The King of Fighters XIII is the thirteenth installment in The King of Fighters series and the final chapter of "Tales of Ash" story arc, started in The King of Fighters 2003. The theme for this title is "KOF-ism" or getting back to the heart of the series. The main objective of the game's new features is to appeal to the audience that prefers quick combos.
Mobile versions of the game were released on July 7, 2011 and a downloadable application for social networks was released on October 17, 2011. Additionally, an iOS version of the game, titled The King of Fighters-i-, feauring a reduced character roster, was released on July 7, 2011; an update of this version that includes six more characters was released on September 8, 2011. This same version was later ported to the Android platform on March 22, 2012, as The King of Fighters Android. An updated version featuring 12 new characters and other modes was released on iOS-based devices on May 3, 2012, called The King of Fighters-i 2012. This same version was released on Android on September 3, 2013 as The King of Fighters-A 2012.
A new version of the game, including the characters introduced on the console ports as well as new revisions, was released in Japanese arcades on April 26, 2012, under the name The King of Fighters XIII Climax.
Eisuke Ogura returns to do the character illustrations.
Magaki was slain by Shion's spear, and Shion vanished into the dimensional rift. Then other members of the group Heidern was tracking suddenly appeared and vanished, as if to mock Heidern and his team. Who are "Those From the Distant Land," and why are they so persistent in their pursuit of the power of Orochi?
Meanwhile, Ash Crimson, having obtained Kagura's power, chose to ignore Elisabeth's cautions and took on Iori Yagami's power.
Yata was defeated, and Yasakani has fallen. Only one of the Three Sacred Treasures remains: the Sword of Kusanagi. However, Kyo Kusanagi suffered a major injury at the hands of Yagami, who had been overtaken by the power of the revitalized Orochi.
Time has passed...
With these recent incidents, it was feared that the next King of Fighters tournament would never happen. However, thanks to an unheard-of amount of promotion by a mysterious party, the KoF will be held on an unprecedented scale. The new mixed martial arts tournament is on the world stage, and the mass media has been giving it coverage like never before.
Fighters all across the world begin to receive invitations... all sent from "R"!
Following its release, The King of Fighters XIII received positive reviews, taking an average of 77 and 79 out of 100 on Metacritic. GameSpot awarded it as Best Fighting Game of the Year and as the Most Improved Sequel. It was also nominated for 2011 Spike Video Game Awards, 2011 Golden Joystick Awards and Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences's 2012 D.I.C.E. Summit awards for the best fighting game of the year, but every time lost to Mortal Kombat.
The gameplay was given major praise with critics from GameSpot and 1UP.com comparing it with critically acclaimed fighting games like Street Fighter IV and finding the execution satisfying despite possible difficulties to newcomers to the franchise. The visual presentation was complimented to the point GamePro stated that the game "has an incredibly distinct – and incredibly beautiful – visual style to it." SNK Playmore was noted to have listened to all the fans' concerns regarding the game as the character roster was increased, with the notable return of fan favorite characters. On the other hand, the game has received criticism as a result of its story mode which is nearly inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the series as well as its use of illustration alongside large paragraphs telling the plot. Similar comments were given to the online modes as it lacked options to allow players to watch other online fights.
The PlayStation 3 version of the game sold 21,525 copies in Japan during its first week of release. At the game's (and the series') Evolution Championship Series debut in 2012, it became the second-most-watched game of the series at over 90,000 consecutive viewers, thanks to a highly competitive tournament. In 2012, Complex ranked it as the third best SNK fighting game ever made, calling it "one of this generation’s finest fighters." The magazine also ranked it as the eighth best 2D fighting game of all time in 2013, stating: "A hit at EVO both this year, and the last, we predict that XIII will be sticking around for years to come." GamesRadar listed it as the 8th best fighting from its generation.
