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No videogame genre can survive without evolution. Hell, nothing can survive without evolution. Over time, something bigger and better will appear, and survival of the fittest dictates that one must adapt or die. There are no exceptions. Whether it takes a year or a century, the weak will fall and the strong will take their places.
So, what videogame genre is in greatest need of a lesson in natural selection? There are countless answers, and your own is likely colored by your own experiences. For me, it’s the fighting game. Despite a couple of somewhat important evolutions, my own preferences are issuing an ultimatum: try harder or lose me forever.
Last year, I gave BlazBlue a shot after hearing nothing but praise offered for the game by die-hard fighting game fans. To them, it seemed like a major leap for the genre. All that talk worked on me; I had been waiting for just that kind of evolution. They promised more story, more action, and more fun.
What I got felt more like a slipshod attempt at marrying a traditional fighting game structure with a plot found in narrative-driven games. Glimpses of the story disappeared as quickly as they appeared, and a ridiculous amount of repetition was required to add the tiniest pieces to the narrative in order for the player to have even the slightest chance of understanding what was going on.
What BlazBlue did for me was represent a failed attempt at winning me back, but one that gave me hope, much in the way that the original Soul Blade did way back when it debuted. Both games seem to suggest that what they’re trying to do is entirely possible, though they may require a greater amount of finesse than what was actually achieved.
As for the specifics regarding the evolution that needs to take place, my mind runs surprisingly blank. I can’t envision the fighting game that will rekindle my affection, though I know that it is bound to happen. Still, I have some ideas.
One thing that I’ve found remarkably effective lately is the genre melding that has occurred in a variety of other game genres. Consider the recent entries in the Call of Duty series, which have inserted elements generally reserved for RPGs into their competitive multiplayer, and to great effect. People find themselves hooked on multiplayer like never before, and those additional elements are surely to thank for this.
Fighting games have tried similar things. Even the PS1 game Tobal 2, though never released in the U.S., included a fairly robust dungeon-crawling RPG mode, complete with monster capturing, leveling up, and even shops. Still, that game (which was the sole factor in my decision to install a mod chip into my PS1, later preventing me from playing Tomba! 2 – pretty much the greatest tragedy of my childhood) couldn’t represent a true evolution in the genre. It was more like a temporary genetic mutation that was rather quickly stamped out.
What I envision is a game with the addictive qualities of an RPG represented faithfully in a fighting game. A true sense of progression that compels you to play just one more match to see what it might get you. A character progression system that keeps you focused on gaining experience (and even unlocks) without making the game unbalanced and unapproachable.
Do I want every game to be like Modern Warfare? Not at all. But it’s natural to see what is working across all game genres and wish for the successful implementation of those elements into a genre that you just can’t find any passion for.
That’s my pick, but if I wanted to, I could go on for about a month with genre after genre that could use some TLC. But why do that when I can let you do it for me? So, have at it. Let us know your Extreme Genre Makeover pick here in the comments or in a Gamer Limit blog.