Ah, the modern age of gaming. The graphics, the online connectivity, the movie quality voice work and effects, the post-release content ... the complete soullessness of it all. How I loathe it. How I wish I could go back to "tha good ol' days", as if I'm some old geezer in a rocking chair rambling incoherently as it he were reciting an old epic in his head.
When I think about the past of gaming, being a product of the mid 80s and raised in the early 90s, I'd think about how many coincidences happened to get me in there. I'd probably never have got into gaming (as hard as I did, anyway) had I not randomly won an SNES from my elementary school's raffle before the thing even released. Waiting for that excitedly, my dad just happened to have a friend from his work who let me borrow the NES while I waited. Then I went to a flea market and got Kung Fu - which just happened to be made by the same people who made the original Street Fighter and went on to form SNK.
I can still smell the strong mustard on those sausage dogs they served at that dirt mall...
However, ya know, I can always plug up my NES to the tele and still get most of that experience. My memories of Chrono Trigger can mostly be recreated with the original game or one of the many ports that Square Enix has dumped out over the years in a vain attempt at easy money. But ya know what can't be fully recreated with a port to modern consoles or even owning the original hardware?
Well, I'm sure you can use context clues from the title to see where I'm getting at.
All of my strongest memories of gaming come from those massive wooden monoliths. Those electric smile machines. The modern-day nickelodeons. While the arcade industry still exists - and appears to be doing well enough, despite what many say - it's nothing like what I grew up with. Score boards and direct competition is pretty much a thing of the past now, and now everything in the arcade can pretty much be divided up into three groups: the little bit of shooters, the little bit of drivers, and the large majority of kiddie gambling machines masquerading as games of skill.
No amount of cynicism could keep me from spending more than twice the value on getting this damn Nadia figure though...
The reason you can't recreate this magic just by owning the original hardware (and trust me, I've tried... about 15 times now...) is that it was never just about the game. Certainly that's a big part, but another big part was how it was just about everywhere. One of my favorite memories was going to a Pizza Hut while I was in college with friends, and there just happened to be a Neo Geo with Fatal Fury 3 in it. All we wanted was some pizza, yet we got some impromptu slugfest action going. That was always amazing to me - go to a convenience store, and find a VS Super Mario Bros. I remember going to see some movie at a now bulldozed movie theater and finding a Darkstalkers cabinet for the first time. I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT MOVIE IT WAS, but I will never forget playing Darkstalkers for the first time. It was just... magic.
My earliest - and fuzziest - memory was of going to this once busy Wal-Mart and mashing buttons on Street Fighter. I didn't even realize it WAS Street Fighter until years later when I'd see this stage, hear the mediocre voice effects and experience the terrible controls on MAME and a flood of memories came back to me.
The other big part of arcades that can't be recreated is how it would connect all the people involved. It could make friends out of strangers. This was especially the case of any sort of co-operative game. I still have some good memories of playing Die Hard Arcade at multiple locations with many strangers coming up and playing along with me. It's just completely different from having some stranger drop in to help you out in Dragon's Crown, where communication is limited at best. No amount of text or voice chat will be able to replicate standing next to a total stranger at the Skateland.
Even with competitive games, while things could often turn ugly, the sense of having a good rival that you could see, talk with, and maybe even exchange strategies with if they weren't a total douche and actually wanted to better the experience is completely different and completely better than the rage quits, hate mail and -best case scenario - delayed "GGs" messages of today.
The old Aladdin's Castle, as it is today. Time Crisis 2, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Hydro Thunder and so many others used to reside within... now it's a damn photo hut.
Times change, I'm aware of this. Arcades just can't exist as they used to and the games had to change with the times. Challenge, competition and depth used to be the main draws of arcades but now they alienate the majority of gamers who just want cheap thrills that make them feel good momentarily for no effort. I understand the appeal, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.
I'll continue to say it was better back in the day, because by God, it was better back in the day.
Back from MAGFest. Yay, MAGFest. First time there, enjoyed it overall. However, there is something that still lingers in my mind. I went to a panel on gaming communities, going with the intention of helping grow my own FGC. Well, I guess I should have expected it, but - naturally - someone brought up the FGC being toxic. Everyone agreed. Someone else chimed in that someone threatened to rape them at a fighting game tournament. Everyone gasped.
