Hi-Technical Knockout IV: the Mortality of Kombat

Welcome to the newest column here at Diehard GameFAN, “Hi-Technical Knockout”, in which two DHGF staffers or IP alums will engage in virtual fisticuffs in a battle of wits!

Today’s contest will feature fighting about fighting, which makes far more sense than fighting about the art of fighting without fighting while playing the Art of Fighting.

Wait, we might be doing that thing later on. . .

Basically we’re gonna be dancing about architecture.

Feel free to suggest a future discussion topic by emailing H-TKO via WBXylo@gmail.com .

Topic #4: The Mortality of Kombat

New and exciting fighting games don’t seem to exist anymore. We only get sequels of a franchise or mash-ups of two or more franchises.

Is the genre stuck on a nostalgia loop, and if so, how can we stop it?

Or am I way off base?

First addressing this issue is Mark B Natural. In addition to reviewing dozens of games here at DieHard GameFAN, Mark writes the irregularly scheduled column, Playing the Lame with the help of a troop of bonobos. These majestic primates are named Lemmy, Hunter and Terra. Everyday, at noon, the four of them eat waffles and grapefruit.

But enough about Marky Mark and his monkey brunch.

The short answer is “You’re somewhat off base”.

But we’re here for the long answer, so let us press on.

Insofar as “true” fighting games go, aside from the people making the Dragonball Z games, American developers have mostly abandoned the fighting game genre, and that’s largely for the best; while games like Def Jam: Fight for New York and Mortal Kombat are perfectly fine, Def Jam Icon and Tao Feng are… not so much. American developers seem to have embraced MMA as the “new” fighting game genre, so to say, and they’re doing fine with it for the most part. Says I, they can have it, as I’m not a fan (of the games) and never will be; if I want to enjoy MMA, I’ll watch an actual fight, not spam the A button for an hour to try and make Frank Mir tap out.

Though I will note I’m vaguely curious about Skullgirls.

“True” fighting games are more of a thing in Japan, and they’re basically going in two directions. The first direction is more conventional, which is what we see stateside in big numbers; everyone can appreciate Street Fighter IV or Tekken 6 or whatever. That’s fine. Occasionally, we see a new franchise, like BlazBlue or Fate/Unlimited Codes make its way over here, but it’s mostly the same old shit, because that’s what people pay attention to.

The second direction is, well, the experimental stuff.

I’ve mentioned Battle Construction Vehicles a few times, here and there, but it bears mentioning once again, for the standard reason: it’s a fighting game where bulldozers and backhoes fight to the death. I’d, uh, say that’s pretty new and exciting. Japan also gets stuff like Spectral vs. Generation, a fighting game based around two franchises fighting each other which is novel because the franchises are RPG’s, and like Melty Blood, a fast-paced 2D fighting game featuring characters from erotic manga (yup) that’s astonishingly high quality and well developed. Hell, we’ve even seen some of Japan’s more crazy efforts, like Wartech: Senko no Ronde on 360, which is seriously a fighting game/shooter hybrid, I kid you not, and Arcana Heart, which is basically Sailor Moon made into a playable fighting game.

That said, these games are, well, weird and experimental. Ubisoft likely made dirt on Wartech and I suspect both Atlus and Aksys have been burned on Arcana Heart at this point, and who in the hell would release a game about fighting construction vehicles in the US? It also doesn’t help that some of these games are… unpleasant in some respects, so it’s hard to rope players in when the more mainstream reviewers shit all over your product. As such, yeah, we’ll basically keep getting the same cookie-cutter games every year, and they’ll generally be fine and mostly inoffensive all in all, while Japan keeps getting the weird stuff to themselves unless you like importing.

Though you’re welcome to come over and play BCV if you want. Can’t promise you’ll like it, but, y’know.

Warning: A new challenger is approaching!

That’s gotta be, that’s gotta be KANE! No wait, it is James Hatton! Hatton is the former host of Inside Pulse’s longest running podcast, the Rabblecast and a beloved pervert of the New Jersey region.

