By now, many of you gamers out there have come across or at the very least experienced an arena fighter at some point. You have classics like 2002’s Dragon Ball: Budokai Tenkaichi and the more well known Naruto Shippuden series, which all take place within a 3D playing field. So firstly, what is an arena fighter exactly, and how does it differ from your traditional fighting game? Let’s take the iconic Street Fighter franchise as an example of what a traditional fighting game is. It’s situated on a 2D playing field and 2 players battle it out in order to control space, and land enough hits in order to land a K.O. The amount of movement you have within a 2D playing field is limited and so more focus is placed on the player trying to establish dominance by using normal and special attacks to minimize the opponent’s options, thus creating an advantage. In an arena fighter, while the concept of fighting is still very much intact like your quintessential Street Fighter, you’re now playing in what’s called an “arena” which is essentially a 3-Dimensional battlefield rather than a 2D one. Your options are more diverse, allowing you to move throughout the playing field with a certain degree of freedom, allowing for a bit more versatility than that of your classic 2D structure. With that out of the way, we bring our attention back to the article question and that is, have anime arena fighters lost their charm? We’d honestly like to think so and here are our reasons.
The Market isn’t as Lucrative as the More Traditional Fighting Games
There was a time when the fighting game genre was actually close to near extinction, with its popularity plummeting due to arcades no longer serving their purpose as a stomping grounds for players to level up, and them becoming more of a lucrative way of attracting the more casual fanbase with shooters, among other things. Players then sought after the online option which at the time, wasn’t as sophisticated as we currently have it in this generation, and we’re talking circa 2002 up until the resurgence of the genre in 2008 by Capcom. So during this time, anime arena fighters were actually the craze, with the likes of Budokai and Naruto Shippuden taking over due to their incredible popularity regarding their respective anime. You didn’t really need to be great at these games and they allowed for both local and relatively limited online play, but nevertheless an experience. So the market at that time was perfect, however, when 2008 rolled around that’s when things took a major turn for the entire fighting game community.
Capcom was planning something big, but many of us didn’t quite know what to expect since once again, 2008 was a very depressing time for fighting game fans. Low and behold Capcom drops Street Fighter 4, a brand new fighting game experience that shied away from the more complex mechanics of Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, and focused on a more “back-to-the-basics” approach, which ultimately revived the community entirely. Since then, arena fighters just haven’t had the same type of fire that they used to, because now in 2020 we have a more sophisticated platform to work with and online being more elaborate, albeit complaints from the community (we know this pain all too well). The point here is that 3D anime arena fighters just can’t thrive in a market that’s now saturated with better options in terms of accessibility, entry-level mechanics, and just all-around more engaging. While there’s certainly a dedicated fanbase that still devotes themselves to the 3D anime arena fighting genre, it’s very clear that they’re just not what they used to be.
Trying to Play Keep Up is Just Too Challenging
As stated in the previous paragraph, the fighting game community (or FGC for short) has evolved rapidly ever since its resurgence back in 2008, with more titles on the market than we’ve ever seen before, along with notable classics like Guilty Gear, Street Fighter, Tekken, and so on. With 3D anime arena fighters, you have the likes of JUMP FORCE and My Hero Academia One’s Justice 2, two of the more notable titles on the market, but aside from that, there’s not much else. Both titles have had relatively mixed responses regarding their gameplay, with a lot of the responses leaning more towards the negatives than the positives, expressing concerns about overall gameplay mechanics, along with visual aesthetics. The way in which anime arena fighters are handled these days seems more rushed than before, considering that the market has proliferated tremendously and more players are seeking out better options in order to get the best fighting game experience.
So trying to play keep up is becoming all the more challenging for these companies, because now you’re competing with a much larger compendium of titles, all of which lean more towards the traditional fighting styles that people enjoy. Quality-wise too, these anime arena fighters just don’t seem to perform as concisely as common fighting game titles, and that’s because there’s just so much more happening on screen. You’re dealing with a 3D arena with a great deal of movement, and special effects soaking up all of the framerate when two players battle it out. JUMP FORCE is a great example of this because while the game pays homage to all of these iconic anime franchises, its visual and clunky gameplay performance take an enormous beating when everything is happening all at once. It’s obvious that the devs and publishers are trying their best to appeal to the anime fanbase which is totally fine, but with a community so devoted to their traditional approach to fighting, 3D anime arena fighters just simply don’t have enough power to keep up. The games feel incomplete and after a few fights online, you immediately grow tired of it all and move on. Another major issue is that fighting games, in general, are quite niche when compared to the more outstanding genres like first-person-shooters and role-playing-games, that have a much larger userbase and garner more attention on a global scale. This, in turn, hurts fighting games but even more so the anime arena fighters since they just don’t have enough gas to sustain themselves in a world where one knockdown can lead to you having to guess the outcome, and well….the outcome is very clear at this point. It’s TOO niche.
It’s safe to say that, and proudly so, the fighting game community is definitely seeing a surge in popularity with so many more options for players to choose from. So long are the days of just picking between the common titles like Street Fighter and Tekken, but now there’s a lot to keep you busy. However, the same cannot be said for the 3D anime arena fighter scene because licensing issues create headaches and at the moment, Bandai Namco has their hand in that IP cookie jar which makes it all the more difficult for us to perhaps see a more traditional anime fighting game experience from other companies. For now, fans of arena fighters have their options but with so much more out there you might as well try something that will better serve your time.