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Sound Theory: Top 3 Fighting Game Audio/Visual Works

Hey y’all! How’s everyone doing? It’s that time of the month when 2Tall is coming at you with a brand new write up. We finally back! I could just feel the anticipation from all of you. Aha, just kidding.Adoration of my own works aside, I was very excited to write this piece as it made me reflect on all the fighting games I’ve played over the years and how much fun I’ve had playing them with people I love. This month, I’m ranking the fighting games I personally think are the top 3 audiovisual works I’ve ever played. Let’s get right into it, shall we?

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Coming in at number 3 is a game that I believe people slept on. That game is Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. When I first played Persona, the presentation of the game is one thing that always stood out to me. The game is big, bright and everything about it is stylish. It features visual novel dialogue scenes, animated cutscenes and a great story. The visual novel dialogue scenes possess phenomenal character art. The huge hand-drawn character portrait artwork and 2D sprites look fantastic as well. Combine that with 3D backgrounds that at time look 2D and are incredibly detailed and well done, the game looks great. When it comes to sound, this game has the sound of 70’s style japanese pop music. There’s also some nice vocals and some smooth instrumentals in there, too. On top of that, the English voice work is well done and the story mode is also in English so those of us who aren’t hardcore fans of the Japanese voices can play through the story without having to read subtitles.

What really sticks out to me also is the HUD and the rest of the menus in game. They’re beautifully designed with bright colors and a television studio aesthetic that extends from the game’s intro sequence to the win portraits in each match. The television screens displaying the character’s persona along with the cracked looking TV screen displaying the in game timer brings that aesthetic theme together. On top of that, the bright colors of the health bars, super-meter bars and the fonts that display the numbers on the supermeter and the combo counter are bold and stylish. This game’s presentation is top-notch and so I give this game the number 3 spot on my list.

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Coming in at number 2 is Mortal Kombat XMKX uses a modified Unreal Engine 3 to bring its characters to life and bring a level of cinematic presentation that has never before been seen in a Mortal Kombat game. Character models are big & incredibly detailed, from the stitching on the clothing to facial features. The way they’re animated is top notch as well. Run and dash animations are almost perfect and the combo strings are flawless looking. They aren’t choppy or disjointed looking for character models that look so lifelike. Voicework is also great as the acting is spot on and the dialogue between the characters is fantastic as well.

Two major cinematic pieces in Mortal Kombat X that really bring the violence to life are the X-Ray moves and the Fatalities. The X-Ray moves are great action sequences that really highlight the extreme violence and gore that Mortal Kombat is known for. The close ups of bones being broken and internal organs being squished are brutal and the sound effects further highlight the brutality of it all. You can hear the crunching and the squishing and it’s very gruesome. Put that all together with the slow motion and it really is a set-piece that highlights the grisliness of the game.

With Mortal Kombat X, the fatalities are more gruesome than ever. The power of next gen really helped take these set-pieces and bring them to life. We now get to see dismemberments, decapitations, bleed outs and more in full high definition glory with the power of the Unreal Engine. Voicework shines through as you can really hear the screams of agony and to get the sounds of someone’s internal organs falling out, NetherRealm Studios used some sort of green goop to really bring the sound effects to life. You can check out the video here. With all this attention to detail and super cinematic presentation, I place Mortal Kombat X at number two on my list.

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Coming in at number one, is my favorite game, the one true fighting game, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Now, bias aside, I think that this is Capcom’s best audiovisual work they have ever put out. The game uses the Capcom MT Framework Engine to bring everything together. This game is big, bright and beautiful. The visuals look straight out of a comic book. The game is visually superb. From the comic book lettering throughout the game to the hit effects when characters take a hit, this game looks a comic in motion. The colors are vibrant and the hypercombos are beautiful. You can see the gleam off of Doctor Doom’s armor. You can see the sparks underneath Nova as he floats along the ground. You can see the Ouroboros lines coming off of Albert Wesker. It’s awesome to see all the characters with so much detail in them. Marvel’s involvement in the crafting of this game made it so that so much attention was paid to detail in all of the Marvel characters. Doctor Strange is a huge example of this. In an interview with Ryota Niitsuma, he explains that Marvel was very hands on with Doctor Strange. "Dr. Strange had the most specific requests they ever made," he said. "It was just unreal; what moves he had, what sort of hand gestures. Very specific." He even said that Marvel sent them illustrations of exact hand positions for Strange to have in the game. This attention to detail is huge. The characters stand, walk and talk exactly how they would in the comics. It helps the game stand out and come to life.

From an audio standpoint, the voicework is superb with voice actors from Marvel cartoons using their talents for the game. Things such as Tom Kane from Wolverine and the X-Men voicing Magneto and Josh Keaton from Spectacular Spider-Man really help bring these characters to life in the grandest way possible. Another thing that stands out are the character themes. Capcom and Marvel characters got their themes remixed from the games from the 90’s and if they are a new character to the series and haven’t got a theme already, they got one. When it comes to the things that characters say, there’s a ton of references to the Marvel Comics storylines and the writing is great as well. Deadpool breaking the fourth wall is even more impressive in this game as he makes a reference to Vulgus, Capcom’s first arcade video game. When one character tags out, they'll shout out their teammates by their nicknames or by their first names. For example, when Wolverine tags in Phoenix, he says “Jean” similarly to when Spider-Man tags in Doctor Doom and says “Doomsy” in Spider-Man fashion. This attention to detail really makes Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 stand out.

There you have it. My top 3 fighting game visual works. Some honorable mentions I must include are Skullgirls 2nd Encore, Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- and Super Smash Bros Wii U. There’s similar attention paid to detail in Skullgirls like in UMVC3 and the high definition, hand drawn 2D sprites are gorgeous. The jazz sounding soundtrack is nice, as well. It’s reminiscent of Marvel vs Capcom 2 as that game had a jazz soundtrack behind it as well. Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- looks incredible. It also uses Unreal Engine 3 and is unique for an anime game as this game actually uses 3D models. What keeps the anime aesthetic is the fact that Guilty Gear uses a toon shader which makes the models appear 2D. Arc System Works did great work on the visuals. Lastly, I’d like to mention Super Smash Bros Wii U. Every time a new Smash Bros game comes out, I’m most interested in the soundtrack. Nintendo beautifully remixes music from Mario, Donkey Kong, Pokémon and more and it makes for a truly enjoyable listening experience. Combine that with the visuals the Wii U is able to provide and it’s definitely a worth an honorable mention when it comes to fighting game audiovisual works.

The new technology is really helping bring fighting games to life in ways never before seen. We’re seeing our favorite characters being brought to life and we’re seeing the franchises we love being brought back in ways we never would have imagined. This is the probably the first of many times that I’ll do a list like this because the fighting games that are coming out are always pushing presentation limits and making things refreshing for new and old fans alike. It’s a great time to be a fighting game fan, and this list reinforced to me why we play and why we enjoy these games so much.

Till next time!

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