Art by Scott Ramsoomair of VG Cats
The Escapist recently released an article talking down about fighting video games, pretty much citing as negative what most of us think of as positive. Arbitrarily difficult commands, lack of story, lack of original content, and lack of innovation within each system make up the grievances listed. It's obviously written by someone who is not skilled at fighters, but while that gives his ideas less merit, they are not worthless. After all, as evidenced with Wizards of the Coast constantly finding more ways to get more players involved in Magic: the Gathering, an outsider's reaction to things is definitely valid. To that point, I'd like to address these main points at hand.
* Difficult execution: An article was made on Shoryuken.com's Strategy Corner defending difficult commands, and while I generally think Strategy Corner makes a lot of good points, I think it misses the mark here. Sure, you should always take advantage of anything you can in a match. If Boxer (Balrog/Mike Bison) is standing, I'm not going to be afraid of his headbutt because I know he's incapable of doing it quickly. It's not unrealistic to try grabbing Zangief because his good grabs take more time to perform than regular grabs (not much, but more). That doesn't mean it's good to have them around. For Street Fighter, they do seem to be necessary because they give so many normal moves to every character. However, Smash Bros. does just fine with three attack buttons (4 if you count the C-stick for quick smashes). Look at how many moves they manage to fill in there while still making something roughly well balanced. Seriously, look at them. If fighting games followed this basic premise of normal/special + basic directions, you get a decent amount of variety while still making it easy for new players to pick it up.
* Lack of story: I can pretty well agree with this, but fighter players don't play for the story. The story is mostly irrelevant to them. If anything, all it does is help give the characters better profiles. People want a large amount of characters available, and the only way you can get that many characters involved in any serious way is through basic stories. Look at the Hakan vs. Honda rival video. Honda's all about proving Sumo is the best style in the world. We're not really sure about Hakan's story, but all we've heard suggests similar about Turkish oil wrestling. This scene still makes for a satisfying scene that gets right to the heart of what good-natured fighting is all about. Everyone has to be the star of their own personal story, which does not make for a good overall story. The article author heralds Blazblue as a great model of fighter storytelling, to which I disagree. It's negatively repetitive in being a massive click-fest, even if it does help make a reasonable story.
* Lack of original content: This kinda ties in with the bad story here. People like familiarity. Designers for fighting games have to cater to the people who have played the series for a long time. That said, there definitely should always be something new and the overall package should be attractive for first-time players. I can't think of any fighter I've played in recent years where this wasn't the case. Even Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, despite having a rather fanficcy story (sure, it's a word now), presented itself in the way I'd expect both sides to work, so I found it satisfying. Street Fighter 4 pulled off the best of both worlds, as is its upcoming Super version. It has almost everyone from Street Fighter 2 (T. Hawk and Dee Jay coming in Super), making for 17 characters right there, then 4 characters from the Alpha series. It also introduces 6 original characters. Super is giving 8 old and 2 original characters. While this favors the familiarity side more, it gives enough new stuff to still be very interesting. It doesn't have to be all original like Blazblue does in order to be attractive to people.
* Lack of innovation: You don't reinvent the wheel if it rolls perfectly. Sure, I love new ways of doing things, but I don't like innovation for innovation's sake. We actually do have plenty of fighting mechanisms to work with, just off the top of my head being 2D (Street Fighter), 3D (Tekken), Smash Bros., 3rd person (Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi), and 1st person (Wii Sports Resort: Swordplay). I can personally say that if you don't like the way one particular fighter plays, I can either train you so you can appreciate it better or find you another game that fights the way you like. We're not exactly in the fighter boom anymore, where every fighter was practically identical.
I have to go to work now, so I'll just leave it at that. My point was not to simply say this guy doesn't know what he's talking about, because he makes some good points. I just know these are complaints many people have about fighters, so I thought I'd address them appropriately.
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