He is also the creator of In His Likeness, a web comic based on the idea that most gods are circular. His 1000th strip is rapidly approaching, meaning he has made more dots than a “Swamp Thing” Letterer.

Resisting. . . Urge. . . To . . . Explain . . . Joke.

Are fighting games relegated to the status of nostalgia and sequels? Sadly, with the video gaming industry the way it is, you could say that about almost any genre. A look at the upcoming releases shows that well over half are either sequels or licensed titles and there is one obvious reason behind that: Money. If you want innovation, find the random lucky title that the big producers try to throw out there, or go indy.

The truth is that fighting games probably do see the worst of this since independent game producers aren’t really working on fighting games. Not to mention, fighters were the game du jour (along with rhythm/dance gaming) during the last golden age of the coin-op era. The death of arcades conversation has been done to death at this point though, so why don’t we focus on just the innovation aspect.

I’ll be the guy to say it: FIGHTING GAMES ARE BORING NOW! Arbitrary buttons connected to moves with arbitrary combinations being connected to “special” moves, and mystery button combos being linked to “finishing” moves has all been played, replayed, and speared through the chest while screaming “GET OVER HERE!” again and again. It’s utterly played out.

We, as gamers, have matured and evolved. During the halcyon dreamy days of fighters, there was hundreds of games to choose from that tried to offer new things around every corner. The creamy and delicious Street Fighters and Souledge/Caliburs rose to the top. The clunky and less fun Pit Fighters and Primal Rages sunk to the depths. People decided the winners of the era, and so they decided the gameplay and characters that stuck. Ryu will always shoot a fireball by doing some variant of quarter circle forward. Fifteen years ago, you could have fifty games with fifty heroes with fifty quarter circle forward fireballs. Now? The reviewers would scream, “FOUL.. SEEN IT!”, the gamers would groan at how boringly simple it was, and they would both be right. Fifteen years ago you could get away with it, but not anymore.

So are fighting games dead, but for the countless rehashes of Ken, Liu Kang, Mario, Marvel/DC heroes, and the very occasional random frenetic import like BlazBlue? Yep. Dead as disco with the exception of the few hardcore fans that will never leave.** The saving grace of these games is that you stick because of nostalgia. Quarter Circle Punch feels good when you make Ryu do it. Hearing Scorpion scream reminds you of your childhood. If you plugged these exact same mechanics into an entirely different looking game, you probably would find it a smidge boring.

Is there a chance for these sorts of fighters to come back with characters that will amaze and impress us again? Yes, but it is going to take something new and special for us to not feel like we are just retreading the same brutally similar ground. Maybe it is in the KINECT or MOVE or whatever they evolve into, but it isn’t now.

** – Don’t take offense, I still love text adventures, there’s nothing wrong with an out of date obsession.

Kennedy’s Ruling
Both combatants offered me some hope for the future of fighting games.

*100 points awarded.

Both also mentioned BlazBlue. This makes me think of Owen Hart. . .
*10 points awarded.

. . . And his tragic death.
*10 points deducted.

Man it’s been 12 years, almost to the day, since Owen died. I’m fucking old.
*20 points deducted.

Soon I will be dead. And here I am, wasting my life writing about video games. This is so depressing.
*10 points deducted.

Well, at least I’m not wasting any time in church. Video games never tell you that you’re a bad person.
*20 points awarded.

. . . Except for that Cookie Mama. Why is she so mean?
*10 points deducted.

Mark made me google Skullgirls. It looks completely nuts.
*35 points awarded.

Mark mentioned Sailor Moon and “erotic manga” in the same paragraph.
*38 points awarded for boom anime babes that make me think the wrong thing.

Mark B invited me over to his house.
*30 points are deducted for bribery.

Mark B’s Total Score: 123 points

Hatton talks trash about Primal Rage.
*27 points awarded (Golden Shower Rule).

Hatton mentions using the Kinect for fighting games, but did not incorporate my idea of using the x-box controller as a rudimentary flail.
*35 points awarded (Insurance purposes).

