I finally had a chance to play King of Fighters XII last night and practice up for the big KOF Tournament next weekend in LA so I thought it would be a good idea to post up my initial impressions of the game. Bear with me in that this was the first time I had played a KOF game since like KOF '98..or maybe that one time I played 2002 in the arcade and got stomped by some 14 yr old kid, but anyway, yeah it's been a long time. Also, outside of SNK's website and a few threads on SRK, information on the actual game play system is fairly sparse so I didn't have much of a reference while playing.
Visually, as most of you know the game looks great. Everything from the backgrounds to the characters to the special effects have a ton of detail and it definitely gave me the sense that I was playing GAROU or SF3: 3s due to the fluid animation and speed. The visuals in KOFXII were quite refreshing since I've been playing Street Fighter 4 and BlazBlue so much over the past couple months. BlazBlue and Street Fighter 4 look great of course, but many of the animations in King of Fighters XII are much more fluid than anything else on the market right now.
The game obviously plays differently than CAPCOM and ARC System Works games and it took me a minute to get used to the controls, button layout and combo system. I found doing combos for certain characters (Kyo, Kim, Ryo) was far easier than combos with some other characters (Leona, Elizabeth, Iori) due to their more straight forward move sets. In previous games Iori has always been one of the characters on my team but they changed him so much that I really had no idea where to start with him. Kyo on the other hand, (another character I like to play in KOF series) was far easier to pick up and grasp since his move set is largely the same as previous games. Overall the majority of the cast was fairly easy to pick up and play, especially the grappler characters like Goro.
Probably the most satisfying aspect of King of Fighters XII is the Critical Counter system which is far easier to pick up than I had originally thought. It is essentially a custom combo system that activates when you land a standing Strong Attack (C) on counter hit and have an active Critical Counter meter (which depletes over time - nice touch to keep things somewhat balanced). Once you land the Strong Attack, you will see a large flash and a pause that indicates that its time to well, serve up a massive beat down to your opponent! You can easily link together any attacks you want and finish off with a super. There are a ton of serious combos you can do, linking multiple special moves and what not, but even if you are new to the game you wont have any problem creating your own sick looking combos.