The 3DS hasn't been out that long, but in the brief span of time since it's launch, it's been touched with not one, not two, but three, yes count them, three traditional fighting games. I do not claim to be an expert in the genre to any extent, but after having spent at minimum a few hours with each, I thought I should do a little write-up on my impressions on them. So here we are.
Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition
This is the big one that many people would say is the best game to come out on the 3DS's launch day. It's hard to disagree with that assessment (though I can certainly make a case against it), but regardless of the quality of its launch day competition, it's, Super Street Fighter IV. All of the same fighting action with optional touch screen special attack shortcuts and without the ability to use fight sticks. Which must drive the purists absolutely crazy. I love it.
Well, no, I don't really love it all that much. While a fun game, certainly the one with the best online support of the three fighting games I'm highlighting, it is Street Fighter to a fault. Though I initially had fun in the single-player mode, getting used to the different characters and earning points to unlock figures, I've run into the same barriers that I hit when I played the game's console-based original and Super variants. The first is that the game depends entirely too much on nostalgia. While this was an excellent tactic for the original Street Fighter IV, Super doesn't really do much to infuse it with anything new. I enjoy playing Juri, no doubt, but she and Hakan were the only two all-new characters added, and Hakan is pretty stupid.
The second is that too many damn characters play almost the exact same way. The 2D fighting genre is ripe for variety in style, which I'll expound on more a bit later, but Super Street Fighter IV plays it too safe. There are too many characters that are based upon the same concept of fireball + dragon punch variant, with the addition of a super kick of some sort, whether it be the hurricane kick, tiger knee, or what have you. My interest in Arcade Edition was killed the moment that they announced Evil Ryu and Oni (a.k.a.: Eviler Akuma).
Seriously, Capcom? What?
That being said, there's also not much variety to the modes, either. Sure, there's standard arcade, online, and challenges, but as other fighting games have proven, it's possible to have a greater all-around experience if more attention is paid to the single-player content in addition to the multiplayer. The game is Street Fighter, which is fine, but it's hard to find anything more complimentary than that.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions
Okay, let's put this aside at the start. Yes there be boobs. Yes, they be bouncing. It wouldn't be Dead or Alive if they didn't. With that out of the way, however, right out of the gate, Dead or Alive: Dimensions has shown itself to be, more than any of these the three games I'm talking about, much more thoroughly designed for the 3DS hardware. It has a form of StreetPass, but rather than SSFIV's figure battles, players actually download the fight data of others and can enter single-match challenges against a CPU controlled version of the StreetPass partner's preferred character. DOAD has figures as well, but these are items purely included as an extra, and once again, unlike SSFIV, can be unlocked in pretty much every mode in the game, including online. There's no silly Figure Slots game.
Speaking of extras, the traditional excess of costumes is present in full force as well. They can be unlocked during gameplay. Play Coins can be spent for random prizes; most commonly for new costumes or figures. And more than any other 3DS game thus far, DOAD has taken full advantage of SpotPass by offering up a daily costume download since launch that is as of this writing still in process.
Also worth mentioning is the Chronicle mode, which is a story mode recap of the events of DOA1-4. It is, in some ways, like the story mode in Mortal Kombat, stringing the narrative together with cutscenes. Somethings it does better, some things it does worse. On the downside, the story doesn't flow as smoothly as in MK; there are moments where it feels disjointed. Sometimes characters are introduced in scenes just to give them a reason to be there with nothing more than lip service to their backstories. On the other hand, the game uses Chronicle mode as a far more capable tutorial than MK's story by gradually introducing the concepts of the DOA fighting system over time. For someone like me, whose only previous experience came from DOA2: Hardcore and some DOA4, this was a nice touch. The mode is also structured a bit better and is divided into selectable chapters that can be returned to at any time, unlike MK, which lacks a chapter-select option.
And it needs to be said; none of the bosses are anywhere on the level of the fun-destroying idiocy that is facing Shao Kahn at the end of MK's story. That's worth bonus points right there.
Overall, the package is one that's better than SSFIV in most every way. The only thing it doesn't exceed SSFIV at is the online play, and what differences there are could be described as minor, at best. A relatively small number of matches have been loaded with lag, though for the most part the connections I've had are smooth. The only real downside to the set-up is that matches against strangers are one-and-done. Rematches aren't an option. That being said, however, it's fun enough that I've played the online far more than I've ever touched it in SSFIV.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II
A portable version of the arcade game, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II is loaded with singleplayer options out the wazoo. There's the story mode, the arcade mode, the Abyss endurance mode, a challenge mode, hell, even a strategy game. And that's in addition to a full-fledged tutorial hosted by the condescending and brutal Rachel Alucard as well as a separate training mode. It has the looks and sounds of its console brethren. And the only thing it's missing, and I mean the only thing, is online play.
Wait, you're thinking. What? A fighting game without online? A fighting game from a series that has online play on consoles doesn't have online on the 3DS? Well, yeah. I'm being pretty straight-forward here. Continuum Shift II only offers multiplayer through local wireless. Unless you have 3DS owning friends locally that are also interested in the game, there's little hope for multiplayer action. Well, unless you own the console versions.
So why even bother with this version? Well, all that other stuff I mentioned is still pretty awesome, and if you want some single-player BB action on the go, then you can't really go wrong here. The 3D effect on the graphics is also pretty well done, given that the characters are 2D sprites. And well, frankly, online or no, I feel that the game is the superior of SSFIV.
Allow me to explain. Remember my big complaints with SSFIV? Particularly the complaint that too many characters play the same? Yeah, not an issue here. Sure, the cast is smaller, but the characters are unique in their moves and play styles; it doesn't have the problem of eight characters with fighting styles based off of the same mass production template. (And people are excited for Evil Ryu. What the hell? Can someone explain this to me with the mindset of a reasonable human being?) And the presentation is filled to the brim with a personality all its own, from the way the characters animate and are voiced to the fighting system that, though my lack of fighting game expertise may blind me, feels far more complex and nuanced than what SSFIV has to offer.
Bang Shishigami's Bang Install theme is so glorious in its brute manliness that it trumps the goddamn universe.
Three very different, fighting games within the span of just a few months for handheld less than half a year old. That's not a bad start. Especially for a genre that didn't receive much attention on the original DS. I'm interested to see where things go from here. All three games above have things going for them (some more than others), and it would be great to see this trend continue.
So long as it avoids the inclusion of Evil Ryu.