FEATURE: ARC SYSTEM WORKS AND MY GLORIOUS FIGHTING GAME RENAISSANCE

FEATURE: ARC SYSTEM WORKS AND MY GLORIOUS FIGHTING GAME RENAISSANCE

I remember it like it was yesterday, I was an avid little reader of Nintendo Power magazine growing up and I would anxiously await its arrival every month in my mailbox. This particular month (I could Google around to find the exact month but I’m being lazy) there was an article about Street Fighter 2 coming to arcades and it looked STUNNING to my kid-eyes.

I used to LOVE going to our local Showbiz Pizza (think Chuck E. Cheese but with a big-ass ape instead of a snarky mouse) to pump irrational amounts of quarters into Road Blasters, Rampage, and whatever pinball machines they had going, it was awesome and the kids of now will have NO idea how rad that was (unless they live in Japan where arcades are STILL alive and well).

PEOPLE UNDER 30- This is called an arcade, we used to go HERE to play video games.

Around the first few days it was out, one of our other local arcades got a Street Fighter 2 machine and I begged my mom to take me and drop me off with a bag full of quarters in tow, to which she obliged. It was attached to a department stores she wouldn’t be far, so she dropped me there and went to patiently shop while I proceeded to stand in line. This shit was ALL the rage so there were a metric TON of other kids there wanting to do the same thing- get their hands on those joysticks and wreck some shit with Ryu, Chun-Li, or whoever else would become their character of choice.

Blanka was such a dick, that electricity move was some BULLSHIT.

After standing there biting my nails for about 20 minutes I finally got my chance to jump it. The graphics were amazing, the moves were rad, and I was STOKED out of my mind to finally see what all the fuss was about. The problem? I was fucking TERRIBLE at it. Yep, ever the outlier, I was essentially the one kid in the room who just wasn’t that great at it. I won’t go so far as to say “abysmal” but it was close. I just didn’t gel with all the inputs the special moves required, and thank god for that Chun-Li crazy kick thing, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do jack shit.

That pretty much carried over into the years to come too, I just never got real great at fighting games. They always excited me, they always looked rad, but I have just never been the greatest at memorizing a bunch of elaborate inputs to make shit happen. I’d be the guy flailing around throwing punches until he accidentally landed a Hadouken or something, it just WASN’T my deal.

I was mostly an RPG kid anyway, and don’t get me STARTED on ActRaiser. That was my JAM.

That never really changed, damn near to this day in fact. I did discover that I was a little better at SNK fighters like Garou: Mark of the Wolves which I’ve played a ton of on my Switch, but others? Not so hot. I got the deluxe edition of Mortal Kombat 11 when it came out for Switch and it’s a stunning game but here I sit- still shitty at it almost a year later. Smash? I’m horrible. It’s not like I don’t have a backlog that could stretch out to the fucking moon, or plenty of stuff to review- I’m not starved for content but I just WANT to be good at fighting games.

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve been fortunate to build some really great relationships in the gaming community, and one of those is with Dominik and the super-awesome folks at PQube Games. They also happen to be Arc System Works‘s US publisher for most of their fighting game franchises like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and a bunch of others. A little while back I saw a trailer for their upcoming (WAS upcoming, it’s out now) release Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late [cl-r] (which we will now affectionately call UNICLR for the duration) and something about it looked awesome to me. The animation looked insane, the gameplay looked fast and fluid, and the whole thing had “you’re gonna be terrible at this” written all over it.

I’m nothing if not determined!

I decided I wanted to give it a try, so I reached out to Dom and he very graciously provided me with a review code so I could check it out for an upcoming article (spoiler alert: you’re reading it right now) and as soon as I got the code I loaded it up and got started.

This is where things got interesting- the game has an absolutely EXCELLENT tutorial and I played through every single part of it. Then, I jumped into Arcade Mode and went to town. Before I could say “I suck” to myself at the top of my lungs I was busting out CRAZY-ASS combos, winning matches, and finding myself with a huge ridiculous smile on my face. This had NEVER happened before.

