King of Fighters-i 002 iPhone Review

Gaming

King of Fighters-i 002
Platform(s): iPhone(Reviewed), iPad
Publisher(s): SNK Playmore
Developer(s): SNK Playmore
Genre(s): Fighting
Release Date: 7 July 2011
Price: $8.99 BUY NOW!

Overview

Mixing characters from many of it’s previous games along with new ones, the ‘dream battle’ King of Fighters saw its debut in 1994, and the series still rages on today! In anticipation for the latest title, King of Fighters XIII due to hit the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 later this year, SNK Playmore have decided to send a much stripped-down handheld version to iOS devices to give us a taste of whats to come. The iPad/iPhone market these days seems to be getting more and more crowded with ported fighters becoming increasingly common on the system, but King of Fighters-i 002 stands out amongst the rest, even going so far as to give Street Fighter IV: Volt a run for it’s money as the title for being the….well…the King of Fighters? But have SNK mastered The Art of Fighting with this mobile title, or will SNK leave it’s fans in a state Fatal Fury? Insert Metal Slug reference here, now read on!

Yep! This pretty sums up the entire game!

Gameplay

There are two elements to a good fighting game: #1-awesome character design, and #2-a unique system that makes it stand out from it’s competition, so it doesn’t become yet another Street Fighter 2 clone, making Capcom want to tease you with a parody character like Dan. While SNK have failed at doing so in the past, in 1994 they got it right with King of Fighters (and arguably earlier with Fatal Fury), and they’ve stuck with “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” ever since. I’m happy to say the combat system helps it stand out from the rest of the pack. While Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is based on spamming the special attacks for free hits and Street Fighter IV: Volt focuses on slowly analyzing your opponent’s moves to preform a counter-attack, King Of Fighters focuses more on fast paced game play and button-mashed combos and evading attacks rather than blocking with 3-on-3 team battles rather than 1-on-1. It’s always been one of the more complex fighters of the genre, but it’s been hidden well to appeal to newcomers and works well, and its smooth translation to the iPhone generates an identical experience.

Unconscious, half-naked Mai with hundreds of soccer mums cheering you on? JACKPOT!

So what did I mean when I said King of Fighters is kinda complex for a fighting game, but they try and make it seem simple? Well the one of the reasons behind that is you’ve got 4 separate gauges to worry about! Sure one of them if your health, but you’ve also got a Guard gauge, a Drive gauge and a Power gauge. The Power gauge has 5 stages, and builds with each time you land a hit or receive a hit and allows you to preform Super Special Moves with one full gauge by tapping the gauge, and with two or more you can preform EX Moves which are advanced versions of your normal attacks by using the correct combination. So that seems kind of standard right? Street Fighter IV did that in two separate bars and that wasn’t so hard to get! Well on top of that, your Drive gauge fills also as you take hits and land hits, and when you have 3 Power gauges full along with your drive gauge fully charged, tapping on your fighters’ face can activate devastating Neo Max Super Special Moves. The Drive gauge also allows you to preform Super Cancels and Drive Cancel Moves when it’s filled half way, and Hyper Drive Mode which has it’s own separate button can be used when your Drive gauge is fully charged. You following? Cause there’s more! While in Hyper Drive mode, your character will glow, which gives you the ability to preform a Max Cancel, which will let you cancel a Super Special Move into a Neo Max Super Special Move for an extended combo. On top of all this you have to keep in mind during this action-packed, fasted-paced game, you have your Guard gauge which decreases as you block attacks, and if it reaches 0 a Guard Crush will occur, encouraging you to use the evade button more often and to block only when when necessary. Oh yeah, and you got a heath gauge too, let it hit zero and you’ll be knocked out! There’s also a little challenge screen at the bottom of the menu, requesting you to preform certain tasks called Target Actions, and most of them are quite easy to pull off. Preforming these tasks and manoeuvres will reward you by filing up a portion of your gauge. It’s pretty innovative and a nice idea to implement, and keeps things nice and fresh and if your not a fan of it, it can be easily ignored.

Preform Three Jumps? THREE JUMPS?! What is this? Xbox Kinect?

While all that may sound technical, KOFi actually plays quite simple for a King of Fighters game. Elements like the popular Striker System and similar game play elements involving team-based attacks from previous games aren’t present and while the matches are still focused on 3-on-3, one after another, no tag team game play is involved unfortunately! Also, taunting has been removed, and special moves have been simplified down into one ‘special’ button, much like in the recent Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat IOS titles. The controls also come damn near close to perfect! The buttons are fully responsive, but what I like most about them is just like other popular IOS fighting games you can customise the buttons, but with an extra feature I personally havn’t seen before: the ability to control the transparency of the joystick and buttons. This is awesome for players who master the controls, and know where everything is and is sick of half their screen taken up by a virtual joystick and buttons, because you can just put the transparency down to zero and have invisible on-screen controls which is a very nice touch and I hope other fighters on the device follow suit in this area. My only complaint about controls is that movement doesn’t seem so tight, while it is responsive they seem to move unrealistically fast and don’t seem very grounded, but its a minor thing and it speeds up the game play so I suppose from that perspective it’s actually a good thing. Theres also an endless mode and a choice to play either 3-on-3 or 1-on-1, but honestly all three of those modes play out almost exactly the same so there isn’t much difference at all.

