Friday, September 3

MAD about Fighting Games

Fighting games have changed a lot since the original Street Fighter, haven't they?

Unless this is the first time you've come to my blog, you probably know one thing about me at least.

I love fighting videogames.

One-on-one fighting is my favorite genre in electronic gaming. Even more than RPGs (which come at a distant 2nd), Survival Horror and Action gaming. Strategy games (RTS games) take up the rear. But nothing really turns my head like a Beat 'em up. A brawler. A martial arts fighter. Perhaps I was Bruce Lee in my former life. Or a ninja.
I guess it all started with Final Fight on the Super Nintendo. I saw the game in the mall one time and afterwards I just had a hankering to take control of Haggar or Cody and beat the crap out of evil thugs. FF wasn't a one-on-one brawler, so it was just a warm-up for the real fight, which began with Street Fighter 2. Now THAT was a classic. The ability to select from a large roster of characters with different styles of combat was, at the time, a new concept, and it totally got me going. From there on, it was easy. I was a fighting game fanatic, and in the years to come I would be an arcade enthusiast, actually making weekly rounds to the Major Arcades in the Malls for the latest game to bust into the scene.

The list of fighting games that I have played is looooong and winding, and there are loads of crap and true classics.

Of course, I have my likes and dislikes, my preferences and areas of interest, even in this focused topic. Fighting games for me have to appeal in several fields. Appealing Characters. If I had a dream job aside from Superstar Manga-Ka, I'd be a Superstar Video Game Artist, designing martial arts warriors and kick-butt femme fatales. You have to realize that fighting games show off characters who must capture the interest of players, and be taken to heart. Character designs comprise everything from a fighter's looks, personality, fashion and fighting skills. There's a fine line from a great design to a generic pugilist who'll get forgotten in a second.
Of course, a fighting game has to play GREAT. If appealing characters and graphics pulls players in, the fighting is what will make them stay. I've played literally dozens of fighters... only a select few have the action that takes you back again and again and again and again.
Finally, a fighter has to have a niche. A certain unique thing they bring to the table. Something the others just don't give. All the great ones have something, from out-and-out fighting strategy and depth, to fantastic characters and moves to sex appeal. A gamer has many moods, and great fighting games work to try and catch these moods as best as they can.

I've found that I prefer 3-D fighters that exhibit realistic animation. Nothing is as incredible as seeing a complex grapple, throw or move. I don't find blood or gore U.S. gamers seem to love that appealing- I identify more with the Asian liking of realism and grace. Gimmicks and touches like breaking bones that penalize gameplay, blood and damage appearing on the fighters onscreen and ripping clothes are just novelties. In the end it's all about one guy against another guy (or girl) and the clash of bodies.

My Top Ten Favorite Fighters or, the ten games I would bring into my Secret Bunker in case of a Mutant Plague.

Tekken (PS) - The original King of Iron Fist Tournament for the PSOne still has that great appeal for me. Yeah, the graphics are dated now, the characters look like marionettes and the moves are nowhere as many as in the later installments, but the original for me is still untouchable. And it's when Nina Williams really stood out as the original blone bonebreaker. I'll always treasure my copy of this classic. This was actually the first-ever fighting game I got for the PS. First is still the best, I guess.

Dead or Alive (PS) - I guess I have a thing for retro games. The original DOA home translation for the PSOne started my whole fascination with the Tecmo brawling babes franchise. Tons of unlockable stuff, the best animation on the console, sexy appeal and great fighting action that just can't be beat.

Soul Edge (PS) - the game from which the current Soul Calibur games originated, the Playstation original still stands as one of the best home-translations ever, with tons of unlockable secrets, great gameplay and still one of the best CG intro animation cinematic in fighting games. This goes right up there with PS DOA and Tekken.

Bushido Blade (PS) - an innovative and addicting weapons-fighter that featured potential one-hit deaths, this game had realism (a bit impractical in some areas though), great animation, wide-open stages to run around and fight to the death in, and, morbidly enough, pretty cool death animations.

Virtua Fighter 2 - I own the Saturn translation of this, perhaps for me the best chapter of the hardcore martial arts fighter. An arcade-perfect PS2 translation is coming, and my hands are itching to get it. The arcade version of VF2 is where the action really ramped up, the characters coolest, and the fighting hottest. VF3 is an unwanted, unpleasant memory. VF4 has the advantages of the latest technology, but VF2 still rules.

