Nice to back to my hobby here… sometimes, I just get lazy. That’s all there is to it.
Anyway…. With the addition of Rash (of Battletoads fame) to the KI roster, it had me thinking: Guest characters in fighting games are becoming more common these days and the reasons can be as simple as trying to introduce someone from the past to more complex reasons like tapping a potential market for new cash flow. In this fan based case study, I look at the games that have added guests to the roster and see whether they pass or fail in doing so. Let’s begin with the one series that tends to put guests in almost all the time…
Soul Calibur – Hits and Misses
The Soul Calibur series has a huge history of guest fighters being involved in the battle eternally retold. That begin in SCII when Heihachi, Spawn and Link were introduced as console exclusive fighters (which is always something a guest will have: That little advantage). Link proved to be the most popular of the three because it was one of Nintendo’s flagship characters in a fighting game that wasn’t Smash Brothers. It’s like you put Mario in a Street Fighter game… The guys at Namco made sure that Link was part of the universe by including his signature tools, weapons and iconic look into the game. Same with Spawn and even Heihachi, who had the handicap of not having a weapon, but Namco made sure that wasn’t an issue by saying ‘his body IS a weapon’… which is true. II gets a passing grade with flying colors.
Skipping past III, SCIV would bring in a far different cast of guests to be in the battle: Star Wars favorites Darth Vader and Yoda alongside the Apprentice (AKA Starkiller). While Vader and Starkiller had some issues (namely the overuse of the Force), Yoda was a real issue. The guy is so short that it was nearly impossible to hit him unless you went low all the time. You can’t throw him at all and he can basically jump around like a Mexican jumping bean. That’s not a good thing when a guest character (or any character for that matter) is capable of being unbeatable…. oh, and some of you might say ‘what about the characters made by the manga artists?’. Well, they’re really just clones of characters in the game already. Kind of defeats the purpose of a guest character if all he or she can be is a clone of an already existing character. This would be it’s first failure, but not the last… it’s PSP spin off, Broken Destiny, brings in Kratos from God of War series. Despite the idea, it sounded like he didn’t fit in that well. Yes, he is a big time action game star and all… but some moves and skills aren’t always suited for certain environments and the Soul Calibur universe just didn’t mesh that well for him… thankfully he got another chance down the road. More on that later.
V, despite the fact that it was a grand disappointment of a game (which makes me sad… it was released on my birthday and all), did one thing right: It’s guest character. Ezio Auditore of the Assassin Creed’s series was chosen and he fits pretty well for the time era this game takes place in. Not to mention that he had everything from his series and really kick ass theme as well. This would be another passing grade for them.
Dead or Alive – Lessons Learned the (Very) Hard Way
Dead or Alive did experiment with guests in DoA 4. This game, being the first of the series on Xbox 360 (and the last to be Xbox exclusive), was caught in the wave of the Halo series and they introduced Spartan-452 (AKA Nicole). She really, really, really stood out from the crowd. In a series that is more or less based on hand-to-hand combat and being able to be quick on the draw in terms of countering, a character that is based in the long distance game would be sticking out like a really sore thumb. Yet, that was Nicole’s battle plan. This, to me, might be the single greatest guest character failure in the genre’s history.
Tecmo did learn the lesson from the Nicole fiasco and when they introduced DoA 5, they went to the drawing board and brought in guest characters that actually fits better with the universe: Akira Yuki and Sarah Bryant from the rival Virtua Fighter series. This was much better as the Virtua Fighter series, while well known in Asian markets, was really more or less an unappreciated series in the States. This move helped boost these characters’ image. Ultimate would add Pai Chan and Jacky Bryant to the roster, but what Akira and Sarah did to start with pretty much gave this series the confidence boost it needed.
Super Smash Brothers – King of Guests
Many people don’t consider SSB to be a ‘true’ fighter, but for this case study it counts as one here. Brawl was the first game to bring in non-Nintendo fighters to the mix and what a pair of fighters it was. Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series and Sonic the Hedgehog. One had his career introduced via the NES while the other was Nintendo’s most famed rival now turned best friend. These additions fit in very well in the Smash series because the game is not a traditional fighter in that sense. Being a Platform Fighter gave it an advantage in that the characters can fit better to the mold of the system rather then the other way around. SSB4 would keep Sonic (but lose Snake… who might be a DLC fighter in the future, who knows) but would add Pac-Man, Mega Man and more recent addition of Ryu (Street Fighter). This was a big deal because of the insane work the people at Nintendo did to get the original fighter to fit into their universe.
Netherealm Games – Success in a bucket… full of blood
Netherealm, the studio that was created from the ashes of Midway’s burnt corpse, had it’s first chance to add guest fighters with 2011’s Mortal Kombat. The PS3 version would have Kratos… yep, the same one that appeared in Soul Calibur Broken Destiny. Here, he fits in much better… remember that his goal was revenge and it was a bloody massacre to get that revenge. Now, Sony did butt in a little when it came to him, but for the most part the character fits much, much better here where his bloodlust can be satisfied. Now, while Kratos gave the PS3 owners a swift boost, it was DLC that gave this game a true guest fighter: Freddy from the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Not only was this character a huge success, it showed that it just wasn’t guests from video games that could fit here.. violence being the name of the game here, and horror villains fit that mold perfectly.
After MK came Injustice, a fighter in the DC Comics universe. Once again, DLC was the route chosen for it’s guest character Scorpion. Despite the hesitation on the part of the MK fan base (We remember the debacle that was MK vs. DC Universe), the guys at DC Comics did everything they could to make sure that Scorpion could fit into this game’s universe, and they did.
Now, they’re at MK X and, once again, DLC was the route chosen for it’s guest fighters: Jason Voorhees and the Predator. Who knows for sure what else they got planned in the future…
Street Fighter X Tekken – Black Sheep of Guests
While ‘disappointment’ is one word many want to use for Capcom’s half assed effort into Street Fighter X Tekken, the guest characters didn’t help this game’s case. Mega Man and Pac-Man were added because these two are their companies respective mascots… except that what we got were Bad Box Art Mega Man and Pac-Man controlling a Mokujin mecha. Thankfully these two would get some sort of vindication with SSB 4. PS3 users would also get Cole McGrath from the Infamous series and well known Sony mascots Kuro and Taro. Those two were clones, but Cole stood out big time… in fact, it wouldn’t be a bad assessment to say that he’s the 2D fighter version of Nicole: He sticks out way too much for this game.
Now, I come full circle… what will Rash bring to the table in Killer Instinct? It’s not known because he’s in the beta stage right now and Season 3 doesn’t launch until March 2016. But, if this case study has taught me anything, it’s that fighters do have a hit or miss tendency for guests. When it hits, it can be quite successful… when it misses, it can be quite an ugly mess.