Choose Your Fighter

I mentioned previously how many fighting games come and go from my consoles. After the jump, I wanted to discuss why this is.

As I sit here typing this, I can tell you that my PS4 currently has Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, Skullgirls 2nd Encore, Mortal Kombat XL, King of Fighters XIV, Garou, and Dead or Alive 5 Last Round currently installed, with Street Fighter V, Ultra Street Fighter IV, BlazBlue Chronophantasma EXTEND and Tekken 7 in the library. I’m hoping to maybe get my hands on Final Fantasy Dissidia NT, and Dragonball Z Fighterz soon and am very excited (sort of) for Soul Calibur VI. There are a couple of others on my radar too.

My Vita (and subsequently PSTV) are currently playing host to Skullgirls 2nd Encore, BlazBlue Chronophantasma EXTEND, Street Fighter x Tekken (yes, really), Mortal Kombat 9, Dead or Alive 5+, PSP ports of Dissidia, Dissidia Duodecim, Darkstalkers Chaos Tower, Tekken 6, Soul Calibur, and PlayStation One ports of Guilty Gear, Tekken 3, and Street Fighter 2 Alpha.

Even my 3DS has Smash Bros (its at EVO, its a fighting game), and Super Street Fighter IV 3D installed with carts of the ever dodgy Dead or Alive and Tekken ports somewhere around here.

I even have Shadow Fight 3, Tekken, Mortal Kombat and Skullgirls on my Razer Phone.

So why so freaking many??

The answer ultimately lies in why I like fighting games, which is the same answer as to why Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Alundra, and Ikaruga are amongst my favourite games of all time (notice how Ikaruga stands out, there?). Skill. Or at least “time investment”.

None of these are ultimately “pick up and play” games, at least not the first time. Sure, you might enjoy loading them up, jumping in at the lowest difficulty setting (excepting the Soulsborne series, of course) and having a blast before being ultimately wrecked, but – and I know I verge on sounding elitist at this point – the true joy of these games only gleams through after pints of blood, sweat, and tears are sacrificed to the game.

Before I continue, I absolutely agree that these genres at large and games in specific should maintain a degree of accessibility to casual play. Easy to play, difficult to master. I personally find that the game’s that resonate with me most are the ones that I broke my fingers on time after controller-flingingly-infuriating time again. Conversely, games that allowed me to dash through on hyper easy mode (or worse, allowed me to skip entire sections if I dared to fail them more than twice) barely get finished, let alone replayed, unless they have another, overwhelmingly positive draw to them, such as story.

Again, I am all for difficulty settings in video games (there is no way that I would personally ever go through Alien Isolation or Resident Evil 7 on anything higher than Easy, as I’m in it for the story in these examples), but I am still a fan of a game that challenges.

Fighting games are kind of the epitome of this. Whereas most other genres can teach the player the concepts and techniques of the game through subtle and clever level design, fighting games don’t really have this option, often relying on clunky, overly long tutorials. Skullgirls and Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 are both examples of a fighting game tutorial done right, but consider that to most people these are multiplayer and/or pickup-and-play games, many don’t ever touch those. Who wants to sit through 10mins of text, demonstrations and “now you try” scenarios before they can grab a controller and punch their friend in the digital face? This gives the misconception that all fighting games are hard.

Don’t get me wrong, many are. Fighting game Arcade modes are notorious for their boss fight difficulty spikes. Some series are renowned for ridiculously long, needlessly complicated combo strings and special inputs. This is why I have so many fighting games, each one is different.

Tekken 7 made conscientious efforts to ensure that if two players sat down and mashed buttons, they’d have a fun and fairly cinematic experience. Dead or Alive 5 is also pretty good at this with a simple control scheme and takes the cinematography in a whole new direction once you start looking at the Soft Engine (if you know anything about the series, you know what I’m talking about – if not, Google will help, just keep Safe Search “On”).

On the other hand, Street Fighter has always been renowned for its simplicity in design but technicality in action and Guilty Gear… well Guilty Gear is just crazy eye candy that is ridiculously fun to play. Time-travelling rock witches, pool cue wielding assassins, anchor carrying sky pirates, and a ridiculously tall doctor armed with a six foot scalpel and a bag over his head, and that’s a fraction of the cast.

But there’s even more to it than that. Different fighting games suit different moods for me. Guilty Gear has always been “the one I really want to get good at”, Mortal Kombat is my wife’s favourite and is great for when friends come over, I love the DoA “triangle” system and ludicrously fast play style, Tekken has the best sound effects and beginner entry for when we host parties, Street Fighter is a fun romp in the classics that gets me thinking, BlazBlue is ridiculous in its variety and Soul Calibur… well, Soul Calibur has swords and “that dance”.

I could write entire breakdowns of why I love each fighting game series individually (and I probably will at some point), but I love how fighting games test my skill and force me to get better, and I love how every single game (even different entries in the same series) does that in different ways. They may all be fighting games but each has their own merits and lessons and I’d argue that each helps me get better at the others – even if I do find myself trying to block using the shoulder buttons in Guilty Gear after an extended period with Mortal Kombat. Yes, I’m a scrub who plays on a standard controller, having left my fight stick in the UK when I moved to Zimbabwe.

Fighting games at their essence are about fighting human opponents, online or in your living room. With human opponents come a near limitless amount of tactics and options, and playing multiple fighting games keeps me constantly on my toes and adapting, or so I like to think, at least.

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