Saturday, 15 December 2012

Triple Threat Top 10!

Some of the rowdy bunch that captured my heart...
For many years now (more than actually I care to remember, to be honest) fighting games have been my biggest attraction in the wonderful world of video games. From the first time I picked up IK+ on the Commodore 64 I found the allure of controlling master marital artists irresistible, and through the years this love only intensified with the barrage of staggering triumphs that were released in the genre. There is no other family of game that offers such diversity and depth of character, as the world of the fighting game (AM2's Fighting Palm tree, anyone?!). And it's testament to the genre that even today, the likes of Arcana Heart 3, Tekken Tag 2 and BlazBlu are keeping the torch lit. Just goes to show, knocking seven bells out of your mates will never get old!

Anyways, after a chance Twitter conversation with fellow brawling connoisseurs; Messrs Dave Bird and Anton Sombetzki, we decided to each jot down our top 10 favourite fighting games and then compare the lists...vs style! Given that we each enjoy differing gaming palettes, the variations in selections should hopefully make for some interesting reading.

This is the first time I've embarked on compiling this list so, here goes...or as Anton put it: "three dudes, ten games, one week!"

By the by, this not my take on the "definitive" or "greatest" fighting games. It just those which I hold dearest, and the systems on which I fell in love with please don't be offended if a certain game hasn't made it.

1. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (SNES/Super Famicom)

Funny what some new colours and a speed increase can do, eh...
As anyone who knows me (even a little bit) could probably tell you, I am bit of a Street Fighter nut, and Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting is my most beloved of the lot. In fact it is not only my favourite fighting game, but also my favourite game...period. I can honestly say that I have never felt the same level of anticipation or love for any other video game, nor has there been another game that I have ploughed the same (obscene) number of hours into in all my years of rolling quarter circles. For me this game has absolutely everything; a near perfect balance, an intelligent and diverse character roster, fantastic visuals and sound effects and possibly the most hated villain the fighting game world has ever seen. It was and still is a shining beacon for Capcom at their very best.

2. The King of Fighters 98 (PSX)

Dragon vs Wolf, in stunning SNK-ovision!
Pound for pound, the best King of Fighters game there is, and probably the best 3 on 3 fighting game I've ever had the privilege to play. KOF 98 is a kind of 'best of' from the previous instalments (94 to 97) and it certainly shows. It has probably the finest roster of characters I've ever seen in a fighting game with characters shipped in from all over wacky world of SNK, a ludicrous amount of depth and some wonderfully extravagant (but not over the top) combo attacks. What sets KOF 98 apart from all other fighting games though, is the sheer amount of minute detail that SNK stashed away inside it; little touches like Kensou choking on a pork bun and Terry's hat falling off when you lose a bout, are almost insignificant but show just how much effort was poured into the game. While it did borrow a lot from other games (namely Street Fighter), KOF 98 remains my favourite fighting game of its generation.

3. Tekken 2 (PSX)

Brush head biker, batters armoured a forest, why not!
The first Tekken game kind of passed me by (as did a lot of early polygonal 32bit games) but when it's sequel (imaginatively titled Tekken 2!) arrived on the scene it, demanded that I sit up and take notice of it. From the (even now) gorgeous CG intro sequence to the excellent soundtrack, Tekken 2 remains to this day my favourite poly-fighter. Where Namco truly excelled themselves though was with the sheer depth of this game...there are no other brawlers from this period with anywhere near the same amount of scale to them. There is a bewildering array of oddball fighters to choose from, and more than enough variety to suit all styles of play. More than this though, each character has a distinct personality to them that really helped to pull me in. Add to this a fascinating tactical approach to each bout, where a considered approach would often be rewarded (as opposed to the rather speed heavy/move spamming approach we now see in current Tekken games) and you are in for a royal treat.

4.  Street Fighter Alpha 2 (Saturn)

The Capcom geekometer is off the charts here...
I adore the Street Fighter Alpha series, it was definitely the logical way for Capcom to take Street Fighter at the time, and Alpha 2 is my favourite of the three. Although it has a smaller roster than Alpha 3, I've always considered it to be the most balanced of the series and I'd also say it's the prettiest, too. There are three distinctly different fighting styles you can choose from, lots of very impressive super combos and a mountain geek-tastic cameos in the stages stages (my favourite bit!). I've chosen the Saturn version of Alpha 2 here because it was the most faithful port around at the time, little (but significant) touches like the water reflections in Gen's stage and a number of extra animation frames just push it above the PSX version.

5. Capcom vs SNK 2: Millionaire's Fighting (Dreamcast)

After years of clamouring, the fans got their way...and it was good!
It's probably not wrong to call this game 'the fan boy's wet dream''s certainly how I felt when I got my hands on it. Happily for me though, the game managed to live up to the hype that surrounded it. The choice of characters on offer here is frankly insane, with a plethora of fan favourites making the cut. CvS 2's stand-out feature though, is it's choice of combat styles; there are three from both the Capcom and SNK stables, plus the ability to customise your own...this allows for some truly in-depth and epic tinkering, I found myself spending hours here just getting the balance tight for my own style. While the game is not perfect; a lack of Robert Garcia and a gimped Ryo Sakazaki are unfortunate, it is still one of the most magnificent fighting games I've ever picked up.

