From Trainee to Champion: A Reason to Fight
Picture it: You look at health bars, it’s getting close. You’ve used every combination you can think of and drained your special meter. Your character is neck and neck with the opponent’s. The timer is dwindling, but it won’t save you now. You have to keep going though. Faster and faster, when finally you see those glorious two letters that bring you sweet relief: K.O.
Fighting games are a pinnacle of competitive video gaming. Two combatants, squaring off in the virtual world, dueling it out for ultimate supremacy. Fast paced, heart pounding action as concentration between two players is visible to everyone around. Why are games like this so intense? The competitive nature of a fighting game is one of a kind. There have been all different kinds and variations of them around, and everyone has their favorites.
Quick history lesson: fighting games, I would argue, really took off for the gaming world around 1987 over in the US. The arcades started getting a new machine with the old school favorite: Street Fighter. It featured fighters from all around the world combating each other to be the ultimate fighter. Buttons controlled movement and different power attacks. A few years later (and a couple of iterations of Street Fighter later as well), many new big franchises started up. ’92 introduced Mortal Kombat: one of the first fighting games that featured blood. That was nothing compared to the fatalities that turned your opponent’s fighter into a pile of bones or ash. ’94 brought us King of Fighters (KoF) and Tekken. While KoF was similar to the style of Street Fighter, Tekken was the first that introduced 3D movement into the fight. The games continued, getting better and more advanced. Then in 1996, the Evolution Championship series (known as EVO) was founded, pitting 40 fighters against each other in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Fast forward to now, and EVO is the prime fighting tournament featuring multiple titles and thousands of competitors.
Fighting games didn’t have a huge storyline driving it, and it didn’t need one. Being the ultimate fighter provided enough motivation enough to keep players interested. Every new fighting game brought its own set of fighters to learn. With plenty of choices on the market, it’s easy to see why there was such a big market and loads of chances to make a name in the gaming world. Between 3D movement, classic 2D side view, and multiple characters at once, there are many opportunities to find your niche in the fighting realm.
Choose your fight:
There are many different kinds of fighting games to choose from, not to mention different choices in each style on its own. Some are more competitive, others are fun just to goof around with friends. They all vary in styles and fighters, realistic to fantastic, duels to brawls. Let’s run them down.
We start off with the standard. These include games like Street Fighter, KoF, and Mortal Kombat. They put two fighters against each other, side by side. It was all about the combination of moves, rendering your opponent useless. Along with combos, fighters had special moves that really made them stand out. Many people know of Ryu’s “Hadoken” from Street Fighter, or the spear from Scorpion in Mortal Kombat while yelling “GET OVER HERE!” Players could move forward and back, or jump over their opponent. The pace was pretty slow in comparison as well. Simple, yet elegant in execution. Easy to get into, difficult to master.
Next, we have the “deeper” fighting games. The ones that still focused on hand to hand combat, but allowed players to move freely around your opponent as opposed to just jumping over them. These were games like Tekken, Dead or Alive, and Bloody Roar. Tekken was known as the first for 3D movement. Dead or Alive got its fame from the femme fatale that graced the screen each time it was played. Bloody roar was known for characters transforming into creatures that were more powerful then the fighter itself. Mortal Kombat eventually went into that realm as well, ushering in another era for the gory fighter. A bit more difficult to get into, but it was another world of fun.
Another category is still based around melee combat, but went more to realism as opposed to fantastic characters and superhuman strength. These are the games like WWE, Fight Night, and UFC. They were all based off the real thing, including many of the real life fighters that could be played. Players could pull off each signature move that the fighter was known for. It allowed players to make up matches that weren’t showcased normally. Those games were also one of the first to feature a creation mode so players could create their own fighters to play.
Weapon fighting was another leap in fighting games. While some melee fighting was used, most of the combat focused around the weapons that each character was wielding. Mortal Kombat had a bit of that in the later years, but it was still the melee fighter at heart. Weapon fighting games included the Soul series, BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear. The latter two were known for fantastic characters with equally fantastic weapons in a high speed duel. The Soul series (Soul Blade, and eventually Soul Calibur) focused more on realistic weapon fighting alongside melee combat. The characters were a bit fantastic, but not all of them. It had everything from bo staffs and katana to scythes and ring blades. Weapon fighting games varied between side view and 3D movement, depending on the series.
While fighting games were known at first for two players fighting it out, eventually it moved into a brawl instead of a duel. These were games like the Super Smash Brothers series, Custom Robo, and the recent PlayStation All Stars. The games put up to four players against each other, weapons or hand to hand, in a free-for-all fight to be the best. In a similar vein, there were also games like Marvel Vs. Capcom and Tekken Tag Tournament. While it was still one player against another, players had multiple characters that could be changed on the fly. It lead to a new strategy of fighting games.
Finally we have some odd-ball titles. They don’t really fall into any particular category, but are fighting games none the less. Def Jam was a series that didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be. It could be a wrestling game, a 4-man bar brawler, or a 2.5D side view fighter. They normally featured pop culture icons like Method Man and Fat Joe. Odd games indeed, but pretty fun nonetheless. Next is the Final Fantasy Dissidia series. This game combined an open world fighting style with elements of RPG progression. The more you played, the stronger your character would get. Finally, we have a beta game called Blade Symphony. While it’s not traditional in the least, it’s still a fighter. Players control a sword wielding character and fight in arenas or semi-open world areas. Players can move in any direction and roam around to find their opponents.
So, why do players love to fight? I think it’s about the sense of accomplishment achieved from taking down an opponent. It’s not easy to get together with a couple of friends and go at each other all Fight Club style (which we won’t talk about). The games allow players to really show their stuff. Every character could be beaten by any other character in the series. Some may be easier to use than others, but the harder characters were more powerful fighters. The games had an interesting way of balancing itself out amongst all the characters. There is also an issue of speed. Shooters and RTS games had a much higher speed, and had a lot more to think about. There was ammo, placement of opponents, resources, and more. Fighting games always showed the important characters on screen all the time. It was just the player and their opponent. Faster pace maybe, but not nearly as fast as those shooters and RTSs in terms of what you had to think of all the time. EVO tournaments are streamed all the time, and there’s a certain excitement about the games that you can’t get from RTS games or Shooters.
With different styles and series to choose from, there is a little something for everyone out there. New to fighters? I would suggest starting with Street Fighter or Tekken. They’re both a bit slower, and both are good introductions into the world of fighting games. Looking for a new challenge? Why not try Super Smash Brothers, Marvel Vs. Capcom, or Soul Calibur. Bit faster gameplay and abnormal fighting styles. Dive in and get started, it’s a long road to the top.