Made2Game's 2011 Video Game Awards: Fighters
- ZEN United
- Arc System Works
As our Game of the Year celebrations continue we turn our attention away from FPS' and RPG's and towards to one of gaming's fastest growing (some may say fastest re-growing) genres - the fighting game.
Fighters. Considering last night saw the reveal of 2012's EVO titles, and thus the games brawling enthusiasts will be obsessing over for their every waking moment over the next few months, what better time is there to celebrate the best of the last year?
While there were very few genuine surprises in terms of the actual releases – the shocks came more in the form of future announcements – it was another solid year for this recovering genre.
Mortal Kombat was the pleasant - or unpleasant, depending on your view - success story, with NetherRealm proving that the series still has a rather formidable bite. Elsewhere, Capcom came in swinging with Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition alongside the much requested Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Which they replaced within the year by releasing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Sigh...
But it wasn't just the big boys that were showing off this year, Arcana Hearts 3 was the first time Examu's creative all-girl fighter managed to escape Japanese borders while Dead or Alive Dimensions marked a calm and confident return for the franchise, even if it was unfortunately quiet due to being a 3DS exclusive.
But enough of this babble, you're here for the awards so let's get to it!
Best 'Ultra' move
Phoenix Wright lvl 3 (Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3)
Most Ultra moves simply look awesome, but Capcom's Lawyer with the finger, Phoenix Wright, takes the biscuit for convicting his opponent to defeat. No matter who it is; a metal folding mutant, a demonic demon slayer, a biological weapon, even a hulking genetic accident, no one is safe from the strength of overwhelming evidence and a witness pulpit.
It also uses that music, that really serious thumping bass from the game. And it can be used at any range with an almost instant start-up. It has no flaws - not even the one that means it's super hard to pull off, ignore that, it doesn't matter - it is simply genius.
Deadpool lvl 3 (Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3)
Using the actual ultra bar as the actual thing you hit your opponent with? Marvel's Mr 'I couldn't care less about the fourth wall' in full 'swing'. Literally.
X-Rays (Mortal Kombat)
Let's put it simply; these are all awesome. Literally bone crunching and shattering displays of ew-ness, they were super powerful and brutally brilliant to watch in motion.
Skarlet, Rain, Kenshi and Mr. Dream Killer himself, Freddy Krueger. Mortal Kombat proved that it was the most up-to-date fighter on the market by providing a quartet of truly unique fighters post release. Each new personality came complete with multiple Fatalities, Babalities and their own distinct styles of play. The inclusion of Krueger irked some hardcore fans but his inclusion as DLC showed an eye for experimentation lacking from most developers. If you fancied the laughs, grab him. If you wanted to keep your Kombat pure, ignore him.
However, huge props go to NetherRealm for their clever free give-away of costumes alongside essential version patches. They gave everyone a reason to update to the latest version and were pleasant surprises even if you never played online.
As with its story mode, Mortal Kombat 9 has set the modern standard for DLC delivery in a modern fighting game.
BlazBlue Continuum Shift
BlazBlue Continuum Shift managed to stay fresh in the minds of fighter fans through a steady drip feed of its Continuum Shift II upgrade to console owners. The distribution was the same forward thinking approach as NetherRealm - free balance patches for all with optional paid-for characters - but a lack of virtual carrot on virtual stick means it was just that one little notch behind Mortal Kombat.
Super Street Fighter IV
Capcom finally take a great lumbering flop in the direction of understanding the contemporary form of the genre they helped resurrect by letting Super Street Fighter IV players download the latest iteration of the series, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, for a tasty, wallet-appeasing ten pounds. Ish.
Most Under-Appreciated Fighting Game 2011
Arcana Heart 3
It took a lot of guts to release Examu's cute-faced, all-girl fighter outside of Japan but it was done with good reason - it's a damn fine fighting game.
And how many people have played it? About seven I think. Three, four... Yeah, about seven. And I personally forced two of those people to play it. They love it now though, so it's fine.
Seriously, Arcana Heart 3's mix of almost Arc System Works design diversity alongside a fast and furious fighting engine and intriguing character and magic combo selection made for a delightful surprise. Arcana Heart 3 is a far better game than uneducated onlookers would assume.
Seriously good fighting, criminally overlooked. Fix that. Now.
Dead or Alive Dimensions
The 3DS' best fighter, DoA Dimensions was a confident new entry into a respected series and lays some solid groundwork for 2012's Dead or Alive 5. Great Street Pass features too...
The King of Fighters XIII
Perhaps it's because SNK just don't do advertising but this buttery-smooth, beautiful brawler is a real return to form after the rather lacklustre King of Fighters XII.
Best Reason to Buy a FightStick
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
Pads can work with fighting games. It's true. Stop laughing. But every now and then a title comes along that looks at your thumbs and says 'those little sausages can't hope to keep up with me' as it challenges you to double tap with the speed of a hummingbird on caffeine.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was one such game. Dante is a key example, his special moves have the ability to swap into different versions if you hit attack twice in quick succession. On a stick, easy as breathing. On a pad, a quick way to cause intense muscle strain.
