Pop-Ed: Our Favorite Fighting Games

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Probably one of the most beloved genres of the gaming world is the fighting game. The category has spawned some amazing, classic games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Super Smash Bros. The staff of Pop-Break.com puts down their melee weapons to discuss their favorite fighters that span decades of brawling greatness.

Nick Porcaro: Marvel vs. Capcom 2: 

I’ve been a bit of a fighting game buff ever since I first used a virtual ninja to decapitate another identically-costumed virtual ninja when Mortal Kombat was all the rage in the 1990s.The 2011 series reboot was a fine return to form (and possibly even the best MK game to date) but my loyalties lie with the Marvel vs. Capcom series.

See, Marvel vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were ported to the best fighting game console of ALL TIME, the Sega Dreamcast, home to arcade-perfect versions of such classics as Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves, Soul Calibur and Street Fighter III: Third Strike. All of these are great games in their own right but none of them can compete with the sheer WOW factor of the Marvel vs. Capcom series. We’re talking screen-filling beam blasts, gravity-defying jumping maneuvers, tag-team super combos, game-breaking character assists and—in the case of Marvel vs. Capcom 2—a jaw-dropping 56 playable characters!

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I have no shame in admitting I spent a disproportionate amount of time in front of the TV attempting to rack up my play points and refreshing the shop screen until I had the chance to purchase Sentinel or Iron Man. All those unlockable characters provided hours of hyper-kinetic entertainment, but my go-to guy was actually one of the default characters, Cable.

Anyone who’s up on comics will know Cable as the time-traveling, battle-scarred badass son of Cyclops, and this game certainly delivers on the promise of such a characterization. He’s got a cybernetic arm, a large beam gun, a smaller pistol, grenades, the ability to clone himself, and a fucking electric harpoon. 10-year old me was in antihero heaven. Although I knew little to nothing of how to play the game like a pro, there were few thrills more satisfying than launching a Cable-Iron Man-War Machine team hyper combo where three cannon-wielding heroes simultaneously lay waste to anything in their path.

Let’s just say 21-year old me was ecstatic when the excellent follow-up Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds hit stores in 2011.

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Logan Fowler: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!: 

While different from the norm and probably way off topic to some people, let’s be honest: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out is a fighting game. It had the default hero, Little Mac, using strategy to take out the dudes who were triple his size. A lot of fighters back then and even nowadays need you to think on your feet to take out the other guy. In Punch-Out!! every uppercut or haymaker you landed decreased the opponent’s meter, and special moves were utilized to put them away. A combined effort of puzzle and fighting, along with over the top characters makes Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! a bona fide classic and my personal favorite in the fighting game genre. Been dancing like a fly and biting like a mosquito proudly since the game hit Nintendo in 1987. TKO!

Kelly O’Dowd: Mortal Kombat: I was the only girl in the group of kids I grew up with. My neighbors were all boys. And growing up in the 90s, we had Mortal Kombat. I sucked. I button mashed. I could never get the combos down quickly enough. Couldn’t do it. If I won, it was pure luck. But I loved being the girl who played these games with the guys. I was one of the few in the early 90s that loved video games as much as the boys around me. Can I remember anything else? No. I just remember the feeling of finally being equal and being on the same level playing field that the boys were on.

Harry Jackson: Marvel Super Heroes:
“PROTON CANNON!” With those two words, I watched in amazement as a giant cannon materialized onto the shoulder of my red and gold robot character and filled the screen with blinding light. As the announcer shouted “K.O.! Iron Man wins!” the Armored Avenger struck a victory pose (“Superior Attack!”) and cemented his place in my heart, kicking off a life-long love for the Marvel Comics character. When you ask a gamer about his or her favorite Marvel-based Capcom fighting game, the most likely response would be one of the later entries in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. But in 1995, before the Vs. series (which is excellent) hit the arcades, I was scrounging for quarters to feed the Capcom classic cabinet Marvel Super Heroes. With its beautiful colorful sprites, great sound effects and music, and crowd pleasing character special moves, this game introduced me to the Marvel Universe, and I have been hooked ever since.

