Holiday Fighting Game Rundown

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Games of all varieties are fantastic social activities, and so as the New Year approaches some of you out there might like to ring it out with a few rounds on your favourite 2D fighting game. However, maybe you don’t know which game in your collection your friends would enjoy the most? Or perhaps you want to try out another fighting game, but don’t know which one to start with? I hope this list helps you, and Happy New Year!

Street Fighter III

Despite being over fourteen years old and with plenty of Street Fighter games released after it, Street Fighter III is still played in many tournaments. The game may be old, but that actually helps with its charm as it lacks the additional battle meters that one must manage in Street Fighter IV. Instead we have a pick of three super arts at the start of a fight and one bar to use them from. The other mechanic this game is famous for is the parry system where pressing block at just the right time completely negated any chip damage, which is slightly different to many other games ‘instant blocking’ that only diminishes chip damage; this can lead to some tense moments and spectacular upsets in a fight unique to this game.

The game was made to show off the high-end graphical hardware of the time and has aged very well. Several of the animations for the character Elena were rotoscoped to give them smoothness unique to this very day. What lets Street Fighter III down, sadly, is its sound; the audio is really rough or tinny sounding and can become tiresome very quickly.

Lastly, without any good tutorial this is a very difficult game to pick up. It makes it rather hard to play this with others who are not familiar with the feel and spacing of Street Fighter.

Arcana Heart 3

Arcana Heart 3 is another game that has yet to bother with high definition sprites, and I would recommend playing it in the available 4:3 aspect ratio, as the game fills the remaining space with very well animated pictures of the two fighting characters. These animations react to the changes in the fight and have their own finishing animations. This is a bit of a waste when they could make high definition sprites, but the sidebar animations give the game its own special charm.

There are several influential mechanics to Arcana Heart, and what always grabs me is the chase mechanic. One button is given over to a direct air-dash towards your opponent; This dramatically changes how space is dealt with, and it also allows for some impressive aerial combos which are rather like Guilty Gear’s dust button, but with much more utility.

The second, and more famous, mechanic is that aside from picking your character you can also pick an arcana; this provides you with stat changes and unique special moves mapped to another button. There are as many arcana as there are characters in the game, which means that with twenty two of each there are a bizarre number of combinations to use. Using the arcana is not as simple as using, say, an assist character as they have their own bloody move lists on top of everything else, and so it can be a struggle to get to grips with a new character and arcana combination. You will be spending the start of every fight scrolling though command lists for a while.

If you are over someone’s place and they ask if you want to play this, then after congratulating them on their bravery for admitting they have this game, pick the love arcana. The stats are decent and its moves are simple and useful enough with most characters.

BlazBlue: Chronophantasma

The first BlazBlue game took something that every fighting game really tries to do and forged it into a central mechanic. Every character has a completely unique special move mapped to one button. Not everyone agrees on how successful that was, but for me it meant that in the space of one fight I could understand how a character worked. I would say that this is perhaps the easiest fighting game to pick up and actually feel like you have a handle on it by the end. In addition, each character now has a short personalised tutorial so that everyone in a group can get a handle on their favourite character in a few minutes.

After kind of losing me in Continuum Shift with too little happening in the plot, Chronophantasma is perhaps my most recommended title in this list. The regular BlazBlue gameplay has been refined to an amazing level, and characters are much easier to move where you need them. Inputs are mostly easy to understand and the music is fantastic if you don’t mind a lot of heavy metal. Although, the developers do need to get past the idea that balancing is achieved by just weakening the strongest characters in the roster.

The only major downside for me that is worth mentioning is that it would be nice for BlazBlue to treat its female characters better. Chronophantasma has done a little to mitigate this problem but it still sticks in my craw that most of the ladies in the cast are motivated by their relation to the male cast. The one woman who has grand, interesting ambitions and motivations is actually the main villain, who has possessed the main characters’ sister. Come up with your own Freudian interpretations there.

King of Fighters XIII

Ah, now there was a time once that a sizable amount of fighting game fans believed a good KOF game to be the pinnacle display of one’s skill. Instead of fighting to the best of three rounds like in most fighting games, in KOF you pick three different fighters who each get one health bar; thus the winner is the first to defeat their opponent’s three fighters. To succeed at KOF you must think of things unfamiliar in a fighting game, such as how do you structure your team to take advantage of your strengths, and how do you counter your opponent’s team?

