We’re truly living a fighting games renaissance. Ever since Street Fighter IV reignited the genre in 2009, we’ve been getting a number of interesting and diverse fight titles, ranging from the lush visuals of BlazBlue to the air combo extravaganza of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Along the way, we had The King of Fighters XII from SNK Playmore, touted as a “re-birth” of the traditional 3-on-3 series. And although it really gave new life to the franchise with gorgeous hi-def 2D sprite art and sleek animation, the game delivered little in terms of contents.
Two years later, SNK Playmore is hard at work to regain the crown with The King of Fighters XIII for PS3 courtesy of Atlus in the US. And based on the prospects, 13 seems to be the lucky number for KOF. The game was originally launched in Japanese arcades back in July 2010, being praised by fighting game connoisseurs for its vastly expanded roster (31 playable characters, including the return of fan favorite Mai Shiranui), revised fighting system (with faster gameplay and elements from previous titles in the series), and a multi-path Story Mode (with the conclusion of the Ash Crimson trilogy). For the home version, the team is adding even more fighters, stages and a variety of game modes – not to mention balance adjustments based on feedback from players of the arcade version.
Scheduled for November 22nd in the US, The King of Fighters XIII is aimed at longtime fans and fighting game enthusiasts in general. To lear more details about this return to form, we reached out to Producer Kei Yamamoto from SNK Playmore in Japan, who went in depth about gameplay, story, netcode, and future plans – yes, we
begged for asked about KOF on PS Vita too. So read on to know what awaits you later in November and leave your favorite KOF memories in the comments!
PlayStation.Blog: Although it was great to see KOF finally entering the HD era while still sticking to its 2D roots with The King of Fighters XII, the game was criticized for its somewhat limited content. How does The King of Fighters XIII evolve from the previous game in that regard?
Kei Yamamoto, Producer for the home version of The King of Fighters XIII: KOF XII was most criticized for its lack of characters, despite it being a KOF title. So we went from 20 characters (22 in the console version) to 31 characters in the arcade version of KOF XIII, and we’re adding a few more to the console version.
We have also added different modes, such as Tutorial for beginners, Mission for experts, and Story for those who wish to learn more about what went on during KOF XIII. This game has evolved from its predecessor in every respect, so players can expect to enjoy it for a long, long time.
PSB: These hi-res 2D sprites look really beautiful in motion. How was the process to bring these graphics to life?
Yamamoto: What we did was first create 3D models of each character. We posed them, added lighting, and then outputted them as 2D frames. From there, we moved on to post-processing, where we added details such as hand-drawn (dot-pixel) illustration-like expressions and shadows. We think it’s a very unique process for creating 2D sprites.
PSB: What does the 13th installment of KOF brings to the table in terms of gameplay? What features will make KOF XIII stand out in the crowded fighting genre?
Yamamoto: There are two different meters in KOF XIII: the Power gauge and the Hyperdrive (HD) gauge. The Power gauge builds up when you hit or get hit, and when it’s completely filled, it becomes stocked. By using your stocks, you can unleash powerful attacks such as Desperation moves and guard cancels. This system is familiar to KOF fans.
For the new HD gauge, building meter uses the same process as the Power gauge, but you use it for a different purpose. The HD Gauge is used to Drive Cancel, which is canceling a Special move in the middle and following up with another, and it is also used to Super Cancel. A Super Cancel lets you execute a Desperation move in the middle of a Special move. Finally, the HD Gauge will allow you to activate Hyperdrive Mode, a mode that offers you a variety of tactical advantages that can allow you to quickly turn the tables of the match in your favor.
There are a great number of quality titles in the fighting game genre. Many different systems and features have been created thus far, and the genre keeps evolving. In the midst of all that, we can proudly say that KOF is unique for its 3-on-3 team battle system. This, combined with our other features, makes KOF the outstanding series that it is.
PSB: The game was originally launched in arcades. How does releasing a game to the arcade crowd benefit the game’s balance? Are you making additional adjustments for the home version?
Yamamoto: The arcade release definitely affected the game balance of the console version. We received a lot of good input from KOF XIII arcade players. Some of those opinions and complaints were sent directly to us, while others were found on review sites and forums. All feedback is valuable to us – while we can’t implement everyone’s requests, we still tried to consider them when we were balancing the console version.
