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My Favorite Things About Fighting Games

  Now, I preface this by saying that I've never, ever been good at fighting games, 2D or 3D. To be great at them, they require a level of hand coordination/raw dedication that I simply lack/am unwilling to provide to master a fighter. I was deep into my teens before I ever even got down the timing of the legendary "foward-down-down foward-punch" button combo neccesary to unleash a Shoryuken uppercut. But what I have always loved about them, even when the CPU on medium difficulty was handing me my ass, was their style.

  This is more true of 2D fighters than 3D, however. I enjoy Soul Calibur, I can get a kick out of DOA's bouncy chesticle physics, and I can respect Virtua Fighter's rigid, crusty dedication to providing technical fighting perfection, but they all lack that flair that made Capcom and SNK sprite-based affairs so damn cool to look at. So, I figured that I'd slap together a list of my favorite stylistic elements of old-school fighters (in order of appreciation):

3. Visual Diversity: Fighting games have always had garbage storylines, even by video game and comic book standards, which are pretty low. Even the most fleshed out entities in the world of fighters are almost completely devoid of meaningful character development, or even just logical, consistant continuities.

  Luckily though, the developers get this, so they go all out to make each unique character as fresh and individual looking as possible. Lots of different body types, lots of unique, uncommon ethnicities and nationalities, every fighting stance, style and discipline imaginable, and wardrobes that can range from traditional martial arts to pure spiky-haired anime insanity, typically within the same game.

  Look at the genre's godfather, Street Fighter 2. A waifish, meditating Hindu. A hulking Russian wrestler. A lanky Thai kickboxer. A petite Chinese girl, who could chop opponents down to broken heaps and then let out chirpy, girlish exclamations of "Yatta!!". And this was in 1991, 92. This sort of casting would be seen nowadays as a play at multiculturalism, force-fed political correctness, but it was really just in the interest of diversity and giving every player somebody they could relate to, whether in appearance or fighting style. It's an approach that's still potent and relevant in this day and age, and something that's still largely unique to the fighting genre.

2. Fireballs: I love Mario. I've loved him since I was young enough to think of Saturday morning as a justification to get up early (as if). But a fire flower, it ain't a hadoken. Breaking bricks from below sho' nuff ain't a shoryuken. And stomping on a baddies head sure as hell ain't a testupakkuchukkuu....spinning kick thing.

  Fighting games, almost by default of their nature, introduced the most badass methods of offense conceivable to a 12 year old imagination. They were wire-fu pumped up on steroids.

  With the advent of 3D fighting games, there was a return to more traditional methods of attack, stuff culled from mo-caps of legit grapplers, brawlers and martial artists. And while that's all fine and good, I'd like to see zillionth-degree blackbelt leap 20 feet into the air and dive at their opponent with a flying kick, a flying kick where there's cool glowy-purple energy waves coming out of their foot, and they have awesome neon-blue shadow copies of themselves trailing behind, and when they land the attack, the world around them becomes a bright yellow and orange sunburst, just to denote how radical and final the force of said attack was. I've never seen Jet Li pull that off.

1. Neutral Stances: Considering that I just creamed myself talking about how awesome 2D fighting offense is, it seems weird to come back around and say that my favorite thing in fighters occurs when you aren't pressing a damn thing on the controller.

  But it is true. There's nothing to me that's more iconic to 2D fighting games then those buttery smooth, overly-animated loops where your fighter just swaggers around like they own the damn place. 3D fighters try to do it, but it just looks lame compared to old-fashioned, hand-drawn animations:

Rock, looking young, spritely, ready to throw the F down. Venom, about as wily and vicious as I've ever seen him portrayed.
Ryu, stoic, looking like the proverbial "immovable object". And this? Elena? Like, you can't front on this. This is just marvelous!

  These sprites and trillions more can be found at what's pretty much the only site worth going to if you want fighting game artwork and sprites: Fighter's Generation.

© Kerry Daniszewski 2005 - 2008.  The character Bubsy is property of Accolade, or whatever still exists of it, and Mai Shiranui is property of SNK Playmore.