Test your might
Is there any measure of skill as pure as the fighter? Two combatants enter an arena, and following a battle of wits, reflexes, and cunning, only one is left standing. Honor secured, the victor rides off into the sunset with the knowledge that his opponent has been shamed to the fullest extent of his ability. It's kind of beautiful, really--a tradition nearly as old as humanity itself, but without all the bloodshed and death that usually sours the whole thing.
That being said, it's no surprise that fighting games won't be going away anytime soon. The genre may have slowed down a bit since the decline of arcades, but tournaments and online play have reignited interest in this most sacred form of competition. Take a moment to flex your fingers as we check out some of the biggest fighters soon to be released.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3, Xbox 360)
The Persona series is known for its RPG dungeon crawling, turn-based combat, and focus on creating social bonds. If none of that sounded like the ingredients of a good fighting game to you well, you're probably right. Last we checked, trying to kill someone is one of the worst ways to make new friends.
Fortunately, the Persona 4 Arena games, developed by the team behind Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, take quite the departure from the series' roots in the interest of 2D fighting action. The upcoming edition maintains many of the mechanics that made the original a fan favorite while introducing new characters, balances, and shadow-types--palette swaps of old characters that greatly transform their fighting strategies. And hey, if nothing else, the story between bouts may give you an appreciation for RPG plotlines.
Super Smash Bros. Wii U (Wii U)
It may seem a little sad to some of you fighting game purists out there, but Super Smash Bros. was many gamers' first serious foray into the genre. Bouncy, cartoonish gameplay, beloved Nintendo characters, and a unique ring-out system made the series stand on its own, all while being simple enough that an eight-year-old playing his favorite electric mouse could Down-B his way to victory (at least until Melee came out two years later and you Wave-Dashing monsters ruined it for the rest of us).
All joking aside, Super Smash Bros. has come a long way since its humble beginnings, with millions of copies sold and pro circuits around every corner. The upcoming sequel promises more levels, more items, more modes, and most importantly, more new characters than our inner fanboys can handle. (Just take a look at that Super Smash Bros. Wii U roster!) Here's hoping that it leaves just as strong a legacy as its predecessors.
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-(PS3, PS4)
2D fighting doesn't get more frantic than Guilty Gear, so the announced return of the beloved franchise is sure to be a relief to fans around the globe. Sure, developer Arc System Works' involvement in BlazBlue and Persona 4 Arena haven't left us wanting, but it just feels right to have them back on their bread and butter, you know?
Many of Guilty Gear's lead fighters make their return in Xrd -SIGN-, along with several of the more unique characters the series is known for. From the riff-shredding witch to the mad doctor sporting a paper bag on his head (and the most intimidating scalpel you've ever seen), diversity has never been an issue in the Guilty Gear universe. Then again, neither is gameplay, meaning that there's almost no reason for fighting fans to pass on this one.
Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm (PC)
Seven years ago, a few King of Fighter devs began Yatagarasu as a personal side project. Heavily inspired by Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike's gameplay and presentation, the resulting 2D fighter was a combination of simplicity and depth. Simple inputs and a focus on normal attacks made the game approachable for fighting game amateurs, while combos and cancels gave the big dogs a reason to check it out as well. What's more, its dynamic commentary system looked to be as realistic as possible, featuring the voices of fighting game pros responding to specific combos and events on the fly.
This labor of love may never have seen the chance to cross the ocean if it wasn't for last year's Indiegogo campaign. After raising nearly twice as much funding as they had hoped, the team promised to bring Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm--an expanded version with more characters, English localization, and improved graphics--to the states. Here's hoping that it's as good as it looks.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution (PS3, Xbox 360)
Let's address the elephant in the room: There have been a lot of Naruto games released over the years. From fighters to RPGs, the spiky-haired ninja has had a solid spot on store shelves since the anime became a mainstream success. But despite their abundance, many Naruto games have been praised by both fans and critics alike (check out last year's Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 if you don't believe us).
