SNK Playmore has released quite a few popular Neo-Geo titles on mobile platforms, many which are fun, yet painfully flawed thanks to restrictive touchscreen controls that lack the feel of a real controller or joystick. As Apple has finally graced their mobile OS platform with real controllers you’d think this issue would become a thing of the past, finally letting hardcore SNK fans play these games the way they were meant to be played.
The King of Fighters ‘97, sadly continues this tradition as they bring one of the best fighting games ever to iOS and Android devices that only casual gamers will get anything out of, while the only fighting hardcore gamers will be doing is against the urge to throw their device across the room.
I remember going to the arcade and watching my friends play The King of Fighters series there. All of them were great and always had people lining up to challenge their skills. But when KoF ‘97 came along with its concluding Orochi storyline, and awesome characters and skills to pull off, it looked like SNK was giving Capcom some serious competition at long last. Now they’ve released this awesome fighter for iOS devices (with an universal app finally) that still holds up well after all this time, but is brought down by iffy touchscreen controls that are sure to frustrate hardcore KoF fans.
All 35 characters along with the stages that were available in the arcade game have made their way here, and they look, move and sound just as awesome as it did back then. Once you’ve chosen your team of three characters, you set out to fight your way through the other teams and finally put an end to the evil Orochi once and for all. The original four button setup is here(A, B,C, and D), along with three additional buttons to help make pulling off moves a little easier. There’s a button for pressing A and B together, C and D as well, and a SP button that allows you to do your character’s special moves.
These buttons can be resized and moved just about anywhere on the screen thanks to the extensive option settings, which also allow you to play in either the original fullscreen aspect ratio or widescreen, with or without scanlines, and more. And while all of that will appeal to casual gamers or those new to the franchise, no amount of options is going to address the elephant in the room for hardcore KoF fans, the lack of a physical controller. Without a joystick and buttons, the controls aren’t responsive enough to let you pull off moves as fast as you’re used to. It’s also pretty frustrating trying to perform some special moves and you can’t because there’s no physical feedback as to whether you’re rolling it out correctly or not. Add in the fact there isn’t any controller support to any of the new iOS gamepads out there, and the lack of a training mode or tutorial to familiarize yourself with the gameplay, and you got yourself a hot mess on your hands.
As with the previous iOS releases of KoF, multiplayer is restricted to Bluetooth only with no kind of online mode at all. But given the controls and all, it’s most likely for the best as you and whoever you play against will have a legitimate excuse on why either of you are playing badly and can talk about it face to face.
To me, this port of The King of Fighters ’97 can be akin to having the latest sports car that’s missing a steering wheel. It looks and sounds like a dream, but if you can’t drive it, what’s the point? If you’re a casual gamer that’s into mobile fighting games (or have the proper hardware), then you might actually enjoy this one. Perhaps an update will add the necessary controller support this game desperately needs, but hardcore KoF fans that think they can bring their skills here and tear things up like back in the old days will be sadly disappointed and frustrated.
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