- Special moves now have "EX" versions that require a stock of super meter, functioning similarly to Darkstalkers or Street Fighter III. You can also EX supers for two stocks, reviving the Max Desperations of older KOFs. EX attacks can perform tasks such as adding invincibility, boosting attack speed, adding more hits, and other factors.
- Some EX moves can play nod to other attacks a character has previously had; for example, K's EX Crow Bites resembles his Heaven's Drive DM from 2003-XI and Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, and EX Iori's EX Oniyaki resembles his Orochi version's Oni Honoo in the vs. Capcom series.
- A feature called the "Drive Cancel" allows players to unlimitedly cancel their character's moves to their whim. The ability to do so relies on the "Hyper Drive Gauge" that's above the power gauge, gradually draining it as the players cancel their moves.
- "Hyper Drive Mode" (abbv. as "HD Mode") is a tricky feature that can only be done once the Hyper Drive Gauge is at maximum. It's possible for players to perform an unlimited amount of Drive Cancels at the precise moment the gauge is filled. Although the effect is short and temporary, the feature allows otherwise unlinkable techniques to be used in one combo. Drive Cancels and Hyper Drive Mode are both callbacks to the systems introduced in The King of Fighters 2002, such as the Free Cancel and the MAX Activation, respectively. The Drive Cancel done outside HD Mode is similar to the Free Cancel done in KOF Neowave (a rebalanced version of 2002 pre-dating Unlimited Match), via the Super Cancel mode (where MAX Activation does not exist).
- When a player is in Hyper Drive Mode and has two power stocks available, or in normal state and with three power stocks, they can perform a powerful technique called a "Neo Max Desperation", a revival of the Max 2 Desperations of 2002, Neowave, and 2002 Unlimited Match. Players can also link/cancel into a Neo Max technique during a combo off of a special or even both a normal and EX Desperation, which is dubbed a "Max Cancel". Unlike Max 2s, they can be done at any health level.
- Not only does everyone gain a Neo Max, but almost all characters now gain new or regain old attacks left out in KOF XII.
- Throw attacks are now back to being back or forward + Hard Punch or Hard Kick like in past games, but more like KOF 2003 and XI (in that all characters only have one throw, and button used determines if they switch sides or not)
- The Story Mode returns with a scoring system. When fighting against a CPU opponent, players are challenged to complete a random objective during stages, called Target Actions. Completing these can award bonus points at the scoring screen. Meeting certain actions can also reward players the next round by filling up their power gauge or Hyper Drive Guage. Objectives include goals such as completing a certain amount of hits within one combo, successfully hitting the CPU with a desperation technique (including EX and Neo Max Desperation Moves or specials), or being asked to perform a certain attack within 10 seconds.
- A complete story consists of eight stages, six being spent against teams and two being saved for the final matches.
- During a fight against a CPU opponent, players can be awarded a big boost of extra points if they end a match with a Regular, EX or Neo Max Desperation Move. It also triggers a special splash screen for their victory blow.
- The "zoom" effect seen in The King of Fighters XII has been removed, and general gameplay speed has been improved greatly.
- Pre-fight exchanges similar to those in SNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos are also present in the game. These unique conversations also exist in mirror matches (when two players play with the same character) and they only appear in Single Player mode.
- Aside from the regular team music from the game, players can also listen to the characters' themes from previous KOF games, such as "Queen" from KOF XI for Elisabeth and "KDD-0075" from KOF XI for K'.
- King and Yuri can have their tops ripped off (as in Art of Fighting, Art of Fighting 2, The King of Fighters '94 and The King of Fighters '95) when K.O.'d by special, EX and Desperation Moves.
The entire roster from The King of Fighters XII (including the two console exclusive characters) return in The King of Fighters XIII, arranged in the usual teams of three people.
Both Mukai and Botan return. Rose Bernstein returns and is also the sponsor of this year's tournament. All the remaining members from Those from the Past group have their faces revealed and are being led by Saiki.
