Anyone that knows me will know that I am a huge fan of 2D fighters; that is fighting games that occur on a 2D plane. From my fond memories of being 4 and playing Street Fighter 2 with my cousin, to my attempts at tournaments for games such as Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Guilty Gear XX, I was brought up with a soft-spot for these titles. Often overlooked in this era of grey and brown shooters, the colourful world of 2D fighters maintains its cult following and continues to survive; as it has from the very first consoles of old.
Now, I should probably give some background. 2D fighting games have a long history, starting as early as 1984 (Or even 1976, depending on your opinion), but weren’t popularised until we received titles such as Yie Ar Kung-Fu and Street Fighter. It’s true that these games bore many precursors to modern fighting games, but it was Street Fighter 2 (Released in 1991) that really kicked off the movement. By this point, 2D fighters began to look like the ones we now know and love. Nearly overnight, a wave of support crashed upon arcades with people playing these games ‘till the point that they had learned them inside-out. Ever since, there have been various reinventions and refinements to the genre, bringing us right up to date with some of the best Fighters ever.
There’s no universal system for 2D fighters, but there are key aspects that they all have in common. You and your opponent stand on a 2D plane, facing each other down with nought between a victory or a loss but your own skill. You each have a health bar, often a special gauge, and a couple of indicators to show who won and lost the previous round. You move around with your d-pad/analogue/stick/joystick and perform strikes with your face buttons, mixing pre-set movements with attacks to perform specials (And ultimate attacks beyond that). The obvious objective is to smash your opponent down until their health bar is empty, or until times runs out while you have more health than your opponent.
It all sounds pretty simple, right? Well, if you only ever stick with one series it can be, but if you branch out you’ll find that each series brings its own changes and additions to mix up the combat. Take BlazBlue for example (One of my personal favourites of all time), combos are much more readily available than on, say, Street Fighter or King of Fighters. The emphasis in BlazBlue is more on being offensive than it is on being defensive. On the other side of the coin, King of Fighters focuses more on defence and movement; getting in cheeky hits when the opponent is least able to defend.
If you want to delve even deeper into 2D fighter madness, there are some advanced aspects that can effect your play at a high-end level. This includes things such as hit-boxes, move-priority and frame-counting, but you don’t really need to know about all of that stuff right now. Suffice to say, it’s the realms of 2D fighting mega-nerds such as myself.
Now, some of you may not care at all for 2D fighters. Maybe you’ve played and hated them, or maybe they just don’t have enough gritty realism for you, that’s perfectly okay; we all play what we enjoy. To everyone else, I highly recommend 2D fighters if you have even a passing interest. There are many upsides to them that can help to fully flesh out your overall video game experience. Here are a few of them:
If you like to be competitive, 2D fighters can offer a whole new world. At their highest level, they have world tournaments with grand prizes for all individuals and teams that place highly. Even at a more personal friendly level these games bring out an air of rivalry seldom seen in other titles. Invite a few mates over and play one or two games of Street Fighter 4; just don’t blame me when you’ve ended up spending your entire evening battling it out for supremacy.
2D fighters are colourful and spectacular. Often, fights will seem to be some perfectly orchestrated animation of flashy attacks and loud, amusingly enthusiastic, announcers. Characters are all unique with distinct personality and looks, each with full voice-acting. Just ten minutes with BlazBlue will have you screaming “COUNTER!” in your daily life (You have been warned).
At least all of the 2D fighters I’ve played have been self-aware, and never entirely serious. There’s a lot of amusement to be had when a game is a bit silly and knows it. Street Fighter’s Dan Hibiki is a prime example. He’s a worthless fighter with an emphasis on taunts. One of his super moves is a long string of taunts that does absolutely zero damage and leaves you defenceless for some time.
If you like to pick up a game that is easy to learn but hard to master, 2D fighters should be your thing. Anybody can just pick up and play one, albeit using rage-inducing button-mashing, but it’s entirely possible to only ever use one character and master them to the point of near-invincibility.
Fans of the genre have created a wide-spread internet community with various tier-lists, FAQs, forums and videos that can help you become better at the games, or simply feel a part of something.
Now, hopefully I’ve perked your interest and you’re keen to know where to start. May I just say that I am happy to have made a difference, and you won’t regret this. There is no go-to game for me to recommend, so I’ll just mention a few of notability.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift
BlazBlue is the spiritual successor to ArcSystems Guilty Gear Series. With an animé style and very in-depth story, it’s one of the best 2D Fighters to date. Although featuring fewer characters than a typical fighter, each is incredibly unique and boast an entirely different play-style from the next. Combat is fast and gorgeous, but takes considerably more skill than many other fighters. BlazBlue does have all of the multiplayer functionality that you’d hope for, but also comes with a very long and very complicated story mode, with alternate endings and jokey what-if skits.
Super Street Fighter 4
The chaps at Capcom have created possibly their best Street Fighter ever. Switching from the traditional 2D sprites to 3D cel-shaded models, it has a pretty unique look. Super Street Fighter 4 sports a lot of characters to choose from, and is definitely one of easier games to play. The skill-level of mastering many of the characters is not quite as high as BlazBlue’s, and the things you learn can translate between most of the other characters too.
Marvel vs Capcom 3: Ultimate
Another Capcom game, MvC3:U combines a lot of different characters from both Capcoms games and the Marvel comic books. Fights are fought with teams of 3, and characters tag in and out. The winner is the first to beat all three opponents. It is definitely the easiest to learn of the three games mentioned, and has a lot of fun scenarios. Who wouldn’t want to pit Albert Wesker, Dante and Ryu against Spiderman, Hulk and Magneto?
2D fighting games have a lot to offer, even if you don’t commit and invest the time into learning them. Nothing quite beats a night of alcohol, friends and Street Fighter. All of the games I mentioned are relatively cheap to pick up and easily found. Hopefully, you’re now itching to jump out and get into the hype. Go ahead, you won’t look back.
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