If you’re a fan of old-school 2D fighters then this was undoubtedly the greatest E3 in years for you. On the back of Street Fighter IV, and between Samurai Showdown, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and the revival of Marvel vs. Capcom, you already had plenty to get excited about. Then comes along The King of Fighters XII to put the icing on the cake. I was lucky enough to play KoF XII at the show, and it was an absolute sight to behold. Even on the giant flatscreens the hand-drawn animation looked fantastic, and even at this unfinished stage of development the movements are as smooth as silk.
And yet I was slightly disappointed by the inclusion of some very old-style backgrounds. While the game allows you to fight in a variety of different locales – though as usual, they’re all just window dressing – they all felt very low-tech. SNK Playmore has gone through the trouble of making its characters very highly-tuned visually, but the backgrounds looks not to have progressed an iota since the late ‘90s. You know the type; the ones with assorted random people comprising less animation than a GIF in a forum poster’s signature. I can’t help but think that in modern times, if you’re planning to profit from a genre that has long since passed its prime, that you’ve got to bust out the stops and knock the presentation out of the park – in all aspects. Just look at Pac-Man Championship Edition, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. If you want to profit from a dead genre, don’t skimp on shiny things.
Thankfully, the lack of detail in the backgrounds is made up for by the spectacular detail of the fighters. Rumor has it that it was so time-consuming to draw and animate each fighter this time around that SNK Playmore were limited to the lowest character count in the series’ history – a paltry 20. The fighting itself sports the usual 3-on-3 system of five rounds, but the tactical shift mechanic from KoF 2003 has been removed.
As a huge fan of 2D fighting games, especially the King of Fighters series, I couldn’t be more excited to see this game release in the West. We’ll be keeping a close eye on The King of Fighters XII as it moves closer to its worldwide release date of July 28 2009 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360