The King of Fighters XIII review for PS3, Xbox 360

Platform: Xbox 360
Also on: PS3
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: SNK
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1 – 2
Online: Yes

King of Fighters XIII is a fighting game published by Atlus and developed by SNK. It?s the follow-up to last year?s KOF XII, and looks to improve upon its predecessor by abandoning certain elements and introducing new mechanics. It?s also fully in 2D, featuring HD sprites like KOF XII.

Yeah, that?s right, a full on HD 2D fighter. And not that fake 2.5D stuff either. This game has been given some serious attention in the artwork department, and it really shines. It was pretty much the best aspect about KOF XII, and continues to be one of the more jaw-dropping elements in this sequel.

The series has been around since 1994, and started off as a game that mixed rosters from the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury, two pretty popular SNK franchises at the time. The series saw yearly iterations in the same way sports titles do today, so you?d get a King of Fighters ?94, ?95, ?96, and so on. The yearly moniker has been dropped, and obviously they haven?t been released every year, but it?s certainly one of the longest running fighting game series out there.

You?ve got all the characters included in KOF XII, plus a handful of additions. Most of which are unlocked from the start of the game. Fan favorites like Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui, Iori Yagami, and even Billy Kane are all present. My KOF history is a little rusty, but there are enough recognizable faces to get me on board. And I?ve found a lot of the newer guys to be pretty fun to play.

KOF XIII isn?t as fast paced as Marvel vs. Capcom 3, or Blazblue for that matter. KOF XIII is a slower, more deliberate game, but still pretty combo heavy. You won?t be pulling off ridiculous 100 hit combos, and you?ll get punished for button mashing against someone that?s played a KOF title before. And while turtling might not be a favorite tactic for most, it?s more viable here than in a lot of other fighters. Your guard can be broken, but your guard meter depletes slowly. It?s kind of comparable to SFIV, especially with the inclusion of the new EX moves and reintroduction of the multi-bar power gauge. But overall it still feels pretty unique amongst the current slate of fighters on consoles.

KOF XIII does ditch a few things that were used in KOFXII, like the Guard Attack and Critical Counter systems. It introduces the EX system, which allows you to power up your special moves by using up part of your power gauge. You can also drive cancel, which allows you to cancel out of a special move by performing another one during the last. There are also Desperation versions of EX moves, and NEO MAX, which is essentially a super powerful move. NEO MAX can only be performed while in Hyperdrive, a state that needs to be activated. Hyperdrive also allows for unlimited cancels while it?s active, so there?s definitely some strategy involved in knowing when to activate it.

Overall it?s a pretty fun fighter. The offline side of the game is fantastic, the character animations are super smooth, it has a decent tutorial to introduce new players and old-timers to all the changes, and both arcade and story mode are fun enough to run through. It has a Trial mode similar to both Marvel and Street Fighter that gives you certain combos to perform with each character, and serves as a good way to get you acquainted with the basics for whoever you want to main.

The action is all 3 on 3, but not in a tag team style. Instead you?ll battle it out against the opponent one player at a time, and when you or your opponent loses a guy, the next person on the team will step up to the plate. This might seem a little less interesting than the Marvel approach, but it?s pretty standard fare for the KOF series.

However, the online sucks so far. I?m not too surprised with lag in online fighters, but every match I?ve participated in so far has been a hot mess. I?ve tried ranked and player matches, I?ve tried custom settings to match me up with high connections and people within my region, and haven?t had much luck at all. Hopefully this can get ironed out, as I?m in an area that doesn?t have a huge base of KOF fans to work off of, and while the single player content is ok, fighting games beg to be played with another person.

If the online does get ironed out though, it has all the modern day trappings you?d expect. You?ve got a customizable profile, you can pre-select your default team so you don?t have to select characters all the time, there are unlockable icons to earn, and motto?s to display. It keeps track of your win loss ratio, and does a decent job of finding an opponent quickly both through ranked and player matches. The only other issues I have are that it will occasionally match you with a player that?s already been matched, and boot you back to the online menu again. But since it?s pretty quick about finding people so far, it hasn?t been a huge issue for me.

I definitely think KOF XIII is worth picking up. It?s a gorgeous looking fighter that?s pretty unique and fun to play, even if you?re currently bogged down in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, SSFIV Arcade Edition, Blazblue, Tekken or whatever. If the online stuff can be fixed it?ll be that much better, but if you have some friends around that are interested in the game, then by all means pick it up. It didn?t quite light me on fire, but I can?t deny that it?s pretty well put together, and definitely feels like an improvement over KOF XII. So yeah, I think it?s worth the $50 price tag, provided you can find some offline fun with it.

Grade: B+