Soul Calibur (DC) - The one game that could be a reason to buy a Dreamcast. Top-notch graphics, animation, gameplay, extras... the only thing missing are CG cinematics and fluff, but this was weapons-action at its finest.

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike - The whole 'III' series of Capcom's flagship beat 'em up has always been under-rated, but I feel it's the BEST out there in terms of 2-D fighting. GREAT character designs (Ibuki RULES as the best and cutest ninja babe in videogames), a huge roster of varied fighters, flawless gameplay and the most fluid and cool animation EVER in a fighting game make this my absolute favorite 2-D brawler. All other 2-D games can go to Hell, as long as I've got my 3rd Strike I'm happy. Take a hint- I've already got a Dreamcast version AND the recent PS2 release, and I'm still waiting for the Xbox translation. Heh.

Dead or Alive 3 (Xbox) - The first DOA on Xbox rules as having the best graphics ever for a fighter (though it will be surpassed soon by DOA Ultimate), improved action over the dozen-or-so installments of the previous Dead or Alive 2, and some incredible multi-tiered stages that will get you going 'AAAAHHH!' once you throw someone out a window and into a hundred-foot drop. Plus it has Hitomi, the sweetest and hottest karate fighter ever in videogaming. Heh.

Tekken 5 (PS2) - the upcoming Tekken looks to regain the lost polish the franchise lost with the forgettable Tekken 4. It's looking great, actually.

Dead or Alive Ultimate (Xbox) - this 2-disc compilation updates the DOA series for the Xbox library, with a perfect translation of the original Saturn Dead or Alive, and a better-than-DOA3/might as well be DOA4 remake of Dead or Alive 2. This is also a return to the fan-service unlockables of the original DOA home games, which is great. Bikini fights, anyone? Heh. This game is gonna rule.

Oddest-named Fighting Games

Eretzvaju (PS) - this 3D anime-themed brawler had cool, stylish animation, impressive magical attacks and a killer schoolgirl years and years before Go Go Yubari was ever even imagined. Pretty cool fighting action which revolved around a tournament and a powerful female end-boss/sorceress.

Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring (PS) - coming from Square, this run-and-fight game had some of the best graphics on the PSOne, and some cool fighting moves and character designs... which ironically were understated with the inclusion of popular Final Fantasy 7 characters Cloud, Tifa, Red XIII and Sephiroth as playable characters. Not a bad game, really.

Kakuto Chojin (Xbox) - the title means 'Fighting Supermen', which is ironic since this is a weak, mediocre fighter that started off as a much-hyped showcase game for the Xbox. In the end, it was just a tech demo at best... the fighting is shallow and repetitive after a while, the character designs are HORRIBLE and it all feels unfinished and rushed. This game also qualifies for the next category, which is...

The Cream of the Crap - There are TONS of bad fighters. These are worth mentioning...

Kensei: Sacred Fist (PS) - Konami makes great action games, but they just NEVER got fighting right. Their arcade venture Fighting Bujutsu had the looks, but not the moves, and this far-inferior home game just shows all the things I hate- boring and generic characters you have to work to unlock, as well as repetitive and shallow gameplay. A knockout combo that takes this game down for the count. PLUS, it also has in it's roster a character patterned after STEVEN SEAGAL. Now, if that isn't a sure sign of a crappy game, I don't know what is... Heh.

Stake (Xbox) - an Xbox game that can't even stand to the standards of even mediocre PS One fighters. Almost unplayable, with lagging gameplay and mechanics that just don't work. The only good thing about this game are the character art, which apes the much better Capcom game artworks. That, and the way the announcer says "Stake" at the game's title screen, which makes me feel hungry.

Tao Feng (Xbox) - hyped up to no end as the baby of John Tobias, one of the creators of Mortal Kombat, with characters that bruised and clothing that got torn as the battles wore on. Despite lots of T&A, it all boiled down to a game that just played as stiff as the badly-named characters, with a badly-written story of martial arts gobbledy-goo as the reason for all the action. AND it has an voiceover who suspiciously sounds FILIPINO...

The fighting genre has, sadly, declined quite a bit after the peak of interest in the mid-nineties. These days, new brawlers are usually installments of the stronger, popular franchises. The ability to go online is something being hyped and may just bring fighters to the fore again. But for me, fighting games wll always be tops, and really, while having a second player is cool, my best opponent is myself- trying to constantly improve and just enjoy the fight for the fight itself.

WHEW! That's that. Quite a long post, actually... I guess it's just a way of taking up time as I wait for the next wave of brawlers to arrive. Sigh.

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