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.