Turns out that the 2D fighter is a hardy old goat. Here we are in 2011 and it's still possible to buy a new beat 'em up that has hand-drawn characters knocking seven shades out of each other. Strangely, it's not the lack of a third dimension that makes this game feel outdated, though.
No, that'll be the bizarre, Porky's-esque fixation with boobs. Series veteran Mai is so poorly supported she clacks about like an executive desk toy. Worse still, on the occasions that Yuri Sakazaki is knocked out with a special move, her top inexplicably flies off. Unconscious, topless women. Again, this is a new game released in 2011.
If you can manage to put the misogyny out of your mind, this is an exemplary 2D dust up. The action is even quicker than XII and the characters are sumptuously animated. Migrants from Street Fighter will find KoF XIII welcoming, even if their skills only extend to the well-worn jumping-kick-into-sweep strategy. Technical players will relish the level of dexterity required to make the most of the Drive Cancel system.
While the roster remains the same as 2009's game, there are more peripheral features, the most prominent of which is a baffling multi-path story mode with incomprehensible cutscenes. The lunacy filters down to pre-fight smack talk, filled with - possibly unintentional - humour.
While the single-player and local multiplayer is perfectly furnished, the online multiplayer suffers from the absence of the GPPO system that made Street Fighter III: Third Strike's netcode rock solid. Lag has a crippling effect, which is a shame, as otherwise the online options are impressive. You can even fight in practice mode while you wait for an opponent, or play through Arcade mode.
In its natural habitat, with two players sitting on a sofa together, this evokes the best of the '90s 2D fighting boom. It may lack the glossy finish of recent Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Tekken releases, but it still feels slick and rapid enough to stand by its polygonal brethren. If you like your fighting games with a dash of nostalgia, this fits the bill beautifully.
Not quite the king, but it's in the nobility
- Lavishly animated
- 30-odd characters
- Plenty to do
- Lag ruins on-line play
- Needs to grow up a bit