The Dojo of 2012
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2
- Street Fighter X Tekken
- Street Fighter
- Spike Co.
- Soul Calibur V
- Project Soul
- Namco Bandai
- Marvel vs. Capcom 3
- Marvel vs. Capcom
- Dragonball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi
- Dragon Ball Z
Fighting games, eh? Five years ago the genre was dead on its arse, a lifeboat being kept afloat by endless combo videos, hushed backstreet tournaments and a slowly degrading Mortal Kombat franchise.
But look at it now! There’s a new fighting game everywhere you look. Street Fighter is still sitting smug as the spark of revitalisation through reinvention while titles like BlazBlue, Marvel vs. Capcom and the new Mortal Kombat ride the wave. We even got Arcana Heart 3, that sort of brilliance would have been limited to Japan before!
2012, and late 2011 in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s case, will see a lot of new fighting games, including many impressive ones I’ve not had a chance to try yet, such as Persona 4 Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena, Dead or Alive 5, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown and Skull Girls. However, at the Eurogamer expo I managed to get some hands on time with a few of the biggest scrappers still in training, returning post haste to deliver my thoughts on all of them.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
After more than a decade, the Tekken series finally returns to the style that everyone liked more than the standard set up, with tag battles and a mountain of characters.
Bob will still be over powered, Bob is always overpowered.
Tekken Tag Tournament was always the better way of playing Tekken. You’ve got a bigger scope for comebacks, bigger scope for combos, and by consequence a bigger scope for fun, both for experts looking for more nuance and for beginners wanting to bash out cool moves.
The other main reason it’s ace is because you can team up a Bear and a Boxing Kangaroo and proceed to make a mockery of the game’s other more serious, po-faced, angular-haired fighters.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is, well, it’s Tekken Tag Tournament 2. There’s a greater emphasis on the swapping fighters aspect with easier combined attacks, but ultimately this game is an effort in dragging a game first released in 1999 into the modern era via all the Tekken games that have come since.
There’s really not a lot more to say. This game doesn’t mess with Tekken’s established punches and kicks, it just brings a lot of fighters together for a very flashy iteration in the series.
But unlike Souls Calibur V, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has never pretended to be an evolution, it was only ever a simple new entry in an established franchise and it succeeds in continuing the solid gameplay its forbearers have held up and sustained for well over ten years.
That’s either music to your ears or a disappointment. Depends what you think of Tekken, really.
Soul Calibur V
A completely new chapter in the tale of swords and souls, set 17 years after Soul Calibur IV it promises to revitalise a series that has been treading water since its inception.
Oh and in case anyone needed to know, Ivy's 'physics' are still unbelievable.
There’s a problem with Soul Calibur V that becomes apparent pretty early on - it’s not that different to other Soul Caliburs.
We’ve all been hearing Namco Bandai preaching about the game’s myriad changes ever since Soul Calibur V’s announcement earlier this year, but as soon as I jumped in and pit my Mitsurugi against my opponents Ivy it felt like it was 1999 again. Albeit shinier.
That said, there are changes, but no one was on hand to explain their meanings. For example a bar now arcs around the ends of your health bars and counts stock as you fight, yet neither myself nor my opponent could figure out its ultimate purpose.
For some characters the bar seemed to dictate how much they could use Guard Impact – a parry manoeuvre that has been a standard since the first revision of Soul Edge, but now seems strangely restricted – while another fighter could activate a special grab.
I’ve seen super moves performed in videos and can only wager that these are the proper use of the bar, however not even the nearby Namco Bandai representatives could shed any light on it. Not one of them.
Aside from that, most the changes are purely for show. The Eight Way Run seems more prominent, with quick moves left and right being emphasized visually, which blocking an attack just as it lands earns you a ‘just guard’ bonus.
Oh and there’s a lot going on in the arenas around you as well, not that it has any bearing on the combat.
It’s a shame that so much feels the same, as new characters Patroklos and Natsu, although having abysmal names, seemed to show shadows of a genuine evolution of the series, an evolution that favoured and emphasized a more lithe, acrobatic, and unpredictable style of combat that felt like a true next generation Soul Calibur.
I left after several fights ultimately wishing that Namco had gone all out with this revitalisation and chosen an entirely new cast, rather than peppering a stable full of mostly old horses with only a handful of these more exciting fresh faces.
It’s still Soul Calibur, it’s still brilliant fun, but it doesn’t go as far as it should.
Street Fighter X Tekken
Iconic fighting game series mash up that sees the legendary Iron Fist combatants take on Capcom's special move loving hyper-fighters, taking equal cues from both franchises.
Character animation is arguably even more exaggerated than Street Fighter IV enhancing the ludicrous feel.
Imagine Street Fighter 4, greased up so it runs twice as fast, with the razzmatazz turned up to ten too.
Where Street Fighter 4 was built primarily on balance and fine tuning, Street Fighter X Tekken throws a spot of simple spectacle into that mix which changes
it for the better. It’s this teaspoon of ‘Marvel powder’ that will make this tweaking of the standard formula more appealing to fans of outrageous combos, but the game retains enough one-on-one depth that it will also appeal to those looking for a faster, more aggressive alternative to Street Fighter 4’s established systems.
