The King of Fighters XIII

:  King of Fighters XIII takes place after KOF XI and is the final title of the third story arc which began in The King of Fighters 2003. Ash Crimson has absorbed the powers from two of the descendants of the clans, Chizuru Kagura and Iori Yagami, who sealed the Orochi away 1,800 years ago, while Kyo Kusanagi is to be his last victim. As his former comrade, Elisabeth Blanctorche, prepares to stop him, fighters receive an invitation to another King of Fighters tournament hosted by a person labeled as "R". The tournament is sponsored by Rose who is being controlled by "Those From The Past", the organization behind the two previous tournaments that has been trying to break Orochi's seal.

At the end of the story, Saiki, the leader of "Those From The Past" puts his work into motion. Saiki intends to use the energy expended by the winning team to enable him to cross time. However, as the fight rages, Botan notes that the gate that links them to the past is starting to close. Before Saiki can act, Ash Crimson ambushes him and steals his power. While Ash was enlisted by Saiki to obtain the Three Sacred Treasures to power the time gate, he had no intention of helping Saiki. Suddenly, Ash is overtaken by Saiki's persona, who then attempts to cross the time gate in Ash's body. The winning team pursues him into the time gate and the final battle of KOF XIII begins. Saiki is defeated in the gate but persists on crossing over to the past, believing it means nothing since he can return to the past and cross the gate again to attempt his plan anew. However, Ash stops him and allows the gate to close, leaving Saiki trapped in the present. Ash then reveals that he is a descendant of Saiki. By locking Saiki out of the gate, he denies Saiki's existence in the past and forces his own existence to cease. As Ash vanishes from the living world, the flow of time resumes.


The King of Fighters XIII character selection screen.

"Pure and honest" 2D fighters are far and few between these days. The genre's progressive shift to 3D graphics has brought along some positive aspects, but many fighting game fans will forever have a special place in their heart reserved for through-and-through 2D fighters. In recent years, titles like Blazblue and Arcana Heart have successfully kept the "2D look" alive, and offer unique gameplay experiences in their own right. While those games appeal to a niche audience, the majority of traditional 2D fighting game players would probably tell you those games are a bit too "off-the-wall"... "floaty"... or "air-dash-happy" for their tastes. That's where KOF comes in.

Leave it to SNK, a company that still includes some of the original pioneers of the genre, to create a new age, yet traditional 2D fighting game that looks and plays amazing. 2009's King of Fighters XII presented a catchy new art style and awesomely-detailed high-res 2D sprites. Unfortunately, the gameplay, character roster, and presentation all fell short in the prequel. King of Fighters XIII improves upon the KOF XII graphics engine, using the Taito Type X2 arcade board like its predecessor. In addition to the 22 returning fighters from XII, KOF XIII brings back an assortment of recognizable faces, including: Mai, Yuri, Takuma, Vice, Maxima, and one of the series' most prominent badasses, K'. There are even a few console-exclusive fighters (some DLC), such as: Billy Kane, "Classic" Iori Yagami, NESTS Kyo, Mr. Karate and Human Saiki. All together, KOF XIII boasts an impressive roster of over 30 (hand-drawn) fighters, offering great variety.


Some of the best-looking 2D sprites ever made!


The console version features a nice variety of game modes, including: Story, Tutorial, Mission (complete with Survival, Time Attack & Trials), Online, Customize, Replay, and Gallery. As I kind of expected, the storyline revolves around an unfamiliar cast of odd, feminine male characters and is a bit sleepy overall. The high point would be the ultra high-res artwork and the short-but-sweet animated cut scenes. Story Mode is a little hard to follow, but allows players to make a few selections which alter the events in the storyline. It's also kinda cool that you have to use the default teams in Story Mode, which make for some entertaining pre-fight interactions between teams.

Even if Story Mode puts you to sleep, SNK packed a ton of fan service into KOF XIII. For starters, unique pre-fight conversations before every possible character match-up in the game! This technique was formerly seen in 2003's SNK VS Capcom: Chaos, but is executed better in KOF XIII. There's a ton of character-to-character dialogue to enjoy, and not only before the fight, but after the fight as well. The dialogue for when two of the same character are onscreen is especially entertaining. Some of these "mini conversations" are clever, others are chuckle-inducing, and a few are just kinda awkward. Nonetheless, this element equates to a ton of dialogue per character, which really allows their personalities to shine. It's an effect that so few fighting games these days bother with, but is surely appreciated by fans of these iconic characters.


K' looks revamped and awesome in KOF XIII. 


