I didn’t think I would ever type the words that make up this topic, but when it’s all said and done, a Sony system may end up going down in history as one of the best consoles for 2D fighting games… ever. You may be thinking to yourself “big deal” or even “bullshit”. After all, if you’ve been around since the PSOne days or ever cursed at SCEA on a public message board, you’ll know just how ridiculous that sounds. I certainly didn’t think it would ever happen.
But think about it for a sec. Back in the earliest days of the PS/Saturn wars, it was obvious the Saturn was the choice for 2D fighting fans. I personally bought the system solely for the fighters, and it’s still hooked up to one of my TVs to this day. The Saturn was much better suited for 2D than the PS, and the import 4 Meg cart reduced the loading times to virtually nil. And if you happened to import, you had a terrific selection of both Capcom and SNK fighters (as well as a few random Data East titles and such). Then along came the Dreamcast, and with it a whole new slew of brilliant fighting game conversions. I think a lot of us felt at the time (myself included) that the Dreamcast would always be THE definitive console for 2D fighters. In some ways, it still is I suppose.
But’s let’s take a serious, non-objective look at the PS2. Not at SCEA, whose general distaste for the genre has already been well noted, but at the system’s fighting games on the whole, both domestic and import. Let’s see, off the top of my head (no research here nosirree) you have the SF Anniversary Collection (which features a great conversion of one of my all-time favorites, Third Strike), MvC2, CvS2, four or five versions of Guilty Gear, the Capcom Collection discs, the Darkstalkers compilation, as well as SNK standalones and compilations of Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury (x2), King of Fighters (x2), Last Blade, World Heroes, Fu’un Super Combo and Samurai Shodown. And this doesn’t even include one-offs such as Hokuto No Ken, Melty Blood, Rumble Fish, Spectral vs. Generation and the Power Instinct game. I’m pretty sure I’ve only touched on about 75% of these games, but you get the idea.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s one impressive list up there. Granted, not every game is top-notch (notice I didn’t mention SvC), nor are the PS2 versions even the best versions available in some cases (i.e. MvC2/DC). Still, when it’s all said and done, the PS2 library of 2D fighting games is undoubtedbly the biggest and the best out there. Sure, there are a few random people who will still flaunt their NeoGeo systems, but good luck getting a Capcom game to play on one of those.
Still, people like to complain about the PS2 fighting game situation, and in particular SCEA’s refusal to bring each and every fighting game to the U.S. And to that I say “since when was this ever an issue”? Seriously, did people complain this much when Sega U.S. refused to bring these games to the domestic Saturn, even when there was nothing left to play? For the most part the answer is “no”, people did what they had to do and made their consoles import-ready. It’s no different with the PS2, get a flip-top and you’re set. No online? Well, I understand the times have changed, but the Saturn wasn’t exactly a broadband monster either, and people still managed to find a way to play one another (without complaining about lag no less).
And even if you refuse to touch an import, the fact is a good majority of these titles are either available in the U.S. or will be shortly. All of the Street Fighter games are readily available, and SNK is even bringing the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury comps Stateside. Who’d have thought that would ever happen? Certainly not me. And if these games actually happen to sell well, who knows? Could we finally get the Samurai Shodown and King of Fighters compilations we’ve been waiting for? Why not? If SNK is willing to take a chance in the States on a mediocre series such as AoF, why not a more successful franchise like Samurai Shodown?
The good news is that with the Xbox360, the Wii and the PS3, I believe the future looks even brighter for 2D fighters. Sure it’s a bit slow now, but we may soon have the option of downloading all of these games directly to our consoles and playing online effortlessly, and that will indeed be a thing of beauty. I guess the point here is that even though they may have seen their arcade prime, there really has never been a better time to play fighting games on a console. The big surprise is that the console maker isn’t Sega. Last month, I finally unhooked my Dreamcast after I realized I hadn’t touched it for months. And while I certainly don’t expect folks to get all weepy about their beloved PS2s like they did their Saturns and Dreamcasts, they should at the very least realize how good they have it right now.