Those of you that are familiar with my gaming habits know that I am a heavy fan of the 2D Fighter. 2D Fighters are basically the genre that pushed me into retrogaming. There’s nothing quite like a one-on-one battle in a colorful and precise 2D environment. As we all know, back in the early 90’s, the 2D fighter ruled the arcades, and home console versions served as an exciting training ground.
Back in the tail end of the Dreamcast era, we saw a 3 very exciting fighting titles from 3 different companies, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike (Capcom), Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves (SNK Playmore), and Guilty Gear X (Sega Sammy). These three titles remain fan favorites in some of the arcades that still exist and still having good game selection.
However, the further we get into the 21st century, the production of quality 2D fighters has greatly dwindled. The companies’ most hyped 2D fighters or the past year, Capcom Fighting Evolution, SNK vs Capcom Chaos, and Guilty Gear Isuka were great disappointments. They all seemed to be quickly cobbled together to make some quick money. The tight controls and balance that we have come to expect from these great fighter developers was severely lacking, and, in the case of Capcom, the re-use of extremely old sprites is running rampent.
I’m sure Capcom is more concerned with their big money-makers of late like Resident Evil and Viewfitul Joe. However, I believe if Capcom will focus on JUST ONE new fighting title, it will pay off. Over the last year or so, I’ve heard rumors of Capcom developing one of the following:
- Street Fighter 4 – Street Fighter 3:TS taken to the next level?
- A game set in between the SF Alpha Series and Street Fighter 2
- Street Fighter 2 remixed to be modernized in terms of both graphics and gameplay
Any one of these possibilities has a strong potential. The key for them: focus on innovative gameplay and animation like they did with Third Strike. High-res sprites like Guilty Gear XX would help. To make this next game a real success, they can’t rely on Vs. fighters anymore. They need to have killer gameplay and 2D eye-candy to get the diehard arcade gamers talking. If it’s good, it will sell — probably not as good as Resident Evil 4, but it will do well. Street Fighter is one of the best brands Capcom has and they need to push it in an innovative way to keep it alive.
SNK has at least been moving a bit with their new Samurai Shodown and King of Fighters titles. They still seem to be doing well in the arcades and have been quickly ported to the PS2. I also commend them on the outstanding effort they have made in bringing their older titles (KOF, Fatal Fury, and Metal Slug) to the PS2. However, as great as most of their games have been, they need to do two things — jump to high resolution sprites and promote a different franchise. Even though they have jumped to the Atomiswave arcade platform and done away with their MVS hardware, they are still using aging sprites. While many of them might have more character than Capcom’s, they need to keep younger gamers interested with some slick new artwork. If they combine this with their quick PS2 ports, it sounds like a recipe for success. It would also be an excellent idea to push another series other than the KOFs. Look at the success of bringing the Fatal Fury series to Mark of the Wolves. Why not do that with another series. Maybe another Rage of the Dragons? Anyway bringing life to another series would give the company a spark it needs.
When it comes to Sega Sammy, they are in a good position to become a strong player in the fighter market. They already have an engine the produces beautiful visuals and tight gameplay. They also have two franchises in Guilty Gear and The Rumble Fish that have shown quality, but have yet to break into the average gamer’s radar. Now that Sega is teamed up with Sammy, they can use their marketing and publishing power to bring enhanced sequals to the market and get the attention they deserve.
Lastly, if any of these companies are worried that the games won’t sell well enough, they should just include the console ports with some cheap (for them) merchandising. Fighting game fans (including myself) are suckers for some good arwork, t-shirts, or toys of our favorite fighters.
When I wrote the first article, I said that Sammy looked like they trying the hardest. At this point in time I would definately say that SNK is making the biggest impact even though they could improve significantly. Anyway, we seem to be at a piviotal point in the genre of 2D fighters — either the developers can give up on the declining market, or they can each come up with one quality title to take advantage of this niche market. We can only hope its the later.