Street Fighter IV: Arcade-to-iPhone Goodness

If you were to go up to a gamer — an older one, at least — and ask them what the best fighting game ever made was, they would probably tell you Street Fighter II. The title has been one of the most popular and well balanced fighting games for decades and certainly one of the most famous arcade games to date. If you don’t believe that, just look at how many versions exist. Nevertheless, last week gave birth to the anticipated release of Street Fighter IV on the iPhone.

Developed by Capcom, it is certainly one the top five biggest ports to the device, joining a list containing such titles like PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies or Electronic Arts’ Rock Band. However, currently priced at $9.99 in the App Store, one has to wonder if the price matches the hype.

Currently, the game offers eight playable characters from the classic franchise, including Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Blanka, Dhalsim, Guile, M. Bison, and Abel. It is a bit disappointing to only see a fraction of the characters from the series – though the most important ones are there – but considering that the game is a fraction of the price of the console version of Street Fighter IV, it’s understandable.

When players start up the game, they are presented with three modes, Tournament, Dojo, and, of course, multiplayer. Likely, however, users will start with the tournament mode as the majority of these players are probably Street Fighter fans already, and don‘t need training — and probably don’t have another person with an iPhone readily available.

This mode is essentially the “Story Mode,” from previous Street Fighters, sans the actually story. It still follows the same progression curve as far as game play goes, though. Users battle computer controlled characters one by one with ever increasing difficulty. The abilities are more or less the same as any other Street Fighter title, so it isn’t terribly hard for a veteran of the game, once you get used to the controls (more on that a bit later).

What really makes the game different is the new Dojo mode, which has been described on numerous occasions as “Street Fighter boot camp.” Consider this a challenge/tutorial mode. Players will be given increasingly advanced win conditions and a time limit in which to complete them. For example, one challenge will focus on combos, asking the player to do X attack followed by Y attack, with increasing complexity for each successive challenge. Another might teach the elements of using special attacks, you know, Haiduken, by blocking all damage done by normal attacks.

Regardless of the lesson, each completed challenge will be ranked either S, A, B, or C. In order to proceed to the next level, at least a C is required. Nonetheless, for those that enjoy things like achievements, a lot of longevity will be garnered out of the Dojo, for S ranks are actually extremely difficult to get, and there are a ton of different challenges. But then again, we were never Street Fighter arcade champions either.

As interesting as Dojo mode is, the real glory comes from the multiplayer. Obviously this isn’t your Facebook-style asynchronous multiplayer, and it is certainly not for the weak. Using Bluetooth, players can sync up and fight each other in some classic arcade mayhem. Surprisingly, with the right people, it’s about as much fun as any console or arcade version.

There is one annoyance to get used to though. The controls. Capcom does the best it can, but it really just comes down to placing the classic arcade joystick and its four buttons on the touch screen. As has been stated in past reviews, this just doesn’t work as well on the iPhone because there is no tactile feedback, and any serious game player can tell you that they feel where their fingers are, not see. Unfortunately, for a fighting game of this caliber, there isn’t really a viable alternative to the control scheme. Once you do get used to it, however, it’s not so bad; though it is frustrating to lose because you had to look to see where your thumb was for a split second.

Luckily , there is one saving grace to the controls. Capcom is certainly aware of the lack of tactile feedback, and does its best to mitigate the issue, allowing players to customize their controls. You can actually drag them anywhere you want until you’re comfortable (a great thing for lefties), change their transparency, and actually change the overall size! That last one, is certainly a godsend for those people with big fingers.

If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, and you’re a fan of Street Fighter, this is a game for you. Though it doesn’t have everything that the console rendition of Street Fighter IV has, it is still an excellent port, and has plenty of the nostalgic elements – from fighter specific levels to familiar taunts – for long time players. Granted, the controls take some series getting used to, and for most, it’s going to probably hit or miss. Nevertheless, once you get the hang of it and get into some multiplayer action, this application will become $10 well spent.