A new challenger awaits to take the crown of iOS beat’em-ups from Capcom’s Street Fighter IV…
The AppStore is not exactly spoiled for choice with decent fighting games. Sure there are some out there but none can offer up a solid challenge for Capcom’s crown. That is until now…
SNK Playmore have entered the arena with the modestly titled King of Fighters-i. That stray ‘i’ is no doubt eluding to the fact that it’s on the iPhone (very original!).
As with any fighting game, the object is to choose from a line up of fighters and enter one-on-one matches to take on and hopefully beat the remaining fighters. There are small story elements, presented here as conversations between fighters before the fight starts, but these are really filler to the action that is to come.
Where King of Fighters-i mixes things up a little, is through the addition of team battles. Here you must select three characters to fight with. This is not to be confused with a tag battle, as you cannot switch fighters mid match. However, you can select the order in which you play through the three fighters. Do you leave your favourite until last, or use him/her upfront? I found this team mode helped to keep matches fresh and unpredictable, adding a much needed layer of strategy to the typical combo/button mashing gameplay mechanic.
A single fighter battle mode is also available, as well as an added single player endless mode, that sees you fighting to the death each time, with only the health you started with.
Graphics are impressive. They are smooth and fluid on the iPhone 4, which is doubly impressive considering it’s all hand drawn art, as opposed to Street Fighter’s 3D to 2D conversion. Despite the small screen you can pick up detail and nuances of each character; from the rippling six pack of the androgynous Benimaru, to the bouncing breasts of Mai.
Going against it, however, are the not so well known roster of characters. Hardcore fans will no doubt have their names tattooed across their chests, but for the majority of gamers, the character list will be unknown. Heck even my wife knows Ken from Street Fighter!
Having said that, once introduced they are an impressive and memorable bunch, perhaps even challenging Capcom’s lineup in the variety stakes. As of writing there are 13 fighters to choose from, that’s 4 less than Street Fighter IV Volt… However, in October that roster will grow to 20, with the addition of six ‘free-to-download’ characters.
Controls of course are the key to the success of any fighter. Street Fighter proved many naysayers wrong that such a genre could succeed on the iOS platforms. King of Fighters-i continues this with another solid control system. It has options available for both newbies and seasoned vets. The default setup utilises the simple control system, which allows you to unleash special moves with the addition of a special button. You can turn it off of course for the hardcore amongst you, but with a combo list as plentiful as this, and for those like me without the stomach to learn them all, I preferred this simplified method.
While King of Fighters-i is as good, and in some ways better, than Street Fighter IV, it is missing a core element that sees it already playing catch-up… and that is online multiplayer. It’s strange that a title with the ‘i’ added would not include such a feature. Sure, Street Fighter has a few lag issues now and again (depending on connection quality), but there is no denying the appeal of taking part in 1-on-1′s with real people around the world. Arcade modes are all well and good, but you’ll soon be itching for a real ‘human’ challenge.
Overall, King of Fighters-i is an excellent second foray for SNK into iOS gaming after the highly disappointing Metal Slug Touch. All the right ingredients for a fighting game come together beautifully to make for a hugely enjoyable game for both newcomers and the hardcore. If the lack of online play doesn’t bother you, then this is an excellent alternative to the more popular Street Fighter series. And even for those who already own Capcom’s title, this is still very much worth a look.