Virtual Insanities: I Want Originality in my Fighting Games

A couple of days ago, I took a trip to the arcade with a friend. It had been at least three years since the last time I went, and needless to say, I couldn’t wait to see the new games that were out, particularly the fighting games. You see, while I prefer to play platformers and adventure games on consoles, a day at the arcade awakens the fighter in me. I used to be quite lethal at Street Fighter 2 with Blanka and Zangief, while Dhalsim and Chun Li were the death of me. This helped me establish a theory which states that the hairier a character is, the better his performance will be. I have been using that fighter-choosing technique ever since, so every time I can find someone with long hair or a beard, there’s a good chance he’ll be my pick, be it Bo Rai Cho, Kuma, Ragnar Bloodaxe or Donkey Kong.

While this way of thinking has yet to make me a world champion, I still enjoy getting my ass kicked from time to time, so it was with a lot of anticipation that I stepped into the arcade, looking at the rows of machine in hope of fighting a good fighting game. Our first stop was Tekken 5. Yay, Kuma is still in the game! However, as I scroll through the faces, I see a kangaroo and a panda? All right, I guess they really wanted to push the “animal violence” gimmick. Who else is there? A couple of girls fighting in skimpy outfits, a Ryu clone and some guy STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL, with horns and black wings. I was disappointed, because next to hairy characters, what I appreciate about fighting games is original protagonists. I want people with personality, I want to be surprised. I want something I have never seen before, not another generic guy in a kimono or GI pants, or another man fighting for the devil. We get it, Hell is the ultimate evil place and people from there are bad.

Up next was Street Fighter Alpha 3. Sweet! I never played that game before. Let’s look who’s there. Good thing to see Zangief is still around, but look at the rest of the roster. About four guys that look like Ryu, an old guy that could easily be mistaken for Shang-Tsung and more generic-looking guys. After about an hour of play, we went back home, played some Mortal Kombat Armageddon, which has about five or six guys dressed as ninjas that are nothing but palette swaps. I’m not saying that fighting games are not fun anymore. All that I’m saying is that character design and storylines are more important than developers seem to think. It’s always fun to know what the motivation of the fighter is, but it seems like when game studios run out of ideas, they just make vague stories about vengeance, be it for a father, a brother, a police partner or even the character himself.

This is why I decided to bring some fresh ideas to the genre, with a series of fighters straight out of my mind. The ideas shown here have, to the best of my knowledge, never been used or seen in any fighting game. If I am wrong, there’s always the feedback button at the end of the article.

The Premise

If you’re going to make a fighting game, there has to be a reason why people are fighting. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct showed us that a tournament is always a good way to have people beating each others up, while Soul Calibur and Mace: The Dark Age prefer to have a lot of people running after an object. For the sake of being original here, our brawlers will all be meeting together in the hope of finding a better life for themselves and their family. You see, in the near future, the planet will be in a chaotic state. The government is bored and tired of giving away money to people who simply buy tickets and win at the lottery. You want 343 millions? You have to earn it, pal. Each week, participants meet and fight in state-sanctioned bouts, with the hopes of winning the jackpot. What’s the incentive? Free healthcare for the losers, so the only thing you lose is your dignity.

Of course, if we want to keep churning out sequels, we can add something during some of the characters’ ending about a conspiracy involving the government actually encouraging people killing each others during the bouts as a disguised way to get rid of the poor. The sequel will see former fighters coming back with new faces coming to take the government down, and another sequel would show that the government was actually controlled by aliens, with the fighters going in space. Oh, the possibilities.

The Fighters

Robert “Lumber” Jack

Real name “Robert Jacques”, this lumberjack from the north of Quebec has been losing money because the lumber industry has been on a down lately. With nothing to lose, he sees the potential in hitting an opponent in the face with his axe for a mountain of cash. I imagine this character wearing the traditional lumberjack shirt, a toque and sporting a beard not unlike “Mad Dog” Vachon. Give him some moves that involve spearing opponents with the butt of his axe, punching the hell out of everybody with his arms chiseled by years of cutting trees, and a finishing move that consist of him planting his axe in the skull of his opponent, the axe getting stuck, and Robert actually having to put a foot in his downed opponent’s face while pulling backward to get it out from the loser’s head. He’d be a fine choice as a powerful, but slow fighter.

Mr. Morgan

Mr. Morgan has been retired for the last five years. A former high school wrestling coach, he was also a Greco-Roman wrestling champion during his heydays. Having nothing better to do, and being pushed by his wife that wished to buy a retirement home in Jamaica but doesn’t care about him, Morgan believes that his past as an athletic young man can be enough for him to prevail. Being slow and old, this would be a character that relies on sharp techniques, not on speed or strength. This fighter would be used by real pros, relying on button combinations for powerful moves instead of button mashing. Give him some wrestling holds, simple suplexes, but a finishing move where he applies a hold and breaks bones with his bare hands. I want to see blood spurting from the wound and the sound of the limb breaking. Inspired by someone I’ve known who couldn’t let go of the past.

