Year: 2005 // Developer: Namco // Publisher: Namco // Also On: N/A
THE LEGEND OF TEKKEN’S FIRST LADY BEGINS HERE, the back of Death by Degrees‘ box proudly claims. And why not? Nina Williams was/is one of Tekken‘s most popular mainstays, and there was no reason why an action-based spin-off shouldn’t work when the Tekken team had previously ventured outside of the standard 1-v-1 fighting with the Tekken Force modes. Unfortunately, Nina’s solo adventure received poor to (at best) lukewarm review scores on release, and I even recall seeing Death by Degrees in a countdown of worst games for the PS2. I disagreed with these scores vehemently back in the day and, after revisiting the game in 2020, I can honestly say that I still enjoy this game.
Is it a misunderstood gem? No. There are loads of things about Death by Degrees that piss me off and were rightly criticised in period, but I feel that the good outweighs the crappy to enough of a degree (get it?) that I feel motivated to defend Namco’s Tekken spin-off.
By now, I’m sure you (and everybody else on the planet) has heard all about Sony’s upcoming Playstation Classic device, the “mini” set to capitalise on the popularity of similar products by Nintendo. I’m not going to go into massive detail on my thoughts because let’s face it: that’s already been done to death on the internet by countless people with greater influence and popularity than me – jus’ sayin’. All I will say is that I think the Playstation Classic will sell very well. The nostalgia boundaries have shifted over the last decade and whereas before it was Atari and Nintendo stuff that people wanted to go back to and revisit from their childhood, now it’s the time of 90’s systems such as the original Playstation.
Anyway, this is going to be a list of the fifteen titles that I would PERSONALLY put on the Playstation Classic (to complete the line-up of twenty) if it were to be tailor-made to me. This isn’t a list of the best games or the most marketable options but just a reflection of what I enjoyed the most on the original Playstation.
Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer
Honestly, this is a tough call because while most people say that Gateway to Glimmer (or Ripto’s Rage if you live in the US) is the best of the original trilogy, I have a massive love for the original game. In fact, the two are almost on par with one another but I have to give the edge to Spyro 2 simply for its greater depth and versatility. I never tire of revisiting this game either with my original PS1 copy or Vita download.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
The best of the original trilogy for numerous reasons. Challenging while not being as brutal as the original and slightly more ‘pure’ than Warped, Crash 2 is just right and like the Spyro games, the original style of graphics and the polish originally worked into them by Naughty Dog hasn’t aged badly at all.
Resident Evil 3 Nemesis
This one may be a bit controversial because the original game has the nostalgia factor and the sequel is widely touted as the best game of the series, so much so that a much-demanded full-on remake is at last happening. Resi 3 was not as well loved due to the abundance of ammo removing that resource management factor and also the apparent lack of scares compared to its forerunners. I say “apparent” because as far as I’m concerned, there WERE plenty of crap-your-pants moments. I also much preferred exploring the decimated city itself. Hopefully Nemesis gets a remake too in the future but until then, I’d love to see it on a Playstation Classic.
Final Fantasy VIII
FFVII lovers gon’ hate but they can suck it because FFVIII is better in my opinion. In fact, Final Fantasy VIII is my favourite game of all-time so it has to have a place on this list. Love the gameplay, love the characters, love the music – I love everything about it. Well, not the Malboro monsters and their evil “Bad Breath” attack but nobody likes those in any edition of FF.
I’ve spoken about Medievil here on the blog before, back when a remake was announced. Unlike the games above, this is a case of the original being nominated over sequels because while Medievil 2 carries some heavy nostalgia for me, a recent revisit proved to be frustrating and not as enjoyable as I recalled. The original however is absolute classic and while the gameplay itself is merely average, it’s the twisted gothic visuals, haunting music and the lore of Gallowmere itself that make the game so great. As with Spyro and Crash, I could happily play Medievil until doomsday and that’s why it needs to be on this list.
The Driver series has had some serious ups-and-downs over the years. The first two were highly enjoyable games while Driv3r (worst title for a game ever) tried to capitalise on the GTA craze and include on-foot shooting sections in addition to the titular driving. Unfortunately, it was an awful, glitchy mess that could have fatally torpedoed the franchise for good. Parallel Lines persisted with the on-foot bullshit (but was at least a far more polished game that WORKED) before the most recent installment – San Francisco – made Driver great again. Anyway, the original is a true classic that many like myself will remember fondly for the crazy ‘Take a Ride’ mode with its murderous cop cars and fantastic smashes. The less said about the opening parking lot level though, the better. Could the kids of today even be bothered to get through that?
I absolutely adore this 2D platformer. Full of humour and luscious design, it was the kind of game that made the mainstream death of 2D platforming titles seem all the more a tragedy. After all, the PS1 and Sega Saturn often showed us what was possible with more powerful hardware than the 16bits but when these games came along, nobody bought them. Tombi was – thankfully given a digital PSN re-release because otherwise, the only way to play the game would be to shell out on expensive, original copies. To have a Playstation Classic without this would be against the law in my opinion.
Tekken 3 is set to be on the actual Playstation Classic but while I do very much enjoy the third game in the series, it’s Tekken 2 that does it for me. Today it is a blocky, simplistic fighter compared to the current Tekkens but don’t be fooled because the gameplay here is utter gold. The Playstation version of the game ran at a super-smooth 60fps and the character roster was perfectly formed with many iconic faces. More importantly, the backdrops were beautiful in their simplicity and the music is easily the best of the series with tracks that suit each character’s personality to a T.
Ghost in the Shell
This is another hidden gem of sorts. Rather than playing as the iconic Major Motoko herself, the player pilots one of the Tachikoma spider tank things. You can walk up vertical surfaces, shooting down helicopters and taking out epic bosses. It’s just a really fun game that anybody can enjoy regardless of how much they know about Ghost in the Shell. The game is challenging enough but also immensely satisfying largely in part to the versatility of your vehicle. I’m not sure about the US version of the game but the PAL edition is relatively uncommon and commands a small premium. I own a Japanese copy that I managed to complete (thanks to English-language menus) but I’d certainly be up for playing through it again with the pleasure of having the English VA for the story cutscenes.