Chuck in the addded ease of calling assists and you've got a game that screams you get a stick
Street Fighter III
Not only does the parry require the instant quick taps and precision of a stick, but Iron Galaxy are clearly hardcore in their input detection as the 360 controller really isn't up to their online port of one of Capcom's greats.
Noob Saibot (Mortal Kombat)
We've become so immune to video game violence through years of countless FPS', survival horrors and kitty simulators that most of Mortal Kombat 9's displays of mutilation felt par for the course.
Pulling a guys heart out of his chest? How very Indiana Jones. Puking acid down someone's chest and burning them from the inside? Doesn't Simon Cowell do that with mere words? Tearing a guys head off and snacking on his nose? Saw someone do that in Tesco's just last week.
But there was one Fatality that made us cringe, and that belonged to the doppleganger-creating shadow man Noob Saibot. He would create a shade of himself and tear someone in two in a gross tug of war, tearing them from the crotch upward as their insides slop out of the unexpected breach.
Grim doesn't begin to explain half of it.
Sheeva (Mortal Kombat)
Sheeva doesn't need a copy to tear you in two, she just rips the flesh off her victims in one quick tug. If the screaming muscle bag wasn't enough the limp skin sheets flopping lifelessly by the four armed Borat impersonator will surely bring a little vomit to the lips.
Platinum (BlazBlue Continuum Shift II)
Okay, so it's an Astral Finish and not a 'proper' Fatality, but it's just so demeaning and depressing that it belongs on this list for sheer face-palm-and-sigh factor alone. Should Platinum land the attack, a mock anime transformation and infuriatingly cheery theme signal your protracted, unavoidable death as the cutest fighter ever(TM) claims another victory for sugar and spice and all things nice. And I bet she rides away on that BLOODY HOBBY HORSE. Stupid Platinum...
EVO moment 2k11
Poongko's Seth dominating Diago - Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition Top 8
EVO is always full of interesting shake ups and brave faced newcomers but no-one embodied this more in 2011 than the shocking, brave and downright crazy style of Korean wunderkid Poongko.
He may not have won EVO 2011 but his match against Daigo Umehara was definitely one for the books. Daigo's Street Fighting ability is well recorded so to see him so easily destroyed in a straight victory is one of the most shocking sights of any recent EVO tournament, and the final match simply must be seen to be believed.
Aside from this and the honourable mentions below there was the Bob vs. Bob Tekken 6 final and the BlazBlue Hakuman cheer along. Truly an EVO to remember.
Tron Bonne Special on Dark Phoenix - Marvel vs. Capcom 3 final
Watch me here!
Dark Phoenix was always going to be a difficult character to handle and in Marvel vs. Capcom 3's non Ultimate version she was truly a bit of a beast. So to see the set reset through a beautifully timed level 3 grab from a player with his back against the wall was a true get up and cheer moment.
VVV Reo vs. Perfect Legend - Mortal Kombat final
Watch me here!
Okay, so the bracket got reset, but that doesn't disprove Perfect Legend's formidable abilities in the fighting scene. Raised in the counter-heavy arenas of Dead or Alive, Perfect Legend is used to analysing and reacting to his opponents play in order to find his victory, this final was no different.
Most Unnecessary Outfit in a Fighting Game
Mileena (Mortal Kombat)
For starters those Edenian female outfits are hardly becoming of its female warriors; there's no armour protection on those bathing suits at all. Rubbish design. We would accuse Shang Tsung of being a massive pervert but it's possibly part of the core story that they were like that before he took over...
Whatever the case, they made playing the game in front of any relation over the age of 50 somewhat unnerving, especially if someone is using Mileena's secret unlockable 'thing'.
It's just not necessary, she's a freaky clone with a shark mouth and she's given great bulging gazongers and then her outfit barely covers anything!
Basically - it's massively disturbing when you know what that mouth looks like and she starts doing that victory wiggle. We shudder just thinking about it.
Scharlachrot (Arcana Hearts)
We don't know how old you are Scharlachrot but put some bloody clothes on. You'll catch a cold.
Christie (Dead or Alive Dimensions)
Christie, love, we know you do the whole 'I'm too sexy for conventional clothing' thing on your assassination jobs but there's really no need to ignore the supporting properties of the bra. They'll end up saggy!
Most Anticipated Fighter of 2012
Soul Calibur V
Soul Calibur V is brilliant. It's not as if Bandai-Namco have re-written the rulebook, no matter how much they say they might have. But at the very least they've clearly opened up that old dusty tome, torn out a few of the more manky pages and created some solid stuff to put back in their place.
