This is the brightest, most colourful game you'll ever play. And that's a fact. No, don't even try and argue with this one. Forget about Beautiful Katamari, playing King of Fighters XII is like watching Chernobyl take place in a Haribo factory with its blinding mix of rainbow explosions, fizzy effects and eye-melting neons.
It's an apt visual style for a game that's fast and furious without ever needing Vin Diesel.
As the latest addition to the famous SNK fighting game series, KOF XII cranks up the speed and the colour in an attempt to match the huge stride into the mainstream made by Street Fighter IV. Its distinct style makes an impression immediately, in a similar way that Capcom's move to pseudo-3D garnered attention (good and bad).
KOF keeps the 2D, hand-drawn visuals of old, but updates them with a look so smooth and gorgeous you'll be checking the credits to see if anyone from Disney Pixar had a hand in crafting it.
Yet underneath the splendour, KOF still has the hardened and muscled body of a weight-pumping Schwarzenegger of yesteryear. It still has the hardcore mindset of its heritage, and while it's unlikely to hit the same level of success as Capcom's favourite fighters, KOF XII is still a damn good game.
It has a much faster, freer feel to it than any other fighting title on Xbox 360, which means that you'll soon be able to ping off combos and create a fireworks show with confidence. The Critical Counter adds to the mayhem, building up over the course of a bout.
When the bar is fully-charged and you successfully pull off a counter-hit, it'll activate, giving you a chance to create your own custom combo. It sounds tricky, but it's easy enough once the gloves are off. This is a perfect show of the game's graphics engine, with zoom-ins and fireworks coming off the melee like enthusiastic New Year celebrations.
Claiming the throne
In the days where fighting games are a rare beast rather than console King, developers have to balance accessibility with veteran familiarity if they're to make an impact. King of Fighters XII manages to welcome both old fans of the series and newcomers into the fold. If you're the former, you have the new Critical Counter to play around with, along with seeing what changes have taken place to old faces.
Joe, Clark, Athena and Kensou are just a few that play radically different to what people might remember. You're also able to have a moan about some missing links in the otherwise strong lineup of fighters (such as the continued question in the office of what happened to fan favourite Mai?).
For the newcomers? It's got to be the marriage between the gorgeous visuals and the lightning-fast gameplay that's the most important, ensuring your thumbs don't easily get bored.
The only weakness is an overreliance on the online mode. There's no challenge mode, no survival, no time attack - just Arcade, Versus, Online and a Gallery.
Which is a shame because it means that KOF XII can't claim an outright victory over any of its genre rivals, despite looking so fresh and playing so swiftly. We were looking for something new, something robust, that would mean KOF could easily go toe-to-toe with Virtua Fighter or even Soul Calibur in terms of extra modes.
As it stands, it just about holds its own, but if you don't have broadband or fighting-fan friends, it's over in the blink of an eye. If your fighting game sweet tooth hasn't been satisfied by Street Fighter IV, this colourful pick 'n' mix should do the trick.
A great series addition for fans and newcomers
- Looks incredible
- Feels fresh
- Fast and fun to play
- Needs more modes
- Won't convert genre haters