Pervasive Crisis of Authority XII

"All the stories, characters, and organisations in this game are fictitious."

So states a disclaimer in King of Fighters XII, the latest installment of SNK's venerable fighting series. As a fan since the series' inception, my anticipation was piqued by news of SNK's plans to revitalize the stalwart fighting franchise. How does this offering fare? At a time when the industry strives to break new ground in the evolution of gaming as a transcendent narrative medium, SNK stands firmly with one foot planted in the past. Like its ancient videogame ancestors, KOF XII is devoid of any tangible plot. Indeed, SNK went back to the drawing board. They went so far back, in fact, that there is no narrative at all. The game's sole mode of play lacks a boss or ending of any kind. As Pac-Man demonstrated decades ago, there is no need for resolution if there is no story to begin with. SNK still believes in this philosophy, apparently; in KOF XII they simply lay out the gameplay in its most basic form and tell players to have at it. This would be an almost Zen-like design choice if not for the wonky play mechanics and dearth of play modes, unlockables, or anything else resembling a substantial experience. The visuals appear to have received the bulk of SNK's attention during development, but sadly it is too little, too late. For what purported to be a bold leap into high definition gaming, the visuals are pixilated and unrefined, offering a glimpse back in time rather than to the future. While leaving one foot in the past, KOF XII does in a way represent a step forward for SNK. Unfortunately, that step appears to have been aimed directly into the grave.


Industry Hangover

Ah, back from Japan just in time for a brief jaunt into the cacophonous funnybooks-cum-media conglomerate fête known amorphously as Comic Con. The familiar stickiness in the air feels no different than the squelching humidity of a Tokyo summer, but there is a specific dissimilarity - its origin is the unwashed mass of humanity that descends annually upon this abstracted soirée of incestuous licensing interests.

Besides the complimentary booze, the highlight of SDCC09 thus far has been Sega's epic failure of a press event. Attempting their deftest marketing maneuver in years, Sega managed to showcase not only their lack of development prowess but a monumental misunderstanding of industry relations in the act of unveiling Iron Man 2: The Game (2? Or would that be Iron Man 2: The Game 1?), the successor to last year's abysmally acclaimed movie tie-in. Attempting to gratify the gaming press, Sega made the cheeky decision to explicity acknowledge the unparalleled mediocrity of their previous effort. An insultingly feeble attempt at appeasement by its lonesome, Sega managed to top themselves by screening footage of the equally atrocious sequel all the while. In plain sight before the media was a dated game design with PS2-era visuals for all to see. Is it any wonder Sega of America failed to win hearts and minds with their last attempt at martyrdom, the Dreamcast?