Sadly, this area is the only thing I can recommend about King of Fighters XIII. While great effort has gone into crafting beautiful high definition sprites and interesting backgrounds, not everything has changed, I mean at all. The game has no voice acting outside the fighting, so if it is not during a fight all you have is dry text. Back in the late nineties when KOF was at its peak, this would have been totally okay, but now it sadly lets the climax of along running story arc fizzle out.

It is a shame then that the next game on this list has all the same flaws yet feels like far more of an achievement.

Skullgirls

Skullgirls is a big achievement. When it first came out, I would not recommend it to anyone as it lacked too many features that I thought were vital to an accessible and fun fighting game experience. Yet, over the years and with patches every so often, Skullgirls became a fantastic game adding most of the features it lacked and smoothed out its jerky fighting system into a hybrid of KOF and Guilty Gear. Now, with a very well optimized PC port, I would call it the second best 2D fighter you can buy today on PC. It has become very fun to play and I haven’t had to purchase any updated releases like most fighting games.

There are things that still stick in one’s teeth however. The KOF-ness of the fighting is not an understatement; many moves are tricky to pull off and any character will need some work before you get comfortable with them. While the sound design is excellent, the story mode continues to lack voice acting which is a shame when everything else about the game, particularly its art design, overflows with much more effort. Other than those few gripes though this is a fantastic gem of a game.

Aquapazza

Now here is a game that if you know every character you can really show off your gaming geek chops; not by knowing how to play each character but instead by knowing what game everyone is originally from, and what their special moves reference.

A joint collaboration between Aquaplus and Leaf; Aquapazza fuses characters from many Aquaplus titles regardless of their genre. It is certainly nice to see characters that were either in strategic role-playing games or visual novels having their own fighting game sprites. Each character having some unique dialogue with each other should really have been a bigger focus, sadly such events are an infrequent occurrence which is odd, as fan-service should not be something this game lacks. Sadly, each character having something to say to all the others when they win is not included, and plenty of other games on this list allow that.

This game plays very similar to Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax , albeit with very bad explanation about how your super-meter works. You have a roster of characters that will be doing most of the actual fighting followed by another cast of support characters who all have a different set of helping moves. Sadly, these support characters do not have a lot of variation to them and you will mostly be using them to string your combos together, if at all.

Despite everything that is wrong with it, Aquapazza is a decent yet uncomplicated fighting game with a great cast from games that you and your friends already know and are familiar with. This makes it an ideal game to play with everyone at an end of year party! Except…

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Except you probably would get this game instead. Persona 4 Ultimax has everything going for it that Aquapazza does, only a lot more people have heard of Persona 4. This new version has most of the remaining cast of Persona 3 & 4 included as well, giving it a big cast for a third outing.

Arc System Works is responsible for the fighting engine, and it does show, many of the features will be familiar to anyone who has played BlazBlue or Guilty Gear. But in Persona 4 Ultimax most characters have two buttons that make use of their own weapons, while the other two buttons summon their persona to attack. This makes the fighting in this game feel like a blend of BlazBlue, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Arcana Heart with RPG references thrown in too.

Now that sounds amazing, and it actually is. Game for game, round for round Persona 4 Ultimax is fantastic to play and even losing is fun and exhilarating. All the little additional elements like status effects and the all-out attack are fun little additions rather than feeling tacked on trivialities. There is only one thing I believe that lets this game down.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax uses an auto-combo where pressing the Square/A button several times in succession automatically results in a simple combo. While this is great for beginners, it is terrible once everyone realises how their characters work as fights will just degenerate into trading each characters auto-combo until one person wins. Or one person who has actually practiced will win every match because they know how to counter that simple style of play, so people have to be prepared to try out characters and get a feel for how they work for a bit. Other than that this is a fantastic fighting game based on a very well loved series of games. It is probably the best choice of fighting game to play with friends this New Year.

 

Oh, who am I kidding you’re all going to go and play Smash Brothers anyway. Nothing wrong with Smash Brothers but… there are no sprites.

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