Saturday, July 6, 2013

Samurai Shodown II [SNK + DotEmu] - $8.99

When it comes to iOS games, there’s a select few that can be described with the words ’hardcore’ ’insane’ and ’difficult’. Well, last week ushered in a new contender for the ‘hardest game in the AppStore’ title, SNK and DotEmu’s Samurai Shodown II. And while most fighters on the iOS’s touch screen are difficult because they don’t have the tactile feedback that most of these games scream for, they are still playable, manageable and beatable, even more-so if you’ve got an iCade and can play with the tactile feedback that the games were meant to be experienced with. But SSII has ramped up the difficulty so incredibly high, even on it’s lowest difficulty setting, that after 5 hours, countless continues and an immeasurable amount of frustration, I’ve only made it to the 3rd opponent. 

That’s not to say that I dislike this game. The virtual controls are about as good as they can be, considering. If you’re familiar with the controls from Street Fighter or King Of Fighters and are comfortable with them, you’ll feel right at home here. Like any other DotEmu port, you are able to move the controls anywhere on the screen, which helps to make the game play comfortably on most devices. However, on the iPad it can be hard to reach the buttons and parts of the directional stick. Hopefully a resize option will be added, or at the very least, that the controls on the iPad will be adjusted in a future update. 

You’re also able to change the aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9 (widescreen) or windowed mode (which has the gameplay area take up about half of the screen, which actually looks very nice if you’re playing on an iPad or iPad Mini). You can also set the video filtering on or off, giving the edges smooth curves or having the original pixilated graphics in all their beautiful glory and set scanlines to 50 or 100%, as well as leaving them completely absent. Along with all of the typical DotEmu settings and preferences you can also choose to play the game on 1 of 8 difficulties. That’s right, at the beginning of each game you’re given the option to change the difficulty setting from 1-8.

Now, just because I haven’t made it past the third opponent doesn’t mean that I haven’t been having a blast playing the game. Is it frustrating? Yes. Is the difficulty set too high? Probably. Am I left feeling like I’m getting better with each game that I play? Most definitely. While I do remember playing Samurai Shodown II at the local bowling ally every weekend when I was about 12 and blowing $5 worth of quarters in 20 minutes and being able to almost make it through the entire game, I do not feel that the touch-screen controls are why I’m having such a hard time with this game. Tactile feedback for many gamers is a must when it comes to this genre, but for others, being able to slide your fingers along the smooth surface of the iDevice can make pulling off some of the more complex moves easier than with a physical controller. And, as mentioned already, SSII does have iCade support, so those of you who are lucky enough to own an iCade can have a near perfect arcade experience. But the difficulty settings, even on the lowest option available, could use some tweaking. 

Aside from that this port, like all DotEmu ports, is perfect. The framerate is improved from the original and the gameplay is insanely smooth with no hiccups or drops in framerate (unless intentional) to be found. All of the characters from the original arcade title can be found here as well as all of the little mechanics that make the gameplay slightly deeper than most fighters; backward and forward rolling, ducking, small hops and parries/offensive blocking, The fatalities have also been thrown in for good measure. All of this showing that Samurai Shodown II can still hold it’s own among the best of the best fighters in the gaming world almost 20 years since it appeared. 

Like most iOS ports of classic games, GameCenter leaderboards and achievements have been added and do help to add some drive to the already insanely high replay value of the game with 15 achievements and 3 leaderboards fleshing out the gameplay. While some players might be turned off by the crazy high difficulty or the virtual controls, if you’re familiar with KoF’s controls, you’ll pretty much know what to expect here. I do hope that a transparency gauge is added, because as it is now, the controls begin to fade away after you touch them, and then go back to full view fairly quickly, usually blocking the gameplay area, unless you’re playing in Windowed View. But priced at $8.99, being Universal, including widescreen support, and also having Bluetooth 2-player gameplay, along with being one of the best fighters ever, make Samurai Shodown II a very easy game to recommend.


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