When the game designer was asked about his personal thoughts for this new cast in an interview, he remarked that he isn't always looking forward to adding popular characters from other series. As before with KOF XII, the overall goal for the cast is to create contrasts and variations between each character for an interesting balance between teams. Whenever possible, he believes the characters in The King of Fighters should be reenacting a classic fist-to-fist battle rather than one that relies too much on additional weaponry. Lately, the desire to stay true to this theme in an interesting manner has decided who gets to appear in KOF.
The characters added to the roster (between originals and of other franchises) are:
- Raiden, from Fatal Fury series, is a pro wrestler and former criminal who joins Kim Kaphwan in his Rehabilitation Project;
- Hwa Jai, also from Fatal Fury series, is another criminal and once a Muay Thai champion, who joins Kim's Rehabilitation Project;
- Saiki, the sub-boss of the game, is the leader of Those from the Past group and Ash's ancestral. He is a being that has been described as the Western emissary of Gaia, he desires to gather life energy throughout the tournament to reawake Gaia's will and use the entity for his own means. He appears in two forms: Human Version (only in Domestic Platforms and Climax Versions) and Awakened Version;
- Evil Ash, the final boss of the game, is a version of Ash after killing and absorb Saiki and Mukai's powers.
- Note 1: Mr. Karate, from Art of Fighting series and one the new additions in the roster, has no relevance in the history of the game, as well as Billy Kane, who enters in the tournament alone.
- Note 2: As for teams and characters, most classic teams return to their lineup from the first games in the series. This includes the return of Goro Daimon, Andy Bogard, Joe Higashi, Robert Garcia, Takuma Sakazaki, Leona Heidern, Chin Gentsai, Mai Shiranui and the duo Mature and Vice (two ladies killed by Iori in KOF '96 and who appears as ghosts capable of physically materializing). In addition, the only substantial change is the new Rivals Team, formed by Elisabeth Blanctorche, Duo Lon and Shen Woo, who enters with the purpose of stopping Ash Crimson, who this time appears in the tournament alone. The K' Team remain with the same formation as The King of Fighters XI.
Elisabeth Team (A.K.A. Rivals Team)
Fatal Fury Team
Art of Fighting Team
Ikari Warriors Team
Psycho Soldier Team
Women Fighters Team
- Note: Ash appears as mid-boss before the last team in Arcade Mode, while Billy and Saiki appear after the third battle. All mid-bosses appear under specific conditions.
Available in All Versions
Available Only in Domestic & Arcade/Climax Versions
- Saiki (Awakened Form)
Several alternate colors for the cast are homages to characters in other games or media. The list below charts costume outcomes from the alternate color options.
|Character Name||Cosplays As||Color Number|
|Ryo Sakazaki||Shin Akuma and Ryu from the Street Fighter series, Mr. Karate II from Buriki One||Normal Color #8, Normal Color #6, Normal Color #5|
|Robert Garcia||Terry Bogard||Normal Color #10|
|Takuma Sakazaki||Mr. Karate, Shin Akuma from the Street Fighter series, Ryo Sakazaki||Alternate Color #1, Normal Color #10, Alternate Color #10|
|Yuri Sakazaki||Herself (with braid), Cammy from the Street Fighter series, Mina Majikina from the Samurai Showdown series, Yamanaka Ino from the Naruto series||Alternate Color #1, Alternate Color #10, Normal Color #6, Normal Color #8|
|Terry Bogard||Robert Garcia||Normal Color #10|
|Andy Bogard||Son Goku from the Dragon Ball series, Eiji Kisaragi, Himself (KOF 2001~2002 [UM])||Normal Color #9, Normal Color #8|
