaints about this new KOF like where is this certain character or why is the roster of 22 (including two console exclusive characters Elizabeth and Mature) smaller to previous games (it used to be doubled in previous iterations). I'm assuming a sacrifice had to be made for the new art to come out and the fact that it is a reboot for the franchise. You may be able to get some decent hours out of King of Fighters XII, but don't expect this one to be a keeper for very long especially with better fighting games out there.

Score = 7/10

  • Fighting system still feels like KOF for both casual and hardcore audiences along with the new gameplay additions
  • Beautiful new visual style (characters, backgrounds, and animations look great) for the current generation
  • Lack of modes hurt the replay value significantly
  • Online play is very disappointing with latency issues post 1.01 patch
  • Roster may be disappointing to some (Like where's Mai for example?)
  • Overall, it does not feel like a complete package being a full retail priced game.

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