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The King of Fighters XIII

King of Fighters

Although many of us blocked it from memory, The King of Fighters XII was an insight into the future. It’s the general consensus that the last installment was nothing but an interactive exhibition gallery – showcasing what’s to come for SNK Playmore’s prominent golden child. Several wardrobe changes and gym sessions later, the series finally makes its triumphant comeback with The King of Fighters XIII.

I don’t get this story…

SNKP’s fighters are renowned for their intricate, involving, and interconnecting
storylines. To go into any KOF story would be an article in itself.
If you’re still interested check out the
SNK Wiki
for all your catching up.

XIII is the concluding episode in the current Ash Saga story arc. Picking up after KOFXI, Ash Crimson successfully siphoned Iori Yagami’s powers (resulting in a drastic moveset change) and Kyo Kusanagi is the last man on the list. Meanwhile, the world fearfully awaits the next move of the enigmatic ‘Those From the Past’, the evil organization behind the last two tournaments, and fighters around the world receive their invitations to this year’s King of Fighters, signed by ‘R’.

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Aside from secret characters, KOFXIII boasts a 33 head count. Fans will rejoice in seeing a number of returning faces such as K’, Mai Shiranui, and Kula Diamond, as well as seeing the comeback of esoteric characters such as Hwa Jai and Vice. Like the previous titles, you can mix and match three fighters to create your team. Contrary to 2003 and XI’s tag team combat, this installments opts to continue the traditional one-on-one format where winner stays and the loser’s next teammate continues the match.

As director Kei Yamamoto promised, the series’ core gameplay (before XII) is revitalized. This means bringing back small jumps/hops and guard meter – two general fighting game features that have become seldom seen as of late. XIII also brings back special cancels which allows the cancelling of certain specials into another or supers. These features not only encourage fast paced action, but more or less acts as fail safes against newbies trying to find the easy way out of predicaments.

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In managing these features, XIII provides two different meters: the standard Power Meter for managing supers, EX specials, or evasive rolls and counters from block. On top is the Drive Meter, which dictates the aforementioned special cancels at the expenditure of 50% Drive. A full Drive also allows players to activate HD Mode, a pseudo custom combo state that allows one to do multiple special cancels, but doing so will speed up the Drive Meter’s gradual depletion. Activating HD Mode from a normal attack also causes your character to auto slide forward allowing advanced combos. However, this choice of assault is input sensitive as touching any buttons or directionals will negate the slide. XIII also brings on board the new high cost Neo Max attacks, the response to Street Fighter IV’s Ultras, requiring full Drive and 3 Power Meters to use, two if you’re in HD Mode.

As fighters know, home ports can greatly differ in gameplay from their arcade counterparts. Yamamoto advised that many tweaks were made as the arcade version had numerous issues. For example, Raiden’s dropkick has been nerfed, Terry can chain weak punch into heavy punch from crouch, and the damage output of all Neo Max moves have been increased to encourage players to use them more. Aside from the modifications, XIII gets the full home port makeover including a branching Story Mode, Gallery Mode, a Trial Mode that is invaluable for teaching players basic to advanced combos, a Training Mode that displays how much stun a combo produces, and Target Missions integrated into Arcade Mode – an optional ‘Simon Says’ mini game (similar to Third Strike Online’s) that, depending on how many you are able to complete each match, determines what hidden content you can uncover like the chance to fight and unlock console exclusives Billy Kane and Human Saiki.

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Along with the arcade’s obese crowded backgrounds, the console version also sports new stages, all contrasting very well with XII’s established face lifted sprites. The presentation is truly astounding with SNKP’s signature use of character cameos lurking in the back, all of this almost rivaling the backdrops of Ultimate MvC3. Coupled with a smashing soundtrack, and stylish animations, XIII does well in stirring up fond memories of my younger anime loving days.

Though a lot of the developers’ efforts are evident, this is sadly contradicted by the online play. Replay saves are only applied to online fights with no way of sharing them. Absent is a Spectator Mode, but instead players can mess around in training while waiting for their turn. Also disappointing is the fact that there are no visible rooms to choose from, rather, the game tries to find a single room, but you won’t know if it’s full until you’re kicked out making XIII’s capacity for crowd control questionable.

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Mind the colors.

KOFXIII‘s netcode has a much larger emphasis on connectivity levels
than any other fighter I’ve played thus far. The differences are very significant and here’s what you can expect from each of them individually:

Lvl. 1/Red – Tremendous lag and risks of freezes or disconnects. Avoid at all costs!
Lvl. 2/Yellow – Can range from bearable to heavy in input lag.
Lvl. 3/Green – Issues are minimal or non-existent.
Lvl. 4/Blue – One can only imagine the perfection that comes with Lvl. 4.
But you’d have better luck with ghosts than you would catching this fleeting
connection.

As for the netcode, in a word, it’s random. Originally I started playing against an East Coast friend but the 2 second lag and temporary freezes was a nightmare. Second time around, the connection suddenly showed improvement, although my buddy advised that he was suffering from heavier input lag on his end. While connection levels amongst other fighting titles are a set-in-stone deal, your online experience with XIII literally changes every time you boot up the game. There was a time where all my match connections dropped, whether I was challenging people or vice versa. This went on for a good 10 minutes, until I rebooted the game. This also makes the can’t-back-out style of Ranking Quick Matches very frustrating. Bear in mind also that despite what connection levels may show initially, it can still change when you get to the battle ready screen. Though it’s true that connectivity can be excellent, the inconsistency leaves too much to be desired.

Despite its lacking online features and (Russian) roulette connectivity hoopla, KOFXIII is still an excellent game. For OGs desiring an honest, non-n00b friendly fighter, or for new schoolers wanting a unique challenge, don’t miss out. It’s time to knuckle up.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in August 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @S_Chyou.

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