Guest characters have been a hot commodity in fighting games for years, a phenomenon whose legacy is important to note whenever anyone thinks recent announcements of their inclusions are proof that some franchises have lost the plot. One of the most notable in history is miniature dinosaur Gon in the PSOne version of Tekken 3, who originated from the manga series of the same name, and was about half the size of even the shortest human characters. Link in the Gamecube version of SoulCalibur II was also a memorable one, hardly a surprise given the Legend of Zelda franchise’s popularity.
Guest characters haven’t gone away in fighting games, but some of the craziest inclusions in ages were announced in the last week.
NetherRealm Studios’ Injustice 2 has received several guest characters thus far in its DLC packs, including Mortal Kombat characters Sub-Zero and Raiden and Hellboy. (Hellboy, in fairness, was planned to be a DC Comics character at one point, but he still counts.) The newest characters are coming as part of Fighter Pack 3, and will include… the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!? Wow.
In a way, the appearance of the Turtles isn’t too shocking considering they originate from comics like other DC characters. In that sense, they fit in more than the MK characters — even though some MK games have received comic adaptations. But the announcement is still a (shell) shock because they’re so out of left field, as neither DC, NetherRealm, or Warner Bros. have any current relation to the TMNT brand.
All four brothers, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello, will be included, though it doesn’t appear they’ll be separate characters. The description under the trailer describes this pack as having the last three DLC characters, meaning it’s possible players will only control one turtle while the others will assist. The trailer didn’t feature any gameplay, so we didn’t get to see how unique this “character” will be, but we’ll find out soon. That Raphael is the first one introduced while walking down an alley in his trench coat and hat, a reference to the first (and best!) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film from 1990, is a nice touch. Perhaps this implies he’ll be the playable one.
Also coming to the game are Enchantress and Atom, who have been featured in several DC works in the past. Enchantress is a powerful sorceress who’s frequently appeared in various DC comic franchises as a villain, though has become an antiheroic member of the Suicide Squad in recent comics and the live-action movie. The Atom depicted here is Ryan Choi, the fourth iteration of the “Atom” identity, who’s a scientist with the power to shrink his body and weight. It’s easy to imagine how Enchantress will be implemented, but Atom will be a sight to behold. These characters should be shown soon, but a release date has yet to be announced.
Fatal Fury/King of Fighters’ Geese Howard was a surprising inclusion in Tekken 7, much more so than Street Fighter’s Akuma. The latter made sense thanks to Street Fighter previously crossing (or perhaps “x-ing?”) over with Tekken, but it wasn’t suspected that Bandai Namco’s team was this open to including characters from other fighting game franchises. Similar to Akuma, his move set from SNK’s 2D titles has been adjusted to fit in with Tekken’s 3D-fighter mechanics. But he doesn’t compare to the newest character announced for the game: Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis Lucis Caelum. Turns out, they’re also open to including guests outside of fighting games!
Noctis was introduced through a delightfully absurd trailer that featured the merging of FFXV and Tekken 7’s universes. Here, Lars calls Noctis for a mission to defeat some enemies, which he accepts, similar to how some quests are accepted in FFXV. Those “enemies,” of course, are the game’s other opponents, which leads into a gameplay segment showing his techniques. The team did a good job implementing his abilities into the game, including many of his main swords of various sizes, spears, magic attacks, and even his Warp Strike attack.
There have been quite a few complaints about Noctis not fitting in with the Tekken cast, but I’m wondering how familiar they are with the franchise. The Tekken series has included fighting bears and flying devils among its cast, along with a fighting dinosaur and kangaroo. Given the series’ history, no one was more ill-fitting than Gon in terms of fighting style, thanks to the number of character techniques that flat-out wouldn’t work against him.
Noctis will be available sometime in spring 2018, after Geese arrives early next year. Whether Bandai Namco plans to provide more characters after this is unknown, but let’s hope they do for the glorious reveal videos alone.
As games have to try harder to reach the largest audience around, expect guest characters to become more prominent in fighting games from here on. But this won’t be a problem in most cases, and most of the player base will appreciate them outside a few vocal types.