Brash Games’ Top 5 2D Fighters

With the release of the stupidly awesome Street Fighter IV followed by the equally fantastic, Blaz Blue Calamity Trigger, 2D fighters managed to worm there way back into the gaming conscious after a few too many years stuck out in the gaming wilderness and with the rebooted Mortal Kombat going gang busters and Street Fighter X Tekken on the horizon, it looks like their new found popularity won’t be on the wane any time soon.

Make no mistake, 2D fighters are back in a big way and with so much to look forward to for 2D fight fans, we thought it as good a time as any to take a look back at some of our favourite examples of this most classic of genres.

So, without further ado, here are Brash Games’ top 5 2D Fighters

#5 – King of Fighters XI – PS2 – SNK Playmore (2007)

It was an extremely close call between KOF XI and KOF ’98, but the impressive use of SNK’s Atomiswave hardware to give the graphics some much needed polish combined with a huge character roster and some very smoothly implemented additions to the core gameplay meant that KOF XI on PS2 just about piped the Dreamcast iteration of ’98 onto our list.

Although not hugely popular on our shores, this long running series is big business back in its native Japan with the majority of characters hugely recognisable thanks to an array of related merchandising that includes comics, card games an animated series and even a live action movie and while many would argue the case for KOF ’98 as being the franchise’s defining moment, KOF XI’s combination of classic gameplay and intuitive innovations meant that it was always going to make our list.

#4 – Marvel Vs Capcom 2 – Dreamcast – Capcom (2000)

While the recent PSN/XBLA iteration of this pleasingly batty fighter might have online play and an optional visual filter, due to the games initial impact way back in 2000 and its subsequently pixel perfect port, it’s the Dreamcast version that still holds a very special place in our hearts.

With its high speed 3 on 3 fighting, crazy assists, huge specials and epic-air combo system, MVC2 might just be the craziest fighter of all time. Although the controls were simplified in comparison to previous releases in the vs. series, MVC2’s upgraded 3D backgrounds using the NAOMI arcade hardware (basically just a Dreamcast in a cabinet) allowed for some seriously eye melting visuals – visuals that still hold up amazingly well a decade after its original release.

Ok, so it may be a little unbalanced, but get two evenly matched players together and MVC2 can become as strategic and competitive as any other game on this list – you also get to pit Spiderman vs Ryu……and that’s just awesome.

#3 – Guilty Gear XX Accent Core – PS2/Wii – Arc System Work (2008)

Marvel vs Capcom might be the craziest 2D fighting franchise around but Guilty Gear has to go down as the most unique. Of course, unique only gets you far, but with such a well rounded cast, outstanding visuals and silky smooth gameplay to fall back on, Guilty Gear never relies upon it as a crutch.

It may well be the unique rock style audio/visual bombardment that grabs gamers initial attention, but it’s the highly detailed anime style character art by Daisuke Ishiwatari, the high speed, intuitive gameplay and hugely original characters that keep gamers coming back to this much loved series.

Although anything released after the original back on the PSOne will still serve you well enough today, it’s the balanced roster and downright good looks of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core that makes it the go to game for the series.

While a loss of the Guilty Gear rights to Sega may mean we never see an Arc System’s developed Guilty Gear again, fans of the series can live happily in the knowledge that off-shoot and spiritual successor, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger carries on the series tradition of high quality 2D gaming into the current generation.

#2 – Street Fighter III 3rd Strike – Dreamcast – Capcom (2000)

The connoisseurs choice of 2D fighter, Street Fighter III, or more specifically, the updated, re-balanced, character enhanced Street Fighter III 3rd Strike on Dreamcast (the console of choice for 2D fighters) stands as a perfect example of 2D fighting at its purest and most unforgiving. While ‘newbs’ will always have a fighters chance against top players in MVC2 or Guilty Gear, come up against a top tier player in Street Fighter III and there can only be one outcome – complete annihilation.

Be it the pixel perfect parry’s, the devastating combos or the deadly counters, Street Fighter III is a game that encourages extremely high level play and to this day stands as one of the most popular 2D fighters for tournament play.

While famous for its purist approach and favour with the hardcore, it’s easy to forget just how good the game actually looks. While it may not be as obviously pretty as Guilty Gear or eye popping as Street Fighter IV, SFIII is home to some of the finest animations ever seen in a 2D fighter and with an online, HD enhanced edition on the way to LIVE and PSN, fans of the series will soon get a chance to relive the glory days while newcomers will……well, they’re gonna get their asses handed to them aren’t they.

#1 – Street Fighter IV – 360/PS3 – Capcom (2009)

Street Fighter IV is not only a near perfect game in its own right, it’s also single-handedly responsible for reinvigorating a once dying genre. Like Street Fighter II before it, Street Fighter IV has managed that fine balancing act between being accessible to all types of gamers while also offering up more than enough depth to satiate the cultured taste of the 2D fighting hardcore. The balance is near perfect and the visuals and move lists manage to be both familiar and new all at the same time.

Playing like an updated version of Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter IV takes everything that was great about that game and adds a layer of next-gen gloss to proceedings. The seemingly simple Focus Attacks add a huge layer of depth while Ultra Combos now allow for visually arresting specials that can change a fight in an instance.

The visuals, while in 3D are given a 2D, hand drawn style by character designer Daigo Ikeno that again walk the tightrope of both looking familiar and cutting edge all at the same time.

Needless to say, it’s hard to see how Capcom could possibly top Street Fighter IV, but for now, we can all live happily in the knowledge that thanks to this master-class in 2D fighting, we can all look forward to a bright future for this much loved genre.

Honourable Mentions:

Marvel vs Capcom 3 – Kept off the list by the impact of the second game in the series

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift  – The spiritual successor to the Guilty Gear series and a great game in its own right.

Garou: Mark of the Wolves – A brilliantly technical fighter and one SNK’s finest releases.

Mortal Kombat – Although unable to compete on a technical level with many of the games on this list, Mortal Kombat still stands of one of the most enjoyable multiplayer games around.

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