Why Fighting Game Stories Lack Substance: Round 2

The second installment of WFGSLS is here guys!  First off I want to thank everyone who commented here at I Speak Comics, Shoryuken.com, and at Eventhubs.com.  While some of your responses were pure trolling (heh, shame on you) I really appreciated the well-thought out rants, diatribes, and essays written by readers both supporting stories and not.

However, I wanted to point out that I’m not trying to force feed you the idea that fighting games NEED stories (after 20 successful years without them why would I try?), but rather I’m trying to explain why they don’t have them.  Do I believe fighting games might provide a more well-rounded experience for players if they did have a serviceable canon?  Absolutely, but that’s besides the point.  So without further ado, it’s on to part TWO!

Round 2 – Multiple Characters and Endings but a Want of Modes

SFII Character Select Screen from MobyGames.com

It’s safe to say that while Street Fighter put fighting games on the map, it was Street Fighter II that changed the game forever.  How?  By adding the character select screen.  Now what was once a single player/character experience exploded into a flurry of unique choices when deciding one’s combatant.  SFII featured 7 all-new fighters, from a bear-hugging wrestler straight out of the U.S.S.R., to a green mutated monster that somehow rolled out of Brazil’s darkest jungles.  Never before had such a whirlwind cast of freaks and fighters found their way into an arcade cabinet.  Add to that a Vs. mode which encouraged human competition and a rock solid gameplay system and you’ve got a game that people are still playing to this day.

However these unique new characters weren’t fighting in a vacuum.  In one bold and brilliant move Capcom took a huge step in sculpting the SF universe into something more tangible and gave each fighter an ending cutscene after defeating Bison, the dastardly dictator of Shadowloo and end game boss.  From that brief ending vignette you could sleep easy knowing that Chun-Li had avenged her father and that Guile had avenged Charlie, that Ryu had walked out on the awards ceremony and that Ken had finally married Eliza.  Wait, what?  And there we’ve stumbled upon our problem: Multiple characters with unique endings creates confusing canon.

Chun-Li defeats M. Bison to avenger her father by JcDizon:

Guile beats down Bison to avenge Charlie by JcDizon:

That needs some clarification, multiple characters with unique endings in which they all defeat the main boss separately, cause confusion.  Why?  Because the player doesn’t know what really happened at the end of the 2nd World Warrior Tournament.  At least not until a subsequent game comes out.  The same goes for Mortal Kombat and a whole host of other games, Samurai Showdown, Soul Calibur, Bloody Roar, the list goes on and on.

In the case of SF the character endings acted as a reward for players determined enough to battle through every warrior on their quest to defeat Bison.  So unless you beat the game, you wouldn’t know what your character was fighting for in the first place.  For some of us that doesn’t matter but it’s unquestionably poor storytelling.  Again, we can blame it on the arcade mentality.  No opening cutscenes meant the player got into the game quicker and unless they were familiar with the system, lost quicker, ensuring a constant stream of coins plinking into Capcom’s cabinets.  If a player did manage to reach the end, the minute long cutscenes probably wouldn’t have cut into Capcom’s bottom line.

Yet unbeknownst to the developer, this move set a very damaging precedent in terms of story development in fighters, as it was mimicked by almost every other fighting game at the time.  In an attempt to make every character a star in their own story, to empower the player, and foster a connection between the player and their digital avatar, they effectively retarded the development of narratives in fighting games for 20+ years.  Why?  Because very few games gave players a “true ending” in their mess of unique character-specific endings.

Mortal Kombat II Endings.  Which one is real? from samspir

Without a “true ending” game developers are forced to almost work backwards when they’re trying to set up the narrative for a new game.  They need to make it clear what happened in the previous game and then further the story from there.  If they don’t, well then you get things like retcons and developers resorting to different media sources to make canon understood, i.e. official SF sources telling info not found in-game.

