What Should the Next King of Fighters Mobile Game Be?
Porting King of Fighters to the mobile platform is not a simple task. The games in the series were released on various systems and came in different versions. But for the most part, it is all a matter of getting an emulator to run on a mobile device. That is how it was done for 97 and 98, and it makes perfect sense to have the same system for all the games that will follow it. But as the current trend of the series shows, this solution is not going to work for the newest iteration of the game: King of Fighters XIV is going to be in HD 3D visuals -and the mobile platform will need more than an emulated system to run that.
Other Games First
It makes perfect sense to release the other games in the series first. Or if that is taking too long -then maybe at least KoF XI to XIII; the new numbered series has impressive visuals, a fight system that has been streamlined, and enhanced gameplay. Besides, since SNK has room to play around -like with the Rhythm of Fighters game, then taking the long slow route and not instantly trying to make the mobile releases catch up with the console titles makes sense.
Redefining Fighting Games
The biggest problem that SNK has had with the mobile version of KoF is the simple fact that the controls do not lend themselves well to the touch screen controls. Sure, there is a special button that allows you to easily trigger specials, but it still lacks the level of control and mastery that you can acquire from having a physical controller. The good thing is that since the KoF games series on mobile supports MFI devices, you can play the games the way they were meant to be played. And with the gorgeous 2D world of KoF, that's an amazing experience for any gamer.
But 3D is a whole different ballgame. Making sprites move is one thing, fully rendering a complex 3D character in real time on a mobile device is not going to be as easy as porting the other KoF games. This means that if KoF XIV is what's in store for the future of the mobile versions, we might see two possible alternatives.
Alternative 1: 3D Mobile Fighting Game
Is it possible that we get KoF XIV in full 3D on the mobile? Yes. Naturally, the resolution will be downscaled and the quality of the textures and character models will not be as good as the console versions. But as we have seen in games like Asphalt 8, the mobile platform is still pretty capable of delivering decent CG. Bottom line, the visuals will be less impressive, but that's already expected.
As for the gameplay, it would be a smart move to simply adapt a directionless fight system -similar to the feel of Infinity Blade, Injustice, Avengers, and Mortal Kombat X. This means that much of the combat identity of SNK will have to be sacrificed for a completely different kind of fighting. Of course, they do not have to strictly adhere to the pattern set by the games mentioned above -KoF can be streamlined with its own unique style of rock-paper-scissors battles.
Alternative 2: Go Back to 2D Sprites
This may seem like a surprising notion, but the assets are already there from the previous KoF titles. Sure, some of the sprites have to be cleaned up, and it would nice to have some new animations (this is still a sequel after all), but it would be a wise idea for SNK to deliver exactly what many of their core fans want: a real 2D fighting game instead of the 3D models used in the console versions of XIV. Making a completely new game is expensive and it takes a lot of work -but there are a lot of fans who are willing to pay for the game they want, and a 3D XIV is not what they want. If they release an all new 2D KoF title for the mobile that is not just a port of a previous existing version of the game, SNK could stand to make a huge difference in the current trend of the gaming industry.