Ray Tracers is the result of the following formula: Chase HQ + anime characters + 90’s arcade racing games and it’s as good as it sounds. The game is quite short but challenging during the later stages to make up for it. I really enjoyed the 90’s arcade feel to the game with the music and handling of the cars and Ray Tracers just has that general pick-up-and-play goodness going on so it would be a perfect companion to the longer time sinks on a Playstation Classic device.
Rarely has a developer deviated from their safe zone which such amazing results. Einhander was the result of Squaresoft taking a break from JRPG’s and randomly releasing their first and last shoot ’em up. And what a shmup it is. I’d heard all of the hype over Einhander for years and was ready for an OVERhyped experience when I got hold of a Japanese import but the game is simply amazing. The futuristic setting is very nicely rendered, the bosses are epic and being able to switch between two different stored power-ups is immensely satisfying.
Toca Touring Cars 2
I may be a bit biased here since Toca 2 perfectly captured my favourite era of the British Touring Car Championship, now looked back on as the “Super Touring” era. The game itself is a fantastic racer though with an incredible amount of polish that really proved why Codemasters had the reputation they did. I would actually take this over Gran Turismo so it’s a shame that the real Playstation Classic’s pads don’t come with analogue sticks…
Kula World (also known as “Roll Away” in other territories) was a prime example of creative thinking in an era that many bemoan due to a flood of identikit games and the birth of overly-cinematic gaming. The game is minimalistic but doesn’t need fancy backgrounds or super-duper graphics. What you get is a fiendish puzzler that starts off easy before gradually morphing into a brain-taxing experience that will have you tearing your hair out. There are a 100 levels in Kula World and I only managed to get to 60-something before throwing in the towel. That said, I can’t resist another go.
Another game with multiple names. In Japan, this was called Space Invaders X. Outside of Japan, it came with the rather more generic title of “Space Invaders“. This was a remake of sorts, not produced by Taito this time due to some sort of licensing deal which saw multiple 70’s/80’s arcade classics revamped for the Playstation era by Activision. Anyway, I really enjoy this game in either single player or co-op. There are some awesome power-ups (acquired by destroying four of the same colour invader in a chain) and massive bosses to test your reflexes. The game doesn’t get a lot of love (it doesn’t seem to be liked that much by the Space Invaders faithful) but I’ve always got a real kick out of playing it.
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
Crash and Spyro may get the lion’s share of the plaudits when it comes to PS1 platforming but for me, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos was right up there with the big hitters from Naughty Dog and Insomniac. Like those other, more popular platformers, Croc‘s 3D visuals adopted a more cartoonish approach and have aged similarly well with outdated textures and the like not being overly distracting in 2018. The game was actually quite challenging as well, especially if you were going for 100% completion and finding all of secrets. I rate Croc highly and would love to see it get a second chance.
So those are my picks. Of the five games that Sony have already confirmed for the Classic, I have to say that I am pretty interested in Wild Arms since it was an RPG I didn’t play and an original copy sells for anywhere between £20-£40 here in the UK at the time of writing this. Ridge Racer Type 4 is a solid racer with a meaty career mode and Final Fantasy VII is also an amazing game, albeit one that has been re-released a bit too much in recent years so its inclusion on the Classic is decidedly less-than-special. Tekken 3 is one of the high points of the fighting game genre (I just prefer Tekken 2) and Jumping Flash…well, it’s a well-known Playstation game but has it aged well?
Obviously this list could have been 2-3 times longer and there would still be many popular games/series’ I didn’t get around to on the PS1 that I’m sure would make the cut on other gamers’ wishlists.
What would you have chosen? Feel free to let me know in the comments!
It’s well past time that I published this third and final part of my look at the fighting game’s “Golden Age” but, well…life/shit happens and I’ve been a bit lacking when it comes to those all-important creative juices. With that said, I’m back now so I apologise to anybody who has been waiting for Pt.3 but here it is – at last. So far in parts one and two, I have declared that the genre was at its peak from 1991-2000/01 and have discussed the reasons (as I see them) for its eventual, disappointing downfall. All things have to come to an end after all but worry not for Part 3 of this mini-series will focus on the happy stuff, namely what made this point in time so bloody fantastic for fans of fighting games…
A decade of innovation
It would be an outright lie to say that modern-day fighting games don’t bring new ideas to the table but it’s a stone-cold fact that the majority of genre staples and general mechanics (that are now taken for granted) were introduced throughout the 90’s and thus is was a very exciting time to be a player of fighting games. What we tend to see in modern fighting games by contrast are refinements, gimmicks (not necessarily always a bad thing) and attempts to be as flashy as possible.
Street Fighter II kicked things off in ’91 and while I have previously said that SFII cannot take any credit for being the original one-on-one fighting game (a statement I stand by), it certainly created a template that is still in use today. Best-of-three, special move inputs (now commonly used across the majority of fighting games), play styles (grappler, charge, projectile etc.) and character archtypes were all either born or made mainstream with SFII. SNK’s Art of Fighting would introduce ‘Super’ moves to the genre (before Super Street Fighter II Turbo popularised them) and Capcom’s other fighting game, Darkstalkers, debuted air-blocking. It’s actually astonishing that for all the visual and mechanical evolution of fighting games, Street Fighter II is still running in the background.
The next important innovation was already happening at the very same time that Street Fighter was dominating the scene however. Sega released Virtua Fighter in 1993, creating the first 3D fighting game. Comical moon-jumps aside, VF also championed more realistic fighting styles as opposed to the pyrotechnical wizardry and unlikely gymnastic feats of Street Fighter and began to carve out a niche of its own that would see major fruition with Virtua Fighter 2, a sequel widely regarded as one of the all-time greats within the genre. The likes of Tekken and Dead or Alive would follow (and overtake Virtua Fighter in terms of popularity) but Sega had got there first and created the genre’s second ‘main’ style.