I hate mystery button combos. Stupid Killler Instinct.
*20 points awarded.

Hatton makes a laundry list of games and characters but makes no mention of Fighters Megamix or Eternal Champions, my favorite 3d and 2d fighters, respectively.
*30 points deducted for lack of bribery.

Hatton’s Total Score: 132 Points

Winner: James Hatton (It’s an upset!)


10 responses to “Hi-Technical Knockout IV: the Mortality of Kombat”

  1. Thomas R Avatar
    Thomas R

    This column made me google Skull Girls, it does indeed look completely nuts but also pretty sweet.

  2. P3llin0r3 Avatar

    Ok, you guys are so out of touch it is unreal. NOBODY plays Blazblu, in fact it is a sham of a fighting game. A joke. Plus, no mention of the fantastic Guilty Gear series.

    I mean, honestly, you could say that EVERY genre is stargnant and boring. 2d platformers have changed little since their conception. First person shooters are increasingly becoming CoD clones.

    If you ask me, fighitng games are some of the ONLY interesting games left. But, I do have to agree with one thing: Something new and different developed by a great studio like Capcom or SNK would be much appriciated.

  3. Nigel Chaos Avatar
    Nigel Chaos

    I know Blood and Iron sucked out loud but I’d still like to see a well executed version of a game like that. Though of course it’d be called derivative for using weapons like the Soul Calibur/Edge series.

    But really, wouldn’t anyone else out there like to see Drizzt fight Raistlin?

  4. Nigel Chaos Avatar
    Nigel Chaos

    To be clear, I’m referring a Dungeons and Dragons all-stars type fighting game. Would definitely need an XP mechanic and whatnot though.

  5. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Ok, you guys are so out of touch it is unreal. NOBODY plays Blazblu, in fact it is a sham of a fighting game. A joke. Plus, no mention of the fantastic Guilty Gear series.

    I know quite a few people who play BlazBlue, actually, so perhaps it would be accurate to say “Nobody YOU know plays it”. And the last GG game that came out that can be considered mildly “new” was Isuka (I’m not getting into Accent Core), which is about seven years old at this point, so, well, the “out of touch” comment comes off as a pot-kettle-teflon sort of comment.

    I mean, honestly, you could say that EVERY genre is stargnant and boring. 2d platformers have changed little since their conception. First person shooters are increasingly becoming CoD clones.

    But the specific question was in relation to fighting games, not every game. That’s the point of the article. Whether or not FPS titles or rhythm games or RPG’s are becoming bland and stale isn’t the point of the discussion. I mean come on, Kennedy deducted points because we reminded him of Owen Hart dying and he got depressed. This isn’t exactly a serious journalistic endeavor here man.

    Also, how’s that hunt for the Questing Beast going?

    And Nigel, I, uh, know who Drizzt and Raistlin are, does that count?

  6. Nigel Chaos Avatar
    Nigel Chaos

    ha. that counts for something, Mark.
    but speaking of D&D, is anyone on staff going to review the new D&D game for Xbox Live?

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Nigel – Atari has a PS3 code of Daggerdale for me to review but I’m just kind of sitting on it until the PS store goes back up. I think Ashe is doing the PC version as well.

  7. ML Kennedy Avatar
    ML Kennedy

    I R Serious Journalist?

  8. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Mr. Rose bought it; he says it’s buggy as hell, but he enjoyed it otherwise. It uses 4th Ed rules, from what I gathered, and you have to use presets instead of making your own character, but it’s apparently a fine D&D game otherwise.

    And no, Kennedy, no you are not. You’re less Walter Cronkite, more Hern Burford.

  9. Aaron Sirois Avatar
    Aaron Sirois

    Mark, unless you were using Fabricio Werdum or Noguiera, why in the hell were you trying to submit Frank Mir, the best BJJ guy in the heavyweight roster? (Not saying much)

    Besides, it’s so much more fun to knock that sucker’s teeth in.

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