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Reviewed by Rich DeWester
ith the 12th installment of their venerable franchise comes SNK's aptly titled "King of Fighters XII." This is only the second “KoF” since SNK decided to drop the year from the name; it also marks the longest gap between releases. It's been four years since its last appearance in the arcade and three years since its last console release (on the Playstation 2). Following the pattern of their rival "Street Fighter" franchise, SNK has revamped their newest release with an amazing new look.
This game is beautifully illustrated – from its characters to the combat animations, nothing I've seen failed to impress. With its wonderful use of color and lighting, SNK has truly found a look to herald in a new age for their fighter. However, due to the massive amount of time spent on the game's redesign, they cut the huge roster down to a trim 20 fighters, and the removal of many fan favorites is sure to upset some of their core fans. The game could have also used a bit more work on the detail and variety of the backgrounds.
Your favorite fighter isn't the only thing you might find missing from the franchise update. As with a few of the older versions, SNK also removed the story in order to allow players to choose from their catalog of characters regardless of the timeline. They also removed the 2003 version’s tactical shift system and have replaced it with a few combat additions, like the new critical counter system. After filling up one bar and performing a counter on a heavy strike (kick, punch), critical counter enters a mode where you can chain together your attacks and pummel the ever-loving crap out of your opponent – and even better, after time has expired, you can finish off your opponent with a special move.
The most significant change is the three-on-three mode of fighting, which acts more as an elimination fight than the team battles you might be used to. No jump in/jump out, massive multi-combatant combos – just one fighter from each team enters and fights until one of them loses. Then a next fighter enters, and so on and so forth until there’s only one team standing. (I use the term "team" loosely, because they also got rid of their old team/stables from the older versions allowing you to choose your own.) There are also a few minor changes to the game’s fighting system, but only the more hardcore fans will notice; more casual players won't care about the new guard break tweaks.
And then there is the game's most glaring flaw: its online mode. With support for two through eight online multiplayer complete with leaderboards and achievements built in, you might assume, "Awesome, some replay ability,” but sadly, no. I don't know what the hell happened (whether it's SNK or Ignition who’s to blame), but this online clusterfuck can be summed up in one word: bullshit. This most likely untested mode is plagued by horrendous lag, which has rendered it pretty much unplayable (SNK has attempted to fix the issue via one of the most useless patches I've ever had to spend 10 minutes to download), so if you want to play against some friends, call them over.
Terrible multiplayer and missing characters aside, the game still remains a lot of fun to play, but with the recent emergence of new franchise favorite "Blazblue" and the re-release of the legendary "Marvel vs. Capcom 2," how much time do you see yourself spending on "King of Fighters XII"?