When SNK showed off The King of Fighters XII at arcade show AOU in Japan and industry event GDC in San Francisco, the unanimous reply was: Nice cell shading. Thing is, that's totally incorrect. Today, I checked out the game's latest build at SNK's Osaka office and saw a few stages that haven't been revealed. Screens weren't available, but there was a French stage, complete with fat, rich women and an Egyptian one that had loyal subjects worshiping before the Pharaoh. Colourful stuff and classic SNK. The company set out to make the ultimate 2D fighter — unparalleled by anything else out there, attempting not only to raise the bar, but snap it in half. KOFXII producer Masaaki Kukino tells Kotaku:
The game is one hundred percent hand drawn. There is zero cell shading in The King of Fighters XII.
Hardcore. That means that an actual human hands lovingly drew and colored in everything in the game. Every single frame, every character and every background. Everything — down to the game's in-game title. SNK gave us the full rundown, so here's how it worked: The original character drawings were modeled into 3D. Those 3D models were then rendered back into 2D. That way the 2D characters could have a greater depth of motion. Since the 2D models were devoid of color and details, artists went through each character, background, image and painstakingly added colors and drew in details pixel-by-pixel on a tablet PC. In one day, one artist would be able to draw one frame and a half for whatever image he or she was working on.
"We knew it was going to be hard going in," says Kukino. "But we wanted to make the ultimate 2D fighting game". Up close, that meticulous attention to detail becomes apparent, and you're always noticing a flourish here or a nice touch there. Every inch of the screen has something interesting going on. "We wanted the look of the game to have more in common with manga or anime," Kukino adds. With KoFXII, it looks like SNK hasn't only created another stylised 2D fighter, but this time, a genuine work of art.