Xbox 360 Review: The King of Fighters XII

15 years in and KoF is looking tired…

Gaming’s most revered 3-on-3 fighting franchise celebrates its 15th anniversary with its most ambitious entry to date: The King of Fighters XII. Gathering over 20 beautifully hand-drawn 2D characters from SNK’s storied arcade history, KOFXII promises to live up to the expectations of next-gen console owners with compelling gameplay, hi- resolution graphics and best of all….intense online combat!

From professional martial artists to everyday street fighters, no one is turned away, making the tournament a battlefield for fighters of all disciplines – Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Karate, Aikido, Chinese Kenpo & Tae Kwon Do.
Over the past few years, I’ve played more or less every King of Fighters game in collection games that SNK released for the PS2. I had a good time with each one but there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of difference between them. I’ve always wanted the series to come to the next-gen systems and now it is, but it’s a simple case of “be careful what you wish for”.

The trouble is that King of Fighters XII is 100% 2D and pixelated. It claims to be in high-resolution, but on my TV it looks awful. The menus are perhaps the only crisp thing to be seen. Sure, the pixels are well detailed and animated…but it doesn’t look like it should be a full price title. It always confused me why SNK didn’t bring the series to XBLA and it would have made perfect sense for them to do so with XII. For a full price game, King of Fighters XII doesn’t really do enough to justify itself.

The good news is that it’s a perfectly good fighting game; it just lacks that bit of polish to make it stand out from its rivals…mainly Street Fighter IV. Now, if SNK made a game like that…then Capcom would have to be worried. But since they seem to keep making games that look this dated for full price, I’m not worried that they are contenders for the crown. It’s a shame too because I can see the potential for the game. It’s challenging and engaging, but the online is in need of a serious patch and the achievements are perhaps the most frustrating and time consuming I have come across in a fighting game. I know I won’t be earning them.
It just feels like SNK has run out of fresh ideas with the franchise and its beginning to show its age. It needs a proper revival with 2.5D visuals, real High-Definition and an online that works and makes you want to continue playing, all things which KoF XII fails to deliver on. It would have benefited more even if it had options to smooth the visuals like SEGA have done for their XBLA games…at least it wouldn’t look as bad then.

Of course if you haven’t picked up on it yet, the biggest problem is releasing this as a full game. It feels like it belongs on XBLA instead of on a disc. SNK have made a bad choice here and I’m sure they will come to regret it in time. I hate beating a game into submission, but with King of Fighters XII…I feel I have no choice to warn you. It’s not value for money and if you have a HDTV, it will look terrible.

The Verdict

Despite the complaints over price, tired gameplay and visuals. King of Fighters XII is still a decent fighter…it just belongs as a downloadable game and not a full one. If you can see past that and have some spare cash, then this could be the fighter for you…