"Crawl before you can walk" Basics by James "Reiki" Alderson
In a world with so many options and differences, it's important to find the little parallels to what you already know when getting started on something new. People do that with cooking, languages, sciences, and in some cases, games. These articles will help people who are transitioning from games like Super Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to the latest game developed by SNK Playmore, King of Fighters XIII. This is geared towards people who already have some knowledge of fighting games and is not a guide to help people who have never played fighting games before. I will try to write it in a way that's useful for anyone trying out the game.
KOF XIII attack system is very traditional in the way the attack buttons are set. There is a light punch and kick as well as a heavy punch and kick. They may appear as LP, LK, HP, and HK, but in these articles, we'll shorten them to A, B, C, and D respectively.
Light attacks dish out minimal damage, but in turn have shorter recovery so you risk less by throwing out a light attack rather than throwing out a heavy. A heavy attack can deal more damage, have more range, and sometimes start-up faster than light attacks. The downside is that these moves can recover slower which means you can punish somebody for missing/whiffing a move. In terms of attacks, it's not much different than other fighting games where there are low to high risk normal moves. We'll cover air normals in the next section when we get to movement.
As a side note, you can normal throw and tech/break throws in this game. This is done by pressing forward/backward C or D. If you throw someone with C, you throw the opponent in front of you. If you use D, you will throw them behind you. You can break a throw by pressing the D or C button at the start-up of a throw. Throws are very important as they can punish fast moves that your normal moves can't punish. Vice versa, it should be important to realize when you're going to get thrown so you can break it. The throw window, in this writer's opinion, is a bit too small to do it on reaction so predicting throws is important.
Blocking does not require a dedicated button; you simply hold back or down back and you will block. Holding back will block both high and jump-in attacks. Blocking low will block low attacks such as Crouching B. Keep in mind that you cannot block throws.
While blocking is very important to block, try not to be overly defensive due to Guard Crush. Under the life bar is a blue bar which is your Guard Gauge. Blocking Normals and Special attacks will lower that bar until it's at 0, which leads to a Guard Crush where you will be unable to block.
Another, somewhat unique, defensive mechanic to KoF XIII and many other SNK games is rolling. To execute a roll, you press light punch and light kick, or A+B. Doing it neutral rolls you forwards, holding back rolls you backwards. Rolling puts you in an invulnerable state where your character can move forward or backward. You can use a roll to escape pressure or to escape in general as you move while rolling. However, you can be thrown out of a roll and you can be caught on the recovery time of a roll. It's a good option, but not something to abuse. Despite that, a good roll can get you past a tough aggro situations like hop attacks, block strings, or avoid frame traps.
It's worth noting that rolling isn't just a defensive mechanism as you can also roll in on the offensive to confuse people when they're waking up from a knockdown. Roll over them just as they get up to disorient them as to which side you'll be on. It can be also used to pass through projectiles and other attacks.
Last, but not least, another defensive option is back dashing. When you're getting up from a knockdown, it can sometimes be a scary time because the opponent has so many options such as high, low and cross-up attacks. Back dashing on wake-up is almost instant and will put you in the air immediately. If you think someone is going to poke you out of a responsive move -- like a dragon punch or your own normal moves -- you can back dash. You'll be put in an airborne state where in many cases you'll take a hit but in turn escape pressure situations for minimal damage. So you're not completely invulnerable like a SSF4 backdash, but it can still allow you to avoid a number of mix-ups.
Being in the air has its advantages: you dodge moves that hit low and have a low hurtbox, area where they do damage. If you were hit, you get sent tumbling down anyway, which will reset you in a soft knockdown. You could make them whiff an entire string of attacks or meaty pokes all because you're invulnerable to them as you fall back down. The key is that you're taking a little damage from the first attack and making them think you hit them so they make a mistake. The downside is that moves that have juggle properties can continue afterwards if they guess right.
On the move: Basic Movement
In KOFXIII, you have walking, running back and forward dashing for basic ground movement. Walking is performed by holding forward or backward and running is executed by double tapping forward and holding it. You can also double-tap backwards to perform a back dash. If you double tap forward, you just dash a little ways.
There are four types of jumps in KOFXIII, all which are important and have various uses: Normal Jumping, Super Jumping, Hopping, and Hyper Hopping.
You can perform a jump the same way you can in every other fighting game by pressing up. In the air, you cannot block like UMvC3 so it can be a risk and this is true of all jumps, not just normal jumps. All moves done in the air to a ground-based opponent count as an overhead, a move that will connect if the opponent blocks low. Attacks coming from the air must be blocked standing Standard jumps can be anti-aired with moves like dragon punches or long reaching vertical normals like Kyo Kusanagi's Down C.
A super jump is performed by tapping down and then jumping. This sends you higher in the air than a normal jump. This also means you take longer to come down, but most anti-air options in KoF are not exactly vertical. Super jumps can be used to cross people up, making it difficult to tell which side should be blocked. Normal anti air might miss because the opponent is too high, but it takes longer for them to fall. You can avoid being hit by an attack simply by running or rolling under them. You might even cross them up when they land!
Something not present in most Capcom fighters -- though you might be familiar with it if you've played CvS2 -- is the concept of hopping. Hops are performed much like jumps with an up, up back, and up forward motion, but you just tap the stick in that direction. What happens is simple: Your character jumps really close to the ground. Hops are very important because they speed up the pace of the game and are essential for proper offensive pressure. Overhead attacks become much more deadly and frequent because people can attack so close to the ground. It's also harder to anti-air someone with a DP or a slow normal, meaning you could get hit trying to. The best way to stop a hop is a fast normal like a Standing A. Most characters universally can stop hops by just poking people with standing A.
Much like a super jump, a hyper hop is a long distance hop that moves you even faster than a regular hop. It takes a little longer for you to reach the ground though. You perform this by holding down and tapping up forward or up back. You can't hyper hop straight up. It's much faster and can be used to cross people up when they're just recovering from a knock down as well as covering space. Same rules apply, a Standing A is your best bet for stopping a hyper hop.
A good tip for beginners to the series is to perform a jump or a super jump, but quickly return the joystick to the down position afterwards to perform a hop. Until you get the motion on your own, this will help you a lot in doing this motion!