And of course, there was only one person there with a positive view of the FGC: Me. I'm not exactly fond of the entire FGC getting blamed for the transgressions of one or two scenes, because I happen to belong to a fighting game community which is very diverse and very positive. However, being Johnny On The Spot, I didn't exactly have time to premeditate my answer and give anything I felt was satisfactory.
I feel like most people don't really understand the FGC. Certain misguided works from MIT graduates haven't exactly helped that understanding. Then again, I'm probably going to be just as bad because I clearly also have an agenda (although at least I'm being straight forward with it instead of hiding it in deleted tweets), but this has been really eating at me and I can't just do nothing.
Make no mistake, I'm not defending people who make the FGC harder for new players to get into and make others uncomfortable for reasons outside of the game. I'm also not trying to be some "social justice" warrior who wants everyone to tap-dance to political correctness. I'm just sharing how things are so that maybe you'll understand why things are the way they are.
About Me: I've been in the fighting game community since 2010, my definition of "being in the fighting game community" being that from that point on I took fighting games seriously enough to devote real time to improving my skill level and finding others to fight alongside. I'm not a "pro" player, I'm not "sponsored", I've never gotten Top 8 at a major, I'm not even in any of the particularly large scenes. I'm just a player who has been to at least half a dozen different scenes as part of my 'leveling up' process. This is what I've observed thus far.
1. There Is No FGC
A singular entity which represents all those that play fighting games competitively doesn't exist. Rather, the FGC refers to a collection of very loosely associated 'scenes.'
The FGC will occasionally come together for a common cause, such as helping pay for a fellow player's funeral, helping house a player who loses their home, etc. When people point at the FGC in general as being toxic, you can be assured a thousand fingers will be pointing back, as you've effectively accused all scenes as being toxic
Most FGC scenes are at a local level. Sometimes a city, sometimes a state, sometimes a region. In some cases, a dedicated scene may revolve around a specific game, although I find this is usually only the case with smaller, less active games (no real reason to be part of a Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs Capcom 3 specific scene when there are probably two dozen players for each of those in your home town, but King of Fighters XIII and Street Fighter X Tekken players are going to be much more thinly spread out). Though these scenes have their members spread far, they usually come together at major tournaments to play together.
All the scenes are autonomous. They operate independently of each other. There are no 'orders from on high' as there are in other competitive gaming communities, everyone makes their own rules... or don't make any rules at all. They have their own distinct makeup of players and they have their own unique social mores. The Dead Or Alive scene has a larger number of female players than most other scenes while the King of Fighters scene has a larger number of Hispanic players than most other scenes, as an example. Each scene on a local level is also different, even when the scenes border each other the difference can be very radical.
2. Leadership Through Power
Even within each individual scene, there is rarely a person who the community officially chooses to be their representative. This is mainly because one of the common ideas within most FGC scenes is that each member is equal.
However, the idea of equality is contradictory to how leadership is actually decided - through meritocracy. Status is obtained by dominating strong opponents within the game. This is part of what makes the FGC so appealing to some people: gaining status in real life is complex, but in most FGC scenes, all you have to do is win.
With this status comes respect, and with respect comes leadership. The problem is, not all good players are fit to lead. Some don't even want to. Others aren't even aware that they are in a leadership position - not pointing fingers, but I can think of many well-known players right now who are obviously blissfully unaware that people actually look up to them.
This is how it works with the community in general. In the case of events (i.e. tournaments) the leader is the tournament organizer. Some tournaments are large multi-day events that may as well be conventions, and some tournaments are shoe-string budget affairs that meet in the back of a bar on a slow night. Some tournaments are part of a long running series that have a lot of trust invested into them, and others can just form up in a convention's game room with a piece of paper tapped to an arcade machine.
There is no corporate leadership as there is with most eSports communities. While Blizzard and Riot fuel their respective communities thanks to the mountains of cash they maintain, fighting game companies like Capcom can barely keep enough cash in their coffers to make current gen games. Even if they wanted and were able to take control, there would definitely be resistance due to the 20+ years the FGC has operated on their own.