So many smaller innovations were happening at the same time however. Fatal Fury experimented with plane-swapping, The King of Fighters brought team battles to the mix and Capcom’s Vs series would kick off the concept of crossovers between more than one company. Namco’s Soulblade (or Souledge in other territories) gave us weapons-based fighting while developers also experimented with taking fighting games into a more arena-based environment with the likes of Capcom’s Powerstone and Taito’s Psychic Force. Meanwhile, Super Street Fighter II XFor Matching Service and Vampire Chronicle For Matching Service were quietly introducing online play to Japanese console gamers via their Dreamcast modems.
Obviously you can point out that it’s unfair to criticise modern fighting games for their lack of innovation due to the fact that there is only so much you can do with the genre and so the 1990’s would always boast the bulk of new, core mechanics. Regardless, the 90’s has to be remembered with greater fondness for this period of rapid evolution.
Art that blew us away
Outside of the technical stuff, this was THE most incredible period in terms of artistry for fighting games. Hand-drawn backgrounds and sprites were often beautiful to behold with the absolute zenith emerging towards the latter part of the decade. The likes of Street Fighter III, Vampire Saviour, The Last Blade 2, Marvel Vs Capcom and Arc’s Guilty Gear series boasted gorgeous 2D sprites that were a joy to behold and it was fascinating to imagine how many hours of painstaking work and skill we were witnessing on our screens. Today, the same developers behind these games are using 2.5d character models and ‘2D’ characters that are actually layered over polygons as well as cinematic super move animations with multiple camera angles. All of this is far from offensive and does actually look pretty nice but it simply cannot awe in the way that fully hand-drawn characters once did.
Backgrounds and backdrops were just as mind-blowing with the very best featuring ridiculous levels of detail and – in the case of larger crossover games – lots of hidden easter eggs and cameos to pick out. These were often more impressive than the characters themselves and even earlier 3D fighting games featured some lovely, static backdrops that were appealing in their simplicity without needing to rely on distracting background action. Below is a small selection to illustrate what I mean because art speaks for itself…
And thisamazing, transitional stage from The King of Fighters ’99 that never fails to blow me away…
This is just the tip of a very large iceberg and if you (like me) have spent countless hours exploring the full spectrum of fighting games from this era of hand-drawn artistry, you will very likely have your own nominations and personal definition of the term ‘impressive’. Given the vast quantity of fighting games that were produced in the 90’s, there is so much to see and many, many hidden gems when it comes to stunning backgrounds.
Sounds good to me
Of course, tight gameplay and pretty aesthetics need suitably good audio to match and this golden age of fighting games just so happened to represent developer sound teams at the peak of their powers. Modern fighting games tend to have very orchestral ‘epic’ soundtracks, pulse-pounding techno or mixes of older themes. The former work within the game(s) and are of good quality but are usually not that memorable. The latter – to me at least – demonstrates a distinct lack of confidence on the part of the developers when it comes to composing original, catchy themes that will be remembered in years to come.
Fighting game music from the 90’s though? It stuck in your head and is the kind of stuff that gamers flock to Youtube to listen to again all these years later. Importing expensive soundtrack CD’s from Japan is WORTH it for these OST’s. This was also an era when console ports of arcade fighting games such as Virtua Fighter, King of Fighters ’96 and the Playstation Tekken trilogy featured arranged versions of the entire soundtracks that took advantage of the CD medium. Clear effort was put into re-arranging soundtracks and catchy arcade riffs suddenly gained transitions, extra layers of instrumentation and more depth in general. The best part was that BOTH the arcade and home arrangements were usually worth listening to and I can’t have been the only one who regularly switched them about in the options menus!
There are literally hundreds of amazing tracks to choose from so below are (Youtube) links to just 10 of my favourites from the era.
Those are just a fraction of my favourites and if I’m being honest, I feel that the list does a major disservice to some of the more obscure fighting games of the era as well as some of the major ones but I could genuinely sit here linking away forever to what I consider to be amazing pieces of music.
Heart and Soul
All of this – the innovation, art, music – are however, all mere ingredients that come together to form the biggest characteristic of the fighting game genre in ’91-00/01 that gives it the Golden Age status. That characteristic is SOUL. This was an era when developers were battling to outdo one another at a terrific pace, developing bigger and better arcade boards, fighting fire with fire and racing to be the first to introduce their new innovations to the market. Capcom and SNK slugged it out for the decade (before the incredible Capcom Vs SNK series paid tribute to their war), 3D fighting games evolved at a great pace and bigger and bolder sprites vied for our attention on a constant basis.
When the dust settled though, it was us – the fans – that were the real winners. Fighting games during this period felt like more than just simple money-making products (which they obviously were intended to be). They felt alive and you could feel how the developers had put so much creativity and artistry into trying to make the best possible product, pushing the available hardware to the limits and beyond (see the necessary RAM expansion cartridges for Sega Saturn ports of several Capcom and SNK games). The graphics, sound and even conceptual character artwork just kept getting better and better as each year passed and it was a real treat to behold.
Modern fighting games are still very enjoyable but there is a lot of focus on the almost clinical tournament play (as it is streamed over the internet as en E-Sport), online play and DLC. The creativity is still there but computer modelled characters and environments simply cannot stop the heart in the same way that hand-drawn animation once did. There is also so much recycling and updating of old music and stages from the past with an over-reliance on the glory days. True, fans don’t help this matter at times when they demand to see throwbacks in order to feel comfortable with a new generation of their favourite series but even so, the current fighting game scene certainly doesn’t feel innovative or aesthetically special (rare exceptions aside of course).
Taking one final, quick look at the stages and music for example, it felt like developers created these specifically to describe the characters that they belonged to, conveying their personalities wordlessly through the tone of the music and themes of the stages. Things are a lot more generic today by contrast.
This was actually a difficult topic to tackle because rose-tinted vision is a very real threat and we – as humans – love to tell the next generation how the old days were better (before they themselves do the same to another younger generation, despite believing that they won’t!). On the subject of fighting games however, I do genuinely believe that 1991 through to around 2000/2001 was the defining Golden Age for the genre. It was when fighting games had the most soul and a capacity to thrill with their visuals and move the heart with their sound. It was the birth of countless icons and still the place for superb gameplay.
And that concludes my three-part look at why I believe this was the one, true Golden Age of fighting games. I’d love to hear what others think!
The last two generations of home consoles have hosted a major resurgence in the fighting game genre. Widely credited to success of the original Street Fighter IV (before it was updated twenty billion times at the last rough estimate), developers began dusting off their old franchises again and arcades in Japan were treated to a new slew of 2D and anime-styled fighters, many of which managed to reach us here in the West. Of course, the genre never completely died out; it just lost a lot of popularity. The likes of Tekken, Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive quietly soldiered on and were played by the genre faithful but gamers were more interested in open-world adventuring, sports games and online shooters.
SFIV represented Capcom finally deciding to quit it with the ports and re-releases and invest serious money into a brand-new installment. It was a very well-received game that revived a genre. Rival series’ that had never really gone away received more exposure and new franchises such as Blazblue exploded onto the scene. Mortal Kombat and Guilty Gear became big names again and we were treated to all manner of quirky, interesting fighters such as Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth and Tatsunoko Vs Capcom. As I type this today, Arika have just returned to the fray with Fighting EX Layer, Blade Strangers is on the horizon and a Dragonball fighting game has become a serious tournament contender. It’s a great time to be a fan of fighting games and yet, this is no “Golden Age” because that time has already been and passed.
That “Golden Age” – in my opinion – began in 1991 with the release of Street Fighter II (the game that all 2D fighting games still owe their basic templates to) and ended around 2000/2001 with Capcom Vs SNK 2 and Marvel Vs Capcom 2 – a duo of games that represented a culmination of a decade of advances in presentation, gameplay and crossover spectacle. I might look like I’m giving Capcom too much credit here by only citing their games but it’s simply a fact that some of their greatest and most popular creations bookend this fantastic era. Before discussing why I believe this ’91-’01 period to be the undisputed Golden Age of fighting games, I want to talk about the three main reasons that I believe were responsible for its eventual death.
The decline of the arcades
Capcom pulling out of developing original titles/new sequels
The bankruptcy of the original SNK
Again, it really isn’t my intention to downplay the likes of Namco who side-stepped all of this and continued to keep Tekken in the public eye but I simply see Capcom as a bigger driving force in the genre who – when they get the attention of gamers – can help lift up everybody else along the way.
The Decline of Arcades
As the 90’s progressed, home console gaming grew in its power to impress consumers with the Playstation, N64 and Sega Saturn all offering cutting-edge 3D visuals which look hideously dated today in many cases but were mindblowing coming off the back of what the SNES, Mega Drive and other lesser competitors had been able to offer. PC gaming was continuing to gather serious steam with graphics that outstripped consoles (if you had the money to invest in the right upgrades for your tower) and that all-important online play. One ultimate side effect of this mighty technological push was that chasing perfect home conversions of arcade games suddenly seemed redundant when superior, more in-depth experiences could be had with original software on home consoles. Gamers wanted the story-driven style of gaming and genres that the arcades couldn’t offer due to their quick-play nature and so the arcades had their days numbered.
No longer was it the case that you had to hit up your local amusements or city centre arcade to gape in awe at the best graphics, smoothest animation and booming audio. Why would you when Ocarina of Time could deliver a vast, detailed game world? Gran Turismo offered hundreds of detailed real-world vehicles and circuits while Final Fantasy‘s CG segments were like movies except they came with monstrous amounts of gameplay unlike the old FMV “movie” experiments of the early 90’s. Gaming was evolving and it was no longer important to debate over which system could provide the most accurate home version of an arcade fighting game.
The irony however was that despite the pressures placed upon the arcade arena, some of the greatest and most memorable of fighting games were released during this period, a golden age of creativity that paradoxically took place while its traditional host environment received a slew of super moves to the face from the home console market. It wasn’t KO time yet but the writing was clearly on the wall. After all, new, increasingly powerful arcade technology cost a lot of money to develop and manufacture, a practice that made decreasing financial sense when a publisher could make easier profits on shipping thousands of copies of their game on a CD for home consoles.
Home conversions of the great games of this era still happened but the dedicated fighting game fan had to go to greater lengths to acquire the optimal versions of the arcade games they wanted in their home. Capcom’s games for example were usually severely compromised to function on the market-leading Playstation (due to a lack of video RAM) so if you wanted to play the likes of Marvel Superheroes Vs Street Fighter or Vampire Saviour as intended then you had to have a Sega Saturn capable of playing Japanese imports and the RAM expansion cartridge. To a fanatic of the genre, this was probably not a great deal but it pushed fighting games a little further from the mainstream compared to the SNES days when anybody could walk into a shop and purchase Street Fighter II.
It was at this point that the popularity within the genre mirrored the trend of 3D being more interesting than 2D with Namco’s Tekken proving extremely popular. Tekken was an arcade game but the name quickly became associated with the extremely accurate Playstation conversions and many consumers weren’t even aware of where each installment originated from. A further interesting fact is that the first three Tekken games + Tekken Tag Tournament all ran on Namco’s System 11 (Tekken, Tekken 2) and System 12 (Tekken 3,Tag) arcade technology which was very closely linked to the Playstation. System 11 in particular was essentially a Playstation except that it used surface-mounted ROM chips to store game data whereas the Playstation obviously had CD-Rom storage.
Numerous imitations emerged while Namco struck gold again by innovating with their weapons-based SoulEdge (known as SoulBlade in the West) and following it up with the massively popular SoulCalibur. Truly, it was the 3D fighting games that made perfect sense at home which were leading the way now. Conversions of 2D fighting game giants such as Third Strike and The King of Fighters were relegated to less successful consoles such as Sega’s short-lived Dreamcast with more and more games becoming import-only affairs denied to Europe and sometimes the US as well. The genre was not dead but it was evolving and the likes of Tekken and SoulCalibur would soon become more synomonous with home consoles than arcades (SoulCalibur III for instance was developed for the Playstation 2 first and then converted back to the arcades for a limited release).
Home technology also allowed for some franchises to find a second wind. Mortal Kombat for instance was able to ramp up the detail in it’s gory gameplay and spawn several spin-off games that – while not fantastic – sold pretty well and played to the strengths of the third dimension. Bloody Roar showed off flashy beastial transformations and Dead or Alive jiggled it’s way into the public conscious, taking advantage of the increasing processing power to animate its sexy females. True, many of these games had arcade releases first but they were difficult to distinguish from their home conversions unless you had a trained eye and it was the latter editions that the majority of consumers cared about.
