Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when I got my hands on LPS’s Arkanigon. I had played some other “fighter” games for the iPhone but wasn’t impressed enough to keep playing them. After reading the iTunes description of the game, I got the impression it was a Tank Wars style of game where you strategically launch projectiles at your opponent, hoping to obliterate them out of existence. I was right in a sense, but what I got was something entirely different. It’s like those animes where the hero and villain are standing some distance apart, shooting their super-powered projectiles at one another continuously while hurling witty insults about things the average person would know nothing about; that’s what Arkanigon is. You won’t see the fighters meet in the middle to bitch-slap one another on the face; these characters are above that type of comerodery.

When you first open Arkanigon, you are greeted by an intro video that depicts the story and background of the Arkanigons. After you get the skinny on the game, you are taken to a loaded start menu. Seriously, there are TWELVE menu options to choose from! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many choices in an iPhone game! You can choose from: Getting Started (tutorial), Prologue, Story Mode, Two Player, Save/Load Game, Story Endings, Settings, Characters, Human vs. CPU, CPU vs. CPU (in case you are too lazy to play), Music Player, and Credits. That is a lot of options for a dollar game! I give LPS kudos for including so many features.

Before you go jumping into battle (like I did), I recommend you take the time to read the Getting Started tutorial, watch the Prologue, and read the Character profiles. This is almost essential prior to playing the game, otherwise you’ll be scratching your head like an ape looking for his lost banana. Seriously, read! Once you read all the information, you will be more aptly prepared to actually play and enjoy the game for what it is.

Now, this is where I’m guessing most people seem to be staying away from buying this game (it only has 2 reviews in the app store): the gameplay is either love it or hate it. You will probably enjoy the crisp backgrounds and the funky illustrated characters. You may not like the actual gameplay motion graphics. Like I stated before, these fighters are not going to run into head-on battle or explode into super huge flames when struck by an attack. They will stand there, hair blowing in the wind, and move their arms (and bodies occasionally) to launch an attack. This could deter you from the excitement of the game, but then again, it isn’t your typical fighting game. One suggestion that could make this game more exciting is enhancing the actual attack graphics. As it stands, an attack is generally a bland colored ball (blast) that flies slowly at the character to drain their HP. With a game like this, the attack graphics should be full of energy, power, and enough flashing light that could send any anime-obsessed child into fits and seizures.

The actual gameplay is more satisfying than the graphics. Once you either select story mode or VS. mode, you are transported to the arena where the battle almost instantly begins (and I mean you have no countdown or any indication the battle has started other than by launching an attack or being hit by one). To attack (or defend), you have a wide variety of touch screen fighting options: single tap, double tap, horizontal swipe, vertical swipe, DOUBLE horizontal/vertical swipe, cross swiping, and swipe-tap combos. This is where it becomes important to read character profiles, as each character has their own unique powers that are assigned to the various attacks. If you don’t come prepared, you will be tapping and swiping furiously (like an ape that lost its banana), and you may lose and get frustrated. However, if you take the time to learn your character’s (and enemy’s) moves, the game will be more rewarding.

The one thing that was kind of frustrating with the gameplay was the “cool time” that follows after launching a heavier attack. Basically, it means you have to wait “x” amount of time before you can launch that attack again; how long you have to wait is unclear, and the only way you can tell is by trying the attack again. This can cause you to lose an opportunity to attack while you get wailed on by the opponent. There is no cooling time for energy shots, but those attacks won’t take you far. If you want to beat the game, you need to master the special shots and “kanji” spells that do things like freeze your opponent or drain their energy. Defense is a big part of the game as you can set up a force field that helps relieve some of the damage from shots or can reflect a shot entirely.

In terms of difficulty, well let’s just say this: I was “taking names” for three rounds, and then by the fourth round, I was getting my ass handed to me by Jimmy (little punk). If you know your opponent well enough and how they battle, it will give you an edge up when the game gets harder (can’t seem to stress this point enough!)

The soundtrack that is in the game matches the theme of the story, giving you that sense of action, power, and eeriness that accompanies superhuman stories. The in-game fighting sound effects, however, are nothing spectacular, but they do the trick of letting you know when an attack has been launched.

I won’t go too in-depth on the other features of the game, but I will say that there are enough options to satisfy the player and justify the game as a whole. Two-player mode is fun if you are playing with someone who knows what they are doing (or if you just like to humiliate unsuspecting victims), but the finger-room cuts in half in order to share the board with the other player. And if you are just too darn lazy to lift a finger to battle, you can set up your favorite characters to battle one another while you stuff your face with devil cakes and ding-dongs (it may be more entertaining than some of the crappy cartoons that are on TV nowadays). The music player and story endings features are nice add-ons if you enjoy this type of bonus content.

I would say the key to enjoying this game is to get involved in the story lines of the characters. Otherwise, the game will be pretty bland. For $0.99, the game is justifiable as long as you know what you are getting into, and if you need a game to kill some time, this one will do the trick. I would hope for an update of the battle graphics and sounds to really up the gameplay excitement, but as it stands, strategy and story are key to keeping you engaged in Arkanigon.

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