Fighting games are one of the few genres where I’m willing to give almost anything at least one try regardless of how bad someone tells me a game is. I grew up around arcades, constantly getting my pre-teen ass handed to me in matches of Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and the occasional Guilty Gear. With the Steam Winter sale (and many other game deals like it) right around the corner, I thought now would be a good time try and talk about some of my favorite – and hopefully soon on sale – titles. This is a favorites list, however, not a “top” list. Things like balance and polish take a backseat to plain enjoyment (and because I want to revisit this again whenever I inevitably choke on needing content or time constraints). I’ve never been a big fan of “top” lists, or things that reiterate popular opinions rather than showcasing new ones, but hopefully you learn about a game you never knew existed here, and feel compelled to share your own favorite fighter in the comments.
- Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code
I love Melty Blood, but I’ve never had a real chance to sit down and learn it. The series has been around for well over a decade now, and over that time the game has become exceptionally polished. Fast-paced combat, cool-looking combos, and air dashes make up the core of what defines most anime fighters, and Current Code is a game that exemplifies all of these things. There’s a total of 31 playable cast members, each with 3 different styles of play (that actually feel and play differently). The game’s graphics haven’t updated much over the past few years, but it’s still a beautiful-looking game, with very fluid sprite movement.
Melty Blood is the king of poverty fighters. The community around Melty is dedicated though, even if it’s never had the mainstream popularity of something like Street Fighter or Smash. There are a lot more resources out there for it than you’d expect for a niche anime fighter, and it has become progressively easier to get into over the past year. The original barrier for entry used to be just obtaining the game, as this was a PC exclusive for a while. There was no digital version either, and obtaining actual copies was rare in the days of the World Wide Web’s infancy. You also had to patch in netplay, and know how to properly forward your ports to get a match going. There was no dedicated server; everything was P2P. Thankfully, the most recent version of the game is available on Steam for $25. The low entry point, diverse roster, and plethora of teaching resources makes Melty Blood one of my top recommended anime fighters.
- BlazBlue: Central Fiction
I have a very personal bias when it comes to BlazBlue. This is the series that started my competitive jump into fighters, and I’ve made a lot of friends both online and offline through it. BlazBlue is also a pretty solid fighter, even if it had a shaky start. The small, 12-man roster of Calamity Trigger, the first game, had plenty of balance issues, including infinite combos and a top tier that practically invalidated every other character. Since then, the game has evolved in plenty of ways, and has balanced its 32-man roster out to the point that even the weakest members of the cast can win, despite having an uphill battle. The cast feels rather diverse, despite several of them sharing similar playstyles, and the game has an “easy to pick up, hard to master” feel.
BlazBlue‘s gameplay only makes up about half of its quality though, and everything from its visuals to its music also really shines. BlazBlue is one of the last major fighting franchises to still use sprites over 3D models. It’s a bold choice. Sprites can add a lot more to the development cost of a title, but for BlazBlue it’s a unique quality that helps the game stand out, and best represents its anime aesthetic. BlazBlue‘s next top quality is its soundtrack, which is a combination of rock, metal, and other j-pop and rock influences. Each character’s theme boldly stands out from the rest, and really showcases the effort Arc System Works went into to make all the game’s fighters feel unique from one another. BlazBlue: Central Fiction is a fast, fun, and energetic fighter.
- Chaos Code
Chaos Code is one of those “it’s so bad it’s good” games. Chaos Code‘s weakest points are its questionable translation and somewhat dated graphics. The HUD looks like something out of a game’s alpha build, and is full of flat colors and simplicity not seen in an arcade fighter since the early 2000s. The music is real hit-or-miss, and the number of good catchy tracks is kind of offset by the amount of less-memorable themes. This game was built on a budget, and it shows.
What Chaos Code lacks in visual polish it makes up for in character, bother figuratively and literally. Chaos Code‘s weird-as-hell cast includes: an otaku super soldier, a chain-grabbing grappler chef, and the anime daughter of Cthulhu. The game really embraced the idea of “how weird can we get,” and it’s pushed to the limit in the cast. The game’s backgrounds are also lively and full of action. Each stage plays a scene; some of them have a whole story going on in the back, some are just stupid memes, but I love all of it.
Chaos Code isn’t really a game for everybody, but it is one of the more enjoyable budget fighters out there for those willing to give it a chance. Chaos Code‘s latest iteration, New Age of Catastrophe, is unfortunately only available on the Japanese and Hong Kong PlayStation 4 marketplaces, with a US version supposedly in the works. It is very import-friendly though, as all the menu options and even the in-game writing is all in English.
Edit: This game is now available on both the American PSN store for the PS4 and on Steam.
- Rivals of Aether
Rivals of Aether feels like the little indie game that could. It’s a platform fighter built by some of the more dedicated members of the Smash Bros community, or rather Melee‘s. The amount of tech and movement options in Melee is something Smash never chose to go back in later installments (mostly because these were oversights in the game’s mechanics). While no game can really replace Melee, Rivals of Aether is great spiritual successor.
The game is still in early access on Steam, but it receives updates, and its current 8-man roster is fun to mess around and play with. There are still plenty of game modes (and hopefully characters) in the works, and plenty of placeholder objects in-game, but Rivals of Aether has all the import things down. It has a working online mode, VS mode, and single-player options. It has built-in controller support, and is the leading argument as to why you should invest in a GameCube to USB adapter.
The development team and community behind Rivals of Aether is rather small, but pretty dedicated. For a while, the devs would feature key players and community artists in spotlight posts on their development blog in between updates and bugfixes. A small game with a lot of heart, Rivals of Aether is a title any hardcore or casual fan of Super Smash Bros should look into playing at least once.
- Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost
Mobile Suit Gundam is a name that’s been pretty absent in the West up until the past few years, but it might as well be a national treasure in Japan. This anti-war science fiction series has had many a video game, but none stand out quite as much as the VS series. Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost is a 2v2 arena fighter that plays more like an action game than a traditional fighting game. Gundam VS doesn’t lock players into a small square and force skirmishes like many other games in the genre; instead, players are actively encouraged to maneuver around large stages and use the environment to their advantage. Spacing has always been an important component in any fighter, and VS pushes the concept to its max, as you have to learn how to confirm hits off your ranged weapons before going in on a melee combo. The playable roster of Full Boost exceeds well over 100 characters, all pulled from various forms of Gundam media including anime, novels, and other video games. If you happen to have a favorite Gundam character from pre-2011, chances are they are in Full Boost in some way, shape, or form.
There are a few downsides to Full Boost, the main one being you can never have a true 2v2 game off of one console. The home console version of the game unfortunately does not support 4-player splitscreen, and the most you’ll get out of it is 2v2 with computer allies or a co-op run in arcade mode. Online play requires an online pass and Japanese PSN account, which are easy to put together and obtain, but it’s still a needless step in what should be a simple process. Despite all this, Full Boost is still worth getting. It’s hit the bestseller mark in Japan, and is a game that’s so easy to pick up that anyone can play it competently after a few rounds. The only real requirement for enjoying Gundam VS is a desire to see a bunch of giant robots fight each other.
Import Report is a bi-weekly column where Taylor talks about things involving the Japanese gaming industry. Industry news, major and indie releases, import reviews, and personal essays are just a bit of what you’ll find here. I always update on the first and third Wednesday of every month.