The most important change comes in the form of the light, medium, heavy, tag combo that is easily ‘dialled’ like any Marvel vs Capcom light, medium, heavy, launcher set up. Don’t worry though purists, this is still a six-button ‘punches and kicks’ layout a la Street Fighter.
Fights quickly become about poking and probing with all your standard and special moves, just as with to Street Fighter IV, with both players trying to move in and land the all important start-up for a longer, more damaging combo. Street Fighter X Tekken is as much about prediction, clever defence and knowledge as Street Fighter ever was, only letting an enemy under your guard is that much more damaging.
The biggest surprise actually comes in the form of the Tekken fighters. Deprived of screen traversing super-moves, these combatants are gifted with numerous techniques to close the gap between them and their Street Fighter foes, offering their own unique challenge and play style in the process.
This is Street Fighter - right down to the lack of aerial blocks - by way of an exaggerated versus game with the added wrench of the up close and personal Tekken fighters that truly help distance it from just being Super Street Fighter IV Turbo Tag Edition.
Street Fighter X Tekken is a delightfully energetic twist on the established formula that will have Street Fighter stalwarts, air-juggle Tekken fans, and newcomers alike hankering to play round after round after round. Top stuff.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
The inevitable tweak to 2011's brilliantly insane team scrapper Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 adds characters, stages, and balances contentious elements such as MvC3's X Factor.
Chun Li could have made a comfortable living as a gymnast yet she fights off demonic evils with nothing but her thighs. What a girl.
It’s Marvel vs. Capcom 3 but with new characters, stages, and some balance tweaks. There’s not really much to be said about the game apart from ‘if you enjoyed MvC 3 then this is the ultimate (sorry) version for you’ or ‘if you didn’t enjoy Marvel vs. Capcom 3, this won’t change your mind’.
That said, the new characters are certainly good fun and, Vergil aside, all feel rather fresh, or satisfyingly retro where Strider is concerned.
The new aesthetics are a mixed bag. The new look health bars are equally better and not as good, the prominent lead character’s health display is nice but team members should be highlighted more.
However, changes to X-Factor are excellent. Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s one-use-per-round power-up that grew stronger the fewer characters you had alive now has a shorter duration and can be activated while you’re in the air. It’s still not as good as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom’s Baroque Cancelling but it should see a lot less one-Phoenix armies in online matches.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 works and on the basis that this is a simple refinement of an existing game, it’s unquestionably better. One thing I’m left wondering is, will there be a Super Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3? I hope not.
Dragonball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi
Because the ‘real’ fighting games are back in town it's time for Dragon Ball Z to look in the mirror and re-evaluate itself, so this is an attempt to truly recreate the insane pinball fisticuffs of the never-dying anime series.
It looks like the anime! Yes that's said about every new DBZ game but this time it really does! Honest...
I’ve never muttered ‘What the hell is going on!’ so much in a single gameplay session in my life. Except perhaps when I played Space Giraffe, but that was half to do with consuming too much alcohol the night before.
Dragonball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is all about the spectacle this year. Land a basic punch and characters will go into preset flurries. Ten hits from one button press? Don’t mind if I do.
Blocking an attack sees your character perform energetic teleporting dips and dives that would make any boxer jealous.
Connecting a grab will engage a series of QTE-heavy button-mashing/rock paper scissor matches as you and your opponent try to second guess each other and just enjoy the raw spectacle of it all as fighters hurl each other for miles, crash through mountains, and literally explode with power.
There is some standard stuff in here as well. Before landing an attack you’ll move around as you’d expect to in a 2D fighter, while getting far enough away from your rival will engage a classic Tenkaichi split screen set up so you can fly around and hurl Kai blasts at your adversary. But you’ll more often than not be launched right back into a crazy, energetic mash contest in no time at all.
Dragonball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is the best a Dragonball Z game can do to help itself stand out. Now that Street Fighter has reclaimed the 2D genre and Namco Bandai are back guns a-blazing with both Tekken and Calibur, a Dragonball game simply can’t afford to exist as a sub-par take on the traditional fighter model.
Dragonball Z:Ultimate Tenkaichi manages to condense the best ideas of all the Budokai’s, Raging Blasts and Tenkaichi’s of the past and compact it all into one glorious mess of Dragonball Z fan satisfaction.
Confusing? Absolutely, but with this much visual flair it manages to effortlessly entertain.
The Dojo of 2012 Awards
So there they are, my opinions laid bare for all to see. But what would a piece about a collection of titles be without some lovely awards to summarise? Below I've had a think about what stood out about each game, as well as what people look for in a fighting game, in order to bestow the following awards in conclusion to this piece.
- Biggest surprise: Dragonball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi
- Most disappointing: Soul Calibur V
- Likely to get best reviews: Street Fighter X Tekken
- Most button basher friendly: Dragonball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi
- Most confusing: Dragonball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi
- Best Kuma: Street Fighter X Tekken (he farts in your face, he wins by default)
- Most exciting: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
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