Developer: SNK Playmore
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5, iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

SNK Playmore and DotEmu have brought King of Fighters ’97, one of the early entries in the long-running fighting game series, to iOS. This isn’t like a sports game where an early version can feel outdated; this is like playing Street Fighter 2 instead of 4. And its iOS port holds up incredibly well!

KingOfFighters-2For those unfamiliar, much of the same gameplay ‘language’ of the Street Fighter series rules the roost here. Learn how to do quarter-circles, half-circles, right-down-down+right on joysticks. There’s only 4 buttons for combat (2 punches, and 2 kicks), though there are various additional inputs for easier fighting. Players choose three fighters and the order that they come in to fight for. Once a fighter is in, they’re in until they lose; if they win a round they gain back some health before the next fighter. Last team left standing wins!

On the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini Retina the game runs perfectly, and even the scaled pixel art still looks great. There are plenty of options for aspect ratio, filtering, and scanlines. Control-wise, this is seemingly the first fighting game on iOS that supports MFi gamepads, and I highly recommend giving this game a shot for the early adopters. There’s also iCade support!

KingOfFighters-10However, the virtual controls do an admirable job at playing the game! Namely, I was able to perform the complicated super move motions with shocking accuracy, which is impressive considering they require things like a quarter-circle forward, then a half-circle back and a button to pull off. Will a hardcore fighting game fan think it’s worth its salt? Doubtful. But it will do the job for most in a pinch, and the extensive controller support is fantastic.

This game is a meat grinder. The game mercifully defaults to “1” from a difficulty level of 8. I say mercifully, because after a few matches the game gets pretty brutal no matter what. This requires a lot of practice, which will have to come in trial by fire as there’s no training mode. This is pretty much a straight port of the Neo Geo original, albiet with touchscreen character selection.

KingOfFighters-4Thankfully, some of the inaccessibility is meted through the need to learn multiple characters, so finding a team that one is comfortable with just takes time and experimentation. So be patient and be willing to try new things. Check the command list. This game is rather challenging, but the characters have some fun moves to play with and the fighting engine is definitely capable of cool things for those willing to put in some time. Putting in a well-planned beatdown is rewarding.

It’s challenging, but thanks to the solid control options King of Fighters ’97 comes recommended for the gamer ready for a challenge – and especially for those looking for games they can play with controllers.

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