A brief discussion of five of the biggest fighting games of 2016 and speculate on whether or not this will be the year fighting games become “mainstream” again.

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Back in the late 00s-early 2010s, the fighting game genre took somewhat of a downward turn. For whatever reason, many Game publishers up and decided that the Fighting game genre was dying, seemingly without any evidence what so ever. Notice that this is similar to when they declared PC gaming dying, or consoles, or multiplayer only games, or single player only games, or controllers, or RPGs, basically what I’m saying is never trust a game executive when it comes to the future of gaming.

As a result, many of the smaller titles just vanished like Darkstalkers, Power Stone and Rival Schools, games were rushed through development and released in a buggy and butchered state like the tragic SoulCalibur V and incredibly shady business tactics like on-disk DLC, online passes and microtransactions became common.

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Of course, there were some mainstream successes like Mortal Kombat 9, the Street Fighter 4 series and Tekken Tag Tournament. But it was inescapable that the genre had shrank and receded.

However, by 2013, the genre started to grow and populate again, with releases and HD-Remasters becoming more common and games like Injustice: Gods Among Us, Killer Instinct, Super Smash Bros U, and Mortal Kombat X becoming successes. Many game sites are now saying 2016 will be the year the genre comes back into the mainstream.

But will it? Let us discuss the upcoming fighting game releases and speculate whether or not the big fighting games of this year will be successful in the mainstream or not. That and I just want an excuse to discuss all the upcoming releases.

Street Fighter V

Dropping first this year is Street Fighter V, the midquel set between the fourth (1994) and the third (1997-1999) entries. It brings back many of the Alpha characters that vanished after those games like Nash, R. Mika and Karin as well as introducing the V-System.

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I’ve played the Beta’s and the gameplay was really fun. Out of the current characters, the most fun I’ve had was with Laura, Cammy and Rashid who all work really well with my play style. The graphics look nice but still have the Street Fighter aesthetic and the frame rate has been overall very solid. I’ve had minimal lag when playing online (though oddly, most of those times were with players from Italy) and the game has an actual tutorial mode, something Japanese fighting games have needed for a long time.

One of my biggest worries is that the game will be lacking at launch. Its initial roster only has 16 characters, one less then Street Fighters 4 starting roster. Plus, the developers have already said that the main story mode won’t be available till June (though to give them credit, at least it is a free update). I just have the worrying feeling that the game will be bare bones at launch, a problem a lot of AAA video games are having lately.

Another thing which could potentially be a problem is the new in-game currency. Capcom seems to have learned from all the expansions and on-disk DLC and realized that people didn’t like it (took them long enough). This time, all DLC ($6 for characters, $4 for premium costumes) will be able to be gotten for free if you earn enough Zenny, the in-game currency (600 for characters, 400 for costumes). For context, to be able to earn one character, you would have to win 12 ranked matches and 72 matches to get all the six DLC characters for free though they’ve said that you will be able to earn zenny offline.

It’s too early to know if this new system will be better than the last. It could be just as bad as the last, or will be a better and fairer system.

I have no doubt that Street Fighter V will be successful in the mainstream, It’s just way too well known not to. That being said, I don’t think its success alone will be enough to get fighting games to be as popular as First Person Shooters or MOBAs.

Mortal Kombat XL

You know, I thought fighting game publishers had realized that this type of thing was silly and just annoyed audiences. The idea of releasing newer versions of the same game over and over again with just minimal differences. Warner Bros, when Capcom, the masters of bad business decisions are saying it’s a bad business decision, maybe you should question whether or not you made the right call.

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Mortal Kombat XL is really just an expansion of last year’s Mortal Kombat X being released as a full priced game, there is even a separate Kombat Pack with all the new features in it. What it contains is all the DLC from the original X (which means anyone who bought the original at launch and/or bought those DLC just got ripped off) plus 4 new characters, DLC costumes and improvements to online multiplayer. Hardly what I’d call needing to make a new game worthy.

And what makes it worse, they have the audacity to add pre-order bonuses to this new version called the Cosplay pack:

Yes, pre-order bonuses for an update, I don’t think even Capcom were that greedy and desperate.

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This is just a money grab and really screws over anyone who bought this game at launch. The fact that they are screwing over PC users even more by not even releasing this new content (or fixing any of the bugs that version has) is just a cherry on top of this outdated mode of thinking.

This one I’m not too sure about. While I can see the Kombat Pack 2 being popular with fans who already own the game, I just can’t see people willing to buy XL. Plus, the way they treated their PC audience and just the overall greediness of this, I can’t see this (or wanting this) being all that successful.

Pokkén Tournament

I’m actually surprised this wasn’t a thing sooner given all the fan-made games and the success of the Super Smash Bros series. The premise is simple, the Pokémon are mad and are now just beating the living crap out of each other. It’s just like the main series games except you are playing as the Pokemon themselves instead of the trainer.

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The Pokémon you can play as vary wildly and come from all the generations of the series like Gen 1 classics like Pikachu and Charizard, to later generations like Weavile and Gardevoir. However, for some reason, Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan are not playable in the game despite being the original fighting Pokémon and are even named after famous martial artists! What the Lilith Nintendo!

Sadly, because of how much time a credit gives you, the arcade version hasn’t been successful, with some arcades in Japan removing their versions. Hopefully it will do better on the WiiU because it has a lot of potential.

I wish I had a WiiU because I really want to play this game (along with Splatoon, Super Smash Bros U, Mario Maker and Hyrule Warriors). I can see this game being successful with Nintendo fans, but I can’t see it being popular outside of that which is a shame.

Tekken 7

The seventh entry in the Tekken series, this game will be apparently darker than any other game in the series and will finish off the Mishima storyline once and for all (yeah we’ll see about that). Nina is now dressed up as a bride, Yoshimitsu now looks like a squid and a lot of classic characters seem to be absent like Lee (not excellent), Anna, Roger Jr, Kuma, Julia, Eddy and Ganryu.

Along with the new characters (who are honestly not very inspired), Akuma is making an appearance in this game and plays an important role in the story, officially connecting Street Fighter and Final Fight into this shared universe.

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When I said the game was going to be the darkest we’ve seen, I meant that both thematically and visibly as most of the maps I’ve seen are the darkest for the series, with most of them set at night.

This could be very hit or miss for me. Both Tekken 4 and 6 had problems which hopefully have been resolved in this one and some of my favourites being taken out has made me less interested. Still that doesn’t mean I won’t play it, just maybe not at launch.

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I don’t know about this one, it’s most definitely going to be big with fighting game and Tekken fans, but outside of that? I don’t know.

The King of Fighters XIV

I’ll admit, the King of Fighters is not a series I care much about. I enjoy the games I’ve played from the series like ‘99, 2003 and XIII and Ash Crimson is always a joy to see:

XIV seems to have gotten a lot less attention than the others have had and I’m curious on why that is. KOF is just as popular as Tekken in gaming circles and given the sheer size of the roster, you’d think it get a little bit of Hype.

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Speaking of the roster size, there are at least 50 characters in the game which could be a mixed blessing. While it means a lot more characters and less of a chance that fans will be disappointed that their favourites will be missed, it also means you can have a ton of characters that have the same abilities or have to sacrifice things to make the game run well.

Like I said The King of Fighters is not a series I follow much, but I will be looking to see if this one will be good or not.

Like with Tekken 7, it’s most definitely going to be big with fans of the series and fighting games as a whole. But I don’t think it has enough recognition outside of Japan to become a mega hit which is fine, not everything needs mainstream appeal.