Review: The King of Fighters-i for iPhone

Up until now, Street Fighter 4 has dominated the fighting game genre on the iOS devices, delivering a near-console experience on handheld devices.  I love Street Fighter 4 on my fourth generation iPod Touch, and play it with my little brother all the time, however there is one glaring flaw with the game: the virtual stick.  It’s an inherent problem with the iOS devices – with no physical buttons to press, the only option left is to add buttons on the screen of device (which, as we all know, obstructs your view of the screen).  Well some iOS developers have been getting the virtual stick right (Gameloft, for example), Street Fighter 4’s virtual stick was pretty horrible.  Most of the time I’d be trying to perform an haduken but couldn’t get the precise movements correct on the janky virtual stick.  I’ve never played the King of Fighters games much, but when I saw that SNK Playmore was releasing an iOS version, I was pretty excited to see how the virtual stick would be handled, and I’m happy to report that Street Fighter 4 has a new challenger.  That’s right, The King of Fighters-i is officially the new best fighting game on the iOS platforms.

The King of Fighters-i utilizes some really great looking sprites and dazzling effects (considering the platform it’s on).  The graphics are late-PS1/early PS2 quality, but the animation is so fluid and the effects are so great, you kind of forget you are playing an iPhone game.  Add in SNK Playmore’s classic backgrounds and a solid (but not cluttered) user interface, and you have a great looking fighting game.  There’s a decent roster of characters (although, this is where my inexperience with this franchise comes in, did SNK Playmore deliver a good amount of characters from the console games?), all with their own pretty looking special moves.

I was extremely curious how the controls would perform in this game, and I’m really pleased with them.  There’s punch, kick, special, and evade buttons, as well as an HD button which makes your character move around faster.  The real question surrounding the controls was the virtual stick, and I have to say this is a fantastic implementation of one.  It’s not too sensitive, but still incredibly responsive.  Unlike in Street Fighter 4, I could actually pull all of the moves I intended to.  In a fighting game, responsive controls are crucial, and SNK Playmore really kicked Street Fighter’s ass in this department.

Game modes range from training to learn combos and special moves to endless survival battles.  One of my favorite modes is the “arcade – team battle” mode where you pick 3 fighters to take through the campaign.  You’ll fight other teams of 3 for which the AI is pretty challenging.  This makes fights seem really tactile and frenetic, as opposed to Street Fighter 4 on the iOS, which just felt button-mashy.  As far as I’ve played, the roster of fighters seems quite balanced.  Time will tell if the King of Fighters-i is as balanced as Street Fighter 4, which would really propel SNK Playmore’s game into the shortlist of best iPhone games around.

King of Fighters-i is a solid fighting game experience on the iOS devices, but how does the bluetooth multiplayer perform?  Really well, actually.  Forgive another Street Fighter 4 comparison (it was the best iOS fighting game so it’s the most comparable game), but the bluetooth multiplayer in that game was spotty at best.  Sometimes I’d be able to play full matches with my brother with no problems, but more often than not the game would crash or lag out on us before the end of the match.  So far I have played 25 matches with my brother in the King of Fighters-i and we’ve had 2 matches drop a player.  It’s a pretty killer performance in a landscape of games who overpromise and underdeliver on bluetooth multiplayer features.

The King of Fighters-i is a pretty amazing game, but there is one small problem: the price tag.  Currently, the game is priced at $10.99 on the U.S. Appstore, which is WAY too much for an iOS game.  I really want to recommend this game to everyone, but at this point I think it may be a safer bet to wait.  Within the next few months I’m sure SNK Playmore will release updates and change to sale prices accordingly.  If the King of Fighters-i was $4.99, I would say it’s a must-buy, but at this point unless you are a huge fighting game enthusiast, I’d recommend waiting for the price to come down.

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Posted on July 10, 2011, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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