So last month was my birthday and I decided to eschew the usual quiet drinks in a tucked away bar for something a bit more…well…unusual. See I have an eclectic mix of friends with a variety of tastes and interests so quiet drinks is undoubtedly the best option to please everyone on a night out. This year however, I wanted to do something that would better reflect my personality and so I invited everyone along to ‘Meltdown’ on Caledonian Road, an establishment that proudly presents itself as London’s premier videogame bar.
‘Meltdown’, as it turns out, is a pretty fun place to be. There’s a big bank of PCs for MOBAs action, a large flatsceen on the wall with a Wii U attached to it and a some smaller stations connected to other consoles with stacks of multiplayer games at hand. There’s a lot of unused space so hopefully as the business grows even more, gaming machines can be introduced. A line of arcade cabinets would really hit the spot. My only criticism is the decor which could certainly use some work. At the moment it feels like a pub with some consoles thrown in rather than a welcoming geek den, the type of atmosphere the best comic shops manage to achieve. Criticism aside, the staff let us bring in pizzas from the take out next door so it’s hard to kick up too much of a fuss.
My friends had a good time too, even the uninitiated to whom the most famous Mario is a Liverpool striker rather than an Italian plumber. Although we sunk some time into blast-from-the-past The Simpsons: Road Rage (Crazy Taxi with a Simpson skin), the majority of the gaming centred around ultra-competitive rounds of Street Fighter which got me thinking about the inexplicably high number of fighting games I’ve played over the years.
It’s inexplicable because, as Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation succinctly points out, a fighting game often feels like a fraction of a whole game which devs are selling you at full price. It’s certainly not something that you’d spend too long with if you lean towards single player gaming as I do. That being said, there’s not much that can beat a good fighting game when you’ve got some friends round. The short match times, the variety of fighters and the bragging rights that ensue are the very essence of multiplayer gaming.
In an attempt to remember the fighting games of my past I’ve decided to create my ultimate roster of characters which, if they ever do a grand mash up of fighting titles, would surely make the cut. This is undoubtedly going to be a highly debatable list so if you have any amendments, feel free to hit me up on twitter @amer_e_iqbal or leave a comment. So without further ado:
During secondary school Tekken was the default fighter my friends and I would fire up when we got together for games’ nights. We all owned Tekken 3 and then we all owned Tekken Tag Tournament when we graduated to PS2s so we could practice our move sets at home before fighting each other (yup…we were the cool kids). It’s not the most technically accomplished fighter or the slickest but the characters were uber-cool and it has a soap opera like plot that compels you to follow the series. We all have our favourite Tekken fighters and Yoshimitsu is mine. I’ve never been totally sure what he is: a samurai in strange armour? A robot? Some sort of ethereal spirit? Regardless he’s the only fighter with a sword and can commit Hari Kari which was a winning formula in my book.
The Tekken 3 iteration of Yoshimitsu, easily the best design of the character.
Eddy Gordo (Tekken)
A stroke of genius by the fine folks at Namco to design a fighter that uses Capoeira, the coolest fighting style in the world, and thereby encourage a generation of children to attempt to flip end over end imitating the Brazilian martial art as executed by Eddy. On top of his ridiculously flashy move set, Eddy is also the ultimate beginner’s dream when it comes to selecting a fighter. You could confidently mash the buttons to your hearts content safe in the knowledge that no matter what you pressed, it’d be translated into a smooth flow of moves by whatever intricate coding was controlling Eddy’s actions. I remember with some glee when my mate rage quit Tekken during a particularly heated bout when he assumed I was just button bashing with Eddy. I still contest to this day that I planned every single move Mr. Gordo was pulling off.
The best thing to come out of Brazil since carnival!
