Before it was even released, Street Fighter IV for the iPhone was already written off as no more than a joke from a cash-hungry Capcom. I must admit, initially I was one of the skeptics who thought playing the game would involve more unregistered swiping than fun. Oh how good it feels to be wrong. Street Fighter IV is an exceptional iPhone game that skillfully relinquished my need for a d-pad.
Everything about Street Fighter IV for the iPhone has been lovingly grafted from its older console brother. Starting with a cinematic intro that could so easily be an extra from the original game, the whole art-style hums so loudly like its brethren that it gives long time fans a feeling of familiarity. An over-excited announcer and bold calligraphic type are just a couple of examples. Fighters are made up of rendered sprites rather than polygons but the ‘downgrade’ isn’t easily notable and instead looks amazing in motion. The seven stages aren’t animated like we’ve come to expect but so much action is happening in the foreground that it really doesn’t matter. Special moves like the ominous Hadouken and Ken’s Shoryuken light up opponents and keep your eye permanently fixed on the action.
There is a lot to do in this game which thankfully makes it worthy of the £5.99 price tag. Solo play offers a tournament mode where you beat your way to the top, besting the seven remaining fighters. Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile, Blanka, Dhalsim, Abel and finally M Bison are at your beck and call handling exactly how you’d expect them too. Free sparring mode pits you against the computer for one match and you can test your skills or practice that coveted move list (which is about 70-80% intact) in the Dojo or training room. All fairly standard fighting game inclusions but still incredibly enjoyable even with the anemic roster. The opposition is entertainingly challenging and the harder difficulty level – from which there are four to choose – gave me the kinds of matches I enjoy the most, where both fighters have a sliver of health meaning the next strike decides the victor. Brilliant. Tournament mode lasted me around 8 minutes in Normal difficulty which makes it perfect for those pick-up-and-play moments. On completion I was met with a skippable trailer for Super Street Fighter IV and victorious still shot of my fighter. Not the most rewarding ending to a game but then this is a beat-em-up and rarely is a story reason to play the genre. A nice touch is how you can save your fights from start to finish and marvel at your skill whenever you feel’s appropriate.
In the (roughly) three years since the iPhone’s creation, small teams and major developers have struggled to find a control scheme that truly works for anything other than a casual experience. The lack of tactile response had always been a severe hinderance to a lot of games and you would have expected Street Fighter IV to be no acception. However this game controlled so well that there were times I forgot that I was playing with a virtual stick and buttons. Sure I had the occasional slip of my thumbs which turned a potential fireball into a lackluster jab but it was no more than when I play with a PS3 pad. Somehow the eight-direction stick and its four simplified buttons work to a degree that not often appears on the iPhone. You have a button punching, one for kicking, another that unleashes a focus attack and finally the SP button which initiates a character’s special move with ease. This and the optional hand-holding the game offers makes Street Fighter IV accessible for all types of gamer. If you want to show off to friends or dislike having the controls on screen, the opacity can be adjusted so they’re completely invisible. If you’d rather move them to suit your hand size than there’s an option for that too. It’s evident that Capcom have treated this as if it were a brand new iPhone game rather than a console port.
I was stunned at just how good Street Fighter IV on the iPhone looks and more so, how perfectly it plays. It’s nothing short of superb. Sadly I was unable to try out any of the bluetooth multiplayer but the fact that it’s there is merely a bonus not a defining reason for owning such a fun and well made iPhone game. Capcom have set the bar very high indeed for other developers to hopefully follow and if this causes a plethora of copycats much like the original Street Fighter II did, then I say bring it on.
An outstanding experience that goes above and beyond expectations.