During my younger years, I’m 39 years now; I had the privilege of not only growing up but experiencing two things that not many gamers have now. Those were having access to a huge selection of arcades and a large number of friends that I could game with or against at any time. While many gamers may have a posse or gaming group to wreak havoc with, if you’re living in the North American region, then arcades are simply a thing of the past. Sure, there are some that are thriving, but those are few and far between.
Yet, many people are overcoming this disadvantage in this day and age with the wonders of home gaming consoles, but do they recapture the same feeling as being in an arcade? As someone who grew up in arcades and even worked at one, my answer is simple – no, they don’t, which is exactly why I really don’t play fighting games as much as I used to. Sure, I’ll drop money to support the fighting games that are worth it, but in regards to playing them. Unless I have friends that I know will invest the time in playing them with me, then I won’t play them. Friends or not, if you’re trying to get better in say, King of Fighters XIV and the person you’re playing against isn’t any good. Then you won’t get any good either.
Now I know what you’re likely saying – Why not play online? There’s a reason for while I simply don’t as much as I used to or not at all. What made arcades so special was the ability to not only see your opponent, but you get a read on them. When they drop a combo, when they know they’ve committed and it’s not going to work out to their advantage. Their hand movements, their facial expressions, all of which can help you scope out the person. Not only that but you were in a somewhat friendly environment. There typically wasn’t any toxic comments being tossed around and the respect between you and your opponent was usually respectful. Sure you had a few profanities being tossed around but it was in good fun or in frustration that you played a bad game. It was the best of times and it was always my local hangout when I was bored or wanted to take on a bunch of newcomers or even that one person who was always looked at as the “Man”. Then there’s the specific issue of playing online – mainly latency, disconnects and yes, even rage quitting.
Lag is the natural enemy of all online gaming, more so in fighting games that require split-second movements in the heat of battle. I can’t even begin to count how many times a winning match turned into a crushing defeat due to my inputs not being accepted or simply being lagged out, only to see finally see my character dead on the screen. Frustrating is the word I’d use. Then there’s the rage quitting – something that plagues any competitive online game but more so in fighters. I get that some people hate to lose but really, do you have to snatch that victory from under me? I if beat you fair and square, take the beating like a man/woman and move on. Hell, I’ve had my fair share of losses, though I’d like to think it’s made me a better player – at least when you’re playing local you can’t or are at least discouraged from rage quitting. Though there are cases showing that it happens, just not as we much.
Holy sticker shock, Batman! Did you see how much that controller costs? I could buy a TV or a new graphics card for that amount. That’s a bit of an exhilaration, but it’s not far from the truth. Many popular fight sticks, especially those that are popular in the fighting game community are really expensive. Don’t get me wrong as many of those sticks deserve those asking prices. Look at Hori’s sexy as all heck Real Arcade Pro 4 – It’s damn near $400. There’s no way I can even justify that, yet at the same time, someone who’s heavily invested in fighting games might not even give it a second thought and purchase. Others may end up picking up multiple sticks. Yeah, there are others but are they really any different? Mad Catz’s sticks are as pricey, with the current top of the line stick coming in at $230-250, the next lowest at $200. That’s not including if you want to swap out the joystick, add some Sanwa buttons, put some custom graphics on it or even wire it up for use on other systems. It’s not unheard of to see dedicated fighting game fans rack up as much as a mortgage to get their stick just perfect.
Does it affect the ability to play the game? Yes and No. For most people, using a standard controller in a fighting game just isn’t enough. While there are those that excel at them, the majority have preferred using fight sticks. It’s gotten to the point that these fighting sticks are to fighting games as a pair of Nike’s, Jordan’s specifically, are to basketball. You need it and that’s that. Sadly, this drives home the message that you need one of these to do well. But what happens when you do spend that kind of money and expect to get better overnight and we all know that doesn’t happen? To the defense of the joystick game, I do recommend a fight stick but stay on the low-end until you get comfortable with them and then expand. You never know if you’re even going to enjoy what you pick up or you may even just stop playing fighters altogether for one reason or another.
Fighting games simply aren’t as easy to pick up as they used to be anymore. Sure, some come with training modes and have tutorials that “attempt” to give you some experience, most ultimately fail. Why is that, you may be thinking? Well, it’s hard to emulate an actual person. The in-game computer or sparring partner as I call them is only as good as they’re programmed. At many times it’s damned hard to find a common balance – Too hard and the person gives up, yet if you make them too easy then you give them a false realization of hope. When you’re playing an actual person, all that goes out the window.
No Battle Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy, this holds true in fighting games as well!
Tell me how many times you spent hours in training mode, learning every bread-and-butter combo, nailing those well-executed strings and grabs, only to try them out in an actual match and get wasted? Not too thrilling, is it? It was definitely an eye-opener and experience but not fun. Sure, you had issues with nerves but what about those buttons and control movements. Look at several popular fighters; Street Fighter and King of Fighters. While several characters share the same controls, they also include several commands that are completely ridiculous. You want me to do QCB, HCB, DPB, hold fierce while ducking, release and press forward? What?
That’s pretty tame actually, there are some that will drive you insane but you get the point. They’ve simply gotten too over complicated. I’m all for making someone put in the work but the way that fighting games are progressing the pool of entry is getting smaller and smaller with every release. There are the exceptions to this, but they are few and far between. Some of those games aren’t even consider fighting games – isn’t that right, Smash Bros.?
I’m not the only person who thinks this. Consider what Seth Killian and the Canon Brothers tried to do with Rising Thunder. Sadly, the game is no longer in development, but the concept that the duo conceived was brilliant. The controls are easier, not super complicated but just as much fun. The formula was solid, and I know many gamers looked forward to seeing how this could affect the fighting game scene. Sadly, this may never be, as Riot Games, now owned by Tencent, likely doesn’t want to get mixed up with a fighting game.
At the end of the day, I do love fighting games. After playing them for so long, it’s damn near impossible to stop playing them, I simply don’t have the urge to jump into the latest and greatest title game that comes my way. If it’s for review purposes, I’ll dig in, of course. However, if I’m bored and I have my choice of playing King of Fighter XIV vs, say, Titanfall 2 or something other than a fighting title, I’m going to pass over it. I hate to say that, I really do. Maybe it’s my old age, maybe it’s just because I don’t have a scene in my area anymore or more than likely, it’s due to my gaming interests have changed. I don’t hate the genre and do everything I can to keep tabs on it. Trust me, I was glued to my monitor doing those three years of EVO and every tournament on the East Coast, covering the less known and indie-developed fighting titles. I’ll always remember the three years that I worked at an arcade and had access to some of the newest fighting games, sometimes days before they hit the floor or when I’d open the arcade at later events to have special “early peak sessions” for my fighting friends and rivals. Those days were easily some of the best gaming days of my life.
In any event, I’ll never forget my fighting game days – especially when my Ken & Cyclops combo was unbeatable back in the days of X-Men vs Street Fighter in the arcades.