The King of Fighters XIII concludes the story arch that started back in 2003 with the resurrection of an evil god. The over the top narrative proves to be the perfect driving force for as many characters as possible to fill the ranks and copious amounts of dialogue to beautifully drawn semi-static images to deliver the denouement and provide fans with the definitive iteration of this revered series. However, does it come close to the quality of ’98?
There’s no point in keeping you waiting for that answers, it’s a resounding yes. The package as a whole is exactly what fans have been waiting for all these years and suitable redeems itself after XII’s gimmicky entry. Bar a few online hiccups and the usual accessibility problems, with such a technical fighter The King of Fighters XIII can count itself as one of the best of the series.
The King of Fighters XIII offers a selection of familiar play modes. Mission mode offers a structured set of challenges with time trails, combo challenges and survival challenges to truly test your might, whilst a comprehensive tutorial and practice mode allows for casual learning opportunities. The fighting game standards of Story and Arcade mode make up the meat of the experience, with story mode offering the full narrative with branching paths and exposition galore and Arcade offering essentially the highlights of the narrative. Meanwhile a great selection of extras such as the gallery encourage you to explore everything on offer and the ability to customise your characters colour and clothing options is a pleasantly vast and satisfying way to personalise your favourite characters.
Online lacks lobby support and live match spectating but makes up for it with the excellent option to play arcade mode whilst you wait for challengers. Additionally you can save replays and analyse them frame by frame to truly learn and develop your skills, and if you score highly enough in a ranked match then that replay is available for all to view. What it boils down to is nothing overtly fancy but a well thought-out online mode; unfortunately it’s plagued by technical issues. Matches are hard to get into and stability once you do find one is shaky. When it all goes well the experience is fantastic, it’s just a shame it’s not consistent.
Learning the nuances of combat is just as compelling in The King of Fighters XIII as it is in any of its contemporaries. The 30 characters each provide a set of interesting tactics, move-sets and special moves to learn and experiment with, providing countless hours of enjoyment. The actual act of combat boils down to the modern standard with combos being your main goal and having the potential to inflict huge amounts of damage when stung together correctly and strategically, whilst two power bar – Powers and Drive – allow you to pull off powerful enhanced special moves and desperation moves, as well as cancel one move into another for strategic benefit. The problem is that characters are very specialised and their moves venture over the line into over complicated. The basics the tutorial teaches you soon become far too ineffective against veteran players and the tougher AI, there’s so much more to learn with timing, the moves themselves, as well as the four different kinds of jumps and the diving dodge move.
It’s a rich and rewarding system, for sure, but one that comes at a steep price of dedication that new comers will undoubtedly suffer with.
The King of Fighters XIII certainly understands what makes fighting games compelling and the offering of unique characters with equally unique moves-sets proves this. The many different ways you can approach a battle, invoking a huge array of tactics and special moves all in glorious 2D sprites and backgrounds may not be the most accessible for new comers but for the fighting game enthusiasts – and especially The King of Fighters fans – there’s a lot to explore, and thanks to it also being a technically and visually striking package, you’ll enjoy every moment.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release Date: 25/11/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of The King of Fighters XIII for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.