|Raiden||Big Bear (his babyface persona from Fatal Fury 2), Venom from the Spider-Man series, Zangief from the Street Fighter series, himself (from Fatal Fury series), Hulk Hogan, (American wrestler), Winnie the Pooh from Disney, Tiger Mask (Japanese wrestler)||Alternate Color #1, Normal Color #10, Alternate Color #4, Normal Color #2, Alternate Color #9, Alternate Color #10, Normal Color #9|
|Elisabeth Blanctorche||Herself (KOF XI)||Normal Color #10 & Alternate Color #1|
|Duo Lon||Xiao Lon from KOF Maximum Impact series, TATARI/The Night of Wallachia from Tsukihime/Melty Blood, himself (negative colors)||Normal Color #3, Normal Color #5, Normal Color #10|
|Hwa Jai||Hulk from the Hulk series, Adon from the Street Fighter series, Joe Higashi||Normal Color #7, Normal Color #2, Normal Color #4|
|Ash Crimson||Joker from the Batman series||Normal Color #10|
|Kyo Kusanagi||Himself (during Orochi saga), himself (during NESTS saga), Iori Yagami (KOF '95~XI)||Alternate Color #1, Normal Color #10, Alternate Color #10|
|Iori Yagami||Himself (KOF '95~XI), Kula Diamond, Terry Bogard||Normal Color #10, Normal Color #7, Normal Color #4|
|Mature||Iori Yagami, herself (ghost)||Normal Color #4, Normal Color #10|
|Vice||Iori Yagami, herself (ghost)||Normal Color #4, Normal Color #10|
|K'||Homage to the card game, Uno, Dante from the Devil May Cry series, Two-Face from the Batman series, Kula Diamond, Kamen Rider Double, Samus Aran from Metroid, Gill from Street Fighter series||Alternate Color #10, Normal Color #4, Normal Color #8, Alternate Color #3, Alternate Color #4, Alternate Color #1|
|Kula Diamond||Iori Yagami (KOF '95~XI), Whip, C.C. from Code Geass, herself (ice doll)||Normal Color #4, Normal Color #3, Normal Color #9, Normal Color #10|
|Sie Kensou||Duo Lon||Normal Color #10|
|Athena Asamiya||Herself (KOF XII), Sasara Kusugawa from To Heart 2||Normal Color #10, Normal Color #7|
|Benimaru Nikaido||Roronoa Zoro from One Piece.||Normal Color #3|
|King||Kula Diamond||Normal Color #10|
|Maxima||Iron Man from the Iron Man Series, EVA-01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion.||Normal Color #4, Normal Color #8|
|Billy Kane||A minstrel from "The Minstrel Show"||Normal Color #10|
|Saiki||Elisabeth Blanctorche, Ash Crimson, himself (boss form), Remy from the Street Fighter series||Normal Color #2, Normal Color #4, Normal Color #10|
|Ralf Jones||Himself (KOF 2000~XI)||Normal Color #10|
|Clark Still||Himself (KOF '99~XI)||Normal Color #10|
- Note: In the Versus Mode, the stages can be selected by the player, something which was last seen in the console version of KOF 2001.
- Japan Stage: The fight occurs in a ring, with sumo wrestlers in front, the Miyajima Shrine, the Matsumoto Castle and the Mount Fuji in the background, besides alegoric cars in the left and in the right.
- India Stage: The city of Agra. It's a yellow colored stage, beautifully animated 3D elephants in the immediate background and the Taj Mahal in the distance.
- England Stage: An 1994's type Britain stage, in the street, with the Big Ben in the background. The weather starts off foggy, but sun shines by the fourth round. Also can be seen people, guards and the famous britain bus.
- Brazil Stage: The Amazon Forest. This is a lush-green colored jungle stage that was intended to be in The King of Fighters XII. Hard falls cause objects such as fruits or snakes to fall from the trees.
- USA Stage: An area above the city of New York, with speakers, monitors, and caution tape scattered around; a red, white, and blue sign reading "THE KING OF FIGHTERS" sits above the fighting area. A cage drops in the background in some rounds, and various floats can be seen in the sky. Also can be seen the Empire State Building. Similiar to Muscle Power's stage in the first World Heroes.
- Note: in the 3rd round, a helicopter with a reporter at the door appears for a few seconds before disappearing overhead.
