tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Oh, who would ever want to be king

c20100225_kof_01_cs1w1_640x395

Looks like King of Fighters XIII is en route.

(logo yoinked from Dengeki Online)

To be clear, I didn’t like KOF XII at all. I did pay $60 for the game, but in retrospect, my money would have probably been better spent on something else. And no, my complaints have little to do with the lacklustre console port – they all centre around what was done to the game system itself. General dumbing down, removal of anything that might be potential interesting and highly stripped-down movelists that made even my usual go-to KOF characters boring as hell to play. Oh yeah, and the stuff about the sprites being upscaled didn’t really help either.

To be honest, the fact that everyone’s complaint about the game seems to be ‘the game plays fine, but the port sucks’ just astounds me. I have to conclude that these people never really played the games that came before XII (the great KOF XI and KOF’98 Ultimate Match) and what came after it (the equally great KOF2002 Unlimited Match). I regard all of those games as superior to KOF XII in every way, simply because their systems were far more interesting. They may not have fancy fake-HD sprites with tons of frames, but they make up for it by actually being fun to play. XI took 2003’s incomplete tag system, fleshed it out and made it awesome; ‘98UM added new twists to a classic formula without breaking it (I actually have a reason to try and use the Extra mode meter and dodging now) and 2002UM addressed my only problems with the original game (crappy aesthetics and stripped-down movelists) while making enough system tweaks to be interesting.

Out of the new stuff KOF XII added, I only regard the Guard Attack and guard crush CDs as interesting, and the latter already made an appearance in KOF NeoWave (albeit in a slightly different form). Critical counters and deadlocks are too rare and too difficult to get to be of any consequence, and the changes they made to how close and far attacks work is just off-putting. Why the hell would I want Shen Woo’s close C from a full character length away?

Anyway, what does all of this have to do with KOF XIII?

Simply put, I’m not super confident about it. Based on a comment from Falcoon back in 2006 (shortly after XI’s arcade release), they worked on KOF XII for 3 1/2 years before releasing it, and the end result of that was a game that felt stripped down in every single way. Given also that the first build of the game at AOU 2009 didn’t even have super meters and most of the subsystems implemented, I’d say that the bulk of the time was spent on drawing those fancy new sprites. They’ve had a year to work on the game since then, but given that these sprites take so long to draw (SNKP themselves said it’s 16 months per character in terms of man-hours), I’m not expecting a major shakeup in the game system. Maybe everyone gets a new move or two, and we get 2-3 new characters at most.

Hey, maybe they’ll add super cancels! Or a multiple-level power meter! That’d truly be revolutionary.

So yeah. I’m keeping an eye on it, but I’m not holding my breath.

Nice logo though.

4 comments

GG SNKP

 

SNKP, you clowns :(

I don’t think this has been confirmed to be a console-only bug yet, but seriously, with all the crap you left out of this game you still managed to let moronic infinites like this through your playtesting process?!

This game is starting to resemble KOF2003 in more ways than one. Oh well, I guess I needed a coaster for my coffee mug.

12 comments

If this is what they mean by ‘re-birth’, screw reincarnation

Ever find your skepticism to be completely justified?

Everything about KOFXII’s game system feels weird. The game is definitely slower than XI, 98 and 2K2, no doubt about that. On top of that even stuff like jumping has had its timings changed. When I do what used to be a hyperhop in XI or ‘98UM my character flies across the screen to get an uppercut up his ass. On top of that timings for things as basic as Terry’s dB, dA, df+C, QCB+A combo have changed. The first KOF that comes to mind when I think of an equivalent in the games I’ve played is probably KOF2003, and considering how bad that game was I don’t think that’s a good sign.

I took a spin through single player mode, and immediately recalled KOF XI’s pretty good AI on normal difficulty – while not awesome, it at least tried to use human-like attack patterns on you. Iori would pressure you with hop Cs and Ds, Gato would regularly do his tap combo into punch super every time he got an opening, Kyo would try to stuff your pokes with his QCF+A autoguard, and so on. The reason I remembered this is because KOFXII’s normal difficulty AI is dumb as a brick. It jumps around randomly, spamming pokes and rolling out of the blue for no reason (making it perfect bait for a down B combo on recovery). Athena basically did her reflector something like five times in a row, only stopping after I smacked her with a DM. The only exception was Daimon who would use the bullshit autoguard on his HCF+P to blow through absolutely everything I did to him – even jump attacks.

