I love a good fighting game. It’s in my blood. Pulling off huge combos and mastering a character over the course of hours upon hours is my thing. I always look forward to the newest fighters. Learning the method and competing with other players is just really fun to me. You could probably tell I was really excited to see a new King of Fighters releasing this holiday. Now, I’ll be the first one to tell you, The King of Fighters XII was a decent game, but the online was horrible. As most fighting game fans know, you really can’t have a fighting game without good online net code, but SNK has assured everyone that the new net code for KoF XIII has been reworked. Did they get the online right? Did they add any new features or characters? Get out your invitation for The King of Fighters XIII.
The game’s story takes place after KoF XI. Ash Crimson has absorbed the power of two powerful fighters and is looking for his next and final victim: Kyo Kusanagi. He’s using a new King of Fighters tournament for the opportunity to do just that. There are a lot of other things going on behind the scenes as well. Ash is really working for a mysterious figure who wants the three powers for himself. Is Ash being used as a pawn or does he have something up his sleeve?
The game has all the heavy hitters from the KoF series. You have the Japan team with none other than fan favorite, Kyo Kusanagi. The Fatal Fury guys are all here as well with my personal favorite, Terry Bogard. Of course, Ash Crimson is back with his counterpart, Elizabeth. The Ikari Warrors make another appearance, and even Mai Shiranui, who was missing from XII, comes back. There’s a ton of characters in the game, each with their own play style and special moves.
Most games will play out in a 3-on-3 match. You can choose a team or individuals to play as to make your “dream team” of fighters. You can choose the order your characters will fight before the match and each character will stay in play until they are knocked out. If one character survives a round, they will recover a small amount of health before the next.
Now, onto the technical part: how the game actually plays. Each character has the standard two punches and two kicks. You can do an evasive roll by hitting the light punch and light kick together. A grab can be performed by hitting either hard punch or hark kick while standing close to your opponent and pushing towards them. Of course, each character has a unique set of special moves and Desperation moves. Desperation moves serve has powerful super moves that can be comboed into from normal attacks.
KoF XIII features a ton of different cancel types. The game has a drive gauge and a a super gauge. Both gauges will increase when you land a hit or get hit yourself. The super gauge will stack up to 5 times. This gauge allows for Desperation moves as well as powered up version of special moves in the form of EX special moves. EX moves can be performed by doing a special move but hitting both punches or both kicks, depending on what the move requires. The drive gauge will fill up into two sections. When one section is full, you can use a drive cancel. Drive cancels are when you use either a special move or an EX special move and cancel it into another special move. This can also be used to cancel a special move into a Desperation move. We’re not done just yet. There’s also Hyper Drive mode. By pressing both the hard punch and light kick at the same time when the drive gauge is completely full, you enter Hyper Drive mode. During this mode, your character is slightly faster and is able to do a NEO MAX move. It’s a brand new Desperation move that does huge amounts of damage. While in Hyper Drive mode, you are also able to use a MAX cancel. MAX cancels allow you to use a Desperation move or an EX Desperation move, cancel it, and combo into a NEO MAX move. Think of it like the Dream Cancels from KoF XI. If you can pull this off, you’re almost guaranteed the round victory.
As you can see, the game is very deep and complex. Don’t get too overwhelmed, though. Luckily, KoF XIII comes with a ton of extra goodies to help you learn the ropes. The game features a decent tutorial to help you get a hold of the mechanics. There is also a mission mode that features a survival, time attack, and the most important one, combo challenge. The combo challenge mode will help you learn the tricky combos with every character, and even does one of two extra things that even Super Street Fighter 4 doesn’t do, like having the actual inputs on the screen instead of the names of the moves.
The game features a story mode that plays out in anime cut scenes and still pictures. It’s actually rather long, and it allows you to go through the entire story by making choices pf who to play as and what scenes you want to see next. It’s a lot like BlazBlue’s story mode. The only problem I had with the story mode is not the story at all, but how it is delivered. There is no dialog at all. It’s all subtitled with zero voice acting. It would have been nice to at least have the Japanese voice acting available rather than complete silence. There is also regular arcade mode that doesn’t go into too much story, but offers up what transpires during the actual tournament. Practice mode, local versus, online play, and concept art and gallery make up the rest of what KoF XIII has to offer.
One really cool feature is that the game allows you to customize each character’s colors. If you like Terry in a blue trucker hat rather than a red one, you can make it that way. It is very extensive, and you could quite possibly make a character that no one has seen before. It’s a very nice touch that makes the game just that much greater.
Now, for the biggest part of the game: online play. After playing about 30 matches online I can say that SNK has finally got the online right. For the most part, the game ran smooth as butter without a single hitch. Of course, you will get some lag once in while, but it’s not too bad. You can choose from player and ranked matches. You can even set it up to be challenged to an online match while you’re in practice mode or arcade mode. The online is done right and works very well. That’s a relief.
There is one bad thing about the online in KoF XIII: there is no spectator mode. This is a big problem for me to say the least. It would just be nice to have a spectator mode for the people waiting to play so you know what you’re up against as well as learning new moves
and characters. This is the one bad thing I have to say about the online. If ranked matches with random guys is your thing, you have nothing to fear, but if you’re wanting to play with a few buddies, this could be a problem. It’s sad to see this in an online fighting
game this day and age. Maybe, with a patch, this can be repaired, but as it stands right now, this is the low point of the game.
The only real problem I had with the game was the final boss fight. Oh, my God. This has to be possibly the cheapest boss I have ever seen in a fighting game. I’m not kidding at all. It has moves you can’t avoid, moves that trap you and leave you open for a free hit, and health out the wazoo. It was so annoying that after losing to him twice, I had to customize the handicap for that fight. That’s right, the game knows how cheap the boss is, and after losing to it, it will ask you if you want to use a handicap.
The King of Fighters XIII has it all: a good fighting structure, tons of characters, good online play, deep combo system, and good character customization. The package is just fantastic. The overall presentation is great as well. The hard rock soundtrack, and beautifully hand drawn 2D sprites are well crafted. The game even comes with a 4 disc soundtrack that compiles the best tracks from all the King of Fighters games; all for $49.99. You really can’t go wrong.
Will this be a big fighting game? I don’t really know. Should it be a big fighting game that is included in the next EVO championship? Definitely. I can safely say that this game has replaced Street Fighter for me, and that’s saying something. The game is great, the price is right, and the overall package is just too good to pass up. If you’re looking for a new fighting game to sink your teeth into, you just found it. It’s very accessible to newcomers, and veteran KoF players will feel right at home. You owe it to yourself to give this fighting game a shot.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.