Arguing with Myself: Have Fighting Games Fully Matured?
Yesterday I made the argument that it seems like 2D fighting games have reached full maturity and, as such, will not be able to evolve, gameplay-wise, beyond that which is currently available. The only changes left to be made, then, are small tweaks to how combos are performed and, of course, visual upgrades. But is the same not true of other genres? The answer is: it depends.
Consider first person games.
Maze War (1974) is often considered the original first person game. It let the player roam a maze from the first person perspective. Experimentation with the first person camera continued until on 1992 Wolfenstein 3D was released, thus establishing many of the genre characteristics now accepted as part of what makes First Person Shooters. Between Wolfenstein 3D and the current crop of FPS games best exemplified by the Call of Duty and Battlefield series, there was some experimentation with the first person shooter. Whether these were play on gravity settings in outer space, the use of short range weapons, vehicles, tactical first person combat, or different match settings, it is unquestionable that modern FPS games are radically different from early first person games.
Likewise, non-shooters with a first person perspective saw some experimentation, with The Elder Scrolls: Arena, a first person adventure game, making a debut on 1994 and refining the first person adventure formula until the recent Elder Scrolls Online.
Today, we still see experimentation with the first person perspective in games. Antichamber is a first person puzzle game that focuses on discovery, while Protheus is a first person space in which the player walks around a pixelated space. Superhot (http://superhotgame.com/) is a first person shooting game in which time moves only when the player moves, while Pillow Castle’s The Museum of Simulation Technology explores forced perspectives. Portal makes the player think with portals, and the upcoming No Man’s Sky is a procedurally generated universe.
Certainly, when it comes to the Call of Duty and other major FPS franchises there is little of note when it comes to experimenting with the genre. However, games like Bioshock Infinite’s use of parallel dimensions and Singularity’s use of physics altering guns show some experimentation even within the FPS proper. Even the most recent Call of Duty game, Advanced Warfare, breaks from its traditional formula by adding double-jump jet packs.
Now consider role playing games.
The most recent series of Final Fantasy games, the Final Fantasy XIII saga, featured three games, each with slightly different versions of a new and compelling battle system. The last entry in the series, Lightning Returns, broke with the party system and have the player control over a single character who could change battle roles on the fly, a time unlock mechanic, and a dress mechanic. Lightning Returns took so many risks in its design that were it not bearer of the Final Fantasy title some might be hesitant to even call it a traditional JRPG at all. Likewise, videos of the upcoming Final Fantasy XV show a distinctly new and unique battle system.
On 2014, Child of Light broke with JRPG aesthetics, giving players a western-made JRPG that featured a battle system in which the player had to consider the environment, Bravely Default made it worthwhile to use the Defend function, and X has an open world and mech suits.
Even as racing games keep getting more mimetic, in recent history we have seen a kart racer with transforming vehicles and changing stages (Sonic Racing Transformed) and an open world racer (The Crew). Platform games have recently given us experiments like Braid, Little Big Planet, Shovel Knight, and Fez. Open world adventure games have yielded interesting games like Lost in Shadow, Shadow of the Colossus, and Okami. Many game genres continue to innovate even as we think that there is no innovation to be had. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the fighting game.