The King Of Fighters XIII Review
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On 02/07/2012 at 12:00 PM by Esteban Cuevas
Like a teenager, the 13th installment in this franchise feels like a work in progress.
Only for the hardcore fighting fans that can look past its many major flaws.
The King of Fighters series is one of the longest running franchises in the fighting genre. Initially released in yearly installments, battle systems have been introduced and removed, plotlines have started and ended, and characters have come and gone. Thirteen games later, King Of Fighters XIII is fun but predictable and does very little to distinguish itself from current titles in the genre.
King of Fighters XIII still has a good fighting system at its core and it’s because of that core the series remains fun to play. Players will choose three characters and once one is defeated, the next will take their place until all three in a team have lost. Combat utilizes a four button layout of high and low punches and kicks. Fighting is fast paced and it all plays responsively and fluidly. This is in part due to all the ways you can move. Your character can jump in several different ways, run and jump back, and dodge roll, still making KOF one of the most mobile fighters around.
Combos are a major component of the combat. They're as simple as linking attacks together and are pretty basic, similar to Street Fighter. Of course, this also means that while the system is simple, it requires great skill to pull off longer combos. Also like Street Fighter, button mashing won’t get you very far. King of Fighters XIII is still one of the more skill based games in the genre, even with its flashy desperation and MAX moves (super moves).
A few “new” features are introduced in KOF XIII, like EX moves and the Hyper Drive gauge. EX moves are basically powered up versions of special moves, similar to the system in Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat. The Hyper Drive gauge lets you do Drive Cancels, which allow you to cancel special moves into other special moves or desperation moves; a full Hyper Drive gauge lets you activate Hyper Drive mode, which boosts your offense and defense and allows unlimited Drive Cancels for a short period of time.
Aside from attacking and defending, you charge the Hyper Drive gauge meter by doing little challenges that pop up on the screen. They consist of tasks like “Jump 3 Times” or “Hit Your Opponent with a Special Move” or “Perform a Drive Cancel”. It’s an unwanted distraction that damages the flow of battle. Luckily, it isn’t in versus modes but its presence in any mode is perplexing and unwelcome.
The issue with these “new” features is that they aren’t. Not only have these mechanics been in other fighting games, they’ve been in previous KOF titles too. Worse, they aren’t that important. The Hyper Drive mode is the same thing as the counter mode in King of Fighters ’99. It didn’t work well in that game and it remains nonessential here as well. EX moves are nice but they’re not as impactful as in other games that utilize them and are also for the most part inconsequential.
Another side effect of these features is they’re all offense-oriented; King of Fighters XIII tends to reward aggressive players, whereas more defensive players will find themselves having a harder time. Still, the underlying combat mechanics are solid and the new features, although superfluous, don’t detract from the enjoyment of the game.
The roster has 31 characters available from the start, with two unlockable and three available for download. The series is known for having a diverse cast and although KOF XIII lacks a distinguishable new character, this is no exception. Fan favorites like King and Vice return and the pre-set group dynamic has returned to the series after being absent from KOF XII, so you can welcome the return of Team Fatal Fury, Team Psycho Soldier, and so on.
Some are harder to learn to use while others are more accessible; no two characters look or feel alike and a majority of the characters are well balanced. I personally haven’t found them but those who competitively play KOF will find exploits and other ways to completely dominate players in versus. Also, like all other SNK fighting games, KOF XIII suffers from SNK Boss Syndrome and the two boss characters, a super powered Saiki and Ash, can be incredibly cheap.
King of Fighters XIII is the conclusion of the Ash Crimson storyline that started in King of Fighters 2003. Story usually isn’t the focus in fighting games but SNK Playmore seems dead set on telling you about it. In Arcade mode, dialogue is exchanged between the fighters before every match (which just slows things down) and the new Story mode is unprecedentedly boring. The mode is mostly just scrolling images and text, resulting in about only four matches of gameplay.
I’ve played King of Fighters games for over a decade now so I’m not surprised that the story consists of an overly convoluted plot and a nonsensical villain hell bent on world domination, but the plotline in this entry is so mundane and dull. Even the bosses are uninteresting. Normally, stories don’t matter much in fighting games but in this game, the story is constantly being forced on you, to the game’s detriment.
Also for some reason in story mode, if you lose a match, you need to go into the chapter menu in story mode, pick the chapter of the match you lost (which isn’t conveniently shown to you, meaning you’ll have to figure it out), pick your team again and then try that fight again. You’ll have to do this every time you lose. This is a small annoyance that will constantly nag at you after losing to the cheap bosses for the twentieth time.
Online play is incredibly laggy. It seems not too many people are playing this title, as it took me several minutes to connect to a match despite the game being released not too long ago. As we started the match, none of us moved the first second of the round due to the lag. Inputs took one to two seconds to register and some inputs seemed to not register at all. This happened to me on all my subsequent matches as well. There’s supposed to be a patch in the works but as it is now, avoid the online play as it’s completely broken. Stick with local multiplayer.
Other modes consist of the basic expectations. Challenge mode is actually just where Time Attack, Survival and Trial modes are kept and your basic Practice and Replay modes are also included. A customize mode allows you to change your online status as well as up to five different sets of outfit colors for each fighter. What’s strange is the palette given to you is very limiting and the options are actually less than many fighters usually give you (especially SNK fighters). A gallery is also included and you can unlock more art as you play.
The graphics are nice but tend to pixelate when the camera zooms in. The backgrounds are well animated and in some cases, rather odd. Be sure to check out the fat lady rocking out in her chair in the outside cafe level. Sound is serviceable and the music helps set the mood for televised combat, as is the case in this game. I wouldn’t say it’s a great soundtrack but there are some catchy tunes in there that are worthy of the CD soundtrack this game was released with.
At its best, King of Fighters XIII is a fun game that improves a lot that was wrong with the previous title, KOF XII. However, outside of that, its dated gameplay has questionable replay value and lackluster modes. If you’ve had your fill of other better fighting titles like Mortal Kombat, Super Street Fighter IV, or Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, give this game a rent. Otherwise, this is only serviceable to KOF fans and even then, King of Fighters XIII is still a disappointment.