|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: SNK Playmore|
|Release: November 22, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
King of Fighters XII was a poorly received installment of the King of Fighters franchise due to its small roster, scant selection of modes to choose from, and quite a few glaring graphical problems. Its follow-up, King of Fighters XIII, on the other hand, addresses every single issue fans had with King of Fighters XII perfectly. Unfortunately, a few new issues have cropped up to take their place. Overall, though, King of Fighters XIII is a magnificent installment of the King of Fighters series that gives the fans exactly what they wanted.
If you are new to the KOF series, let me run it down for you. KOF plays more like a slow, methodical fighting game like Street Fighter than a quick and dirty combo game like Marvel vs. Capcom. Gameplay is based around strong fundamentals, jump-ins and links, and resource management. Each character has a light and hard kick and punch, but none of these moves normally cancel into each other. Combining these with your command normals, special moves, super moves, and more is what wins you the game. It's three-on-three, with each character fighting one at a time, and the winner of each match recovering a small amount of life. The last team standing wins.
New to KOF XIII is the drive gauge. In addition to your normal super meter, the drive gauge can fill up to two levels over the course of a match. You may spend a level to cancel one special move into another, essentially allowing you to break the normal rules of super move canceling. You can also activate Hyperdrive Mode, which causes your drive bar to slowly deplete but greatly reduces the cost of drive cancels, as well as the new ultra powerful "Neo Max" move that normally costs all of your super meter and drive meter combined. While in Hyperdrive Mode, control becomes less like KOF and more like Blazblue or Marvel. You're able to chain almost anything in your arsenal and string together combos that take off most—or even all—of a character's life bar.
Also new to the game are Street Fighter-esque EX moves, which cost super meter but add power and versatility to your normal special moves. Also, they add yet another step in the normal, special, super move chain progression, so your combos end up becoming even more ludicrous. Every other system in the game has shown up in some previous KOF. You can still run, jump, super jump, hop, super hop, guard cancel roll, guard push, guard cancel attack, and much more.
If you've already played the arcade version of KOF XIII, nothing in the past few paragraphs should be new to you; the console port is totally faithful to the arcade in terms of basic game systems. Yes, there are a few balance changes, but the core gameplay remains unchanged. The only thing SNK and Atlus did was add more on top of the arcade version. The console version includes additional characters like Saiki and Billy Zane, as well as upcoming DLC characters such as Mr. Karate and Iori 98. Oh, and yes, Mai Shiranui is back in this one. So if you have been craving some animated breast sprites, Atlus has you covered.
Now, one of the biggest complaints about KOF XII was that here weren't many modes aside from the standard Arcade, Versus, and Training modes. This is not the case in KOF XIII. In addition to the three modes already mentioned, there is a Story mode, which has some really cool anime art to go along with it, a Replay mode that lets you analyze the matches of you and others, a gallery which lets you see art and movies, a Time Trial mode, Survival mode, Mission mode, Color Customization mode, special 1v1 battles, and even a tutorial.
I firmly believe that any good fighting game should have a good tutorial. KOF XIII may not have a good tutorial per se, but it certainly does more than many other games. The tutorial will walk you through basic controls and the properties of the many moves in the game, such as EX moves and Neo Max moves. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much to describe the combo system, and it doesn't teach you basic things like defense or mix-ups in the slightest. Normally, when you go forward into combo training, you first check out the mission mode for the character you want to learn, but the mission mode starts you off with pretty finicky links and complex combos right off the bat. So mission mode is not newbie friendly, but I have to give the developers some points for at least trying.