Let’s be honest – the Street Fighter V flop last year led many of us to think that the fighting game genre could be imploding in the effort to become as modern as all the other titles around currently are. Capcom dealt with it as you’d do with a live game, something Ubisoft has used us for a while now, but it looks like that you simply can’t do it with this particular genre, or at least, if you really want to do it, you need to offer more content on day one.
So, this year we’ve been awarded three fighting games in a matter of just one month, two of them completely new – Injustice 2 and Tekken 7 – and another, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, coming from the past to a brand new platform, the Nintendo Switch. All of them, each for a specific reason, show us that the genre has indeed a pretty bright future, and that the Street Fighter V debacle was luckily enough an isolated case.
I’m not a huge fighting game lover, but I appreciate giving them a try every now and then. I’ve always loved the passion pro gamer, or people who simply invest a lot of time on them, put into learning all the things you’d usually learn in order to play fighting games properly. Like reaction times, moves, patterns, hitboxes, and so on – that’s what you do if you want to master a fighting game, right?
Interestingly, all the games I’ve mentioned so far are very, very different from one another, and probably the most ambitious one is Injustice 2. The one you’d play if you’re not too much passionate about fighting games but still want to experience one of them. The reason is simple: DC characters are gorgeous, and are presented in totally new fashions and roles you are not usually offered in comics or movies.
Injustice 2, as I said, is pretty ambitious in two things. The first is the story mode. It’s around 2/3 times bigger than Tekken 7’s, and has more in common with action adventure games’ than with other brawlers. It features long and meaningful cut-scenes, even with dialogues, that explain the gamers the reasons why something is happening and why a specific characters act like that.
It is split into various chapters, each of them with leading characters you can choose among for any of the fights. Another thing you’ll love about the story mode is those characters are really handled in total freedom by the storyteller, which means Harley Quinn is one of the good guys now, for example, and has a strong personality – even strong enough to resist that special character we can’t talk about’s charm.
On top of that, what makes it even more ambitious is the Multiverse and the new Gear system. Basically, the Multiverse is Injustice 2’s persistent online mode, which allows you to complete specific tasks or missions to raise your rank and obtain rare loot. This rare loot allows you to customize your character, not only from a visual standpoint but also when it comes to his characteristics as a fighter and skills.
This is something completely new, and pretty risky on the long run, for a fighting game. The genre has always allowed you to customize what the fighters look like, but what about their skills and characteristics? The pro side here is that you finally have some reasons to keep playing after completing the story mode and when you don’t fight against any of your friends at home or online with some random guy on the Internet.
Tekken 7, on the other hand, manages to be what Street Fighter V wanted to be last year – a pretty classic and reliable fighting game for both those willing to play the game as a pro or instead just enjoy it with friends. In my opinion, it’s much less technical than Street Fighter V and much more useful for evenings with friends, at least without playing with that sense of guilty you usually have while playing fighting titles as a totally clueless gamer.
Katsuhiro Harada’s latest features a good story mode that, while pretty short, allows you to finally have an idea of what’s going on in the Tekken universe (it could be too late for the Mishima feud but, at least, they nailed it) and finally care about that. On top of that you also have an arcade mode which you can use to master each character and raise your level throughout the internal scoreboard, and another mode that lets you gain treasures to customize the appearance of your favorite fighters.
So, as you can see, all of this – together with a full online mode – makes Tekken 7 much more complete than Street Fighter V’s already on day one, while being pretty similar in terms of overall scope and size. I still think Capcom is more technical over this, but it’s not something you’d notice when really learning all you should learn about a fighter or embracing quite a different playstyle.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, then, is the perfect Street Fighter game for those who love the series and love the idea of being able to carry the title wherever they enjoy the most. It’s not the first time we have it portable, but sure enough it’s great to have it once again on a bigger portable screen, with all the good polish of the last twenty years. The only issue here is the price, but hopefully things’ll get better soon for it too.
It’s also good to let all of us remember why the genre is so good, and why we should hope to have it evolving soon, or at least before any other can do mistakes like Street Fighter V that could harm the genre and put its existence at serious risk. It’s something I also think of racing games: these titles need to get bigger and more ambitious in order to survive, and hopefully the always online generation can do offer proper tools to help them do it.