The King of Fighters XIII Review

From the ashes of its predecessor, The King of Fighters XIII rises to restore the series to its rightful place in the fighting genre spotlight.

When we last left The King of Fighters, things weren't looking good. The King of Fighters XII, which was released in 2009, looked beautiful and had a solid fighting system, but its dearth of single-player content and busted online functionally killed it for many players. Now, The King of Fighters XIII is here, and it addresses all of the issues the previous installment faced. XIII is an immensely robust game that adds a lot a new content to XII's solid mechanics, and it easily earns this series the right to stand alongside other fighting giants in the genre's spotlight.

As with its predecessors, The King of Fighters XIII features one-on-one fighting between two three-person teams. When one fighter goes down, the next is subbed in--after a brief but frequent loading screen--until one side's team is exhausted. In the ring, gameplay feels similar to Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition. Though quicker than Third Strike, XIII shares the same fundamentals of smart positioning and timing. Positioning comes from proficiency with the game's movement options. With four types of jumps and a roll that can pass through anything but throws, it takes practice to navigate the battlefield quickly and efficiently.

When used well, these movement techniques make you feel nimble and keep the action focused on offense. You always want to be building momentum with fancy footwork and calculated strikes. But even at its most chaotic, the game still allows you time to think. There's a satisfying tension in planning your next strike or in deciding how to break the enemy's stride. XIII has its own rules of engagement, and understanding these rules--and when to break them--lets the game's personality shine. As with any strong fighter, the ebb and flow of advanced play is as much about strategy as it is about execution.

There are three main gauges to manage in the game: power, hyperdrive, and guard. In broad strokes, the power gauge focuses on offense; it is used for enhancing special attacks and desperation moves. Next, the hyperdrive gauge is for being stylish. You can burn this meter to cancel certain special attacks into others or activate hyperdrive mode. In this mode, your character can link together moves and build combos that aren't otherwise possible. Finally, the guard gauge depletes as you block attacks. If you let it run out, your character enters a vulnerable crumple state--so be careful.

No tagging or assist attacks here; just a good old-fashioned ninja-on-child beatdown.

The entire system feels very flexible. Each character has the tools for building devastating combos and quickly navigating the field. This uniform character design also carries over to vitality. Unlike in many fighting games, characters in XIII have the same amount of health, which means an attack will deal the same amount of damage no matter whom it hits. Each character's health gauge is broken down into sections for additional clarity. Once you learn how many sections a certain combo shaves off, it's easy to see when to cash it in and finish the match.

You can test your skills in Story mode, though if you're not familiar with Elisabeth Blanctorche, Ash Crimson, or why that one guy from Fatal Fury is here, then you're going to feel a little lost. This mode lasts only a few hours, but it has multiple routes and endings. Once "completed," a massive storyboard becomes available. From there, you can revisit different points in the tale and select alternate routes through it. There's also an Arcade mode that's heavier on the action and is where you can unlock the game's two secret characters.

For new players, the game has various teaching tools designed to introduce the basics. The tutorial and mission modes do a fine job of this, but they don't explain why these moves are important. Knowing the tactical merits of a hop versus a hyperjump is just as vital as their execution. This problem not only exists in XIII, but also in fighting games in general. For combo training, XIII's combo trials are well implemented. They display their inputs clearly, as well as feature demonstrations to aid execution and timing. In addition, characters have their own Time Trial and Survival modes to further hone your skills.

All of this preparation would be for naught if it didn't support a solid online offering. Thankfully, XIII does not repeat XII's mistakes. It offers an online experience that's smooth and stable, provided you find an opponent in the three-to-four green-bar range. If you fall below that, you'll encounter noticeable (though not unplayable) performance dips. When you finish, you can choose to save that match's replay for future viewing. While it's a nice touch, there is not a system in place for sharing or viewing other's replays. Sadly, Spectator mode is also absent in online play, which leads to a lot of bored players during group games.

After countless trials, Leona has successfully weaponized the high five.

Whether you're online or off, the game's presentation is simply gorgeous. The 2D character sprites fill up the screen with astonishing detail, such as the way their clothing flutters. The numerous stages are equally impressive--and infinitely more detailed--featuring hordes of overly excited spectators or a pack of elephants encircling the ring. There's even a color edit mode where you can alter your fighter's color scheme to your liking. All of these features, combined with the tightly balanced fighting mechanics, make The King of Fighters XIII a fantastic game that can easily go toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters in the fighting game genre.

The Good
Fluid and flexible fighting mechanics
Impressive visuals and smooth animations
Stable online play with replay support
Numerous offline offerings
Character color customization.
The Bad
Online spectating isn't an option
Lacks replay sharing.
8.5
Great
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11 comments
abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Might get this next time it goes on sale. I still love 2d fighters over any modern ones, I just get worried how hard this game looks and Im not that good at street fighter 4. It reminds me of third strike which was just way over my head with execution.

SuperGamer8090
SuperGamer8090

This review and this games' award for best Fighting Game by Gamespot is reason I like Gamespot so much, they recognize GOOD games that deserve the praise.

Conjuration
Conjuration

2011 Fighting GOTY. For me at least.

etryus
etryus

Glad I didn't bought XII back then, I'll surely buy this one! Long live 2D fighters!

regix416_basic
regix416_basic

Atlus treats things with CLASS... too bad I can't say the same for the people that gave us XII... I STILL won't touch that considering the horror stories I've heard about it. BTW, Atlus only did XIII... they didn't have anything to do with XII. That was... ah yes, now I remember, that was Ignition... ~_~

ahpuck
ahpuck

Wow, they finally got it right! I had not played a good KoF game in years, till now. My only complain is still the annoying squeaky voices from some of the female characters, tone it down a bit more Atlus.

KoRniTo
KoRniTo

Great game if you enjoy the genre.

manhunted
manhunted

For a 2D fighter, this looks sweeeeeeet.................

KJ765
KJ765

didn't even know this game was out

The King of Fighters XIII More Info

  • First Released
    • Arcade Games
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    The King of Fighters XIII returns with over 30 fighters, a number of stages, more than a half-dozen play modes, and a refined fighting engine.
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 412 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate The King of Fighters XIII
    Developed by:
    SNK Playmore
    Published by:
    SNK, SNK Playmore, Rising Star Games, ATLUS
    Genres:
    2D, Action, Fighting
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence