I went to a little friendly tournament series last week and had a blast. Hadn’t really gotten a chance to play fighting games with anyone in a while… and had some interesting conversations while I was there. I’d like to get some more opinions about one of those discussions:
Is a fighting game really worse if it isn’t balanced?
The immediate answer to this is usually yes. If a game isn’t balanced, then it can be less fun to play because some of the characters just aren’t worth using. I don’t think the real answer is quite this simple though… games can be great even if the balance is pretty far out of whack.
And I’m willing to back up this with some simple examples of popular games: Street Fighter III, King of Fighters <fill in number here>, Neo-Geo Battle Coliseum, Marvel Vs Capcom 2, Tekken (most of em’), Soul Calibur, etc. I love all these games, and I don’t think you’ll find too much dissent about them being classics. Yet most of them have balancing issues (although some more serious than others).
Street Fighter III (I’m just talking about 3’rd Strike, since that’s the only one I really remember anymore) is incredibly good, but it clearly has divisions between the upper and lower tier characters. If you look at the pro gamer lists, usually 70% or so of the people use Chun-Li and Ken. The rest are scattered among a few other characters, with most of the roster being ignored. When was the last time you saw someone really good with Twelve or Sean?
Marvel vs Capcom 2, despite having a huuuuge roster, has maybe 20 characters you’ll see consistently - probably less. The majority of them just can’t stand up to the others. Yet the game is still a blast. KoF and NGBC fall into these lines as well.
Okay, you probably get the point of what I’m trying to say. I guess my feeling about games is that if there are enough characters in the “useful pool” that can compete against each other, then the game can be fun. If the pool of characters that is really strong is just too small, then the game suffers because most people looking to compete at it will just use the same people.
I’m interested in hearing other people’s feedback on this…