Are fighting games becoming repetitive?

There's a slew of new fighting games coming out in 2008 alone, and they're all mostly from the Japanese side of the ocean: Street Fighter IV, King of Fighters XII, Soul Calibur IV, Tekken 6, BLAZBLUE, Fate/unlimited codes, and a whole lot more.  I'd love to list them all, but for this week I'm only going to focus on a few specific fighters to give the rundown on what's been, what's now, and what to expect from the new game sequels. 

But this post isn't about the game sequels themselves, or the hype surrounding their impending release.  Rather, I want to approach the topic of stagnation that's beginning to build in a lot of these games, and I do mean a lot.  Areas such as innovation have not been addressed this time around, and that's lead to an endless cycle of repetitiveness and predictability in nearly all of the new sequels coming out this year.  Sure, bugs have been fixed and tweaks have been adjusted to round out the balance among the cast, but ground-breaking systems haven't changed a whole lot since their first, and subsequent inceptions.

Every fighter shares the same formula: male characters, female characters, health bar, super bar, combo system, blocking, jumping, etc.  When you get past those ingredients, the game system kicks in, offering more options for bashing the opponent and creating your own style of play.  And granted, each genre offers its own entertaining barn of unique staples, from King of Fighter's team system, to Tekken's High / Mid / Low blocking system.  You can always count on each fighter to provide their own form of trademark gameplay.

The point that I'm frustrated with is this: in 2008, most of these games hardly deviate from the mark, and are stuck in a pattern of repetition that has hardly changed.  It seems that each new installment in the series must provide at least one new character, one new stage, or one new move to add to the previous cast's repetoire.  Older cast members are hardly ever removed, and the system is only tweaked a little bit with some kind of new gimmick you can do, heaped on top of the already existing hierarchy. 

The most notable example is Ryu from Street Fighter.  I don't think there's ever been a Street Fighter game that doesn't include their mascot in it somewhere, some place.  Hell, there's been more incarnations of Ryu than Megaman sequels, always wearing the same off-colored, pasty white clothes that he's probably worn since puberty.  Seriously, has he ever bought some new clothes?  Can't he use his winnings from the last Street Fighter tournament to you know, buy some nice shoes?  Does he ever change his underwear?

It should be said that are some exceptions to this rule in the past.  Street Fighter did go into the 3D realm a few times, although disappointingly.  King of Fighters does kill off some of the cast for each sequel, so much that its hard to even predict who's going to be gone the next come-around.  And Tekken tried to spice up their line by providing new ways to pimp out your character, a-la Virtua Fighter. 

Tomorrow I'll point out the changes and additions to Namco's Tekken series over the years.

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14 Responses to “Are fighting games becoming repetitive?”

  1. 1 Eien June 23, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    A couple things about all of that:Yes, there's a lot of repetition, repetition, repetition. Thing is, though, every time a fighting game has tried to deviate too far from the "formula," it's failed utterly. Redundancy is a double-edged sword in video games: Deviate from what we know to be good, and you "ruin" it; keep the same for too long, and people will want a change.ALL THAT ASIDE, I'm hyper-excited for BlazBlue, even if it is a Guilty Gear X clone. Also, play Melty Blood. Melty Blood is awesome.

  2. 2 Workaholic Hostess June 23, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    never thought about Ryu's underwear before. hmmm….

  3. 3 patapete June 23, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    That's very true, I whole-heartedly agree with the deviation point you mentioned. Street Fighter EX was horrible when it deviated, as well as KoF: Maximum Impact in a sense (they say it actually did decent in Japan, but who knows).Super Smash Bros. Melee is a game I consider innovative from the norm, perhaps because Nintendo is the publisher. There's also quite a few other games that aren't standard fare that I think ought to be considered (Senko no Ronde and Touhou). If you're nearby, I'd recommend going to Anime Expo 2008 this year; there's going to be a location test for BlazBlue this July. That's like, really unprecedented for any company to have a location test outside of Japan!

