Fighting games have traditionally been only for the most dedicated players. From the beginning, fighting games have always used button combinations that require more skill than most video games. Skilled players have mastered complicated techniques that the majority of players will never understand or care to understand.
For a while, the fighting genre was stagnant with few new and noteworthy releases and no improvements being made. However, the last few years has seen an influx of quality fighting games that still provide the complex gameplay fans expect, but the games also include new features meant to make the games more accessible to new players.
As with any change, there are plenty of people who aren’t thrilled about simplifying the games, but after playing these games myself I am happy with where the genre is going.
Super Smash Bros. Simplified Fighting Controls
While other games have implemented more significant changes recently, the simplification of fighting games really began with Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64. Where Street Fighter 2 requires quarter-circle forward + punch to execute a special attack, Super Smash Bros. requires pushing only the b button to execute a basic special attack. Other special attacks are accessed using one direction and the b button. For example: up + b.
Furthermore, in Street Fighter 2 (and most other fighting games) all the characters have a completely different set of moves. While some characters will play similarly, they are all different and must be played differently. In Super Smash Bros, if you know how to do the special attacks with one character, then you know how to do them with every character.
To an experienced fighting game fan, pushing a direction and one button seems extremely simple, but it’s amazing (to me, an experienced fighting game fan) how many players cannot grasp that command. Certainly, with time all players will learn how to play correctly, but what if you aren’t going to be playing regularly? What if you play only one time?
Casual Fighting Games
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is the biggest new fighting game series (only new series?) to come out of the recent resurgence in fighting games. The game plays very similarly to other fighting games, but the developers also included shortcuts to use special moves. BlazBlue’s solution is to map four of the character’s special moves to the second analog stick on the XBOX360 or PS3 controller. The result is a system that makes amateurs capable of playing competitively with a more experienced player. They don’t have access to every special move in this way, but it’s easier to sit down and play the game for first time and have a chance at winning without practicing button combinations for hours in a special training mode.
BlazBlue also took the Super Smash Bros. system of special moves and applied it to each character. All of the characters have four abilities accessed on one button. You can press the button alone to activate a special move, and you can use it along with one direction (up, down, left/right) to activate others.
BlazBlue started a trend that is appearing more and more in fighting games, but unfortunately not many games have implemented it as seamlessly.
Simple Modes are Good for the Fighting Genre
The most dedicated players are never going to be happy that new players can play without learning, but in most cases the changes being made do not actually affect the “hardcore gameplay” the fighting genre is known for. Super Smash Bros. (particularly Super Smash Bros. Melee) has its own group of dedicated players who play competitively despite the series complete lack of button combinations.
In the end, this is all about having fun and when I’m playing these games with friends and family who do not play as regularly as I do it’s nice to actually have them fighting back instead of struggling to pull off a Hadouken or mashing buttons aimlessly.
The simple modes create new fans who otherwise would have been frustrated with the game and quit playing long before learning any button combinations. I think it’s great that fighting games have the amount of depth that they do, but it is way past time developers started focusing on easing the learn curve. I’m glad developers are finally making improvements to the genre.