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The top five fighting franchises we want to see return
by Andrew Testerman

Ever since Capcom put the genre back on the map with 2009’s Street Fighter IV, the fighting game has enjoyed a small renaissance in popularity. Here at Gamer’s Guide to, we enjoy a good fighting game as much as the next guy (but are probably much worse at them), and are glad to see such a storied genre return to glory.

With the recent release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and much-anticipated reboot of Mortal Kombat, it’s easy to imagine other franchises making a triumphant return to the EVO scene. Here are five that we want to be owned at, by a Japanese fighting savant.

5: Dead or Alive

Though not technically deceased (the most recent game in the series came out last year), it’s been a damn long while since we’ve actually had to fight in a Dead or Alive game. Instead, gamers have spent the last few entries playing volleyball, buying swimsuits and creepily watching girls sunbathe, eat ice cream, and rub lotion onto themselves. It's not in itself a sin, except for the incredibly voyeuristic tone the games take, making the experience tantamount to one of those Japanese aggressive sexual transaction simulators (not unlike the Bed-Intruder Song of video games).

Why not just write off the series as the has-been of a bygone era when Team Ninja wasn’t actively defacing the Metroid franchise? Because the games were so damn fun. Many 3D fighters have come and gone since Tekken first dropped in 1995, but few have been as fluid and graceful as the Dead or Alive games. The animations and non-mammary-based physics (which few seem to have noticed) gave each match a wonderful sense of flow, as players transitioned from move to move seamlessly. More impressive was the unique and well-implemented counter system, turning each strike into a guessing game, and testing which player could offer the quickest reaction.

We get it, Tecmo: your characters have boobs. Can we get back to fighting, please?

4: Bloody Roar

Though the PSone was awash in a horde of Tekken clones, none could match the flash and panache of Hudson Soft’s Bloody Roar. Depth was slight, with only two attack buttons and a throw button, but Hudson turned up the 'Totally Effing Sweet' by giving it a therianthropic edge. With the press of a button, players could take their measly human characters and change them into a wolf, tiger, chameleon, and many other different forms, effectively making the game 'Animorphs For Badasses'. The were-characters (called Zoanthropes in the series) could move faster and hit harder in their animal state, but they could only sustain their transformation for a limited time.

The game was a complete button-masher, but the spectacle was unbeatable. Fights were fast, brutal, and had some killer finishing moves. Though not the most widely-known fighting franchise on the block, it was popular enough to warrant four sequels and two side stories, and the appeal of literally going for the jugular with pointy, rapacious teeth is still strong even today. Games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 have shown that gamers like some flash to their fights, and Bloody Roar positively boils over with stylistic excess.

3: Power Stone

A remnant of the Dreamcast, Power Stone was an arena-based 3D fighter similar to Ehrgeiz, but actually fun. Players viewed the action from an isometric point of view, running around and wearing down opponents with mêlée attacks and various items. Occasionally, one of the titular Stones would appear, and collecting three would unleash a Final Smash-esque über-move that often entirely levelled other competitors.

The second game further added to the Smash Bros.-esque chaos by letting up to four competitors duke it out simultaneously. The frenzy of special moves, environmental hazards and harmful items turned the game into an absolute riot, and that it was released so late in the Dreamcast’s life was a damn, Perfect Dark-esque shame. For gamers who don’t have access to Brawl, Power Stone would be a heaven send, and a new entry would be perfect for Xbox Live or PSN.

2: Killer Instinct

C-c-c-combo Breaker! More than anything else, Killer Instinct boasted perhaps the most superficially awesome cast of characters a twelve-year-old game designer ever assembled. The roster included a laser-wielding cyborg, an alien made entirely of ice, a pirate skeleton, and a cybernetically-enhanced velociraptor. Here are the last two again, for emphasis: a pirate skeleton and a cybernetically-enhanced velociraptor. The game was basically a goreless Mortal Kombat clone, but what a clone it was. Killer Instinct had everything that a standout 90’s fighter needed: memorable characters, tight controls and gameplay, and some sweet, sweet finishing moves.

Most of what made Killer Instinct unique was the combo system, which allowed players to queue up special moves to be executed in an unstoppable flurry of fists, blades, and occasionally claws. Sounds cheap, right? Enter Combo Breakers, an ingenious system that let players break out of these incredible combos by correctly guessing the intensity of the attack used for the combo. A successful Breaker also rewarded the player with a brief burst of extra power, lending a risk/reward element to long combos, similar to Street Fighter IV’s Ultra meter. Rare has been badgered to make a sequel to this game for over a decade, and even though they’re currently focused on making Avatar and Kinect games, we’ll keep on dreaming about auto-double-eighteen-hit-35%-Ultra-combos until Killer Instinct 3 releases. At least, we would if we could figure out what that even means.

1: Rival Schools

Criminally overlooked in the realm of Capcom fighters, Rival Schools was a fast, hectic fighter that can perhaps best be described as a 3D Marvel vs. Capcom. Similar to the comic crossover series, Rival Schools had players choose two (and in its Dreamcast sequel, three) characters, one of whom took over if the other was knocked out. Characters could also team up at the expense of a super bar, regaining health and unleashing a devastating special attack. Most satisfyingly, Rival Schools also echoed MvC’s aerial juggles with its Rival Launchers, which knocked opponents into the stratosphere and enabled players to follow them up to dole out an ass-kicking, High Time-style.

The story was utter nonsense: a group of students from several different high schools fight each other to determine the cause of several attacks and kidnappings. Still, there was something oddly compelling about the stereotypical, club-specific nature of each character, such as a character who uses a baseball, or a PE teacher for one school. For some reason, Sakura of the Street Fighter Alpha series (and recently of Street Fighter IV) was also included in the game, which apparently set Rival Schools in the Street Fighter universe, and gives Capcom an even better reason to revive this franchise. Loose, frantic, and high-flying like Cirque du Soleil, Rival Schools was one of the best 32-bit fighters released for the PlayStation, and deserves another shot at achieving greatness.

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- Andrew Testerman

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