Arcades are still around today and didn’t ever truly die out but it is an unavoidable fact that they are a mere shadow of their former selves, dominated by claw machines and flashy lightgun games that are brutal in their cynical game design, impossible to complete unless you feed the machine a steady flow of coins. Some fighting games still begin in the arcades (such as Tekken) but this is predominately in Japan, the homeland and last bastion of “proper” arcades (or Game Centers as they are known natively). The home console releases and profit-spinning DLC strategies are the top priorities now.
Some developers simply didn’t move with the times and the result was sub-standard home console sequels to their franchises or doomed experiments in the newly-dominant 3D realm such as Capcom’s cancelled Capcom Fighting Evolution. Other arcade stalwarts simply faded from popularity or mainstream relevance as home consoles nurtured new tastes in genres with RPG’s, driving games, FPS’s, huge open-world games and online gaming taking the place of established favourites including the fighting game.
Come back soon for Part 2 where I will discuss Capcom’s withdrawl from the scene, SNK’s downfall and why ’91 to ’01 was the definitive golden age of fighting games.
Contrary to the fact that I’m not posting on here every day, I do actually have a lot of things to say and various topics/reviews semi-written in my mind (just not physically typed-up where it matters…) so it’s a shame that life just loves to get in the way. Anyway, today I have found some time…time to plunge my arm into that insane melting pot of thoughts that is my mind and retrieve this topic centred on Femme Fatales in videogames. Or “Why I find dangerous, psychotic videogame girls sexy”. Yeah, that didn’t sound so great as the official title hence why I didn’t go with it.
So, what is it about femme fatales that I like so much? Well, I’m probably not alone in saying that I find strong women attractive and as much as I will unashamedly confess to having fun with pretty bimbo types in the likes of Dead or Alive Xtreme, I much prefer a strong lead female with a well-written personality/backstory. That’s the normal part. The not-so-normal part is that I find the psychotic, killer archtype pretty damn attractive as well when it comes to videogames (and books and movies too for that matter). Maybe it isn’t so strange though given how many guys seem to get some serious wood over DC’s Harley Quinn?
As well as attractive, I just consider the really bad girls to be straight-up cool and interesting. To better illustrate my point, I’ve compiled a shortlist of some of my favourite femme fatales who immediately spring to mind…
Tira (Soul Calibur III)
Let me begin by saying that Soul Calibur‘s most attractive lady is – without any doubt – Sophitia for her Greek Goddess-like charms and I will always ‘main’ her in any SC installment or at least her style via custom-created characters (the less said about her absence in SCV and poor replacement in the form of her daughter, the better). When Tira was introduced in Soul Calibur III however, I took an immediate liking to her. The blue hair was very out-of-place in the game but otherwise, I really dug her sexy green rags, feathers and pet raven. Most importantly though, her fighting style was new and unique and actually utilised her loopy personality with multiple stances accompanied by visible mood swings for the character. Tira is nuts and loves killing in an excitable child-like way that really does remind my of Harley Quinn. A really fun character that I am pleased to see appear in every installment since her debut.
Jane Doe (Devil’s Third)
Devil’s Third for the Wii-U is no classic. It was in fact, a pretty poor game in my opinion that could (and should) have been something rather more special but the end product was a generic third-person action game full of the cheap crap that should have been left behind years ago in videogames such as invisible walls, inconsistent difficulty spikes and painful linearity. There were a few good elements though and some interesting characters (that were pretty much wasted by being in this game) such as Jane Doe, one of the toughest bosses in the game. A voluptuous Spanish beauty clad in a traditional Japanese kimono (when you first meet her in the game), she soon ditches the far eastern garb for…sexy lingerie and a massive rifle?!? Yep, she’s a bit of a mish-mash of things but all you need to know is that Jane has killer curves and equally dangerous attacks. Fight from a distance and she will try to gun you down but get up close and personal and try to dance toe-to-toe with her? Yeah, you will probably die…a lot. She has several kinky moves involving choking Ivan with her thighs or trying to break his neck while making suggestive groaning noises. If this kind of thing turns you on then repeatedly falling foul of her cheap one-shot kills may not be a terrible thing.
Bad Girl (No More Heroes)
Surely a cute blonde in a Little Bo Peep get-up can’t be that dangerous, right? Wrong. The original No More Heroes was one of a slew of games for the Wii that dared to ignore the trend for family-friendly software on Nintendo’s crazy successful lil’ white box and us gamer’s loved Suda51 for it. The sequel is arguably the better and more streamlined game but the original is worth playing, even if it’s just for Bad Girl. That sweet, butter-wouldn’t-melt image is quickly discarded as Bad Girl reveals herself to be a foul-mouthed, beer-chugging psychopath with an unpredictable personality and a love for beating bound/gagged male gimps to death with her trusty baseball bat. It’s the kind of madness that can only come from somebody like Suda51 and Travis Touchdown’s encounter with this crazy lady is as memorable as it is fucked-up. Is it wrong to be just a little bit turned-on by Bad Girl’s insanity?
Selvaria Bles (Valkyria Chronicles)
Now for character that has partially been ruined on the internet by exaggerated fan art: Selvaria Bles from Sega’s most excellent Valkyria Chronicles for PS3. This is a game that I cannot praise enough and while the sequels are an acquired taste for the truly devoted, the original is an outstanding tactical RPG that was a true breath of fresh air upon release, both in terms of gameplay and world design. The character of Selvaria was one of the best things about the game in my humble opinion. One of the opposing armies’ main generals, Selvaria wields the ancient power of the Valkyrur and is a feared force known to all. On the battlefield she is practically invincible and can destroy tanks with a single shot from her huge energy lance. There is a particular chapter in the game where Selvaria suddenly rocks up midway through the battle and proceeds to utterly demolish a player who foolishly believes that they can actually take her out like any other enemy boss. All you can do is frantically hide and attempt to complete the mission without Selvaria slaughtering all of your units. Valkyria Chronicles’ superb storytelling comes to fore when it initially portrays Selvaria to be a cold, merciless warrior but in reality she is simply being used by Maximillion, loyalty and love for her leader exploited so that he may wield her power in the Europan war. The DLC chapter titled Behind Her Blue Flame is particularly touching as Selvaria is revealed to be warm and caring towards your nameless engineer character. It’s a small bit of quality writing that shows that even the enemy is human and not necessarily evil.
