Friday, 25 October 2013

Review: King of Fighters XIII - Steam Edition (PC)

An aspect I've come to appreciate about fighting games is their ability to differentiate themselves in a packed genre. It's a missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to, let's just use this as an example, first-person shooters where being able to tell the difference between Call of Duty and Battlefield and Generic Shooter X is difficult. It's not even a Pepsi vs. Coke blind taste test. It's almost a Coke vs. Coke blind taste test. Fighting games manage to avoid this thanks to some very different art styles. Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters XIII are both fighting games, but it's extremely easy to tell them apart. It blurs a little with the likes of Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive, but that's the only near-miss I can think of.

King of Fighters XIII (KoF) manages to stand out, at least in my mind, and not just because Mai Shiranui is so... animated. Yes, KoF manages to brush up against my 12-year old brain, but the art style and cool animation really does make it unique (at least in my experience) and the fighting is good enough to hold my interest, particularly because it also brushes up against that nostalgia part of the brain enough to make me seek out scientific papers on the topic of Nostalgia.

For the "Steam Edition," the game fails to shake off of vestiges of its console origins and rather than taking advantage of the mouse and keyboard, the menus feel clumsy and even jumping out of a match there's a bit of pecking involved. (It's not ESC, it's the space bar!) It's definitely easier to plug in a controller and just pretend you're sitting in front of a console.

There's no shortage of modes to play around with in KoF. Arcade, Story (I still don't know what the hell is actually going on; I don't care either), Online, and Practice.

Online is essentially a non-starter unless you know someone that also has the game because I have yet to get an online match going. Other reviews have raved about improved netcode, but that's kind of beside the point when I can't match up with an opponent. Fortunately, the offline offers some great fighting no matter what kind of fighting you might be into. Relive an arcade experience or hone the moves in the Practice mode. I'll admit that KoF excels at being something I can drop a few fights on and feel like I've had a gaming fix.

For the hardcore crowd the challenge is also there with the Mission mode that can really put the screws to a player. I've shied away from that only because I just want to just want to jump in a play a few rounds, not grind my patience.

With a large roster of characters to choose from, the focus of three-on-three fights, and the overall art style and sensibility, King of Fighters XIII really does feel good to play. The scope might be limited to a (generally) hardcore player base, but that doesn't make it any less of a game in my eyes, particularly for the $29.99 asking price.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Stab of nostalgia
- Some great-looking art and animation
- Plenty of modes and characters to choose from
- Ebb and flow is really good

The Bad:
- Online is non-existent in my experience
- Doesn't shake the vestiges of the console version

Score: 8.0 / 10