When it comes to mobile spin-offs of iconic series, there are a lot of ways they could go wrong. It might not be possible for the genre to adapt well to a touchscreen device or free-to-play model. The King of Fighters Allstars is one of those games that gets around such issues in some rather smart ways. The result is a game that feels like it pays tribute to the series, without trying too hard to mimic it or straying too far from the formula.
A big part of why this works is how The King of Fighters Allstars matches the series’ aesthetics. It is known for large rosters of characters with flashy abilities, which lends itself well to a gacha game. However, there isn’t a lot of pressure to keep spending, since you get one free, daily pull that could guarantee you a new fighter. It also pulls from different eras and acknowledges how the characters have grown and changed through the series with variants for different years. So, as an example, you could have a The King of Fighters ‘94 Kyo Kusanagi, or you could have one from a later installment like ‘97 or ‘98.
This style is represented in each characters’ moveset. Each one gets three active skills in The King of Fighters Allstars, and every one of them is inspired by a move they use in the fighting games. They also have a Finisher, a Support skill and could have a Special Card-related attack. While you aren’t putting in the complicated inputs to pull off attacks, those moves are still there. You could even still chain them into combos in this beat’em up, offering the right sort of atmosphere.
Speaking of atmosphere, The King of Fighters Allstars attempts to offer it with its campaign. While the story here is an original one, it calls back to different generations. As of December 2019, The King of Fighters ‘94, ‘95, ‘96, ‘97 and ‘98 storylines are in here. Each one gives people opportunities to see and interact with major characters, like Mai Shiranui or Athena Asamiya. At the same time, it lightens things up with crossovers that make sense, such as a promotion that brings in Tekken characters and has its own storyline.
It also helps that The King of Fighters Allstars attempts to capture the feel of a fighting game’s multiple modes with its different Match Modes. Its Time Attack tests your skill with using characters from various colors to fight enemies. The Arena and matches put you in fights against others with your team of three against another person’s. It ends up feeling more like an actual fighting game, albeit with the beat’em up’s controls
The King of Fighters Allstars is about capturing a feeling, rather than offering a perfect facsimile of the experience on a mobile device. This works in its favor. We still get a large roster. Different storylines could be alluded to. The characters’ movesets can still be large and different modes can be present. All of the trappings are there, just presented in a different way that works with this format.