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12/22/2011

REVIEW: The King of Fighters XIII (PS3)



The King of Fighters is back with its thirteenth entry after a very long and successful history of games in many consoles and arcades since the early 90s. Even though the series has never had the fame of competitors Street Fighter, Tekken and others, it has managed to spawn 12 different titles that have always gotten a lot of respect from the industry. KOFXIII is available for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 and it seems to have fixed all the problems people noted out in the twelfth game like the gameplay design, online performance and game modes.

This is a 2D fighting game like the ones that everyone played back in the 90s and very-early 2000s; it uses animated sprites to represent the fighters in a 2D environment with a background with many different things happening at the same time. The game doesn’t use any HD textures, lighting effects or any of the amazing things available in the visuals of modern-looking games like Uncharted 3 or Halo Anniversary but it manages to be really pretty with characters that move with excellent animations that look very fluid and are full of awesome colors.

There is a curious thing with the characters sprites in KOFXIII when compared to a similar game like for example, Blazblue. The sprites in that game look better and from the normal distance, it is hard to notice the pixels that form them but their animations are a little old-school and look like if they came from a PS1/N64 title. On the other hand, The KOFXIII’s sprites are actually a little pixilated so they look old-school but their animations are much better and fluid than the ones in Blazblue which makes the game look very good even though it tries to represent the standards from a dead gaming generation.

The backgrounds are another thing. They’re all very beautiful and many of the objects on them actually look better than the characters themselves, like in a stage that represents India and has a lot of very pretty elephants on the background with a big crowd sitting on them. The stages usually have groups of people doing different things and moving inhumanly fast but they look very cool and funny and will surely cause a lot of awkward comments from the people playing the game for their first times.

In the gameplay, KOFXIII truly shines. The button configuration seems easy-to-get-into at first, with only two punches and two kicks with several actions that mix those four in the shoulder buttons, but the timing required to combo with normal hits is very hard and takes a lot of practice and patience. Like in all 2D fighting games, you can sprint forward and backwards, jump, crouch and block incoming attacks. You also have several “special” moves at your disposal which you can use by mixing the buttons with quarter-circles, half-circles, the “Z” movement or charging a set direction in the directional pad or control stick, depending on your preferences. The specials include the common fireball or a jumping or charging attack, depending on the character.

The King of Fighters XIII has four different types of jumps depending on how you want to move around the stage, you can make short or long jumps among two different others. You have to practice to know which to use because you can’t block in the air so jumping needlessly can end up with your character getting hit by a powerful attack. The game also uses four different bars. The HP one which represents the life and is equal for all fighters, no matter if it’s a big grappler with huge muscles or a tiny little girl, the guard one which decreases by blocking repeatedly and can end up with a dangerous guard-break, the power one that charges by hitting your opponent and getting hit yourself and stocks up allowing for the use of powerful special moves and the drive gauge that allows to combo different special moves together to damage your opponent with devastating combinations of several attacks.

Knowing how to charge and use the gauges effectively is one of the keys to winning in the game, the inputs for the moves are sometimes a little hard to pull off and doing combos by using them together is no easy task. But with patience and practice, it can be done and once you do, you’ll get a lot of satisfaction from it.

Like in most games of the genre, there are many characters to choose from. They go from the ones that move extremely fast and excel in offense like Kyo Kusanagi and the returning Mai Shiranui to the heavy ones that prefer a defensive style like Clark or Daimon. All of them have several moves to choose from and their own learning curves so trying them all out is a good idea until you find the ones you really want to master. A curious thing is that KOFXIII can be played in 3 vs. 3. In fact, the game is divided in teams of three fighters each by default but you can mix characters of different ones into your own of course. Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there are no assists and you can’t change fighters in the middle of the fight. Instead, you use one character per round. If you defeat an opponent but lose half your health, you’ll fight the next round without healing. The winner will be the player who defeats the three characters of his/her competition first. You can secretly choose the order in which they’re going to fight before the match in an attempt to try and take advantage of the match-ups.

The game has a lot of modes, starting with Story which allows you to choose a team and fight the KOF tournament while looking and reading at the story that revolves around the character Ash Crimson for the most part. The story is pretty boring to be honest and reading through the entire thing can be tedious. You can also play Arcade mode which makes you fight different AI-controlled teams until you reach a final boss, Versus Mode where you play offline against either a friend or the AI and Online Mode where you choose a team and fight against a player somewhere in the world. This one usually runs very good and with little lag but part of the public criticized it so SNK is working on a patch that will upgrade the net coding for even better online performance.

Besides those, you can spar in Practice Mode, use Customize to choose between dozens of colors to make the characters look exactly like you want them to, try to beat as many AI opponents as you can in Survival mode and try out extremely hard combos in Mission Mode where each fighter will have around ten different ones that give you an idea of what they’re really capable of. By playing the game in almost any mode, you can unlock more colors to customize the character and content in a Gallery where you’ll see pictures and artwork from the fighters and stages as well as the videos from Story Mode and listen to the entire soundtrack.

Sound-wise, the game is very good as well with tons of dialogs for when the characters do their special and normal attacks. Most of them even say the same things in different ways and the variety is more than welcome. Still, some of the voices can be pretty annoying like the ones from the young girls Yuri and Athena which can easily get on the nerves of even the most patient players. But the voices are pretty good for the most part. Sadly, Story and Arcade mode don’t have voiced dialogs between the fighters which could have been cool.

The soundtrack is awesome, which is pretty uncommon given that most games of the genre don’t usually have good music. But The KOFXIII is not the case and has a lot of cool songs in both the menus and the actual fights. Each team has a song that can go from Jazz to Rock and the truth is that they’re all pretty cool and fit perfectly with the game. In its normal presentation, the game comes with four soundtrack CDs with the most iconic songs from the previous entries in the series and the entire roster of songs from this one and to be honest, at 50 dollars it is a great price for all that.

As usual for fighting games, this one will provide countless hours of fun to the players. It is a little hard to recommend it to the casual crowd given that the gameplay here is a bit hard to get into and that part of the public will most likely feel more comfortable with easier games like MvC3. But for the hardcore crowd, this is possibly the best 2D fighter in the next-gen consoles, probably even better than Street Fighter 4 and Blazblue given the tons of characters available, variety of game modes and the awesome gameplay design and soundtrack it offers. SNK seems to have gotten it right this time; The King of Fighters XIII is an amazing game.

Pros:

-          Awesome gameplay design.
-          Great animations in the sprites.
-          Tons of characters to choose from.
-          Very good variety of game modes.
-          Excellent soundtrack.
-          Good net coding for online play.

Cons:

-          The sprites are pixilated.
-          It’s hard for the casual gamers to get into it.
-          The story is boring and uninteresting.



-          Graphics and Visuals………...8
-          Music and Sound Effects….....9
-          Gameplay…………………...10
-          Replay Value………………..10

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.25 / 10

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