Liam McDeceased-Jackson

Liam is a Scottish immigrant who has everything someone could want except for one thing. Yup, the poor guy is dead. Awaken from his state for unknown reasons, he tells the people who organize the “lottery” that he is the son of Michael Jackson and has to wear a Spiderman mask every time he appears in public, thus hiding his lack of a human face. Winning the jackpot would enable him to go to a secret lab in Switzerland where he could get cloned, becoming human once again in order to solve the mystery of his resurrection. As someone who is dead and had several decades to decay properly, Liam McDeceased-Jackson is light, making him quick and agile. Using his speed, this fighter jumps all over the place, using swift hits to gain the advantage. He finishes his opponents by moonwalking up to them, kicking them in the face while grabbing his crotch and dancing all over their body. No violent death for a finisher. The poor guy just wants to win, not to kill. He knows what dying feels like.

Stephen Awesome

A blatant rip-off of Stevie Wonder’s name, Stephen Awesome is blind and wishes to raise money for an operation that could make him see again. In the meantime, he has to count on his guide dog to lead him, and because of the rules about them, he can take his anywhere, even during fights. The kick? His guide dog is a Rottweiler. Not being particularly strong or fast, Stephen hilariously punches and kicks randomly, mostly catching nothing but air. His dog does most of the job, pouncing and biting the other characters. I see him handling a bit like Popo and Nana in Smash Bros. Melee. The twin-fighters dynamic is interesting, instead that in this case, one of the two rarely lands a hit, if ever. Of course, the finishing move would involve the dog standing over the opponent, biting away, while blood flies everywhere and Stephen is still punching away at nothing. I don’t know why, but I find it hilarious. I can’t stop laughing in my head as I type this.

Ragnamarus

Ragnamarus is a professional cosplayer, who had his name legally changed from “Dale Brown” to this elfish-sounding name. He hopes to win the money to quit his day job and concentrate on cosplaying. His gimmick would be that by using a different button combination, he can change on the fly to one of his four cosplaying outfits, each with a different moveset: A guy with spiked blonde hair and an oversized sword; a fat Italian wearing overalls and a mustache; a spy with a rugged look and a gray bodysuit; a Chinese girl wearing a short blue dress and ribbons in her hair. Having no real power or weakness, except for the fact that he is a huge geek, Ragnamarus confuses his opponent by constantly changing form. I’m sure he would be appreciated by the same people who liked playing as Zelda/Sheik in Smash Bros. Melee. The only thing is I couldn’t come up with a finishing move for him. What a shame.

Sylvia Syphilis

Fighting games have always tried to be “edgy”. First, there was the Mortal Kombat scandal in the 90’s, and then there were the over-inflated boobies in Dead or Alive. What’s my answer to that? Sylvia Syphilis, a hooker with a heart of gold. She has been trying to get out of the business for a while, but as we all know, to start a new life, you need funds. She enters the competition, hoping to grab the prize instead of grabbing crotches. As with most female characters in that type of game, she is quick and acrobatic. She’s also quite flexible, and isn’t afraid to use weaponry for damages. This fighter wouldn’t use much punches or kicks, but as she is someone with a lot of resources, the buttons would be mapped to different objects. A jack-knife, a purse loaded with a brick, bondage paraphernalia and a lead pipe are only a small part of her arsenal. While I’m still not sure about how she would finish opponent, it would probably involve handcuffing someone and inflicting pain to the vulnerable person.

Final Boss: Larry R. Collins, The Crazy Lawyer

I was searching for a boss that would fit a corporate theme because the game is all about some kind of lottery controlled by the government. I think that a lawyer fits the bill perfectly. I know that a lawyer wouldn’t normally work as a threatening and believable final boss, but Larry isn’t a normal lawyer. While the competition would normally ban firearms, this guy found a loophole. He stands quietly in his corner with his sawed-off shotgun, until you attack. Since you need to defeat your opponent to win the competition, you have no choice but to hit the guy. That’s when he starts shooting at you with his gun, screaming “SELF-DEFENSE!” like a madman. That means that he always takes the first hit, but you’d better make it count, because from the moment you make the first move, he will not stop until your fighter is down and out. Of course, he is an unlockable, which is available after you beat the game on its hardest difficulty.

In Closing

As I said in the opening, from what I know, these are all original characters with concepts that have never appeared in a fighting game to this date. Of course, the chances of one of the fighters I designed actually appearing in a game someday are slim to the point of being non-existent, but all I really wanted was to illustrate a point. Even though the game is designed to let out some steam by having two people beat the crap out of each others, we still care about the story. Also, I think it would be nice to actually fight as something else than a karate champion or a boxer who was banned from the circuit. All we ask is a bit of originality. It doesn’t even have to be in the form of characters. Changing the gameplay somewhat can make for a very entertaining experience. An example would be Fighter’s Destiny on the N64. I loved that game. You actually won points instead of simply killing the other guy. It was a nice change, and it was a lot of fun. Fortunately, there seems to be a will by the developers to improve things. The Dragon Ball game on the Wii is supposed to be incredibly entertaining, simply because of the way you have to mimic the movements of the characters. Let’s just hope that more studios will try new ways to play, and at the same time, more original characters to play as.