It’s interesting that fighting games have “evolved” in such a tenuous way. Tecmo’s Dead or Alive series struggles to maintain content over sexual controversy. While Sega and Namco seem to vie for top-spots putting out streamlined fighters that take very little risks, but reap high rewards. I would count SNK and Midway in this fray, but nobody seems to care about KOF and MK anymore. EA, however, has capitalized where others have failed.
If you’re really into fighting games but want something that’s not so arcade-ish, you’ll notice that simulation fighting games come far and few when measured against shooters, racing titles and other arcade fighters. Fighting fans usually suffice to take what they’re handed and deal out mild criticism despite the fact that they know they deserve better. While Virtua Fighter 5 is receiving review marks only Gears of War could be envious of, it really makes you stop and question: What if I want more than just an arcade fighter?!
Playing Virtua Fighter is like picking up an old habit that never really died; there’s many familiar characters – as well as two brand new faces – and still the issue of one-sided fights. If you’ve managed to set your eyes on a trailer of the game, or possibly got a little hands-on time with it, you may have noticed that many of the fights are horribly one-sided. Computer opponents on high difficulty settings take the cheap way out of a fight by keeping your fighter suspended in mid-air with dinkle-toe hits and light (but quick) jabs. This tactic easily results in fast wins and short bouts. Yet everyone seems to ignore this fault like Micky Rourke’s Hollywood career.
Tekken is also a prime culprit of dinkly air-combos that keep fighters from ever hitting the ground, which results in one-sided victories for the air-master. Now the “air” fighting tactics wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t so darned cheap. Unlike the evened out air-bouts in Dragon Ball Z, gamers who master Tekken (and Virtua Fighter) will know exactly how to execute a cheap pop-up attack at the beginning of a match. This tactic is usually followed through with either a sweep (which will continue the spin of an opponent in mid-air) or a short-uppercut (which will also keep an opponent suspended in mid-air). There’s several other moves that follow through with such patterns that ensure an easy and competition-less bout. Against humans such tactics are nearly uncounterable, unstoppable, and unbearable. If you use these tactics against hard computer opponents it turns into a battle for mid-air combos. Trust me, I used to think this was cool twelve years ago.
Again, this un-ending air-combo tactic that many 3D arcade fighters employ isn’t entirely bad. But where the heck are the counters?! Where’s the alternative fighting methods?! Where’s the simulation?! Only the fan-forsaken Mortal Kombat: Armageddon thought to include a break-all counter move to ensure that mid-air cheaters don’t...well...cheat. It’s just too bad a good feature went to waste on a bad game. Dead or Alive also featured a vast assortment of counter-attacks. But DOA is a solid fighting game on its own merits. Not to mention, it’s probably more infamous for the wiggly and jiggly female body parts rather than its extensive countering system. But many other arcade fighters over the years have derogated fighting to cheap combos and uninspiring back and forth jabs.
THQ and Crave have attempted (over the years) to infiltrate the combat scene with alternative methods of grappling and striking. And I can at least vouch that THQ’s AKI has done a phenomenal job in effacing the awful arcade combos and mid-air cheapness, with seriously fleshed out grapple and counter moves in their Smackdown vs. Raw series. This was even applied full-on as a fighting shtick in EA’s Def Jam: Fight for New York. And while I can’t say the fighting has taken steps in the right direction for the newest Def Jam: Icon, it at least attempts to find a new way to incorporate non-arcade fighting into the mix.
One thing Electronic Arts has done remarkably well in the fighting genre, however, is add the Total Punch control to their Fight Night series. As a fight-fan, you can’t help but admire how fluent the boxers engage with flurries and technical prowess, while intuitively displaying excellent counter-punches and blocking abilities. Added to that, EA nailed the boxing dynamic with meticulous precision. That’s why I’m reminding fighting enthusiasts who may have given up on the fighting genre – due to all the arcade, coin-raping rip-offs – that there’s still hope. If you have an itch for more realistic combat without all the gratuity, you can’t go wrong with a Fight Night game. And if you happen to own a PS3 (or already have an Xbox 360), it wouldn’t hurt to give Fight Night Round 3 a try. Sure, you can’t knock your opponent 10 feet in the air and finish them off with an 11-hit combo...entirely composed of left and right jabs and low ankle-kicks. But the game at least gives you something grounded, realistic and entertaining to jab at.
Now if you’re looking for more kicking action out of a fighter, you won’t come across a simulation that’s any better than Pride: Fighting Championships for the PS2. Yeah, I know, arcade fight-fans get all the recent stuff, but if you didn’t know the game existed you at least know now.
Editor's Note: Don't agree with the article? Post your comments. Want comparisons? Watch the trailers below of Fight Night: Round 3 and Virtua Fighter 5 for the PS3, and decide for yourself.