I’ve recently been trying to re-focus my blog to a more personal direction, writing creative non-fiction and tales from my childhood. Yet, the other “segments” I’ve created for my blog, such as Top Ten – still call to me. I feel like it’s time to do another.
As I was wondering what subject I should write about for this installment of Top Ten, the idea hit me like a massive Hadouken. I should totally do a Top Ten based around my love for fighting games.
I’ve always been a big fan of fighting games, though I was never good at them. Because the games usually focus only on fighting, a big chunk of the art direction goes into making the graphics as slick as possible. Show me a fighting game with bad graphics, and I just won’t play it.
Anyway, I’m going to take you on a tour of all of my favorite fighting games across different platforms I’ve used over the years. See if they match up with yours – and if you want to, feel free to drop your own list in the comments.
10. ETERNAL CHAMPIONS (1993 – Sega Genesis)
I was twelve years old in 1993 – and being that age, I was totally immersing myself in all of the cool video games and comic books of the time. Sega Genesis was my console of choice when Eternal Champions was released, and it stood out from other games like Mortal Kombat because it had a really cool (to me, anyway) roster of characters and some slick art direction. It also had a nifty and titillating MA-13 rating. One look at the characters on the cover had me hooked: The scary Slash; a caveman from 50,000 B.C. – The insanely-cool Blade; a bounty hunter from 2030 – The sexy Jetta; a circus performer from 1899 – And the mysterious Xavier; an alchemist from 1692. With a roster of characters straight out of the mind of a comic book artist, it was no wonder that the game captured my attention. Add to that the novel approach to storytelling (each character has already died in their normal lives and will be given a chance to change the outcome if they win the tournament) and my hormones, I stood no chance against the game and spent many a night wasting the time away, knocking around the other fighters until I couldn’t see straight.
09. FIGHTING VIPERS (1995 – Sega Saturn)
When I was fifteen years old, Fighting Vipers was released on Sega Saturn. However, I would not be able to play Sega Saturn until a few years after that, in high school, when my uncle purchased one from Blockbuster (he worked there at the time). I remember how excited I was to play the Saturn the day he said he was bringing it home – since it was new to me yet had existed for a number of years before then and I’d never thought I’d be able to play one of its games. Among the first few games we acquired for the system was Fighting Vipers. Having been a fan of Virtua Fighter, I found the game engine very similar and familiar, and I also really thought the characters were very cool at the time. They appealed to my teenage sensibilities and my emerging hormones (a recurring theme with me as I grew into adulthood) even as I was on the cusp of adulthood. Picky; a 14-year old skateboarding prodigy – Raxel; the lead singer and guitarist of a death metal band called ‘Death Crunch’ – and Candy; a teenage fashion student who entered the tournament in a fairy costume of her own creation to promote her own fashion line (?!?!?!) – these were all characters that spoke to me at the time. With that going for it, and with the similarities to Virtua Fighter, I was doomed to spend many a night playing the game and trying to master its secrets.
08. ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP (2000 – DREAMCAST)
If there’s anything you could (and still can) count on when it comes to my taste in fighting games, it’s mostly the amazing graphics and the interesting characters and the beautiful women. When I first picked up Ultimate Fighting Championship for my beloved Dreamcast (I miss that machine, damn it) – the only thing going for it at first for me was the amazing graphics. However, as I played it more and more, and began to pick up on the techniques each of the fighters possessed, I grew addicted to it. My brothers and I played the heck out of this, and one of my youngest brothers has even gone on to play every single sequel to this game that has come out in recent years. I almost didn’t want to include this game on my list, however, because unlike most of the other fighters here, this one is more “realistic” and not fantastical or featuring superheroes or ninjas or anything else. However, with UFC staples like “the iceman” Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Mark Coleman, and even Matt Hughes – among several others – there was no shortage of personalities to choose from. And along with the graphics and the very sophisticated-for-its-time controls, Ultimate Fighting Championship can be credited at least partially for the little talent I do possess with fighting games (though I still firmly maintain that I am terrible at them in general).
