I love retro games. A good feeling washes over me when I’m told that a game I used to love as a younger gamer in the 16-bit era is turning up on XBLA. One great example of this was Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting. The problem is when you actually play the re-conditioned retro game it suddenly looks and feels really old and you realise that technology has moved on for a very good reason. Old games just aren’t what they were. That is the power of rose-tinted glasses.
What has this got to do with the latest incarnation of the King of Fighters series I hear you ask. Well, King of Fighters is a full price game, no XBLA rehash attempt to pull in a few pennies. The back cover of the game tells us to ‘Witness the rebirth of a king!”. It goes on to inform us that we’ll experience “unprecedented next-generation features, including high-definition hand drawn visuals”. Quite a promise really.
Lets not forget that this is a game with a 15 year history, starting back in 1994 on the ill-fated Neo Geo. Since then it’s done the rounds on the Game Boy, , the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast, the Playstation and featured on the PC too. The last game in the series, aptly titled “King of Fighters XI”, was released back in 2005 and received a good reception with scores around 75% on Metacritic. Unfortunately previous titles in the series have never got above the 7/10 mark so with renewed hope and certainly some convincing artwork and bold statements, the hope was that this was the game that would make the series.
Unfortunately it doesn’t start well. To be fair the opening visuals are great, this was the “high-definition hand drawn visuals” they spoke of on the back cover. Once we get into the opening menu though it feels and looks like something put together as a class project at school. Even then the class would only get a ‘C-’, if that. Once you get into the game, which has no storyline at all, you can see the hard work that’s been put into the hand-drawn visuals, and yes they do look good. But high-definition? Hell no. I thought blocky characters were a thing of the past. Surely if you’ve gone to great lengths to hand draw the main elements of the game you’re going to represent them in-game as well as possible. Why the blocky edges? Yes, you can turn on anti-aliasing in the options but all this does is turn a block character into a blurry one and I wear glasses to get rid of blurry images.
However, not wanting to be a king of negativity, the actual fights are enjoyable. Animation is well done and the backgrounds do go well with the game, complementing the areas you’re supposedly fighting in. The characters available for you are varied and all have their own niche. Each game is made up teams of 3 v 3. As your character defeats and rival team member they are replaced by another of their three. Defeat their three team members before they’ve defeated yours and you’ve won. Simples. Do that five times and its confetti time. (Not that there is any confetti. They’d have had to hand draw it.)
It’s just disappointing overall. The single player game is just a round of matches upon which you ultimately get crowned the winner after five rounds of three matches, chuck in a quick Congratulations fanfare and it’s back to the menu screen that still grates even as I write this. There’s multi player in their too, as well as a replay mode where you can watch the matches you’ve just been slaughtered in.
I did enjoy the single player matches I played. I enjoyed playing it for about thirty minutes, winning the five matches and being crowned King of Fighters. Then I wondered what I did next. I hoped for more from this game and unfortunately it didn’t deliver. Die-hard fighting game fans only need apply.
Or maybe I’ve just lost my love for fighting games. You tell me. Leave your comments below – if you’ve played the game what did you think of it?
King of Fighters XII – Review,