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Anime Fighting Games Are Better Than Realistic Fighters

Fighting games are great. They’re fun, flashy, cathartic, and a guaranteed way to pass hours and hours of time. The genre also features a wide variety of styles: painstakingly realistic, like the Mortal Kombat series; 2D anime-style. like Skullgirls; or somewhere in between, like the Super Smash Bros. franchise.

But the sad fact about the genre is that realistic fighters are weaker than anime fighting games. There’s a place for them, to be sure, but no amount of believable blood spray or character models with visible pores can bridge the gap between reality and imagination.

Fighting games aren’t about realism so much as they are about action and satisfaction. Even the bombast and flourish that do make the cut for realistic fighting games can’t make up for the fact that there are generally better stylistic choices to fulfill those two demands in anime versions.

Animated fighters can go wild with combat: giant syringes, pomp and flash, and as much mayhem as the developers want to feature. Skullgirls is an excellent example of this, as is River City Girls, although the latter doubles as a side-scrolling pixel brawler.

Anime style fighters allow artists and game developers experiment to their heart’s content. The hammy, campy violence that many realistic fighters try to achieve simply works better when it’s animated; there’s not really a plot to take seriously in fighting games, so why not lean into the absurdity of it all with some great anime action?

There are also production considerations that make anime fighters better than realistic ones. The Mortal Kombat series came under fire back in early 2019 when an anonymous member of Mortal Kombat 11’s dev team revealed that they received a PTSD diagnosis from working on the notoriously violent game. Members of the team frequently used violent real-life videos as reference for the game’s animations, and day-to-day exposure resulted in a work atmosphere that had normalized graphic violence.

One of the anonymous developer’s coworkers even confessed that the toll of working on Mortal Kombat’s gory animation followed him home; whenever he finished work and saw his dog, he would picture his dog’s insides, and couldn’t imagine seeing his pet without imagining the associated viscera.

Admittedly, Mortal Kombat is the most extreme example of realistic fighting games. The gratuitous, over-the-top gore is all a part of the package. Realism is the franchise’s favorite advertisement, from its games to movie adaptations. Developers’ health and well-being are always a factor to consider when making games, and it could be said that the demands Mortal Kombat and similar games that place emphasis on realistic violence ask of their development teams crossed a line a long time ago.

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  • TheGamer Originals
  • Mortal Kombat
  • River City Girls
  • Skullgirls
  • NetherRealm

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