For a gamer of a certain age (ie: knocking on a bit) King of Fighters XIII Deluxe Edition is a beautiful thing. It’s more than just a game, it is in fact a neatly packaged time machine, tardis-esque; it looks unassuming on the outside but once entered has a power to transport you to times gone by in spectacular fashion.
Certainly as I stepped tentatively into the first few minutes of the game I was suddenly 12 years old again, nipping off from school on my lunch break to spend the dinner money on a feast of gaming greatness, racers, shoot-em-ups, sports and of course the all important fighters.
It would probably be fair to say that in terms of the classic 2D fighting genre, King of Fighters has always been slightly in the shadow of it’s higher profile relations. Yet while the world fell at the feet of Street Fighter and kids longed for the controversy strewn Mortal Kombat, KoF still had it’s place in many hearts thanks to a history built in the arcades.
So what do we have here?
Well, a roster of over 30 fighters for a start. An array of faces that will be familiar to fans of the franchise and a couple of newbies all lovingly hand drawn and impressively vibrant on the screen.
Also a huge amount of options including arcade, story and multiplayer modes.
And of course the most important ingredient, the fighting itself, is wonderfully fluid and gives opportunity to mix up your style and experiment in finding ways to defeat the opponent.
There’s a welcome tutorial on offer to guide you through the array of moves and explain the various bars on screen but as with most fighters it’s easy enough to just dive headlong into the fray and hope for the best, it might be painful but practice as they say makes perfect and going straight into the action is a great way to get a feel for the game.
One of those bars I mentioned is the Drive guage. The Drive guage fills as you both give and receive damage, when the bar reaches it’sa half way point you can then cancel one special move mid way through and go into another, while a full bar unleashes Hyper Drive mode in which, for a limited time, you can continually cancel special moves.
The story mode here brings to a conclusion the Ash Crimson saga. It offers you a multiple choice route through the tale and requires multiple play-throughs to see everything the story has to show.
Arcade mode does just what you’d expect, picking 3 fighters and then going head on with a plethora of foes is probably the purest way to play King of Fighters XIII and even when you take a serious beating the frustration just about stays at bay thanks to the superb and sleek fighting being served up. Going back for another go, or 5, is never a chore.
The online multiplayer gave me a largely lag free hour or two of great fun. You can only truly realise where you stand among the ranks of the King of Fighters brigade by taking the fight to the online world and it’s fair to stay I sit somewhere near the foot of the ladder, but what the heck, it was great finding out.
Graphically the game is excellent, wonderfully drawn characters, bright cartoony backgrounds and smooth as silk animation adds up to a great visual experience.
The music is classic arcade fighting fare, lots of bouncy tunes that in any other context would probably have you pulling your hair out but here it fits perfectly.
There’s little wrong with King of Fighters XIII, even for a gamer like myself who isn’t really known for a love of the genre, I found myself getting sucked into this game and losing myself within it’s beautifully crafted walls. Although it certainly won’t appeal to everyone I would expect KoFXIII to attract a larger audience than some other fighters. Although it has enough to satisfy a hardcore audience it also offers a friendly welcome to the more inexperienced gamers that maybe haven’t been fans of fighters in the past, I alone am testament to that and I expect KoFXIII to feature regularly on my playlist over the next few months, and that’s something I never expected.
Here we have a game that can stand alongside other fighting greats as an equal, it deserves to be played and loved by fight fans and gamers far and wide. Let’s hope it is.