In-Fusio's Shado Fighter represents an all-too-rare combination of circumstances in the cell phone gaming market: a time-honored premise given an ambitious--and feasible--mobile redesign from the ground up. This bombastic 2D brawler is equipped with fluent animation, scads of playable characters, and a ton of special techniques and moves, making it one of the best fighting games for mobile phones yet, even if it is a little too easy.
Initially, Shado Fighter offers you your pick of eight different fighters to prove your mettle in story, survival, time attack, or practice modes. Each fighter is of a different nationality and uses a distinct fighting style: For example, the badass American Marine Tyron chucks grenades and throws devastating punch combinations, Chinese monk Wang launches flying head-butt attacks, and Russian combat robot Proto strafes opponents with its arm cannon. In story mode, your objective is to best the other seven warriors to earn a shot at Boss Shado, the infernal chairman of the tournament; survival mode tests how many matches you can last against a stream of opponents; time attack does much the same thing while keeping tabs on how fast you can beat baddies to a bloody pulp; and practice mode lets you set up the conditions of a match to practice special moves and combinations.
Shado Fighter's speedy, multilayered gameplay will quench your thirst for blunt-force trauma. The game runs at a very brisk clip on the LG VX6000, even on the lowest speed setting out of four. This is very impressive, given the quantity and quality of fighting action that Shado Fighter generates. For instance, each character has a basic punch and kick, which can be thrown while jumping and crouching as well as from your basic combat stance. These moves are generously augmented by a large number of special attacks, including projectiles, dash moves, and combinations. You can access all of these maneuvers via straightforward, two- or three-button combinations, which often don't even require the use of the punch or kick button; in addition, you can perform jumping and crouching attacks by hitting the appropriate diagonal key twice, freeing up the keypad for the purposes of movement. Shado Fighter may use the whole keypad for its fighting system, but this judicious rationing of controls means that the game never feels unwieldy or cramped. Shado Fighter's defensive controls are equally well planned, although perhaps less ostentatiously cool. Any good fighting game requires viable ways to block or otherwise avoid attacks; Shado Fighter's blocking controls are extremely responsive, so you can pick and choose your spots for attack while rationing your health the rest of the time.
As furious as Shado Fighter's combat may be, the game possesses enough tactical variation to keep the battles from getting boring too quickly. Some characters have fighting styles that focus on projectile attacks, others are more combo-oriented, and others still rely on speed and jumping. It pays dividends, therefore, to familiarize yourself with each character's fighting style. But herein lies Shado Fighter's one major flaw: The artificial intelligence never poses that much of a challenge, even on the hardest difficulty level. AI-controlled opponents seem overly susceptible to projectile attacks, and they will also hang back and refuse to attack you at odd intervals. Shado Fighter does save your final score by accounting for how much life and time you have left at the end of a battle, and you can upload your high scores to a global leaderboard, but this just makes the game feel like more of a race than a fighting contest. Although it's fun to play through the game with each character, a couple more difficulty levels would have helped Shado Fighter get even more mileage out of its fighting system. A way to play against another player would have also been a big addition.
Visually, Shado Fighter has the pleasingly colorful feel of a Saturday-morning cartoon show. The characters are very thoroughly animated, complete with victory poses, and their special attacks are rendered in bright neon hues. The game flourishes with a ton of little details, such as the small spray of blood produced by shuriken strikes. The battles themselves take place in a variety of lushly painted environments, such as bamboo groves, beaches, and squares. Shado Fighter's sound is comparatively weak. Successful attacks produce a strange, atonal progression of tones, while blocks produce a more positive chord. The little snippets of Asian music stuck into the game here and there are fairly unremarkable.
Though it's somewhat derivative and lacks a quality AI to challenge more advanced gamers, Shado Fighter is still a surprisingly full-fledged fighting game for the mobile platform. Of all similar titles for mobile, Shado Fighter is a great game that comes the closest to translating the fast pace and technical variety of arcade classics like Street Fighter II to the cell phone. This is an impressive feat, and it makes Shado Fighter well worth the download.