So what do I want to say here?  I think that adding characters adds almost infinite depth to gameplay and creates chances for unique story developments, but because of a 20 year old tradition that gives every character their own unique story ending, in which they’ve “saved the day,” it’s very difficult to solidify canon and create a tangible, consistent story.  Not making the “true ending” clear immediately leaves players to imagine what happened and could possibly lead to extra expenses when developers release other media sources to confirm or deny story elements.  Yet that’s only half the problem.

Like I said before, these characters aren’t operating in a vacuum, and neither are their different endings.  Both of these items are inextricably connected to the second part of this post: Arcade Mode is generally the main way through which players glean each character’s story.

What I mean is that because the characters aren’t a part of a mode that distinctly supports storytelling, the developers are limited with what they can do.  Arcade Mode is immutable and constant, an intrinsic piece of every fighting game.  But if developers wanted to give the player a story, a meaningful story, they shouldn’t rely on the Arcade Mode to do it, but rather a Story Mode or maybe even go the route of Tekken 5 and give us an Adventure Mode.

We’ve been given the same host of modes since the beginning: Arcade, Vs., Online Vs., and Training make up the bare minimum when it comes to fighters.  Every once in a while you’ll get Story, Survival, Team Battle, and others to help liven up the experience but they rarely give the narrative more meat.

Standard Mode Select Screen of the Darkstalkers persuasion courtesy of GiantBomb.com

As many people in the comments have pointed out, there are exceptions.  BlazBlue has taken a big step when it comes to developing their unique universe by including a dedicated Story Mode (to some other commenter’s chagrin).  In it each character battles specific characters and the story changes given certain circumstances (win, lose, what have you) and not every character battles Hazama, the final boss.  Soul Calibur II had Weapon Master Mode which attempted to make the player the main character in their own unique narrative, while 3 & 4 tried a BlazBlue-ish route (though 3 came out before BB), with small choices between fights and even mini-games that affected your character’s health in the next match.

Then there are the Adventure Modes that never quite seem to fit, ala Tekken 5, but I suppose we can’t blame them for trying.  I think that the rise of console gaming has actually provided an outlet for more storytelling avenues in fighters and might help rope new players in for the long haul.  Instead of trying to get players in and out, players are encouraged to play for hours at a time and an Arcade Mode that you can beat in 30 minutes isn’t quite as interesting for a new player as a Story Mode that details the universe and its denizens, but I’ll get to that in a later post.

The KoF franchise actually does something interesting and has a sort of “true ending” feel throughout the series, as the story unfolds character’s gameplay actually changes occassionally (Iori losing his flames to Ash), but again, if you finish with any designated team they will have won the tournament and different plot points will be revealed, which may or may not be canon.  You don’t know until the next game.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Endings from KOF 2003 from FighterFan – Part. 1

In my eyes X-Men: Next Dimension, for the Gamecube, PS2 and XBox, has one of the best dedicated Story Modes out there.  While BlazBlue’s might be more in-depth and more interactive, it doesn’t have the same rigid style and concentration on pure storytelling.  It stands as a great example of what can be accomplished from a purely narrative point of view.  Though, having 40 years of established canon, well-known characters, and professional comics scribes working on the project is one heckuva crutch to lean on.

X-Men: Next Dimension Story Mode from vidfreak727

So this time around, why do fighting game stories lack substance?  Because a multitude of characters have their own unique endings resulting in questionable end game canon and because developers are still following a 20 year-old tradition, telling the story through the Arcade Mode without exploring the plethora of other options out there.  Teams are innovating and experimenting though, make no mistake about that, and if the depth of BlazBlue and others is any indicator, I’m excited for the future.

And that’s it for Round 2.  Hopefully this entry creates some more conversation and I’m sorry if I missed any of your own favorite examples of great Story Modes.  The sheer number of fighting games out there makes it impossible for me to catch every single gleaming exception to my aforementioned generalizations, so people with more knowledge than I are always welcome to drop some of it on me.  Stay tuned for Round 3!

Keep fighting,

Sumo out!


