Arc System Works: The New King of Fighters

For a long time, I perceived fighting games by Arc System Works as being too complex for me. Initially drawn to their work by how amazing the BlazBlue games looked, my mind melted when I struggled to grasp the game’s intricacies. Guilty Gear games up to Xrd might as well have been rocket science. Love watching the pros play these games, but I have no clue where to being learning how to play.

Their penchant for designing characters that function wildly different from one another while layering on tons of system-level mechanics for fighters that were inpenetrable to me. Even now, after a decade of serious fighting game experience, it would take me a ton of work to just feel competent at any of legacy Guilty Gear or BlazBlue games.

In recent times, Arc System Works have gone a long way towards finding a better balance while also pushing the limits of anime-style graphics. Between their tireless efforts to improve (and Capcom’s well-documented struggles), I think that Arc System Works is the king of fighting game publishers right now.

For me, their path to expanding beyond fighting game aficionados starts with the Persona 4 Arena series. Though I’ve never played any of the Persona games, I was drawn to it by its pretty visuals and many stating that it was a more accessible fighter. Paring back many of the game’s system-level mechanics and standardizing most of the special move inputs went a long way towards making me feel like I was fighting with some level of competency. Never really got a hold of how to best fight with my main character and Persona at the same time, but this was a step in the right direction for me.

My personal turning point came with Dragon Ball FighterZ. For one, its graphics look like you’re actually playing the anime. Furthermore, it shares its framework with the Marvel vs. Capcom series, a franchise I’m fairly comfortable playing. Besides that, it took even more of a concerted effort to streamline the game’s mechanics.

For a few months, I was obsessed. I think the streamlining of gameplay went a bit too far to be honest. Too many characters played exactly the same. But again, a huge step in the right direction.

Just a few short months after the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ came BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Though the reuse of assets made for a game with an inconsistent look, it plays beautifully. While it largely retains the accessibility of Dragon Ball FighterZ, the wider variety in play styles within the characters made for a game that felt less one-note. Own this one on both PS4 and Switch and aim to get back into it someday.

Though it’s not fair to give Arc System Works full credit for the Under Night In-Birth series, they do publish these games in some territories. There are some really quirky mechanics here – particularly with the GRD system – but so much of it can be accessed at a lower level of skill. If it weren’t for the game’s horrid netcode, I’d still be playing it. More on that later.

Earlier this year, they released Granblue Fantasy Versus. Though I have yet to play it, the game has been heavily praised for its gorgeous visuals and accessible gameplay. It is on my list to pick up someday.

The cherry on top is Guilty Gear -Strive-. Taking their anime aesthetic to the next level, –Strive- is hell bent on being the best looking fighting game ever. Based on my time playing in the closed beta, I think it has the potential to be an incredible final product and quite possibly the best selling game in the series ever.

Better yet, it was recently announced that Guilty Gear -Strive- would feature rollback netcode. Though it remains to be seen if Arc System Works’ implementation of rollback is good, their subpar netcode has been its Achilles’ Heel for ages. This is a step in the right direction and could dramatically change the way we consume their games.

With an unmatched catalogue of quality titles under their belt in recent years and an ongoing commitment to make their titles more accessible, the case for Arc System Works being the best fighting game publisher right now is as strong as ever. Though I’ll always be a Capcom stan in my heart, I can’t deny how awesome Arc System Works’ output has been on the fighting game front of late. If Guilty Gear -Strive- shakes out the way I think it will, it should cement their spot on the throne. At least for the time being.

Capcom, please.

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