3. You Are (Not) FGC
I consider myself to be part of the FGC because I make a constant effort to attend local and major events, play against stronger opponents and improve myself. I don't consider this to be the only way to be part of the FGC - those who organize tournaments, who stream events, who provide knowledge and assistance for others, or who provide locations for people are also part of the FGC. In my eyes.
But who am I? Nobody. Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you also consider those that only post on message boards to be part of the FGC. Perhaps you consider players who only play online or with friends part of it. Perhaps you consider those who only watch streams to be part of it.
Maybe you think in another direction - maybe you think only those who were playing competitively before Street Fighter IV came out are truly part of the FGC. Maybe you think only those who consistently win tournaments are part of the FGC. Maybe you think only those who put competition above all other aspects of life are part of the FGC.
Anybody can say they are a part of the FGC if they want to be a part of it. Each individual defines whether they are part of the FGC for themselves. There are no qualifiers you must pass, there are no licenses you must buy, there are no contracts you must sign. With that, it stands to reason you'll get a few troublemakers along with the good folks.
So What's The Point?
My point is that when you call out "the FGC" for doing something wrong, you are calling out the good scenes and the bad. Yes, there are jackasses in the FGC, just as there are in any community. There's also a lot of folks who are trying to be welcoming to newcomers of all sorts. Calling out everybody for the activities of a few isn't going to do anything productive. If you are going to put people on blast, at least specify. You can't attack everything and expect it to eventually trickle down to the offenders, because there is no official structure for it to trickle down with. Shame is a powerful tool. Time and time again, heroes became pariahs when they got shamed, whether it was for harassing minorities or colluding tournaments.
My second point is that, even if you do believe the FGC in general are a bunch of bad apples, that doesn't mean your local FGC couldn't be an exception. Give it a shot. If they are a bunch of jackasses, then be sure to call them out specifically so others can know to avoid them - and keep in mind that another "FGC" is just down the block. If you were like me, though, you'll find a bunch of people who just want to play some damn games. You should play some damn games with us.
Well, ya know, as long as you don't start calling things "cheap," making excuses and refuse to do anything to develop your skills. You can shovel hate on us for mocking you for that all day, we eat that dirt like it's vitamins.
Didn't know whether I should share this or not, considering... ya know... it's just a link an' all. Still, I very rarely see an eBay listing with some humor thrown into it. You might get a chuckle out of it.
Ever played an arcade game - and really, really loved it - and then eagerly bought and played the console version only to find out it was a load of crap? It first happened to me when playing Primal Rage on the SNES - and after that, I unconsciously learned to never fall for this trap again.
However, the generations that followed made me forget these lessons. I became complacent. Lo and behold, I've fallen for the trap again.
Waku Waku 7 is a 2D Fighting Game originally made by Sunsoft for the Neo Geo in 1996- it was then ported to the Sega Saturn a year later. Despite the '7', the game is not a direct sequel to any previous game, although it is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Sunsoft's previous fighter Galaxy Fight.
The gamplay is actually pretty damn good. The game takes elements from other fighters such as Darkstalkers (complete with Chain Combos, Super-charged Specials a la ES Attacks and Super powered "Doki Doki" combos a la EX Attacks) and SNK's various fighters (Four Attack Button set-up, screen zooming and "Waku Waku" Powered Up Forms a la King of Fighters' MAX Mode), while also adding in some interesting new mechanics such as Power Moves which fling the enemy all the way across the arena and Power Move Reversals which allow you to jump right back into the action after being hit with a Power Move.
The most interesting unique mechanic included is the "Harahara Move". Harahara Moves are all easily performed by pressing Down twice followed by either two punches or kicks. While the move is extremely easy to perform, it is hard to use - once activated, the screen will flash with a giant "Caution" warning, sirens will go off, and your character will be stuck charging for anywhere between 2-8 seconds! However, if you get the full charge off, you'll unleash an unblockable and difficult-to-avoid Super Attack which can take off as much as Three-Fourths of your opponents health! As difficult as it is to land one of these attacks, there isn't much else out there that feels so rewarding.
Mauru and Arina's Harahara Moves in action.
