Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rethinking the Fighting Genre

Last month I bought KOFXIII, and while it is a great game, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed with the game. Initially I thought it was simply because I've been watching match videos for the game for over a year, or that the game didn't add that much to the arcade version of KOFXIII despite being in development for over a year. But after thinking back on the fighting games I've played this console generation; I think it may be that I'm beginning to get tired of the "classic" style of fighting games.

A few months ago, new head of Team Ninja, Yosuke Hayashi, said that, at their foundation, all fighters are the same, and that formula is starting to show its age. After giving it some thought, I have to agree with him. Ever since Street Fighter II, the basic foundation of the fighting game has remained the same; from the way combos are executed to button lay-outs; things really haven't changed.

So, is this a bad thing? Not really. After all, there are many videogame formulas that don't need changing because they work. Perhaps its an over-saturation of the market recently, but even then, I'd probably pick up the fighting games that did get released simply because of the lack of fighters out.

Now, there are fighters that do try to switch things up, such as Blazblue having the "Special" button added to common bread-n-butter combos, or fighters that put a lot of work into having characters that play very differently, the soon-to-be-released Skullgirls and aforementioned Blazblue being examples. I think this style works, as it feels like they're trying to differentiate themselves from the Street Fighter II or Vs. Capcom style where there are only 4 or 5 gameplay styles that simply mask themselves as multiple characters. I can see the approach that BB and SG are taking to produce some great fighters in the future that could bring back the refeshing aura once brought by the SFIII series, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, and The Last Blade series.

The core foundation of the fighter doesn't have to change, but some new ideas in gameplay mechanics and presentation really need to come about; at least for me, because after thinking it over, I am beginning to grow bored with the "classic" fighter, as shown by my disappointment with KOFXIII, a game I was hyping up for over a year.

Another part of my lacking interest with the core fighter is due to two very different styled fighter that released this generation: the Dissidia: Final Fantasy games and the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games. These games took a while to grow on me, but I'm now beginning to see the great potential in their gameplay style, especially that found in the Dissidia: Final Fantasy series. Not only does the Dissidia series focus on creating very unique, individual characters, but the core mechanics of the game are well executed and very unique. The Brave and Health damage mechanic is excellent, as it creates a whole other layer to the battle strategy beyond the classic "attack opponent until their health depletes to zero", and the focus on special moves rather than bread-n-butter combos. Furthermore, elements such as dodging, countering, dashing, and environment interaction are on a level beyond that seen in other fighters, 2D or 3D. And on top of all of this is the customization elements of an RPG. It all comes together in a fighter that at first seems simple, but actually has a lot of depth, just in a different way than the "classic" 2D/3D fighters. The Naruto Ultimate Ninja series uses a similar style to Dissidia, but in a much more simple execution.

The Dissidia series, specifically 012 duocedim,has really opened my eyes to the potential that fighting games have, and that leaves me disappointed by the fighters that stick to the "classic" formula. I suppose that there will always be a place for "classic" fighters, but I think that a new type of fighting game needs to come into the fray. Fighting games really need to push forward, and this new foundation established by Square's Dissidia series and continued with the Naruto Storm series is a great way to begin, imo.

As far as 3D fighters go, Tekken will always remain the "classic" series, while the Soulcalibur series utilizes a system that grew past the "classic" formula back in 1999, so there's not much for the SC to go, as it hasn't grown stale as of yet. It's 2D fighters that I want to see evolve. Where that will come from is still unknown to me, but I hope it comes soon. The Dissidia and NUNS series have no set genre as of yet, but I hope their style grows and evolves into a style that stands beside the 2D and 3D fighting genres.

As for where the future of fighting games resides, I'm looking at Team Ninja's Dead or Alive 5, which has been stated to try something new for the genre, the next Naruto Storm game, which CyberConnect2 is attempting to give deeper gameplay, and for Square to continue the Dissidia series and bring more elements to it, preferably on the PS3 console so not to limit the game's capabilities.

It's strange how much playing Dissidia 012 has changed my outlook on the fighting genre, but its impact has been made clear for me. In my eyes, Dissidia shows the potential that the fighting genre has, and I'm afraid I may never see that potential realized unless Square decides to continue the series, for taking risks and innovating is perhaps the biggest risk in the gaming industry today, especially in a genre owned by Capcom, who has seen nothing but success in developing fighters in the "classic" style.


  1. I've always really enjoyed fighting games of so many types. I think I'm not yet tired of the classic style but I'm definitely more picky about which ones I like. I feel like Arc System is the only one really trying to push the traditional style that hard, but I still have a soft spot for KoF and SF (when it's not SFIV).

    Dissidia is a great change of pace though. I think that it's got some inherent flaws like having to level and getting all this equipment (with some builds being really broken) but the game also allows enough customizability that you can really control the competitive environment as well. I like NUNS as well, but they are both a lot like some older free roaming fighting games that you may not be thinking about.

    Virtual-On is probably the oldest of this style of game (as a side note, how did Sega AM2 create so many classic titles in such a short time?). Then I actually think that NUNS is more based on the Dragonball Z Tenkaichi games that had more free fling combat, which I felt were actually based upon Zone of the Enders which had a versus mode and felt more like a DBZ game than anything I had played before it due to the speed and fluidity of it all.

    Finally, I think that you really ought to look into playing some of the Gundam Vs games. They are actually a lot more like the fighting games than you may think and there is a strong Japanese competitive scene behind them. I know that when I'm able, I'm going to import Gundam Extreme Vs for my PS3.

  2. Well, my opinion is limited to the games I've played. So, it can across as a flawed argument.

    I know about the type of 3D-space fighters your talking about; Virutal-On and Custom Robo being examples. Still, I think the key difference between those games and Dissidia/NUNS is that they both expand upon and limit the use of 3D space, respectively. Dissidia adds more options for using the 3D space with dodging mechanics and techniques that utilize 3D space well. NUNS limits the use of 3D space by keeping the players locked-on to each other at all times, yet still utilizes moves that effect 3D space.

    I understand that older fighters have utilized such mechanics, but, imo, Dissidia and NUNS evolved them to a much more satisfying level.

    I'm hoping that Anarchy Reigns does the same for the Power Stone style of fighter.

  3. I think Dissidia definitely takes the environmental interaction to the highest level so far (besides the Smash Bros. series). I think Dissidia is actually the better version of what the DBZ games try to do.

    I will say this though (and I may be alone on this one), I think that no fighting game has done free flight combat better than ZOE yet. Not a singe one. They have tried, but the simplistic controls and fluidity of it all is still unmatched.

  4. I definitely agree with you there. If I have one problem with Dissidia, it would be that the level design could be better. I think too much of fights occurs in the air, which can lead to frequent obscured camera angles and wiffed attacks.

    However, I didn't find ZOE2's versus mode that fun; mainly because there wasn't a whole lot of depth there. Still, it was nice to have, and playing as the other mechs was nice fanservice.

  5. I think that was more of a problem in the first dissidia exacerbated by the fact that all dashes force you into the air. I think that they made efforts to correct that in duodecim by adding many speedy ground dash abilities and more flat stages. It's still a lot of aerial stuff but you can force fights to the ground easier than before.

    My issue with ZOE2 was that it managed to be more unbalanced than the first game. (I agree there isn't much depth, but again, I feel there hasn't been a replacement for it either.) I've been wanting to play the EU/JP special edition version of the VS mode since they made some balancing changes like making special abilities use up the sub meter and holding a burst recharges it.