They call Benimaru a ladies man, but his choice of clothing may suggest otherwise…

Graphics and Audio

King of Fighters-i 002 is filled with so much eye-candy you’d think you were in Willy Wonka’s factory! The animations are some of the smoothest I’ve seen on an iOS device, that go hand-in-hand with the awesome character design and anime-art style. Character sprites are incredibly detailed and filled with texture and character that should impress even the harshest of critics. The only downside is that while standing still they occasionally look pixelated, so that’s why they don’t seem as nice in screenshots. While in motion, the art looks beautiful. The character design is amazing, with a flawless anime art style which just begs to be shown off. I find my biggest criticism for the entire game is that I loved it so much that I wished they had more to show off! Some anime cut scenes would’ve been amazing, but perhaps terrible for file size, so its understandable why this wasn’t included. Hopefully it will be for KOF XIII! Over exaggerated sparks and miniature explosions fill the screen when a blow is connected, filled with vibrant colors reminiscent of fireworks which really light up the screen and excite the player. Each blow you land feels like a miniature victory, accompanied by an appropriate sound effect. The backgrounds suffer the same flaw as Street Fighter IV: Volt, where they look nice but remain still, even when there are people in the background. It’s not a terrible thing, but it would’ve been nice to see some slight movement.

If I made a fighting game, I’d show the looser with big font saying ‘LATERZ!’ Also, that game would suck.

Music is great and filled with energy as well, though the tunes for the most part are not very memorable. However, they are composed and recorded nicely, and the choice of melodies and instruments do suit the exaggerated, hyperactive style of KOF, so the soundtrack works as an extra layer of depth to the action rather than a separate entity to enjoy, so in that aspect, the music does a swell job and is pulled off well. Voice acting is sweet and executed well, and expresses the persona of each fighter with style, which can be hard to do when somebody is screaming something under the lines of “GENERIC FIREBALL ATTACK!”, so kudos to SNK for that!

K’, Kyo, King, Kula…OK, Im sure SNK’s King of Fighters cast are brought to you by the letter K. Take that Mortal Kombat!

Presentation

King of Fighters-i 002 opens up on a sweet animation, and straight away you know your in for a beautiful game. While the menu’s are kind of boring and a chore to navigate at times, the randomised character artwork is a nice touch and a joy to look at which keeps it looking all right. There’s tons of extra features and collectables as well, but honestly most of them you’ll never care about. If your keen for a fetch-quest or love achievement hunting, it might be for you though. There’s a bunch of concept art and illustrations as well, and an unlockable novel if for some reason you’d rather read than play the game, plus you can record your replays. The game follows the same story as King of Fighters XIII, but it isn’t told at all. Perhaps this is why the game was called King of Fighters-i rather than King of Fighters XIII IOS. The story is present in novel format, but reading is boring so most people won’t bother, though it is a nice thing it was included there. No/limited story doesn’t mean cut scenes and introductions do not exist, before each battle between fighters, a small conversation is shown between the two, which is completely different and personal depending on who enters the field. This displays a lot of the characters personalities, which really helps you learn to love each fighter individually. Also, if your not into these, you can totally skip them. Online VS isn’t present, but after the issues Street Fighter IV: Volt had, it’s understandable. Bluetooth is available though, and you can do more than just battle via Bluetooth-you can trade your collectables as well as replays as well. Again, a lot of these collectables seem kind of of pointless, but with bluetooth trading involved, you get a very Pokemon-ish ‘Gotta Catch Them All’ thing going on for achievement hunters which Im sure the hardcore fans would appreciate.

I suppose this is SNK paying tribute to the Dead or Alive franchise?

Conclusion

In conclusion, I’d have to say that King of Fighters-i 002 is the nicest looking and the most in-depth fighting game, with the most fast-paced action on the iPhone to date. I wouldn’t call it the best, but I’d call it a close runner up to Street Fighter IV: Volt, but others may disagree. Honestly, these two are very neck-and-neck, and there are many elements that each game does better than the other. Most of KOFi’s biggest flaws will also be addressed soon, such as the small character chart being updated later this year to 20 fighters, including the now-missing fan-favorite Iori. My biggest criticism is that the engine is fun to use, but little strategy can be used at times, as moves can be easily spammed and can become easy to take advantage for button mashers. Still, a pro fighter is still a pro, but that extra level of strategy which is so focused on in Street Fighter isn’t so clear in this title. That being said, KOFi is very close to being the best fighter on the iPhone from my experience, and is a must download for fighting fans. It looks beautiful, its fast, its fun and has some innovative features. Fighting fans, buy this game ASAP. You won’t be disappointed!

Like I said, this game looks beautiful!

PROS

  • Awesome art, animation and design
  • Bluetooth VS as well as trading for collectables and saved replays
  • Customisable controls and transparency settings for on-screen controls
  • Unloackable trading cards, novels and illustrations
  • Very deep combat system
  • Optional 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 fighting
  • Fast-paced, action-packed game play

CONS

  • Small character selection for a KoF game (update coming at the end of the year!)
  • Collectables and Shop feature can seem useless sometimes
  • Deep fighting system and be ignored and boil down to a button-masher with little stratergy
  • Graphics can seem pixelated when not in motion sometimes
  • No online-play (but considering SF IV: Volt it may not be a terrible thing!)

I give King of Fighters-i 002:

9-0-capsules-out-of-10

Check out other SNK news and reviews HERE!

Matt Vella. Capsule Computers' Community Manager. I say 'Laters' a lot.

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