Hey y’all. 2Tall back again, coming at you live & direct from the 914. Today, I’m going to talk about identity in fighting games. This is an incredibly relevant topic for any medium. It's what makes a fighting game stand out. That’s especially important nowadays because there are a ton of options to choose from and identity will make a game stand out. Without further ado, here we go!
Identity in fighting games would be defined as the game’s signature. It is a charm that the game has that makes it unique. As stated, it simply makes the game stand out. This can be done in a variety of ways including gameplay, graphics, sound and even just overall feel. A few games really stand out in regards to identity. For the purposes of this article, I’ll mainly discuss three main games but I’ll give some shout outs to others periodically. However, the main games I’ll be discussing are Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Street Fighter 3: Third Strike is often referred to as the SF series’ red-headed stepchild. It introduced all new mechanics, characters and a hip-hop/jazz sound that was unique to the franchise. While all these aspects of the game worked in tandem to be Third Strike’s identity, the gameplay stood out the most in terms of crafting the game's identity. Every character had multiple supers, a universal overhead and on top of that, there was the parry system, which birthed Evo Moment #37, arguably one of the iconic eSports moments of all time. Because of a strong identity built primarily on gameplay, SF3 is often heralded as the pinnacle of the series. Street Fighter 3: Third Strike has a lasting legacy and that is because of its charm & strong identity.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is another Capcom fighting game that has a really strong identity. However, instead of the identity being built primarily on gameplay, there are a few elements that work together that give UMVC3 a strong identity. These elements are gameplay, roster, presentation, audio and aesthetic. Gameplay wise, it gives us the frantic, fast paced gameplay that we expect from a Marvel game. The game moves at breakneck speeds and there’s an abundance of things happening on the screen at once. Assists are flying, projectiles are filing the screen and certain characters are soaring from one side of the screen to another in about 1.5 seconds (I’m looking at you, Magneto). Yet, this alone isn’t what gives Marvel its identity. While the gameplay is great, it’s par for the course for a Marvel game. The roster is the second aspect that enforces its identity. As the game’s title states, Capcom’s finest are going up against some of the most iconic superheroes of our time. Ryu vs Wolverine, Dante vs Deadpool and more make for some of the most entertaining battles we’ve ever seen on screen. However, this isn’t necessarily defining since we’ve seen Capcom’s finest face off against the likes of the Marvel Superheroes before.
Where the game’s identity really shines is in the last three elements that I have listed. The game has excellent presentation and a superb aesthetic. With regards to presentation, the game is presented like a comic book. The menu screen flips with comic book pages, complete with well drawn art and sound effects of a page flip as you scroll through the menus. The character selection screen is a giant comic book where characters are selected and their icons appear as comic book trading cards. All that is happening on top of a backdrop that pays homage to all things Marvel vs Capcom with Marvel vs. Capcom 2 promo art in the background. When the fighting begins, characters have unique entrances and smack talk. The game also maintains the comic book theme with “READYYY!” “FIGHHHHT!!” in big bold biff bam boom font (the font mostly associated with comic books) in bright colors. In addition, the game looks like a comic in motion. Characters are beautifully cell-shaded, special effects are bold and bright, and even the hit effects looks straight from a comic book. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is arguably Capcom’s best audiovisual work among its fighting games and it’s easy to see why. The graphics are great, the writing is wonderful, the voice acting is superb and the music is stellar and fits the game very well. All these elements work together to form Marvel’s identity. You ever hear any of those comments akin to “Oh, I love to watch it but can’t stand playing it!” Well, that’s Marvel and it’s incredibly unique charm for you!
The third game I wanted to talk about is Dragon Ball FighterZ. Out the gate, this game looks phenomenal. It looks beautiful with its (Perfect) Cell-shaded graphics, adherence to the source material and gameplay mechanics. Since it is being developed by Arc System Works, the masterminds behind Guilty Gear (to God be the glory), the game looks to be mechanically sound. The game is giving us 3v3 tag team battles, assists, and even destructible environments (all things that people were looking at Infinite to provide). Some are even saying that this game will put Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite in an early grave. Conjecture aside, the game is already looking to develop a strong identity based on its presentation and strong gameplay with characters from arguably the most popular anime of all time, Dragon Ball. Dragon Ball FighterZ looks to be a unique game with a strong identity based on and around Dragon Ball. What’s not to love about that?
The games listed, aside from DBFZ, have stood the tests of time. They have been played competitively for years and have brought the hype every year. Aside from the games listed, there are other games with strong identities as well. Injustice 2, Tekken, and BlazBlue all have strong identities and a strong element of charm to them. Injustice 2’s attention to detail makes the game stand out. Tekken’s customization options and strong gameplay make it a presence at whatever tournament it’s featured at and BlazBlue's air-dashes and gameplay intricacies make it a unique experience. It is also worth noting that a game’s reception and how long it lasts is in part due to it’s charm and what its identity brings to the table. In the next article, I’ll write about how a lack of identity hurts a game and ways developers can bring their games to life. Till next time!