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Before the Marvel Studios films blasted the characters into the mainstream, gamers could take control of Iron Man, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, and many other Marvel heroes and villains in their quest to defeat Thanos in an adaptation of the Infinity Gauntlet comics storyline. One-on-one battles determined which character would ultimately face off against Thanos and his Infinity Gems to save the universe. Each fighter had their own special abilities such as Spider-Man’s Maximum Spider where Spidey darted across the screen attacking the opponent multiple times, Hulk’s Gamma Smash where the Green Giant leapt into space and brought a meteorite crashing down onto the battlefield, and Wolverine’s devastating “Weapon X” attack. Other playable characters included Magneto, Juggernaut, Psylocke, Shuma-Gorath, and Blackheart. The game was later released for Playstation and the Sega Saturn in 1997, and recently re-released to Xbox Arcade and the Playstation Network in 2012. If you want a primer before the upcoming big-screen Avengers throw down with big bad Thanos, look no further than Marvel Super Heroes

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Allison Lips: WWF Smackdown! Bring It On: WWF SmackDown! was one of the first games I got for my Playstation 2. Yes, it was a PS1 game, but I was 10, it was cheap, and consoles were backwards compatible in those days. I also had been practicing with my mom’s friend’s son, who owned the game. He was always the Rock, so I would play as Chyna because she was the only female wrestler that didn’t look like a blow up doll. Even though I eventually caught onto the controls, I would often win thanks to button mashing. It’s easier to win when no one has any idea what is going on. I haven’t played that game in years, so pardon me while I go dig out the old Playstation.

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Kelly Gonsalves: Dead or Alive: Although never much of a gamer, I was definitely that 10-year-old girl who was really into the Dead or Alive series, under some naïve impression that the gorgeous, kick-ass female characters were a symbol of #girlpower rather than the epitome of #gamernerdfantasy and #yayfemaleobjectification at its finest. (Flash back to the time when I asked the cashier dude at GameStop why he felt the need to warn my mom about “mature content” when I purchased Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball.) Despite being painfully unaware of the extremely male-targeted aesthetics of the game, I loved the visually appealing characters, the semi-complex back stories behind them and the extensive costume changes available. Stereotypical I’m-Chinese-not-Japanese schoolgirl Leifang was my homie, but my heart and soul went to Ayane, the certified angsty ninja badass babe with just enough continuous spinning kick moves to rely on to repeatedly corner enemies until my thumb tired out long enough for them to break free. In a nutshell, the series was the perfect choice for a non-gamer chick like me. At the very least, it allowed me to actually stand a chance at beating my brother, who in middle school would not be caught dead playing a girl in a combat game, no matter how hilariously overpowered they were in comparison to the sloppily put together DOA men. Shout-out to the horny game-makers, oppressing gender scripts and giant balloon breasts that gave me my earliest childhood victories!

Lauren Stern: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: November 14, 2011 was the first time I was introduced to my favorite fighting game, Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I remember the date because it was also my boyfriend’s birthday. We were only dating a mere seven months at the time and I wasn’t as attentive to all of his nerdy interests as I am now. When he asked me to get it as a present, I figured it was like the Mortal Kombat games my brother used to play as a kid. But I didn’t really question it, I only cared about getting him the one thing he really wanted for his birthday.

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When I gave it to him in a Captain America decorated gift bag, he opened the game and immediately asked me to play. I remember feeling hesitant, as I haven’t played a fighting video game in years. I knew he wouldn’t judge me so much for being so terrible, so I picked up a controller. I wound up kicking his ass.

Fast forward two and a half years, my boyfriend and I play Marvel vs. Capcom 3 regularly and I still kick his ass. We now even have our own special characters that we compete with. My special characters are Haggar, She Hulk, Modok, and Tron Bonne, but I’ve started to utilize Storm, Sentinel, and Phoenix as well. My boyfriend loves Phoenix Wright, which drives me absolutely crazy. At one point we had a ban on using him because I was so sick of him beating me in every round.

