King of Fighters 97 Mobile Takes the Power of Orochi On the Go
Old-school fighting game fans are quite familiar with SNK's largest fighting game series, King of Fighters. And seeing the '97 version of the game available on mobile is a great way to geek out in gaming nostalgia. But as cool as it all sounds the mobile port of KoF'97 suffers from one critical flaw: the control system. Which is a shame since in terms of hardware processing power, the average modern smartphone can smoothly deliver the original arcade experience of this once epic game.
What is King of Fighters '97?
KoF '97 is the fourth game in SNK's major fighting game franchise. The series started with King of Fighters '94 and brought together several major characters from Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. While the each of the two source games had their own storylines, KoF also introduced original characters that would bridge the two games together. Back in the '95 release, a new storyline begun that revolved around a clan of people with the "power of Orochi". This would become the main point of the series until the arc resolved in this game, KoF '97.
This is a 2D fighting game that featured one-on-one combat between two teams composed of three fighters each. Combat was fast and frantic. Fighters have rolls and dashes that allowed them to quickly close in on opponents while also avoiding direct attacks. This meant that players could not rely on overly cheap tactics (like spamming projectiles) in order to win matches. Battles are hard fought and there is a lot of focus on skill.
Familiar Sights and Faces
Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury characters are pretty well known -Terry Bogard and Ryo Sakazaki are basically SNK's answer to Capcom's Ryu. So combining the two franchises into a single game was pretty much a good idea right from the start. But it has also been many years since the original release of the King of Fighters series in their original incarnations -even the original characters like Kyo and Iori Kusanagi have become just as well known and iconic to fighting game fans.
Nostalgia is a big factor for this game's appeal and in that sense, it lives up to the hype thanks to the fact that KoF 97 is delivered exactly as is -from the UI that depicts the health bar, timer, and energy bar, to the intricately animated backgrounds, and of course, the character sprites. SNK is particularly praised for the quality of sprite animation that it has delivered over the years, and those great things remain intact in the game.
Release Date: 28/07/1997
We won't sugar coat it, if you have just a casual or passing interest in fighting games, this is not the game to start with. King of Fighters naturally takes control schemes similar to SNK's other fighting games and as such, the joystick motion inputs are ridiculously complex. For one thing, players seriously considering learning to play this game seriously should read up and learn how to perform proper quarter-circle and half-circle motions on the controls accurately and efficiently. Most of the MAX Desperation moves require stringing together several of this motions and an action button to execute.
As if that was not challenging enough, the mobile version's touch screen controls are not all that good or reliable. Simply doing a directional double tap (to perform forward or backward dashes) can feel clumsy. And while a lot of practice will certainly let you get used to the touch pad after a while, it is still not substitute for a good physical controller with actual buttons. We highly recommend using a controller for this game.
The Verdict: Really, Get a Controller
The good news is that the iOS version of this game supports iOS 7 controllers, so at least the touch screen controls will not be so much of a hinderance (and will not block your visuals either), of course, do not think that the game becomes easier just because of that. The controller simply evens out the awkwardness of the touchscreen -the game is still as wicked fast and brutal as it was originally designed to be.
For many original fans, playing this game will certainly bring back memories of fond times playing in arcades -the amazing concept of a fighting game that features multiple characters in a single team was groundbreaking back then. For those new to the series, however, this is a far too early and incarnation of KoF to be easily appreciated -you might be better off trying one of the newer KoF releases instead.
The King of Fighters 97 is developed by SNK PLAYMORE.