The Resurgence of the 3-D Fighting Game
Date Published: 23 November, 2018
It was never ostracized or mistreated to the point of labeling it the “red-headed step-child”, but the 3-D subgenre in fighting games has traditionally been in a place all of its own. There are a myriad of theories behind why that has been the case.
Factors that vary from entry level difficulty, lesser known licenses, as well as simply the fact that the 3-D subgenre has fewer franchises than its 2-D or Anime counterparts. However, despite historically having less notoriety, 3-D fighting games are reemerging to perhaps be a significant player in the new age FGC (Fighting Game Community).
The lineage and history the 3-D fighting game genre owns is quite comparable to other fighting game subgenres, however, it is not discussed as much due to the nature of technological advancement within game development, as well as fierce competition brought on by the 2-D fighting game landscape.
It was no secret that the 3-D fighting game genre was experiencing the same polygonal growing pains that many other non-fighting game classics were subjected to. Therefore, for the average consumer, choosing between the awkward blocky character model versus the standardized pixelated one, was really no choice at all.
However, putting the aesthetic aspect aside, the other hurdle for the 3-D subgenre was its gameplay. It should come to no surprise that by adding another dimension to a fighting game, it also adds more possibilities, scenarios, as well as problems that simply do not exist in a two-dimensional fighting game space.
Though in spite of having to battle through numerous complications and obstacles along the way, the 3-D fighting game subgenre continued to pull-through. It was very much handicapped in the beginning, considering there was yet to have been a proven blueprint for what makes the subgenre successful.
Many franchises have come and gone, all experimenting with different mechanics, as well as different ways to present the 3-D space, which in hindsight pioneered many 3-D elements today. However, with the roaring success of the 2-D fighting game subgenre, and the industry having a bottom line, it left the door open for only a few 3-D fighting game franchises.
Though despite them being lesser in numbers, 3-D fighting games like Virtua Fighter, Soul Calibur, Tekken, and Dead or Alive made a name for themselves in the FGC with originality and quality. Considering the strong competition from the traditional 2-D fighting game subgenre, with historic franchises like Street Fighter and The King of Fighters, the 3-D fighting game genre was doing its best to compete.
However, fast-forwarding to recent history, in the so called “Street Fighter IV era”, it is safe to say that the 3-D fighting game genre took a bit of a hit. The Virtua Fighter series was on its last legs, and eventually fell out of prominence, similarly, the Dead or Alive series, also tumbled down, and though it wasn’t from prominence, it certainly fell from grace.
The Soul Calibur and Tekken franchises experimented with their mechanics after successful runs in previous games, and although they didn’t take as hard of a hit compared to their other two 3-D counterparts, they simply couldn’t afford any kind of dip considering the divide Street Fighter IV had started within the FGC.
The incredible hold of attention Street Fighter IV had on the FGC, in addition to the anime fighting game subgenre gaining popularity, traditional 2-D games outside of Street Fighter still being in the mix, and the 3-D subgenre not being up to par compared to years past, somewhat made the 3-D fighting game space take a back seat with regards to reach in the FGC.
Nevertheless, history has shown us that like anything, the FGC also has its own ebb and flow. The combination of a poor release and reception of Street Fighter V and a favorable release and reception of Tekken 7 seemingly turned the tide in the FGC.
Whether it was arrogance on Street Fighter’s part considering the immense success of Street Fighter IV or the humbling Tekken had experienced with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, or even a combination of the two, the outlook of the FGC today is drastically different than just a few years ago.
Whether the blueprint for the 3-D fighting game subgenre exists today is still up for debate, however, it should be noted that Tekken 7’s excellence had perhaps opened the door once again for the 3-D fighting game space.
The return of the Soul Calibur franchise with Soul Calibur VI, was one highly anticipated by its fans, and despite a few issues out of the gate, has overall pleased its hardcore community. The potential reinvention of the Dead or Alive series with Dead or Alive 6 is an exciting possibility for fans to look forward to, and lastly the renewal of the Virtua Fighter trademark by SEGA is perhaps the ray of hope many fans of the beloved series can now cling to with its resurrection in mind.
It is yet to be determined if the 3-D fighting game landscape has returned to the days of its highest success, however, by simply returning to that discussion, that is a success within itself.