The biggest improvements can be found in the characters. Some staples return but as we mentioned in our hands on preview it's the newcomers that make a difference – their range of flashy techniques and BlazBlue inspired individuality lend a truly fresh feel to every encounter in Soul Calibur V.
Then there are the Ultra attacks, the Just Guard technique and Ezio! Throw in the now standard character creator and you've got an unmistakable winner.
2012 will be the year of the eight-way run, and the first great Soul Calibur since Soul Calibur 2.
Designed by tournament legend 'Mike Z' and sporting an outstanding sense of style, Skullgirls is looking like a truly unique fighter and something delightfully 'new' in a genre often too happy to recycle what's come before.
Street Fighter X Tekken
This is like the prized middle ground between Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom. It's slick, the combos are big, but it's also more grounded and has Street Fighter's serious faced space-control game going on. We're just not that sure about the gem system...
Best Single Player in a Fighting Game
Single player is rarely the raison d'etre of the competitive brawler. Their heads are often shoved in the sand thinking about the thrill of one-on-one, human-on-human combat. But that doesn't mean they won't try and give the solo player a compelling reason to play every once in a while.
Except Mortal Kombat doesn't try, it flat out succeeds. Its story mode is a massively entertaining, tongue in cheek B movie journey through the first three games in the series as you body hop between the pivotal actors when necessary – both narratively important and a good way to give you a taste of everyone's style.
Add to this the 300 story Challenge Tower, which mixes joke levels with more serious skill tests, and you've got a lot of entertainment for the lone scrapper. More importantly though, playing through both the story and Challenge Tower actually acts as a great introduction to the game's systems and characters - sorry, kharacters - meaning you will be able to head online, comfortable in your chosen brawlers shoes and likely able to hold your own.
Capcom, take notes. Mortal Kombat is the new gold standard for how a fighting game's single player should work.
BlazBlue Continuum Shift II Portable
BlazBlue Continuum Shift II features all the arcade, story, legion and training modes that made its console predecessor so good but adds the RPG-lite Abyss mode to consume hours and hours of your life. It also destroys the 3DS' battery however, so be warned...
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
While very similar to Street Fighter IV with its arcade and combo missions, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also let you destroy some silly 'heroes' as Galactus. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also included a belated 'Heroes & Heralds' mode, added a few weeks after launch, that layered a card deck building power up element to team construction, creating a rather compelling and hugely overlooked feature in the process.
Made2Game's Best Fighting Game 2011
Arcana Heart 3
Wait wait wait, quiet there. Are you sneering at this selection? If you are then you're clearly one of those who didn't give Arcana Heart 3 a chance, likely judging it at first glance due to the cute cast and somewhat unspectacular graphics.
Yeah yeah, I hear you - 'but MK has the gore'. 'But MvC3 has 100 hit incredi-combos'. 'But...' But quiet. I could quite as easily argue that Mortal Kombat is riding a wave of nostalgia – though it is far better than that makes out - or that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is, for all its exaggerated charms, a largely impenetrable pyrotechnic show for 90% of players that pick up a pad. That second one is true.
So why is Arcana Heart 3 trousering this award? Simple; when it comes down to the basic fundamentals of kicking seven shades of snot out of someone, Arcana Heart 3 was the freshest and most interesting brawler to see a release in 2011.
The game's unique mechanic is that alongside selecting one of 23 fighters you have to choose one of the 23 'Arcana', an elemental power with which to alter your lass' stats. Your choice of Arcana will also alter the properties of your Arcana attacks during combat.
Supporting this brilliant concept is a fighting engine focused on close up fisticuffs; you have a' homing' button that allows you to close the distance between yourself and your opponent in an instant. The arenas are vertically massive as well, and many brawls will have protracted midair scraps that never feel as rigid as, say, Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
So sure, the cast is all female, but Arcana Heart 3 is a surprisingly fresh, lagoon-deep fighter and is a wonderful reward for anyone smart enough to ignore any unfounded preconceptions of base Japanese sexism they may have from looking at the box by just playing the damn game. Pure genius.
Ed Boon and NetherRealm shocked the fighting community in 2011 by taking an old, stilted, over-rated guilty pleasure and turning it into something genuinely great. Mortal Kombat 9 made what was awkward and jerky into something accurate and precise without losing any of its nostalgic charm. Oh yeah and it had blood. Lots and lots and lots and lots of blood.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Made2Game still stands by its stance that Wii-exclusive Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is superior, but regardless of this fact, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was still an energetic, combo-fuelled treat with a much better balance of silly and serious than its initial release. Just don't play against the better players online, they're better than you. A lot better.
Ding ding ding! And that's time here at the Made2Game's 2011 Video Game Awards: Fighting game genre. Think we've pulled our punches? Well why not tell us in the comments below! Or if we've picked right your words of would just boost our ego. Either way, comment away! And just so you know we'll have at least one more set of awards for you before the week is over in Martin's 2011 Driving games rundown.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)
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