Tuesday, December 17, 2013

King of Fighters 97 iPhone Review

There’s an interesting story behind this article.  I used to be a big reader of Nintendo Power, and many of their writers are big inspirations to me, so of course, once I made a Twitter account, I started following them on Twitter.  It turns out that Cody Martin, one of NP’s writers and interns, is now working for a PR company that has done work for SNK, and since they had some spare review codes for iOS version of The King of Fighters ’97, he gave me one.  I appreciate it Cody.

Wow.  My first review copy.  So this is what it feels like.  Yes it's not much, but being my first ever, I feel it’s my responsibility to write about it, even if there isn’t that much to say now.

The question when looking over this iOS port isn’t whether or not The King of Fighters ’97 is a good game or not.  I already went over that in my King ofFighters retrospective.  It’s a solid entry in the franchise and worth playing for its great storyline-closing finale with three different boss fights, one of which has two variations.  It also has a strong character count, including all but one of the bosses (which are all unlocked from the start in the iPhone version).
The question here is whether or not it made the transition to the iOS properly.  As much as I'd like to say otherwise, the only answer I can give is an unsure “maybe.”

Presentation-wise, there isn’t a problem.  Maybe it’s because I played on a smaller screen, but the excellent pixel art looks better than ever thanks to some video filtering (which can be turned on or off) and HD display.  The music too, despite being on little iPhone speakers, sound perfect as well, although the option for using the arranged tracks would have been appreciated.

The controls are the major deciding factor here, and, predictably, it plays essentially the same way as King of Fighters i.  Everything is done with a joystick and buttons on the touch screen, with the pause button being under the timer.
In addition to the normal punch and kick buttons, the iOS version of ’97 gives the option of a dodge button, a knockdown attack button (both also done in the Orochi Saga collection), and a special button.  The special button is for the newbies.  Like other simplified controls seen in games like Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, the special button allows special attacks to be executed by simply pressing it while the control stick is in a certain direction, and by holding it down, characters can use their super special move.
Notice that I referred to the super special move singularly.

One of the biggest downsides to this port is that every character has only one super special move, as opposed to the original where everyone has at least two.  A few regular special moves were cut as well.  I don’t understand why this was done.  They could have easily had each character be able to use one super special with the simplified controls while the advanced players could use their quarter and half circles to use the other ones.  At the very least they could have let players choose which super special move to take in the battle.  I'm not all that big a fan of Kyo's Serpent Wave Slash.

My other big issue is the controls, but the reason my previously-mentioned answer is only a “maybe” is because I feel that may not be a problem for others.  All the touch screen controls can be moved and adjusted in size, but even at the biggest sizes my fingers were too fat to be pressing those tiny buttons accurately.  The joystick gave me trouble too.  My hand kept slipping off its boundaries, which forced me to move my thumb in wider arcs that weren’t fast enough to keep up with the combat.

"Ippen shindekoi!"
As I stated though, I think that may not be an issue for others.  I played this version of King of Fighters ’97 on my sister’s iPhone, which means I was not only not an iPhone gamer, but I was playing on a tiny screen, so my thumb took up a fourth of it.  Maybe the game works a lot better on a bigger screen like an iPad, maybe the control stick would work better with those joysticks you put on your screen you can buy at electronic stores, and maybe regular iPhone players can use the touch screen controls better than I can.

Either way, with the cut super moves in this version, the other versions of the game you can get are objectively superior unless you really want to get into the online multiplayer (with social media compatibility, natch).  If you want your King of Fighters on the go and you loved KOFi 2012 or play on your iOS regularly, this port should give you a fair amount of enjoyment on those long trips (it is King of Fighters, after all), but if you already have the game on the Orochi Saga collection or Virtual Console, you aren’t missing much.

I’m not going to give this one a review score simply because I feel it’s a bit too far out of my comfort zone, but I hope this review informs readers enough to make their own decision on it.

Now will you please let us download KOF 2000-2003 somewhere SNK?

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