The look of Waku Waku 7 is very different from just about every other fighting game out there. While there's only 7 characters (plus two bosses), each of these characters are very colorful, with unique designs and personalities. They're mostly parodies of anime characters, such as the Totoro-esque Mauru, the Jojo's Bizarre Adventure inspired Dandy-J, and the robotic maid (and nurse during in certain moves) Tesse.
The backgrounds are also very colorful, however they were noticeably downgraded for the Saturn port. It's not a deal breaker - in fact, they still look pretty good so long as you are concentrating on the action. However, it is a shame they were downgraded, especially considering this game requires the 1MB Cart.
Sound is also very good. Many of the music tracks are of a very high quality - even higher than the original Neo Geo version. (To be expected, considering the CD format) Sound effects are satisfying, vocals are convincing - just good audio all around.
So yeah - this game is pretty much perfect in every creative area. This would easily be one of the best fighters on the Sega Saturn. However...
The game suffers from a myriad of technical problems, many of them quite severe. The background graphics being downscaled was the least of this title's problems. Loading times are both long and populous. Even going from Round 1 to Round 2, you'll experience a load time. It will surely try your patience.
Even worse than load times, however, is the horrendous frame-rate and slow-down issues. Even when the game is operating at its best, it's a bit slower than the original - playable, but just not as good. However, the game often slows to a snails pace when handling certain characters. This is a death sentence for a fighter, and does a lot to kill the fun factor.
What's even worse is that, this game requires the 1MB RAM cart. Why did they choose the 1MB version when the game came out after the release of the 4MB RAM cart? I've played many games that require the 4MB RAM cart, and they ran both smoothly and without loading times - Vampire Savior and X-Men Vs Street Fighter are two I can think of off the top of my head. From where I'm sitting, I see no reason for this game to not have been an arcade perfect port, utilizing the 4MB RAM cart.
As strange as it might be, I'd honestly recommend playing this game single-player rather than with friends. The slow down and loading issues were easier to overlook while dealing with the AI, and the game is still plenty enjoyable this way. However, playing this with friends is only going to result in people getting pissed off at waiting on the game to load or the frame-rate going completely out-of-whack, and even fans of the arcade original will be begging for you to reach for another game.
RetroGrade: C. Great graphics, great sound, great gameplay - this game should have been an A and considered one of the best games on the Saturn. Unfortunately, the incredible amount of technical issues bring the score - and fun factor - way, way down. It's always a shame to see such an incredibly creative game brought down by a sub-standard port job, but c'est la vie.
For the sake of comparison, this is what the original arcade version played like.
I remember reading GameFan back in the day and being blown away by all the games the Saturn received in Japan. Back then, all I could do was drool over them as my nerd-lust consumed me. Now, I finally have the chance to go back and play all the games I couldn't back then.
Of course, not everything can live up to our expectations.
Ninku - Tsuyokina Yatsura No Daigekitotsu! (Long name...) is a 2D fighter for the Sega Saturn, made by Sega of Japan in 1996. The game is based on the manga/anime series of the same name, although I honestly haven't experienced the source material.
The thing that really drew me to this game when I first saw it more than a decade ago was the look. This game has some incredible sprites, especially considering the time it came out - two years prior to the debut of the Guilty Gear series. This was the first time I'd ever seen sprites of an animation cell quality, and it amazed me. The 3D backgrounds are pretty nice, too!
Of course, just like Arc System Works' fighters, the game looks a lot better in screenshots than in motion. It's not bad , but there is a distinct lack of frames in many animation.
The audio is... just kinda there. It barely gets the job done, actually. The music tracks are easily forgotten, and many of the vocals sound like they were recorded at a low quality. Nothing in this department is going to get stuck in your head, that's for sure. The music does remind me of the same mid-90s style that I used to hear on anime VHS tapes back in the day, though - I guess that's something.
The gameplay is the real disappointment, though. It's pretty bare-bones, with very little in the way of combos and tactical movements. Movement altogether is rather clunky, with walking and jumping seeming off. Even though the arenas are 3D, this only comes into play with certain attacks that, when they connect, will throw the enemy into the screen. Gameplay-wise, the 3D nature is not taken advantage of at all, it's just a visual gimmick. If this game had Fatal Fury-style sidestepping, it could have helped the game tremendously.