Selvaria makes this list for being a great character in general, a fearsome/memorable enemy boss and a rare example of a female character designed to be attractive but also strong and succeeding on both counts.
Ayane (Dead or Alive)
I suppose when talking about femme fatales, I should be talking about “bad” girls and – as already mentioned – sexy nutcases but Kasumi’s half-sister from Dead or Alive isn’t really either of those things. She’s cocky and arrogant as a character but not an evil/bad person yet I suppose I will say that she leans more in that direction just to get Ayane on a list of some kind – she’s a bad girl at the least in some sense. Whenever I play Dead or Alive, I always ‘main’ Ayane because I love her speed, agility and the way that you maintain a distance from your opponent and punish them when they close in. Of course, it helps a ton that Team Ninja have always made her aesthetically pleasing on the eye and while most fanboys prefer Kasumi, I prefer her purple-haired nemesis for some reason. Surely it couldn’t be because Ayane is one of the most top-heavy of the DOA girls? No (what do you take me for?)…she’s just a cool girl in a cool fighting game. And she’s a ninja – everybody loves ninjas.
Nina Williams (Tekken)
There aren’t may Irish characters in videogames and even less female Irish assassins so Tekken‘s Nina Williams pretty much has the niche to herself although there’s nothing particularly Irish about her, especially with respect to her voice-actress who is…er…not very Irish. This blonde bombshell was clearly Namco’s version of Virtua Fighter‘s Sarah Bryant back in 1994 when the original Tekken was released into arcades and (more importantly) the Playstation. A cool-headed assassin with top-tier combos and a selection of bone-snapping holds, Nina may look like a sexy model but she’s utterly bad-ass and calculating as per her assassin occupation. I’ve always mained Nina in Tekken (after Kazuya) and love her combos plus her variety of special ops-inspired outfits. I even have a soft spot for her solo PS2 game, Death By Degrees, despite the majority of people agreeing that it’s a poor game (possibly something I can properly re-visit and speak about in the future). Also, you have to admire Namco’s way of keeping Nina youthful between Tekken 2 and 3‘s large time lapse by explaining that she’d been placed in cryogenic storage. We certainly weren’t complaining.
There are undoubtedly more great examples of femme fatales that I have forgotten about and countless more from games that I haven’t even played so what do you think? Do you also have a little something for the wackier ladies in gaming? Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Let me know!
Recently I posted about the elusive Tekken X Street Fighter and how the inclusion of Street Fighter‘s Akuma in Tekken 7 made me wonder whether the mysterious crossover might actually arrive in the form of a DLC expansion pack for Tekken 7. Well, my theory was blown out of the water when Namco announced SNK’s Geese Howard as a DLC fighter and then utterly nuked after the no-way-you-saw-that-a-coming unveiling of a Final Fantasy XV character (WTF?) as the next guest fighter.
It did at least get me thinking though (not always a good thing, I assure you) about just how many random characters from other non-Namco properties will drop in for the seventh King of Iron Fist Tournament. Naturally, they will probably be characters from high-profile and very relevant franchises but me being me, I just had to come up with a list of dream guest characters. A few things to note before I jump in though:
This list is just my opinion and includes characters I personally like.
As tempting as it was, I have tried to omit anybody with weapons. It would be nice to say “oh, wouldn’t it be awesome if Sephiroth was in Tekken 7?” but 200 mile-long katanas don’t make for a very fair or believable fight. Admittedly, this is when talking about a game from a publisher who once gave the green-light for lightsabers to clash with regular steel in Soul Calibur IV but we’ll pretend that never happened.
I don’t actually believe any of these will happen but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fantasy, is there?
So…here we go!
1 – Zell Dincht (Final Fantasy VIII)
So there’s already a Final Fantasy character in Tekken 7 but for me, a having a sword at a fist fight just isn’t correct. Okay, Yoshimitsu carries one but a) he’s a classic and b) he at least doesn’t use it for the majority of his attacks. Anyway, Final Fantasy has no shortage of hand-to-hand brawlers who could leap in to duke it out with Kazuya and co. From FFII‘s Josef to FFVII‘s Tifa Lockheart, there are more choices than you may realise given how the series is synomonous with sword-wielding characters. My personal favourite however (and I may be biased given how FFVIII is my favourite game of all-time) is Zell Dincht. He has a cool look that I think would fit straight into Tekken and his limit break specials could provide inspiration for a lot of cool moves/combos. As currently relevant as Noctis? Not a chance. Cooler? Hell yes.
2 – Mila (Dead or Alive 5)
Dead or Alive is certainly more relevant now than it has been for a long time and with DoA5, Team Ninja finally made a game that offered all of the playful perviness that the series is famous for along with an extremely competent and skillful fighting game. DoA5 itself has had some guest characters, including SNK’s Mai Shiranui, so it would be no surprise if one of their own managed to venture into another fighting game. I could opt to nominate somebody super-popular such as Ryu Hayabusa or ask for Tekken 7 to get a bit boobier with the likes of Kasumi or Ayane but instead, I would suggest one of DoA5‘s newcomers – Mila. With Mila, Team Ninja created another attractive female but this time made her cool and tomboyish with a bad-ass, heavy-hitting MMA style of fighting that was a welcome breath of fresh air from the usual ninja antics. Off the top of my head, I don’t recall Tekken having too many (if any) heavy-hitting girls so why not give Mila a shot?
