What Is Happening To Portable Fighting Games


The current fighting game climate and a sale have me trying to do something I thought I’d never do: play fighting games on a mobile device.

It’s just about over as of this writing, but SNK is having a pretty good sale for its iOS games so I decided to grab a couple: The King of Fighters-i 2012 so I could maybe have a good mobile practice tool for King of Fighters XIII, and Garou: Mark of the Wolves because for some reason the mobile version is the only port that exists in the west outside the Dreamcast and Xbox 360. People keep telling me how accurate the mobile ports of so many of these old console and arcade games are, including Soul Calibur, but I still can’t understand people speaking so highly of touchscreen controls.

Touchscreen controls are awkward enough when trying to imitate any console experience in my opinion, but the effect should logically be worse when you’re talking about fighting games — a genre were important inputs are made in mere tenths of a second. I get that mobile is the new ubiquitous platform right now, but so many developers devoting so many supposedly great arcade and console ports to a touchscreen platform concerns me. Why couldn’t Garou and Soul Calibur have come out on Steam?

I gotta admit though, the touchscreen controls in the two games I tried out do indeed work. It still feels significantly worse than a fightstick or a controller, but I can actually play these games. I think in maybe an hour between both games I pressed the wrong button just once. I can actually do what I normally do in these games. A nice little advantage to the virtual analog stick is that you can actually see its position all the time which makes things more accurate when doing half circles.

The mobile versions of these games also have selections of gameplay modes that are actually superior to their console counterparts too. Garou has a lot of menu selections that probably weren’t in the Neo Geo game, and KOF-i 2012 has a lot that isn’t in XIII, like a 1-on-1 progression mode and a combo training mode. XIII has a “trial” mode which really isn’t for training at all, whereas i 2012 has something more similar to Street Fighter IV’s combo trials. Honestly it all just makes me even more disappointed these features aren’t available in any console or PC version.

KOF-i in particular kind of reminds me of the Game Boy Advance version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 which had a surprising amount of content unique to it despite the graphics and controls being toned down from the original arcade version (but still shocking for the hardware it ran on). And Garou does indeed run very smoothly and pretty much looks like the arcade game, but my iPhone 6 Plus shouldn’t really have any trouble running a 1999 arcade game.

These ports feel surprisingly good and might even be good practicing methods, but I still feel really weird about how potentially the most accessible versions of these old niche games run on touchscreen phones. If would feel better if there were a PlayStation and a Steam version of Garou, and probably a dedicated handheld alternative to mobile that wasn’t shrinking into irrelevancy and could run KOF XIII. The video game market is messed up right now I tell you.

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