48 thoughts on “Why Fighting Game Stories Lack Substance: Round 2”

  1. The Interesting part about Blazblue is that

    The whole story is a time loophole, which repeats itself over and over, and therefore, anything that happens in Arcade mode and Story mode is technically canon. That means that individual endings all happen, and in order to get the whole picture, you have to play everybody in their Arcade mode and Story mode sections. It is more of an omniversal story more than it is a linear story, so some people may find it a unique narrative while others find it a tad confusing.
    ***SPOILERS END***

      1. Reminds me of “Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni” anime series where they use the same sort of idea (time loops). Although may not directly apply to fighting games because the time loophole part was directly part of the story where they had to get out of the time loop to win.

      2. Don’t fret. It only loops in the first game until you get the true ending where events finally stop happening in a loop (two of the in game characters are actual immune from this loop as well, actually guiding some of the other characters into breaking it.) In the second game, alternate endings are regarded as possibilities but there’s only a few paths that actually lead to the true ending (if you get a wrong/bad ending you get a little cartoon cinematic explaining why the ending was bad, and the choices you should make to get the good ending(one that falls in line with the proper true ending)) In one of the situations Hakumen, a robot samurai type character, actually cuts a hole through the space-time continuum to see one of these alternate endings saying that “Time has begun to unfold. That me is pitiful for losing to such an unworthy opponent.” Not to mention bad endings end with the phrase “Yet another possibility of the Continuum Shift.” Yeah they invested a shitload of time in their story mode :O

  2. I really don’t mind arcade endings myself, so long as they add a canon story somewhere, and we can just enjoy those endings. The early fighting games really didn’t get that, I can agree fully with that.

    In regards to Mortal Kombat, for instance, outside of Adventure games like Mythologies: Sub Zero, and Shaolin Monks, we didn’t get story outside of the opening videos, bios, and endings until Deception, where it’s conquest mode gave us bits and pieces of the backstory (though not the ending of it). Armageddon went more Shaolin Monks route with the Konquest mode, but it covered the backstory, and what seems to be the ending (though, skipping the major battle outside of the opening, and the lack of most bios, sadly). A disappointing game in regards to understanding story. Though it wasn’t canon, MK vs DCU’s Story Mode was good in that it did cover the story …though, it’s major flaw was that several characters got barely any screen time at all. I hope the new game fixes that.

    Verses games are games that should have a lot of story coverage. I mean, the reason I wanted MK vs SF was not only the fighting (which would be fun as hell), but also to see the stories and universes cross, and see how characters interact. MvC3 should have had some sort of story mode, to show what lead up to the dangers, how the characters interact, and how things are resolved (with a bit of post-battle story coverage).

    Some games I didn’t mind so much lacking story, as I was just enjoying the games (like VF4), but looking back, it really wouldn’t hurt to have good gameplay and that good story.

    I’m thinking about using the current releases to get back into Tekken (Tag2 and the Vs games), so I hope there is some level of story coverage there. Maybe Tekken, SF, and a few other games can go the story mode route as well, with fully voiced cutscenes. The technology is certainly there. Hell, the technology was there back with Budokai 1 (though, that took the team quite a while to make that story, iirc).

    Once again, thanks for the informative, well written article. I’m all for the growth of any game genre, while keeping what makes it great, and this can easily be done with Fighting Games, if the effort is made.

  3. I’m just curious about how you can do a good story mode in a fighting game. You mention BlazBlue but that Story Mode is 98% story and 2% gameplay. You literally have to sit through a 10 minute cutscene and then fight a 20 second match against the computer. I can’t see a story mode in a fighting game working any other way without creating a new mode that’s completely exclusive from the fighting portion of the game like Tekken 6. The BlazBlue story gets tedious because you’re not actually doing anything most of the time. You’re just pressing “A” or “X” to get to the next scene. I think that’s the reason fighting games don’t have stories. There’s just not a good way to present it for the genre. Most people buy fighting games to fight, but there isn’t much fighting in a story mode. You can have a narrative that ties directly into the gameplay in other genres such as a shooter or RPG but it doesn’t really work fluidly in a fighting game.