Building off the same fighting mechanics as its predecessor, the upcoming ninja-centric release seems poised to repeat past successes. Fans of the show will be pleased with the extensive, canonical story mode, featuring nearly an hour of freshly animated material. Additionally, a roster of 100-plus characters and a new four-person Tournament Mode means that you and three of your buddies will find no shortage of variety here.
Rise of Incarnates (PC)
Release Date: Q4 2014
Part fighter, part shooter, part 2v2 pseudo-god battle simulator, Rise of Incarnates is looking to bring the smackdown to a ruined metropolis near you. Built upon the framework of the popular Japan-only Gundam Extreme Vs., Bandai Namco is hoping to introduce a new style of gameplay to Western audiences with this free-to-play fighter.
Each fighter comes with various strengths and weaknesses, lending a huge focus on teamwork as each partner works to cover the others shortcomings--in other words, the perfect duo would be able to balance well-placed punches with ranged fire support, or be ready to improvise when their opponents call some otherworldly creatures or a mech into the fight as well. Alls fair, right?
Mortal Kombat X
Release Date: 2015 [Pre-order now on Amazon]
Well be the first to admit that Mortal Kombat is known for some less than perfect sequelitis, but all that seems to be in the past. NetherRealm really nailed what made the gory fighter great when they rebooted the series a few years ago, and Injustice: Gods Among Us proved that it was no fluke.
The tenth game in the series will keep, if not enhance, the nauseously anatomic X-rays and finishers from the reboot, but also introduces the environment as a weapon. Combatants will be able to grab barrels and branches while bounding from the corner of the screen with a single button press, leading to much more visually interesting bouts. With a mix of new faces and our old reliable Scorpions and Sub-Zeroes, were chomping at the bit for our turn to Finish Him.
Tekken 7 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Release Date: TBA
What do we know about the next game in the Tekken series? Honestly, not that much outside of the story. But while the promise for some closure within the Mishima clan is welcome, the biggest piece of news is that this fighter is being made with the Unreal 4 Engine. In short, its pretty much guaranteed that well be seeing this one on gorgeous next-gen consoles.
Our lack of knowledge doesnt mean that were not excited though. Tekken has been a mainstay of fighting tournaments since the PS1, with crowd favorites ranging from the super evil Heihachi to the lovable Kuma trading combos for hours at a time. Suffice it to say that well be keeping our ears open for more details.
Arcana Heart 3:LOVE MAX!!!!!
Release date: Sept. 30, 2014 Pre-order now on Amazon
Have you been looking for a game that mixes your love of action, strategy, futuristic sci-fi fantasy, harem-style anime, and the maximum amount of love into a wet, sopping ball of 2D fighting madness? Well then look no further, as Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! has already checked all of the boxes to become your personal GOTY.
Over the top special attacks and more than a few downright absurd fighters are the norm here, as the all-female cast ranges from your typical schoolgirl or kunoichi to a child whose stick figure drawings come to life and a swimsuit-clad elementalist floating in a constantly levitating pool of water. An arcade version has already been released in Japan, but we're still waiting for news on the western port that's sure to come.
Tekken X Street Fighter (Platforms TBA)
Who doesn't love a good crossover? There's nothing quite like seeing your favorite heroes from wildly unrelated series duke it out on the same screen, and it's all the better when you've got a side to cheer for. Namco and Capcom's partnership pits fighter against fighter, franchise against franchise, and Tekken fanboys against Street Fighter die-hards--and that's just the way we like it.
Capcom hosted the all-inclusive fighting tourney back in 2012, but we're still waiting for Namco's response, Tekken X Street Fighter (pronounced "cross," as in crossover). Although not much has been revealed other than the inclusion of each franchise's leading fighters, we're confident that the Tekken team will make the most out of their home court advantage.
Have you got the moves? Think you could take down your fellow readers in the fighter of your choice? Why not lay down the smack in the comments below?
And while you're at it, why not check out some New RPGs on the horizon for 2014 and beyond?