What Makes Fighting Games Both Fun and Memorable?

Have you ever wondered what makes fighting games so memorable and fun? Let's cover why that may be. In Fighting games, the typical bread and butter mechanics are a staple in every game, while adding unique mechanics that separate from each other. Oftentimes, first-timers will ask about what makes it fun in the first place, while wondering what separates a good fighting game from a great fighting game.

What Makes Fighting Games Both Fun and Memorable? Cover

2021 is a good year for fighting games with content that are coming out this year such as Melty Blood: Type Lumina, DNF Duel, and others. However, not all genres are perfect, most notably NetherRealm Studios ending their support for Mortal Kombat 11 and The King of Fighters XV pushed back to early 2022 due to rising COVID cases in Japan. When talking about fighting games, we don’t tend to think about the meaty details that come along with them, as we both focus on beating up friends in a virtual setting.

These games can come in all sorts of varieties from the popular to the more underrated, yet absurd games. Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, and Tekken are good examples of games that we know about, while Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code, Fight of Animals, and the Arcana Hearts series are other examples that only a few are following.

Whether talked about or unknown, almost everyone can agree that playing fighting games is fun, but why is it fun, and what components make it enjoyable in the first place? So today, these questions will finally be put to rest.

MELTY BLOOD: TYPE LUMINA Release Announcement Trailer

GAMEPLAY

Parts of a good fighting game are, specifically, gameplay mechanics that have their own take on pacing and ease of response.

Street Fighter has your typical run-of-the-mill gameplay with your standard light, medium, and heavy attacks that most are aware of due to the game’s popularity. These make it easy to learn, but hard to master for beginners of the fighting game genre.

Samurai Shodown is a good contrast to the former as the gameplay has a slow-paced, heavy-hitting, whiff-punishing feel that keeps you aware of your opponent’s next move. This gives it a tension-filled aura similar to what you would see from both an Akira Kurosawa movie and real-life samurai duels.

And if we look behind the mentioned games, you have the Marvel vs Capcom series, Skullgirls, and every Arc System Works game like Dragonball FighterZ, the Guilty Gear series, and the Blazbue series. These ramp up the gameplay to 11 and above with their balls to the wall gameplay that focuses on chain combos.

These chain combos provide some on-the-fly thinking, causing moments that would almost look like they came straight out of an anime fight scene. Additionally, this also draws in the most spectators due to the fast-paced, chaotic, and engaging nature.

Despite all the sheer chaos, fighting games do provide strategies to achieve victory. One mistake and you’ll be on the receiving end of a special attack, while a single reversal can turn the tide of battle, whether it’s in a grand stage or your own home.

Dragon Ball FighterZ - XB1/PS4/PC - Gameplay session #1

Gameplay is always the bread and butter of every genre, but it’s not the only component that makes a fighting game great.

NETCODE

Another technical aspect of fighting games is the ability to connect with friends around the world; however, the issue is that most fighting games tend to mess this up most of the time.

Before 2020, not a lot of fighting game developers thought of implementing Rollback Netcode due to unknown reasons. This can easily solve the problems (mostly input delay) that most fighting game players stumble upon, instead of your usual delay-based netcode.

Notable examples of fighting games implementing rollback netcode that can make online play more enjoyable are The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, Skullgirls, and recently Guilty Gear Strive.

On the other hand, Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 are decent examples of bad netcode that give players a bad time network-wise. The former is infamous as fans had to fix the situations themselves only to get banned from Capcom.

Although the company did address the netcode issue, it still left players wanting more than what Capcom provided. Tekken 7 may have hard, yet engaging gameplay, but it also fell victim to delay-based netcode. Fortunately, it was decided to upgrade their online netcode during Season 4, with later improvements in future updates.

Code Mystics Explains Netcode: Input Delay vs. Rollback

Not every game has perfect multiplayer, as netcode is now very important in modern fighting games as crowds may still be at risk even with our world’s current situation.

CHARACTERS

If the gameplay is considered the main technical aspect of every fighting game, the visual equivalent is a solid character roster. Gameplay wouldn’t be good if we don’t see figures performing some type of action on our screens.

When we think of iconic characters, the likes of Ryu, Ken, Zangief, Chun-Li, and Akuma are the most likely to come out first off our minds. Many factors benefit from this including personality, outfits, catchphrases, and many more that check the list of things that makes a character distinguishable.

Additionally, pre-battle interactions give these characters more life from a friendly fist bump to banters and trash-talking. Features that give more depth to a character’s personality are important as players can choose characters based on small details such as fighting stance, mannerisms, and more.

Both Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami show their prowess before the battle in Capcom vs SNK 2

Both Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami show their prowess before the battle in Capcom vs SNK 2

What’s also the most important for a memorable character is the design. This mainly portrays the character at first glance without the need to dig deeper into the character’s personality and backstory.

VISUAL DESIGN

Other than the characters, another important aspect of good fighting games is the visual design. This can lead to a few categories: effects for attacks, animation, and Interface.

Good visual effects when attacking your opponent make players sell into every punch, kick and slash a character performs. Animation is a key factor as this adds the illustration of the character delivering a strong action with such impact.

Just like in action movies, if the action of a character delivering a strong punch isn’t given the amount of effort it should have, then it ruins the engagement.

Now we move on to the interface, where this gives us players some short information on what is currently going on. These include mainly the health bar and the meter bar. They shouldn’t be too flashy and distracting nor bland and effortless.

Skullgirls' interface in its clean and stylish form

Skullgirls’ interface in its clean and stylish form

Skullgirls is a good example of having a clean interface, but the only issue is that the game’s meter bar is slightly difficult to notice when eyes are mainly focused on the center, where the action is mainly directed. 

AUDIO AND SOUNDTRACK

And finally, it wouldn’t be a fighting game without a kick-ass video game soundtrack. Similar to how a good character design can portray a character’s personality at first glance, music can visually paint certain character traits.

Additionally, a good fighting game soundtrack can change the tone of each fight, as well as great additions for music playlists. Out of all the soundtracks in every fighting game, the best example is without a doubt Guilty Gear Strive.

The game’s creator and composer Daisuke Ishiwatari, inspired by his love of the Rock ‘n Roll genre, led to one of the best soundtracks in all of the fighting games. Each song best described the character and their story from sad and tragic to uplifting and carefree.

If a game company can provide the best fighting game soundtracks, Arc System Works is the best in the business.

What fighting games do you enjoy playing the most? Let me know in the comments below!

(Video Sources: Sitting On Clouds, Code Mystics)

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