As we have a nice little contingent of The King of Fighters fans on staff here at Diehard GameFAN, it’s no surprise that we’ve had our eye on KoF XII for a while. Hell, we all know I’m arguably the biggest Terry Bogard mark out there (Just look at my character art for the site!). This is the first KoF game for the 360 and PS3, although the Wii has recieved a port of the Orochi Saga collection.
Ignition Entertainment will be the publisher bringing the console version KoF XII (much as they did with SNK’s award winning tradtional shooter Metal Slug 7.) to North American shores in July (At the time of this writing the tenative release dateis July 7th. Meanwhile, there are a few arcades that have coin-op cabinets of KoF XII here in the US. Go find one already!). Ignition’s Director of Business Development, Shane Bettenhausen, was kind enough to sit down and answer several of my questions on this latest entry into SNK Playmore’s best known franchise.
DHGF: King of Fighters XII is using the Taito Type X² arcade boards, which is a change from King of Fighters XI which was still using Sammy’s Atomiswave. I know that KoF Ultimate Match ‘98 and the newest KoF: Maximum Impact used Taito boards. What was the decision behind switching to Taito for KoF games, and how well does the board’s technology transfer over to console ports ala Sega’s old Naomi boards, of which the Atomiswave was an offshoot?
SB: The King of Fighters XII development team at SNK PLAYMORE have been incredibly pleased with the performance and flexibility offered by the Taito Type X2 arcade platform, and they feel that it delivers remarkably solid performance while remaining relatively affordable for coin-op operators. The home console versions of KOF XII aren’t really ports, however—the game was simultaneously developed from the ground up across the arcade, PS3, and Xbox 360.
DHGF: KoF XII uses all new sprites for each character in the game. What was the decision behind going with all new art for the first time in well, quite some time for SNK?
SB: Recycling sprites has been a common industry practice in the realm of 2D fighters for 20 years, but repurposing the same old low-resolution characters in the era of HD displays and heightened visual expectations simply isn’t acceptable. So even though it required an immense amount of manpower and artwork production, SNK PLAYMORE started fresh with all-new sprites for KOF XII. This game is viewed as a reboot and rebirth for the entire franchise.
DHGF: There are only 20 characters in KoF XII, which is a huge reduction from previous games. How do you think this will affect gamers who will no doubt miss being able to play as say, Mai, Shingo, Geese, or one of many other classic SNK characters?
SB: It’s true that KOF XII offers fewer selectable fighters when compared to a game with a massive roster such as KOF ’98 Ultimate Match, but the amount of artistic effort and gameplay consideration that went into each fighter is astounding. Many of the most enduring KOF stars have even undergone substantial move set changes for KOF XII—you may now have to re-learn your favorite fighter. And as for fans who are bemoaning the absence of specific characters, we’re sorry that there simply isn’t room to include everyone in this installment. Trust me, I’d love to have Yamazaki back, but he simply didn’t make the cut this time. We’d love for the fans to keep being vocal about who they’d like to see return in future games, though….
DHGF: In viewing some of the sprite designs, many characters have dropped their newer outfits and have returned to their original or “Classic” SNK looks. In fact it appears that aside from the much maligned Ash Crimson trio, there are no characters in KoF XII pre-KoF 1999. Why is that?
SB: To go along with the game’s central “Rebirth of KOF” theme, the designers purposefully returned to the classic KOF ’94 costumes and move sets for many of the returning fighters. And you’re right that veteran faces from earlier games dominate the roster, as SNK PLAYMORE truly wanted to distill the experience to create a very pure KOF game that speaks to the longtime fans.
DHGF: Speaking of Ash Crimson and his teammates Duo Lon and Shen Woo, this trio of characters is pretty much the largest complaint about the series these days from North American fans. SNK fans on this side of the Pacific simply seem to hate them. As the Ash Crimson storyline has been completely dropped for this game, why were they still included when, at least in North American and Europe, they are pretty reviled (and not in a “love to hate” sort of way)?
SB: I can’t stand idly by while you insult the esteemed modern KOF protagonist, Ash Crimson. Sure, his outlandish fashion sense might be a bit too Japanese for some Western players to stomach, but he’s definitely one of the most nuanced and improved characters in KOF XII. I think that many of the Ash haters will be won over after seeing how far he’s come in this game, and how incredibly effective his moves can be. And although his story arc isn’t progressed in this game, we fully expect to receive an entertaining resolution to the Ash Crimson Saga in the future.
DHGF: KoF XII is the first SNK game being directly released for the PS3/360 (Alex’s Note to Readers: Metal Slug 7 was eventually released for the 360 as DLC, but it first appeared on the Nintendo DS). What made SNK decide to finally release games for these systems instead of sticking with the PS2?
SB: The PlayStation 2 wouldn’t be able to handle an arcade-perfect rendition of KOF XII’s high-resolution visuals, nor does it provide the universal online infrastructure of the PS3 and Xbox 360. It’s a fallacy to think that just because KOF XII remains a traditional 2D fighter it shouldn’t be rightfully considered a “next-gen” title. KOF continues to have a presence on PS2, however, as KOF ’98 Ultimate Match launched in the U.S. earlier this year, and SNK PLAYMORE recently launched KOF 2002 Ultimate Match for PS2 in Japan.
DHGF: It has been said that the home release of KoFXII will feature extra characters not seen in the arcade game. How many more characters will there be, will they also have the new sprite designs, and can we have a few names? (Geese and Yuri please!)
SB: The home version will feature exclusive playable characters, and yes, they will be sporting all-new, redrawn sprites. Sadly, we can’t tell you who they are quite yet….
SB: Rugal’s wax stamp traditionally appears on invites to the King of Fighters tournaments, as it is his idea to arrange a meeting of the fists to determine who the world’s strongest fighter is. Whether or not he’ll deign to dirty his snazzy tuxedo by engaging in fisticuffs remains to be seen, however….
DHGF: The PS3 version of KoF XII is reported to be 2-6 players and yet the 360 version is only 2-4. Why the difference?
SB: Precise details regarding online play have yet to be announced to the public, but rest assured that both versions will allow for the same number of players to crowd into online lobbies for long-distance battles.
DHGF: Besides the arcade mode, will there be any new modes available for the home versions of KoF XII?
SB: The addition of various online modes constitutes the biggest addition over the arcade version, but you can also look forward to a meaty practice mode, perfect for acclimating to the substantially reworked gameplay systems. Plus, SNK PLAYMORE has also added a cool art gallery mode showcasing the game’s nifty hand-drawn artwork.
SB: Ignition Entertainment’s partnership with SNK PLAYMORE has only just begun to bear fruit, so keep your eyes open for future announcements regarding the return of beloved properties from the past. Pay attention at this year’s E3 Expo and you might hear something exciting!
Again, the current console release date for The King of Fighters XII is July 7th, 2009. To learn more about the game head on over to the official website for the game or preorder it from Amazon.com or EBGames.com. Check back with DHGF in July, as you KNOW we’ll be reviewing the game one it hits consoles.