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Position in the series
Saga/Story Arc
Is it canonical?
Tales of Ash
Dream Match



The King of Fighters XII (ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ XIIトゥエルブ) is the twelfth installment in The King of Fighters series.

Much like with The King of Fighters '98 and The King of Fighters 2002, this game is more of a "Dream Match" title, and does not have a story, although there are character backstories unique for this title. The series' canon storyline would resume would continue in the next installment, The King of Fighters XIII, which also would serve as the conclusion of the Tales of Ash Saga.

The main illustrations were done by Eisuke Ogura.


The game underwent a complete graphical overhaul, confirmed by Nona, artist in charge of the art in the The King of Fighters XI endings. All the sprites used in previous games for over 10 years were to be dropped and replaced with new high definition sprites. The programmers have stated their intention was to create the "ultimate 2D fighting game". Nona reaffirmed this once again in The King of Fighters Year End Party 2006 in Tokyo.

SNK Overseas Manager Yoshihito Koyama revealed that the game was going to be "3D mixed with 2D"; this led to speculation that the game could use cel-shading to give the game a 2D look, but it was later revealed at AOU 2008 that KOF XII would use newly-drawn 2D sprites on detailed 2D backgrounds. Producer Masaaki Kukino informed Kotaku that the game is one hundred percent hand drawn, there being zero cell shading in the game. He has also stated that the main goal of the game is to give a new "rebirth" to the series. They have no intention of changing the main series into 3D in the future. The staff decided to create the new graphics during 2005 and 2006, and commented that they spent triple the amount of time developing it than the previous game.

In an interview with Fighters Front Line, Kukino replies that each character took 16~17 months to complete with a team of 10 different designers. Additionally, the sprites were personally checked by Nona for quality. Due to the time demands of drawing such detailed frames of animation, as well as the decision not to incorporate older assets as previous games in the series have, there are only 20 playable characters, the lowest number ever in a game from this series. An interview with Kukino revealed that there would be console exclusive characters.

On February 14, 2008, the first gameplay footage was revealed to the world showcasing the new, much larger, higher-resolution pixel art sprites at the Arcade Operators Union Amusement Expo (AOU) 2008. The footage also revealed the presences of Benimaru Nikaido, Terry Bogard (reverting to his original Fatal Fury outfit), Athena Asamiya and Kim Kaphwan in KOF XII. A location test was scheduled in Japan for April 18–20, 2008, but was canceled for unknown reasons. Kukino later stated in an interview this was done because the staff felt they should show a more polished product than the beta they had at the time. There was also a recruiting ad for part-time positions on SNK's Japanese website, asking particularly for a game graphic designer with experience in animation and color design.

In March 2008, SNK Playmore has announced that it is abandoning the Atomiswave system and is moving its most popular game franchises to the Taito Type X2 arcade system. In addition to KOF XII, KOF Maximum Impact: Regulation A and a new Samurai Shodown game in 3D were released on the new arcade system.

A playable demo was available to the public at the 46th AOU on September 18, 2008 and the 2008 Tokyo Game Show on October 9, 2008. The January location test featured a new visual layout unlike those seen in the past. Macha Yusa stated that the last location test would take place on February 27~March 4 this year. However, news of another location test popped up for March 6~8.

Game Mechanics

KOF XII uses the traditional 3-on-3 team system with each fight consisting of 5 rounds. The Multi-Shift System from The King of Fighters 2003 had been removed. Since there is no story for this installment, there are no default teams or team endings in the roster, so players are free to make whatever teams they desire.

Gameplay of Andy vs. Mature

The game returned to its standard four button layout. Players can still dash, backstep, and perform rolls as their evade. Recovery rolls can be done with any button and throws are now performed by holding a direction and tapping A+C when close. The C+D attacks are still present but the Guard Breaks from previous games (pressing C+D while blocking with a block of super energy) can now be done at any time. Super special moves are now executed in real-time and in a similar manner as The King of Fighters '94 with a single-level Super Gauge.