PSB: The previous title in the series had a short interval between the arcade and home versions. The King of Fighters XIII, meanwhile, comes more than a year after it was introduced in Japanese arcades. Did you use this extra time to create more content and exclusive features for the home version?
Yamamoto: We kept fixing what was needed to be fixed and adding content that fans wanted, and before we knew it, a year passed. We apologize for keeping our fans waiting, but there’s plenty of game content in return, so please look forward to it.
PSB: Online play is a crucial feature for fighting games nowadays. What improvements did you make over KOF XII in terms of netcode, matchmaking and online features?
Yamamoto: We received many comments from the players regarding the netcode. In order to improve the online performance, our netcode received a complete overhaul: we reexamined the threshold level, optimized the content of the transmitted data, and changed the way the game handled increased net traffic, among other things.
PSB: With the return of fan favorite Mai Shiranui and the original Iori Yagami available as a DLC character, The King of Fighters XIII seems like it’s full of fan service. Are you sticking to the hardcore fan base with this title or are you also thinking of ways to make it more accessible to a wider group of players?
Yamamoto: Not only is KOF a long running series, but the story of KOF XIII carries over from a previous installment, so the main target for this game has to be the series fans. But as we mentioned previously, we’ve added various modes to the game, such as Tutorial, so that fighting game beginners could also enjoy it. We hope that the series fans, other fighting game players, and people who have never played a fighting game before will all pick up this title and play it.
PSB: With this installment, the game returns to its tradition of having dozens and dozens of characters. We know every character from The King of Fighters XII make a comeback, but what were your directives when choosing additional fighters for this new chapter?
Yamamoto: There was no story progression in the last game; since this title is the conclusion of the Ash saga, many characters related to Ash’s story will make an appearance. In order to bring back what makes KOF KOF—we call it “KOF-ism”— in KOF XIII we added characters that embodied “KOF-ism.” We also made sure that the roster wasn’t filled with just the popular characters, so players could experience the deepness of the new game system.
PSB: The King of Fighters XIII finally brings a conclusion to the Ash Saga [check details for the tournament being held and individual team storyline in the Story section of the official website], picking the story where The King of Fighters XI left off. The series was always known for its complex storyline, so what can we expect for the end of this trilogy?
Yamamoto: The main character in the third story arc, Ash, being quite different from the two earlier protagonists, had people both loving and hating him. Pay close attention to him – that’s all we need to say. Why did he try to collect the Three Sacred Treasures? Why did he part ways with Elisabeth? We want you to find out for yourselves. And if you could relate to him after learning his reason for his actions, his way of life, that would make us happy.
PSB: PS Vita is turning into the ultimate portable machine for fighting games. What do you think of the hardware? Any chances we’ll see a KOF title for PS Vita in the future?
Yamamoto: The PlayStation Vita controls well, the titles being released are appealing, and user impressions are good, so I am very interested in it, not just as a developer but as a user as well. Personally, I’d love to work on a KOF title for PS Vita if the opportunity arises.
PSB: We still miss SVC Chaos and Capcom vs SNK titles. Do you think we can see a new crossover with characters from both companies again?
Yamamoto: Crossover games not only provide excitement to fans, but to us developers as well, so I’m hoping we could do it again someday. In order to make that a reality, we’ll continue to do our best and make KOF bigger and better.
PSB: So what’s next for SNK Playmore? You know, a lot of us are still waiting for a new Fatal Fury title. Maybe you could revive the Garou 2 project?
Yamamoto: There are Garou: Mark of the Wolves fans in our company as well, and making a sequel is very appealing to us. Not only MOW, but our other titles have many fans wishing for a sequel as well. There are even those who want a Neo Geo Battle Coliseum sequel.
As to what kind of game we’ll be making next, we’re in the concept stage right now. My goal is to lead a project that would meet the expectations of as many of our fans as possible.
The King of Fighters XIII hits PS3 November 22nd – there’s even a cool 4-CD soundtrack as a pre-order bonus. To keep updated about the title, keep an eye on the official website and follow Atlus on Twitter and Facebook.