2018… What a wild year it was for fighting games.
This was the year where anime fighters shined thanks to the release of the Dragon Ball FighterZ. Arc System Works made their presence known with that game, bringing the competitive fighting game scene from other games together because of our love for the DBZ franchise.
But that’s not all. Nintendo brought the hype with the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, bringing back several characters that last appeared in both Brawl and Melee while introducing brand new characters to the fray, such as Castlevania’s Simon and Richter, Splatoon’s Inkling, Street Fighter’s Ken, among others.
This year, we’ve seen releases such as Fighting EX Layer, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, Blade Strangers, SoulCalibur VI, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, the western release of Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late[st], SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, and Season 2 of Tekken 7.
As for FGC Moments, we’ve seen moments such as FOX|SonicFox dominating the course of 2018 with his EVO win in Dragon Ball FighterZ (which also led him to winning Best eSports Player at The Game Awards 2018), the inaugural EVO Japan 2018 tournament that took place, RB|gachikun winning the Capcom Cup 2018, VFR bringing back the BT series for the first time in four years with the 16th Beat-Tribe Cup, the FGC/Pro Wrestling Collab with CEO x NJPW event, and the beginning of Arc System Works’ first-ever Arcevo World Tour series, lasting from 2018-2019.
I decided to something different this year. For the first time ever, we will be talking about the upcoming arena fighters so that way there will be something for everyone, rather than just the competitive fighting games.
2018 had a lot to offer with their fighting games. Let’s take a look at what 2019 has in store for fighting games this year.
On December 17, 2017, Team Ninja ended support for the DOA5 series at Northeast Championships 18. The fans and the competitive scene wondered if we would see another DOA game again after that announcement. It wasn’t until Pre-E3 on June 8, 2018, where TN announced another installation of the DOA franchise.
Dead or Alive 6 is the latest entry of the DOA series from Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo. It is also the first game in which Yohei Shimbori serves as a producer for the main series, instead of Yosuke Hayashi, who produced the DOA5 series.
According to Shimbori, DOA6 is following the esports route with this iteration. New modes will be added to the game, such as DOA Central, a mode that allows you to customize costumes similar to Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, and DOA Quest Mode, which is a series of challenges that you can take on based on three tasks. Each challenge you complete will reward you currency to buy items for your characters to customize.
The gameplay for DOA6 is different this time around with the introduction of new mechanics such as Fatal Rush, Break Holds, and Break Blows. These mechanics are used for the new Break Gauge system, marking the first game in the series to have a meter mechanic. Fatal Rush is an auto-combo that can be done with the Special [S] Button. Break Holds can hold an attack from any height, costing one meter. Break Blows are this game’s Power Blows; it is a super move that can be done with two bars of meter. You can also do a Break Blow by doing a Fatal Rush, but be mindful that using that is unsafe on block.
DOA is also known for the insanity of their stages, and it seems that Team Ninja upped the ante with the Danger Zones of DOA6. From Pterodactyls to the giant Kraken and falling cars, these stages make everyone wonder why they aren’t dead yet.
The character roster features an all-DOA cast, with fan favorites such as Kasumi, Ayane, Marie-Rose, Hayabusa, Zack, and Honoka return to the roster, while newcomers such as the street-fighting Diego, and the Lighting Technomancer of M.I.S.T.: NiCO, make their DOA debut. Phase-4 and Nyotengu will be returning to the roster via DLC. It may also interest you that this is the final time you get to hear Unshō Ishizuka providing the voice of Brad Wong since he passed away on August 13, 2018.
Dead or Alive 6 will be released on March 1, 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, with an Arcade release soon to follow later this year.
At The Game Awards 2018, the whole world was graced with a familiar dragon logo that we all know and love to this day since 1992.
Mortal Kombat 11 ups the ante with brand new violence, from their signature fatalities to combos and moves that will give everyone a reason why the game industry created the ESRB rating in the first place.
The gameplay remains 2.5D much like the previous games and Injustice series, but with new elements. There are now two separate bars of meter: one for EX moves, and one for Breakers. X-Ray Moves make their return in the form of Fatal Blows, which can be only done if the character is in low health, similar to the Rage Arts in Tekken 7. Despite the run mechanic from MKX was removed, one new mechanic that is included in MK11 is the Perfect Block, in which it limits the chip damage on block. Other mechanics, such as the Variation selection from MKX and Character Customization from Injustice 2, return in MK11. Brutalities also make their return as well.
