It's 2010, and with much pride and pleasure
we would like to announce our annual King of Fighters Tournament.
Former participants and persons who have received this invitation may join teams,
and will face off in heated 3-on-3 combat to decide this year's champion team.
We look forward to your participation!"
Rose Bernstein, the youngest child of the late Rugal Bernstein, sponsors and announces a new King of Fighters tournament. Once more, invitations are sent and teams old and new are formed to compete. But in the background, "Those from the Past", the European sect of Orochi's followers, have started to make a myriad of moves towards their nefarious endgame. Also seeking to finalise his plans is Ash Crimson, who now possesses two of the Three Sacred Treasures, with Kyo Kusanagi being his final target. It's anyone's guess as to what will happen at this year's King of Fighters...
KOF XIII drops the experimental systems introduced in XII, but it also doesn't bring back the Shift Tag Team system from 2003 and XI. From a gameplay perspective, XIII can be described as a pseudo-sequel to The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match that was released a year earlier. A lot of fighting mechanics are standard KOF affair that the series' players would be acquainted with; the traditional 3-vs-3 match format, the multi-bar Power Gauge with Advantage system that increases its maximum stock number after losing a fighter, the EX Mode that works similarily to the MAX Mode, etc. A new addition in KOF XIII is Hyper Drive Gauge, another meter displayed above the Power Gauge that fills up independently. By spending a half of the HD Gauge, you can perform Drive Cancel, chaining a Super Move into another Super. When the HD Gauge is full, you can activate the Hyper Drive Mode, which reduces the amount of HD Gauge to perform a Drive Cancel for limited time, granting an opportunity to build a huge combo when used right. In addition, each character has an exclusive Super Move called Neo Max, which requires the most resources to execute (two Power Gauge stocks and a full of the HD Gauge, the second of which can be replaced by performing Drive Cancel in the HD Mode).
XIII is also the first game to adopt the Downloadable Content model, as the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were sold with DLCs that add three new characters and new stages. These DLCs are included by default in the Windows version available on Steam and GOG.com.
In April 2023, SNK announced a re-release titled The King of Fighters XIII: Global Match for PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, with a network test scheduled for sometime in Summer 2023.
- Team Elisabeth: All three having been double-crossed by Ash, Elisabeth Blanctorche, Duo Lon and Shen Woo team up to settle their scores with him.
- Team Japan: The bearer of the last Sacred Treasure, Kyo Kusanagi calls on his old friends Benimaru Nikaido and Goro Daimon to aid him in taking Ash down for what he did to Iori and Chizuru.
- Team Fatal Fury: Terry Bogard reunites with his brother Andy and Joe Higashi for another go around at KOF.
- Team Art of Fighting: Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia team up once again, with Ryo's father Takuma coming out of retirement to join them.
- Team Ikari: Leona Heidern, Ralf Jones and Clark Still set out to complete their mission, and put an end to Those from the Past once and for all.
- Team Psycho Soldier: The J-pop idol Athena Asamiya returns alongside Sie Kensou, having mastered his Dragon Spirit powers, and their master Chin Gentsai.
- Team Women Fighters: Another classic lineup reunites, with King, Mai Shiranui and Yuri Sakazaki returning.
- Team Kim: Kim Kaphwan returns on his own team, but this time is joined by the wrestler Raiden and the Muay Thai fighter Hwa Jai (both originating from the first Fatal Fury game, and the first time the latter is playable).
- Team Yagami: After losing his powers, Iori Yagami is approached by the seemingly alive servants of Rugal, Mature and Vice, who convince him to join this year's KOF and get revenge on Ash.
- Team K': K', Maxima and Kula Diamond return to aid the Ikari Warriors in completing their mission.
- Sub-Boss 1: If you meet certain conditions you can fight Saiki in his normal form or Billy Kane.
- Sub-Boss 2: Ash Crimson, now bearing the flame powers he stole from Iori and ready to finalise his plan.
- Sub-Boss 3: Awakened Saiki - The leader of "Those From The Past", in his true form.
- Final Boss: Evil Ash - Ash possessed by Saiki and sporting upgraded versions of his moves.
Unmarked spoilers ahead.
This work provides examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The home versions have an extensive Story Mode with visual novel-style cutscenes. These are wordier than any installment before it, putting XIII as the installment to have the longest main story at the time of release.
- Art Evolution: The sprite rework started in XII, but its potential bloomed in this game. The characters themselves became huge, making their physique stand out.
