There is a disturbance in the Force
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (opens in new tab) has categorically stoked the embers of our long-dormant love for the movies. The video game landscape is abuzz with the scope of Star Wars games on new-gen hardware (opens in new tab). It has been nearly 18 years since Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi was released, the only fighting game based on the property, and one that most people would rather forget. Lucasarts PS1 brawler tried to capitalize on the early 3D fighting boom, but failed, paling in comparison to contemporary genre hits like Tekken and SoulCalibur.
Now is the time for a top-tier fighting game set in the Star Wars universe, one that could easily rival Tekken, Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. Star Wars has the characters, the lore, and a following that a talented developer could blend into a surefire hit. Lets take a look at what it would take to make a better Star Wars fighting game in 2015.
Include all three trilogies
Tying any game let alone a fighter - into the new movie can be scary, but a new Star Wars game would do itself a big favor in that respect by not trying to strictly adhere to Star Wars canon. After all, it rarely makes sense that random combatants gather to fight in any sort of tournament on a consistent basis. Including characters and lore from the prequels and original Star Wars trilogy would help bolster the roster with recognizable faces.
As a kid who grew up with the original Star Wars movies, I would love to see my beloved favorites represented in a legitimately good fighting game, especially since some of the original cast will appear in the new movies anyway. The prequel era is slightly different matter. Yes, those movies left a bad taste in many a mouth, but there is still a generation of Star Wars fans who grew up with them, and it wouldnt make sense to alienate those players. Lets put everyone in for the broadest appeal and most eclectic range of combatants. At the end of the day, who wouldnt want to know who wins in a fight between Darth Vader and The Force Awakens Kylo Ren?
There's a whole galaxy of eclectic characters. Use it
One of Star Wars' biggest appeals is its broad spectrum of characters, ranging from the iconic Jedi and Sith - who represent the ultimate in good and evil - to its aliens and droids. Its a given that characters like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Han Solo, and Chewbacca would make the roster cut, but the prequels also have plenty of characters of note, such as Darth Maul, General Grievous, and a younger Yoda. The Force Awakens is adding even more interesting characters. If offered the choice of taking control of a Sith Lord wielding a broadsword-style lightsaber like Kylo Ren, or the chrome-armored Stormtrooper Captain Phasma, Id say hell yes to both.
There are also a lot of tough women running around the Star Wars universe. Princess Leia might be a decent addition to a fighting game roster, but its worth looking a little deeper for better female representation, like Aayla Secura, or Clone Wars vets Aurra Sing and Asajj Ventress. Mara Jade, or Han and Leias daughter Jaina too, if were going to sneak in a bit of Extended Universe. Given the richness of Star Wars character lore, we need not be limited to the token, quick, jumpy female.
Be smart about fighting styles, and play up both sides of the Force
The resurgence of fighting games has seen developers finding increasingly creative ways to design eclectic moves and fighting styles. NetherRealm Studios did a fantastic job of fashioning a roster of old and new characters in Mortal Kombat X, giving each three different variations to make them unique in themselves, and more suited to different individuals play-styles. Taking it a step further, imagine the possibilities of light and dark side versions of characters, similar to Street Fighters Ryu and Evil Ryu.
Looking at the roster in more general terms, we need to start thinking about fitting character archetypes. How do Wookies fight Sith Lords? How do bounty hunters fight Jedi? Luke Skywalker could certainly play the part of Ryu, a solid balance of offense with defense, whereas faster, more aggressive characters like General Grievous and Yoda might prove to be more capable rushdown fighters using offense as their best defense. In terms of other fighting game character templates, Darth Vader could play the meaty, powerful M. Bison role, while Chewbacca would seem a natural fit as the Zangief-style grappler.
Turn all that lore into a compelling story mode
Fighting game stories are traditionally dumb, but practically speaking, there are countless scenarios one could use in a Star Wars fighter to make it interesting. With a whole galaxy and three different eras to play with, anything is possible, but in order to plausibly throw all of these Star Wars combatants into one game, the simplest scenario would be something utterly fantastical like Capcoms Vs. series. Though wed need a better treatment than that seen in Capcoms usually lackluster storytelling.
NetherRealm has done an admirable job in putting together coherent story modes in its fighting games of late. Mortal Kombat X isnt the most captivating single-player campaign but it follows the lore of the series closely, something NetherRealm has been careful to manage over the years. The same studios Injustice provides an excellent opportunity to mash together a unique storyline between alternate DC universes, thus creating situations where otherwise discordant character combinations can seamlessly share screen space. A developer could easily take a similarly experimental concept into a Star Wars game, assuming Disney signs off on it. If so, theres a vast swathe of lore to play around with.
You have some of the best location design in film history. Go to town (and swamp, and forest, and desert)
Iconic planets like Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor, or smaller locales like Mos Eisley, the Death Star, or Jabba's Palace, would all make wonderful locations for Star Wars characters to duke it out in. Im already excited to fight in front of that crashed Star Destroyer from The Force Awakens with the design approach Arc System Works used for Guilty Gear Xrd Sign. Though how these locations would play out would certainly depend on how the game was presented.
