Can the iPhone Handle Street Fighter IV?

Street Fighter IV iPhone

How'd they pull it off, that's what I hope I'm saying once I've wrapped my fingers around Capcom's surprise iPhone port of popular arcade-style brawler Street Fighter IV. That's right, Street Fighter IV. Not another Resident Evil, or Mega Man 3, or Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader 2010 Edition, all of which seem more likely to clear the chasm separating button and touch-based interfaces.

Channeling what sounds like a Capcom press release, IGN's ready to believe without playing, calling it "no quickie, banged-out port" and claiming the Japan-based games publisher "is not accepting any loss of the console game's beloved art direction in the iPhone edition." Capcom also told IGN they've taken months to get the controls right, and that the port should be live on Apple's App Store in March.

How right? We'll see. Since the iPhone lacks physical buttons, Capcom's solution was to create a virtual gamepad with the joystick plus directional arrows on the left and the classic four buttons on the right. It's a common enough approach, employed in other iPhone translations of popular games like Wolfenstein 3D, Assassin's Creed, and Brothers in Arms.

What's more, you can apparently tinker with control placement and button transparency (the latter could be critical--note how much screen real estate the virtual pad takes up). You'll also be able to test-drive the controls in a special "Dojo Mode" and train for tournament or multiplayer matches. Yep, according to IGN it'll support ad hoc multiplayer by way of the iPhone's Bluetooth chip.

Street Fighter IV iPhone

Anyone who's ever wanted a portable version of Street Fighter, you've grounds for cautious optimism. Skeptics like me? It could turn out to be a decent port--decent at best, given the iPhone's lack of a deterministic interface applied to a game that fundamentally depends on one. That, or it's a noble flop--at best a curio for casual gamers who'll pull it down and play it once or twice before discarding.

Everyone wants access to the iPhone's ballooning market. Sometimes commercial and creative interests dovetail and you get decent games like Civilization Revolution or Metal Gear Solid Touch. Sometimes you're left to paddle in a sea of opportunistic mediocrity, i.e. most of the games currently clogging the App Store's "133,979-third-party-apps-and-counting!" arteries.

And, once in a blue moon, you get a game like Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, that comes out of nowhere and plays like an iPhone game should.

As for Street Fighter IV, it looks decent enough in screenshots, though that virtual pad looks awfully chunky. We'll see how it plays in March.

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