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Games Review: King of Fighters XIII

Here comes a new challenger
by Gelo Gonzales | Nov 24, 2011
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It’s pretty common to hear gamers today complain that there are just too many first-person shooters in the market. Turn back the clock two or three console generations back, and you’ll hear people say essentially the same thing, except you replace “first-person shooters” with “fighting games.” Good times, those days were, especially for those who dedicated themselves to performing quarter-circle forward moves like a boss.

Now we have a game that harks back to those days, King of Fighters XIII. It's Street Fighter’s lesser-known rival, Mortal Kombat’s less gory adversary, and Tekken’s less 3D foe. That’s a lot of “less” in there, and to an extent, those are the reasons why King of Fighters never really became as popular as those mainstream attractions. It had a more deliberate pace than Street Fighter, it didn’t rely on decapitations and maimed limbs to attract gamers, and it was never exactly the prettiest game. It's a little harder to get into, but to hardcore fighting fans, it literally was the king of fighters.

And King of Fighters XIII embraces that fact. It embraces its hardcore roots, and serves up a fight that demands mastery. Whereas the twitchy action in Capcom fighters Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and the frenetic Street Fighter IV can still be enjoyed even if you’re just merely mashing buttons, King of Fighters XIII’s more measured, and technical pace will encourage you to learn the system’s nuances.

Unlike most fighting games’ six-button configuration, KOF XIII features a four-button control scheme. But don’t let that deceive you as the game’s deep and challenging, and at the start, even basic movements like rolling, hopping and jumping while chaining normal attacks feels stodgy. But once you get past the initial hurdles, and you start to learn how to chain those Super Cancels, Drive Cancels, HD combos, when to execute those Desperation Super Moves, trust us, the game starts to flow. That eureka moment when you start to get how all of these things work is satisfying. We’d suggest that you check out the game’s tutorial mode and mission mode to help you get off to a running start.

The series received a visual overhaul in King of Fighters XII, released back in 2009, and KOF XIII carries over those same improvements. The game is bright and rich, the animation is smooth as butter, and the backgrounds and settings you fight in really breathe life to the overall experience. It’s like an animated film that you control, and well, where the characters don't have anything better to do than bash each other's heads in. It has a story mode, but as you'd expect from a fighting game, the comic-style cutscenes are really just there to give your fingers a momentary break.

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Fighting games live or die with its roster of characters, and this one doesn't disappoint. KOF XIII brings 30 characters to the fray, with possibly more coming as downloadable content. It's a step-up from the last game's 20-strong cast, but most importantly, it now includes one of the most prominent characters of the series, Mai Shiranui. The jiggly ninja was ommitted from the previous game, so now that she's back KOF fans can now rest easy and put down those pitchforks and torches.

The game requires you to build a team with three members, and pits you in classic KOF elimination-style matches. There's no mid-fight character swapping a la Marvel Vs. Capcom, which means that to be succesful in the game, you can't merely be proficient with one character, and hope that you won't have to use the other characters. It sounds unforgiving, but that is just how KOF XIII rolls. You're going to have to earn your keep.

King of Fighters XII is an intense, old-school fighting experience that's going to test your mettle. Granted, it's not for everyone as few fighting games now require you to sit down and learn like this game. So, if you're just looking to beat someone up, this might not be the game for you. But if you have the patience, you'll find that its brand of fisticuffs is hard-hitting as it is rewarding.

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