Arcade Renaissance Around the Corner?

Will next-gen change the face of fighting?

Posted by Staff
The natural environment of the fighting game has always been the arcade. The culture of sizing up your opponent while they warm up in single player, and stepping forward - 50 pence in hand - to challenge is as much a part of the scene as combos and Dragon Punches. And if they're way out of your league, watching two of the best duke it out in a smoky, sticky-floored arcade is instructive and enjoyable. This still goes on in arcades around the world. But round these parts, it's more and more a 'hardcore' pursuit. Back in the day, arcades were where you went to see the newest, best-looking games, but with home consoles now more powerful and widespread than ever before, few people see the need to leave the house.

This generation of consoles has pioneered online fighting games. But the split-second timing required for the demanding gameplay left some early efforts, like CVS 2, feeling flat and unresponsive as the connection struggled to keep up. This is already changing, and as we've reported, there are a load of SNK titles scheduled for release this year.

But the forthcoming generation of consoles is going to introduce features that will bring us closer than ever before to the arcade experience. And it's the touted features of the forthcoming Dead Or Alive 4, of all things, on Xbox 360, that've got us thinking about this. Tecmo's Tomonobu Itagaki has grand designs indeed for the forthcoming game in his DOA series, known for being a fighting game and a breast physics emulator in equal measure. The current DOAU supports arcade 'lounges' where eight players can conduct tournaments. But the Xbox 360 could be capable of bringing this number up to 50, which Itagaki-san feels would probably be too many, if anything. He's also said that online, clans could be a big part of the gaming experience. The spectator factor could become a reality - it would theoretically be possible for hundreds of people to watch big fights taking place.

Detractors of the series might point out that Dead or Alive has never been the stage on which beat-em-up enthusiasts would choose to show off their skills. And Itagaki-san does not deny that in the past, accessibility for less obsessive players has been a priority, as well as an attack-centred combat system that actively works against more skilled players and gives newbies a fighting chance. But the competitive nature of online play attracts a higher calibre of player, and DOA4 will aim to cater for them too, without looking to alienate its more casual fans. Could the game become appealing to Virtua Fighter players?

Exciting news. If you still have your doubts about DOA, consider this: there have been rumours this week of next-gen versions of Virtua Fighter and a sequel to King of Fighters: Maximum Impact, the 3D version of the 2D classic. The problem with mastering one-on-one fighting games at home has always been that when your friends come around, few of them can match you. A new age of satisfying and challenging punch-ups could be just around the corner.


Joji 20 May 2005 21:06
I think this was always on the cards eventually because of the fact that the online experience requires more variety than rpgs and fps games.

If we are ever to make online gaming better beat em ups are a good target to start with. Quick fix gaming to make your fingers bleed and blister.

The beat em up has had to evolve from the arcade to the home system and it's transition has been a bumpy road only travelled by ronin like japanese developers. Bad PSone conversions with missing animation frames only the Saturn left in. With the PS2s and Xboxs things got better that you could call them arcade perfect.

For such games to be online is good but you have to win over those people still playing Halo 2 for the next few years The Xbox Live community is a good thing but kind of defeats the object of online options in newer games if they are never used because a huge percentage are playing one or two online games. This is the toughest test for online gaming, to break the cycle of fps games and rpgs and play other only games.

In that respect I'm ever so surprised that with Xbox Live's online penetration no version of possibly the best potential online game made Hi-Ten Bomberman (from the Saturn) hasn't made it too Xbox Live. The game is in 2D so keeping speed over broadband should be easy. So where is it, surely their is demand. Guess that's up to Hudsonsoft but I won't hold me breathe on it as much as I'd like to. Revolution....mmmm... just maybe.

There will no doubt come a point where 2D and 3D gaming will clash for online players if it's not happening already, but this pendulum may sway in favour of 2D with the Nintendo Revolution getting online (perhaps there might some N64 games in there to download too).

What online games need more of is competitions to win stuff. Once a month a certain amount of prizes should go up for grab to the best players. If all new online games did this kind of thing gamers would commit time to win loot and not just on Halo 2 etc.

I'm glad that the big brawling beat em up is making a come back and punching with some real force this time. 2D and 3D bring them all on.

I do miss the trips to the arcades though but what could be done to help that side of things, perhaps put them online too?

Pilot13 22 May 2005 20:16
I hope soul caliber 3 is online so i can kick your arse joji
Joji 23 May 2005 18:25
I'd love to challenge you to a game of SCIII. Or any beat em up for that matter.
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