Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mobile Brawl - Street Fighter IV iPhone Review

"While it isn't likely that we'll see a fighting game on the iPhone at any point (they simply demand too much precision and timing for something like a touch screen), the fact that it handles every other genre reasonably well, even sports titles, is quite a feat."

--ExpertPenguin - October 2009

Well. Didn't see that coming.

While I am not sure exactly WHY this exists, Street Fighter IV is indeed on the iPhone/iPod Touch, and for the low price of $9.99, everyone can get their portable fix of what is in my opinion, one of the best fighters around. But was Capcom able to shrink down their deep, gorgeous fighter into a portable form (without buttons no less!), or was I right after all?


By all accounts, this game should not work. It's on a cellphone. The game and controller share the same screen. There are only 8 of the original 25 characters. The controls are cut down and simplified.

Why then, is Street Fighter IV enjoyable on the iPhone despite this?

Capcom knew their boundaries. The iPhone version doesn't attempt to be the arcade, or even the console version. Instead, it stands out on its own as a unique experience, one that fighting fans will undeniably scoff at, but one that those new to the genre or curious about fighters can enjoy.

The visuals were faithfully carried over with 2D sprites that mimic the look of the original, the catchy stage music made it in as well, and the voices? They are crystal clear, albeit a bit repetitive. There's a Tournament (arcade) mode, one on one fighting, practice, wireless fighting over bluetooth, and even a Saikyo Dojo where you can go through an entire suite of tutorials, trials, and battle tactics with the man himself, Dan Hibiki.

This is all well and good of course, but the burning question is, how are the controls, and how do they hold up? Answer: Surprisingly well!

The game uses a simplified four button setup very similar to the recent Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, with Punch, Kick, Special (EX), and Focus respectively mapped out on screen. The virtual analog is very responsive when it comes to pulling off moves, but does have a tendency to stick and be finicky when it comes to performing some of the more complex motions. Thankfully, not only did Capcom simplify some of the more complex motions, but there's even an assist option to make the "special" button handle all special moves with a single press, so the virtual stick's shortcomings are minimized. It's an excellent design choice ensures that veterans will be able to pull off their usual combos with some practice, and newcomers won't have to drill themselves endlessly in order to pull off some of the cooler maneuvers.

Yes, this also means that if it worked in the arcade, it works here as well. Quite a feat for a mobile game.

The funny thing about this version of SFIV is that even though the game isn't arcade perfect, it's every bit as playable, every bit as enjoyable as its big brother. The atmosphere scales over to the iPhone's sharp, colorful display very well, the characters, though few, are fully realized and uncompromised, and the controls, even though finicky, even though my expectations were admittedly low, managed to impress me and hopefully, sets a bar other developers should aspire to for their virtual pads. Somehow, Capcom did it. They said they were bringing Street Fighter to the iPhone, that they would make it work, and they did. I'll hold off on eating crow until they fine tune the controls a bit more, but damn if this isn't a good start.

It's almost funny to mention. Street Fighter on the iPhone. Who would've guessed?

Well done.

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