6. The Last Blade 2 (Neo Geo CD)

SNK's prettiest ever game?
Big shout time here. I consider The Last Blade 2 to the best looking game that SNK produced, and this is what initially drew me to it. The stunning vistas of feudal Japan, intriguing characters and innovative battle system, make for a splendid (and indeed my favourite) weapons based fighting game. It's slightly less comic book style than the (also magnificent) Samurai Shodown but manages to keep that manga feel to it...the SNK artists really outdid themselves with this one. Although the access times on the Neo Geo CD version mean you have to wait an eternity between bouts, this just adds to the anticipation...and lets you go and make a sandwich!

7. Street Fighter III Third Strike (Dreamcast)

The purists choice...and with good reason
Yes, its another Street Fighter game (sorry), but it really is hard to argue with the pedigree of Third Strike. After playing Alpha for so long, I initially found it difficult to get into Street Fighter III but once I picked up Third Strike and got to grips with it's intricacies I found it to be Capcom's best since Hyper Fighting. The new parry system allows for some epic counter attacking and for once, the new characters were of a pretty high standard (except for Urien in his undies!). The old favourites are not left to rot though with Capcom breathing new life into Ryu and Ken et al...this means loads of fun relearning them all over again! This game spent has spent so much time in my little Dreamcast, and I picked it up brand new just for £10, can't say fairer than that!

8. Garou: Mark of the Wolves (PS2)

Finally, Garou plays as good as it looks...
I've been a fan of the Garou/Fatal Fury games from the very beginning, but while each game was interesting and well presented I could never help thinking that not a single instalment was as polished, or as well executed as a Street Fighter least until Mark of the Wolves was released. SNK tweaked the system and made it more conventional (I know that sounds like a sell out but it honestly brings so much more to the game), giving it a much nicer flow while also introducing some new miscreants to the party. The overall result is incredible! I actually felt like all other Garou games had been made just to facilitate the arrival of MOTW. Sure, the game borrows heavily from other franchises but this doesn't diminish it's quality one bit. Although I own Mark of the Wolves for the Dreamcast too, I found myself ploughing the most number of hours into the Japanese PS2 version.

9. Fighters Megamix (Saturn)

This was the ultimate SEGA get together!
There was a list of reasons why I wanted to own a Sega Saturn back in the day, and top of that list was Fighters Megamix. An epic coming together of some of Sega's most beloved read like a who's who of fighting games! The fact that I could pit Akira against Bahn was brilliant, but to be able to then pit Bark against the Hornet car from a cage match was just too much! AM2 also saw fit to add to the ability to dodge, which enabled some sneaky counter attacks and a genuine extra layer of scope to the game. Fighters Megamix may lack the slick presentation of Tekken 2 but in terms of depth it runs Namco's finest very close indeed, and that helps propel it into this list and makes it the finest 3D fighting game I've ever played.

10. Killer Instinct (SNES)

Insane combos at their best!
When I first laid eyes on Killer Instinct I was gob-smacked by how stunning it looked but also fairly sceptical of what Rare seemed to be trying to achieve. Their formula of Street Fighter II + Mortal Kombat + massively insane combos struck me as a bit naughty and more than a bit lazy, this all changed however once I finally got my mitts the game. KI's biggest draw by far is the combo system, which is nothing short of brilliant. It takes a little while to learn what move links to the next but once you get the basics, you won't look back. As previously mentioned, it looks glorious and has one of the best soundtracks on the SNES. It may not be the most original game in terms of characters and settings but it certainly is bags of fun, and that surely, is the point.

So there we are then, my ten favourite fighting games. I hope you enjoyed reading the list as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Please feel free to vote, comment, share and subscribe...oh and check out my comrade's lists too!

Honourable mentions:

Samurai Shodown 2, Fighting Vipers, Dead Dance, Virtua Fighter 2, Street Fighter IV, World Heroes Perfect, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, Soul Edge, SD Hiryu no Ken, Waku Waku 7, IK+, Flying Dragon, Last Bronx, Arcana Heart, Galaxy Fight, Super Smash Brothers, SvC Chaos, Gals Fighters, Rival Schools United by Fate

Vote for your favourite game?

There is just about enough time left for to mention a game that, while very popular would never make into (or even close to) my top 10 list...the elephant in the corner:

Mortal Kombat (Arcade and every console)

I'll come out with it straight away, I just don't "get" Mortal Kombat. Never have and probably never will. That's not to say I've never tried though, I've played (and indeed owned) at least four instalments of the series, and can honestly say I've never once enjoyed playing it. I don't know if it's the fact that it's too American, had stupid and ugly graphics or just that Midway managed to spawn a truck load of games based on nothing but overly gratuitous violence. For me, a fighting game must have depth, interesting characters and a fluid feel to it, Mortal Kombat has none of these. In fact the best way I can sum it up is like this; when my mate first got his SNES copy on 'Mortal Monday', I rushed round to his house to play it...within 30 minutes we were back playing Street Fighter II. Case closed.  

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