Thanks to modern shooters there are now more people simulating world wars than actually fought in them, but when your success depends on random strangers online you’d be better off playing Russian roulette. Because at least then you’re holding a gun when some @$$#0!% starts slurring the other players. Facebook games reward you for sitting in one place as long as possible while fighting games reward you for your own ability. Only one of those is a good survival strategy. The other is how evolution knows to put you in the “prey” pile. Which is why fighting games are still the finest form of multiplayer gaming.
Beating each other up has been the ultimate test of skill since we first evolved the limbs necessary to do so. Crushing a random button-masher will remain the most satisfying way of destroying those without skill until American Idol acquires a shark tank. But ever since Street Fighter 2 redefined ass-kicking, other companies have had the idea, “Let’s make money from a fighting game!” but not enough ideas to actually make a full fighting game.
This results in cloned characters, lazy design and ripped-off rosters. Most companies considered themselves original if they thought made their blatant Dhalsim-copy a robot, even though that makes him a blatant Inspector Gadget copy too. Fighting games are the greatest galleries of ass-kicking copies since the mirror hall in Enter the Dragon. These are the most blatant copies (including, yes, Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon).
Reptile (Mortal Kombat)
Mortal Kombat used digitized graphics so revolutionary that even Mortal Kombat didn’t know how to fill a game with them. Which is why the character list is half photocopier. A fight hasn’t featured so many clones since Episode II. Most fighting games let you choose the same character twice with different colored clothing. Kombat claims that the same change of pajamas is a brand new character. They had more identical people in different colors than the Power Rangers, and even less characterization.
The worst offender was Reptile, the game’s first secret character and a public admission that the character design team had been replaced with a color wheel. He was “designed” in less than a day by merging Sub-Zero and Scorpion, who were blue and yellow, and he’s green, because that’s what you get when you mix blue and yellow. Which either means they’re really bad at cheating or subconsciously confessing their sins. The designers admitted they chose green because it was the most visibly different to blue and yellow. Even they were already finding it hard to tell the characters apart. Which didn’t stop them from going on to make Smoke (grey), Noob Saibot (black), Ermac (red), Rain (purple), Chameleon (different blue) and Tremor (different yellow). You should only be going back to your original colors when you’re a double-agent, not a designer.
Later games used better graphics to distinguish between the different shades of “Guy ninja” and “Girl in underwear”, but when the only way to tell the difference between characters is the configuration of their bra-straps you have a whole other set of problems.
Cyborg (Rise of the Robots)
Rise of the Robots featured the worst fighting game main character of all time, because Rise of the Robots feautured the worst fighting game everything of all time. Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing was a better combat simulator because at least pressing the buttons faster in the correct order was rewarded in that game. The game was such a disaster the characters couldn’t even turn around, and any game where you can defeat your enemy by jumping over his head and starting a confrontational quad-buttock rub is a very different type of combat. It was a more blatant attempt to get money for rendering robot characters than the Transformers movie, and the movie was more interactive.
Cyborg was the laziest character ever created. If you bothered to wear clothes today you put more effort into your appearance. He was an featureless blue humanoid shape. His only characterisation was the revelation that he’s part-human, and considering that’s what “cyborg” means it reveals more about the developers than the character. It would have been better if they’d fallen asleep on the keyboard and created “QQ’qweww”, because at least that would have been an original name. And probably a Wookiee. Which would have kicked ass.
Juni and Juli (Street Fighter Alpha 3)
Most video game females suffer from more work going into their chests than their reasons for being (except in Dead or Alive, where the two are synonymous.) Juni and Juli suffer from a worse artificial breasts-to-natural character ratio than a silicone implant. When Capcom needed two more fighters, their response was “But we’ve already drawn a girl!” and hitting copy/paste. The original character, Cammy, was a special forces agent who wears a swimsuit with artificial fibers wedged so far up her behind she’s technically a cyborg.
Juni and Juli were created by copy and pasting with different heads, unconsciously confirming how designers view the female brain as an optional appendage. Then making them wear little ties between their breasts. They even attack two-on-one and they’re brainwashed so they’re silent and obedient, so this was less a character design than accidentally connecting male fantasies directly to a videogame. I’m only surprised their stage soundtrack wasn’t saxophone music.
Cinder and Glacius (Killer Instinct)
Killer Instinct was the fighting equivalent of Andy Warhol’s canned soup paintings: a revolutionary graphical process used to image for the most boring possible things. It stars the laziest characters outside of Awakenings. A robot, a ninja, a werewolf - it’s like the designers were given ten seconds to name things and didn’t realise that was the entire design meeting. Then they transcended cliche with Cinder and Glacius. Fire and ice levels are the laziest stereotype in platform gaming, and KI turned them into fighting characters.
The featureless primary-colored bodies look like the default setting on the rendering program. They make Doctor Manhattan’s tiny tattoo look like the guy from Memento, and his ten-minute memory would give him enough time to design twice as many Killer Instinct characters.
Fei Long (Super Street Fighter II)
Super Street Fighter II’s Fei Long just is Bruce Lee,* proving that not all unoriginal fighters suck.
*Except it’s actually possible to lose a fight while being Fei Long.
M. Bison (Street Fighter II [Japanese original])
Capcom’s strategy when creating their dangerously violent criminal boxing character was to change a T to a B and hope that men who get punched in the head for a living can’t read. M. Bison was such a blatant copy of Mike Tyson, then (and still) the most terrifying boxer ever to exist, that I think they were banking on Tyson being arrested before he kicked their asses. Which turned out to be a good bet.
The copy was so blatant Capcom’s American arm swapped his name with the final boss, Balrog, because they had to live in the same hemisphere as the real thing. He’s a pair of organic wrecking balls built out of human beef. Balrog was absent from Street Fighter III, probably hiding because around that time the real M. Tyson had started eating people.
Ryo (Art of Fighting)
The most blatant public copy since the invention of the printing press, SNK’s Ryo and Robert were standard science-fiction clones of Ryu and Ken: almost identical, but lacking any real personality and when it comes to a fight between the inferior copies lose. At least Robert had enough shame to change out of the karate costume. Ryo looked more like Ryu than Ryu’s reflection, because at least a reflection changes things from left-to-right.
His moves didn’t just do the same thing as Ryu’s, with names like “Ko’ou Ken” they even had the same number of syllables. Ryo is the most blatant copy since the T1000, and at least the 1000 makes an effort to look like different things sometimes. Capcom had their revenge with Dan Hibiki, a copy of a copy and a mockery of everything Ryo ever attempted to stand for. Dan’s delusional martial arts style looks exactly like Ryu’s except all the movies are vastly inferior he loses every fight. And because he was made by Capcom, the original Street Fighting company who didn’t go bankrupt (unlike SNK), people still love Dan.
Luke McKinney knows booze & video games. His recent attempts to find the hottest food in the world led him to eat Murder Spice, which gave him the ability to melt through porcelain. The next day. In the bathroom. Follow him on Tumblr.
Luke previously examined shabby versions of great video game fun in Nightmare Mode: Crackdown 2. –>