Also if the AI somehow manages to land a critical counter on you it’s terrible of taking advantage of it. Andy tagged me with a counter close C so that he could do f+C….forward roll, nothing. And it doesn’t even get better as you get further in the game.

OK, fine, AI in fighting games isn’t typically known for being great, and the point of fighting games is versus mode anyway. But seriously, everything about this game screams ‘WE DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO FINISH THIS, BUT HERE IT IS ANYWAY.’ Practice mode doesn’t save your training settings (it did in previous KOF ports), there’s no way to go back to the character select menu from Practice mode, and there’s random slowdown all over the place in the front end, which looks like it was designed by some guy with a copy of Photoshop and a hard-on for Times New Roman.

The game also has some weird hitbox issues. I could swear my opponent and I passed through each other in mid-jump, and the hitboxes on ground attacks are messed up against opponents landing behind you. I managed to score a counter hit on someone who jumped over my Terry’s crouch C because he landed behind me and got smacked by the tail end of the hitbox while trying to poke me. Go figure.

And then of course there’s shit like this:

And on top of all that, I still think this game is a net loss in terms of depth from KOF XI.

I haven’t tried it online yet, mainly because I don’t know anyone else who has it on PS3 and because of the horror stories I’ve been hearing about people who have played it online. BlazBlue lets me play laglessly against my friend in Japan – I doubt KOF XII will give me anywhere near the same connection quality.

Oh, and regarding the sprite issue I brought up in an earlier post – I have a HDTV at home, and it is rather obvious that KOFXII’s sprites have been scaled up. While I can’t make out individual pixels on the BB sprites at about 5 feet away, it’s pretty easy in KOFXII.

On a happier note, I scored an S-video cable for my PS3 so I’m going to see if I can record some of the BlazBlue (and maybe KOFXII, if they ever fix the netcode) matches that I’ve been saving. In particular xephyris and myself had a great set of matches last weekend…I’ll be sure to post them up here once I’ve uploaded them somewhere.

UPDATE:

I tried playing online. The lag was so bad that the game was running at less than 1/2 speed, and some fuckwit who didn’t know how to play managed to beat me with his laggy Joe after I beat his other two characters with Kyo alone. RAGE

2 comments

Well that was unexpected

So apparently the downtown Gameworks got KOF XII and BlazBlue machines last week.

I guess I’ll be going downtown to get my ass kicked this weekend…

2 comments

SNKP does my work for me

For a while now, I’ve suspected something wasn’t quite right with the look of King of Fighters XII. Sure, I’ve ranted on and on about how the system they’ve put in place is less interesting to me than those of the other three most recent 2D KOF games, but what I’m talking about today is the actual look of the game – namely the sprites.

If you put screenshots from the two major high definition 2D fighters – BlazBlue and KOF XII – next to each other, one thing immediately becomes clear. The KOFXII sprites look incredibly pixelated compared to their BlazBlue brethren. If you don’t believe me, here are a couple of shots that you can tab between in your browser and verify for yourself:

BlazBlue shot

KOF XII shot

This was explained away in an earlier interview as SNKP preferring the ‘dot art’ look for their sprites. That didn’t really make sense to me, though – it’s possible to get the ‘KOF’ look for a high-resolution sprite without it looking incredibly pixelated. For instance, look at Akatsuki Blitzkampf, a game that runs at 640×480. At their native resolution, the sprites look sharp and don’t have the same problem KOF XII’s do.

My suspicions were only multiplied when I found out that the home port would have a filter option for the sprites. Why on earth would you need to apply a filter to sprites that were designed to be displayed at 720p? Sure, games like Guilty Gear XX have had soft filter options for whatever reason but they didn’t really need them.

