A lot of new 2D fighters on display at TGS, huh? Well, I guess that depends on whether you’d consider three “a lot.” And also whether games with 3D characters count as 2D. Still! Big day for fans of the genre.
People have made light of Street Fighter IV copying II‘s roster and mechanics, but at least it’s not the lone offender in playing it safe. Sure, The King of Fighters XII has gorgeous new, hand-drawn sprites, but c’mon, it’s been a decade since they updated some of these characters. It’s more an act of penance than evolution.
The addition of Sakura to SFIV’s roster is one of the more telling signs of this reliance on series history. Storyline-wise (yeah, yeah, I know) there’s no reason for her to be there, let alone in a schoolgirl outfit. Parish claims it’s meant as parody, but I think he’s just being charitable to Capcom on account of Mega Man 9. SFIV is really just a mash-up of Street Fighter’s greatest hits (and, uh, Rufus). KoFXII’s roster reveals about the same. Iori’s been redesigned, but that primarily entailed relocating one of his belts, and Terry’s back to his classic Fatal Fury jacket instead of his Mark of the Wolves look.
But these are fighting games. Cut them some slack; they have a hard enough time surviving without relying on their most valuable assets. And besides, solid mechanics usually trump bringing something new to the table. Oftentimes being a good fighting game is irrespective of being a groundbreaking one, and characters are, to a degree, window dressing under which the game is played. If copying Street Fighter II’s roster wholesale means bringing back casual fans who fondly remember mashing-punch-as-Blanka duels, why the hell not?