Most importantly, KOF XIII's momentum-based gameplay brings back many of the elements that made it stand out in the past, but expands upon them exponentially. In addition to improving the gameplay speed, the combo system has been completely redone from KOF XII, and let me tell you, there are some INSANE and very hard-hitting combos in this game. While anyone can enjoy the game casually, mastering the deeper system mechanics like Hyperdrive Mode, Hyperdrive Cancels and MAX Cancels may even take seasoned players a while to wrap their heads around. To get you acquainted with the gameplay system, SNK included Tutorial and Mission Mode, which are designed as intuitively as you would hope. Mission Mode features 10 combos per character, many of which are very challenging. On that note, unless you're some kind of input genius... the more advanced combos KOF XIII's Mission Mode will probably make you feel like you suck at the game. And that's not good for new players. 

To sum up some of KOF XIII's gameplay features.... Special moves now have "normal" and "EX" versions. The EX specials cost a small amount of the power gauge and can add extra hits, boost attack speed, and/or add an extra frame of invincibility! A new gameplay feature is the Triple Cancel, which allows players to unlimitedly cancel their character's moves. The Triple Cancel is dependent on the Hyper Drive Gauge, a three-tier gauge which gradually drains as the fighters cancel their moves. When a fighter is in Hyper Drive Mode and has three power stocks, they can perform a powerful technique known as a Neo Max Desperation Move. Players can also link a Neo Max technique into a combo, called MAX Cancel, which usually results in a huge, screen-filling super move! Flashy stuff... If there's any flaw with KOF XIII's gameplay, I'd say its the overly input-heavy combo chains. They're just too difficult for the game's own good.

As with any fighter, playing through Arcade Mode is sometimes the best way to get you acquainted with the gameplay at first. In addition to the character interactions, KOF XIII's Arcade Mode offers something else that is very unique. When fighting against a computer opponent, players are challenged to complete a random objective during stages, or Target Actions. Completing these tasks can award bonus points at the scoring screen. Meeting certain conditions can also reward players the next round by filling up their power gauge or Hyper Drive Gauge. Objectives include goals such as completing a certain amount of hits within one combo, successfully hitting the opponent with a desperation technique (including EX and Neo Max desperation moves or specials), or being asked to perform a certain attack within 10 seconds.


The Women's Team returns... and is hotter than ever! <3


Not only does the console port feature a greater selection of character colors over the arcade version, but also contains a full-fledged and simply brilliant Customization Mode. KOF XIII's Color Edit/Customize Mode is the most elaborate mode of its kind to date (in a 2D fighter) and offers tons of options (especially after downloading the extra colors DLC). SNK's artists broke down the character sprites in such a way that you can edit practically any part of them that you desire! It's designed so well, in fact, that you can actually remove or add certain clothing items to some characters. On top of the 10 default colors, you can save up to 5 different color edits per character, which is pretty generous. Additionally, several "head swaps" are also available for certain fighters (and also are fully customizable). Also worth mentioning is that you can even have Kyo wear his original '94 jacket! Epic fan service. An actual alternate costume for a 2D fighting game character? I haven't seen that since the X-Men VS Street Fighter days.

In typical KOF fashion, the end boss is ridiculously, disturbingly, and insultingly overpowered. Screen-filling bullshit super moves and throw spamming ftw! Aside from being a total asshole jerk, the end boss, Saiki, is also a pretty lame design if you ask me. However, as with any fighting game, there's no reason to hate on the entire game just because of the cheap-ass boss. Thankfully, the boss actually has an alternate "human" version which is a cooler (and fairer) alternative for casual play. 

If you haven't figured it out yet, King of Fighters XIII is an incredibly beautiful game. The character sprites appear "smaller" onscreen than their XII counterparts, but haven't lost any detail. The high quality of the large character sprites are complimented with some incredibly smooth animations that rival the best of the 2D fighting genre. Every frame of animation seems to have purpose behind it, and most moves look as painful as they should when they connect. Returning characters from KOF XII have also received some brand new animations (not to mention entirely new super moves), all of which looking badass. Worth mentioning, most characters only have one win animation, unfortunately, but considering KOF XIII's main competition, it's not a big deal. However, I will say that it would've been much appreciated if SNK gave their characters a few more taunt & win animations (like the old days) to flesh out those personalities even more.

Many returning characters have certainly seen their best days in this installment, and feature some pretty deep movesets for 2D fighting game characters. The 8 new hand-drawn stages are all graphically impressive, and returning KOF XII stages have been updated with new elements. Old school KOF fans can also appreciate several character cameos in some of the backgrounds, and a variety of "classic" King of Fighters stages, all re-imagined in gorgeous HD visuals. Did I mention the game runs in 1080p? 2D eye candy to the extreme! A pure 2D fighting game like KOF XIII will always have a certain "magic" that cannot be obtained with 3D graphics. I highly prefer KOF XIII's visuals to SF4's any day of the week. King of Fighters XIII is a work of art in motion.









