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Published August 6, 2009

As a very passionate fan of Neo-Geo and SNK fighting game franchises, what more can I say to get my point across except that the King of Fighters XII, the super-hyped, HD-gilded entry of SNK’s legendary fighting series, is very, very disappointing.

From the moment eyes were granted glimpses of KOF XII, expectations have been high. For the first time in the series history, The King of Fighters was going high definition — super-detailed sprites and gorgeously animated backgrounds had both die-hard series fans and newcomers alike salivating at each new screenshot released. It comes with utter shock then, that in this resurgence of quality fighting games, what could have been (what should have been) the shot in the arm that KOF needed to regain a bit of the fighting-game spotlight, has turned out to be not only the most bare-bones 2D fighting game entry in recent years (across any console), but has managed to defy almost every fan-adored convention that the series has ever known at the same time.

At its heart, KOF has always been a team-based, 3-on-3 fighter with plenty of unique characters, a plethora of special moves, and an endless amount of variety. The amalgamation of characters from other Neo-Geo franchises as well as the fresh new fighters found in every new yearly installment have combined to create what can be argued as the most competitive runner-up that the Street Fighter series has ever known. If you’ve ever even heard of KOF before, you’d understand why XII has left me scratching my head: there’s the smallest character roster in franchise history, a shortened special move list for every fighter, and nothing resembling any kind of teams.


KOF 2002 Ultimate Match Roster


KOF XII Roster. Nowhere close.

But it doesn’t end there – when you add together that the game has nothing resembling any kind of a story, no new characters, character entrances, taunts or winning quotations, only one winning pose and the most lag-ridden online multiplayer ever seen – it almost seems as if KOF XII goes out of its way to prove that it’s the most feature-lacking, personality-deprived fighter on the market. And did I mention that there’s no boss? Did SNK really make this game?

I’ll stop short from saying that I don’t enjoy watching these gorgeous fights unfold – it’s high time the KOF crew looked new and snazzy. The fighting system also isn’t half bad – bigger sprites and a zoom-in, zoom-out stage scroll give a very different feel to every battle. With some improved net code, I’d be very excited to take on challengers online. If only.


Are you OK?!? BUSTA-Wahaahat the hell, why don’t I have that move!?!?

Still, it’s hard to get over the fact that The King of Fighters is an incredibly nostalgia-soaked series – one that’s always prized itself on being bigger and more consistent than the competition. This is hardly the “rebirth” that fans had in mind. To put it bluntly, it’s like watching an obese friend become amazingly thin over facebook photos, and then finally talking to them and realizing that they’re anorexic. Not a healthy improvement.

Whether character DLC comes down the pipe or not, the fact remains that, aside from visuals, there is less to KOF XII than almost every other fighter on the market, including several downloadable titles. Even King of Fighters 98 Ultimate Match –a port of the Japanese PS2 remake currently available on Xbox Live Arcade—has six times more content than this newest entry, and at one-sixth the price. Unless you’re a fighting game fanatic, it’s really hard to justify the $60 price of entry.

Here’s hoping that KOF XIII strikes more of a balance for the hardcore fans and newbies alike. This is one rebirth the parents are never going to be proud of – no matter how pretty it is.

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