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Runback/Retort with… 2Tall: Troubled Fighting Game Identities

What’s up, everyone? After a short hiatus, I’m back with another article. July was a hectic month for many of us at Kick-Punch-Block. The one and only Aphro Dynamek flew out to Vegas to do commentary for King of Fighters XIV (and did an outstanding job, if I do say so myself) and I was hit with a boatload of school work and some personal things to deal with as well. However, we’re back now and ready for action! Let’s get started.

As I discussed in the previous write up, identity is extremely important to a fighting game. Identity is what crafts a game’s overall perception. Gameplay, graphics, presentation and overall feel help build a game’s identity and mold the player's reaction to it. The last article I wrote spoke about some games with really strong identities. DragonBall FighterZ and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are a couple of games with distinct characteristics that make them stand out. Because those games have been able to stand out, they're positively received. UMVC3 was mainstay at Evo for six marvelous years and DBFZ looks to be one of the most anticipated games of 2018.

There are games, however, that are suffering because of how weak their established identities are being perceived. For examples, we’ll look at Street Fighter V and the upcoming Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite. Sorry, Capcom, but you guys have to get it together. I think you will at some point, but as of right now, you must do better. First we’ll talk about SF5.

Street Fighter V released on February 16, 2016. The game was set to usher in a new era of eSports featuring fighting games. The official reveal announcement came on December 6th, 2014 at the PlayStation Experience. Since the announcement, the game looked promising. While it was to only feature a 16 character roster, the character selection was great. There was a ton of variety with regards to styles of play. Old favorites were brought back like R. Mika, Birdie and Karin, while there were newcomers that we had never seen before like Rashid and Laura. In addition, gameplay looked exciting and the V-system appeared to have some depth. Accessibility was also at the forefront with the removal of option selects and one frame links. Capcom even looked to bring the online features of the game to new heights by incorporating the Capcom Fighters Network with in-depth stat tracking and the ability to follow your favorite players. You could even earn all future DLC through playing the game and obtaining the in-game currency known as Fight Money. Things were looking good for Street Fighter V all the way up until launch day.

The launch, however, was barebones to say the least. First & foremost, there was no Arcade Mode, a fighting game staple. Everyone from hardcore fans to casual gamers were bewildered at such an omission. There were character stories that consisted of poorly drawn art, a few battles and more bad art. The Tutorial was super simple as well and definitely not up to standard for a AAA title. Skullgirls had a better tutorial and that was a $15 game released on PSN and XBLA, respectively. In addition, the online features were missing. You could not create a lobby with more than one person and it took ages to find an online match. In addition to these problems, shortly players discovered the dreaded 8 frames of lag which ended up becoming a meme and the center of any SF5 related conversation.

Things really took a turn for the worst on launch day and even though Street Fighter V has seen numerous improvements -- including a full fledged story mode, the online features we were supposed to have, ranked match improvement with a rematch option and a slight reduction of lag -- the game is still missing an Arcade Mode and its identity as a barebones product haunts it to this day. While I’m sure Capcom can get this behind them with the right updates, they still have a lot of work to do to rid the game of this identity that has plagued it since day one.

The other game I wanted to discuss is Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. It was met with an immense amount of hype. "MARVEL LIVES!" was shouted to the heavens and beyond. The Marvel community, one of the most passionate and dedicated in the FGC, had their wish granted. I, personally, couldn’t be happier. However, it didn’t take long for an identity to be established for Marvel that wasn’t the most positive and quickly changed feelings of hype and excitement to those of apprehension and uneasiness about what would become of one of the greatest fighting franchises to ever grace this planet. (Yeah, I said it... fight me.)

Things remained positive from announcement day up until around April. In April, gameplay videos were released to the public from an event in Europe. Immediately, the appeared visually unsavory. Some things just weren’t right. X and Strider looked good, but Chun-Li’s face (and the faces, in general) looked off and character models generally look lackluster. The game looked dull and washed out. In addition, the HUD was unappealing and drab. It’s very basic looking and does not have the flair the you expect from a Vs. game. It almost looks like a game that belongs on the iPhone App Store. The Marvel vs. Capcom 3 series looks light years better than this game, and that series is more than 6 years old at this point. Infinite’s saving grace is its gameplay, which has looked phenomenal since day one, but things really took a turn for the worse at E3.