Afro Thunder (Ready To Rumble Boxing)
How could you not love this guy? He’s got the best name ever!!! The poster boy for arcade boxing title Ready 2 Rumble, Afro Thunder was a skinny little guy with a mean right hook and an amazing do, so amazing in fact it makes you wonder why modern boxers don’t grow giant ‘fros if they’re able to? I mean surely it’d shield some of the impact from the punches? An under appreciated gem, Ready to Rumble and its sequel were games with a bucket load of character and were chock full of similarly caricatured fighters, amazing voice acting and a great art style. Pure arcade fun at its finest, it might be time to bring this series back.
Not to mention his ostentatious hair style that’s on the verge of intimidating.
Love me a bit of Soulcalibur! Super-slick and so visually energetic it’s like getting a mini sugar rush, the Namco brawler hasn’t been around for a while and doesn’t look to be making an appearance anytime soon. It’s a shame really cause the sheer variety of completely out there characters (Voldo anyone?) made it one of the best fighters around. Astaroth is your classic ‘big guy’ fighter: super slow but makes up for it with bone crushing hits and tenacious damage absorption. There’s a real art to playing this type of character in a fighting game but if you can master it and pull off a combo you’ll leave your opponents’ jaws on the ground.
Just look at the size of his AXE!
One of the few fighters with guest stars, Soulcalibur at one time or another let you play as a variety of pop culture characters including: Darth Vader, Yoda, Link and Ezio from Assassin’s Creed. As weird as wonderful as these additions were, the main cast of the game outshone them, a real testament to Soulcalibur‘s designers. Most people were drawn to broody samurai Mitsurugi but I always preferred Cervantes: an undead pirate wielding dual swords and a bad attitude. It’s the type of game character that REALLY makes you wish you worked in an office where “undead pirate” could be a legitimate pitch.
Everyone loves an undead pirate.
Sub-Zero (Mortal Kombat)
There are two types of people in this world, those that prefer Sub-Zero over Scorpion and everyone else…who are wrong. ‘Mortal Kombat’ is arguably the king of fighters and has continually attracted the attention of the non gaming crowd thanks to media coverage surrounding its excessive violence (which honestly is so stylised I don’t see how you can have a problem with it). With the tenth installment out soon I can’t wait to try out the new finishers and will enjoy freezing Scorpion’s block off…I mean honestly, how is ‘Get over here!’ any sort of catchphrase???
How could anyone prefer Scorpion over this dude!? He’s so cool he’s ice cold!
Raiden (Mortal Kombat)
Sure he has lighting powers, sure he’s an actual God, sure he was played by the Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert in the Mortal Kombat movie, but Raiden makes this list on the strength of his hat alone. I’ve always wanted a hat like that. Nuff Said!.
I don’t even notice there’s electricity coming out of his hands.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Wu Tang: Taste The Pain)
We’re now heading into some of the more eclectic fighting games out there. What you read above isn’t a mistake; the Wu Tang Clan, one of New York’s premier rap acts did release a fighting game starring…well…themselves. Besides being absolute legends of the rap scene, the Wu Tang clan is heavily inspired by martial arts culture so perhaps a fighting game isn’t the biggest stretch of the imagination, but it’s just weird enough to have serious novelty value. Of course when this game came out I didn’t really know who the Wu Tang Clan were but it was a cool game with a character called Ol’ Dirty Bastard, so I was sold. Also it came with possibly the most kick-ass custom controller ever:
Worth getting the game just for the controller.
An absolute classic on the Super Nintendo, Clayfighter is an unsung 2D fighting gem which had an irresistible art style. A variety of circus themed fighters presented in clay-mation makes you feel like you’re slap bang in the middle of a Tim Burton film. It was initially hard to pick a character as they all had amazing names (Bad Mr. Frosty, Blue Suede Goo anyone?) but I settled for Taffy. He was simultaneously cuddly and deadly…the perfect killing machine.
I contest SNES box art was just the greatest.
