We all know that Capcom is responsible for not one but two major revivals; Street Fighter II saved arcades back in the day and Street Fighter IV saved the fighting genre and brought it back to the limelight. They have done wonders for the genre and for all of us fighting fans, we are thrilled at the prospect of new games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and others on the horizon. While I am quite excited at all of the revitalized buzz surrounding fighting games, I can't help but hold a looming fear at some of the decisions Capcom is making. I do understand their reasoning though so I am somewhat conflicted on the subject between their line of reasoning and also my love of the purity and challenge of fighting games.
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is the first notable game in the dangerous new trend of over simplified controls. Originally, the vs. series had the six button Street Fighter II format that we are all familiar with(X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter) but Capcom reduced the button number down to four in order to make the action a bit faster in arcades and also to accommodate the Sega Dreamcast. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom brought the number down from two separate punches and two kicks down to only three attacks of varying power. Input combos determined which special move would be executed accordingly and even with these limitations we were still given a fun, albeit,non-technical game.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 took it a step further in not only keeping with the three button format but now adding a "simple mode" where special moves could actually be assigned to buttons without the need for inputs with the controller. Capcom claims that this was added in order to attract new gamers to the fighting genre that might be put off by the complicated moves associated with combos, hadokens, and shoryukens. In all fairness, this is optional for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and can be avoided in online matches if desired. Another plus is the fact that using the simplified controls means you are limited in your overall move set available to you; which is designed to encourage players to get their feet wet with the game and then move on to the more complicated moves so you can enjoy the full game. The problem with this is most casual players are satisfied with the simple controls and then get bored with the game quickly, which doesn't actually help with Capcom's goal.
Next up is Super Street Fighter IV 3D for the 3DS. While this game is great and offers a portable version of the console classic, it also offers controls that are insulting to any self respecting Street Fighter fan. The touch screen can have four moves of the player's choice assigned to it in order to simplify things even beyond Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Not only can special moves (hadoken, sonic boom, tiger knee...) be assigned to any of the four slots but so can the super combo and ultra combo moves. Even though the six button set up is still part of this version of Super Street Fighter IV, what is the point of even trying to use it? With no consequences to using the simple touch screen options, the technical aspect that made the game so great has almost been removed. Granted, you don't have to use the touch screen, but how will adding such an option help grow the genre?
Attracting new gamers is always important. But as an old school gamer, I am one who appreciates the depth of a game like Super Street Fighter IV. I remember getting a sense of true accomplishment when I pulled off my first shoryuken with Ken. I remember how much I loved it when I learned to play with an arcade stick. I thrive on the adrenaline rush when I beat someone who is a true challenge. With these new simplified controls, all of these thrills are severely diminished.
My problem is the technical aspects of these games that has always been what has kept me coming back for more. With Capcom dumbing down the controls and taking away the challenge of the games, the experience and excitement is losing steam. Casual gamers don't have the staying power nor the dedication to learn the games and yet with all of the new simple controls schemes, they are more and more able to play on par with hardcore fighting game fans. While most of them will never reach the high levels of true competition level play, this new movement of simplification is dangerously close to alienating dedicated fighting fans.
This is not the first time Capcom has tried this. When the fighting genre started to wane due to over-saturation in the late 90's and early 2000's, the company brought home several fighters like Capcom vs. SNK 2 Evo for the Xbox and assigned special moves to the second analog stick in order to attract new gamers. This did not work and the genre continued to decline with only the hardcore fighters sticking it out. Granted the analog assignments were not the reason for the fall of fighting games but it didn't do anything to help the popularity of the genre either.
Now, unlike some out there, I get it. I understand that Capcom is looking for profit. I don't fault them for that. It takes a lot of money to make a great game these days. They want to ensure the greatest return on their investment. Not only that, R&D and advertising costsa lot, employees need to be paid, and investors put money in to a company to make money. I just wonder if simple controls is the way to ensure success. Street Fighter IV was incredibly successful without sacrifice as was Super Street Fighter IV. But if all we have to look forward to is simplified controls that remove the rewarding aspects of victory, then I am concerned that this current revival of the genre will see a rapid decline. Not only will casual gamers lose interest (as always in the past) but hardcore fighters will also snub their noses as well because the rewarding aspects of the games are being chipped away with each new installment.
I understand Capcom's thinking but it is only mildly profitable in the very short term. That may be all that matters to a company in this economic climate but it will not help their legacy which I think is equally important. A major part of why Street Fighter IV has done so well is because it harkened back to the glory days of Street Fighter II. By taking away the thrill of the game in order to cater to the casual crowd, Capcom is taking away from the greatness of their own brilliance. That will not build success. It will only hurt the series and company's reputation in the long run.
I think Capcom needs to stop this new trend if they want to continue supporting their products properly. If these games lose their appeal because the challenge is removed, then they will lose their core audience. It is the fierce competition that has kept people interested over the years. If Capcom continues to level the playing field for casual gamers then the competition will suffer. And in the end, no one will play.