Have You Played... The King Of Fighters XIII?
Just look at it!
It's no secret that I like pretty fighting games like The King Of Fighters XIII. While I've never been as into SNK's style of fighting as I have Capcom's Street Fighter, the genre's shift away from hand-drawn sprites to 3D models has never appealed to me. It made Ken's hair look like a bunch of bananas, and that's a cardinal sin. It's sad, then, that KoF XIII was the last sprite-based game before SNK followed with its own crude 3D models.
Under the hood, KoF XIII takes some risks by giving players new techniques on top of the already complex 3v3 fighting that the series is known for. EX moves are now in the game, working in a similar way to Street Fighter games, but KoF XIII also tweaks other ridiculously named returning systems like "Hyper Drive Mode" and "Neo Max Desperation". These allow you to cancel and link moves that would otherwise not be possible. It takes ages to get the timing down on this, which is why KoF games have always been some of the trickiest to master, but it's immensely satisfying once it does click.
It also has a ton of characters, including a lot of the favourites like Terry Bogard. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the "Legendary Hungry Wolf", but there are a host of different play styles, like Mature and Vice's beast-like swipes or Chin's drunken master style of fighting. There's also an expansive story mode that gives you a taste for what each character is like.
As I alluded to earlier, KoF XIII is a looker, especially so in motion. It's particularly apparent in the gorgeous backgrounds. Not only does it have more detail than it has any right to have, but the settings for each fight are unique. My favourite stages are the ones that have a ton of people cheering you on, from London's unhygienic busses, to fighting among overweight diners in the Champs-Élysées. I do worry about every single spectator getting whiplash though. They do go a bit overboard at the end of a match.