The King of Fighters XIII PS3 Review

SNK Playmore has been through a lot this past few years. What used to be a veritable fighting game contender who went toe-to-toe with CAPCOM in the genre fizzled down to an utterly shameful disappointment when they released what was supposed to be a rebirth of The King of Fighters in the aptly named King of Fighters XII. Unfortunately, the title was broken in all sorts of ways. Most notable were the horrible online play, lack of stage and music variety, head-scratching character cast, and puzzling menus. Now, SNK has gathered their bearings and stepped back into the ring with the recently-released King of Fighters XIII. Boasting improved online, varied stage and music selection, DLC, and the return of many fan-favorites, does this title do the iconic series justice?

In a word, yes. The King of Fighters XIII does most everything better than its predecessor. While there are still a few kinks that need working out, this is undoubtedly the game XII should have been.

The King of Fighters XIII boasts a character selection screen of over 30. Fan favorites such as Mai and K’ have returned in their hand-drawn glory, though one has to wonder why they were inexplicably cut in the first place. Nevertheless, you’ll surely find that KOF 13 boasts a sizable cast featuring SNK’s all-stars. In addition to the aforementioned Mai and K’, familiar faces such as Kim Kaphwan, King Even everyone’s favorite sadists, Vice and Mature, are back in a convoluted and retconned plot twist.

While the graphics have certainly received a slight face-lift from XII, I can’t say that it does much to improve the quality of the visuals. Stages look simply amazing, and the level of detail put into each and every one is simply commendable. There are times when I would simply go into Training mode to peer into the vast detail of each and every setting. From deserted graveyards to Egyptian prayer ceremonies, it’s simply a visual delight. It’s a shame that the character sprites don’t exactly live up to the expectations set by the backdrops. While some, such as Leona, look crisp and colorful, others look downright grainy. I was extremely disappointed when I saw how much work was put into some designs, and how little was put into others. A few sprites looked so terrible that I almost assumed they were created in Windows ’98 Paint.

Sound got a brilliant overhaul from XII. Every team now has their own distinguished theme. Now, for those unfamiliar with KOF XIII‘s prequel, this is a far cry from the 8 or so tracks featured in the previous game. All team themes sound excellently composed. I no longer have to mute the television in order to keep my sanity while playing through a King of Fighters title. Even single entrants such as Ash and Billy Kane get their own tunes.

Another common complaint that has been remedied with this entry in the series is an abundance of content. KOF XIII is filled to the brim with content, and SNK isn’t even done packing the disk yet. In addition to a bountiful plethora of game modes, there are also scores of unlockable content to plow through in the game’s Gallery. Sound recordings and artwork can be found in troves, as well as a mysterious “Invitation” image card that is unlocked piece by piece through obtaining the game’s 50 or so trophies. Yeah, there’s a lot to do.

Battles take place via 3-on-3 single elimination tourneys or one-on-one matches. A few of the interesting-but-unnecessary implementations from XII have been removed (such as the “Critical Counter” system of old) in favor of a new, streamlined combat system. Players can unleash EX Attacks (which function akin to how they do in Street Fighter 4), Super Attacks, NeoMax Supers (read “Super Super Attacks”), and Drive Cancels (A maneuver that allows you to cancel one special move into another at the cost of a segment of your super meter). Combat for the most part feels fluid and fresh, and I quite enjoyed how flashy even the simplest of strings could be. While you will find the easier combos to function as described (easy), the more difficult strings will give you trouble both off and online. XIII, while easy to grasp, requires strict timing to master.

While many, many improvements have been made over its predecessor, The King of Fighters XIII is not without its faults. One of the biggest requests from fans was that of better netcode. The King of Fighters XII was known for its downright terrible and horrendous lag. SNK has stated multiple times that XIII will feature a better online experience but I can’t say they’ve made good on that promise. While input latency has definitely been cut down, it is still quite noticeable. Even when facing users with a green connection, I find myself dropping combo inputs and putting myself at a disadvantage due to delays in my character’s onscreen movements. At times it was only slightly annoying, but in the heat of a good match it could get downright frustrating. SNK intends to remedy this with a patch that will enable Ranked Match Filtering along with loads of other goodies that will supposedly address the online woes. One would hope so, as it would be a shame to see such an amazing revitalization of a worthwhile series go downhill over a few patch-able flaws.

Editor’s Note: DLC for this title is now available. Pick up Iori With The Power of Flames, Mr. Karate, and NESTS Style Kyo DLC Characters today!

7 out of 10
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