Monday, June 23, 2014

5 things modern fighting games should not be doing.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My father and I walked into this place where he used to buy old issues of various magazines. And out in the corner, there she was. Street Fighter 2. I was intrigued. I had seen coin op games before, sporadically, but Street Fighter was  a new game to me. One that I'd never played before. I begged for money, as children are wont to do. I sacrificed that coin to watch an Hindu Stereotype beat my American soldier stereotype to a pulp.

Since then fighting games have come a long way. THey've evolved, developed intricate storylines and new, radical playstyles.  They've become an entirely different beast.

In some ways. In other ways they're stuck 2 decades ago. My love for fighting games calls me to request that these 5
things become better, so that our beloved genre can continue to flourish and grow. So yes, I am salty that some fighting games still have...

5 Slideshow endings

When the fighting game boom took place, the capacity for them to tell a story was fairly limited by memory and space. There just wasn't enought to put much audios or, god-forbid,  videos. Most of the storytelling was done via little pictures and words that told the story. Any full featured endings or such would have eaten into other parts of the game, basically forcing you to cut out characters and stages to make room for endings to the characters   you were going to have.

This was true of all games back then, and now only true in little cellphone games. And fighting games, apparently. How else can you explain that as far back as 2011 Mortal Kombat was still having the bulk of it's arcade endings be  slideshows with pictures, now merely updated with narration?

I know MK also had an expansive, movie like in-engine story mode, which it inherited form it's predecessor. This does not make it makes it worse. Because you can clearly see they have better in-engine capacities, motion capture,  voice acting and overall storytelling capacity that they did the last time they tried individual  theatrical endings  25 years ago, and they still decided they wheren't going to bother with anything but a narrator telling you what happened.
"And life...had never been sweatier."

If this seems like I'm being petty, think about this: if another, non-fighting game franchise did this kind of ending, whether it was Final Fantasy, Halo or Assasins Creed... would people put up with it? Because Mortal Kombat is one of the most recognizable fighting game franchises in the world, now owned by one of the larges corporations in the world, and they still settled for the storybook bullshit. It's not some little indie  game made by 2 people, why should it's endings
suggest otherwise?

Fighitng game endings give you a goal to fight towards. Mortal Kombat's little movie was a fine endeavor, but you can't even play as every character in it.

But in the fighting game world, even that seems like being extremely generous, when others can sell you...

4 Bare bones packages  with nothing but fighting

Holy shit, a new Killer Instinct! After all these years, Microsoft finally got on that! Now I can see what's been up with B. Orchid and the gang since they time-traveled and fought a devil gargoyle!

Except  somehow they manage to ship a game more bereft of options than  getting mugged by a Pokemon. What? Oh, whatever, at least I have King of Fighters XII.

How does this happen? A fighitng game used to compete by being a package that they tried to pile value on. Story mode, and other modes other than "fight other dudes, until you get tired." Killer instinct Gold was shipped to the Nintendo 64 filled with as many things as they could fit in to offset the fact you where playing Killer Instinct 2 on a controller  designed by the Spanish Inquisition to tear your ligaments.

Why  would something made 11 of years after Soul Calibur from Dreamcast decide that features aren't important? Why is offering replay value optional in this genre?

3 A disturbing obsession with guest characters.
"Hey, a loud, organized fight is technically an assasination if you planned to murder the guy."

Everything was fine in fighting game-opolis. The birds where singing their chip-tunes and the flowers were swaying in repeated animation cycles, their beautiful palettes entirely dependant on the button you pressed to choose them.And then Soul Calibur 2 happened. The sequel to one of the most well revieved fighitng games of it's time, SC2 did something that would innexplicably become a trend in fighitng games till today: It added characters that had nothing to do with the Soul Calibur franchise, specifically undead emo-demon Spawn from the Image comic of the same name for the Xbox, Link from Soul Calibur for Gamecube, and Heihachi, from Bandai's other fighitng game series for Xbox.

Sure, the idea had been done before. Earth Worm Jim was in Battle Arena Toshiden,  and even Soul Calibur one had a guest character in Yoshimitsu. But those guys wheren't in the cover of their games. Putting them in was a cool thing to do.

Now it seems a fighting game can't be complete without some guests, DOA had a Halo Spartan and some Virtua Fighters, Mortal Kombat had Freddy Krueger, Soul Calibur had characters from Star Wars and Assasin's Creed. Even the frickin Street Fighter/Tekken crossover decided to add some weird manga cats and the guy from Infamous. Don't be surprised when Guilty Gear finally caves in and announcess Shrek.

Is there something inherently wrong with guests? No. But guests would be better if it didn't feel like there was some weird mandate that there has to be at least one guest character. On Kratos' case this might actually be the truth, since he's already been in Soul Calibur  and Mortal Kombat.

To be frank, it feels a little like cheating the fans to, instead of giving the spot to a character from the franchise people haven't seen in a while, or adding new characters to grow the roster, they go "No, you can't have Raibow Mika. Here's Sam Witwer in a robe. He'll not be seen after this, so enjoy."

2 Unlockable Characters
A new character has been unlocked!

Unlockables where a part of a game's replay value. They'd slowly trickle new content to the player as he played, rewarding continued returns.

But this has no place in Fighting games anymore. A fighting game is not supposed to be have finite replayability, like a Campaign in a First Person Shooter. It's supposed  to keep inviting you in to try new things in it and to challenge yourself, like a puzzle game. Unlockable characters kind of limit that by saying, "even though you know and we know that there is a character called Jenny Cho in this game, because she's on the cover and everything and the Internet exists, you need to grind in story mode a bit to play as her."

It's a real kick in the pants too, especially since at least in the old days when something was locked, there was a good possibility for a cheat to be available to unlock it.

1 Not having  sufficient DLC characters

Ultra Street Fighter 4 is Capcom's way of saying "No matter how much Internet and 3D we have, we're still the same cheap bastards that reisued Street Fighter 2 for 4 years, and we'll die before we give up on our comprehensive asset recycling program". The game grabs a bunch of leftovers  from Street Fighter X Tekken, adds Cammy in a mask, and then expects everyone to jump into the 4rth or 5th Street Fighter 4 SKU.

It's arguably slightly less awful than the traditional practice of releasing  the same game with some slight changes and 3 new charactes, because at least this one only costs like half of a new game and you can download it into your Super Street Fighter Megamax Super Duper arcade edition, but it's arguably worse than what it would have been to, one by one, continue to add new characters to the game.

We're already in the DLC age, I don't know why most fighting games play it so coy with this. Street Fighter outright refuses to have stand alone DLC characters. Mortal Kombat only had a handful. Marvel vs Capcom 3 had 2, and then decided to jump back later in the year with a 60 dollar reissue with 6 more characters.

 What I haven't seen is a fighter that doubles it's roster with DLC.  Costumes are fine, but a character adds real value to the game. Are you gonna wait to be beaten to the punch by EF 12, developers? I'd like to see a fighting game franchise forgoe just hitting the reset button to make a new reiteration every couple of fiscal years and just make the one game they have continue to grow in it's roster and features. Some are better at this. DOA5, Injustice, and Skullgirls seem to have had comprehensive DLC schedjules, that don't just seem like they're doing it because their mommy forced them.  Killer Instinct seems to have gone too far into the forest with it's "make everything DLC" plan. Let's hope more games follow the good examples and continue to grow their games rather than ditch out the baby with the bathwater.


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