Last night, after reading lots of Ultimate Spider-Man, I sat down on my sofa with the KoF XII strategy guide, my arcade stick and seriously hit training mode with the goal of learning some of the intricacies of the game's engine. This resulted in me liking the game even more and my brain swimming in the possibilities available to the player.
If you're new to King of Fighters or, like me, have only played them casually in the past, buy this guide. It's written by a few players from SRK and is a well-written and informative guide. The writers take you through the basics of the game engine, discuss the strategy of team member selection, explain in detail the air and ground games and then discuss each character at great detail. The character's history is explained as are the bread and butter combos, super special moves and most effective critical counters. I'm not often impressed by guides but this one is absolute perfection.
I spent a lot of time perfecting my execution of super special moves, specifically Kyo's. I tend to perform the motion faster than necessary and this often results in a different move than expected. Once I was very good at that, I moved on to rolls and blow backs attacks. The roll is really good but hard to master. It provides some invincibility but is very unique to each character so it takes some time to get used to. The blow back is a brilliant idea in the series. It can be charged like a focus attack in SFIV but it doesn't absorb hits like focus does. The blow back can also be used in the air which adds a lot to the offensive game. I tried to work with the clash/deadlock/sousei system but the AI wasn't throwing enough projectiles for me to get the hang of it. After all of that, I decided to check out the newest addition to the series: the critical counter.
Critical countering really adds danger and excitement to the game. Once the CC meter is full, countering with a heavy punch will initiate a critical counter. The opponent is stunned and completely open to any combo imaginable as long as it's performed in the allotted time. The best way to take advantage of the CC system is to do a CC specific combo which then results in enough hit stun that a normal combo can be executed as soon as the timer runs out. Critical combos do a ton of damage and have the potential to be real game changers. To give you some idea of the seriousness of CCs, Terry's critical combos do 45%-65% damage. Once that CC meter lights up, extra caution is needed.
At the end of the evening, I had a much better understanding of the game, but there is much more to learn. I find more to like about this game every time I play it. My main team is almost decided: Kyo and Joe are definites. I like Sie Kensou but his play style is still a mystery. Iori is pretty hard to use. Athena is really good but her moves are a bit too slow.
The state of fighting games
2009 has seen a serious resurgence in the fighting genre. SFIV, BlazBlue and King of Fighters XII are all solid entries into the genre and have sparked interest in fighters that hasn't been seen since the early 90s. All three titles have a unique approach to the genre. While the gameplay is vastly different, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. BB is the ruler of online play. I've played a lot of good online matches and the options for room creation are impressive. SFIV seems to have the largest audience. It's really gotten a lot of people to look into the genre again. It has decent online play and lots of people to play against. KoF is probably the most technical of the three and it has my favorite graphical approach. The online is almost as good as SFIV, which isn't saying much, but Ignition is working to get SNK to fix the online. If that happens, and the online is as good as BB, then this will easily become the fighter to beat for me. I'm just glad that fighters have returned and that the audience has grown. No matter your preference, it's a great time to be a fighting game enthusiast.