A Look at the 3D Fighting Genre

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The 3D fighting genre has come a long way over the past few years. While admittedly a newer genre (after all, the first major 3D fighting games only came out in the mid 90’s, and the industry had many other game types long before that), they have come a long way and definitely surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Two of the first recognized games in the genre were Virtua Fighter and Tekken. Tekken helped to pioneer and popularize the genre, and made a clear distinction between fighters (everyone had their own move set, and some fighters as Yoshimitsu has a weapon). Virtua Fighter on the other hand, went for more realistic fighting (closer to more traditional martial arts) and introduced the concept of a ring-out. With this, fighting arenas had edges and players could lose a match by being forced out of it. This added a strategic element to the genre, and helped the series gain popularity.

Not only did these two series help to cement the genre in gamer’s minds (and later renditions of the series certainly did this with improved graphics and gameplay), but there were also several lesser-known titles that helped innovate. One of the key innovators was Battle Arena Toshinden. While it was essentially a generic 3D fighter, its one key addition helped to further jumpstart the genre. This addition was the sidestep. With it, players could now avoid enemy attacks by stepping out of the way and continuing the fight, and it has since become a fighting game standard.

Another key player in the 3D fighting genre would have to be the Dead or Alive series. While essentially using sex appeal to market the series, thankfully there is very solid gameplay to back things up. Dead or Alive essentially improved on the Virtua Fighter formula, and even added a new twist, the Danger Zone. This was an area on the outskirts of a level that would result in extra damage. The formula was further improved as the series progressed forward, and the amazing evolution of this can be seen in the most recent DOA game (although now the games emphasize environmental interaction).

But one cannot talk about 3D fighting games without mentioning the Soul Edge/Soul Calibur series. As the pioneer 3D weapons-based fighting game, Soul Edge wowed gamers with its fluid motion and superb gameplay. Calibur upped the ante with extremely fluid movements and deep gameplay, but also added the eight-way run. In essence this was an evolution of the sidestep, and allowed players to circle around their opponents in order to get the advantage.

While most people know the popular game series, there were many games that were impressive 3D fighters, but were underappreciated by the masses. One fine example of this would have to be Tobal No. 1. It introduced an RPG like quest mode that gave added depth to a fighting game, and it was an impressive feat for an early generation PS1 game. However, a somewhat weird fighting system turned off many fans, and the game bombed at retail. Tobal wasn’t Square’s only foray into the genre, as they also made Bushido Blade (a realistic sword-fighting game that had little boundaries on its levels and had no life bars), and Ehrgeiz.

Other companies have gotten in on the action as well over the years. Nintendo took many of their popular characters and threw them into a great power-up and beat-em-up 3D game, and the results were great. Even the highly popular Mortal Kombat series made the jump to 3D (though it wasn’t the smoothest transition). Time has shown that 3D fighters are here to stay.

So what’s next? 3D fighters have already gone online with DOA Ultimate, so who knows what the next frontier will be. A new Mortal Kombat game recently came out, and Tekken 5 is currently being worked on over at Namco. Hopefully the genre will continue to be innovated by the evolution of these series, and developers will continue to come up with new and unique ideas.

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