What’s good, everyone? Yes, it’s ANOTHER look into the fighting game genre. This time (and in an attempt to keep the subject interesting for you poor folks who would LOVE to read something interesting) I’d like to touch on one of the things being implemented into the newer games that seems to cause a large difference of opinion in the community. To the point, I’m going to be talking about the comeback mechanic and its impact on the genre and community overall.
The concept of the comeback mechanic isn’t a new one to fighting games. Historically speaking, they’ve been around for quite a while in various forms, be it either mashing out of a near-death state and doing higher damage like in Killer Instinct, the POW meter from the Samurai Shodown games or falling below a certain percentage of health and going into a flashing “super mode” like in Primal Rage. Newer fighting games are a little less subtle with their inclusions of the comeback mechanic though, as it’s evolved from a “second wind” sort of thing into a tool that can be used like a special move. In Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for example, this is conveyed via the “X-Factor” option, wherein a player can interrupt any action by hitting all the action buttons to gain a sizable increase to their speed, damage and overall play style. Additionally, The X-Factor’ed character also does not take any block or “chip” damage, adding to the increased deadliness of the player and their character. All of this is accompanied by a distinctive red flash and decidedly ominous feeling of “sh*t getting real”.
The upcoming Street Fighter x Tekken throws its own take on the concept into the mix with “Pandora Mode”. Rather than an overpowered, “get-out-of-a-loss-free” card, this one is touted as more of an “all-or-nothing gamble” more than a traditional comeback mechanic. The mode can only be activated when at 25% or less health and will immediately kill your point character to bring in your secondary character who now has infinite super meter, an increase to their damage output and an altered appearance. Unlike X-Factor, which grants its user incredible amounts of power essentially for free, Pandora’s big upshot is that your character is now on a life timer and MUST defeat the opponent or they will lose the round. These balancing factors aside, many players still think that the power boost and meter gain is still a liability and that the option should be removed entirely.
So with the basics laid out, it’s time to get to the split in opinions over the matter. The proponents of the comeback mechanic contend that their inclusion adds a heightened sense of urgency and drama to the atmosphere while also fostering the development of new technology as a countermeasure. On the other side of the coin, detractors insist that it is nothing more than a tool for less skilled players to have the playing field leveled and in the hands of skilled and higher level players, an easily abuse-able tool that all but ensures a victory against a lesser opponent. This also has a larger implication, as since the fighting game starts to grow, it brings with it a new generation of players who are accustomed to the comeback mechanic and will generally speaking, not have as much skill as the old school Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Street Figher III: Third Strike players did. For example, would Evo moment #37 have been as epic and memorable if Daigo Umehara had first busted into “anime power-up time” that had (for example) made execution easier, did away with chip damage , made his Ken faster with infinite meter and restored his health? The New-School vs. Old-School mentalities and opinions make this an interesting controversy to watch. Although, that being said, the fighting game community has no shortage of controversies and arguments regarding changes to the genre. I mean, I’m fairly sure I can’t even say the word “gem” around fellow fighting gamers without getting at least ONE dirty look.
At this point, I’d like some audience participation, if I may. What’s your take on the idea of a comeback mechanic? Not just in fighting games either but in any game with a competitive aspect; like an FPS that would make you invincible after a set amount of deaths or a racing game that grants you an additional boost of some sort when you start to fall far enough behind? Let me know in the comments below and thanks again.