The best experience I had with this game was playing the arcade version (Marvel vs. Capcom 2) at Yestercades in Red Bank, NJ. Playing it on a system outside of the Playstation 3 was so cool. The only gripe with this was that I lost, but I blame it on not being used to playing it on this particular system. There’s a button mashing intricacy when playing Marvel vs. Capcom on the PlayStation and it was definitely hard to do that when there’s certain buttons dedicated to certain moves.

Lisa Pikaard: ECW Hardcore Revolution or Mortal Kombat: Fighting games were never my forte. I am untouchable in Tetris, I can score a few points in most football games and I can play most music games like a beast, but please don’t make me figure out how to pull off a button combination to make a super cool attack happen while battling to the death. I have put time and energy into just two fighting games in my life: ECW Hardcore Revolution and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Yes, both are for the old school N64 and yes I still have both games and play them occasionally. If you want to see me press as many buttons as possible without knowing what they do and yet still have a good fight, then take me on in ECW. I can press random buttons with the best of them. With Mortal Kombat, however, I have a bit more skill. Jade was my favorite character to be and I actually managed to figure out a few key combinations to finish an opponent. I have spent many hours of my life playing these games that have quickly become classics to me and I still dabble with them from time to time but only when Mario gets told for the fourth time that “Thank you Mario! But our Princess is in another castle!” and I can’t take it anymore. Why is she never there?!?!

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Michael Dworkis: Marvel vs. Capcom 2: A game where Ryu, Wolverine, and Jill Valentine can go up against Hulk, Zangief, and Strider Hiryu, must be awesome. The was the game which drew lines of players at Sportsworld on Route 17 South. I remember it fondly. Sportsworld, a huge arcade with an incredibly diverse selection of fighting games, and out of all of them, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was my personal favorite. The plot, the Earth is dying, and warriors from two universes must unite to stop it. How? By beating the hell out of each other. MVC2 brought together characters from popular games such as Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Marvel Superheroes, Resident Evil, and even Mega Man.

My dream team consisted of Mega Man, War Machine, and either Cable or Anakaris (of Darkstalkers). Of course I was pumping tokens in after having my ass handed to me by some expert using Captain America, Captain Commando, and a Servbot. However, after putting in long hours of training, and mastering the execution of what I would call Mega Man’s Great Mazinger Attack (due to MM Transforming and growing into what actually resembled Japan’s famous Great Mazinger Z), and pairing it with Cable and War Machine’s ultimate attacks, I would fill the screen with bright laser cannon fire and explosions, resulting in the complete destruction of my opponents. It was as if Michael Bay himself had pressed the button.

Combine superheroes, Street Fighter, Mega Man, and you get one smooth, challenging and ultimately fun fighting game.

Matt Agosta: Super Smash Bros: Overall I’m not the biggest fighting game fan, especially when it comes to Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, but my favorite game of all time is easily Super Smash Bros. I have endless memories and logged endless hours playing every game in the franchise, and the game has stayed with me from the time I started playing games all the way into my adulthood. The game blew my mind as a young kid playing it at my friend Adam’s house on the N64, and rocked it for hours on end on the GameCube with Melee. The only reason I bought a Wii was for Brawl and by that point me and my friends played it so god damn much we entered a tournament which one of my buddies almost won.

The game isn’t just special for gamers, but for people who have never played games before. Smash is a game anyone could pick up, mash buttons, and have a total blast even if they get the beat down by me with Peach. Smash is one of the only games that is fun to watch too because so much awesome is going on on the screen at any given time. One summer I worked at a summer camp and they had a Wii there, so I brought Brawl and a couple GameCube controllers and a week later I had half the camp crowded around a small TV begging to play. That’s just one of the many memories I have with the franchise and I CANNOT wait to make more memories once the new game comes out this fall for Wii U. They even got the first handheld version coming out for 3DS. Once October rolls around, goodbye social life!

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Anthony Toto: Mortal Kombat: During the golden age of Sega, my very first video game experience occurred when I played the first Mortal Kombat in 1993. Immediately, the flawless victory rose my adrenaline to peak levels of intensity. As a lifelong Mortal Kombat fanatic, I own every single game on every generational platform. Seriously, I even own Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero.