07. BUSHIDO BLADE (1997 – PS1)
Back in high school, most kids were obsessed with Final Fantasy VII. I mean, I was too – but there was another game that most of the kids who owned a PS1 (only known as Playstation back then) played incessantly – and that was Bushido Blade. From the moment I heard about it, I knew I needed to play it. The game’s mechanics are what drew me in – realistic (meaning basically one-hit kills, or being able to cripple your opponent with precision blows) battles in Japanese settings like a bamboo forest. Being able to take down your foes with one well-placed blow was very innovative at the time and that love of fighting game gimmicks has stuck with me since then. I’ll never forget the mysterious Red Shadow, the vengeful Kannuki, or the handful of other characters that made Bushido Blade so great and such a formative part of my fighting game journey. If you ask me, this game really needs a current-gen or next-gen update. The developers could do so much with it.
06. ULTIMATE MARVEL VS CAPCOM 3 (2011 – PS3)
If you know anything about me at all, you must know that I’m a huge nerd. I love comic books, I love video games (obviously) and I love crossovers. When DC and Marvel crossed over back in the 1990’s I pretty much flipped my lid, so it should come as no surprise that when the X-Men and Street Fighter first crossed paths, I played the hell out of X-Men VS Street Fighter, and then patiently waited for each of its sequels in later years – right up until the best in the series, Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3. This game really has it all, especially if you’re a super-nerd. You can have a team-up with Spider-Man and Strider. You can have Mega Man go toe-to-toe with Dr. Doom. The sky is the limit thanks to the sheer amount of characters available on both sides of the roster, which rested at 48 as far as I can remember. The sheer joy of being able to play your favorite Marvel characters alongside your favorite Capcom characters is overwhelming. The gameplay is frantic and chaotic, and the graphics make the gameplay look like you’re actually watching a cartoon (in a good way). The only reason this one isn’t higher on my list is that I just personally didn’t spend as much time with it as some of the other ones on here. There was that certain “something” missing for me which didn’t make me want to play it at all hours of the day.
05. KILLER INSTINCT (1995 – SNES)
If there was one game that dominated my time, and that of my siblings – it was Killer Instinct. What a great fighting game. We would sit for hours in the living room, each trying to outdo the other with being able to execute the C-C-COMBO BREAKERs or the UUUUUULLLLLTRAAAAAAAAAA – which were so satisfying to be able to do that we’d look around at each other with smug faces while the loser mashed buttons in frustration. In my mind, Killer Instinct graduated the majority of fighting-game players into a new world of high-flash and big payoff rewards to learning your preferred character’s every move. Fulgore; a prototype cybernetic soldier, was hands-down my favorite character, and I decimated the competition in our household every time I used him. However, other characters like the terrifying (but really cool) Spinal; an ancient skeleton soldier resurrected by Ultratech to fight in the tournament, and the sexy and mysterious Orchid; a government agent sent to disrupt the tournament and to expose Ultratech really helped to give me a break from playing just one character all the time. With the addition of finishing moves in the same vein as Mortal Kombat, there’s no question that this game offered a plethora of reasons to stick around and play.
04. MARVEL NEMESIS: RISE OF THE IMPERFECTS (2005 – PS2)
As I’ve already stated above, I love comic books. This game was the bread and butter of my life directly after getting out of college. With a dark storyline and a very dark artistic view of the Marvel characters (and the newer “Imperfects”) – this was a game that really changed my view on how I like more story involved in my fighting games. Sure, you can have a beat-em-up and not have a story to go along with it, and it will still be supremely playable – but the cinematic cutscenes and the dramatic story involved in Marvel Nemesis basically made me want more. From the slick character designs to the story elements that involve you fighting henchmen (which was the funnest part, to me) – you could control a whole slew of more well-known Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Storm, and Thing – but also some of the new “Imperfects” such as Johnny Ohm; an ex-criminal who gained electric powers via the electric chair in prison, or Solara; a woman who was granted alien crystals which give her powers similar to those of the Human Torch. Each of these fighters had a particular playstyle and powers, but the reason this wasn’t as high on my list as some of the others is due to the game’s difficulty and the AI of the computer opponents, which would spam the same attacks over and over again. Still, if you had a friend or a sibling to play with, the multiplayer was supremely enjoyable and I wish they’d do a current-gen or next-gen remake because I think the foundation for an amazing game was there all along.