The storyline takes place after the events of MKX where Raiden tortures and kills Shinnok. From there, he encounters Kronika, a woman who has the power to alter time. It was mentioned by Ed Boon that Kronika has been running things behind the scenes since the first Mortal Kombat game.
Based on what was shown at the Community Event, there will be a total of 25 characters in the roster. Dark Raiden, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Baraka, and Skarlet are the only returning characters alongside Shao Khan as a pre-order DLC bonus. Geras is a brand new character who is making his MK debut as a character who has the power to manipulate time, including altering the round timer during matches. Another MK veteran, Kabal, was teased for his return thanks to his speed.
It may also interest you to know that UFC Hall of Famer and WWE Raw Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey, is currently voicing Sonya Blade, let alone modeled after her.
Mortal Kombat 11 will be released worldwide on April 23, 2019, for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
SNK did a great job jumping back into the video game market with the release of The King of Fighters XIV and SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy. To keep the momentum going, SNK brought back another game from their fighting game library. A fighting game that innovated the weapon-based genre since 1993.
Samurai Shodown (aka Samurai Spirits in Japan) makes an epic return for the first time since its previous release in 2008 with Samurai Shodown Sen. Set in 1787, the game takes place between Samurai Shodown V (1786) and Samurai Shodown 1, III, and IV (all took place in 1788). The trailer shows that this game will be played in 2.5D, and it will have an Mature rating since the fatalities and decapitations are back. It will also be the first SNK game to use Unreal Engine 4.
As of right now, the character roster features several returning characters such as Haohmaru, Nakoruru, Galford, Earthquake, Jubei, Ukyo, Genjuro, Ririmuru, Charlotte, Hanzo, Tam Tam, and Kyoshiro.
Samurai Shodown (2019) will be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC sometime this year.
Granblue Fantasy is known for their JRPG gameplay that was released for Android and iOS. The game has received over 22 million players as of October 2018, and is one of the most popular games made by Cygames. It was also the same game that reunited Nobuo Uematsu and Hideo Minaba for the first time in years. After the success of the mobile game and the anime (with the second season on the way), Cygames decided to try a new approach by creating a Granblue Fantasy fighting game. And what better way to do it by having the team widely known for anime fighters to develop it.
Developed by Arc System Works, Granblue Fantasy Versus is a 2.5D Anime fighter, similar to the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ and Guilty Gear Xrd series. According to the franchise director Tetsuya Fukuhara, this game will be catered to the mobile fanbase, alongside with the newcomers of the fighting game genre. This game isn’t as combo-centric compared to other ArcSys titles, and specials can be done by a press of a button.
Hardcore players won’t find much enjoyment in the game because of the simplicity of the controls and the moderate game speed, which is understandable since juggling and aerial combos are limited. But that’s okay, since it has something for everyone with this game.
Granblue Fantasy Versus will be released sometime in 2019 for the PlayStation 4.
Arc System Works never sleeps when it comes to fighting games. While they are working on games such as Granblue Fantasy Versus, they are also working on a new Kill La Kill game.
Kill La Kill IF is a 3D arena-based fighter based on the popular anime series of the same name. This game relies on three basic actions (Break Attacks, Guard, Normal Attacks), and three secondary attacks (Normal Attacks, Anti-Evasion Attack, Evasive Action). Ketsui Testament is also another RPS mechanic in which you can Taunt, Provoke, or Mock your opponent. Taunt deals more damage, Provoke recovers your SP Gauge, and Mock recovers your life. Keep in mind that this applies to the attacker of the Ketsui Testament only, not to mention that you can increase your Ketsui level.
The game stays true to the original anime, from attacks to the animations. Fans of the series will enjoy using their favorite characters such as Ryuko, Gamagoori, Satsuki, Nonon, and Nui. Kill La Kill IF comes to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC later this year.