The newest addition to the game system are "Critical Counters". When the Critical Counter gauge located beneath a character's lifebar is full, the player can time their attack to clash with their opponent's blow and leave them open for a devastating attack. After a successful counter, the player with the advantage can dash, combo, and even perform a special finisher attack with their character's desperation move. The time frame for this effect lasts as long as the green colored ripple from the clash is on screen; once it dissipates, the damage boost from the Critical Counter ends. Counters can be done on the ground or while airborne. The clashes of Critical Counters only occur when strong attacks (or certain moves performed with strong attacks) connect simultaneously.

Other additions include a new "Guard Attack" feature which allows a fighter to intercept and hit an incoming opponent's strike damage-free (even Desperation Moves can be repelled in this fashion). Finally, there is also a "clash" system in place (called the Sousai or "Deadlock") whereupon every time characters land blows on one another with matched timing, the engine will generate a 'break' effect and push the characters away from one another into a neutral standing.

Each stage has two types of themes played for it. Depending on the stage, the themes can work with the depicted stage ambiance or play a standard musical riff. The music staff from the previous title were in charge of overseeing the production but were not the ones conducting the music. As a side note, the music played during the trailer is included as a track in the game.


This game is the first of the series which some characters earns new voice actors. They are: Robert, Ralf, Chin, Kim and Raiden. Ryo also earns a new Japanese voice actor, but returns to his original voice actor in The King of Fighters XIII. This game is also the only mainline entry of the series with English voices (the others are the Maximum Impact series and KOF Sky Stage).

The only new character added to the series roster is:

Raiden kofXII.jpg
Raiden, from the Fatal Fury series, appears in The King of Fighters XII. He is a pro wrestler and former criminal of Geese Howard.

Official Roster

Characters who were in the initial Arcade release and home consoles.


Ash Crimson


Duo Lon


Shen Woo


Kyo Kusanagi


Benimaru Nikaido


Goro Daimon


Terry Bogard

Andy stand.gif

Andy Bogard


Joe Higashi


Ryo Sakazaki


Robert Garcia


Leona Heidern


Ralf Jones


Clark Still


Athena Asamiya


Sie Kensou


Chin Gentsai


Iori Yagami


Kim Kaphwan



Console Exclusive Characters

Characters who are exclusive to the home consoles.


Elisabeth Blanctorche



Related Media

To promote the game, SNK announced a cellphone series called KOFXII Tokusetsu Corner for the Yahoo and imode Japanese networks on August 1, 2008. Each volume features an original story and bio information for three characters that will be in the game's lineup (revealed to be Ash, Kyo, and Terry). The style that these are presented in is similar to the in-game profiles of KOF: Maximum Impact 2. These novelizations were later added to the character profiles on the official website.

On April 23, the series also had a collaboration event with the Japanese artsite, pixiv. For people who have a pivix account, the entries can be seen here.


Note: With exception of Russia Stage, all stages also can be seen in The King of Fighters XIII, with some changes.
Stage's Name
Zhouzhaung, China
A pier next to a river, in the city of Zhouzhuang. Can be seen people cheering in boats, animals, Chinese lanterns, houses and some sales items. The sky is partially cloudy.
Giza, Egypt
A big cult in the city of Giza. Can be seen statue vipers, the worshipers, fire pyres, bands and, in the background, the famous monuments of the city, besides the famous logo of the game.
Menton, France
A street next to the Mediterranean Sea, in the city of Menton, at a sunny day. Can be seen people cherring, sitting in tables, sun umbrellas, typical buildings, a veichle and orca whales jumping.
Red Square, Moscow, Russia
An ice ring next to the Red Square, in Moscow, in a winter night. Can be seen Christmas trees and lights, people cheering, some holding the Russian flag with the logo of the game, a giant full moon and the Kremlin, in the background. Also can be spotted an ice statue and the game's name under the Russian flag.
A big stadium in two versions. In the first, it's day and can be seen spotlights, a crowd, various flags, an amusement park and a screen showing the fight, in the background. Also can be spotted the game's name and logo in a zeppelin, in the ground and under the screen. In the other, it's night, the stage is partially empty and can be seen fireworks.

Critical Reception

During the 2009 E3, IGN awarded KOF XII as the best fighting game, noting the new graphics as well as the gameplay. On the other hand, in the Game Critics Awards from the E3 2009, KOF XII lost to Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars in the same category. It also won three Best Fighting Game of E3 2009 awards from GameSpot, and GameSpy.