There's a trade-off between the 2D and 3D styles. Developers tend to make stages in 3D and 2.5D - fighters more interactive, allowing players to break through walls and floors, or use elderly women as weapons, while purely 2D fighters tend to have gorgeous backgrounds with a lot of animation at the expense of interactivity. Both options feel like they could work with Star Wars (the former would make for fantastic, arena-breaking, Force-powered fights, while the latter would evoke Star Wars cluttered, vibrant feel beautifully) and the technology is available to make gorgeous backdrops for any number of locations. Having said that
The groundwork is already done, so steal from the best
Part of the beauty of fighting games is the genre diversity. Star Wars could excel as a 2D fighter like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, or just as easily in 3D like SoulCalibur or Tekken. Most developers have moved on from traditional 2D animation, choosing to employ 3D rendering on a 2D fighting plane. It would be a cool change of pace to see Star Wars done up in that old-school Capcom or SNK style.
However, a shiny new Star Wars fighter seems like a perfect opportunity to do something more photo-realistic in full 3D. Tekken still has a strong following and SoulCalibur has the weapons. Why not fuse the two and make something that could appeal to fans of both hand-to-hand and weapons combat? Theres already a precedent set for Star Wars' presence in a good fighter, with the guest appearances by Darth Vader and Yoda in SoulCalibur IV. As odd as those cameos may be, theyre a great taste of what a 3D Star Wars fighter could be in the right hands.
Use Star Wars' tech and powers to really mix up the fighting options
Getting the obvious out of the way first, theres simply no way a Star Wars game gets made with fatalities, brutalities, or any gore-based gameplay that might besmirch Disneys image. But there is still heavy inspiration this game could draw from NetherRealm. Mortal Kombat Xs character variation adds new layers of strategy to the long-running series. A Force capable character could switch between a lightsaber and their Force powers instantly, or players could lock into a variant at the start of each match.
Star Wars could take cues from Street Fighter by combining bread and butter gameplay with flashy combos and comeback mechanics to appeal to old and new players alike. Between Force powers and sci-fi weaponry, the options here are massive. However, a tag fighting game along the lines of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Tekken Tag Tournament also seems like a wonderful idea for Star Wars. The fighting is always fast-paced in these games, players can figure out remarkable ways for their characters to work together, and besides, who wouldnt want to put together a Star Wars dream team to beat their opponent down? Luke and Obi Wan in student and mentor tag action? Im in.
Be very choosy about who develops it. Accept only the best
Who would be the best fit to actually make it? Electronic Arts holds the exclusive license for Star Wars video games, but while Star Wars Battlefront should fulfill any geeks dream of running and gunning in that universe, the publisher has never put out a successful, pure fighting game. Though one could make the case for Fight Night and Def Jam Vendetta as showing potential.
Regardless, the EA fighting game torch would need to go to a developer at the top of its game. A 2D Star Wars fighter would be a great opportunity for BlazBlue and Guilty Gear dev Arc System Works to break away from its anime-inspired fighting game roots and bring its eclectic, creative imagination to something more mainstream. If 3D is the preferred genre, Id actually stick with Capcom, who partnered with Arika to produce Street Fighter EX, a 2D fighter with 3D graphics. Capcom also was responsible for the 3D Rival Schools and Star Gladiator games. And after all, rumor has it that Star Gladiator, released in 1996, was originally supposed to be a Star Wars game itself. Theres certainly a case for plausibility in the final games character designs (opens in new tab).
Chase the tournament scene, and really make it fly
The fighting game community wants to be recognized on the same level as those of other genres in eSports. Capcom has made a major investment in competitive fighting games with the Capcom Pro Tour. The ESL has been making its own push to emphasize Mortal Kombat X as a competitive game. Having an elite competitive Star Wars fighting game would be a boon to the fighting game community. The license alone would most certainly garner interest from veterans and newer players alike, and no doubt bring a whole lot more mainstream viewers to the scene.
Disney could help the fighting game community expand by pumping more money into a Star Wars game than anyone else could, and that kind of exposure and willingness to pay out bigger prize packages would further entice players to compete. But it isnt all about money. The community, above all else, wants a great game to compete in for a long time and to build a real culture around. Thats why games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Super Smash Bros. Melee are still drawing players at every event.
Now is the time
Star Wars video games have a shaky history, and its fair to be skeptical of a fighting game, with Masters of Teras Kasi currently the only example. But never is far too long to go without a great Star Wars fighter. Developers like Arc System Works and NetherRealm Studios have shown the desire to be more innovative with the visual style and mechanics of their games. Capcom and Bandai Namco havent strayed far from the formula that works for Street Fighter and Tekken, respectively, but the games are always technically sound, and big attractions in the competitive fighting scene. The genre hasnt been this healthy in a long time.
I want to finally be able to pit Star Wars best of the best in combat. Its high-time to find out whos the best fighter, not in the world, but in the galaxy, whether its a Jedi Knight, a Sith Lord, or even a smuggler who can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Personally, Id like to see a glorious, 3D, Tekken-style rendition of Star Wars, but what kind of fighter would you like? And who would you want to develop it?