In my humble opinion, defeating Shao Kahn was just as difficult as graduating college. If I peak into my Mortal Kombat collection, I still cherish my mid 90s MK comic books, trading cards, and epic soundtracks. My all-time favorite movie experience occurred in 1995 when I saw the first Mortal Kombat at the Atrium Cineplex in Staten Island. Till this day, the two guys who cosplayed as Sub Zero and Scorpion are my heroes. When Lui Kang did the bicycle kick on screen, I nearly lost it. I still summon my inner Shang Tsung when I yell “It has begun!” Challenge me to a fight in Mortal Kombat and I’ll happily take your soul as I finish you with a fatality!

Daniel Cohen: Street Fighter II: The amount of Sega Genesis Street Fighter II I played in college reached unhealthy levels. While we enjoyed Mortal Kombat and Tekken, it was Street Fighter that got the most play. Blanka. E. Honda. Ken. Dhalsim. And that music, especially the player select screen. Epic.

I’m not going to lie – I was a damn good Street Fighter, and could adapt with just about anyone, except Guile, who completely blew bags. My character of choice was usually Ryu. What infuriated my friends most was that I never had to do any special moves to beat them. I always found the Haduken way too slow, and easy to jump over. All I did with Ryu was well timed jump kicks. It drove my friends into a complete frenzy. Annoying people with nothing but the M. Bison slide was also a treat. The most intense feeling of Street Fighter II by far though is when both fighters are dead even, and they lose at the same time. You hear that epic long drawn out scream as both characters fall to the ground in slow motion. That little bit of tension of who won is the most nerve racking six seconds of your life. Man, I love Street Fighter.

Luke Kalamar: Power Stone 2: I have played a lot of fighting games throughout the years. They’re good games because, without much instruction, anyone can pick up a controller and have fun. Even though it takes a truly skilled individual to become an “expert,” a beginner can still be happy. I would not call myself an expert virtual fighter by any means. I know enough to do well when necessary but can easily be trounced by hardcore players. It’s for this reason that the few fighting games I do own are my absolute favorites: Super Smash Bros. and Marvel vs. Capcom. Yet in the context of this post, I know that those two series’ will definitely be on the minds of many writers. They are both immensely popular. So instead of choosing them, I’m going to pick my definitive favorite obscure fighter: Power Stone 2.

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It’s almost criminal that Power Stone 2 has gone so unnoticed over the years. The game had nearly everything that made its immediate competition so popular. You could have frantic four-player matches like Super Smash Bros. Characters boasted elaborate special moves akin to Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Marvel vs. Capcom. Each level occurred on a 3D plane like Soul Calibur, and they were all interactive like Dead or Alive. Yet despite having all the best aspects rolled into one, Power Stone 2 was held back by both the Dreamcast’s shortcomings and a lack of notable characters. Not even the PlayStation Portable remake in 2006 was able to provide more attention. If Capcom ever decides to make a Power Stone 3, I’d pick it up on release day. If that never happens though, at least I have my many memories of playing it in after school care and kicking major ass with Wang-Tang.

Bill Bodkin: Tekken 3: I spent way too much time and way too much money my freshman year of college playing Tekken 3. The Rutgers Student Center had an arcade installed in the basement and everyday in between classes you could find me, playing as Eddy Gordo, breakdancing my way through opponents. Yes, I was that guy. Eddy Gordo was the most unfair character in the history of fighting games. His move set was based in Capoiera (fans of Only the Strong will mark out for this character no doubt), which is a Brazilian dance-fight style. So, once you got Eddy into his rhythm it was extremely hard to block any of his offense. As a button-mashing, non-gamer, this was the perfect character for me to vest such Tekken character as Law, Combot and the boxing kangaroo who was a massive pain in the ass. I would spend hours revving up Eddy’s break dance fighting and would often vest my opponents with his patented (or what I called it) Spinaroonie Windmill of Doom where he would start flailing his legs in a windmill-like motion and then BOOM launch his opponents in the air and as they descended…KNOCK OUT KICK. To this day, outside of Madden, it’s the only game I’m good at.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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