    1. A Story Mode would be meant to actually dole out story, and thus the BlazBlue example fits, though it sounds like you didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, the BlazBlue story mode was mind numbingly tedious at times, but the fact remains that it made the attempt and tried something new. Stories CAN be a part of fighting games, just because they haven’t yet doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. I thought X-Men: Next Dimension had a great story mode and I posted a video of it in the article. One thing that I thought was really fun was during the rival battles in SF4 you actually got to here the characters talk to each other mid-fight. That would be an interesting route to take, if developers could make it work.

  4. Ahh, good article. This is indeed is a central, interesting problem with the narrative power of fighting games. Blazblue definitely approaches this in an interesting way though, despite haters. Thanks for writing this!

  5. Before talking about BlazBlue, don’t forget about Guilty Gear (XX’s at least).
    Guilty Gear XX has a very rich Story Mode where each caracter has to fight specific opponents and a different boss, sometimes even with slightly different capabilities of the original characters, and different “routes” for the same character according to specific things you do or don’t do while playing, plus while you play it contains dialogues wich unfold a story if you put them all togheter.

  6. I never minded that the street fighter endings were mostly canon. As long as you can give some sort of account from the previous series, then it should be enough to give you a valid story. I personally do not care for a story mode. If maybe they dedicated one mode for maybe Ryu seeing as he’s been the focal point of Street Fighter, I could accept that but I’m sure many fans would be against that choice because it does not involve every single character. KOF was definitely a great example how having a story line can effect the overall experience but what it also showed was that your favorite character might just come up missing in the next release and that would probably cause serious loathing for street fighter fans.

  7. The problem I see, at least with Street Fighter, it’s that everytime it has to be a tournament. I really enjoyed Street Fighter Zero (alpha) 1 and 2, because every character had their own “final boss” and a more “believable” reason to fight him.
    I would have liked SFIV to go that route (and for some time I believed it was going to, because the rival matches). For me, those are more meaningful fights than the one against seth. An ending that shows more about the outcome of that fight would teach us more about the relationships between characters (Chun, Cammy, Guile or the three of them catching Bison, Ryu Learning the Shin Shoryuken, Denjin Hadoken, or the joudan sokuto geri from gouken); this even lets room for a “true” or general ending
    if that would be needed.
    There are ways to get a story in a fighting game, and I believe a good story could draw more people into the fighting genre (my own friends included), what would ultimately end in a larger community.

    1. Yeah I agree the rival angle was a great idea to create a true story line but I think people would take issue if their character could not fight with the major antagonist of the game. So many characters are considered to be what I call a guest appearance and are not made to have a true place within the street fighter universe. When you decide to generate a story around certain characters it alienates the rest of the cast. Basically you can’t make everyone happy and in my opinion taking characters out side of their norm like mortal kombat makes it kind of corny especially when they aren’t in their natural element.

    2. At least SFIV explains the end boss fight with there being multiple copies of Seth, so every character in the cast beating a Seth at the end is pretty much canonical.

    3. oh by the way, there’s no tournament going on in the Alpha games, as far as I know. The story is just about people roaming about, getting into fights.

  8. I wouldn’t expect everyone to have played it, the series as a whole is a bit obscure. And even then, the story mode that was awesome was only in one version. But! Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure on the original playstation actually had a really amazing story mode. There was no tournament structure at all. Rather it told a story, that was mapped out on a grid, and point had a specific fight or mini game according to the story. There was only one ending and it tied it all together. When it came out, a friend and I stayed up for 24 hours doing every mission.

  9. I think a good way to approach why fighting game stories lack substance, is to ask how a company would make the story mode both interactive and interesting. I’ll talk here about 2 limitations of going 2D. I’m playing a lot of Blazblue lately, so I’ll be using this game as a basis of “2D storyline.”