It only took me 39 years to not suck at fighting games!

I figured this HAD to be a fluke so I started switching characters. One thing Arc System Works* does SUPER well with its fighters is the movesets- there are differences between characters but for the most part everything is fairly similar. As a musician, I’ve always been more about “the feel” than the technical stuff and this was happening here. I wasn’t memorizing things a ton, but I was feeling the controls and making it happen. Weird? Yeah, probably, but who cares? I’m not trying to be a pro player or anything, but I was getting really good at it and that was enough to get me completely hooked. I’ve been playing UNICLR almost daily since I downloaded the code around a month ago and I love every second of it.

Then came BlazBlue: Central Fiction

Armed with the knowledge that I might be on to something here, I ALSO landed myself a code to check out BlazBlue: Central Fiction– another staple fighter from Arc System Works that had been out on Switch for a while. I really gotta give more credit to Dominik and PQube Games**, they’ve been so completely supportive of what I’m doing since I got started and I hope they know how much I appreciate it.

Stroke sesh over- I jumped into the BBCF’s tutorial just like I’d done with UNICLR and got my bearings. There’s an absolutely massive character roster in both of these games and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t played EVERYONE-but I picked one that looked rad and I jumped, once again, into the Arcade Mode to see if I was up to snuff.

An indecisive gamers dream. πŸ™‚

Same damn thing happened- I was throwing DOWN, winning matches, and smiling that stupid smile again and it was AWESOME. Arc System Works are the absolute pinnacle of 2D fighting game developers for a reason, they know what it takes to make a game technical yet TOTALLY accessible to someone like me. Again, there is some great variation at play but on the whole the movesets are similar enough that I’ve been able to feel my way through this one too. More INSANE animation, more super-flashy special moves, and more deceptively intricate mechanics at play and ALL of it feels natural and undoubting to my “not good at fighting games” ass. I’m literally playing a match RIGHT NOW between paragraphs, it’s THAT fun.

Mind = BLOWN.

I’m currently still in the “overjoyed” phase, because in my entire life I’ve just never been as good at fighting games as I have been since discovering Arc System Works and their absolutely AMAZING lineup of fighting games. They’re not all on Switch, but the ones that ARE- they’re definitely the best fighting games I’ve ever played.

Stills don’t do these games justice, they’re GORGEOUS in motion.

I’m not taking the route of other reviewers here, as per usual, because I’m NOT other reviewers and I don’t play fighting games like anyone else either. Like I said, it’s vastly less memorization for me and infinitely more about the feel. I don’t have all themes in my head, I’m not gonna explain controls and all that jazz, I’m doing this for all the people out there that might be just like me. On the outside looking in on the world of fighting games, wondering why the hell you’re just not good at them. THAT’S why I’m here.

Both UNICLR and BlazBlue: Central Fiction have the best tutorials I’ve ever encountered in fighting games, both games have a frankly ABSURD amounts of modes and content, and in either of these two games you have hundreds of hours of insanely fun gameplay at your disposal. Nothing about them feels short-changed, Arc System Works puts everything they have into these games and it shows. Graphics, sound, gameplay, modes, tutorials- I don’t score reviews or write them in ANYTHING like a typical format, but I promise you this- these games would be EASY 10/10 territory for me.

They’ve rekindled my excitement for fighting games, but more importantly they’ve given me something I never thought I’d have- the ability to be REAL damn good at them too.

Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus- Guilty as charged too. πŸ˜‰

It was only a matter of time then, that I ended up snagging the BATSHIT crazy Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus on my Switch too. As soon as I realized how awesome the other two games were I had to then have as much of the Arc System Works goodness as possible. Confession time: I never played a Guilty Gear game until this one, and for confession #2- I’ve never played Marvel vs. Capcom 2 which is apparently one of the best fighting games ever made. They all came out at a time in my life when I was pretty much fully absorbed into making music and I just didn’t have a lot of room in my life for gaming for quite a long time. I think I’m MORE than making up for it now, but I thought I’d share those confessions so you grizzled vets reading this could have a good laugh at my expense.

