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Great iPhone Ports - Is There An App For That? Sam's avatar
FirstPlay (But First Pay)
A trio of announcements over the last couple of days have let iPhone owners know that they are in for a visit from the ghosts of gaming past, present and future. Up first is the news from Square Enix that both Final Fantasy I and II are returning from times past and will "soon" be making an appearance on Apple's App Store. The dispatch was also accompanied by a short video featuring gameplay footage from the Japanese port, which appears to look more faithful to original PlayStation port, last seen on the GameBoy Advance, than to the more recent PlayStation Portable remake.

Next up, Capcom demonstrated they are living in the present by releasing the third mobile update for their zombie splattering franchise, this time throwing in a smattering of extra features including Mercenary Mode, Coin Shoot Mode and a tutorial. Sounding more like a language course than a game, 'Resident Evil 4 Mobile For Beginners' will be available from the App Store in chapter sized chunks, allowing iPhone owners to pay as they play rather than shelling out for the whole shebang up front.

Capcom then followed this news up by announcing that the future (March in this case) will be bringing Street Fighter IV to the iPhone in all of its 2.5D glory. The mobile version will feature assets scaled down from the console versions as well as a selection of new and classic characters alongside the ubiquitous Ken and Ryu. Controversy is already surrounding decision to use a virtual joystick for character control, but fans of the series will be relieved to hear that multiplayer gameplay will be supported via Bluetooth.

Is the iPhone on the verge of ushering in a new age of high-end mobile gaming or should some ideas be herded away from the platform with a big pointy stick?

Editor Opinions
Sam's avatar

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This sentiment pretty much covers my feelings about the increasingly rampant trend of porting console games to the iPhone.

I first played Final Fantasy I and II on the original DS using a GBA cartridge, but never finished it because I grew tired of lugging the grey brick around with me. However, I'll definitely be picking them up again from the App Store as I feel the iPhone proves the perfect platform for SquareEnix's epic RPGs. The games suit the stop-start nature of mobile gaming and are best savoured over a longer period of time so the limited mechanics don't get dull too fast. Perhaps most importantly though, the controls are simple and at no point is it necessary to be reacting frantically.

Unfortunately, the complete opposite is true for Street Fighter IV and I can't help but wonder what the hell Capcom were thinking. Apparently their developers spent months conceptualising potential control methods and then came up with a 'Virtual Joystick' that takes up half the screen. Great. People already spend hundreds of pounds on arcade style joysticks because control pads aren't tactile enough and I can't see how any of the game's largely hardcore audience are going to get to grips, literally, with a touch screen.

I'm not theoretically against a game of this type on the iPhone and the visuals certainly look good, but its mind boggling why Capcom would attempt a near direct port onto an unsuitable platform when people are still clamouring for a PSP version.

You would think that Capcom had learnt a lesson from the port of Resident Evil 4, which plagued with similar issues, have had to slice the game into cheaper chunks to convince people to even give it a go. The fact they have also just added a tutorial and new easier difficulty level suggests to me that this latest version is less 'For Beginners' and more 'For People On The Move And Without A Gaming Claw For A Hand', which I am guessing is just about everyone.

I can really see the lure of trying to shoehorn popular console games onto a platform with such a vast and diverse demographic, but as much as everyone would like it to be, the iPhone is not yet the all singing, all dancing mobile gaming rig. As such, I think an honest appraisal of whether certain mechanics are suitable for the iPhone is required before deciding if to port a game to the platform. Failure to do so is only going to end up damaging developers and publishers when much loved franchises don't live up to the quality of their console based brothers.