Stewart 'Grave' Gibson is the fighting game loving, Doomguy worshipping, Motorhead listening maniac of DarkSpawn Gaming. When not ripping and tearing Stewart can be found riding the open roads or at the nearest Lucha Libre event.
Fighting games, love them or hate them it’s absolutely certain that you have played one at some point in your life. Whether it was throwing a Hadouken in Street Fighter II, setting people on fire in Mortal Kombat or landing a sweet suplex in Tekken everyone has dipped their toes in the crazy hard hitting world of fighting games. These days though there are more and more familiar faces from movies and other media popping up in the genre with guest characters a plenty in different games and so today I thought I would ask, is this a good thing?
Now these days the idea of a guest character in a fighting game is almost expected, especially when it comes to NetherRealm studios but the origin of the guest fighter goes back further than you may realise. Once of the first instances of this would be a fighting game called Fighter’s History, released in 1993 the game had a guest character called Karnov. Now that name may mean nothing to most of you but Karnov was the star of his own Arcade game years before and so those who knew him were very surprised to see him in a fighting game. Only a few years later we then saw Street Fighters big bad Akuma show up in the fighting game, X-Men: Children of the Atom. This was a big deal as he has no real story or reason to be there other than it was cool to see Street Fighter vs X-Men, which then led to that full game being developed and released. The next of the big guest character was a character that most of us in the west would not have even realised was a guest. Tekken 3 had a tiny dinosaur called Gon, now most of us just thought this was a wacky Tekken character, not many knew that he was a big deal in Japan and a huge guest character for the franchise. Of note as well is an unknown game called Ehrgeiz, a strange 3D fighting game which featured a handful of Final Fantasy VII characters. It was an unusual game but was one of the first to have multiple guests.
(He just wants a high five)
After the success of X-Men vs Street Fighter Capcom decided to up the ante with Marvel vs Capcom and thus this started another very popular series. But in terms of guest characters it was Soul Calibur that blew everyone away with 3 different guests for 3 different console versions. First the Xbox had Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, an odd choice but very popular none the less. The PlayStation 2 version had Tekken’s bald bad boy Heihachi Mishima, although it was originally supposed to be Cloud Strife but due to time restraints this did not happen. Lastly, the Gamecube received everyone’s favourite green pixie Link who is considered the best of the guests. At the time this was huge and is considered the start of the guest character phenomenon we know today. Capcom would continue their Vs series with other games such as Capcom Vs SNK and Marvel vs Street Fighter but these games didn’t have the same impact as seeing Link battle Nightmare! Namco would continue this but not until the forth entry in the Soul Calibur series, although there were plans for Dante of Devil May Cry to be in Soul Calibur 3 but no deal could be settled upon. Now another fighting game many don’t see as having guests but most certainly does is the Smash Bros series, especially in recent years. However, even in the first game we saw Mario, Luigi and company take on the likes of Pikachu and Captain Falcon so this was definitely an all start cast of guests in what is still considered a Mario game.
(I always reckoned he should have just thrown his flute)
The Flood Gates Open:
Upon Soul Calibur 4 being released Namco went all in with their guests and gave us huge names with Darth Vader and Yoda. Now, you don’t need me to tell you that these are pop culture icons and knowing you could play them in a fighting game was a huge deal for the series. Some people on the other hand were unhappy about this and thought that they didn’t suit and this could be one of the first incidents where guest characters generated some negative feedback. I personally thought this was cool and I’m not even a Star Wars fan. By the time of Soul Calibur 4, which would be 2008, the Mortal Kombat series was at an all-time low with the release of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe which would be considered a fighting game with guest characters but does not exactly generate fond memories for fans of the series. It would be 2011’s Mortal Kombat where something crazy would happen. To begin with the Playstation version of the game had gamings grumpiest god Kratos as an exclusive guest so people thought this was cool as he fitted nicely into the game. Being a reboot of the series, the new Mortal Kombat (now dubbed MK9) had the full original roster of the first 3 Mortal Kombat games. Still, the game had a season pass with 4 characters which included Kenshi, Rain and the long rumoured Skarlet which was cool to see. However, the last character to be revealed was the surprise no-one so coming but everyone got super hyped for. Freddy Krueger was unleashed and became the most downloaded character for the game and would start what is now considered a tradition for NetherRealm Studios.
(Battle of the burnt face men!)
The Current Scene:
With fighting games being as popular as they are today it is no surprise to anyone any more to see a familiar face from another game or somewhere else entirely. Soul Calibur kept this tradition going with Ezio from Assassins Creed joining the cast in Soul Calibur 5. Even Capcom got on the action in the crossover game Street Fighter x Tekken with the Playstation version having Infamous’ Cole McGrath as well as Japanese Playstation mascots Kuro and Toro. The game also featured Pac-Man in a Mokojin mech suit and box art Mega-Man, oddly enough the guest characters were met with both severe criticism and praise. NetherRealm Studios would once again show the other companies how it was done by having Jason Voorhess, Predator, Alien and Leatherface in Mortal Kombat X. They would they go on to have Hellboy and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the DC based Injustice 2. In recent years Tekken have got back into the guest fighter fun with Street Fighters Akuma joining Tekken 7 as well as King of Fighters big bad Geese Howard and Final Fantasy XV hero, Noctis. Soul Calibur have very much kept their guest character tradition alive in their newest game with The Witcher 3’s Geralt and 2B from Nier Automata.
(I can’t even throw kicks like that now and I’m half his age)
So, at the end of the day what does this mean? Are guest characters taking spaces away from series regulars? In a nutshell, no, I don’t believe they are and I will be happy to explain why. Developers know that we nerds love nothing more than a fantasy dream fight. We love the idea of Akuma fighting Kazuya, we want to see Scorpion and Predator beat the unholy hell out of each other. If guest characters didn’t sell as well as they do developers would not be adding them in. As mentioned before, Freddy Krueger was the most downloaded character in Mortal Kombat 9, more then series regulars Rain and Kenshi. To say that Freddy took someones spot then is kind of stupid when the series regulars didn’t match him in sales. For this reason I cannot see the guest characters in fighting games slowing down any time soon, or at all to be frank.
The only real issue I have with guest characters is knowing that they are a one off, it annoys me slightly knowing that I am almost unstoppable with Leatherface in Mortal Kombat X but I have to accept that I will not be able to play as him in the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11 so I will have to fall back on my one true love, Scorpion.