As it turns out, I really should have just applied Occam’s razor and come to the obvious conclusion – the sprites were never drawn to be displayed at 720p to begin with.

SNKP launched a new site today lauding the awesomeness of the dot art approach they’re taking with KOF XII. One of the features is a dot art gallery that lets you see the new sprites in action. This gallery lets you view the sprites at 100%, 200% and 400% zoom.

This is the Kyo sprite on the website displayed at 100% zoom:

Kyo_XII 

Compare that to the Kyo sprite that we can see in the screenshot I linked above – it’s a lot smaller. In fact, the in-game sprite seems to line up more or less with the website sprite displayed at 200% zoom. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that the KOF XII sprites are in no way drawn at HD resolution (in this case 720p).

You might think this isn’t a really big deal to be making a fuss about, but honestly, from playing games like KOF XI, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum and Melty Blood that use low-res sprites on high-res backgrounds, the difference is honestly very visible and very jarring. If they weren’t going to draw these sprites with HD resolutions in mind, they should have just gone with a 480p game and made that look awesome.

Heck, that way they could probably have put it on a cheaper board, and might have even been able to put in all the stuff they had to cut. Like all the interesting mechanics and half the roster.

8 comments

“I used to rule the world…”

I could say much about what I think of King of Fighters XII (and indeed, I have, multiple times), but if anything the most telling thing about the game is the complete lack of high-level match videos in spite of the game having come out more than two weeks ago. We got a couple of batches of videos out of Portland where the game first showed up, and a small set of lousy videos off Nicodouga, and since then, nothing.

I mean, even bad games like SvC Chaos and KOF2003 had tons of videos in the weeks immediately after their release. On top of that, if you check the tournaments of places like A-cho, TRF and Game41, there are no KOF XII events scheduled at all (and if you look at TRF they in fact have regular Hokuto no Ken tournaments, and that’s a game that’s basically retarded at high level).

If anything all signs are pointing to a complete lack of interest in the game (moreso than usual for a new KOF game, at least), and part of me can’t help but think that someone at least should have seen that coming.

(Before you ask, I’m still getting the PS3 version along with BlazBlue, if only because they’ll look nice on my HDTV)

3 comments

The King of Steam

It looks like EA has finally decided to set up shop on Steam. The most interesting part of this venture is that the Steam-purchased versions of their games will not contain SecuROM DRM. This deal apparently extends only to current EA releases, such as Mass Effect, Warhammer Online and (unsurprisingly) Spore, but it looks like Mirror’s Edge, Red Alert 3 and Dead Space will be joining them shortly.

Steam’s built-in DRM is far less annoying than anything else on the market, in my opinion, so this is a good move, I’d say.


On to another topic – the recent King of Fighters XII location test.

My friend Perfect Stranger has posted pretty comprehensive impressions over at Orochinagi, so if you haven’t been following the news go read up on his thoughts here.

While I still like the way the game looks, the game itself is still not really impressing me that much. I’ve sort of gotten over the fact that the game doesn’t improve on the tagging system, but there are plenty of other things to complain about.

The main thing is that the game just feels incomplete at this point. I know that it’s technically not ‘complete’ yet (there are still four months before release) but we can assume that by this point they’re not going to be adding any more characters or major subsystems since they’ve already started public beta testing. At this point, not only does the roster feel small, the characters themselves seem to be exhibiting KOF2002 syndrome with small, stripped-down movelists.

A lot of comparisons are being drawn between this game and KOF’94, but that game actually let you use far standing normals to poke and control space effectively, and had DMs that you could actually combo into. It looks like SNKP is trying to get people to get into close range to use their strong attacks, but what’s actually happening is that players, noting that their standing normals have been nerfed, have resorted to using crouch Bs and Ds to poke and start combos instead, making for some rather boring matches overall. The minimalist system just doesn’t really seem like KOF to me, not after SNKP managed to hit two successive balls out of the park with KOFXI and KOF’98 Ultimate Match (with the upcoming KOF2002 Unlimited Match looking to follow in their footsteps).

The graphical makeover is astounding, but I still stand unimpressed.

1 comment