The King of Fighters is a fighting game series made by SNK-Playmore, also known “SNKP”, which celebrated its 15 year anniversary with the release of its 12th installment (The King of Fighters XII) in 2009. However, if you were like me and picked up this game out of the anticipation for greatness, you realized shortly after playing that it was made up of complete and utterfailure. This was a surprising letdown since I wasn’t too fond of Street Fighter IV at the time, and only got BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger to tide me over until the main course came out… and I sent it back to the chef. Luckily, the King of Fighters XIII sets to remedy this, and is doing well so far.
-[ Scares brought upon by The King of Fighters XII ]
Problems of the King of Fighters XII were: Jagged-looking, pixilated sprites with no smoothing filter, and graphics in general; horrid online netcode for the console version, which seemed to be even worse than Soul Calibur IV’s (SNKP did patch this about 4 months after the game was released. However, most of the fan base, myself included, had already traded in this game for the pennies it was worth before SNKP made good on their promise.); no survivor battle modes like previous iterations, and the infamous “Critical Counter” system which made people spam their fierce punches and kicks like a blind man aiming at a piñata to start it off; however, you could do some unique things with this that lead to very broken combos, as witnessed by this video.
(Screen shot of the King of Fighters XII’s character selection screen)
To start off, it was the graphics. I remember my best friend, “J-Roc” saying that it appeared to him as “Playstation 1.5 Graphics“, which it actually reminded me of (I felt bad, because I actually talked J-Roc into buying this game, and he, as was I, was sorely disappointed). To say the least, I was also disappointed with how they looked, very large on screen yes, but very jagged and old school looking, it wasn’t cosmetically appealing in the least, the same could be said for the versus screen and character selection screens. I was expecting something bad ass and up-to-date, but I got something that seemed that wasn’t even up to the standards of previous generation consoles; I gave it my best but it wasn’t even worth looking at.
On top of this, the Critical Counter system, as they called it, could be use to start big combos but it wasn’t very practical at all; though, they tried. The fact that it activated automatically and drained down with time, made it so that you couldn’t utilize it when you thought it would be helpful. On top of this, it had to be a counter-hit that landed, and it had to be with either a Fierce Punch or Kick, depending on your character, to actually initiate the combo. Too many factors, and all too often you were standing there mashing it like a retard.
The main issue that put the nail in the coffin for me, and other die-hard fans was probably that the netcode was the worse I had ever seen for something coming out in this day and age. Laggy, slow, even someone complained on the Official Ignition Forums for The King of Fighters XII that he had a red bar connection for his friend that lived NEXT DOOR to him; if this doesn’t show the stupidity of their coding team, I don’t know what does. Though, I also read an article not too long ago at iPlayWinner.com talking about the working conditions and current situations that plagued the internal workings of SNK-Playmore, and I am beginning to understand why it happened the way it did, “In house coding”.
To make matters even worse was that the offline modes only really gave you versus to occupy your time; the fact that no survival modes were there, story mode, or mission modes made the game boring. I was left to grind achievements for fun, and even that became incredibly tiresome and tedious ((Even though I’ve gotten about EVERY offline achievement I could, except for the “King of Fighters” one which required me to defeat every single character, with every single character).
As one person on the Official Ignition Forums put it, “It feels as though I’ve just paid $60 for training mode… a training mode with not even the basic options of a conventional fighting game“.
-[ The Hope that The King of Fighters XIII Brings ]
(This early KoF XIII char select screen shot is missing K-Team, Takuma, Vice, and Hwa Jai)
Luckily, the system underwent a complete overhaul and is relying on new game play mechanics which completely removes the broken ( and impractical) Critical Counter system (Though, kudos SNKP for effort). Other things such as EX moves, Drive cancels, and NeoMAX abilities were implemented and supremely upgraded the game play, turning this into a tournament worthy game. Even small cosmetic changes such as the life bars and special gauges make this game look that much more beautiful. Add in some new levels, zoom the camera out to reduce the pixilated sprites (effectively smoothing out characters), even an AMAZING sound track. The select screen music (Listen Here) rivals that of Dead or Alive 2:Hardcore’s, “DOA” (Listen Here) in terms of likeability, and that isn’t an easy feat to achieve with me.
Also, this game sets the stage for the climax of the “Ash Crimson” saga, finally putting it to a fitting end. The King of Fighters XII seemed more like a “Dream Match” rather than an actual continuation of the story. SNKP’s forwarding the Saga to a close on top of the extra goodies and tweaks in the way of game play and appearance, it appears we now have a next generation fighter worthy of the King of Fighters name… or do we?
Many problems occurred in the first stages of the Arcade’s initial release. Infinites with Mature (View here) and Joe, Meter-less Ex attacks for Takuma and Goro, even some small bugs for characters like Vice’s throw or Ralf’s NeoMAX. Though complaints were heard, the game was still going strong and a new patch rose in the wake of all these problems (Version 1.1), putting a halt to all of these nuisances.
There are still many things wrong with the game, including balance changes and minor bugs that weren‘t addressed, but nothing that completely takes away from the fun and aspects which make this game enjoyable. The vast amount of tournaments, articles, and word-of-mouth praising the game are proof of that, and shows that that their hard work in reinventing this game is paying off… which is good news since I used KoF XII as a drink coaster before I traded it in.
-[ Any word on consoles? ]
Nothing as of yet, but there’s rumors in the fighting game community that we may hear an announcement for the console port soon (Something about it in the Japanese Game Magazine “Famitsu?”). Excellent to hear because I am growing impatient like many others, as well as hearing what little “extras” us console gamers may be getting.
The King of Fighters XII only had 20 characters in Arcades, however, we got two exclusive characters (Mature and Elizabeth Blantorche). The King of Fighters XIII has 31 playable characters, bringing back some fan favorites that were left out of XII, such as Mai Shiranu and K’DASH. Also places the characters into “Teams”, like previous installments of the series, such as “Team Women’s Fighters” and “Team Ikari Warriors”. So, I am hoping for a brand new team and even more characters. And some hopefuls would be, Oswald, a card carrying old man with swag and finesse; “The American Sports Team”, with fighters such as Heavy D and Lucky Glauber; and my favorite SNKP characters of all time, making his debut in “Garou: Mark of the Wolves”, Rock Howard (Though, not very likely, as we have yet to see him in anything besides GMOTW, Capcom vs. SNK 2, and Neo Geo: Battle Coliseum). Hopefully they listen to their fans and give us what we really want.
(Lately I got some hands on experience with KoF XIII. You can read about that in my previously blog here. Just scroll down to “Other Games” and find the “King of Fighters XIII” section)
(The rumored new fighters, or “Team” that may be console exclusive)
-[ Final Thoughts ]
From what I can see, it seems that SNKP has gotten things in perspective this time, and may be around to bounce back from the catastrophe of broken dreams that was The King of Fighters XII which had the subtitle, “King of Fighters Rebirth”. The 13th game in the franchise looks to breath new life into fans, and is doing well in it’s Arcade Debut and keeps fans hungry for more.
Though, the make it or break it for the console version, and the single factor ensuring this game’s longevity will be what exclusive characters, if any, it plans to release, and if SNKP keeps it’s promise on delivering a superb netcode that can rival the other modern fighters of today. I’ve played Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, The King of Fighters Ultimate Match 2002, and The King of Fighters XII, each having a very poor netcode, so I’m not too sure by their track record. However, if they do not deliver this time around, it could be the nail in the coffin for SNKP.