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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.

  1. I LOVED Tobal 2! I even loved Ehrgeiz, which had a dungeon crawling portion as well.

    • avatar Fumiya

      You could definitely see your sillks in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  2. Great read man, however when I first saw the header image I thought someone at McDonald’s snuck some acid in my morning coffee…

  3. To be honest, I don’t personally care if fighting games ever have good stories. I do like that BlazBlue at least tried, but I pretty much knew that the story was going to be absolutely ridiculous in the first place. My guess is that it’s gonna be a long time before that changes; fans of the genre tend to care about ease of use, the spectacle of how the fight looks, and competitive balance over anything else.

    I’m more interested in seeing the JRPG get a makeover. Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me to say this…but I think most other genres have reached their peak. JRPGs, I think, are one of the only genres that has gone nowhere for the most part.

    • Games like Tales of Vesperia; new titles that reinvented turn based battles and made them into essentially what Dragon Age is, have made great strides in the genre, imo.

      They based their model off western dice based games like Neverwinter Nights. Now if you’re talking like Dragon Quest old school style turn based, then yes, they have remained stagnant.

    • avatar SMark

      After thinking about it for a bit it strikes me as outright bizarre that for all the interesting/weird crap individual games/developers have tried out, the genre as a whole refuses to evolve. Really, just about the only improved game play mechanic you can count on compared to the first Final Fantasy is automatic target switching so you’re not attacking empty spots after defeating enemies. Every once in a while you can even still run into games that don’t let you switch menus with the L/R buttons. OK, I admit that I can’t remember exactly what the last game I couldn’t switch menus in was, probably something on the DS, but it did really shock me.

      I suppose it’s possible that a large part of the reason for this is the inclusion of RPG elements into other genres…

  4. I’m not certain how much story you can fit into a game where the basic premise is arena-style combat, unless you go for the intentionally silly (kind of like Team Fortress 2 did). The fighting game as it is seems to work fine.

    My pick for a genre reboot would be the adventure or action-adventure genres. There are games with epic stories, and there are games with unique stories, but IMHO they tend not to exist at the same time. I don’t know what exactly it would look like, but seeing a game that had all the grandeur of the better Legend of Zelda games and the charm of point-and-click games fifteen years ago would be great. The closest thing to my vision would be the StarCraft 2 campaign in between maps, at least as I’ve seen it.

  5. Stories in fighting games always have been lacking. Since the first fighting game I played with a story I have wondered: Why don’t they just utilize the same character models/sprites for story cut scenes. Much like how the Megaman Zero series has handled cut scenes.

    • avatar Daniela

      Hey this is actually the great arctlie . Can one use some of it on my blog ? I would obviously link back to your arctlie so people could view the complete arctlie when they wanted to. Thanks in either case.

  6. avatar SMark

    I was reading a random article recently and it made me realize that if you want a fighting game with a real story you’re actually looking for either some kind of weird hybrid game such as the original Melty Blood (3/5 visual novel), or an action/adventure game like Devil May Cry. Either way, a lot of developers seem to have nearly given up on trying to put excellent stories into games where multiplayer is the focus.

    Conversely, the genres people are complaining about are all Japanese. I have no idea why Western developers don’t make fighting games, and only indie games are JRPG style, and why nobody in Japan can make something like Dragon Age even though apparently everybody can make something like Trinity Universe, but that seems to be how it is. I was about to complain about how the SRPG hasn’t evolved either, but it’s essentially the same issue as with other XRPG games.

    • SMark, Ima let you finish, but Killer Instinct was one of the best western fighting games of all time, OF ALL TIME! “WWOOOOWWW”

  7. avatar Rob

    For my money it’s the first person shooter. Call of Duty did a good thing with the perks and the enhancements that you get for leveling up, but now it seems like that’s where the genre is stuck. I don’t know, I’m just totally bored with FPS games these days. I didn’t really get into the new Call of Duty, Battlefield Bad Company 2 was more of the same to me, and I’m not even really excited for Halo: Reach. Maybe it’s just me, but FPS games have really gotten stale.

    • I completely agree, save for Bad Company 2. It’s gonna be at least a couple of years before I pick up any new FPS.

    • avatar Yamur

      I’m with Jamie on this one.Developers get to select their own troepihs and achievements. Whether they choose to make them easy to get or not is up to them. Whether you earn them or not is up to you. Even if you have to get some help regarding exactly what you need to do, it still has to be done.As long as you’re not letting someone else log in to your account to earn achievements for you, I still think they still count.The only thing that’s ever changed is that these things started being automatically tracked through Xbox Live in 2005. It doesn’t mean that we never tried to fully complete games before then, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we never needed help in doing so.

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