Do you care about the story in fighting games?

Talk, talk, punch, punch

As Steven reported yesterday, Yoshinori Ono and the team at Capcom are taking the story mode of Street Fighter V seriously. Sure, they’ll have the usual arcade mode intro/wrap-up for every character like Street Fighter has had since time immemorial, but come June, Capcom plans to release a more ambitious, “more modern cinematic treatment” of a story mode. They want to provide some context for all the hadokens and psycho crushers this time around and finally connect the dots between SFII and SFIII (yes, that’s right, SFV is technically a second prequel to SFIII).

To me, it seems like a pretty blatant attempt to compete with other fighting franchises. Mortal Kombat has been bestowed with illustrious, fully cinematic story-lines for its past two entries, and BlazBlue has oodles of anime-nonsense story, the combined games of the series featuring more dialog about time-paradoxes and fate than entire seasons of Quantum Leap at this point. Street Fighter has always led the genre in terms of mechanics and the competitive scene, but in this area, it seems like they’ve fallen behind and are struggling to catch up.

My question is, does it matter? Do you really care about the story in a fighting game? Are you more likely to pick up a fighting game that has a strong single-player narrative to work through, or would it not significantly influence your purchasing decision? Are you only interested in mechanics, or do you want some background for your magical karate men?

Personally, I’m of two minds on the idea. I enjoyed MKX and Injustice‘s story modes (cheesy as both of them got on occasion) and I think some of the character representations in those storylines probably influenced my decision of who to main. Those single-player stories made me look at the characters differently, got me legitimately interested in the worlds of the game (I actually bought the first volume of the Injustice comic series), and gave me something to hold on to when the online matchmaking was broken on PC (yes, I’m still salty).

On the other hand, I’ve played hundreds upon hundreds of hours of SF Alpha 3 and MvC without every giving a single solitary thought about the story. If you asked me what the key plot points of Alpha 3 were, all I could tell you is that Zangief pile drives Honda into M. Bison’s world domination machine because that is almost all I can remember. When you put it like that, it seems like the cost and effort of putting a story in a fighting game is completely optional if the core fighting is good enough to stand on its own.

What do you think? Are stories important in fighting games?

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Nic Rowen
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