Thursday, April 10, 2014

Relationship problems

So, CAPCOM announced the fifth character that they're adding to the newest iteration of Street Fighter IV, and the internet doesn't seem to jazzed about her so far. Decapre, similar to appearance to Cammy, because she's another one of M. Bison's "Dolls" has some similarities in moves, but a lot of differences. The complainers seem to be focusing on the similarities. In my head, it sounds like this...

Dear Virtual Advice Columnist,
I really want to like this girl - let's call her Dee - but I feel a little bit guilty about liking her because she reminds me too much of my old girlfriend, Cammy. I mean, I know that I should like her on her own merits, but I find myself yelling things at her like "Is it just me? Or was this the worst moment of all in the SF4 series?"and "This is a joke, right? In what Universe (do they) honestly think fans would be hyped for this character?" She's actually got some friends that I knew from before, a wrestler, a hot biker chick/dude/whatever that hangs out with the wrestler, an African princess that learned capoeira, and this really badass mercenary. I did get to hang out with them lately and didn't complain about them much, but I still feel bad about the whole thing.

-Confused And Possibly Crabby Over My Female Avatar News

You're complaining about getting 5 more characters for $15 on a download, or $40 on a disk - and the disk version has all of the previous costume DLC included? I think that if you really don't like Dee, or Decapre as she would prefer to be called, there are plenty of things to like about the new version. If you're looking for a reason not to move on, nobody's stopping you.

It stems basically from this - when content publishers put a new version of an existing IP, it's nearly guaranteed that the internet will scream out one of these two things:

"I can't believe they just repackaged the old game and only added some stupid cosmetic feature that I totally don't care about."


"What the heck is this broken game? It doesn't have any of the characters/features that I liked from the last game and the new game engine is totally rubbish and how can you be expected to play a game at only 30fps."

So I'm not surprised that people say these things, except if I'm not surprised by it then on some level I'm surprised that this reaction keeps happening, because I can't be the only person that notices it.

It's an especially difficult phenomenon in an IP's second iteration, since it's hard to look at a series of games or albums or movies as a cohesive whole if there are only two data points. This tends to drag us straight into compare/contrast territory. When a game's iteration is in to the double digits like Street Fighter is, you should start to be able to see a pattern. Street Fighter's pattern has been so far, at least according to what I understand about it, is that they make a new game and game engine, and then they do periodic updates of the same engine to keep people interested in it and balancing the game while cutting down on the labor required to do a full new release every time. Looking at the Street Fighter 2 series, the Street Fighter Alpha series, the Street Fighter III series, and the Street Fighter IV series, that's what's been happening so far. The original Street Fighter didn't do this, but I don't think that they had quite adopted the strategy at first and the gaming climate was rather different.

Another one of the complaints that I heard was "Where Is Street Fighter V? We want all new characters!" Based on the reception of Street Fighter III at the time that it came out, I'm not sure that the mass market appeal of a Street Fighter game with all new characters would be well received at all. When Street Fighter III came out, only Ryu and Ken were carried over, and the other eight (well, OK nine, but Yun and Yang were identical at the time) characters and the one boss were all new. The game was very good, and by the time the game got to its final iteration (Street Fighter III:Third Strike) it was well-balanced and very complex. Street Fighter III is a technically great fighting game, but it's hampered by the fact that it was designed for people that were already really good at fighting games. The other thing that impacted Street Fighter III's popularity when it came out was that it was only available for one home system at the time, the Sega Dreamcast. The original PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 couldn't have handled Street Fighter 3, and Street Fighter 3's 2000 home release on Dreamcast preceded the XBox and Game Cube by about a year. Technically, a home version of Street Fighter III could have come out for PlayStation 2, but this was before a multiplatform home release was a standard occurrence for anything that wasn't EA Sports or Mortal Kombat. The PlayStation 2 and the XBox did eventually get versions of Street Fighter III:Third Strike, but it was so long after the fact that it was more a nostalgia package than anything.

Did anybody actually think that Capcom would go to the trouble to make new character models for Hugo, Poison, Elena, and Rolento for "Street Fighter X Tekken" and then not use them in a subsequent game? At some point it's a business decision that it's far easier to do something with resources you have than spend even more time developing new resources. I also thought when I started using Rolento in SFxT that it would be cool to see how he holds up against the rest of the SFIV roster. I'm sure that there are some Hugo, Poison, and Elena players thinking the same thing. The other thing that happens having them in another game before they get moved into SFIV is that the game design team gets a chance to see how their moveset works so that they can get game balance dialed in correctly.  Historically, they've been a little less worried about game balance in their crossover titles, but it is nice that they get the chance to try things out there first.

So, I'm not really mad about Decapre, but I'm probably not going to use her right away. Oni Akuma didn't get this kind of negative reception when he was announced, and he is a similarly positioned character - similar to a character already in use, but tuned with a slightly different moveset for more aggressive play. I don't really use him, and I haven't quite warmed up to his style yet. I think it takes more time for us Street Fighter old-timers to digest new characters. I thought Rufus and El Fuerte were stupid at first, and now I've really warmed up to them even if I'm not that good at them.

If you're still thinking 'what-if' about the whole thing, check out this video where lots of other characters that would have worked just fine are shown. (Well, except for Skullomania, who doesn't belong to Capcom.)

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