Future Fighting Games – Balance VS Insanity

A new generation of consoles is almost here and with it, a new generation of video games. Fighting games will obviously be included in this, so I wanted to talk about some of the mistakes that these current generations fighting games have made and how they may influence the direction of what’s to come. The main topic being Balance vs Fun.

Current Generation

So this generation has brought us a great many fighting games with tremendously different mechanics, meta’s and play styles. We’ve seen games like Guilty Gear Xrd (2014) released which is a game that, to this day, is renowned for having an insane number of unique and niche mechanics to cover the vast number of situations that the game can create. Out of this world character designs which all play in incredibly unique ways with almost no overlap between play styles. Lastly, a visual style that I would personally still consider to be the greatest we have seen in a fighting game, at least until Strive is released.

Tekken 7 was another game released this generation that it hailed as being one of the best fighting games available due to its roster featuring numerous guest characters. Some of which come from popular franchises such Final Fantasy’s Noctis and Street Fighter’s Akuma. Tekken 7 even features characters from television series, such as The Walking Dead’s Negan. The game also has an insane depth and high level execution combo’s and special attacks which satisfies the hardcore audience as they stay interested. King is a great example of a character with an insane depth, just have a look at the number of special attacks he has access to, it’s absolutely nuts.

Tekken 7 does suffer when it comes to keeping a firm hold of newer players, especially when it comes to grabbing and keeping them interested. The main problem being that the game lacks any real tutorial mode and relies purely on the player to go and find outside resources to learn the game. In my personal opinion this is a really big mistake for a game that otherwise knocks it out of the park.

Within that same generation however, we have seen something like Street Fighter V released with a focus on it’s competitive scene and character balance in a hope to always have the player shine through rather than the character they are playing. I still remember the first trailer that teased SFV. The way it completely embodied and embraced what made the fighting game community special was amazing. Despite that though, the game suffered. With this pursuit of balance and a level of control over the insanity that fighting games can usually produce, it lost a lot of what makes fighting games so great. Within weeks players had already found out each character’s best combos, be it for damage or corner-carry, and this is when the glass ceiling of the game became very apparent. 

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle or BBTAG, is another example of a game that certainly becomes a bit simpler when it comes to execution. Looking at the games that make up the base cast of BBTAG(minus dlc) we have: BlazBlue Central Fiction, Persona 4 Arena, and Under Night. All three of these games have some seriously high standards when it comes to execution. However, BBTAG is a team based game with numerous tag mechanics which does add even more layers to the game’s depth, despite the easing on the execution. 

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that fighting games becoming slightly simpler is a bad thing, I’m just showing some examples of the patterns that the genre has shown over the last few years. Which leads into the next topic…

Looking Forward… Balance vs Insanity

The next gen is coming and the games that we have been playing will be making their transitions over to these new consoles… Hopefully. The question is, whether or not the pattern of slightly simpler games is a foreshadowing of what’s to come from the next generation. Let’s have a look at Guilty Gear: Strive as an example. 

So far there has only been the beta so take this with a pinch of salt, as mechanics and the whole game for that matter could have changed by the time it’s finally in our hands. Strive definitely felt a lot different in numerous areas than Xrd. Xrd is extremely fast paced, absolutely nuts, and features a ton of those niche mechanics I mentioned earlier. Strive on the other hand felt a lot slower and the game as a whole felt incredibly foreign in comparison. 

It still features Guilty Gear’s classic over-the-top combos with characters like Chipp who can quite literally combo the opponent all the way up a wall. Conversely though characters’ moves have changed dramatically, such as Sol’s command grab now doing 30% damage instead of the 5% it previously did. Core mechanics like air-dashing, a staple of most anime fighting games, are very telegraphed with a huge magic seal appearing behind the character performing the move. 

This could all change by release, but this is all we can go off of at the moment. Most Guilty Gear players will agree with the opinion that the game feels very different and there is the fear that the game will be sacrificing some of the fun in order to create a more balanced game. But hey, that’s why it’s called Guilty Gear Strive and not Xrd Revelator 3.

So what will other developers bring to the table in the future? Capcom recently copyrighted DarkStalkers, so instead of a Street Fighter 6, we may well see another DarkStalkers game in the future. The fans of Street Fighter have been very vocal over the course of SFV’s life when it comes to letting the devs know what they do and don’t like from the game. I can only wonder how the reception of SFV will affect their future games. 

I personally hope that their next fighting game, whatever it may be, is something that satisfies both the newer players and the veterans. Give the game the depth and insanity that it deserves, but create a tutorial that thoroughly goes over each mechanic and character in a good amount of detail, along with examples of unique situations and how to overcome them. Similarly to the mode featured the Guilty Gear Xrd. 

Online practice mode also needs to be a feature. Allowing players to go into a training stage together and practice to their heart’s content, while having full access to the features that training mode provides helps players learn so much faster and better than any other method. Features like this makes the depth of the game an easier pill to swallow as you can sit down with another player, who may be more informed than you, and you can learn from your mistakes as soon as you make them. 

Ultimately, I hope that each game can produce something even more fun while learning from their past mistakes. I hope that we can reach a point where the most negative thing a person can say about a particular game is “That one’just not for me” as opposed to saying they just hate the game. It’s a fool’s dream, I know. 

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

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Conor Evans
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