King of Fighters is renowned for its groundbreaking 3-on-3 gameplay elements, and in the world of Street Fighter, King of Fighters has been Megadeth in the Metallica-Megadeth feud. Save your opinions on the quality of both bands, because I'm talking strictly about the popularity of both franchises. With the resurgence of the fighting genre, SNK has taken a note and have been developing the twelfth KOF game for quite a while, and this utilizing an all new arcade system, abandoning Atomiswave for Taito's Type X2.
Boasting a total of 20 fighters (more will be made for the console releases), this KOF game is actually quite a radical departure from the past games, which have been known to feature nearly double that amount. But with games like Street Fighter IV, Super SFII Turbo HD, and Virtua Fighter V boasting a similar number of fighters, 20+ is still a very acceptable by today's standards. The primary reason why KOF strays from featuring an excessive amount of fighters is largely due to the length it took SNK's developers to create one fighter.
Because the game utilizes all new hand-drawn sprites, for absolutely every piece of aesthetic detail, it took SNK as long as a year and a half to have a team of ten people finish work on one fighter. Even though the workforce behind KOF12 was decently sized, if you do the math you realize that it took quite a bit of time and manpower to develop the game, possibly as many as three years (assuming 100 people on character creation duty). So far, based on the fighters available in the arcade version, you can expect to see the following appear in KOF 12:
As already mentioned, SNK plans to add additional fighters for the console releases, which are bound for the PS3 and Xbox 360. We don't know exactly how many new console-specific fighters are planned, but considering how long it takes to make one fighter, don't expect more than four…if even. The characters featured in the game are from the earlier entries in the series, with the exception of a select few fighters. Because the fighters are from older KOF games, they will also wear their original KOF outfits, as well. Now, it must also be mentioned that there is no storyline in the game, so there will be no tie into the KOF2003's story in any form.
Gameplay has returned to a four button layout, with the 3-on-3 matches consisting of five rounds each. Tactical Shift is gone, but a Critical Counter mechanic and a Clash mechanic has been introduced. Critical Counter is engaged when one player counters an attack with a strong punch, which then sets off the mechanic, putting the player into a mode that'll give them a brief window to allow them to string a small attack combo. And if your timing is solid, you can even pull off a special attack as your Critical Counter time expires.
The Clash system is similar to Street Fighter's parry system, in which when both fighters strike simultaneously using the same attack, the game will break the characters up by splitting them up, creating distance. Then there are the Guard Breaks and the Super gauge acts like it did in KOF94, slowly depleting once it's reached Max.
From the videos and screens that I've seen, KOF12 looks absolutely gorgeous. The hand-drawn visuals look smooth and stunning, and it's certainly nice to see the game's fighters rendered in an all new look. The color palette is stunning and the backgrounds are a sight to see. All of what I've watched has been arcade footage, so it remains to be seen what the console games will look like, but we're fairly confident we'll be given a fantastic product.
The arcade version of the game has just hit locations across Japan and the United States, but if you wait a little bit, your home console version will arrive this Summer, with SNK currently sticking to a July 2009 release.