Updated: The King of Fighters-i Review

The King of Fighters-i just received an update that brings six new fighters to the fray, upping the total number of characters to 20. They’ve also added a few more goodies, including additional in-game trading cards and illustrations, as well as a Challenge Mode.

The most important part of this update is the new fighters, which include Iori Yagami, Mature, Vice, Elisabeth Branctorche, Shen Woo, and Duo Lon. You now have an overflowling cornucopia of fighters to choose from, making the game feel about as close to the console version as you’re likely to get on a hand-held.

The new Challenge Mode has you select a challenge to attempt– like “perform a 9-hit combo” or “inflict more than 300 damage”– and then puts you against a dummy fighter and lets you give it a shot. Succeeding helps you unlock illustrations and trading cards in the gallery, which is cool if you’re into that sort of thing.

Now more than ever The King of Fighters-i is a serious contender for the best fighting game on the iPhone. Between this and the Street Fighter games, it really just depends on which franchise you happen to like more.

Fighting games got off to a slow start on iOS, mainly because of issues with touchscreen controls. It took developers a while to achieve the input precision required for the fast, intense action we look for in fighting games. But Capcom proved it was possible with their amazing version of Street Fighter IV, and EA followed suit with a decent remake of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Now SNK continues the trend with The King of Fighters-i, a twitch-reaction bralwer that doesn’t let a glassy touchscreen slow it down one bit.

Like most popular fighting game franchises, The King of Fighters series began in the arcades in the 1990s. Since then, it has made appearances on most consoles and handhelds, and this iOS version is very much in line with the rest of the series. In fact, even if you’re not familiar with the King of Fighters games, a passing knowledge of the Street Fighter series will give you a good head start, because many of the special moves in both games share command inputs. And for beginners, there’s a robust tutorial as well as a special attack button to help you get your bearings.

Stop, drop, and roll.

The rest of the controls are fairly streamlined, with a punch button, a kick button, and an evasion button, as well as a circular d-pad that gives you a full range of motion. The d-pad isn’t quite as large as the one in Street Fighter IV, so it doesn’t feel quite as precise, but it gets the job done. Suffice to say that if you lose a match in The King of Fighters, it’s probably not because of the controls.

Fourteen fighters are included in the game, each with a distinct fighting style and unique special moves. The game looks great, as well. It’s so smoothly animated, in fact, that Mai’s breasts sway independently from the rest of her body. How’s that for attention to detail?

Now listen here, sir.

Several game modes are included, the most prominent of which is the three-on-three mode. Here, you pick three fighters to use in succession, and you go up against a series of computer-controlled triads. There’s also a one-on-one mode, as well as an endless mode, where you choose one fighter to battle against as many opponents as you can handle before losing a single meter’s worth of life.

The extras included in the game are thoughtful, too. Each match gives you various optional achievements to attempt, and you can unlock trading cards and concept artwork. Really, the only glaring omission is online multiplayer. You can play against friends locally over Bluetooth, but online fighting– like what’s offered in Street Fighter IV Volt– isn’t included.

But even without online multiplayer, The King of Fighters is a killer title that’s sure to impress any fighting game fan itching for something new. The roster of fighters is solid, the action is fast and responsive, and the game looks phenomenal. This is one game that’s worth its premium price.

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