  4. 4 patapete June 23, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    I've (embarassingly) thought about it ever since this. And welcome back to this side of the pond! Hope your trip wasn't too bad πŸ™‚

  5. 5 Workaholic Hostess June 23, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    omg that is so wrong!!!!!thats going to be my new screensaver. i should make it into a t-shirt.what i SHOULD do is go to sleep because i'm jetlagged and exhausted!yes, back in the USA. γŠγ‚„γ™γΏγ€€

  6. 6 Lewisham June 24, 2008 at 1:12 am

    I don't play fighters, but doesn't the failure problem stem from the fact that fighters are developed for a very niche audience at this point? The sort of people that memorise move-lists and counter-attacks are the only people who will get anything out of it.The size of that market has dwindled considerably after the death of the arcade.However, that market is the only one games like this pitch to, and they don't take kindly to change. You either have to go all the way and pitch the game to the mass-market, or take a guaranteed number of sales in a stagnant genre. I think most companies would rather take B, at least for now.

  7. 7 Kimura June 24, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Isn't Kratos coming back on PS3 this year? Maybe it's the next year…

  8. 8 recyclemicol June 24, 2008 at 11:59 am

    You know, I'm not into gaming at all. Yet, I remember Ryu from when my brothers used to play when we all lived with our parents. It's sad to think that he still wears the same thing. Hmmmm. Maybe someone should send a letter to "What Not To Wear". πŸ™‚

  9. 9 Eien June 24, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Oh man.I'm on the opposite side of the country from California, but that really makes me consider flying out there.

  10. 10 Eien June 24, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    No doubt 2d fighting fans are scarce; I actually raised this question towards my boyfriend yesterday in regards to BLAZBLUE being PS3 exclusive: "Do you really think the next-genners are going to buy something like this?" It's a 2d fighter and so many people think 2d automatically equals "bad." I mean, why play 2d when you have such "great" 3d fighters as Tekken? (I hate Tekken; hardcore 2d fan here.)Ignoring all of the other fighters listed in Patapete's post, BLAZBLUE is the most interesting in that they're trying to pitch a NEW 2d fighter to a next gen audience, and like you said, it's just like every other 2d fighter because they don't change. I'm curious as to how this is going to go.

  11. 11 Jandro June 24, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Fighting games for me have had a falling out. I honestly think the last time I played a fighter was like 3 years ago. Well, Fight Night actually is one of those games I really liked but again a niche market.I like what you said Lewisham; the death of the arcade may have been the death of fighters. I played some street fighter at home with my brothers and some tekken but when I went to an arcade, I was all about the fighting games. With the growth of next gen games and people wanting so much more out of a $60 price tag, a lot of people just don't see the fighting genre as interesting.I'm much more of a fan of the 2D fighters as well but I have to give props to one game: Bloody Roar. I loved that game. PS ONE!

  12. 12 patapete June 24, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    That is a very good point, because since the advent of home consoles and online gaming, arcades have become less and less dominant (home consoles becoming cheaper than arcades, and online gaming taking away the social aspect). At this point, American arcades have become near obsolete, and quite true to your point, a niche market.Its an interesting dichotomy, because of the continued success of Japanese arcades. If a company were to create another new market or franchise in a community of arcade gamers, I don't see why no one hasn't tried to reinvent the wheel and create something new and hip that could potentially be profitable.I don't think a long running series will be the one to change that.

  13. 13 patapete June 24, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I have to confess, I'm quite fond of Tekken a lot, since I used to roam the country back in early 2000 playing in various tournaments across the midwest. But I have been keeping an eye on all of the games I listed in the post to get an understanding of what's coming out this year.There were other games I wanted to mention, but the list kept growing, and quite honestly I don't know if I could focus on each of them within the week (there's other things I'd like to post as well). BLAZBLUE certainly looks the most impressive, even though its beginning to look like another Guilty Gear clone with. That's really interesting that they're pitching it toward the next gen consoles. I hope it looks near the quality of KOF XII. That game simply looks amazing.

  14. 14 patapete June 24, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Yeah, Ryu kind of needs an update on style…maybe you can submit some new designs for them πŸ™‚

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