When I first started following the world of fighting games seriously in 2009, I stumbled across a weird sentiment that a number of older players in the scene had with regards to Street Fighter IV. I got the sense that a number of the best players from Street Fighter III: Third Strike had their issues with the latest installment, choosing to stay behind while Street Fighter IV became a global phenomenon. At the time, I didn’t think that the particulars could be such a dividing factor that top players would abandon being part of the fighting game resurgence to stick with a “dead game”.
It’s 2018 now, and the shoe is on the other foot. Fighting games are bigger than ever, with Street Fighter V leading the pack. However, my personal qualms with the game, along with my nostalgia for “the good old days”, caused me to hop off the hype train around mid-2017. Since then, I’ve found myself bouncing around from title-to-title, looking for a place to engage in cyber fisticuffs in hopes that maybe I can find a new “home” someday.
To my surprise, the game that really shook me out of my Street Fighter routine was ARMS. This quirky 3D arena fighter was one I dismissed at first glance wowed me in ways I never imagined. Underneath its simplistic setup was a daring new take on fighting games that featured quite a bit of depth if you were looking for it. At my peak, I reached the highest rank in online play and even made top 8 at a local tournament.
200+ hours later, I moved on. I hit a point where I was essentially at the ceiling, and I felt like the monumental level of effort required to squeeze out the last big of improvement wasn’t worth it for me. On top of that, the game isn’t fun to watch as a spectator, though there isn’t really many opportunities to do that, as a competitive scene is still on the ground floor. I guess I could have helped move that side forward, but it wasn’t a task I wanted to take on.
I had a brief cup of coffee with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Much has been said about its paltry roster and mediocre graphics, but I still feel like that game does things mechanically that are truly special. The way in which players can freely transition between their characters mid-battle creates a fluidity of combat that hasn’t really been done before. Unfortunately, most gamers never saw past its glaring deficiencies, and I don’t blame them. After only a few months, I found the online environment to be a ghost town on PlayStation 4, making really tough to play the game even if I wanted to stick with it further.
For a while in early 2018, I thought Dragon Ball FighterZ would have been my game. I immediately fell in love with its gorgeous visuals and frenetic gameplay. Over time though, its deficiencies became painfully obvious to me, from too many Goku and Goku-like characters, to overly-streamlined mechanics that further squeezed the uniqueness out of each character while also nullifying the viability of defensive play. Combine all of that with the snail’s pace at which Arc System Works and Bandai Namco have implemented balance patches to the game and I’ll gladly rejoin the fight when the game is in a more ideal state.
Currently, I’m playing BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. I love the fact that Arc System Works has tuned the game in such a way that it’s more accessible than mainline BlazBlue games. The tag mechanics are fun to use and unlike Dragon Ball FighterZ, each character has a ton of unique attributes to give each battle a more unique flavour. Not really sure if this is going to be my go-to fighter for years to come, but it’s very enjoyable right now.
For a minute, I even dipped my toe back into the Street Fighter V pool off the strength of Arcade Edition. For players just getting into the series, this is a much better place to start than the original, but it’s also clear that my fundamental concerns about the game’s loosened linked timings and a meta that hinges largely on frame traps and in-your-face offense won’t be addressed until Street Fighter VI. Probably won’t close the door completely on the game, as I still have a tingle in my heart that wants to learn Menat, but I’m just not in the mood for it right now.
Jumping between games isn’t a new concept for me. I’ve had extended stays with Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Injustice, and even Street Fighter X Tekken. However, I always knew there was a mainline Street Fighter game to come back to when I was ready for some comfort food. Honestly, it’s a bit weird not having that security blanket.
I miss being part of the “in crowd”. That sense that you’re part of a larger community. I used to watch tournament streams for Street Fighter religiously, as I genuinely cared about who would be the best on that day, while watching for tactics I could implement myself. These days, I couldn’t care less. Without a solid “main” game in my rotation, I don’t even feel all that compelled to play in tournament.
It’s certainly not the end of the world. These other games offer a great time and playing different fighting games helps you improve your overall skill. There are lessons to learn in every game that can be carried over, ensuring that your time with a fighter wasn’t spent in vain. Heck, my future main game might be under my nose as we speak. For now though, I’ll continue taking my talents elsewhere.