Sunday, September 30, 2012

Unique Modes

My last article discussed the details about Mortal Kombat 2011 and how it had many unique modes. This is probably a good time to discuss some of the other fighting games and how they have contributed to creating unique experiences.

Super Smash Bro’s for the Nintendo 64 was a new approach to fighting games. Outside of just brawling with other Nintendo characters, the developers introduced two mini games based on the game engine. Board the Platform had character specific stages where the player must maneuver through traps to land on the ten platforms. The other mini game was an obstacle course specific to each character where the player had to break ten targets placed strategically to utilize specific character abilities. The level designers had to figure out ways to make each character’s level unique to their abilities so that the player can learn to use the entire arsenal of moves to beat the mini games. It was an excellent way to show players what the characters could do without having them train in practice mode or fight through the arcade mode. I remember a time when I was having trouble with Jigglypuff’s board the platform stage. There was one platform at the very bottom of the stage which seemed almost impossible to reach. After many attempts and repeatedly hearing “Failure” from the announcer’s voice, I smashed a random button out of frustration. That’s when I noticed Jigglypuff’s neutral smash attack allowed her to move forward while still floating in the air. It was a great feeling to finally be able to complete the stage but I also learned more about character.

The Tekken series has introduced quite a few mini games over the years. Tekken Ball was featured in Tekken 3. It is a variation on volleyball where the players have to juggle a ball back and forth. Every time the ball takes a hit, a meter at the bottom of the screen fills up for that character. When the ball either hits a player or falls to the ground, the meter resets and inflicts damage based on how full the meter was.  It was a nice change of pace from just playing the normal arcade or versus mode. I would have loved to see the mode fleshed out in later installments but unfortunately it has never reappeared in the series.

Tekken Force Mode was also introduced in Tekken 3. The best way to describe this mode is a traditional beat-em up game like Streets of Rage. It even had a roasted chicken that recovered a player’s health just as it did in Streets of Rage. You were able to choose any of the characters from the roster and retained their move set. The game featured four stages set on a 2-D prerendered background. Tekken Force reappeared in Tekken 4 with full 3-D stages and a longer campaign. Tekken 5 changed the formula by forcing the player to use Jin Kazama who can transform into a much more powerful character, Devil Jin through a special bar. This was the first time Tekken Force mode had an actual storyline.  Tekken 6 continues the Tekken Force mode with its Scenario Campaign. At first only two characters are unlocked but as you progress through the story, more character become available to select. Scenario Campaign also introduces the ability to use weapons and features a co-op mode for some of the stages. It also features an arena mode where character endings are unlocked.

My favorite mini game from all of the Tekken series has been Tekken Bowling. It was first introduced in Tekken Tag Tournament and then reappeared in Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection for the PSP. It is a traditional bowling simulator that allows you to use the Tekken cast. Each character has a unique set of stats that determines how fast the ball will travel and the type of spin. The robot characters feature a different heads up display and have targeting assistance. While it has nothing to do at all with the fighting game, it’s a great way to end off a long Tekken session.

I’m sure there are many more examples of fighting games with unique mini games but unfortunately these are the only one’s that I have played and had an enjoyable experience. While some modes are more related to the basics of a fighting game, I believe all the mini games listed here introduce some creative gameplay mechanics.