In a time when all classic fighting games made the leap from sprites to 3D, SNK bet heavily on traditional animation. And, in the process, he gave us arcade fans a great game that can only be classified as a moving work of art: The King of Fighters XIII. With its own flaws, of course, but capable of making you fall in love with its more subtle details and explosions. To be imposed on any previous delivery in the playable.
In many respects, the 13th installment of SNK’s great fighting saga was also a redemption from a The King of Fighters XII strong in key aspects but light in content: SNK relaunched its star saga without a story mode, without a final boss, with a very fair panel of fighters, with few scenarios and very notorious absences like that of Mai Shiranui. Possibly the most iconic fighter in the Osaka company.
Errors and missed opportunities to show off that SNK solved just a year later: The King of Fighters XIII (KOF13) brings back all the best of the 2009 fighting tournament, filled it with content and extras in its recreational edition and achieved excellence in its domestic adaptations. Raising the saga back to the status it had since its inception and, at the same time, being totally faithful to its own initials.
Causing the inevitable collision between Kyo and Iori, the highest standard bearer of The King of Fighters, it was exciting again.
And yet The King of Fighters XIII it marked the end of an era. On the one hand, because in the plot it was about the epic conclusion to the Ash Crimson saga, the third major story arc of the series. On the other hand, because SNK itself will begin a new period of total restructuring that will leave the fans of its star saga without news -although with a rich playable legacy- for six long years.
The King of Fighters XIII It was a double farewell in which SNK, consciously or not, put all the meat on the grill. As part of the resurgence of the great fighting games of the late 2000s along with Street Fighter IV
Because it is beyond doubt that KOF 13 is one of the best SNK fighting games, which is not small. A timeless classic? Eleven years after its arcade debut, the game is beautifully preserved. Even in new generation systems thanks to backward compatibility.
The King of Fighters XIII ten years later: from Xbox 360 to Xbox Series X
maybe KOF 12 was a Dream Match, a delivery outside the plot continuity of the saga The King of FightersBut it was a real leap in quality and ambition: SNK scrapped all original character sprites, settings, and effects to craft new fighters from scratch and in a traditional way. As a result, on an artistic level, that delivery was spectacular.
We were used to Osaka’s launching arcade fighting with huge and detailed fighters, but the finishes and fluidity with which Kyo, Terry or Athena moved far exceeded anything seen in any other classic fighting game. And not only that, the redesign of each character He radiated stage presence and character in his movements.
Logically, that The King of Fighters XII -and KOF 13– they did not use three-dimensional models of fighters implied the absence of alternative costumes. However, SNK managed to create color palettes and editors that achieved an unusual effect: the wrestlers seemed to be wearing different clothes.
However, it is not all praise for KOF 12: polished in the playable and brutal in presentation, that installment lacked background and was too fair in terms of content. Fortunately, The King of Fighters XIII He put on the table everything that the fan of the saga missed in the previous installment, and added much more to the whole.
Of departure, KOF 13 offers two ways to approach your plot:
- He traditional Arcade mode, which offers a succession of team battles that gradually lead to an epic showdown.
- AND story mode, a very interesting variant in which we can choose scenery and equipment while we discover the true nature and the inevitable destiny of Ash Crimson, the central character of this stage of the SNK saga.
Of course, the integration of a system of progress and challengesEven within the arcade, it increased the replayability itself generously: the return of traditional teams and the two ways of getting involved in the story led to unlockable endings, collectibles and exquisite illustrations.
Not to mention that, with enough skill, in the home versions we can unlock two extra fighters.
And in the playable? Well this is where SNK really showed off with KOF 13. The climax of the Ash saga was a return to the classic sensations of the first installments, but maintained the superb technical character of the stage around the turn of the millennium of the series.
Rolling, running, moving, or using any of the three types of jumping still feels intuitive, of course. But the way you take advantage of the power bars makes all the difference. Leading to spectacular combos, finishers devastating and effects capable of filling the screenay, executed at the key moment, make us let go of command.