3 – Zero Suit Samus (Metroid)
You’ll have to hear me out on this one because I can hear your thoughts now: “oh look, what a surprise, he’s going for more tits and blonde hair in Tekken“. I admit it: having another slinky blonde in Tekken complete with a skintight bodysuit would not be something that I’d protest too hard about but moreover, I was trying to think of a fitting i.e. realistic bit of Nintendo representation that would make sense in Tekken and Samus in her Zero Suit form was – in my mind – the most suitable (get it? I’ll get my coat…). I did consider having Samus in her famous power suit (because DoA4 included a Spartan soldier from Halo after all) but it seemed out of place and besides, she only really uses her arm cannon when suited-up and guns seemed as rude as swords. If you’ve seen ZSS in action over in Smash Bros. however then you will know that she can kick some serious ass even when stripped of her traditional armoury. Those particular moves wouldn’t necessarily translate well to Tekken but the potential is there as is the sales potential, especially if a Switch port of Tekken 7 was to include ZSS as an exclusive guest…
4 – Gene (God Hand)
The first of one of my more “out there” selections but why not? Wouldn’t it be nice for one of the most unique and quirky 3D beat ’em ups ever made to get some more exposure? God Hand was one of those truly special games that the mainstream simply didn’t go for but if – like me – you did play it, the humour, bizarreness and outright challenge (it was balls-hard in many places) were unforgettable. I think protagonist Gene would be a perfect fit in a fighting game since God Hand featured a ridiculous number of moves and combos which would easily translate to a traditional fighter. Also, I think it’s such a waste that Capcom haven’t included Gene in a Marvel Vs Capcom installment by now.
5 – Honey (Fighting Vipers)
We’re heading into the lands of the more obscure now but old-school fans of fighting games shouldn’t fail to recognise this rubber-suited girl from Sega’s Fighting Vipers, a short-lived mid-90’s series that had only two games plus the crossover with other Sega/AM2 characters, Fighters’ Megamix. The game was a 3D polygon-based fighter released at a time when everybody was jumping on the train that Virtua Fighter and Tekken had started. It was actually decent though, held back by the fact that the Sega Saturn would be the destination for a home conversion and thus the game wouldn’t receive as much exposure as if it had been a third-party Playstation release. I personally really like Fighting Vipers and would LOVE a new Fighters Megamix mash-up from Sega but failing that, some form of modern representation of the characters would do. Honey (named “Candy” for PAL versions of the game) is a girl dressed in a homemade rubber fairy suit and is probably one of the game’s more notorious characters. I don’t think it would take too much to update her moveset and expand on it for the modern fighting game arena plus an outfit refresh would be sweet to see. Characters like Lucky Chloe prove that Namco aren’t averse to inluding quirky girls in their flagship fighting game so as strange as it may seem, I reckon Honey would fit right in.
6 – Akira Yuki (Virtua Fighter)
You can’t have guest characters from other fighting games without having the main man of the 3D fighting game granddaddy, Virtua Fighter. A simple but highly effective design (just like Street Fighter‘s Ryu), Akira is an icon in the fighting game field. Interestingly, he has already recently crossed-over into Dead or Alive 5 and the more niche 2D fighter, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax so there’s absolutely no reason why he wouldn’t be able to slot straight into Tekken and show everybody how it was done back when characters looked like collections of cuboids and jumps took them to the moon.
7 – Rainbow Mika (Street Fighter)
Some more heavy bias here I’m afraid because Rainbow Mika is one of my favourite characters from any fighting game BUT there is at least a sound reason for her potential inclusion in Tekken 7, that reason being that Namco created their own female wrestler for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and then neglected to bring her back for Tekken 7. True, Jaycee is an alter ego of Julia Chang but the latter isn’t even in Tekken 7 so it’s odd that Namco didn’t include Jaycee. Whatever the reasons, it means that there is room for a female wrestler so if this crossover thing is on then how about the bootylicious R.Mika? She would bring some bad-ass Street Fighter V moves to the table and Namco would no doubt cook up plenty more interesting plays for her. Make it happen. NOW.
8 – Axel Stone (Streets of Rage)
Sega’s Streets of Rage could well be one of the most requested series revivals in gaming and while I can’t see it ever happening (nor would I necessarily want it to knowing what re-imaginings can be like…), it would be nice to see some of the favourite brawlers return. It was a toss-up here for Axel or Blaze but with enough pretty ladies already on this list, I decided to elect for Axel instead. The small bit of hope out there is that Axel recently appeared as a support character in the superb Project X Zone 2 crossover RPG for 3DS so there’s proof that Sega haven’t completely forgotten about their famous beat ’em series. Sure, his design is a little simplistic and his moveset pretty straightforward (as you’d expect from a side-scrolling beat ’em up) but these are things Namco could easily sort out.
9 – Kazuma Kiryu (Yakuza)
The only major barrier I see for this is that Yakuza‘s legendary protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, looks a hell of a lot like a certain Kazuya Mishima and even has a vaguely similar name! I even created a custom version of Kazuya in TTT2 that looked near-identical to Kazuma so…yeah. Look past all of that however and you have a recognisable character from a relevant series that Sega is pushing here in the West. He also comes with countless moves from the Yakuza series that could be adapted for Tekken. Of all the characters on this list, I would say that Mr. Kiryu probably has the best odds of actually making it.
10 – Cammy (Street Fighter)
Alright…not a very imaginative choice for the final spot considering that there’s already a Street Fighter character in Tekken 7 and that I’ve nominated another already on this list but I’m going to be selfish (as selfish as can be on a list that is already personal opinion) anyway and say that I just want to see what Cammy would look like in high-quality 3D with a more serious look to match that of the other agents/assassins that compete in the King of Iron Fist Tournament. That and I actually struggled to think of somebody else more left-field or suitable from a different game for the last nomination. So shoot me.
So that’s my list of dream guest spots for Tekken 7. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment on my choices or tell me who YOU would want in the game.
It’s been a long time since Capcom released the divisive Street Fighter X Tekken, a landmark in terms of crossover fighting games that pitted two absolute giants against one another. It was perhaps the crossover that nobody expected would ever have happened yet it did and despite such a fantasy becoming a very real, er…reality, gamers still moaned about it. There was good reason to be disappointed too: the gem power-up system and “Pandora” ability were both superflous mechanics that could be ignored entirely and felt like weak attempts to add some form of additional depth. Worse still, the game shipped with a small DLC-related scandal whereby it was discovered that the code for fifteen or so additional characters was already locked away on the disc. Today, we are usually unfazed by a publisher planning DLC before a game has even been released but when SFxT hit the shelves, the issue was a hot one that rubbed a lot of fans up the wrong way.