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Page Updated: March 23rd, 2024
Developer(s) SNK Playmore
Publisher(s): SNK Playmore, Atlus , Rising Star Games
Artwork by: Eisuke Ogura, Nona
Platform(s): Arcade, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Nintendo Switch
Release Date(s): July 14th, 2010                  Arcade
Nov. 22nd, 2011                PS3/360
Nov. 25th, 2011                 PS3/360
Dec. 1st, 2011                    PS3/360
Apr. 26th, 2012                  Arcade - as KOF XIII: Climax
Sept. 12th, 2013                Arcade - as KOF XIII: Final Climax
Sept. 13th, 2013
             Steam - as KOF XIII: Steam Edition
Nov. 16th, 2023               PS4/Switch - as KOF XIII: Global Match
Characters Kyo, Iori, Ash, K', Terry, Andy, Joe, Ryo, Kim, Benimaru, Robert, Ralf, Clark, Athena, Duo Lon, Shen Woo, Leona, Raiden, Kensou, Chin, Goro, Elizabeth, Takuma, Mature, Vice, Mai, King, Yuri, Maxima, Kula, Hwa Jai, Saiki, Dark Ash, Billy Kane

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Related Games: The King of Fighters XII, KOF XIV, KOF XV, KOF XI, KOF '94, KOF '94: Re-bout, KOF '95, KOF '96, KOF '97, KOF '98, KOF '98 Ultimate Match, KOF '99, KOF 2000, KOF 2001, KOF 2002, KOF 2002 Unlimited Match, KOF 2003, KOF: Maximum Impact, KOF: Maximum Impact MANIAX, KOF: Maximum Impact 2, KOF: Maximum Impact Regulation A, KOF: Neowave, KOF EX Neo Blood, KOF EX2 Howling Blood, KOF R1, KOF R2, KOF Collection: Orochi Saga , Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend, Arcana Heart 3, Persona 4 Arena, Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition, Street Fighter X Tekken, Yatagarasu, Xuan Dou Zhi Wang, Chaos Code, Under Night In-Birth

Gameplay Engine  9.0 / 10
Story / Theme  8.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.5 / 10
Animation  9.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  9.0 / 10
Innovation  8.0 / 10
Art Direction  9.0 / 10
Customization  10 / 10
Options / Extras  8.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  8.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  8.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  8.0 / 10
Characters  9.0 / 10


 9.2 / 10

 Review based on PS3 version    


Final Words: I really enjoyed KOF 12's art style and graphics, but the game itself ended up being a let down. As I had hoped, KOF 13 is a massive improvement over its predecessor and, in my opinion, is pound for pound the best King of Fighters game in quite some time. KOF XIII is also the most enjoyable "new age" 2D fighter I've played in recent times. A pure 2D fighter without animal-girl hybrids, 17 variations of anime girl archetypes, or ice-surfboard-riding assholes? Sign me up. 

I grew up playing Street Fighter in the 90's, and KOF was always an entertaining diversion from the mainstream, but never truly overthrew its competition. These days, it seems that Capcom's 2D ambitions are a thing of the past, which is disappointing considering the recent possibilities (SF X Tekken anyone?). With KOF XIII, SNK proudly demonstrated that a "pure" 2D fighting game can still be competitive, successful, and look awesome in this day and age. Without a doubt, KOF XIII gives all current 2D fighters a run for their money.

I really enjoy KOF XIII's core gameplay mechanics. Rolling, small jumps, a variety of ways to cancel, huge super moves, and straightforward 2D gameplay.... I love it. The deeper mechanics are a little intimidating at first, but effectively manage to add another layer of gameplay for the experts. Some of the lengthy corner juggles possible in the game are a bit ridiculous, and may put off some potential players. Thankfully, those juggles are really tough to perform and require a ton of meter. On that note, the meter system is pretty cool also. I like how KOF XIII allows you to play how you want. Use meter for EX moves and cancels? Or save it up for one huge super move? Decisions... decisions.

One thing I didn't mention in the main review... the music. KOF XIII's soundtrack might be one of the best, if not the best, in the series history. The harmonious, emotional guitar riffs ride a befitting intense pace, as each track seems to tell a story. Not many songs (in any genre of music) can make me want to play air guitar... but there are quite a few that do the trick in KOF XIII. Tracks that represent my description would include: "Each Promise", "Esaka Continues", "KD-0063", and several others. Then there's that sexy track known as "Arashi No Saxophone 5" (Yagami Team Theme) that oozes classy style and makes you want to kick someone's ass while wearing a tuxedo and then beat them over the head with a saxophone. Yeah. It's brilliant, timeless stuff.

Not many fighting games can pull off "cool" quite like KOF. Most of the character designs have stood the test of time, and still manage to offer something unique in the genre. The iconic, stylish SNK fighters and their flamboyant, "Japanese" mannerisms have never looked hotter. KOF XIII's character roster is solid, and I hope SNK continues the series further. I'd love to see some more fan favorites cross over to this awesome engine. Who would I want to see in KOF XIV? Yamazaki, Rock Howard, Gato, Tizoc, Geese, and Vanessa! Now that would make a badass character roster. Keep it up SNK... us old school fighters will support you till the end!
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen  

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