Something to get out of the way: I hate virtual joysticks. Hate them. That being said, I liked The King of Fighters-i, virtual joystick and all.
The King of Fighters-i is SNK Playmore's latest effort at bringing its arcade sensibility to smartphones. And for what it is, The King of Fighters-i is serviceable and more.
The game has traditional KOF 3 fighters versus 3 fighters mode as well as single fighter modes. The game has 14 characters, including fan favorite Mai Shiranui, with more characters apparently arriving in future updates. Each fighter has a couple costumes colors available, though some colors are locked.
You create a profile and can record your fights. There are card collectibles and coins. The way it seems to work is that you earn coins from fights, and then can use those coins to buy in-game cards that you can view.
The button layout is E button (escape), S button (special), P button (punch), K button (kick) and HD button. Maybe the HD button stands for hi-def? I'm honestly not sure. The controls are streamlined and do take the iOS hardware into account, making it easier than you'd think to pull off moves.
The game looks great on the iPhone 4's display. Love the hand drawn art SNK introduced with King of Fighters XII. I do wish I was playing it on an iPad, as things do get cluttered on an iPhone. It's hard to soak in the visuals, and the game suffers from some tiny on-screen text. But, really, who plays KOF games to read text?
SNK fighting games are about stylish characters, cool moves, and pure fun. KOF-i delivers all three.
As far as gameplay goes, it's responsive. Serious KOF fighters are better served sticking to SNK's arcade and home console offerings, but for a fighting game on the go for the iOS, KOF-i does the job. And does it well.
The game is US$7.99, which seems like a fair price, even though it doesn't yet have online. Hopefully that will come in a future update.