E3 2011 is the venue for news, announcements, and surprising developments, like how Persona publisher Atlus has just been revealed as the home console publishing partner for The King of Fighters XIII. The console version of the arcade fighting game is in an extremely early state, so much of the planned content for the home version was still missing, but Atlus representatives assured us that both they, and SNK Playmore, are aware of the poor reception of the developer's previous console fighter, KOF XII, and that Atlus is committed to delivering a much stronger home console experience.
We briefly played the game in head-to-head play with Atlus representatives and found that all of the characters have already been implemented and are working. This included characters who are newcomers to KOF XIII, such as Hwa Jai, the balding Muay Thai master of Southtown, and Raiden, the masked pro wrestler. All characters look and play just like their arcade counterparts, from their standard suite of four normal attacks (a light punch and a heavy punch, a light kick and a heavy kick), knockdown attacks, and forward rolls to their trademark special attacks and devastating superattacks. KOF XIII also has a new hyper drive system performed by pressing the light kick and strong punch buttons together that causes your character to be followed by trailing shadows onscreen and lets you extend your character's attacks into longer combinations. Hyper drive is also in the game and seems to be working just fine. Popular characters like Kim Kaphwan, Ryo Sakazaki, and Terry Bogard all play similarly to their KOF XII versions, though the game pace is faster and seems to run more smoothly.
While it's definitely gratifying to see that the core of KOF XIII's gameplay has been implemented and is working, the real story for KOF XIII will come down to two factors: online play and console extras. Online play in the console release of the previous game, KOF XII, was notoriously terrible at launch, and although SNK Playmore eventually patched the game to have improved online performance, by that time, most players had already abandoned it. KOF XIII's online play will be based on the improved online of KOF XII's latter days, and Atlus again emphasized its commitment to work with SNK to create a solid experience. For example, the home version of the game will be based on the 1.1 update of KOF XIII, which fixed several issues, including the character Mature's embarrassing infinite juggle attack. Whether or not the game will see additional updates to fix bugs or update character balance is really up to SNK Playmore, but Atlus representatives assured us they'll work directly with SNK to try to get any additional updates or changes into the game.
As mentioned, console extras are the other sore point from KOF XII because that game came with an Arcade mode and online play but not much else. Atlus is currently working on including "more than a half-dozen modes," including Versus mode, Arcade mode, and an in-depth Story mode told with cinematic scenes featuring static high-resolution 2D artwork, along with art galleries and other modes that the publisher isn't yet ready to reveal.
Atlus is also known for putting together attractive preorder packages, but when asked about the subject, the publisher was not yet ready to confirm what was planned. However, the game has already begun to appear on retailer sites for preorder at a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $49.99, which is admittedly well below the usual $59.99 charged for most new console games. The publisher suggested that it's in talks with SNK Playmore about this subject and that if and when it can reveal any details about any kind of special preorder version, it will. In any case, the game will be released for consoles later this year.