Unless you’re a pugilistically minded soul, punching someone in the face via the medium of video games is a much much more pleasant thought that real life fisticuffs (no matter how much someone deserves it). At least that way you get to do it in the privacy of your own home and are unlikely to serve any prison time. 2018 has proven an interesting and varied year for the fighting genre; SoulCalibur VI underwhelmed, SNK Heroines was good but made you feel like a perv and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was predictably brilliant.
The year ahead also looks like an interesting one for fighting games. Despite the ongoing decline of the arcade scene, thanks to increasingly robust online services that allow for the split-second perfect timing required of a Street Fighter vet, the fighting game scene has never been more healthy. And here are the upcoming releases to prove it. So give your favourite joystick a polish and join us as we take a look at the games that have the potential to turn violence into an art form.
Mortal Kombat 11
Platforms: XBO, PS4, PC, Switch – Release Date: 23/04/19
”MOORTAAAAL KOOOMBAAT!” yells the shouty angry man. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I hear that distinctive cry I’m back in a seaside arcade, clutching my coins in clammy palm and hoping that I can squeeze in a few rounds of Mortal Kombat before my parents catch me. So, I was just excited as the rest of humanity watching The Game Awards when Ed Boon announced Mortal Kombat 11 with a new trailer.
Warner Bros. Interactive and NetherRealm Studios have said very little about the game, but judging from the trailer, Mortal Kombat 11 won’t be skimping on the violent gore. Raiden and Scoripon meet some very sticky, messy and spleen removing ends.
What we do know is that MK11 will feature a sizeable roster of warriors both old and new – fingers crossed that the full range of fighters has to be unlocked through play rather than as DLC – and the storyline will continue all the way back from 2011’s franchise reboot. I’m sure they’ll find a way to un-kill everyone who died.
Apparently we’re going to receive more information in an extensive reveal in January, so we’ll keep you posted.
Dead Or Alive 6
Platforms: PS4, XBO – Release Date: 15/02/19
The Dead or Alive franchise is probably my favourite video game series. And no, before you think it, that’s nothing to do with boobs. Rather it’s DOAs simple triangle fighting system and pick up and play nature that allows beginners and experts alike to have a competitive match.
Team Ninja are back with the sixth entry in the series and it looks more bonkers than ever. Stages are now more interactive than every before, fighters that get pushed into crowds will be knocked back into the arena by the jostled punters, and there are destructible objects to smash your foe through. There’s also dinosaurs that will try and eat you. Yes, dinosaurs.
There’s a vast array of characters already announced with probably more to come. Franchise favourites are back, such as Kasumi and Haybusa, as well as new combatants like Nico the lightning technomancer. Combine this with new combat systems such as the break gauge – a special attack meter that allows you to execute break blows and holds – and fatal rush – a combo attack that makes even a first time player look like a pro – and Dead or Alive 6 looks like a promising continuation of the long running series.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, Switch, PC – Release Date: 2019
As I write this list, I find myself getting more and more excited. How can I not be, when a follow up to the 2D fighting classic Samurai Showdown makes an appearance? Samurai Spirits is basically Samurai Showdown receiving the Street Fighter 4 treatment.
Developed by SNK, Samurai Spirits is the first entry in the series to make use of Unreal Engine 4. It’s a decision that may well split the fanbase but, in my opinion, seeing Haohmaru, Nakoruru and Galford brought to life in chunky 3D visuals is worth the risk.
For those who have never player a Samurai Showdown game before, the series takes place in a fantasy rendition of eighteenth century Japan. The big difference to other fighting games upon the original Showdown’s release was the inclusion of weapons, as each fighter had their own distinctive arsenal to lay waste to the opposition. An excellent sense of timing and quick reactions were essential to avoid catastrophic damage to your health bar.
If Samurai Spirits can capture the original game’s risk and reward mechanic, whilst applying modern graphics and online options, then it could be very special indeed.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release Date: Feb, 2019
Jump Force looks a bit like the Super Smash Bros. of the Weekly Shōnen Jump world. The main appeal of this tag team fighter is to see characters from Dragon Ball Z, Bleach and Yo-Gi-Oh! go at it, which is as chaotic fun as it sounds.
Developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by Badai Namco, Jump Force is intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the aforementioned manga mag, so there’s understandably a lot of pressure to get it right. Jump Force looks fun, frantic and frivolous and that is definitely a good thing.
Streets of Rage 4
Platforms: TBA – Release Date: 2019
Streets of Rage 4 is one of the greatest side-scrolling beat ’em ups of all time and anyone who disagrees with that can fight me. Just beware that my flaming uppercut is deadly, both in combat and in the kitchen when I cook steak. I rejoiced just as much as any other Streets of Rage fan when the fourth entry in the long running franchise was announced earlier in the year.
Developed by Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games, Streets of Rage 4 is set ten years after the culmination of the third game. With a bearded Axle and high kicking Blaze gorgeously rendered in a thick bordered cel shaded art, the visuals are even more impressive due to being hand drawn.
Promising t0 expand on the original trilogy’s mechanics with a new story and a host of crime ridden stages to punch through, Streets of Rage 4 looks to be ticking all of my beat ’em up boxes. I can’t wait, but I will because that’s how time works unless I can find a black hole to jump into.
And there’s our list. Do you agree? Disagree? Utterly ambivalent? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check back tomorrow for our next Ones to Watch in 2019 feature.