    As a developer, if I plan to have an involved story, I would go 2.5D instead of 2D. The same in-game models players fight with, I use for all the cutscenes. 2D is forced into still pictures, or at best, they have a comic. I believe this is why Blazblue didn’t do it: drawing multiple HD comic strips for each dialogue or even a scene change is too ambitious. Whereas moving a 3D model into a different pose, and placing the camera at any angle, is much easier for a “3D” comic (think Bayonetta). This makes the narrative more interesting and “movie-like.” Less reading, more watching. I give props to the BB true endings, which are animated cartoons. It’s not feasible, but there should been more of them interspersed throughout the narrative.

    Second, stolen from Soul Caliber, I would use those same character models to generate “mooks.” Essentially enemies that have a totally different look/outfit, but anyone can guess “Hey! That’s the Astaroth model.” Irrelevant. What matters is that you understand that it’s a “Barbarian Warlord.” This allows me to have a storyline where you fight often, but who you fight isn’t always a main character. This keeps you having fun (“Survive the barbarian horde”), while pushing the story forward (“because it protects your loved ones.”). Less watching, more playing. This is what made BB story mode tedious: you only fought main characters, so a ton of information justifying this act had to be thrown on the player, or risk weak character motivations. Every fighting game will have this trouble if they stray from something different than the “World Tournament” or “Seek the Artifact of Power” trope. Mooks must exist to keep the fighting frequent. If you can make totally new enemies to fight, that’s even better.

    Looking at the future, Skullgirls claims it’ll have a strong narrative, so I’m looking forward to it. Perhaps they’ve figured something out for 2D. They’re using the “Seek the Artifact of Power” trope, but I hope it’s executed differently.

  10. ???SPOILERS???

    I feel like I need to say this. I know some people may disagree with me on this, but I feel like the best in-game story mode, as far as telling a narrative goes, was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It used all of the characters to an extent and didn’t focus on any one character, There were no individual ending as you could use anyone to beat the final boss and it would end up the same. The only thing it was really lacking was voices.

  11. I believe that Super Smash Brother’s Brawl had an adventure mode that told a story. While rather silly, it was a story and quite linear for the most part with a single end.

  12. Um.. Tekken 6 has a better story mode than Tekken 5’s one.
    I haven’t played T6’s story mode yet, so I can’t give comment on that.

    Btw if you’d like to check them yourself..

    Scenario Mode(cutscenes & FMV only) Part 1

    Scenario Mode(with gameplay) Part 1

    And this is the FMV that you see when you start Scenario mode
    The Story of the Mishimas (from T1-T6)

    1. I agree it was nice to have a story mode but if the gameplay sucks you can forget the story ever getting through and that is kind of what happened with me. I wasn’t about to play that annoying mini-game for just a story.

      1. I played through the entire T6 story mode. As a fan of the Tekken mythos, I was able to power through the tedium, but it wasn’t exactly enjoyable. I think that if you’ve created a fighting game then you should you use the FIGHTING GAME to tell the story, not create a half-assed and half working facsimile of your established game-play engine.

        In short T6’s story mode was very annoying and the story was told only to partial satisfaction.

  13. Aaaah, a very good reason to look at. I completely missed that one, myself. When there’s hundreds of different endings, players have to look to the future game to learn what’s canon and what’s not…which oftentimes isn’t at all explained, or usually takes a different option altogether. Like in Soulcalibur IV, in which none of the endings from Soulcalibur III are canon–it basically just says the last couple fights never happened, and Zasalamel cancelled the ritual.

    I’m kind of curious if this isn’t a precedent for the medium as a whole, though. For example, in Mass Effect 2, The Suffering: Ties that Bind, and Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, these three games start off right away saying what happened in the previous game. Individual player choices be damned.
    Because it’s on a more minor scale, however, saying what happened in the latter half of the game rather than neutering all but one of the cast, do you think that it’s more acceptable? Or that it’s just a bad practice all around?

