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Review – King of Fighters XIII – Steam Edition

The King of Fighters lands on Steam, bringing the latest engine packed with redrawn visuals, HD backgrounds and tons of goodies that make the game pretty exciting to play on the desktop, notebook or what keeps players gaming now. It pops in at $29.99 on the market and delivers online and offline competition to keep the challenges coming. For those wondering if it’s just a plain rehash, it’s not, the game also packs in Iori, Nests and Mr. Karate DLC to drive the roster to 36 characters. All the Xbox DLC in one spot for this celebratory installment so that really adds some extra value for a title I’m sure many didn’t see coming to the PC.

When KOF XIII launched on the 360 a while back, I enjoyed the game as it was a large improvement over XII which lacked in move variety and options. It’s not the perfect installment although they kept pushing to make up for it by including DLC characters to complete the fan requests and build a diverse lineup. My stance on KOF XIII remains the same, the story, AI, character moves and experience are memorable and are easy to return to. Players can beat the game with pure domination, come back a month later and get destroyed just because they were slow or missed a connection. It’s always fun, it’s always a challenge and learning new moves and combinations every time is just really rewarding.

The graphics are beautiful on the PC, crisp on my LCD’s and it scales surprisingly well in Eyefinity, character resolution in the art is able to scale heavily for the game it’s just fantastic. Those hoping for a vivid and crisp experience are in for a treat using classic 2D mechanics vs cell styling or a 3D engine trying to support classic fighting mechanics. The only flaw is a simple one, on my build I was unable to display subtitles, it made the cut scenes dry as those without knowledge of Japanese aren’t able to take note of the events unfolding.

Where it all gets a bit sideways is the online experience, SNK is working like mad to get this fixed and optimized but in the moment, it’s sketchy. The beta leading in had decent latency (not amazing but not awful) but at release I was unable to find players at all with the search stalling. People love competition, this is a huge item for SNK to tackle if they want KOF to really take off, it’s not the first game of the genre to launch on the PC and others have bridged this gap. If it’s a matter of days or week’s it’s hard to say, if they return to the netcode from the most recent branch it would return the game to an online playable state even if that includes some ghosting or glitching.

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Additionally, controls are suffering from issues when using specialty hardware, Hori sticks have reports of issues and those hoping to use custom keys for keyboard input face limitations in an awkward array.  Trying to use my arcade stick I wasn’t able to properly map buttons which neutralized the use of it in the review. I was able to use an old Logitech USB controller but that’s about it. Very unfortunate but it’s part of the ongoing patch list for KOF now, it is a hard disappointment but using at least some form of controller helped keep the delivery. Even having an ini file to manipulate would aid heavily.

I love KOF games, I have since they debuted in my hometown arcade, watching the series expand, experiment and evolve has been fun but gaming is moving into the personal space so KOF has to adapt to the times to survive. I just wish SNK was able to perfect a system that had suffered some setbacks even on the Xbox 360 for quality. Right now there are many hoping the net play to shape up again and that’s just a rough hit for everyone.

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King of Fighters XIII Steam Edition rewards players with DLC and a real arcade experience, unfortunately it now struggles to deliver on network experiences for online play and control. Fighting enthusiasts love their hardware and they love beating up on each other, both of those have obstructions and it’s hurting that word of mouth and hype train. I want to see the Steam Edition flourish with players and fans so we can see more installments but buyers need more than this and hopefully it comes through.

The good:

  • Beautiful visuals, detailed and crisp delivery
  • Fluid frame rate, 60fps solid with great response
  • Controls that work deliver quick movement and easy actions
  • Strong AI and challenges, keeping players on their toes constantly
  • Custom character options, design their look as desired

The not so good:

  • Netcode is buggy, matches are hard to find or lagging needs improvement still
  • Controller support is off, Hori, X-Arcade and other models are struggling to deliver
  • Subtitles enabled please? None available at 1920×1200.

Would I say it’s worth the investment? Yes, in general King of Fighters is a good bet, the SP campaign has lasted with the test of time and a full roster of 36 characters makes it extremely enjoyable. One can hope that SNK continues to heavily devote themselves to fixing the control and network issues and this release will stand out as a gem. Given their interactions with the community so far, it seems likely we’ll see brighter days ahead.

Link: King of Fighters XIII Steam Edition Product Page (Steam)