Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: The King of Fighters XIII

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Electronic Theatre ImageRising Star Games brought the latest instalment in the hugely popular The King of Fighters series to PAL territories prior to the holidays and with it a great deal more attention than has been given to the series in recent years. As the thirteenth edition it might be thought that the interest in The King of Fighters series is waning, but nothing could be further from the truth: The King of Fighters has always been considered the tournament fighter’s videogame of choice, and The King of Fighters XIII perfectly fits that bill.

2009’s The King of Fighters XII was a more than respectable beat-‘em-up experience, but was delivered with a few new mechanics which rubbed the wrong way against many of the series’ most Electronic Theatre Image ardent fans. The Guard Attack, Critical Counter system and the Clash System, as well as the zooming camera, have been removed  from The King of Fighters XIII and in their place are three new mechanics. The first, EX Mode, converts special moves into more powerful versions in a similar fashion to those of Street Fighter IV. The Hyper Drive gives the player unlimited  use of Drive Cancels for a while once the Hyper Drive Gauge has been maxed, and the Drive Cancel system rearranges a move that has already been committed, allowing players to break an animation that would otherwise leave them vulnerable or, when more experienced, build upon the basic manoeuvre with a more complicated assault.

In addition to these new mechanics, The King of Fighters XIII builds upon an existing one. The multi-bar power-gauge that made its debut in The King of Fighters ’97 returns, dictating the use of EX Desperation Modes and the new NEO MAX Desperation Moves. Three levels of the power gauge must be stored in order to execute a NEO MAX Desperation Move, a heavy assault manoeuvre that ignores cancellations.

The decision to remove the unwanted mechanics from The King of Fighters XIII is evidence that the development still pay attention to the demands of their audience: The King of Fighters is not a series that has become complacent, keenly aware of the competition it faces in light of the growing popularity of the BlazBlue series Electronic Theatre Image and other so-called ‘serious’ beat-‘em-ups. Ultimately, the fighting experience The King of Fighters XIII provides is essentially intended to replace The King of Fighters XII as the direct line from The King of Fighters XI. When the inevitable The King of Fighters XIV arrives, it will surely build upon the new mechanics offered by The King of Fighters XIII, and those presented in The King of Fighters XII will be relegated to the leagues of the misplaced ideas.

For the lone player, The King of Fighters XIII provides both an Arcade mode and a Story mode, in addition to the expected training and standard versus options. The Arcade mode follows a traditional formula, with a preset story and hidden bosses to be found by completing specific actions in-game. Also featured here is the introduction of Target Actions: mid-fight objectives that once completed offer a boost to your power-gauge. The  boss of The King of Fighters XIII’s Arcade mode does feel somewhat cheap, similar to Mortal Kombat’s Shao Khan in that he has a move to counter almost anything you can throw at him; however the antagonist here, Saiki, also has a long lost of unavoidable and unblockable attacks. It’s at this point that you’ll probably bare witness to Arcade mode’s counter-balance: the continue bonus offers one of three Electronic Theatre Imageaids in the retry of an opponent that bested you, however if the videogame were balance perfectly one might wonder why the player would need to drop the opponents health by 75% or increase their own attack and defence stats.

The Story mode included in The King of Fighters XIII presents the conclusion of the Ash Crimson saga, as he comes closer than ever to resurrecting the demon Orochi. Progress through the Story mode is influenced by the player’s actions: their choice of team, location and further options during the gameplay mode. The presentation isn’t quite as impressive as that seen in last year’s Mortal Kombat, but the many different outcomes lend themselves to greater replayability.

As much as human competition has always been The King of Fighters’ greatest strength, it still seems to be limited in terms of online play. The King of Fighters XIII online gameplay has received a significant revision since The King of Fighters XII, but unlike elsewhere in the videogame, very little in the way of improvement. It’s an irritatingly uncertain event: one match can be perfectly smooth while the next is an almost unplayable, lag-ridden affair. Of course, the competitive nature of The King of Fighters is always better when sat with friends on a single system, and that truism remains evident in The King of Fighters XIII.

In terms of the visual quality, The King of Fighters XIII leaves little to be desired. The sprite animation is simply fantastic and the background detail has been increased dramatically since The King of Fighters XII. The characters Electronic Theatre Image are presented as very unique individuals, and despite the  overly  repetitive flame effect the overall presentation is simply fantastic: The King of Fighters XIII is arguably one of the best looking 2D videogames on current-generation high-definition (HD) consoles.

The King of Fighters XII was criticised for moving too far from the familiar The King of Fighters template, and so The King of Fighters XIII has reigned the series back in. Standing true to its roots and building upon the formula rather than proposing an unwanted radical overhaul, The King of Fighters XIII is certain to be the tournament-standard beat-‘em-up that the most ardent fans of the series clamour for. Perhaps inevitably, The King of Fighters XIII is a case of preaching to the converted – any gamers not already invested in the franchise are unlikely to start here – but that additional attention the title has drawn is paying thanks to the sheer quality of the production.

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