In the past few years, we have seen fighting games receive a notoriety they haven’t seen in decades. What was once a stagnant genre due to painfully difficult mechanics and systems, is now a genre managing to cobble itself back together…by doing nothing different mechanically. Fighting games are still complicated and hard to master games that punish those who fail to comprehend their inter-workings. So why are fighting games seeing a newfound light they hadn’t previously?

They are changing everything besides their mechanics.

More Than Just Paint

Fighting games mechanically speaking have largely remained stagnant. This isn’t to say there are no changes from game to game, but rather they are all variations on an existing theme—a theme that has been around for ages. Let’s take Pokken for example, where players switch from a 3D plane to a 2D plane depending on certain conditions being met. This concept originally came about in Battle Arena Toshinden, the first fighting game to allow players to move within the 3D plane.

Pokken Tournament DX
Pokken Tournament DX

Pokken took this concept and elevated it to another level by creating a deeper set of mechanics around it. Instead of just allows players to back and forth within the 3D plane, Pokken allows players access to new move-sets and abilities while also changing the perspective of the fight to be more like an arena, while also allowing players to move back into a traditional 2D plane. Outside of this mechanic, Pokken plays largely like a Tekken game, keeping with the same set of mechanics that made many early fighting games popular. Yet the title has gained a fair amount of notoriety and sold well (considering the platform it is on), so why?

Not Mechanics

Mechanics alone are simply not enough to persuade consumers to purchase fighting games. We have seen a big push in fighting games to make them simpler and less complicated in the past few years. Personally, I consider this as a positive change as it allows newer players to gain a foothold in the game’s mechanics, but keeps the skill ceiling just as high as before for the competitive scene. The problem is that making fighting game mechanics easier or more complicated simply interests no one but the people already invested.

Guilty Gear as a franchise is best known for its amazing soundtrack and extremely complicated mechanics. Mechanics such as:

  • Roman Cancels
  • Dead Angle Attack
  • Blitz Attack
  • Faultless Defense

are just a few that exist in the Guilty Gear games. To those looking from the outside (me included) it simply looks like gibberish, and to a new player, it looks exactly the same way.

Guilty Gear Xrd
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

The Guilty Gear series—in an effort to court new players—designed a new system called “Stylish Mode.” The concept is straightforward, the game will string together attacks to create combos with just a button press. Press the light punch button a few times and you will do a combo that involves far more button combinations using traditional controls. It’s a great mechanic to introduce players to the game, but it simply doesn’t entice them enough. Perhaps it’s through lack of advertisement or awareness, but I think it’s something far simpler, most people don’t care about fighting games unless it involves characters they care about.

Gotta Love Them All

It takes more than just some new mechanics to get the general gaming population interested in a fighting game. They need characters, ones they recognize and care about, and have been dying to play as. Guilty Gear has a variety of interesting mechanics as a fighting game, but what if you took those same mechanics and could play as Goku instead?

Now you have people interested.

Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ

When Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced the internet exploded with interest. Finally, a Dragon Ball Z fighting game that wasn’t just slapped together, but made by Arc System Works (creators of the Guilty Gear series)! It wasn’t just the prospect of playing as Goku or one of the many other Dragon Ball Z characters that generated the buzz. It was playing those characters inside a well-designed fighting game that made the hype train leave the station.

Injustice 2 is another title that has found its success due to not just its gameplay, but its roster of characters and the world they inhabit. Who doesn’t want to play as Batman or Superman? No one, that’s who. Take those ever popular characters and place them inside a mechanically strong fighting game, but also include perhaps one of the most interesting stories in a fighting game to date; that’s a recipe for success.

Pokken takes the staggeringly popular world of Pokemon and finally lets you fight it out as a Pokemon. Not just in some thrown together fighting game mash-up, but in a game that is as mechanically sound as Tekken and other popular fighters.

These games serve as not only proper entry points for the masses but also fighting games that consumers are interested in. It’s not enough to simply “make” a fighting game anymore and expect success. It’s not even enough to make a good fighting game with well thought out mechanics and systems and expect success.

No.

To makes a successful fighting game in this day in age, all it takes is tried and true mechanics with a little extra spin, combined with a whole heaping of popular IPs to truly see success in today’s fighting game market.