A Fighting Game Ramble

To begin with, recently I started a new thing on TV Tropes, the Classic Console Rundown. So far its gotten small but positive reception.

Lately I’ve been into fighting games. Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury and especially Street Fighter, of which I’ve finally seen the USA Network animated series and read the Udon comic–both were surprisingly good.

There is a thing about fighting games though: I love the characters and background mythologies and such things, but very often, I don’t care much for the actual games. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love the thrill of the fight, the tension of that victory that is just one surprise jab away from being ripped from you, all the insane shouts and moves.

But there is nothing more annoying when your game plan was sound, and the only reason it didn’t work is because Ryu thought you wanted to throw a fireball instead of do a Dragon Punch, or Terry Bogard did the Burn Knuckle or even a normal punch or kick, instead of the Power Geyser. What I’m saying is, special moves are one of the coolest things about fighters but they’re also often one of the biggest weaknesses, because they create situations where you can get screwed for reasons totally not your own fault. And if you’re thinking that dial-a-combo fighters like Tekken are any better about this, then you’ve got another thing coming.

Now, if you bring this up to hardcore fighting gamers, they’ll usually say “that’s cuz you’re playing with a pad! You gotta use a stick, man!” and there is some truth to this. I’ve owned a couple of arcade sticks in my life, notably the Pelican Real Arcade and the Hori Tekken 5 Anniversary. Hardcore fighters will usually tell you everything Hori makes is gold, but to be honest I actually liked the Pelican better. The Hori stick feels like its moving around in a square area, which makes it too easy to fling into diagonals when you mean to hit straight ups, downs, lefts or rights. The pelican’s stick on the other hand moves in what feels like a circle. I also don’t like how Hori’s layout has the stick right next to the buttons. If ya need some context, here’s a pic of the Hori Tekken that I found using Google Image Search (that’s exactly like the stick I have) and here’s one of the Pelican. The only problem with the Pelicans is that the Universal ones (which I have) can fry Playstations, though it turns out this is easy to fix if you have some technical know-how or know somebody who does.

The biggest problem is I honestly don’t find sticks to be that much better than regular controllers. I still have the “tried to do this move but it didn’t come out” problems mentioned above. To which you apparently either need lots of practice, or you need to “mod” the stick. No, that doesn’t mean having its posts thumped (bad joke), it means opening up the stick and replacing its parts (the actual joystick and buttons) with other parts, normally those made by actual arcade manufacturers. This “modding” usually requires you to know a little bit about electronics–at the very least, you have to be good with a soldering iron. Apparently you can mod arcade sticks in other ways too, such as replacing their PCBs (this green card with all these wires going to it that decides what all the buttons do) so they can be used on more than one game system. It all sounds very cool, but looking up information gets overwhelming quick. A lot of guides to it are not very beginner-friendly and assume pre-existing expertise. In addition, this all sounds like a metric ton of labour to go through just to be able to do a Dragon Punch.

That being said though, in recent years it seems like it might’ve gotten easier. This guide describes something called a “Toodles Cthulhu” that apparently eliminates the need for a soldering iron, and makes any stick that has one multi-compatible with any console you care to wire a hookup to (though having to wire said hookup pretty much defeats the claim that its solderless).

But if I may repeat myself: this all still seems like a lot of work to go through just to play some video games. Despite liking fighting games a great deal, a part of me is of the mind that any genre that requires so much effort is probably not worth getting into. This is countered by the other part of me who thinks that all this stuff about sticks and modding is specifically for the fighting game elite, the hardcores who go to tournaments and stuff, and might not be strictly necessary for people who just want to see all of Nakoruru’s endings. It’s still frustrating, though (and again I’m repeating myself) when the only reason you lost a round is because Terry did the Burn Knuckle instead of the Power Geyser. So which is right? Maybe none of them are.

Well, here’s to more Power Geysers in the future.

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