Jump Force is another 3D anime arena fighter, featuring the heroes and villains of the Shonen Jump Universe. This game has an original story in which you play as a created hero as you help save the real world and the Shonen Jump world.
As of now, 33 characters from 13 different series have been confirmed. Anime fans will enjoy playing as Goku, Luffy, Naruto, Yusuke, Yugi Mutoh, Asta, Midoriya, Ichigo, Jotaro, and more in this 3-on-3 fighting game. It may also interest you to know that this is based on the 50th Anniversary of the Weekly Shonen Jump series. Jump Force will be released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 15th.
Blade Arcus Rebellion from Shining is the sequel to Blade Arcus from Shining, and also a spinoff of the SEGA’s Shining series. All the characters (including Sonia) make their return to the roster, with the addition of five more characters from Shining Resonance Refrain: Yuma, Kirika, Rinna, Zest, and Excela. Blade Arcus Rebellion from Shining will be released on March 14, 2019, for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in Japan.
Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid is another upcoming fighting game made from the developers who released Power Rangers: Legacy Wars for iOS/Android. The game features several Rangers to choose from, online cross-play between consoles and PC, and more. Battle For The Grid will be released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch on April, with a PC port soon to follow. Fun Fact: Justin Wong, a well-known FGC legend, also worked on this game in regards to balancing.
Tekken 7 started Season 2 back in September with the release of returning characters Anna and Lei, followed by Armor King and Marduk. Two more characters will be coming out this year, and they are the returning veteran Julia, and The Walking Dead’s own antagonist and leader of the Saviors: Negan.
SoulCalibur VI dropped a bombshell with the release of the second DLC and guest character: NieR Automata’s 2B. The next two characters are rumored to join the roster are the returning characters of Cassandra and Amy. It was also rumored that four more returning characters would be joining the roster as well based on datamining information. If the rumors are true, they will be next to the join the roster this year.
ARIKA made a triumphant return to fighting games with the release of Fighting EX Layer last year, but the team is not done with the game just yet. In addition to numerous balance changes, three characters will be joining the roster in 2019, which are returning characters Sharon and Area, and SNK’s own poster boy: Terry Bogard from the Fatal Fury/KOF series. One character will be released in March 2019, followed by two more characters in May 2019. Sharon and Area will be free DLC, but Terry will be paid DLC.
Blazblue Cross Tag Battle had an interesting year with the 20 DLC characters from Blazblue, UNIEL, Persona 4, and RWBY combined. Arc System Works president Minoru Kidoona confirmed that there will be Season 2 for this game, including a character from a different series outside of the four mentioned. More details will be revealed in the future. And speaking of Blazblue, Arc System Works will be releasing a Nintendo Switch port of Blazblue Central Fiction: Special Edition, in which it includes all the DLC characters from the release. The game will be released on February 7, 2019 digital-only in North America.
Dragon Ball FighterZ has their Season 2 announced, with the first DLC character announced for this season. Based on the magazine leak from Japan, Jiren is the next character to join the roster. If you’ve been keeping up with Dragon Ball Super during the Universe Survival Arc, you would know how powerful Jiren is.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released to critical acclaim, bringing back all the characters from the series while adding new characters to the roster, bringing back Adventure Mode, and more. When it came to DLC, Nintendo planned all of that out.
If you bought and registered the game physically or digitally, you should be able to have your first free DLC character, which is Piranha Plant from the Mario series. He’s not part of the Fighter’s Pass, so make sure you register your copy by January 31 in order to get Piranha Plant for free. Piranha Plant is scheduled to join the roster on February 2019.
Speaking of the Fighter’s Pass, each DLC in that pass contains one new character, one new stage, and new music. The first DLC character announced for the pass is none other than Joker from Persona 5, who is scheduled for this year. The remaining four are a mystery, and I will not speculate on who they are.
2019 is not showing any signs of slowing down with new fighting game releases. Whether you are a fan of 2D, 3D, anime, Smash, Arena, gore, fanservice, or whatever, there’s something out there for everybody. And with current tournaments going on this year, alongside with the anniversaries of certain fighters such as Tekken, KOF, Super Smash Bros., Darkstalkers, etc., fighting game fans and the FGC have a lot to look forward to this year!
Until then… Train Up, Fighters!