You're Doing It Wrong
One day, while I took the game to my friend’s house (a rather common occurrence for my reviews), I was fighting online and I had managed to push a player who had a fantastic record to the brink of defeat. Though I was winless, it was encouraging and, to my audience, fun to watch. The player actually took the time to send a message and say that he would be willing to play me in private matches and try to teach me things. It was a welcome change of pace from the usual “rage quitting” and, for me, “you suck” messages I had received in other fighting games and when I first started. After a few matches and a whole lot of talking with my “Sensei” I was finally able to break through and win a fight online. It was an accomplishment of epic proportions, even if it wasn’t on my PSN name, and a sign that I had come a long way from being the guy who started at tutorial inputs for a few moments and said “Screw that” then went to do something else.
Another thing I want to take a moment and touch on is how gosh darn pretty KoF XIII is. The high quality of detail is amazing and every move and frame works together. In a strange twist, the stages have even more details than the characters themselves and they’re just as much fun to look at. They aren’t distracting in any way, but I found myself watching what was going on behind the fight when I was a spectator almost as much as I was watching the action itself. SNK managed to make a game that was not only fun to play but also a treat to look at and I would put it toe-to-toe with any other game in the genre. If there was a spectator mode or something like that I could probably watch top flight players playing for hours on my PS3, but for now I’ll just stick to streams and YouTube videos.
KoF XIII has the option of being a one-on-one fighter but the focus is easily on its three-on-three. If you’re coming from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 I should note that this doesn’t mean you can switch characters on the fly. There’s a strategy and a bit of a science behind planning your team and putting them out there, because you can’t pull them back. Most online players already have pre-made teams but some will tailor their lineups just to focus on matchups. I usually found myself putting a character I was trying to learn as my “leadoff hitter” because it allowed me to constantly work on things. Of course, I always followed this up with Terry and saved Kyo, the character I felt most comfortable with, for last. There are more than 30 fighters to choose from in the game and even more are coming down the pipe in DLC form, so there should be someone for everyone.
As far as gameplay mechanics go, there’s an awful lot to learn. I’ve touched on the fact that things are rather difficult to pick up and even harder to master, but there’s a lot to keep track of. Special moves having EX and normal versions but the focus is on the Hyperdrive bar. As you perform specific prompted moves that appear on-screen mid-fight, your bar builds and allows you to also perform Drive Cancels, which basically will stop a special attack and allow you to juggle and chain combos together. If your bar fills all the way you can perform a Neo Max maneuver, which can also be cancelled and become a MAX Cancel. These moves are some of the most powerful in the game and are a ton of fun to watch considering that they take up the entire screen and are absolutely bonkers. I’ll admit that I’m still learning a lot of this stuff and talking about the mechanics isn’t my strong point but the gist of it is that if you’re willing to learn and put the time into the game, then you can do some insane stuff that will leave your opponents in awe.
The King of Fighters XIII is one of the most challenging games I have ever encountered. It will beat you into the ground and punish you for mistakes in the name of pure and honest fighting. There’s no comeback mechanics or any reward to close the gap between you and a high level opponent. You have to have the skill to perform what the game asks and also pull off moves that have more inputs than many fighting game characters have altogether. If you stick with it and learn from your mistakes, or get lucky and find someone willing to drill you in the art, it can be rewarding and make you into a better fighter in not only this but many other games. I’ll never be a king in this game, I may not even make it into the court, but I am glad to continue fighting my way through the ranks among the peasants.