- Bittersweet Ending: Ash manages to prevent Saiki from going through the time door and enacting his place to the stop the heroes from sealing Orochi. However, since Ash had to trap Saiki and himself in the void, that creates a temporal paradox - if Saiki, Ash's ancestor, were to be erased from history, so would Ash himself. Ash apologizes to Elisabeth for all the trouble he caused before he disappears and any memory of him is slowly wiped from people's minds, except for Elisabeth - who holds onto his headband as a Tragic Keepsake.
- Brainwashed: Rose is revealed to have been mind-controlled by Botan, a member of Those from the Past, in order to lure fighters to the tournament as well as make the Finals arena on top of a ritual ground in order to absorb all the fighting energy for their plan. It's implied she's been under Botan's control since KOF 2003 hence why her demeanor has been so aggressive.
- Demoted to Extra: A large amount of characters from earlier in the saga (ie. Adelheid, Ramon, Vanessa and Blue Mary) appear as NPCs in the Story mode.
- Downloadable Content: A first in the main series. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions have a DLC that add three characters (NESTS version Kyo, Iori with flames, and Mr. Karate). This is bundled by default in later releases like the PC version.
- End of an Era:
- This is the last sprite based KOF game in the series. Starting from XIV, the series would transition to 3D models.
- XIII was also the last game in the series to be developed for arcades first, with future entries being made for consoles first (though XIV did eventually see an arcade release).
- EX Special Attack: XIII's EX Mode lets you perform an EX Special Move at the cost of one Power Gauge stock, an upgraded version of a regular Special Move that does more damage or have beneficial effects. You can also do this to Super Moves (see Super Special Move).
- Good All Along: Ash turns out to have been working against "Those From The Past" by himself so as not to trouble his friend Elisabeth with something he felt was a personal matter.
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Essentially "Those From the Past" ultimate goal, with Saiki wishing to open a time door to the past so he can go back in time and prevent Orochi from being sealed by the Kusanagi, Yata and Yasakani clans.
- Nostalgia Level:
- The Abandoned Factory stage is a remake of Rivals Team's in '95.
- The Esaka stage is the same one from '96, shared by Japan and Psycho Soldier Team in that game.
- The Sky Noah airship makes a return from 2003, where you previously fought Adelheid if you missed the condition to fight the true final boss, Mukai.
- Mr. Karate's stage is the same place where Ryo (or Robert) fought him in the original Art of Fighting.
- Kyokugenru Dojo here is based on the one in Art of Fighting 2, although its 80s setting was updated to look more modern.
- Richard's Pao Pao Cafe is once again an available stage, mostly based on its Fatal Fury 3 look.
- Palette Swap: KOF XIII supports extensive customization of character sprite color, which can be used even in online matches. The default palette sets are quite huge, too.
- Recycled Soundtrack: You can play alternative soundtrack in PvP match, which is done by pressing Heavy Punch button in the arcade version and selecting "Type B" of the option menu in the home versions. It consists of music from previous SNK games, mostly from KOF 2003 and XI.
- Revisiting the Roots:
- Hyperdrive mechanics aside, XIII is much more in line with the classic KOF titles than the rest of the Ash saga, with no tag mechanics in sight. Not only that, but a majority of teams are restored to their lineups in KOF '94 and '95, with the only characters from later sagas to return being K', Maxima, Kula, Ash, Duo Lon, Shen and Elisabeth (though Saiki, Raiden and Hwa Jai all make their canon debut here).
- Characters are even reverted back to how they appeared in KOF 94 and prior as well, such as Ryo back to having the orange hair he had in Art of Fighting and Terry returning to his classic threads from Fatal Fury after having spent the last two games in his Garou: Mark of the Wolves attire.
- Season Finale: This is the end of the "Tales of Ash" started back in KOF 2003.
- Sprite/Polygon Mix: The usage is limited, but some stages have some 3D polygon assets in them. One example is the elephants in the India stage that are obviously 3D.
- Super Special Move: The EX Mode can upgrade a Super Move into EX Super Move by spending two Power Gauge stock, although functionally this is almost identical to the way MAX Super Move works in 2002 UM.
- Villain Ball: Saiki unceremoniously skeletonizes one of his minions, Mukai, in the Story Mode, because he gets on Saiki's nerves one too many times when he insist he'd take on the heroes instead of Saiki himself. The thing is, Mukai is that SNK Boss from KOF 2003, so what Saiki did is conveniently removing his most competent minion of his own accord.