    Personally, I think the best way to go about it is the way Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe handled it, or Def Jam: Fight for NY. In the former the story mode goes about swapping from character to character so that everyone is played but there’s only one ending, and in the latter you only play as one character throughout the entire thing so there’s only one ending.

    1. I like one ending. It ties everything together, no questions asked. If you look at the old Dark Forces 2 at the end you could choose to align with either the Dark Side of the force or the Light, and the game changed from there on out. However in the next game Kyle Kattarn had chosen to align with the forces of good, making that Dark Side player experience negligible for the sake of storytelling. It’s a toss up between what you want: interesting player choice, or a rock solid canon ending? I don’t think having multiple endings is such a bad thing outside of fighting games, especially since most other games are driven by a more coherent plot.

  14. Soul Calibur not only has the specific modes mentioned on the article, but it also has some very deep stories hidden within the profiles of the characters (that has his story on the game, the stage’s story and his connection with other characters), and because the series doesn’t has a main character (like ryu, sol, ragna, akira, etc…) like others f-games it doesn’t focuses only on one character’s story and almost all the characters are well developed. For the next game, they pick one of the Arcade endings of a character and make it being the canon ending (from SC to SCII it was Inferno’s ending, and I didn’t played SCIII, only SCIV, so I don’t know nothing about the story of the third game =P ) and then develops the next game using that in mind.

    Oh, and nice article, can’t wait for part 3.

    1. In regards to Soul Calibur I really enjoyed the thought they put into character development, with regards to the rivalries and such. You get a feeling that some of these characters really know each other, ie Xiangua, Kilik, and Maxi and Yun-Seong and Seong-Mina. I liked that. I’m not sure of the endings becoming canon, though that might make sense. I would need to do a little research there and I can’t find my copy of 3… Darn it.

      1. Well Soulcalibur is odd… The people who worked on the storylines for 1/2 were not the same people who worked on the storylines for 3/4. The storylines for 1/2 were actually decent; and there was no question of “which ending is the true ending”… because ALL endings were true, they ALL happened, all that mattered was the order in which the endings happened. With 3/4, there were different teams working on the game and it was clear that they fell back to the familiar tropes of fighting game storylines.

      2. I will definitely have to replay II, especially since I only had it for the PS2 and I only remember Heihachi’s ending. That would be an interesting way to have a story play out minus the annoying story confusion. Did everyone defeat Inferno or after defeating Inferno was it as if they never did and just did their own unique endings?

  15. If I were you, I’d give Red Earth a shot. Sure, it’s only got four characters, but they all have their own unique storylines in the arcade mode. Different orders of fighting opponents and even multiple endings for each character.

    …of course, the problem with that is that there are only four characters and thus the actual multiplayer versus mode is pretty gimped.

    But hey! It’s got a story and that’s what matters in a fighting game, right? Right?

    1. I remember watching some play-throughs of Red Earth, but I’ve never played it myself. Did it really have a storyline for each character? I just remember that Leo was a king, he got transformed into a lionman, and then a big suit of armor basically took over the world. Did they talk to their opponents? Does opponent order matter? Though I do remember the multiple endings, especially for Tessa. A story though? Ehhhhhh… I suppose it does, but it has the same problems as most other fighting games I think.

  16. The lacking of substance is that the trials and challenges of the characters are not determined by the story but by the player. If a teenage ninja school girl could beat a murderous intent possessed super fighter, then the challenge in the storyline is non-existent and therefore insubstantial. Sure you could grind in RPGs to beat some overpowered bosses that otherwise would have killed you in one hit early in the game, but the fact that being a fighting game and thus giving every single player an equal chance to win, that very same mindset is thrusted onto the characters in the game storyline. There is no hero and the villain has to be reduced to such a point where his evil could be applicable to everyone in the game and not just a handful.

