by Travis Fahs2
King of Fighters A-2012 Review
Return of the King
Of all the genres that have struggled to make the transition to mobile, fighting games are perhaps the biggest challenge. Fighting giants Capcom and SNK are among the few who have even attempted to make these complex, timing-intensive games work on the imprecise touch screen, and the results have always been mixed. SNK’s first attempt on the phone was King of Fighters Android, which bore the baggage of both its poorly received console counterpart King of Fighters XII, and the technical burden of running under G-Gee’s middle ware and social infrastructure. Now they’ve returned with King of Fighters A-2012, which builds on that legacy with a new, native port, and some massive expansions borrowed from KoF XIII.
XIII proved to be a lucky number for the series, finally matching the gorgeous makeover of its predecessor with technical-yet-accessible gameplay and a huge lineup of fan-favorite characters. The foundation for this latest port couldn’t be stronger, and much of that content is preserved. The line-up has been boosted from 20 characters up to 34, and most of their moves, animations, and details have made the transitions unscathed.
The large, beautifully animated sprites are just as impressive here as they were in its console counterpart, and they’re among the best in any 2D fighting game. Their fluid movements and subtle details are both satisfying to play and brimming with personality. The gorgeous backgrounds have mostly been preserved as well, albeit at a lower resolution and without the wonderful animated bits brought them to life.
The basic modes you’d expect are present. The meat of the game, as always, is the 3-on-3 story mode. You can select any three characters, in any order, to square off against an opposing team. Unlike in Capcom’s games, these characters can’t be tagged in and out, and you’ll have to fight to the bitter end, but there are no rounds or rematches like in other fighters. There are a host of other modes, including an interesting Challenge Mode that gives you missions to complete, and a training mode that helps to illuminate the subtleties of the game’s combo system.
The real struggle with fighters is that they feature complex button layouts, and require a great deal of dexterity with the pad. To make matters worse, King of Fighters requires some challenging controller acrobatics even with a real joystick, and a direct translation seems almost impossible. KoFA-2012 does, indeed, feature an on-screen d-pad and five-button layout, but it makes some major concessions to the limitations of these controls. One of the buttons allows for easy, one-button execution of special moves by holding the d-pad in a given direction. Regular attacks have been halved to two buttons, and likewise can be varied with directional presses. The evasive roll that is one of the series’ trademarks has been mapped to a fourth button for easy execution.
Despite these concessions, the game has not been dumbed down terribly. It’s still a very complex system, that requires accurate timing and some nimble maneuvering to succeed at. Being able to mash out specials and supers helps make things more accessible, but the solid enemy AI won’t fall for most cheap tactics. Boss battles continue to be incredibly frustrating, with super moves that can level you in practically a single hit. This is not some KoF-in-name-only. It’s a real fighting game that can be taken seriously.
Or at least it would be if not for the fact that the controls still seem inadequate to handle all of this. While the layout is indeed serviceable it’s pretty far from ideal. To make matters worse, there’s no controller support, an oversight that seems practically inexcusable on Android and which – along with a lack of support for wide aspect ratios – seems to be a vestige of the port’s iOS origins.
That simple hang-up is enough to seriously undermine the overall experience. King of Fighters A-2012 is a well-made game with a ton of content, but the lack of a genuinely solid control method is completely counter to the game’s goal of creating a refined, technical fighter that rewards technique and precise execution. It also lacks any kind of multiplayer support, which could greatly increase the game’s long-term appeal. As it stands, it still takes the Android fighter crown, but it’s only for lack of real competition.
Summary: King of Fighters A-2012 is a real-deal fighter with a ton of characters and modes, and a complex, technical fighting system that is much better than its mediocre controls deserve. Controller support would have gone a long way toward justifying the subtle gameplay.
Title: King of Fighters-A 2012
Developer: SNK PLAYMORE
Buy it: Here
You Review It: Here