E3: Playphone

May 16, 2003 1:51 AM PST

With all of my focus on Megaking's owning of SNK licenses for mobile products, I neglected to consider the US market! Surprise of surprises (and I mean that), Sammy-backed mobile game publisher Playphone has secured the rights for SNK's properties in the US! This is not terribly outlandish, given the fact that the chairman of the company (Takahito Yasuki) was the CEO for SNK Corporation of America at one point. Before that, he founded Romstar. That's a nice track record, in my book. Though...not really in terms of 'success'.

The initial line-up is solid though. They’ve got decent conversions of Space Invaders and Missile Command, and original titles like Scooby Doo. But being who we are, there were a couple of other titles that caught our eyes with greater urgency.

Two SNK titles were available for play today, with one more casually announced. Metal Slug is the unseen title, but The King of Fighters and Samurai Showdown were on display for us to mess with. And mess we did.

First impressions (See scans) leave one wondering whether or not these are ports of the Neo Geo Pocket Color games. The King of Fighters looks a hell of a lot like KOF R-2, and Samurai Showdown looks more than a little bit like Samurai Showdown 2 for NGPC.

We spoke to PR rep Brian Baglow about the games. He was a very excited individual, for which I give him a lot of credit. It was the end of the day, and everyone in our party was dog tired. He said that these were not ports, and that sprites had not been reused. These games were re-programmed from the ground up by Nuvo Studios. But they're not fooling me. These are NGPC sprites, logos and menus. Why go to all the trouble of meticulously recreating the characters and character selection screens this way. These have to be sprite rips. At the very least, the game looks just like the NGPC titles we know and love.

Oh, if only they played that way. The games are in alpha and beta stage, this I'll grant them. But they are not really playable, and I cannot really forsee them becoming more playable in the future. This is expected of course - cellphones don't have particularly nice d-pads, if they have them at all. But as it stands, 4 and 6 move left and right, 8 jumps, 2 crouches. This can also be done on the directional pad if there is one. 5 is the attack button - there is only one at this point, for both games. Hopefully one more attack button will be added, but Baglow couldn't comment on developer process. The movement is allright for an alpha and beta respectively (KOF=early beta; Samurai Showdown=alpha), but the collision detection still had a long way to go. There were two characters available in each game, more to be implemented as time goes on. Not all moves had been included yet - each character only had one move; their SDM. The charge gauges seemed to be working though.

The games will understandably be limited. They are java after all, and restricted by the 'pad'. It would be interesting to see how much the final product can improve. I don't want to give the impression that I'm complaining about wip games. I'm just stating that a cellphone may not be the platform for these games to begin with. Though, were they ported to the N-Gage, FreeON or B'ngo, that might be a different story. And actually, since they'll function on series 60 Nokia phones...this is not out of the picture.

Here's some strange stuff: the SS game is called Samurai Showdown - Warriors Rage. You must fight the evil Razor Trio, it seems. Those are the fellows on the front of the box, who may look a bit unfamiliar to many.

They're from Samurai Showdown: Warriors Rage 2 for the PSX - the names are slipping my mind just now. But this is odd, considering that the rest of the sprites are most certainly ripped. If these characters are indeed in the game as advertised, it will be very interesting to see how they are represented visually. Slash and Bust modes are available still, and if the game shots are anything to go on, the whole card winning thing remains intact. There were no cards available in the demo, but of course...early build and all that.

Oddities in the KOF camp include a 'tag mode'. It's possible that this is a poorly translated 'team mode', but could also be a Match of the Millenium-style tag option. Hard to say. No news on whether or not the original 'making' mode will be included either. However! The official website says that as you progress, super moves are unlocked. Sounds close. Only four characters will be in the finished product; Kyo, Terry, Athena and Mai. I believe that Samurai Showdown will have more than this.

The pricing and release date info is still pending. $10-$15 is what I’m hearing. The games actually ‘come in’ boxes. You purchase a box with a pin number inside. Call the number, download the game, that’s that! The idea is to make purchasing games easy for the consumer. This really is a good way to simplify the process, and make the buyer feel as though they’re getting something tangible via the box. No release date yet – these games are currently running at about 10-20% completion though, for your reference.

More info will be supplied as the games get further along, but for now - remain skeptical. Java-based cellphones are still a ways off from properly emulating an action gaming experience.

Brandon Sheffield

Here's a nice supplement for you. We all know that SNK-glish is back, and Playmores website is here to prove it. Add another friendly face to your list. Playphone-glish may be just as amusing, especially considering the fact that this is an American company.

Samurai Showdown

"The power of the sword lives on and looks set to cut it up on a phone near you. Samurai is the Japanese feudal military Aristocracy and the name for the soldiers that fight for it.

The game follows the path of a bunch of pure and honest Samurais as they go up against the evil Razor Trio, who are ruling the land with an iron fist and must be stopped."




(0:25 - 2.40 MB)

Samurai Shodown

(0:35 - 3.70 MB)