I’m gonna take you for a ride

The EVO 2020, the event for fighting game tournaments, lineup was rather surprising in few ways; Under Night In-Birth stayed in with its latest iterations, Guilty Gear was kicked out in favour of Granblue Fantasu Versus (which also has all the telltale signs how ArcSys really wants their fighting games to be, to put it less diplomatically, more retarded), no Mortal Kombat anywhere to be seen and as a surprise to everyone Marvel VS Capcom 2 is in as a special invitation-only tournament.

MvC2 is in due to its twenty year anniversary, and considering it has been a major part of EVO and its predecessor, Battle by the Bay, there’s not really any other game that might have as much historical hype behind. MvC2 in many ways is a historical cornerstone in video game history overall, being a kind of peak of Capcom fighting game history, where the era of classic era ends. Sure there was Capcom VS SNK 2 and some stragglers afterwards, yet none of them managed to reach the same peak in both popularity and in sheer quality. The Marvel series of games for Capcom is significant part of the company’s history, and still stand out as one of the best, if not outright the best games based on Marvel properties. However, licensing each character must be a mess, and with Disney at the helm and priorities being what they are, games like Marvel vs Capcom Infinite gets made. The VS games have always been about the play, never about the story. MvCI sadly tried to explain and explore what wasn’t needed or required, but due to Disney and Marvel limiting the licenses 20th Century Fox had at the time, the game’s cast was gimped and it seemed like a weak vehicle for the Marvel movie characters.

MvC2 is a kind of game that hasn’t aged. Like said in previous post, well made games don’t age. They may show their age, like how Pong constitutes of two white bars and a square for a ball, but the play and design is still perfect. The same can’t be said for most Pong clone consoles and their games, and the same applies to loads of games even up to this day. I’ve talked about how Breakout evolved with time and with new iterations (I do recommend reading that post, it’s one of the few entries I personally like) but the core play never demanded revisions. Tweaks and additions for sure, but the day it came out, it was about as perfect as it could be. Games well up to the Fourth Generation of consoles, Super Nintendo and such, had to balance between what the systems could do and what the game design was. For each game that had great design and realisation there were dozen that were much less in quality. Super Mario Bros. 3 isn’t just a great NES game, it’s overall a great game with excellent design both in play and how the graphics are depicted. While modern systems allow any level of depiction when it comes to graphics, you still have games that use the most mundane look and design. You can have the most high fidelity models and highest possible 8K+ resolution, but in comparison they’ll beat MSB3 if the design is lacking.

Games like Solaris might look crude and maybe even sound terrible, and for 1986 there were serious competition on the NES already, but put into proper context, Solaris is an absolute marvel on the Atari 2600. It wasn’t an arcade port for one, and second it pushed the system to its absolute limits with fast, colourful graphics, relatively complex play for the system that involved both navigation next to its shooting game elements. You of course had older titles like Pitfall! already had explored and expanded what the Atari 2600 could do. These consoles were limited beasts that didn’t offer lots of options for the developers. Limitations are your friend and push creativity and innovation forwards. The same can’t be said of modern systems, where space is wasted, everyone is recycling the same game engines, and you are effectively able to do whatever you want. Similar technical limitations don’t exist any more, polygons don’t limit you to square shape and systems can show more than four colours on screen at a time. Hell, you can use colour. The original Breakout didn’t have a colour screen, but a black and white monitor that had a celluloid overlay that coloured the white graphics on the screen. I’d like to say such analogue practices would be impractical nowadays, but seeing how people are convincing themselves on VR despite it still lingering at the lower echelons of success, I’m not so sure. Sticking a film on your screen for extra graphics sounds about as easy solution as a VR headset.

While it’d be easy to say that a game looks too old to be played, that age has made its visual fall behind, is not exactly the case. Well designed and applied graphics will always stand out from the dredge. MvC2 might be old compared the rest of the games, it might have a weird mix of sprites, some almost a decade old when the game was released, with 3D backgrounds, yet how colourful it is, how expressive the characters and stages are combined with the sheer explosion of colours combined with the furiously fast and almost uncontrollable play made the game not only popular, but also timeless. Yes, it looks like a game from 2000’s, but in the same manner we can say that we’re happy it doesn’t look like a game from 2007 with all the brown and bloom of the time.

This TAS shows how Jill’s sprite is made, how you can discern each kick and punch clearly from each other. You’d think something like this would be sensible, but so many fighting games flub their characters’ moves and animations for whatever reasons

The game’s also a terrific spectator’s game because all the above. Despite it being absolutely insane on what’s happening on the screen at times, it doesn’t blow its load too early and keeps the screen relatively clean. The easy-to-read sprites and timing for characters’ Super moves and such have just a long enough pause to have an effect on both the players and audience that something big is about hit. Modern fighting games have lost the touch to make impactful moves and effects with the whole cinematic supers, where the whole game has to be paused. Fighting games have, effectively, become slower and have more emphasize on elements that make the games slower, wasting players’ time.

While market and PR are the reasons events like EVO mostly run current games and not any of the old classics, there are no proper reasons why any of these events should have one or two classic entries in their lineup. It’s understandable why some companies wouldn’t want their long line-up available for modern systems outside licensing issues, because a lot of the more celebrated games can beat their latest titles. The relationship with Nintendo and VC titles is probably one of the best examples of this. It’s not uncommon to see and hear developers to do something new and forget what’s already done, but you can’t really ignore history, especially if you’ve made some of the games in short history of electronic gaming. Best you can do is ignore it, or if you dare, tackle it head-on and aim to obsolete it.

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