(Before we get too deep into this week’s Ripten Dojo, I want to point out that the next few articles were going to be based around my personal progress and reflections around preparing for an upcoming local tournament. Unfortunately, I found out in the middle of the week that the tournament date was changed, and it falls on a day where I’m going to be halfway across the country to visit some friends and family. As a last minute change of plans, I threw this together. I apologize for not being able to bring you the content I had planned. -Nick)

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I don’t tend to mention 3D fighting games in depth very much during the Ripten Dojo articles. Sure, I’ve played 3D fighting games before, and some of my favorite fighting games are in 3D, like Rival Schools: Project Justice, Soul Calibur 3 (I honestly have yet to play the latest installment, but I wasn’t a fan of SC4), and Power Stone. As you can see, they aren’t mostly games known for being very competitive, with the exception of Soul Calibur. It’s not that I don’t like 3D fighting games; in fact I very much enjoy some of them! However, I’m terribly intimidated by the third dimension (it just hits too close to home!), and a lot of the common trends that are found in 3D fighting games. When it comes down to it, there’s a whole lot more that’s different between 2D and 3D fighting games than just being able to move on a Z axis as opposed to just an X and Y axis.

In this article, I hope on outlining some of the major differences between 2D and 3D fighting games, and why it can make people like me so damn apprehensive. I have a lot of respect for 3D fighters and the fans who excel at them, but I’m just not particularly good at them and tend to not enjoy the majority of them. The ones I do enjoy I can only play on a very casual level. I know that if I tried to play 3D fighting games on the same level as I do Street Fighter or other 2D fighting games, I’d most likely hate them.

A tiny snip from Akira's command list in Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown. The full command list for him is at least 5 times the size of this, and that's no hyperbole.

Some games, such as Virtua Fighter, are incredibly complex and require a great deal of knowledge and skill. For example, the Virtua Fighter games use only three buttons as opposed to the standard of 6 buttons by most 2D fighting games, or 4 by SNK standards: One button for guarding, one for punching, and one for kicking. Yet that doesn’t mean that Virtua Fighter is simple. In fact, it’s far from simple, and might be one of the most complex fighting games I’ve ever played.  Click here to check out some of the command lists for multiple Virtua Fighter characters. They have more attacks and combos than any Street Fighter character, and it’s only done by the combination of three buttons and precise joystick movements. While this is certainly impressive in some aspects, it comes across as being overly complex to me.

Other 3D fighting games follow similar trends of having an overly complex array of moves available. Seeing move lists for games in the Tekken series or Dead or Alive 4 show that 3D fighters in general have a trend of being, quite frankly, overly convoluted just for the sake of being overly convoluted. Check this out; it’s a PDF containing the move list for one of Dead or Alive 4’s characters, Eliot. The PDF is a total of 6 and a half pages long, with one page to describe all the terminology used on the list itself. That means that this particular character has a move list that needs 5 and a half pages to contain all of it.

Can we agree that any game that needs five and a half pages to list all of the moves for a single character is pushing it? What do we, as players, gain from having so many moves at our disposal? Having to deal with and comprehend so much data for only one character means that picking up the game is going to result in being more tedious than fun. When becoming proficient at a fighting game means not only knowing the capabilities of yourself, but also your opponent, how are you supposed to be able to learn and recognize an entire cast of characters’ moves and capabilities if you have to read through a five and a half page manual?

Bushido Blade 2 for the PlayStation 1, a 3D fighting game that I feel had the perfect balance of depth and simplicity.

I think my biggest issue with games with move lists like this is that I don’t see at what point the game becomes fun. I’m not saying that 3D fighting games can’t be enjoyable, but games with such masturbatory move lists seem to be found more commonly in 3D fighting games than anywhere else. When it comes down to complexity in move lists, things like Street Fighter are so much simpler, which in turn makes the game more enjoyable for me. Instead of all punches being delegated to a single button, they’re spread across three buttons, and you know from the start that they vary in strength and speed. This may result in more moves ultimately if you were going to count each character’s standing, crouching, close, far, unique, and special moves, but the system is made in such a way that it’s all very easy to understand what is happening. In fact, there’s only one character in the entire Street Fighter franchise I can think of that has anywhere near the complexity of any of the major 3D fighting games on the market right now, and that would be Gen, who has two complete sets of moves as he switches between two stances.

What this really goes to show is just how different 2D and 3D fighting games are. To call them both simply “fighting games” does little to describe how drastically different they are in both execution and philosophy. Sure, you can call them both fighting games, but that’d be like saying that Fallout 3 and Persona 4 are both just “RPGs”. They certainly fall under the same general term or share common ideas, but the games are designed with incredibly different ideas and philosophies in mind for what they should play like, as well as what one needs to invest while playing in order to become good. So, my dear 3D fighting games, keep doing your thing. The titles in that segment just aren’t the type of game for me, and I’m ok with that. I think I’m going to stay in the world of 2D fighting games, things seem to be more my style over here.