Everyone has what they consider a dream match between two athletes or teams. Particularly in martial arts, people will forever argue which combatant would win in a fight, such as Bruce Li vs Jackie Chan, or Muhammad Ali vs Mike Tyson. The idea and debate behind having two people fight from completely different eras or disciplines that would make it impossible for them to do so has long been the subject of fans, and fighting games are no different. There are always going to be fans of the genre that want to see one franchise fight another one, if only in an effort to “prove” that their preferred franchise is better. While recent days have seen games like Street Fighter X Tekken, ideas like blending of the worlds of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat or Namco vs Capcom are always going to be discussed by fans, among other “dream crossovers.”
But in all honesty, would these fantasy mashup games actually be any good? As much fun as the idea of a fantasy crossover fighting game might be on paper, most would probably be awful. Not that I like to hate on anything related to video games that I don’t feel deserves it, but this concept just seems to be the one thing that sounds good as an idea, but becomes increasingly worse the more thought put into it. In this edition of RipTen Dojo, I want to give a few universal reasons as to why crossover fighting games are generally a bad idea.
To start with, let’s look at the most obvious thing. Most fighting games have completely different mechanics which separate them. Some series have so much internal variation that even a successful crossover among entries wouldn’t make for a very good game. Hell, think about Street Fighter, for example. Imagine trying to play a character from Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo against Yun from Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. Sure, you could say that it exists in the form of Capcom Fighting Evolution (a game which lets you do exactly that), but the game wasn’t exactly good. It allowed you to have characters from different Capcom fighting games (Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, Red Earth, and Darkstalkers, as well as one original character named Ingrid) square off against each other. Sure, the game was fun for what it was, but it wasn’t ideal. While you could have Zangief give a dinosaur a spinning pile driver, the game still managed to fall under the category of “fun for a few minutes, but not genuinely enjoyable.”
Each character maintained the same system that they had in each of their games, meaning that the characters from Super Turbo played almost exactly how they did in Super Turbo, the characters from Third Strike played with parrying and stackable super arts, the characters from Red Earth played with their unique super and level up system, and so on. The point is that they took games that weren’t necessarily compatible with each other and just combined them without any real thought. You see, that’s one of the things that makes a crossover fighting game such a hard thing to even theorize. How would you approach the topic of two separate systems coming to one game? The way I see it, there are a total of three possible options.
The first option, and the one that is represented in the previously mentioned Capcom Fighting Evolution, is to simply not change anything. Bring each system over to the game and have each character play exactly like they do in their respective titles. Unfortunately, this can lead to major balance issues. Some things, like parrying (allows a character to block an attack without taking any damage at all, in addition to being able to attack immediately, bypassing any block stun that a move would have caused), are incredible tools that are only balanced in Third Strike because every character has access to them. Imagine, if you will, that only a very small amount of the characters in Third Strike could parry. Considering this became one of the most important skills in the game, these characters would then immediately become the best characters in the game. Certain games are always going to have specific nuances that separate them from others, and simply throwing them all together in the hopes that they’ll work out doesn’t always, well, work out.
Another option would include one game changing its mechanics in order to fit in with the other franchise. While this might sound much worse than it is, keep in mind that many games that adopt this kind of format end up becoming quite popular if done correctly. For example, look at Marvel vs Capcom 2. While it featured a large amount of Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and other Capcom fighting game series in it, they changed the style in order to fit to the more frantic pace of the Marvel fighting games. Suddenly, Capcom fighters were capable of pulling off combos with well over 100 hits to match the Marvel characters. The thing is, since the Marvel series of fighting games were developed by Capcom in the first place, and already shared some of the same basic framework (such as super combos), doing a crossover between the two actually managed to work out. If the circumstances were any different, I honestly don’t believe it would have worked.
The last way in which I can see two different fighting game systems working would be for both games to change a bit, which was partially the idea behind Street Fighter x Tekken, which was released earlier this year. While it may have been more reminiscent of Street Fighter than Tekken, it was still very much a departure from both series. It was 2D as the Street Fighter games are, but the combos were all about juggling your opponent for as long as possible instead of knocking your opponent down, a major characteristic of the Tekken franchise. It met in the middle for both series, and even then added in some concepts that were new to both series, such as gems which gave additional attributes under certain circumstances. In doing so, it tried to appeal to players of both genres and getting them to meet halfway. Instead, it ended up somewhat alienating a decent amount of players rather than bringing both communities together under one fighting game.
The effort to try to appeal to two completely different groups of fans (and bridge genres, if we’re talking about a 2D fighter and a 3D fighter, as I touched on a bit in last weeks RipTen dojo) is an odd one. Compromise too much on one side and fans of the other could end up being turned off because fan favorite characters might end up being too unfamiliar for their liking. Compromise on both sides equally, and you could run the risk of alienating both groups. When it comes down to it, crossover fighters can be too damn risky in that regard.
The last major reason, which goes hand in hand with the issue of trying to combine systems, is balance. Ask yourself this: how do you manage to combine two completely different competitive fighting games into one title while maintaining any semblance of balance? How do you make sure each franchise involved maintains its core concepts and ideas? The short answer is that you really can’t. Sure, doing a crossover game between two games by the same developer could ease that burden a bit, as it did in Marvel vs Capcom 2 or Street Fighter vs X-Men, but trying to combine two very different games, like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter (which I honestly seem to be running into people talking about all this past week) is too much of a clash.
Look, I understand the appeal to bring multiple fighting games together in order to have what some people might believe to be a “be all, end all” fighting game that would be amazing, but it just isn’t possible. Instead of arguing about how the games might not have a certain feature or system that’s present in one game you like, learn to enjoy and love their differences.
Or you could just play MUGEN, but come on, MUGEN is an awful thing.