2D or not 2D, that is the question. Some say that itâ€™s a dying art form, but that it doesnâ€™t mean this fails to use the grunt that the Xbox 360 provides. The backdrops are beaming with colour and detail – even after notching up hours of play youâ€™ll still spot new things – and the animation is astounding with screen-filling special moves and some clever shadowing effects. The 2D characters are a little pixilated – especially when compared to the artwork found in Guilty Gear and Blazblue: Calamity Trigger – but they can be made smoother via an option in the menus. Donâ€™t make them too smooth though or they end up looking a tad blurry.
Amazingly, even though it has one dimension less than Street Fighter IV it feels remarkably similar. The character rooster is just as balanced while the online mode is also very alike. You need a bit of patience though – there arenâ€™t that many people playing online at the moment, so you might find yourself sitting in a lobby on your lonesome or having to play the CPU until somebody real turns up. Or if you decide to enter somebody elseâ€™s lobby then you have to wait until theyâ€™ve finished fighting before challenging them. You can pick from â€˜winner stays onâ€™ or â€˜looser stays onâ€™ but as thereâ€™s no points system (in Street Fighter IV points were added or deducted from your profile depending if you won or lost a match) itâ€™s not quite as enduring as Capcomâ€™s brawler.
The single player arcade mode has had a complete overhaul and is now set against the clock, which makes it seem more like a time trial mode than a story mode. There are five three-versus-three matches to play through with the average time it takes to finish being around the 10 minute mark. By wisely choosing a trio of fighters, learning their moves and thinking tactically about the order they fight in you can get that 10 minutes down to around half that. Or you could do what I did and just repeatedly use Joe Higashiâ€™s sliding attack. At the end of each round you can retry if youâ€™re not happy with your time, although you can only retry once. Thereâ€™s an achievement for clearing single player in three minutes and thirty seconds and according to TrueAchievments.com only 9% of people who own the game have done it. Now thatâ€™s something to aim for.
Have no fear about this being strictly for the hardcore – a â€˜simpleâ€™ attack mode makes The King of Fighters XII easy for novices to get to grips with. Instead of having to bash numerous buttons for special attacks you just have to hold the left stick at an angle and hit one button.
As bold as it is brash, and with a cast of varied characters – from a drunken and crooked old man to a chap that uses his pony tail as a whip – The King of Fighters XII is a joy to play. Street Fighter IV has a slightly bigger clout behind it, but this still ranks in as one of the Xbox 360â€™s best fighters. Thatâ€™s at least until Tekken 6 arrives and somebody gets round to releasing Blazblue: Calamity Trigger in the UK.