    That’s why IMHO SFA1 had the best “storyline” of the SF series because out of the handful of characters, each one had their own midboss and their own final boss that isn’t always M. Bison. As if realizing the problem of having a single final boss which could take away from the storyline by making any fighter fit the role of hero, SFA1 felt like at least a few plausible storylines can exist side by side without the need of just “one canon” storyline to end it all.

    It also doesn’t help that most fighting game storylines introduced tell of the canon result of the previous installment, which creates a constant regression of storyline than any promise of a conclusion when finishing the game. In addition the “hidden” content that we only see in Vid Game bibles or Mooks that describe the actions during the tournament of each character that is never bothered to be included in game save for a few.

    1. I’m a little confused as to what you’re trying to say here. Are you saying that because any one character can beat any other given the player has enough skill, this causes a problem with the story? I suppose you’re right, because if we’re using SF examples Sakura should never be able to beat a character like Bison or Akuma, at least not yet. However oftentimes a character’s rise over seemingly insurmountable odds makes for a great story so… I have to agree, the single end boss is certainly a main factor in fighting game storytelling.

      1. I worded it a bit wonky but what I meant by “Challenge” is the “difficulty of the task of defeating the end boss and or more powerful/skilled participants in the tournament/story.” Every storyline has the protagonist facing narrative conflicts to overcome, but to have one with multiple characters essentially following their own storyline BUT having the same final obstacle (I.e. Seth, M. Bison, Shao Kahn etc.) the normal affiliation with storyline development and pacing is thrown out of the window.

        Hence the whole Sakura being able to defeat Akuma. The second this aspect comes into play, the suspension of disbelief is gone, the storyline erased and it suddenly becomes just the player against the computer rather than Sakura vs. Akuma. The ability to say that this person’s ability to defeat all matter of fighters makes for a good story isn’t really the point, but in the manner it’s expressed that makes it worth believing. That’s the substance that people are looking for in a storyline however because of the gameplay…it overtakes the storyline component.

    2. I’ve personally always hated the UNBEATABLE 3V1L type of character that Akuma represents, so I don’t really mind his power level being reduced to nothing.

      I’d like to think that getting punched in the face by schoolgirls is Akuma’s kryptonite. Sure, his punches can level mountains, but he’s so full of his own shit that someone actually managing to land a hit on him hurts his ego like crazy.

  17. Thank you for this. Seriously. On another note, I noticed that during this fighting game renaissance, Virtua Fighter has been conspicuously absent. In an era where Street Figher’s call to arms has revived the likes of Mortal Kombat and even DOA, the fact that the first 3D fighter couldn’t be bothered to return to consoles is surprising. Another factor to determine in this is that Virtua Fighter, unlike its fellow peers, made no attempt to weave the actual story into the game. They relegated the story to a minor position in the hind pages of the instruction manuals or the back of the game box itself. The only personality given to them beyond their fighting ability was their voice overs. One was never made aware of their motivations, ambitions or rivalries unless they read about it in the next game’s manual.

    This glaring omission shows Virtua Fighter’s adherence to the Arcade code of conduct. It also shows a unique phenomenon. Virtua Fighter’s decline in popularity can be contributed to Sega’s lack of willingness to place the franchise back on the market, their awkward behavior in regards to online play via Virtua Fighter 5, or the mere concept that the tournament scene in other fighting games is too grandiose. However, could the lack of personality behind the pugilists themselves also be considered a factor. While the cannon itself is seldom mentioned or even important in competitive settings, the prospects of a narrative and the ludological structure that slowly began to envelop the fighting game mythos could also be a contributing factor.

    Think of it, as your favorite athlete. You know they are very skilled and talented. You enjoy watching their performance and you consider them a highly valued competitor. But why spend the time to learn their life’s story? Why listen to their interviews? Why question their motivations, fears and passions? What should it matter and does it?