Also, if you are going to play this game, it'll have to be with friends. The AI is down-right incompetent. I got through the entire game by simply liberally using one or two specials until my super meter filled up, then unleashing my super until I had no energy left. And it worked, the entire time. I never lost a single match. Got pretty boring, actually. Playing with friends can always be fun, but even here it gets a little tedious - again, usually spamming the same attacks over and over again pays off far more than diversifying, mainly because the movement is so awkward, it makes it a hassle to switch things up.
RetroGrade: D. It's fun, but only for a while. When you look past the amazing 2D sprites and the 3D arenas, you aren't left with very much. In the end, this game just doesn't have enough content to justify a high price. It's not bad, it's just not very good either - especially when compared to many of the fighting game options on the Sega Saturn.
There's no doubt that the gaming industry has advanced in many, many ways compared to it's infancy. Looking at Atari 2600 games or original Nintendo games and comparing them to the stuff of today is perhaps not far off from comparing a Technicolor Fantasia to an IMAX Avatar. They can do more now than ever before...
...and yet, it feels like they're doing less.
I have a distinct bias against games that lack stylization, and go for looking as realistic as possible. I like games that take an old-school approach. I tend to have a heavy favoritism for games that incorporate certain elements that characterized yesterday - and which most everything today has tried to distance itself from.
I look at all the games that line the shelves - and will be lining the shelves - and let out a sigh. Ultra-gritty action shooter with a crime theme. Ultra-gritty action shooter with a sci-fi theme. Ultra-gritty action shooter with a warfare theme. Yet, I'd be fooling myself if I didn't believe the same slock would have been around 'back in the day' if they were capable of it.
Art through adversity. When they weren't capable of making ultra-realistic graphics, they had to take much more creative approaches. If Metal Slug was made with today's technology, I've little doubt it would have ended up looking like Gears of War. Yet, because they couldn't, we ended up with a game with a ton of charm and characters that didn't need voices to give them characterization.
Sure, there were many games that still tried to go for a realistic look, but because they weren't capable of doing so, they had to find creative solutions. That seems to be gone now. They no longer have to be creative, they can just perfectly copy the real world... and that just seems all kinds of lazy.
You can say a lot when you can't say anything at all. The characters from Jet Grind Radio had maybe about 2 lines of speech, plus a few grunts and yelps when they did tricks or got hurt - yet, you didn't need a ton of back-story or monologues to understand them. Just from their appearances, gestures and expressions, you could tell more about them than two hours of cut-scenes.
And yet, they go with the two hours of cut-scenes. With very few exceptions, I haven't seen a character that blew me away with his or her character design in any game of this generation that aimed for realism. Nathan Drake may have a few humorous, witty one-liners, but that doesn't change the fact that his character design was pretty bland... unless we're talking about Donut Drake. Indiana Jones was pretty real looking (maybe because he was being played by a real man), but that didn't stop the designers from crafting a look for him that was iconic and instantly recognizable - Drake, by comparison, looks like... just some guy.
Stick to what you're good at, and don't waste my time. There used to be a time when games were what you paid for. You bought Sonic 2, and you ran at break-neck speeds and killed robots. You bought Street Fighter II, and you told a bunch of dudes and one chick to go home and be a family man. This was enough. Hell, this was more than enough. We played it, and when we were done, we played it again. It was fun in it's most purified form - why would we wanna stop?
Now look at games. Collect 500 Agility Orbs. Complete 333 ambient freeplay missions. What the hell? Do we really need to add a bunch of chores to our games? I assume this is done to keep people 'playing' longer (thus, preventing used sales), yet it does the exact opposite for me. Maybe, if you'd put the time spent planning out these horrific collect-a-thons into making the game a much more fun and enjoyable experience, I wouldn't sell the game because I'd want to play it again? Nah, sorry - I guess that's just too much to ask.
Maybe I'm just some crotchety old man who sees things with rose-tinted glasses.Wait, no - that's wrong. Fact of the matter is, I'm right. Things WERE better back then, precisely because they weren't. It's become obvious to me that, with only a few exceptions (and those exceptions are usually relegated to budget titles, digital releases and portable games), the games of today lack a creative punch because they no longer have to have it.