At E3 2017 during the Microsoft conference, it was revealed that DragonBall FighterZ was in development. It’s a 3v3 tag fighter being developed by Arc System Works, the gods who brought us Guilty Gear Xrd. Right off the bat, the game looked gorgeous and absolutely stunning. The colors popped off of the screen, the character models were replicated from the manga with perfection. The effects were beautiful and it was readily apparent that loads of care went into this game. Gameplay looked fast & frantic and the style of the game was taken straight from the pages of Shounen Jump. Even the hints of presentation we got when the word “FIGHT!” appeared on screen was an indication that the game would be full of personality. There was so much hype surrounding of one of the most popular anime of all time being turned into a 3v3 tag team fighter developed by the fighting game masters at Arc System Works.

And then, we were treated to a new story trailer for MVCI...

It had an E3 trailer that simply paled in comparison to DBFZ. Instead of the trailer being a showcase of what the game did well, we got an exhibition of what the game did poorly. Bad character models were on display, weak writing was everywhere and it was made painfully clear that the love & effort that should go into a Marvel Vs. Capcom game was absent. In addition to gameplay character reveals, we got Thanos, which is nice because he hasn’t been seen since Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, but, everyone else was a returning character from MVC3. On top of that, the trailer still highlighted lackluster presentation and how the game is, to be blunt, ugly. The trailers just made it painfully obvious that MVCI is a rushed job. The rush job, reused asset, ugly, no x-men having, poorly presented game identity has been attached to Infinite and it’s problems were only accentuated with the reveal of DragonBall FighterZ.

"But Trent, is there anything Capcom can do?" you may be asking. There is! What Capcom needs to do, and to give them some credit, what they are doing is actually appear to be paying attention to the clamoring of the fans in certain areas and masking their weaknesses in other areas. With regards to Street Fighter V, Capcom has steadily been adding content and features to the game. A full fledged story mode was added, refinements have been made to the Capcom Fighters Network and there’s been a ton of community support from Capcom themselves. Plus, if the data mining is to be believed, arcade mode and some slick other features are on the way. Perhaps in a SUPER Street Fighter V update? I guess we’ll find out, but SF5 is finally moving in the right direction and, to be honest, I’m excited to see where it goes. The underpinnings of a great game are there, they just need to be fleshed out.

With MVCI, Capcom seems to be taking a different approach. They are listening to the fans and their complaints about the overall ugliness of the game. They’ve acknowledged it and have said they’re going to do something about it. Where the game shines, however, is in its gameplay and Capcom knows this. In these last few months leading up to the release of the game, it has been everywhere for people to play and people have been playing the hell out of the game & loving every second of it. There might not be much Capcom can do about the roster, and there might not be much they can do about the art style of the game, but by having us focus on the gameplay, the issues we have with the game are pushed aside or at least not so top of mind. Even Maximilian, a well-known YouTube content creator, has said that of all the upcoming fighting games, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite is his most anticipated solely due to the strong gameplay it has to offer. Now does this mean that Capcom is finished with changing the identity of the title? No. They still have presentation issues to work out, the weak roster to address and they’re likely going to have to address this DLC situation (which is a whole other write up... maybe I should write about that next?), but this looks to be the best gameplay a Vs. title has ever seen and, boy, is Capcom really making sure that it's top of mind and, because of that, the game’s identity is slowly changing.

Everyone and I mean everyone -- not just Capcom -- needs to always be about this.

This was a longer write up than usual. There was a lot to talk about. I’m happy I was able to share these thoughts with you all. I guess next time, I’ll talk about what makes good DLC practices and what doesn’t (looking at you, Capcom). Until next time!

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