King of Fighters XIII [Review]
November 29, 2011
Fighting games have a huge history of different titles, and no one can talk about fighting game history and not mention King of Fighters. SNK initially started this series to mix in fighters from its other games like Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury, but eventually it became SNK’s flagship fighting title. Unfortunately, the past iterations have not done so well, and have caused the series to suffer. A lot of eyes are on King of Fighters XIII to revive interest in the series, especially after the flop that was King of Fighter XII. The good news is that KOFXIII is ten times better than its predecessor, but the bad news is that it’s not a great experience all the way through.
KOF XIII keeps all the graphical design choices from KOF XII, and they all still look amazing when they are running at full speed. The stages are quirky and interesting, especially the stage that has fat ladies head-banging in the background. All the special effects with the supers and special moves look nice, and do a good job to set themselves apart from other fighting games. Overall they did a good job improving the visuals for this series; they even stepped up the menu design.
The sound in KOF XIII is well put together, but nothing truly stands out. There is the run of the mill soundtrack that has a couple of cool tunes, but overall it only serves the purpose of getting the job done. The one thing I am personally grateful for is that all the characters speak Japanese. It sounds a whole lot better than hearing the really bad English voiceovers that some games force on players.
The controls in this game are perfect, but require precise execution to perform any combo in the game. The controls are deceptively simple, with a basic four button layout, but have some deep combo potential and require execution that does not baby the player. If a combo is dropped it is the player’s fault and the game will not hold hands or try and predict inputs. Games like Street Fighter IV have some shortcuts that can be taken, but KOF XIII will punish any kind of shortcut from what I noticed.
KOF XIII could be one of the most difficult fighters to master because of all the options available during a fight, and the precision required to get good amounts of damage in on the opponent. They have done away with the mechanics of KOF XII like critical counters in favor of other mechanics, such as the Hyper Drive meter. The changes in mechanics made to KOF XIII are all vast improvements over the previous game in the series.
The Super Meter allows for EX-moves and pulling off Super Moves. The Hyper Drive meter allows for moves called Drive Cancels, and can also enter a mode called HD mode. This basically means when the Hyper Drive meter is full you can activate the mode, and it allows infinite Drive Cancels until the bar runs out. This opens up a truck ton of combos if your skilled enough to pull them all off.
The roster consists of over 30 characters, and players are required to pick 3 to make up a team. KOF XIII follows its established way of handling team fights; in the KOF series combatants pick teams of three and the winner is the one who beats all of the opposing characters on the opposite team. In contrast to Marvel vs Capcom games, the extra teammates are not for tagging out or assists.
After both players pick their characters they see each other’s team for the first time and they can then arrange the order of the three characters. Round 1 will start with characters that are in the place one and then once the round is over the loser moves to his next character that is in slot 2. The winner of the round receives a little health back to his current character for the next round. Also, all the meters gained in the previous round carry over, and the next character actually has the ability to stock up more meter than the character being carried over. The winner of the match is the one that has knocked out all three of the opponent’s characters.
KOF XIII might have a simple concept behind it, but it is by no means a simple fighter. With the mechanic of arranging team order strategies can get really complex, because some characters have better match-ups against opponents than others. Not only that, but carrying meter over can lead to some interesting decisions — like “should I waste the meter now and try and make a come from behind victory, or cut my losses and save it for the next round?”
Not only is the move set and meter important to learn, but there is also how you move around the screen. There are super jumps, hops, normal jumps, dashing, and rolling forward or backwards to keep in mind. A character can even roll a direction if they perform a specific command while blocking. So even movement and spacing is very technical and needs to be mastered to every little detail.
Training mode and mission mode stand out the most. The training mode is very deep and has ton of options, and mission mode is one of the best ways to learn basic combos and get the timing down in this fighting game. Arcade and story mode are rather forgettable unless you actually care about the story; it did not make a lick of sense to me. If you are interested in experiencing some SNK Boss Syndrome, then story and arcade mode are there for the masochistic fighting game enthusiasts.
One of the massive problems a lot of people had with KOF XII was the lack of modes. KOF XIII definitely listened to the fans when it came to this concern, and packed the game with a ton of modes. There is an arcade, story, training, mission, time trial, survival, online, and even a customization mode. The customization mode is a very nice touch because it let you change colors of different parts of a characters attire. This was a very nice touch because the characters I really liked felt like they were my own, and it was nice to see that each character on my team represented my style. I hope more fighters look at this and add this to later titles.
The one massive flaw to KOF XIII is the online multiplayer. It is one of the worst online fighting experiences I have had from any fighting game I have played this console cycle. I never had a solid lag free match, and this really hurts KOF XIII in the worst way possible. Offline local play is amazing, fast, and fun; but online is sluggish, unplayable, and downright embarrassing.
The thing that really frustrates me is, unless you have a bunch of friends in the area that have the game, the only way to fight anyone at a high level is online. In this day and age of fighting games, online is a major factor to consider but they dropped the ball on this. It would be ok to have lag every once and awhile but the lag is very consistent. I even tested it at different places with different speeds of connection in each fight. It didn’t matter where I was — the game played like a snail.
This is rather disappointing because this game could have been a major contender with its demanding, high-execution gameplay. And since this game requires high-execution, solid online play seems impossible when I can’t even land combos properly. It made me feel like all that time I put into training and mission mode was for nothing, when in reality all I had to do to win an online match was spam the crap out of specific moves and hope they went through before my opponent’s inputs did. If you have friends offline to play this with I highly recommend that method; pretend the online option isn’t even there, unless they fix it later.
After all is said and done King of Fighters XIII is an awesome fighter for offline versus and has an extensive training mode, but at the same time it has a boring storyline and what I consider an unplayable online mode. I commend SNK Playmore for making such a heavy execution fighter and having an amazing combat system, but what good is it if you can’t rely on the game to not mess up when in the middle of a match. If you plan on playing offline matches I cannot recommend this fighter enough, but if your experience is going to be predominantly online then do yourself a favor and take a pass on this one.
Out Of 5
King of Fighters XIII
The visuals set a good tone for the game and the lighting effects, and stages are well done. A lot of stuff is still recycled from the previous game, but it still looks good and up to par with other fighters.
The music is what is to be expected from a fighting game. Some of the songs are cool but mostly forgettable. The voices and special effect sounds are the stars of this sound design.
The controls are spot on and have no room for failure. The controls achieve a level a simplicity and depth that most fighting games wish they had.
The game plays flawlessly offline and is a blast to train in if your looking for something challenging. They have added a ton of modes, and customization. The massive problem is the game's net code makes the game near impossible to play online.
Offline the game is as fun as it can be, but unless you have constant access to people online and training mode is where most your time should be spent. While the training mode is near perfect, the online mode brings the game down and isn't that much fun to play.