If you play a lot of fighting games and try to keep up with the most popular titles among the fighting game community, you’re probably already aware of how hellacious the next few weeks will be in terms of releases.
Many fighting games tend to be simple ostensibly, but are innately deep experiences that require an ample amount of time commitment to learn — time most working adults don’t have. That’s why it’s good when these releases are usually spread out throughout the year, which gives players plenty of time to learn how each game works, particularly if they focus on one or two characters. But of course, that’s not possible when their releases are weeks apart, and we’re currently within one of the busiest times for the genre in a while.
Injustice 2 released this week, the newest title from Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm Studios involving DC Comics’ characters battling it out. It contains features that will keep the “casual” audience (those who don’t play many games) and those who dedicate plenty of time towards learning fighting games. It includes a deep-but-rewarding combat system with optional customization features, along with a story mode some have said is NetherRealm’s best thus far. I haven’t had a chance to play it, but you don’t need to in order to realize how incredible the presentation is, especially the facial animations.
But if you’re part of the “hardcore” group mentioned above, good luck enjoying that game and making time for the other two fighters releasing soon. Both Arc System Works and Aksys Games are releasing Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 worldwide, a substantial update to 2015’s Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator that will be available as a downloadable upgrade in addition to its separate release. It will add two characters, returning character Baiken and newcomer Answer, a bevy of balance upgrades, and an updated Story Mode. Though Guilty Gear isn’t as high as Blazblue on the learning curve scale, this game alone will nonetheless demand a significant time commitment in order to play it at a decent level, let alone a good one.
If that wasn’t enough, Tekken 7 is releasing on June 2nd. Though this installment is reportedly easier to play compared to the last couple games (especially Tekken Tag Tournament 2), it will still be tough for some players to wrap their heads around each character’s extensive move set. And before they reach that point, they’ll have to settle on which character among the 37 initial faces they’ll want to focus on. This game will also have an extensive Story Mode that’s intended to conclude the long-running drama involving the Mishimas, which received a new trailer today. It’s a pity for Bandai Namco that it will be compared to the well-praised story from the aforementioned Injustice 2. Given all the features it will ship with, good luck finding time to also fit this into your busy schedule.
There’s a good reason why all these titles are releasing now: They need to make it out before the deadline for Evo 2017. The Evolution Championship Series is the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, and it’s only been increasing in size and influence with the continuing rise in popularity of eSports. There’s a good reason, for instance, why Street Fighter V was designed for tournament players first, though it faltered thanks to its iffy execution. But the games have to be released no later than early-June to qualify for the event, and this trio will arrive just under the wire, though they’re all competing with each other because of that.
This isn’t a surprising turn of events for Injustice 2, as both the previous game and the recent MK titles have been prominent showcases at Evo in previous years. The game also cross-promotes the DC cinematic universe, including Wonder Woman, which hits theaters in two weeks. The arcade version of Tekken 7 was also present at Evo in the last couple of years, so it’s fitting that the home version will arrive in time for this year’s.
This is, however, a big surprise in GGXrdRev2’s case, as Arc System Works previously hasn’t cared about tournaments outside Japan. This was most obviously shown in 2015, where they heavily advertised Revelator while the previous game, Xrd -SIGN-, was about to be featured at Evo that year. Perhaps sales of Guilty Gear titles have fallen enough in Japan that they have to rely on the west to make up for that, but I hope this is the start of Arc more openly acknowledging their western fanbase.
It’s a pity there’s one particular versus game that won’t make the cut: Nintendo’s Arms, which was recently given its own Nintendo Direct installment. The game could be solid enough to be featured at tournaments in the future, but with its June 16th release date, it will arrive too late to qualify for this year’s Evo. Of course, there’s a chance that it wouldn’t have qualified despite that, mainly because most would be unfamiliar with how the game works, while the last three titles (and the other six) are iterating on previously-established formulas. It can still be featured in a side tournament if it attracts enough players within its launch window. If it amasses a large fanbase, that, along with the number of free updates Nintendo provides, could lead to it being a big showcase next year.
In the meantime: If you’re a big fighting game player, good luck finding the time to play all three, and try not to have a mental breakdown in the process.