Back in my retrospective of The King of Fighters 13 I briefly touched on The King of Fighters-i 2012. At the time I only knew some of the details about it from associates who owned it, but having gotten an iPhone of my own I’ve gotten much deeper into it to allow for a full review.
[Note that The King of Fighters-i is the name of the iPhone version of the game. The Android version is titled The King of Fighters Android, and as far as I can tell it is the same exact game.]
An update from their previous app game simply titled The King of Fighters-i, KOFi 2012 is a portable app version of the core of KOF 13, the installment tied with 11 as my favorite in the series. Even though I was looking forward to playing a portable KOF 13, I set my expectations a little low. I had difficulty playing KOF ‘97 back when I played it on my sister’s iPhone, and porting a multi-gigabyte HD game to an app without cutting a good amount of content seemed like wishful thinking.
To my surprise, even though compromises were indeed made, KOFi 2012 is an extremely impressive replication of the KOF 13 experience that’s fun regardless of whether or not you’ve played the console edition.
The truth is, it would be easier to list what KOFi 2012 doesn’t have from what 13 does content-wise. It’s a relatively short list with only a few noticeable omissions and changes.
- The game’s main plot is absent. There is no story mode, no cutscenes, and the final opponent in the single player arcade mode is Ash. All the team endings from 13 (except for Ash’s) and some of the special ending artwork are kept in.
- Stages are static images and some of the flashier effects are left out, such as the full-team victory screens with the golden in-your-face spelling out of the word “winner.” Naturally the sprites aren’t quite as sharp either, but the animations are just as smooth.
- In addition to not being in the arcade mode, Saiki is also not playable, and one of the three DLC characters from the original , Mr. Karate, is not available. Playable Saiki and Mr. Karate’s stages, however, are.
- The giant “invitation” image you unlock by practically beating the game to 100% in 13 is not present.
- Character colors are not customizable. Instead, each character has two or three colors. For some, the third is their alternate outfit.
- There aren’t two different music tracks to select like in KOF 13. Instead, which track used is randomly chosen for each battle.
Aside from that, it’s all there and more. Every bit of the pre-fight dialogue, all the flashy moves and neo max attacks, all the badass win poses and all the music are present and accounted for. Even the smaller things like replays and online icons haven’t been cut. You just need to get used to the controls, which is not as hard as it sounds provided you don't try to use your thumbs.
The controls are simplified, but not dumbed down. Like other iPhone fighting games, the joystick and buttons are all done with touching. However, instead of four buttons for punching and kicking, there is one for punching, one for kicking, one for the evasive roll, one for special attacks and one to activate hyperdrive mode.
The replication of KOF’s complexity comes from using the buttons in conjunction with the touch screen control stick. Each character executes a different move with each button depending on the direction the control stick is facing. For example, not moving the control stick and touching the punch button with K’ makes him throw a weak punch, while moving the stick forward and touching the punch button makes him do his one-inch punch.
The special move button works similarly. Though you can use the motions from the game for them, you can also use the special move button instead. When the control stick is neutral, it uses the character’s knockback attack, but when the it's tilted in certain directions, it makes them use special moves. For example, tilting it forward and using the special attack button has K’ use his trigger attack, down-forward has him use his flaming uppercut, and back has him use his flying kick. Because there’s no strong and weak attack buttons in this version, some special moves only execute the version you would get by executing it with the weak attack button in KOF 13.
The super special attacks and neo maxes are different. Super special attacks are used by touching the super meter (in which secondary super attacks require a control stick tilting) and neo maxes are activated by touching your character’s face on the upper corner of the screen. EX versions of moves are also useable by inputting the motions with the special attack button.
All of it is simplified to make it easier for the touch screen controls, but because all the moves are present it’s no less deep and it most certainly feels as intense and bombastic as a King of Fighters game should be. I may even go as far as to call it ingeniously designed.
The content outside of KOFi 2012’s core gameplay differentiates itself from its source even further. In KOF 13 there are character colors, icons for online play and a huge gallery containing all the cutscenes, music, voice clips, character artwork and ending artwork you get for beating arcade mode with specific characters in a team.
KOFi 2012 has its own modest set of unlockables. In addition to the previously-mentioned team endings, it also has a great many unlockables to be bought from the in-game shop using coins you get from playing the game and by simply starting it up every day consistently. The Rose shop sells alternate colors, the stages from that game that came between KOF 11 and 13 that we don’t talk about, icons and messages for its online play and trading cards. There are over 200 different trading cards depicting teams and characters from KOF 13, 11 and 2002: Unlimited match. With SNK’s excellent artwork, fans of collecting should find them to be a nice side hobby in between all the fighting, and they can be traded between other players locally via Bluetooth.
|Some of them have new sprites for older characters.|
Outside of the shop there are galleries for unlockable promotional art from previous KOF games and, most enticing for fans, the backstory mini-novels for every team. Many of these backstories are important to know to understand some of KOF 13’s story. They used to be posted on Atlus’ official KOF 13 website, but it has since been taken down, so as far as I can tell this is now the only way to read them. It’s a neat bonus for fans.
But you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy KOFi 2012 on the whole. It appeals to both sides. For fans, it’s a strong conversion of one of the best KOF games that they can play on the go and has new content for them to play for (including achievements, for
users). For non-fans, it’s an easier to
learn, newbie-friendly, cheap alternative that spotlights the core of what
makes The King of Fighters such a great franchise and would probably work as a
good starting point. I commend SNK
Playmore for making such a great fighting game for a platform generally not
associated with them. As a fan of KOF, I
am both satisfied and impressed. I give
The King of Fighters-i 2012 an 8 out of 10. Game Center