Prior to its release, various video games publications have commented on KOF XII. Ryan Clements from IGN celebrated the new graphics as among the best that a 2D game could have. Although he noted the gameplay to be very similar to previous KOF games, he found satisfying the new game mechanics that allow players to counterattack opponents' combos. 1UP writer Richard Li found the gameplay to be a mix between Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Street Fighter III and The King of Fighters '94. Like Clements, Li found the gameplay similar to previous titles from the series, but noted that SNK added new revisions which make the game to be "a new experience." McKinley Noble from GamePro also liked the game's graphics, but most notably the background scenery of a European villa, which he noted to be a good example of the new design. Although he lamented the removal of various mechanics featured in previous games such as the Tactical Shift System, Noble liked the addition of the new critical counter systems as "split-second timing is a critical key for pulling out a decisive victory." Andy Eddy from found the new art style to be a bit weird due to the interpretations from various cultures as shown in the backgrounds as well due to the fact they are distracting from the fights. However, he liked the cast of playable character as well as the addition of Elizabeth and Mature to the home versions due their new designs and fighting styles.

Shortly following the release of the game, critical response has mostly been average or mixed. It received a C from 1UP's Richard Li who notes that various parts of the game would induce players to "rage quit" out of their matches. Graphics were commented to be initially good, but later criticized due how different some characters look in this game from previous KOF titles. IGN's Ryan Clements commented that despite graphical overhaul the game was "disappointing". He found the new graphics to be "smoothly animated", but added that the backgrounds are limited. Although Andrew Park from GameSpot praised the redesign from several characters' appearances and gameplay, he still noted that there are better 2D fighting video games due to how several features added in KOF XI were removed from KOF XII and the poor quality from the online mode. GamingAge's Jim Cordeira gave it a C+ commenting "It's a reboot/re-birth alright, albeit a seemingly unfinished one." Although he also added that KOF XII "is a good enough start", he remarked that other fighting games such as Street Fighter IV or BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger were more entertaining.

While KOF XII was received with mixed reception by critics, the game was received extremely negatively by KOF fans. It is generally considered by fans to be the weakest game of the mainline series. This is primarily due to its very small selection of 22 characters, which is less than The King of Fighters '94 (KOF '94, the first game in the series, had 25 (plus Rugal, the final boss). The character selection also lacks many of the series mainstays, such as K', Maxima, King and Yuri Sakazaki. The absence of mainstay character Mai Shiranui was particularly controversial among fans, leading to the catchphrase "No Mai, No Buy". These characters would be brought back in The King of Fighters XIII. Another point of criticism is that the game is a dream match, meaning that it lacks a storyline but unlike previous dream match games, it did not take advantage of the absence of a storyline by bringing back dead characters.

In the website GameRankings, the PS3 version of KOF XII received a percent of 60.82% based on eleven reviews. The Xbox 360 version was given a percent of 66.13% based on fifteen reviews. Metacritic gave the PS3 game an average of 58 based on ten critics while the Xbox 360 received an average of 63 based on seventeen reviews.


  • This is the only The King of Fighters mainline game to not have Mid-Boss, Sub-Boss and Final Boss, and the only without team formations, beside the 3-on-3 game system.
  • This is the very first game in the series to have the announcer not simply say "winner" after an opponent has been KO'd. Instead, it has been reverted to the more traditional "You Win" and "You Lose" messages from Capcom's Street Fighter series. This message has also been used in the previous game.
    • For 2-player matches, the game would say "P-1 Win" and "P-2 Win", depending on which player wins the round. In The King of Fighters XIV, these two messages would be replaced by "Player 1 Wins" and "Player 2 Wins", respectively.

Early sprite sheet of the cast of The King of Fighters XII.

