Simon Says: Beat-em-up Games need a change in direction

Recently, my friends and I were having a discussion regarding the latest release from Warner Bros. Games, Injustice: Gods Among Us. We did agree that the game looked good and the character roster was very impressive but also agreed that fighting or beat-em-up games no longer have the same appeal as they used to. I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that fighting games aren’t as good as they once were due to numerous factors. In previous years, I would have queued outside for a fighting game but now I usually don’t bother buying them and I find this sad in all honesty.

Some of the first games I experienced were fighting titles. Whether it was playing on the Super Nintendo or original Game Boy, I loved playing fighting titles. I used to play Mortal Kombat 2 for hours on the original Game Boy and never got tired of seeing Sub Zero freezing an opponent then uppercutting him or saying, “Get over here!” as I reeled in my opponents as Scorpion. The game was so simple yet so effective. I never experienced any of the fatalities as I was so pre-occupied learning the character’s moves to win the battle. The same goes for Street Fighter II on the SNES, which I rank amongst my all-time favourite games.

This was back in the mid-90’s however and gaming has changed a lot since then. After expanding my gaming horizon with titles such as Resident Evil, FIFA, Metal Gear Solid and Tomb Raider to name but a few, fighting games seemed to be lost among the more intricate, story-driven titles and hadn’t played many fighting games until I decided to buy Street Fighter IV for the Xbox 360. The reason I decided to buy the game was due to the critic’s reaction to the game and hoping to find the same magic here as I did with SFII. To begin with I did and everything was great.

After a week or two though, I soon realised that there were so many characters to play as and if you wanted to only play the game part-time, then you were in serious trouble. When I tried to play the game online, I was defeated no problem, I did win a few however, but the beauty and simplicity of SFII was lost for me and has been that has been the case ever since. I also invested in the reboot of Mortal Kombat for the Xbox which lasted around the same amount of time as SFIV.

This is my problem with fighting games these days, the amount of characters you can choose from is ridiculous combined with a lack of story makes each playthrough feel the same. In recent times, we have been spoiled in terms of storytelling and the beat-em-up genre is finding itself in the dark ages when it comes to a compelling story. In both SFIV and MK, I couldn’t tell you the story of any of my favourite fighters. The poor story modes as well as a huge roster makes for bad news and a very short experience for gamers who don’t play fighting games competitively.

Many people will enjoy playing these games with their fighting sticks as they learn each and every move as they will have done in arcades over the years. But for gamers, such as myself, who enjoy various genres of games the fighting titles these days do not seem appealing at all. If fighting games had more to offer than just a large number of characters. The simplicity of the early Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games was that there wasn’t much to choose from but there wasn’t anything as addictive on the market at the time as well. It is a sad thought for me to ponder over because I believe that Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Sub Zero, Reptile and Johnny Cage all have something still to offer. It’s just that there is next to no replay value in the game.

After playing the demo for Injustice I thought it had great features such as the interactive environments and the game does feature a brilliant character list. If I bought the game however, I wouldn’t be able to play it for more than a month, probably. I just know there was a time where the sounds of ‘JAPAN’ and ‘FIGHT!’ would ring true with me and I still get excited hearing these sounds to this day. The only sort of fighting game I have played recently or still play are the WWE games. If traditional beat-em-up games had a similar charm of the WWE titles then far more people would be able to play them on a regular basis as no two matches are the same. An interactive story mode for SF or MK would be brilliant and let the player feel as though they were in control instead of Ryu constantly saying “In the heat of battle.” Although Injustice has just been released, I’ll be sticking with WWE 13.

the author

23, Scotland, Great Britain, Enjoys Football (Soccer), Basketball and Running, Manchester United are the team for me!

  • Yo Daddy

    Fighters have evolved same as other genres. What you propose is a move in the wrong direction

  • prophetbtk

    The only problem is your nostalgia is a bit skewed. You played sub zero and scorpion because you liked them, not because their story modes were so great. Mk’s story mode was a stack of blocks with opponents faces on them. And just because you only played a few sf characters doesn’t mean the game was meant to be played that way. People were clamoring for new characters in each update. When the bosses were released we couldn’t get enough new characters. Maybe it’s bc our imagination is better when we are younger, maybe we want to remember the past as something greater. The games are better, faster and more technical than ever. They don’t have the same appeal as the old games, but not because they are inaccessible, because the genre isn’t new. And you can never reclaim that. And changing the genre to that something new is not asking to update a tired franchise, it’s asking for a different style of game altogether.

  • Xino

    first Beat em Ups are not fighting games. Fighting Games are head to head, Beat EM Ups are different.

    Second, MK had a great story! Not only did it have Arcade like story ending but it had AMAZING story mode.
    Though you are 100% right about fighters having too much characters.

    Take Marvel Vs Capcom for an example, what’s the point in having over 24 characters when half of them are useless and because of the amount of characters the game is deeply unbalanced.
    *when a special guess characters comes to a game: devs spend more time on that character than the rest: Kratos, Dante, all over powered and having more moves than rest
    *when there are so much characters in a fighting game: devs spend more time on lots of characters rather than fixing what moves balances and works correctly for few characters

    MK is the best fighting game this gen for me, even though they patched the game making some low tier characters pointless and fixing some bad moves. Yet the game is still broken by the way people play it.

    We need a fresh new Fighting game franchise that starts with 7 characters! Devs should work and balance all moves for all characters. When a sequel comes out they can surely add those characters from previous game to the sequel.

    I like how MK did the training mode and how inJustice is coming up with new things. Surely Ed Boon and Netherealm are serious about fighting games unlike Capcom.
    Namco only makes Soul Calibur spam/button bash friendly so n00bs can pick it up and win easily.

  • qq

    Play sf2 hd remix online. It’s as ‘simple’ as the sf2 you played, but you’ll be crushed all the same. The problem isn’t the games, it’s that you never had any real competition and don’t like getting beaten into the ground.