The King of Fighters XIII: Steam Edition brings SNK Playmore’s excellent 3-on-3 2D fighter to the PC via Valve’s digital distribution platform. If you’ve knuckled up against friends and foes in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, you’ll feel right at home here as the intricate combat mechanics, gorgeous graphics, and fight-worthy music is impressively ported to home computers. That, however, isn’t the end of the story: it includes the all of the console DLC, King of Fighters XIII: Climax arcade additions, (somewhat) improved netcode, and graphics options to customize your gameplay experience. In short, King of Fighters fans who’ve patiently awaited a PC version can boast having the ultimate version of XIII. It may very well be the best 2D fighter of this generation.
Casual fighting game fans will enjoy performing basics and supers, but Steam Edition‘s combat system is one that rewards the dedicated as it allows them to inflict ungodly combos and big damage using cancels. It’s all about Drive Cancels, Guard Cancels, Hyperdrive Cancels, Super Cancels, and Neo Cancels. As the names suggests, you can cancel out of a move and into another to rack up big hits. These cancels (except for Guard Cancels) are governed by each fighter’s Hyperdrive Gauge, which fills as you land, block, and take hits. Depending on the cancel needed, you’ll consume between 50% to 100% of the Hyperdrive Gauge — so cancel with prejudice.
Steam Edition‘s graphics impress in a manner that few modern 2D fighting games can match as it balances silky animation with a ruggedness that fits a fighting game. Guilty Gear’s visuals are beautiful, but overly polished. Street Fighter IV‘s polygons lack soul. Mortal Kombat‘s fighters can look downright awkward at times. Steam Edition, on the other hand, drips in pixel love. Steam Edition‘s graphics may not match Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online’s insane-to-the-point-of-distraction animation, but what’s there is absolutely stunning.
What isn't quite as attractive is the netcode which is decent at best. I've played several matches and very few have been what I call stellar. That said, I had a better online experience here than on console. SNK Playmore's GGPO aversion baffles me.
It would be of poor judgement to overlook the darker side of Steam Edition’s wonderful visuals as this game is a decidedly non-PC game — to a fault. In fact, some elements are not just insensitive, but downright brutish. King and Yuri (rarities in fighting games as they’re both strong, full-clothed women) suffer the humiliation of having their clothes shredded by supers, leaving them partially clothed and unconscious on the ground — yes, it’s ♥♥♥♥ imagery either by design or accident. This isn’t new; it’s ripped straight from Art of Fighting, SNK’s early ’90s fighting game — and it should have stayed in the past. But that isn’t the only offense. Semi-human, tailed animals cheer in Brazil’s stage — creatures that recall racist imagery from the early 20th century. Gender and sexuality slights are commonplace, too. It’s more than a little disturbing that this imagery exists in a game released this decade.
Still, in a time period that saw the wondrous return of the 2D fighter thanks to the smash success of Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Street Fighter IV, and Persona 4: Arena, KOF XIII: Steam Edition should be considered a must-have title despite its borderline offensive flaws. If this is the result of SNK moving away from annual releases, I wholeheartedly approve and hope that the company applies similar care to neglected fighting games its deep game catalog.
You can read my full review at 2D-X.com: http://www.2d-x.com/the-king-of-fighters-xiii-steam-edition-pc-review-reigning-royalty/