I feel like I’m a teenager again.
Unfortunately, it has nothing do to my physical state of being, which gets a little more challenging to maintain as I approach my 38th year. Instead, the warm fuzzy that I feel comes from reflecting on 2011′s video game releases; releases that transported the industry back to the ’90s.
It was during that time frame when I was introduced to fighting games, and the culture of competition that emerged with them. Street Fighter II and its various updates collected my quarters, as did the original Mortal Kombat and a handful of other titles. Twenty years later, Street Fighter IV has received its own updates, and a most excellent Mortal Kombat reboot surprised both believers and doubters with its quality.
2011 saw Capcom strike fighting gold with the hyper-kinetic Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (and caused many to double dip with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3), but unlike past years, this fighting release won’t be an oddity drifting in a sea of FPS and sports titles. King of Fighters XIII (SNK’s follow up to the underrated KOF XII) returned SNK Playmore to 2D fighting game glory with its excellent HD sprites and deep, technical gameplay. Hell, I even name it my personal game of the year. Fighting games are officially back. But why did they go away?
As with many questions of this nature, the answer is never cut and dry. Blame it on the constant barrage of Street Fighter II updates that made even diehards question Capcom’s motives. Me-too cookie cutter clones. The death of the arcade. The uneasy shift from 2D to 3D. It’s difficult to discern which, if any, of these occurrences were the primary factor in the fall of fighting games, but by the time Street Fighter III made its debut (at least in my neck of the gaming woods) the rabid fanaticism was gone. Fighting games may not have died, but they certainly took a back seat in many gamers’ minds leaving the genre in the hands of guys like Justin Wong and the most hardcore of the hardcore.
Fast forward to the present and everything old in video gaming in new again. Instead of arcades we have online play. Instead of local in-house tournaments, we have EVO. And developers such as Capcom have simplified complex inputs to make them more mainstream-friendly. The video game industry itself has created an environment conducive for the return of fighting games.
What worked in the past is what works in the present, and in the future: Developers tapping into that reptilian portion of the brain that see us taking deep pleasure in devastating a foe. There’s a pure satisfaction that comes from systematically destroying an opponent in one-on-one combat; it’s the reason why boxing, MMA, and other combat sports rake in millions each year. Many of my finest video game-related memories involve dragon punching enemies out of the air and witnessing a defeated foe’s spine being ripped from its body.
2012 will be another strong year for fighting games, as the 2D-X crew will touch upon soon enough.
Let’s continue to show support.