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I’ve Had Enough Unnecessary Ports

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I’ve Had Enough…‘ is a regular feature by Cubed3’s Mike Mason, picking apart the games industry’s more irritating practices. This time: does an iPhone version of a popular fighting game even make sense?

How many formats ended up with a version of Street Fighter II? I lose count. From Mega Drive to Game Boy, from Amiga to Commodore 64, they all had a chance to host Ryu and pals kicking seven shades of pixelated blood out of each other.

If we don’t mind including downloads in the total, even each of the current generation of consoles can claim versions. With something in the region of 20 consoles being homes to titles of its ilk, there can be little doubt that Street Fighter II is one of the most ported titles in the world.

Excellent though it is, did Street Fighter II really deserve its place on every single one of the machines it was released on? My vote is ‘probably not’. It was, however, a different entry in the same franchise that had the topic of videogame ports bouncing around in my head this week.

This should not be taken as an affront to all examples of multiplatform games. Let’s get real – in today’s climate, with the way the games industry has exploded and development costs have increased to the point where they’re not just sky-high but have started to form small satellites, ports are an essential part of the strategy at many developers with the resources to accommodate them. To do well enough to recoup sufficient money from a high definition game it’s almost a necessity to release it on more than one system, unless the effort in question is a first-party title or a third-party game with a nice big wedge of money from a console manufacturer behind it.

While there is, of course, usually a lead platform for multiformat titles from which other versions derive, I don’t tend to have these in mind when thinking of ports. Instead I imagine the occasions when a game turns up on another console months later – an obvious separate development, I suppose.

FIGHTING FIT
Back to that game that set this ball rolling, though: Street Fighter VI. Great game on its own merits, but it was recently announced that it’s now coming to iPhone. I would be a fool to disregard the growing power of Apple’s platform, but can this honestly be considered the most sensical lightbulb that has ever lit above somebody’s head?

Let us consider the facts: Street Fighter IV is of the fighting genre, which is synonymous with reliance on tight controls, fast reactions and hardcore gamers. Let’s now throw all of that out of the window and release a game of this type on an entirely touch screen-controlled handheld, so that you have to press the screen – the one you’re looking at to keep track of the speedy gameplay – to control it. I can’t be the only one looking utterly bemused at this point, can I?

Credit where it’s due in that it looks, visually at least, fantastic for a handheld, but can this be a port that was chosen because of the iPhone’s merits, or is it just that they couldn’t resist the sound of coins? The controls look to be just about usable but it doesn’t seem like the optimal way to play the game – the main reason for its existence appears to be so they can take advantage of the large audience rather than make any actual improvement.

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