All of this was before Tekken fans had to get to grips with their favourite characters now existing in a 2D game and with radically different movesets and inputs to match. The game felt fine if you were a Street Fighter IV player but somewhat alien if you were used to Namco’s series and were hopping into the crossover to follow your favourite characters.
I personally really enjoyed Street Fighter X Tekken. The game played very well in my opinion which was no surprise given how similar to Street Fighter IV it felt. I enjoyed the spectacle of an amazing crossover that I had never believed possible and there were some fantastic remixes of classic tunes thrown in for good measure. Yes, the DLC strategy was a massive mis-step and to this day I haven’t bought the additional characters (though they come as standard on the Vita edition) but it was a lot of fun and very competent to boot. Go and play it, damn it!
Anyway, as much as I enjoyed Street Fighter X Tekken, I was FAR more excited for Namco’s promised version of the crossover, imaginatively titled Tekken X Street Fighter (wow…see what they did there?). How would Ryu and co. look in Tekken‘s highly detailed 3D world? More importantly, how on earth would projectiles, anti-air attacks and super moves translate to a 3D fighting game without unbalancing the world of Tekken? So many questions and unfortunately, so few answers as of 2017. Let’s remember that the game was initially announced in 2010 and in that time, all we have had are a few promotional images and periodic promises that the game is “still happening” or is coming along in development.
Let us take a look at a rough timeline accounting for what we know so far…
Tekken X Street Fighter announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2010
March 2012 – poll released on Namco’s Tekken Facebook page, asking fans which characters they would like to see in the game. 55 Tekken characters and 66 Street Fighter faces are available to vote for with voters having a choice of 5 from each franchise. Harada later clarifies that the poll results will not define the final roster but will be used in conjuction with other research to determine what the character select screen will look like.
April 2012 – Tekken X Street Fighter confirmed to be around 10% complete.
2014 San Diego Comic-Con – Namco/Harada confirm that the game is still in development and the reason for a lack of information is due to parent company Bandai-Namco waiting for the ideal time to market the crossover so as not to conflict with the release of solo releases such as Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V.
2015 – development of the game reported to have come far along. At the end of 2015, Street Fighter‘s Akuma is revealed as a guest character for Tekken 7.
April 2016 – Tekken X Street Fighter officially “on hold”. Polygon models and gameplay systems are reported to be complete but the game is on-hold so as not to split the communities behind both franchises.
So what IS happening? It’s been seven years since the game was first announced and it’s difficult to tell whether it will ever actually happen or if Namco are – for some reason – prolonging making a statement that officially announces the cancellation of the crossover. I find it odd that they haven’t simply binned the game by now rather than keeping it on hold while tiding fans over with scraps of information and promises that Tekken X Street Fighter is still happening.
Revealing Akuma as a guest character in Tekken 7 was what I believed to be a major moment. This was huge news, especially given how Namco went as far as to officially weave Akuma into the Tekken canon, writing him into the main Mishima storyline where he has apparently been involved from the very beginning. More interestingly, was Akuma a test to see how well Street Fighter characters would integrate into the Tekken universe? I certainly believed so and even considered the possibility of the standalone crossover game being canned in favour of releasing a stack of Street Fighter characters as a DLC expansion of sorts for Tekken 7. The idea seemed to make more financial sense than persevering with a full-on crossover release.
But then, something else happened that blew my theory out of the water. Namco announced another guest star…a non–Street Fighter guest fighter in the form of SNK’s Geese Howard. Suddenly, instead of this being a pure Namco/Capcom relationship, it looked like Namco were opening up the floor for guest characters in general. Akuma appearing in a Tekken game no longer looked like a ‘test’ of sorts but the first of a possible wave of outsiders entering the King of Iron Fist tournament. And so it has proven to be. At the time of me bashing this article out, Namco have just announced Noctis from Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XV as the next guest fighter! This is a LOT more random and unexpected than Akuma or Geese so I can now honestly say that I have no idea what any of this means, if anything at all. This is now likely to be Namco simply raising the profile of its flagship fighter and drawing in new players as other publishers have done before. Let us not forget that Namco themselves have already made this move in the past with Soul Calibur II featuring Link/Spawn/Heihachi (depending on which console you owned the game for) and reportedly intending to host Final Fantasy VII‘s Cloud Strife in the PS2 version before various obstacles scuppered what would have been a real nerdgasm moment.
(on a side-note, I’m not sure what I think about Noctis after watching his reveal trailer. I’m all for guest characters but a sword in Tekken? Hmm…I’ll have a dedicated post for Tekken 7‘s guest character DLC soon perhaps)
So what do I think about all of this? Well, I would be very surprised if Tekken X Street Fighter actually happens at this point. With Namco and Capcom working so closely together these days, it SHOULD be easy but I’m always highly sceptical of any game seeing the light of day when it has dwelled in the dreaded “Development Hell” for so, so long. I’m no expert on videogame development but with the pace that both hardware and software evolves at these days, wouldn’t the completed assets be out of date before they can be utilised? The reveal of Geese and Noctis puts paid to my theory of a full-on Street Fighter invasion of Tekken 7 so…I don’t know. This has been one of my most eagerly anticipated games ever since the initial announcement but I am also keeping my hopes firmly under control because games in development for this long usually get canned or turn out to be disappointments (Duke Nukem Forever, I’m looking at YOU). Given the consistent high quality of the Tekken franchise on a technical and aesthetic level however, I refuse to believe that a finished product from Namco would be scrappy.
One thing is for sure though: it has been a great couple of console generations for fans of fighting games and the scene hasn’t been more alive since the 90’s. Yes there is a lot of crap out there and perhaps a lot less soul than the likes of 3rd Strike, Capcom Vs SNK and Soul Calibur II managed to possess but hey, at least there are fighting games for us to play. We can only hope that Tekken X Street Fighter turns up fashionably late to the party rather than shying out.