[Friday Five] Fighting Game Genre Defining Features
For those of you who may not be familiar with the competitive world of fighting games, this last weekend was the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is undoubtedly the largest fighting game tournament in the world, enticing players to come from all over the world, including Japan, England, Singapore, and more. It’s important to know all the factors that have led us to this point, which is why we’re documenting the five most important contributions to fighting games.
Let’s face it. As much as we enjoy the older fighting games and the contributions they have made, the boom in popularity for fighting games would have been impossible without Street Fighter IV and its cinematic comeback factor: the ultra. Every time an ultra is fired off in a tournament, crowds will cheer in unison. Before ultras, there was little that could hype the crowd up as much. Now, at the end of a Rufus ultra, no matter if the player is a crowd favorite or not, hands will simultaneously rise to mirror the action on the screen.
I don’t mean any online play. Even a decade ago, there was online play on the Dreamcast and PS2 if you were lucky to own a Japanese version and had a decent enough connection to play against another person with the same setup. However, online play really helped the community boom, bringing competition to players who would have otherwise been neglected because of an absence of a local player base. Gamerbee from Taiwan is perhaps the best example of this. Before EVO2010, he was a relative unknown, but he burst on the scene and took down Justin Wong, effectively barring the top player from getting Top 8 at the tournament. He has even stated that he has had many opportunities to play against Japanese players, due to both countries’ good internet connections.
Chain Combos/Air Combos
Currently, there basically two subgenres of 2D fighting games now. We have the slower paced games, like the Street Fighter series, and chain combo games, such as the VS. series or BlazBlue. It all started with X-Men: Children of the Atom. Before that, there was no need to pan a screen higher than a few inches. But with these insane combos, fights moved to the skies and became faster paced than any Street Fighter match before. When you look at the player base for the two types of games now, they’re almost totally different people. While many dabble in both, a quick look at the Top 32 competitors for EVO2011 shows little crossover between the players. These vastly different subgenres have effectively shaped their player bases as well.
With the long chain and air combos comes the inevitable birth of the burst. First appearing in Guilty Gear XX, this allowed players, given that they had the meter, to push opponents out in the middle of a combo. Not only did this add a new dimension to defense, but players on offense could find perfect spots to bait out a burst and dish out even more damage afterwards. Since Guilty Gear XX, the feature has made its way to other similar games like Arcana Heart 3 and Tatsunoko VS. Capcom even, one-upping the fighting game king.
What 2D fighting game doesn’t have a super meter now? Since its introduction in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, almost every 2D game has included a bar and super moves in some way. Although ultras are cinematic and a form of a comeback mechanic, supers are the original comeback mechanic. In Super Turbo, these took off a ridiculous amount of damage compared to a simple special move like a sonic boom or scissor kick. Short of the introduction of buttons and specials themselves, supers are one of the most influential additions to the genre to date.