The Guilty Gear series is MUCH more input-intensive than BlazBlue or UNICLR, but once again- I found myself applying what I had learned in those games to this one and it all WORKED AGAIN! Went through the tutorial, did some Practice Mode, and then set about kicking absolute ass all over the place. There’s a good bit less content in Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (we REALLY gotta talk about these long titles, guys!) but the core of what makes Arc System Works fighters so awesome is ALL there.

I don’t play online a ton, I like to hang on to my self esteem as long as possible.

I’m playing pretty much single player exclusively, by myself, no online- just taking different characters through Arcade Mode, dabbling in the story/challenge modes, and having an unadulterated BLAST with these three games. Like I said, I’m not here to delve into all the small details, this isn’t even really a “proper” review. I’m writing this an an unapologetic love letter to Arc System Works fighting games and I’m also writing it as a public service. I know there are tons of other people just like me out there, frustrated that they’re not good at fighting games but WANTING to be.

Without a shred of doubt in my mind I can tell you guys: You need to get on board with Arc System Works and their library of completely stunning fighting games on offer. Don’t have a Switch? No worries, their games are on every platform so no matter WHERE you play they’re not far. I play a lot of games, for myself and for The Ghost Generation, and it’s not a stretch to say that UNICLR, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, and Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus are some of the most fun, engaging, and completely kick ass games I’ve had the pleasure of discovering on my Switch. If you’ve been sitting on the “fighting game fence”, hop down- join me in the awesomeness!

SHIT! I forgot about another one!

I don’t know how I almost forgot to include Dragon Ball FighterZ, but here we are. After everything I described above it was only natural for me to pick up the RIDICULOUSLY GORGEOUS Dragon Ball FighterZ (Arc System Works & Bandai Namco) and ALL the DLC too. I’ve never watched a single episode of Dragon Ball Z, I have nearly no idea what’s going on with the story, and I couldn’t care less. Dragon Ball FighterZ is neck and neck with the other three from this article as the most fantastic fighting games on Switch or anywhere else for that matter. I haven’t spent as much time with Dragon Ball FighterZ as the rest, but I’ll get there. I just couldn’t write this article without mentioning it because it’s probably the MOST accessible of them all.

The point of all this is that I was the kid who never got good at fighting games, but I wanted to. I’m now a 39 year-old man, with a wife and two kids and it took me THIS long to realize that I COULD be good at them, I just had to find the right ones. You’d be doing yourself a massive disservice to not check out any one of these games, because it took me about five minutes of UNICLR to ignite a fire in these gaming-fingers and you owe it to yourself to discover that joy too.

I’ve never even watched Dragon Ball Z, but this game is absolutely insane in the BEST ways.

I’ll close this out by saying an absolutely MASSIVE thank you to Dominik and PQube Games for the opportunities they’ve afforded me to check these fantastic games out, and the gateway the opened up as a result. To Arc System Works- I’ve never spoken to anyone directly but I hope you guys might read this and just know that you make EXCELLENT games that I am overjoyed to have discovered. Bandai Namco? Good move linking up with these guys for Dragon Ball FighterZ, cause it’s stunning.

Thanks for reading guys, there’s plenty more Switch goodness coming up so don’t forget to subscribe and stay tuned!

AFH

You can check out Arc System Works here and on Twitter, PQube Games here and on Twitter too, and Bandai Namco here and (drumroll please) on Twitter!

*UNICLR was actually co-deveoped with Arc System Works and French Bread. They don’t seem to have a website up otherwise I’d link to it. It was also actually published by Aksys Games for the USA though I got my code from PQube Games who is technically the EU publisher. That was a lot of information.

**BlazBlue: Central Fiction was also published by Aksys Games for the US but again, my code came from PQube who is the EU publisher again.

A blog/website where these happily married, 30-something parents of 2 little minions rant, rave, and speak in tongues. Raw, honest, and riddled with profanity. Get on board and let’s make The Ghost Generation awesome together! http://theghostgeneration.com Twitter.com/Gh0stGeneration

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