[Friday Five] Fighting Game Genre Defining Features

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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.

Online Play

Online Play

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.

Super Move


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.


Posted on August 5, 2011, in Friday Five and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I usually don’t do this, but this is a silly post that shouldn’t be used for reference. Before Ultras (which is disliked by many), we had TRUE comeback factor through impossible odds. The famous Daigo Umehara vs. J.Wong match, or J.Wong vs. Yipes “Never Give Up”. Those were combacks that got real cheers, and have stuck in the memory of those who saw them. Ultra Combos are a mechanic to try and allow this to happen during casual play, and it’s an issue for competition.

    You seemed to have complete disregarded SNK’s KoF games when it comes to Super Meter too. Art of Fighting had one.

    The rest is really good, but try to do more research before you make an article like this which is going to educate a lot of interested people who don’t already know.

    • The difference between those comebacks and ultras is that ultras is a built in mechanic whereas those comebacks you mentioned depended more on player skill than the mechanic itself. Ultras, with their long animations are like a queue for the audience to get hype.

      I know the KoF games came after Super Turbo, so it wouldn’t have been right to credit any of those. But I did miss out on the Art of Fighting series, so that’s my bad there.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Izuna, I’m not following what you mean when you say “an issue for competition.” If you’re implying that Ultras always ensures a lead in a match that’d be incorrect. Ultras are just more fanciful supers that require just as many setups. Furthermore, their general damage output has diminished since Vanilla. If you mean that the lack of churned comeback matches is an “issue”, implying the lack thereof puts the competitive scene in some sort of peril, that’s also incorrect. Comebacks are applaudable, but they’re circumstantial situations that heavily rely on player skill and mentality – seldom happenings. While they are fun to spectate, this year’s Evo proves that there’s much more to cheer about, which I leave up to you to view on YouTube. Last I checked, the big issue with SFIV is Yun and Yang, not Ultras.

      As Davis pointed out, KoF came after Super Turbo. If you’re looking for another pre-ST example, that’d be Fatal Fury 2, though it didn’t have a meter, it still had supers. As much as I’m an SNK fan, ST still gets (mis)credited as the forefather of supers due to Capcom’s higher mainstream success at the time.

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