Stop Me, I’m Out of Control!

F12-2

By the mid-to-late 90s, Capcom started experimenting with the arcade mode progression in their fighting games, primarily in their non-Street Fighter/Darkstalkers/Marvel games; rather than the random line-up of opponents followed by one or more bosses, they began to take the character story-driven match-ups that were present in the Street Fighter Alpha games (which had character-specific rival and final boss battles) and go even further with them—who you fought was determined by who your fighter was. I imagine part of the reason why most of the games went in this direction is to differentiate them from Capcom’s “big” fighters, and from each other; theme became incredibly important, and that led to highly-specific visual designs, techniques, and narrative flourishes. They could no longer just be a fighting game with a different set of characters, but one with an individual concept and aesthetic identity, leading to one of the most diverse and interesting line-ups the genre has ever seen, with the narrative-based arcade modes being just one of the major avenues used to highlight that diversity.

Continue reading

What Will You Do Now That You Are Champion?

F11-1

There isn’t really a ton of room for smoothly integrated storytelling in fighting games—the match is such a visceral ballet of violence with near-limitless possibilities, trying to impose a consistent narrative on it seems a foolish task. The best most fighting games can do is include some specific pre- or post-battle dialogue between characters (and, in the case of Street Fighter IV, having some specific dialogue that can pop up in the battle itself), or cinematic cut scenes—the latter being kind of the boring default choice, as it never really feels apiece with the game itself and can come off as scenes from an animated spin-off movie awkwardly grafted onto the game. Plus, even if the delivery systems weren’t so limited, it’s not like most fighting games would have a really riveting plot to deliver—they very earnestly take after their non-video game inspirations, dumb-as-hell action/adventure schlock (be it movies, animation, comics, or whatever) or beautifully-made martial arts films where “plot” is left simple so as to more easily string the fights together.

Continue reading

You’ve Come A Long Way, But Don’t Rest On Your Laurels – A World of Roughnecks Awaits

F10-1

There are many subtle or seemingly extraneous things that contribute to the overall feel of fighting game, and sound design is chief among them. You’d think the people playing the game would be so concerned with the actual battle that things like music, sound effects, and voices would be easy to overlook—although at least with the sound effects, they’re important to the game as cues for the game’s actions. But people care about the music and voices anyway, because they add to the atmosphere of the game, and can make a battle more intense (or more methodical), or liven up the mood; just like the overall visual style, the sounds help define the tone of the game, and contribute to a game’s individual vibe.

Continue reading

The world is a strange place. One never knows what will happen next!

F09-2

Straying from the usual format, this post will be about an interesting individual character in a fighting game, rather than an entire game. Character design is incredibly important for a fighting game: as key as the universal systems are, what’s more interesting is how each of the game’s characters not only utilize those systems, but also provide idiosyncratic gameplay strategies. The characters become an interpretation of what the “feel” of the game is, and because of their unique qualities (both in gameplay terms and in visual terms) they can be endearing to players, offering a gateway—you can learn what the game’s about through the characters that click with you. It’s especially exciting when you find the ones that go about things in unexpected ways; once a developer has a handle of the system they’ve created, they can then make characters who break or alter the way those systems are supposed to work, messing with the buttons, motions, or even the physics of the game. There was once a time when the differences between characters felt minimal; but in later games, developers are more confident in how their games play, and so they then make characters who often feel like they’re from a completely different game.

Continue reading