Of course, SNK was aware and took note of everything that was missing in the previous edition, and not only recovered the fan favorites (starting with the own Mai Shiranui) but introduced new final bosses capable of pushing the limits of the button crusher and challenge veterans and those who defend themselves with the commanders.
Giving both, as is tradition in the saga and the recreational areas of the house, the opportunity to request revenge with advantages: starting with our power bar at the maximum or reducing the opponent’s health bar to a quarter. Which – let it be said – is not a guarantee of victory either.
The SNK milestone as a whole is due to the superb use of the Taito Type X2 arcade system. And although, like the previous installment, it debuted in the arcade rooms, KOF 13 He also knew how to shine with his own light in his comforter versions. Taking advantage of the PS3 and Xbox 360 online services process.
Ten years later, and after several online games, The King of Fighters XIII still feels just as good as on launch day.
And if it was already a delight to unleash the brutal NEOMAX attacks with the Xbox 360 controller, the crosshead of Xbox Series X it suits him even better. Making chaining punches and sentencing with Super Attacks better, if possible, and giving new excuses to go out and play the statistics online.
SNK’s visual and playable ceiling still feels great ten years later
The King of Fighters XIII It is not the last installment of the saga: in 2016 SNK brought his fighters to PS4 -and later PC- through 3D models that, definitely, were not up to the standards seen in Street Fighter V O Tekken 7. Of course, its game mechanics and the fact of offering more than 50 launch fighters balanced the scales.
Still, the comparisons between the last two installments of The King of Fighters they are unavoidable. And the most interesting thing is that in many aspects – and despite including many fewer fighters – KOF 13 comes out exactly the winner. If both games are about three against three
From the outset, we find a SNK that is not only crowned in the artistic, but also pays total worship to detail. Not only did it introduce tons of new animated scenarios with special pampering, but each one overflowed with tributes to its own legacy. Consecrating the premise that KOF 13 is art in motion.
And despite the fact that the Spanish localization of the dialogues is far from perfectBoth the interludes and the dialogues between each and every one of the fighters are a true gift for the player and the one who ever went through the saga. Emphasizing in each encounter that it is not about two dolls with special abilities, but about characters with background.
To the above we must add that The King of Fighters XIII is one of the main references when it comes to introducing any player to the fighting genre: beyond the basic tutorials, which preside over the main menu, we find a missions mode that, beyond being challenging, it becomes a true academy for those who want to delve into game mechanics.
On the one hand, for offering always grateful alternatives of Time trial and Survival. But also, due to the way of introducing a sub-mode of missions dependent on the character with which to access the full potential of each fighter. Being -long- the most spectacular and creative delivery at the combos level and definitive attacks.
In fairness, the online experience of The King of Fighters It was always one of his weak points compared to the rest of the sagas. And the truth is that SNK also knew how to do the tasks in this installment: in addition to the ranked and player games (with our own rules) we can easily match up. And that in 2020 it will be relatively easy finding a game on Xbox is a milestone.
And despite the fact that from time to time there is a pull, it must be recognized that SNK was successful as rarely when it comes to its online experience. Making the set have a special appeal in its day in terms of its competitive nuance and, at the same time, knowing how to retain that same milestone so many years later.
The best installment of The King of Fighters? In fairness, the SNK saga has gone through various stages that make it difficult to compare them between them. Some of them were spectacular, like that Dream Match of KOF’ 98. While in others it was especially palpable that those from Osaka were not going through their best moment as a company.
And despite everything, The King of Fighters It does not know how to establish itself as one of the best installments of SNK’s star license, but rather is preferably positioned among the legacy of more than 40 years of the Japanese company. Those references of arcades that made entire generations dream of having a Neo Geo.
What we are clear about is that the success of the next The King of Fighters It will not depend so much on its number of available fighters or its way of offering photorealistic finishes, but on how it recovers everything that made the SNK saga continue to be one of the maximum references of fighting games today. Sensations that are very present in KOF 13.