The Next Generation of Fighting Games
A New Experience
This holiday season marks the beginning of a brand new generation of gaming experiences as Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 gear up for worldwide release. Both consoles are packed with robust sets of features, including built-in streaming capabilities, gameplay recording/playback, and instant sharing - all with the potential to substantially influence the way that professional gamers interact with their communities. One member of Team EG's Fighting Game Division that has been paying particular attention to the upcoming next-gen revolution is none other than Justin Wong:
I definitely want to get both next-generation consoles eventually, even though I will probably only be getting an Xbox One at launch due to the PlayStation 4 pre-order situation. You can look forward to me streaming some Killer Instinct this fall, though. That's for sure!
A Classic Reborn
Justin isn't the only one in the community looking forward to the next-gen reimagining of Killer Instinct. Announced at E3 2013 as an Xbox One exclusive, this long-awaited next-gen title took many players in the community by surprise. Developed by Double Helix, a studio filled to the brim with fighting fans, this new entry in the long-dormant franchise is also overseen by one of the major creative forces behind the original title: Ken Lobb. As Ken discussed before a panel of Killer Instinct fans earlier this year at EVO 2013, his main goal in developing a new entry in the KI franchise was to take all the classic elements that defined the original two titles (ultra combos, insane announcer, over-the-top combat) and take them to an entirely new level, crafting a game that not only stands up to its predecessors but can hold its own against titles in the modern fighting genre such as Super Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It is also the only fighting game that will be available at launch for a next-gen system.
Eight characters will be available in the game from launch, including Jago, Sabrewulf, Glacius, Thunder, Orchid, and the brand-new character Sadira (a spider-esque ninja woman that appears to share more than a little in common with Mortal Kombat's Mileena) - leaving two more characters to be announced for the roster making up the "first season" of game content. Double Helix has no intention of stopping with eight characters, however, as they plan to continue building content for Killer Instinct as long as the community continues to support the title. The developer hopes to make the game as accessible as possible, offering a free-to-play version of the title in which players have access to Jago alone (but can fight against other characters via CPU or online battles).
Although the tournament community was initially divided on the announcement of the title as an Xbox One exclusive due to the console's then-standard "always on" and "24-hour check-in" requirements (subsequently removed from the console due to consumer requests), hype for the game appears to be building with each new announcement and public unveiling. No longer shackled by console digital rights management, Xbox One's Killer Instinct is looking to take 2014 fighting game events by force if the game's current reception is any indication. The demo stations at E3 and EVO this year were packed with fighting game fans eager to get their hands on the game.
Another feature unique to this version of Killer Instinct is the addition of character tweaking via cloud technology. Confirmed by producer Torin Rettig in an interview with GameInformer, this feature would allow the developers at Double Helix to modify character attributes on the fly, without the need to wait for a patch to make its way through a complicated certification process. While such a feature can be a boon to eliminating significant bugs and exploits sniffed out by crafty players early on in the lifecycle of a fighting game, there is plenty of potential for developers to twiddle with the balance too much - not giving players enough time to learn the state of the game and creating unpredictable consequences in the process. Still, Double Helix has promised patch notes with each character tweak that is done, and plans to keep its fingers on the pulse of the community following the game's launch. Justin, for one, is extremely impressed with the way Double Helix is treating the community during development of KI:
Out of all the next-gen fighting games we currently know about, I think Killer Instinct has the biggest potential to blow up in the community. It's like a revival for the series. Double Helix Games has been great about providing many opportunities for the community to try out the game and provide direct feedback to the developers. This is a good thing and will certainly translate into better longevity for the game.
Back In The Spotlight
The awkwardly-named fighting franchise, Guilty Gear, is returning just in time for next-gen consoles, looking to take its first steps into the third dimension.
After spending several years working on the BlazBlue series (a saga that, according to creator Daisuke Ishiwatari, is nearing its end) the development team at Arc System Works began turning its attention to its predecessor. This new entry in the series is actually set after the decidedly different action title Guilty Gear 2: Overture, and the game's currently announced roster is made up of nine classic characters: Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, Millia Rage, May, Chipp Zanuff, Potemkin, Venom, Axl Low, and I-No. Creator Ishiwatari views the title as a "fresh start" for the series, though fans will be happy to know that the fighting system once again centers around creating combos using the animation-halting mechanic known as the Roman Cancel. While the feature is still undergoing balance adjustments, Ishiwatari hopes to allow players to utilize the Roman Cancel under a much wider variety of situations. Already location-tested in several Japanese arcades, the game was recently confirmed to be making its way home as a cross-generation title to both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
Looking Towards The Future
Even with both of these next-gen titles in the pipeline (along with a special version of Injustice: Gods Among Us for PlayStation 4 containing all of the downloadable content released for the game so far), there is still plenty of life left in the fighting game scene for the current crop of consoles. When asked about this, Justin replied simply:
I still believe that XBOX360 and PS3 will be the main FGC console for at least another year.
Old and New
And indeed, with titles such as the localized version of Namco Bandai/CyberConnect2's JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, Aksys Games' BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, and, of course, Ultra Street Fighter IV from Capcom all coming next year, it's difficult to argue. Whether you plan on braving the cold and the massive lines to pick up a next-gen console at launch, or you prefer to stick with your PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for just a little bit longer, it's never been a more exciting time to be a fighting game fan.
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