â€¦actually surprised me a little.
I wasnâ€™t expecting the tag system to be resurrected, and indeed it looks like itâ€™s hasnâ€™t been. However, theyâ€™ve done something else, and resurrected a subsystem that was last seen in KOF2002 and KOF NeoWave â€“ free cancelling (now called drive cancelling). Both implementations of the mechanic are at play here, which is a nice option to have, especially given that they have different risk/reward ratios â€“ drive cancelling without bursting stock is easy but can only be done a limited number of times, while bursting stock in mid-combo is harder but lets you do as many cancels as you want until the bar ends.
EX moves are a decent addition too â€“ the ability to spend a stock to do a version of your move that has different properties is something KOF hasnâ€™t had before and I welcome its arrival. So far it looks like EX DMs will be a decent substitute for SDMs as well, although I have yet to see any videos where theyâ€™re used.
They also seem to have restored most charactersâ€™ movelists, to varying extents. For instance Mature doesnâ€™t have only two special moves any more, and Elisabethâ€™s movelist resembles her XI incarnation more than her weird XII outing. On the other hand Kyo is still based on his boring â€˜95 incarnation (with the addition of an aerial version of his Orochinagi for some reason) and there are some strange movelist omissions (for instance, Yuri got back most of her movesâ€¦except her uppercut which was the linchpin of her combos).
For some reason they also ditched the only subsystems from XII that I liked â€“ the guard attack and chargeable CD attacks, replacing them with the traditional guard cancel knockdown attack. The former was good since it made counterattacks anticipatory rather than reactionary, and the latter was a nice option to have while on the offense, although the removal of the ability to cancel into CD attacks might diminish its usefulness somewhat.
On an aesthetic note, the music, as heard on the official site, is much better than XIIâ€™s. It still doesnâ€™t quite beat KOF2002 Unlimited Match for me, but itâ€™s solid background music, and the motifs for the individual teams (sax in Ioriâ€™s theme, fast-paced synth-laden rock for Ash, upbeat, jazzy tunes for the Ladiesâ€™ team) seem to be intact. I look forward to having some epic battles with these tunes in the background.
As far as graphics go, theyâ€™ve removed the zooming that was present in XII, so the sprites are now displayed at a smaller size. Given that the sprites are upscaled from 480p to begin with, I regard this as a good thing as it makes the sprites appear less pixelated compared to the backgrounds. However, theyâ€™ve also gone ahead and applied some sort of smoothing filter to the sprites that make them appear out of focus compared to the backgrounds. This was a big personal gripe with KOFXI and NGBCâ€“ the first thing I did after buying both games for the PS2 was to go into the options and turn off the filter. Why would you produce some great pixel artwork (upscaled, yes, but still really good) and then ruin it with a shitty blur filter? I hope the home ports retain the ability to disable it.
As far as roster goes, itâ€™s known (thanks to some now-removed hidden files on the official KOFXII website) that three of the remaining characters to be revealed will be the Kâ€™ team, although no-one knows yet who will feature on the team alongside Kâ€™ himself. The other slots are on the Kim team, AOF team and Yagami team, and based on some missing character data found on the KOFXII disc, are probably going to be Hwa Jai (from Fatal Fury 1), Takuma and Vice â€“ although SNKP may go ahead and decide to toss us a curveball yet.
Overall, though, so far KOFXIII has generated far more interest from me than KOFXII ever managed to, so I find myself anticipating the weekly SNKP site updates quite eagerly. I suppose thatâ€™s a nice change.
(Pictures from Impress Game Watchâ€™s KOFXIII writeup)