The King of Fighters "Rebirth" leaves much to be desired
Title: The King of Fighters XII
Release: July 24, 2009
Developer: SNK Playmore
Rating: T (Teen)
Publisher Ignition has done a fine job of labeling the latest King of Fighters as the “rebirth” of the franchise. In order to stay relevant, it is imperative that KOF changes its image and adapts to recent trends in fighting games. After months of hype and feverish anticipation, it is clear that the “rebirth” may have been premature. Buried under tons of make-up lies a skeleton structure of what KOF used to be.
How many years has it been since we last saw these fighters with a fresh coat of paint? Not only has each character been painstakingly redrawn and painted over, but they have also been re-imagined from a design point of view. Grapplers Ralf and Clark are now burly, thick mountain men while Kensou has morphed into a serious fighter in place of the Chinese, adolescent comic relief from past games. The end result is glorious adding a new spin on familiar fighters although many depictions come off looking vicious. The backgrounds are a celebration of battle. No stage is ever left empty. Virtually thousands of spectators, each with their distinctive movements, gestures and reactions, come to life for the King of Fighters tournament. The sad part is that there are only six stages in the entire game—and two of them are the same except one takes place in the day and the other is at night. The stages may be few, but they are expertly crafted and are some of the best found in fighting games today. The music, much like the stages, is teeming with quality. Each track fits the stage well and adds to the exhilaration of the matches.
Under the new visuals and music hides the core gameplay of King of Fighters XII which is functional if not a bit bewildering. Some fighters, like Terry Bogard, have had their wings clipped. Terry no longer has the power dunk, easily one of his most effective special attacks, while his remaining attacks have been made slightly weaker. These changes are common in fighting games that have to balance the strength of all fighters, but this series has been around fifteen years. Balance issues should have been worked out leading into the newest installment. These changes feel unnecessary and not well planned. New system mechanics include a charge-up attack called the “blow-back” attack that is un-blockable when fully charged. Another is the “guard block” that counters an attack with a strong move. These attacks seem to be copying Street Fighter IV’s “force move” but the attacks are useful and will most likely be implemented in many fighting games to come.
People will notice immediately the scarcity of content with King of Fighters XII. In addition to the lack of stages, the roster is the smallest group for a KOF game in years. Many classic characters like King, Rugal, Takuma and Mai are no where to be found. The game has no end boss while the replay value is hindered even more by the poorly coded online experience that is unplayable for the most part. Speaking of poor coding, technical glitches--such as the “handcuffing issue” when Raiden tries to use his desperation throw against Elizabeth--add insult to injury. The game is imbued with a feeling of unfulfilled ideas. The “rebirth” of the franchise feels rushed and will without question disappoint fans of the KOF universe.
Overall Rating: * * / 5
M. Michael Chwedyk "The Gamekok"- MuzikReviews.com Sr. Video Game Reviewer
August 9, 2009
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