Developer: SNK Playmore
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: Out Now
ESRB: T for Teen
Review based off of Playstation 3 version
The King of Fighters series has always been a sleeper title for me. Rarely has it been in the forefront of my fighting game list amidst the likes of Tekken, Guilty Gear, and Blazblue. However, it was always one that stuck deep in the shadows of my mind and I would be swept with nostalgia when I did pick it up. With that said, King of Fighters XIII may be the first in the series that has demanded my attention with both hands and never let me go.
Carrying the tradition continued by Blazblue and Guilty Gear, KoF XIII is absolutely beautiful. Done in complete 2-D sprite work, everything from the fighters, the stage backgrounds, and special effects all have a fluid and smooth animation to them. Clothes ripple and bunch, faces contort in winces of pain when they take a hit, muscles flex as punches and kicks are thrown. The way the screen goes black and everything stops to really showcase the dynamic explosions of an attack. The whole production has a high degree of detail and polish right down to the movement of the people in the backgrounds which just makes each stage like a fight broke out in living and breathing world.
Being released in the same month of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, it is natural to put them up to some comparisons. Of the two, KoF XIII plays at a more technical pace. The fighting system is fast paced and full of subtle tweaks and additions that rewards players who can think quick on their feet.
Much like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, KoF XIII has you make up a team of three from the 30 plus roster (which includes series favorite Mai, who was oddly absent from KoF XII). However, you do not tag them in and out, but set up the order in which they come out, one at a time. As one fighter falls, the next comes in to continue the fight. The match ends once all three fighters are down so each bout is essentially a three-round affair, making for a nice and long fight to test out all the skills and techniques the game features.
The roster is full of past and present favorites from the King of Fighters series. From Terry and Mai, to Kyo and Iori – it comes off as the greatest hits of the series. Each fighter is quite balanced as well and makes it so anyone can be a threat if used properly.
KoF XIII boasts some game mechanics that make for an interesting mix of offense and tactics in the form of various cancels. The game features three main offensive gauges: one for standard cancels, another for super combos, and the last that measures the guard. The fight system allows you to cancel normal moves into special moves at the cost of half a power gauge. At full length, you can even cancel a special move into a super combo if you have at least one level on your super combo meter. The cancel gauge can also be used to make EX attacks, or amplified versions of the fighter“s normal special moves. As for the guard gauge, it slowly depletes as you block attacks and when it gets empty, the fighter enters a stunned state leaving them open to all sorts of punishment. Along with the cancels which adds variety and mix-ups, the system caters more to an offensive and pressure heavy style.
In addition, every character has a dodge roll maneuver that you can use to not only slip through physical attacks but also through projectile attacks. This means any hadoken-spammer can be easily thwarted in the face of a strategic line of dashes and dodge rolls. The only caveat is that you are more vulnerable to throws while you“re in the middle of a roll so it“s best not to abuse it.
With these mechanics in mind, each fight plays a lot like a fast paced form of chess: each fighter in a constant session of moves and counter moves, capitalizing on short falls, and minimizing your own follies.
At first blush, the system appears to be daunting but thankfully KoF XIII provides a tutorial mode to bring you up to speed. In addition to versus, arcade, and story modes, it also features a mission mode where each level calls you to perform certain actions to complete the round like doing a certain number of cancels or winning using only normal moves. The game also has a lot of unlockable artwork and music to find as you clear the modes.
While it is fun in-house, it also features an online mode. For the most part, it is rather fluid and runs nicely. There is little lag and it also has nice replay mode where you can save your matches to watch later on. However, there are certain hiccups every now and then but as for my own experiences they were few and far between.
In addition to the main game, KoF XIII also has a lot of swag to boot. A nice bonus is it comes packaged with a complete soundtrack of the entire King of Fighters series. Listening to the tunes of King of Fighters 98 brought me back to some good times and makes a nice bonus to an already solid game. In addition, the price point of $49.99 is a nice entry point as well. All in all, KoF XIII is an excellent return to form for the series and is one not to miss.
+ Gorgeous visuals and animation
+ Solid fighting system
+ Great roster
- Learning curve could be a bit much
- Online play has some occasional down periods
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
King of Fighters XIII is a definite step in the right direction. Those looking for more of a thinking man“s fighting game, look no further.