- Sky Noah Stage: An airship floating high above ground, featuring the Bernstein family lounging and doing their business. Multiple terminals and high-tech consoles are strewn across the stage. Stage reminiscent of KOF 2003.
- Desert Stage (Ancient Ruins): A simple desert with several boulders and cracked surface. A few hints of ruins from an ancient civilization are shown.
- Dojo Stage (Kyokugenryu Dojo): A dojo set in the main room, holding several Japanese paraphernalia hanging on the walls. There are posters of the Art of Fighting teams, and students in gis are watching the team battle each other. Seen in the background are Marco Rodriguez and the unnamed student seen in his Garou: MOTW ending. Stage reminiscent of AOF 2 (Takuma's Stage).
- Pao Pao Cafe Stage: A colorful stage with exotic plants and decorations with musicians in the center, with patrons watching over the battle on the left and right behind windows.
- South Town Stage: A back alley in the depths of the South Town, where the graffiti is plastered across the brick walls, a random hoodlum is sitting by the opening of one of them, and a broken car with damaged windows. Similiar to the Mickey Rogers' stage in the first Art of Fighting.
- Burnt Remains Stage: A lush meadow with trees in the background, also containing the ruins of a European castle with moss and vine decorated on its walls.
- Temple Stage — Mr. Karate: An eastern temple in Japan, dimly lit by torches planted alongside the structure. It has a memorial site to the left, with unmarked stones. Stage reminiscent of the first AOF.
- Abandoned Factory Stage: An abandoned factory reminiscent of the Rival Team's Stage in KOF '95. The sun setting provides light for the background as a smoldering power plant is seen from behind, along with a trash pile and a KOF-labelled truck.
- Esaka Stage: A scaffolding connecting to a series of apartment buildings and a train station in Esaka, along with the SNK headquarters in the background. Numerous high school students are cheering on the fight, with a digital billboard promoting the KOF tournament with different fighters. Stage reminiscent of the Psycho Soldier and Hero Teams' from KOF '96.
Mid-Boss & Boss Stages
- Clock Tower Stage: The 1994 type Britain stage taking place in a clock tower instead of the city streets. Features the clock gears, a workshop with tools, pipes and London's buildings, highlightning the Big Ben in the background. Associated with Billy Kane.
- Vessel Room Stage: A room of an evil palace. Can be seen small craters all over the scene, emanating an evil lava, besides two stairs, an energy ball in the center of a hole and a terrace. Similar to Magaki's stage in KOF XI. Associated with Human Saiki.
- Coliseum Rooftop Stage: The fighters are on the roofs of the Rose Stadium, where light is illuminating the center from behind, where fireworks are being shot in the distance. Associated with Ash.
- Rose Stadium Ashed — The Gate: The coliseum and castles have been warped into a destroyed version, and the ground is covered in what seems to be cooled magma. Occupying the back of the stadium where the screen once was is the Gate. Above the stadium, lighting and swirling clouds rage in a reddish sky due to a stoppage in time. Associated with Awakened Saiki.
- Rose Stadium Misted — Diabolosis: The entire stage is almost completely white, with vague shadows of the foundation of the Rose Stadium visible as the Gate opens wider. Associated with Evil Ash.
- Rose Stadium: A orange/brown colored coliseum with a blue rose bed in the middle and some castles in the background. Takes place at night.
- Egypt Stage: The city of Giza, in a new green/yellow colored versionmin what appears to be an indoor palace. Green light reflects off of players when the stage's fires are lit.
- China Stage: The city of Zhouzhuang. Night time setting with glowing amber lamps. A hard fall on the side of the stage causes a dog to jump out and bark.
- France Stage: The city of Paris. Can be seen a sunset setting with the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower in the background. Also features various people sitting in tables watching the fight.
- This is the last mainline King of Fighters game to use hand-drawing sprites.
- Originally unused sound files for the English dub were found in the arcade version of the game through datamining but were eventually removed in home console versions.