Donatello (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters)
When I was but a youngster I entered a video game competition held at my local Blockbuster. I didn’t win (first prize was a trip to Tasmania) but came second (I got….a balloon). One of the games being contested was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters which, like many fighters of the era, was built with the hugely successful Street Fighter II in mind. Now remember I was a young man, which hopefully qualifies what I say next, but I won many a game by simply sitting in a corner and using the same move over and over, a clear foul in fighting game circles. I’m surprised I didn’t get kicked out of the tournament.
All you got to do it sit in the corner and press up and attack.
Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi)
That’s right, a Star Wars beat-em up…inevitable wasn’t it? Everyone tells me this was a bad game, but being a complete Star Wars addict back in the day I sunk a lot of hours in this title and never quite figured out what “Teras Kasi” actually is. Though there was a surprisingly varied roster of Star Wars favourites to choose from I was always a Luke Skywalker fan. He was never all that deadly in the films so I enjoyed making him a fighting machine in these games. As bad as the game was Lightsaber combat is always tempting!
And who would mind recreating some of the classic movie moments.
Luigi (Super Smash Brothers)
Back to the mainstream: The phenomenon that is Super Smash Bros. is easily the most relevant fighting game of modern times and truly revolutionised how the genre plays. It’s stroke of genius is the ability to comfortably play the game with four characters at a time taking multiplayer fighting games to a whole new level. The roster is so choc full of Nintendo favourites that it’s hard to whittle it down to one fighter, but the poor overshadowed younger brother of the limelight hogging Mario has always had a soft spot in my heart. Ever since I saw how high the little green dynamo could jump in Super Mario Bros. 2, he’s been as bad ass in my mind and so I use him to regularly clear house in Smash Bros.
Kage (Virtua Fighter)
Sega’s former big hitter in the fighting game stakes is now out of the race as we haven’t seen an entry for the best part of a decade. During its time it was generally regarded as one of the most technically sound fighting games around but suffered from some bland fighters in comparison to its peers. The exception to this was the inimitable Kage, he just look SO mysterious. My fondest memory of the series was that it was the arcade cabinet of choice at my local cinema and would guzzle up my pound coins as I waited for films to start.
But admittedly, compared to the visual candy of its contemporaries, there was something lacking in Virtua Fighter.
Wonder Woman (Injustice: Gods Among Us)
Though this is just Mortal Kombat with DC universe skins the game does achieve a pretty enjoyable single player campaign which most other fighting games find impossible to do. You’ll notice that Wonder Woman is the only woman on this list and that’s a real shame. I find that female fighters in fighting games are too often overly sexualised in the extreme, so much so that I actually feel a little uncomfortable selecting them. For every reasonably attired Chun Li there’s an entire cast characters like Ivy from Soulcalibur or the roster on Dead or Alive. It’s something that really needs to be addressed and the genre needs to catch up with the times. For her part, Wonder Woman is one of those rare fighting game characters that has multiple stances which means a far wider variety of moves than your standard character.
A truly kick-ass fighter…but the lasso of truth is underused.
Ken (Street Fighter II)
Moving on to the grand daddy of fighting games Street Fighter II was the first game that allowed you to pick from multiple playable fighters rather than one or two. I am absolutely unstoppable as Ken, I mean I can’t be touched. Sure, some might prefer the straight laced antics of Ryu but I was always drawn to the devil may care attitude of Ken. The blond brawler shared Ryu’s move set but somehow made it look flashier’ must be the red suit. Very much looking forward to PS4 console exclusive Street Fighter V to take Ken out for another spin.
M.Bison (Street Fighter II)
Fun fact about M.Bison: The M stands for Mike and Mike Bison was the name given to the boxing character (known to the west as Balrog) in the Japanese release of the game. It was a parody of Mike Tyson and the American localisers felt this was too on the nose and they might get sued so the name swap was arranged. My love for this particular character stems from the indomitable Raul Julia who played Bison in the wonderfully terrible Street Fighter Movie.
If these fighters were ever combined it would surely lead to the best fighting game to ever grace our machines. Surely your favourite is on the list… if not talk about him or her in the comments below.