The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

A serious post

Posted by Matt on October 25, 2009

I love fighting games. The problem is that there just aren’t that many of them anymore…or, atleast, not that many interesting or worthwhile ones.

I’ve seen people try to argue that the genre has come back to 90s-levels these days, what with the return of Capcom to the scene. The problem with that, however, is that there is little to no variety in the present fighting game scene. Yes, it’s nice to see Street Fighter and Vs. games back on the market, but reviving old series can’t be the solution to the general fighting game drought, can it? I mean, now we just have two more familiar faces joining the regular iterations of Tekken, Guilty Gear, and the like…the ones that never went away. But that’s pretty much it, aside from filler crap like Naruto games, and the odd new game like Blazblue. If the genre was really ‘back’, wouldn’t we be seeing a greater level of experimentation?

That’s the thing. What Street Fighter IV and Tatsunoko vs Capcom should inspire is a renewal in fighting game production, and with that, ideas. Both these games go back to the basics to draw more people in. This is a good thing: one of the reasons fighting games stagnated is because they became increasingly complex, meaning only veterans or people with lots of time on their hands could get into them. Gone were the days where two friends could fire up Street Fighter II and just putz around. It seems that the fighting game producers started making games specifically for the hardcore fans, meaning that they weren’t actually creating any new hardcore fans (this is the same thing Marvel and DC keep doing with their superhero comics). The audience shrank, and the genre became unprofitable. (not that the hardcore fans really cared, they were more concerned with being the top of whatever their chosen game was). The only fighting game series that went beyond navel-gazing was Smash Bros., which ironically is often snubbed as ‘not a real fighting game’ by snobby, insular fighting game fans, while also having its own set of snobby, insular fans who pretty much stand against the spirit of the series.

But Capcom’s succesful return could serve as an inspiration for others. While it doesn’t mean that hardcore-oriented fighting game need to go away completely, it does indicate that there’s a wider world out there for developers. They don’t need to be making opaque games for a small audience; they don’t need to please only one set of people. We could see a whole crop of new ideas being implemented in fighting games; Since they have become ‘viable’ again, publishers might not be as hesitant to greenlight new ones.

The rise of downloadable games makes it an even better situation for fighting games right now. If you don’t want to spend the cash for a full retail game that might or might not make its cost back, you could put them on XBLA or PSN or WiiWare or Steam. These services are great for smaller, arcade-style experiences, so fighting games are a natural fit. I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen more of them…we have plenty of indie developers who make homages to Mario, Metroid or classic beat-em-ups, so where are the old school fighting fans who became game developers? Maybe they’ve just been hiding.

Of course, this is just what COULD happen. As you can see, it doesn’t really seem like anyone is looking at SFIV‘s success and is saying ‘Hey, we can make fighting games again!’ And it seems like most fans would just like to see more revivals, like Darkstalkers, rather than completely new things (whoah, a shocker there). I might be alone in my belief that the spirit of creativity that was present in the Darkstalkers‘, Slam Masters‘, and Power Stone‘ of the past needs to revived before those actual games should be. But I also seem to be part of a disorganized demographic of people who like fighting games, but aren’t tourney-level players. Between them and the nostalgic set, we might not be a priority anytime soon.

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