03. DEF JAM: FIGHT FOR NY (2004 – PS2)
In the early 2000’s, hip-hop was king, and then EA came out with a surprise hit with Def Jam: Fight for NY. With a very cool character creation system, you could create a ballin’ hip-hop version of yourself to battle every rap or hip-hop god out there, including Fat Joe, Snoop Dogg, or Redman. And as an added bonus, your created gangster hero would also impress lots of pretty famous ladies like Lil’ Kim and Carmen Elektra – who would fight over you in skimpy outfits. The whole thing was pretty over-the-top, but it was very enjoyable and it had a killer soundtrack. In fact, I would play this game right now, today, if it were available. The art direction on this game was sort of cartoony, but it worked – and it felt like you were using action figures. The story mode was where this game really shined, however, and you could find me beating the game over and over again to unlock different outfits for my created character to become more badass – it was definitely a fantasy world. EA used to know what they were doing. What happened, EA?!
02. SOUL CALIBUR II (2002 – PS2)
Soul Calibur has always been one of my favorite fighting franchises, but none of the entries deserved to be on this list as much as Soul Calibur II. Some of the games in the series are better than others, but this one just had it all. Soul Calibur stands out among other fighting games in that it’s weapon-based combat VS some characters having weapons and other characters not having them. I dunno why, but I always thought that aspect was very unique and was just super neat – and the techniques each character possesses are true to how one would try to use the weapons in real life (though the characters in the game are sometimes superhuman so that is stretching it sometimes). The characters are from all over history and from other dimensions (one game even features Star Wars characters like Yoda, and this one features Nintendo’s Link) and as a result, the cast is usually pretty diverse and each character comes to life through their preferred method of combat. From Taki; the sleek ninja woman who uses two Japanese swords, to Ivy; the buxom and deadly English lady with a whip sword, to Maxi; a rogueish wandering pirate who wields nunchaku with the deadly accuracy and showmanship of Bruce Lee – there is nothing about this game that I do not like. Plus, Spawn was one of the guest characters. Who can top that?
01. DEAD OR ALIVE 5: LAST ROUND (2015 – PS4)
Over the entirety of my personal obsession with fighting games, I’ve come to know what I like about them. I like great graphics, I like some form of story, and I like the flash and the gimmicks that fighting games can offer. I also like interesting characters and the sex appeal some of them have. Gaming is a fantasy world, and I want my games to reflect that. I want to be able to live another life, a half-hour at a time. When I first played Dead or Alive in an arcade as a youth, watching the ridiculous, oversexed characters burst across the screen – it intrigued me enough to dig deeper. And within, I found a complex and rewarding fighting game system and world that I’ve stuck with on every console I could find the franchise on. You see, Dead or Alive doesn’t have the most coherent story all the time. Yet – there is enough of one that if you have played all of the previous games, it begins to make sense. The graphics are some of the best you’ll ever see in a game, let alone a fighting game, and the different features it has will keep you coming back for more even after you beat the main storyline. This game is NOT all about the large-chested women battling it out in skimpy outfits. If you want that and only that, there is an outlet for it (with the same characters, even) called Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball. No – if you give this game time, you will find that the combat system is highly intuitive and the characters all perform in extremely different ways. From the lithe and agile Kasumi, to the American professional wrestler Bass Armstrong, to the demon lady Nyotengu, and even the guest Virtua Fighter characters like Pai Chan or Akira Yuki – you will find endless reasons to come back to this game. Not only for unlocks and achievements, but also just to master the moves and keep upping your own personal fighting game skills. This game will likely remain my favorite fighting game for a long time to come.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Super Smash Bros. (N64), Darkstalkers 3 (PS1), Samurai Showdown (3DO), Mortal Kombat: Deception (PS2), Pit-Fighter (Arcade), Primal Rage (Sega Genesis), Tekken 3 (PS1), Virtua Fighter (Sega Saturn),