There is a trend I’m noticing when it comes to licensed fighting games, such as Naruto and DBZ, and reactions that players have to them. They tell me that any given game needs more characters. Now, I can understand why: they want to play their favorite matches that happened in the show, or set up dream matches that never will happen in the show, or any of the other things you might think to try in a licensed fighter.
Here’s the problem: whenever someone makes this complaint, it’s made with regard to the first game of the series, and said game has a respectable number of characters when looking at it as a fighting game and not as a licensed property.
Pop-quiz: How many characters did the original Super Smash Bros. game have? 12.
Mortal Kombat? 7.
Street Fighter? 2!!! And they’re just pallete swaps with the same moveset. Ok, so that one’s a low blow, and I’m fairly sure the game did poorly compared to most starting fighters, so we’ll go with Street Fighter II, which has 8 characters.
Now, notice anything interesting here? All of these games, regardless of generation, have a respectable, but not huge, selection of characters, not counting the original Street Fighter. Now, in attempting to do a licensed game right, developers have to focus on making the characters who are in the game worthwhile characters to play, as well as design the rest of the engine from the ground up. All of this takes a long time to do. And while I know licensed fighters aren’t always in the highest echelons of the fighting game genre, some of them, particularly the various Naruto series and the DBZ games since Budokai 3 have been games that I can say have been fun. They’re no Soul Calibur or Super Smash Bros., but they are entertaining.
As an example of what I’m talking about, within the past year, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit came out. Want to hear the biggest criticism I hear as to why people don’t want it? There aren’t enough characters! However, it has 20 characters, and is the first game in this particular series of DBZ games. That’s a very respectable number of fighters to choose from. In this case, the problem is that players are comparing this game to Budokai Tenkaichi 3, which has a ridiculous number of playable characters to choose from, even after accounting for alternate forms and various forms of Super Saiyajin. It’s also the third game of its respective series, so the developers had a lot more time to add characters, since they only needed to tweak the engine instead of develop it from the ground up. For those who wish to know, there are 162 characters in this game, though as I said, some are simply the powered up forms of other characters. Expecting a new series to compete with that is crazy.
What people need to remember is that designing a new engine takes time. So does designing new fighters. Sure, they’re basically drawn for you, and you have an idea of what their super moves will be, but that all still has to actually be drawn, programmed, and so on by the designers. In subsequent games of a series, you can basically tweak old characters, tweak the engine, then jump into designing new characters. I’m sure this is a simplification, but it’s something to consider the next time you think about ragging on a new series just because it doesn’t have as many characters as you think it should have.
Besides, most licensed games are still on a level that you can likely find much more legitimate complaints about in regards to gameplay anyway, without expecting the developers to go beyond what is reasonable in making a game.