  • KOF XII also hosts a ton of unused content:
    • An early promotional poster for the arcade version shows Elisabeth, a character that wasn't present in the arcade release and is only playable in the console versions. The same poster also shows Leona in her original outfit from KOF '96, even though she received a new design in the final game.
    • Artworks of Mai Shiranui and K' can be found in the official site, implying that they were planned to appear in KOF XII.
    • Unused content on the game disc files suggests that Vice, Hwa Jai, Takuma Sakazaki, Mai Shiranui, King, Yuri Sakazaki, Billy Kane, K', Oswald, Classic Iori, and an unknown Boss character were all planned to be playable, but were cut out for unknown reasons. There were also plans of three new characters, although it is not known if they were planned to be playable or NPCs.
    • There were also plans to have Teams in the final game, with most of the team lineup would be similar to the lineup of KOF XIII. This can be seen with many promotional artwork posters for KOF XII, which features many characters who do not show up in KOF XII.
      • According to tweet made by Akihiko Ureshino on Twitter, Team Yagami was at one point going to consist of Iori, Oswald, and an new character "wearing a kimono".[1]
    • KOF XII was also at one point in development to act as the conclusion to the Tales of Ash saga, with KOF XIII acting as the "Dream Match" game.
    • The Brazil Stage from KOF XIII was planned to appear in KOF XII, but was scrapped.[2]


External links

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The King of Fighters characters
KOF '94 Kyo KusanagiBenimaru NikaidoGoro DaimonTerry BogardAndy BogardJoe HigashiRyo SakazakiRobert GarciaTakuma SakazakiRalf JonesClark StillHeidernAthena AsamiyaSie KensouChin GentsaiKingMai ShiranuiYuri SakazakiKim KaphwanChang KoehanChoi BoungeHeavy-D!Lucky GlauberBrian BattlerRugal Bernstein
KOF '95 Iori YagamiBilly KaneEiji KisaragiSaisyu KusanagiOmega Rugal
KOF '96 Leona HeidernMatureViceKasumi TodohGeese HowardWolfgang KrauserMr. BigChizuru KaguraGoenitz
KOF '97 Shingo YabukiYashiro NanakaseShermieChrisBlue MaryRyuji YamazakiOrochi IoriOrochi LeonaOrochi YashiroOrochi ShermieOrochi ChrisOrochi
KOF '98UM Nightmare Geese
KOF '99 K'MaximaWhipBaoLi XiangfeiJhun HoonKyo-1Kyo-2Krizalid
KOF '99: Evolution VanessaSethSyo KirishimaAlfredFiolina GermiGai Tendo
KOF 2000 RamónLinHinako ShijouKula DiamondClone ZeroFoxyCandy DiamondAnother K'Another IoriAnother BenimaruAnother RobertCosplayer KyokoKang Bae DalSmart ChangCool ChoiKaoru WatabeBaitangDuck KingLilly KaneKim Jae HoonKim Dong HwanUnknownKing LionKim Sue-ilKaedeDuke EdwardsRockyAthenaNeo & GeoG-Mantle
KOF 2001 May Lee JinjuK9999AngelZeroRonGluganIgnizMistyNests
KOF 2002 Kusanagi
KOF 2002UM Nameless
KOF 2003 Ash CrimsonDuo LonShen WooTizocGatoMalinMaki KaguraAdelheid BernsteinMukai
KOF XI OswaldElisabeth BlanctorcheMomokoB. JenetShionMagakiSilberSho HayateJyazuHotaru FutabaTung Fu Rue
KOF XII Raiden
KOF XIII Hwa JaiSaikiEvil AshMr. Karate
KOF XIV Shun'eiMeitenkunGang-ilLuongXanaduSylvie Paula PaulaKukriMianNelsonZarinaBandeiras HattoriKing of DinosaursHeinNakoruruMamahahaMui MuiLove HeartAlice Garnet NakataAntonovVerseNajd
KOF XV Isla • Unnamed Female Character • Unnamed Boss
KOF EX: Neo Blood Moe Habana
KOF EX2: Howling Blood Reiji OogamiJun KagamiMiu KurosakiSinobu Amou
KOF: Maximum Impact Alba MeiraSoiree MeiraLien NevilleMignon BeartChae LimDukeRock Howard
KOF: Maximum Impact 2 Luise MeyrinkNagaseJivatmaNinon BeartHyenaHanzo HattoriKyo Kusanagi ClassicWild WolfMr. Karate IIArmor RalfRichard Meyer
KOF: Maximum Impact Regulation "A" Xiao LonMakoto Mizoguchi