    Another matter could be the prospect of always fighting the same endboss. Do fighting games really need endbosses? For arcades, maybe, but for those that follow the console lifespan of gaming perhaps a more diversified story in regards to playable characters and their canonical interactions and conflicts should hopefully have enough potential. Thought the matter of holding one’s attention and diversifying the elements of play so as to not become stagnant in comparison to the inevitable multiplayer experience that must be offered. But to allow the cohesion of the compelling narrative and the brutal rush of combat to mesh and unify to a single solid experience that catches the gamer’s fancy and has a conclusion that the gamer considers desirable and complete. And if not, sequel.

    How do you feel about Heavy Rain + Street Fighter?

    1. Wonderfully worded and you’ve got a few brilliant points, especially with regards to the Virtua Fighter franchise. I’ve only played whatever version was out for the 360, but with regards to story, in my mind VF has always tried to be a “pure” fighting game. Unfettered by narrative they’ve somehow attained a distilled fighting experience and the most balanced gameplay ever. As I’ve said before, do fgs NEED a story? No. Could VF use one? Maybe. Would gameplay suffer? Gosh I hope not.

      Heavy Rain + Street Fighter? I didn’t enjoy Heavy Rain as much as I could have but I love Street Fighter. If Capcom somehow managed to combine the two in some interesting way would I play it? Heck yes. Would I enjoy it? I can’t say. Thanks for the comment!

  18. Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution did an interesting thing.
    While the “main” game did have its (poor, hackneyed) story, thankfully only told in the manual, the console port had its own narrative: “You are a Virtua Fighter player. Here are lots of arcades with strong players. Go fight them, win tournaments, and become the strongest player in Tokyo!”

    By ignoring the actual canon proper, and turning the player into a “character”, I think it succeeded on immersion far more than if it tried to be the story of Akira/Kage/Jacky.

    1. Another great point with regards to VF. I like that you’re looking at immersion not just with regards to narrative. There are a thousand different ways to pull a player in and making them a competitor in a faux Japanese arcade scene was a very neat way of doing it!

    1. I could NEVER play Bishop and I really tried. Those guns were freaking badass. I was Cyclops, Havok, and Lady Deathstrike. Man I gotta dust off my PS2 and make a combo movie or something… that game was fun!

  19. The main reason that Street Fighter doesn’t have a coherent storyline (which in turn would influence the majority of fighters) is because CAPCOM made it.
    The alternative theory is that the creative team doesn’t have enough balls to intentionally piss off fans of one character by making another the canonical winner.

  20. Just because a video game has a ending, doesn’t mean the game has a story. I mean if the story was a part of my fighting game decision, I wouldn’t of ever bought a stupid game with crappy anime cut scenes and happy/campy characters. I play to fight vs other people. . .

    Why do the games have lackluster story lines? Why does Madden NFL not have a story at all?

    because, really, thats not the point of the game.

  21. Fighting games have irrelevant stories, because they are poorly told, confusing, an after-thought, and more importantly told by people who a) don’t know how to tell stories in the first place, b) aren’t set to tell a decent story, and c) the public doesn’t demand fighting games to have good stories–critics, and fans.

  22. yo. . . I agree with everything in this article and all and I honor it for the truth that it speaks and the incite that it offers but. . .

    I have NEVER seen that picture of chun li before in my life that they showed in her ending. yellow shirt? Hot pants?

    . . . Is chun li alternate reality misty?!

  23. Hey sumoslamman, very nice article. I would like to ask for your permission to translate your articles about the lack of substance on fighting games stories to portuguese and publish on our website. Good job man, keep up!

    1. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the series and yes, you have my permission. All I ask is that you give me credit and link back to the originals here at Ispeakcomics.wordpress.com. Thanks!

  24. It is a shame that the same method has been used for two decades, with little to no changes. Personally, I believe that the story modes that have been experimented with in the past can be expanded on in some way.

    Failing that, one can at least offer a final scenario to play through that establishes the final result so there’s at least an official conclusion. I myself am writing a story for two Street Fighter games I want to do someday.

    Oh, regarding Mortal Kombat, it’s been officially stated that Liu Kang won the first four tournaments (in a row).

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