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Why are fighting games moving away from comeback mechanics?

At least the very overt ones

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • November 27, 2022 at 7:31 p.m. PST • Comments: 110

Comeback mechanics have long been a dirty term for the fighting game community, but despite the general dislike and apathy for the systems, they've featured heavily in the genre for well over a decade.

That position seems to be changing with fighting game developers moving away from or toning down comeback mechanics now, but why is that?

PG|Kizzie Kay recently released an interesting video on the subject, which made us realize the current / upcoming generation of fighters is treating the matter differently than the past.

Everybody loves a good comeback, so it makes sense that developers would want to include a flashy way to engage players and spectators at all levels.

Just hit a button and bam, suddenly you're doing more damage or hit 1 big move that "levels the playing field," so that should be cool, right?

Not Quite

In practice, however, comeback mechanics can quickly swing the pendulum to the other side and heavily reward players for losing / falling behind โ€” though that's just part of the problem.

We can probably thank Capcom for the modern implementation of these tools (though they've existed for much longer) with Street Fighter 4's revenge / Ultra mechanics and Marvel vs. Capcom 3's X-Factor that would shape the approach of the genre for over a decade.

Tekken added Rage in 6, Street Fighter X Tekken had Pandora, Dragon Ball FighterZ gave us Sparking, and even Super Smash Bros. wasn't safe.

These comeback mechanics often came hand in hand with other developer decisions that would see fighters become "simpler" to try and engage the more casual gaming audience.

Such an endeavor ended up falling pretty flat on its face for the most part and barely moved the dial in terms of a newer fighting game's popularity compared to their "more difficult" predecessors.

So what's changed now?

From our perspective of covering the genre's evolution, it appears many developers are working to fully flesh out their general mechanics and give players enough tools to handle most situations themselves โ€” while also looking at different ways to approach newcomers.

We agree with Kizzie Kay's position that big comeback mechanics are pretty unnecessary so long as the gameplay itself has the legs to stand up and stay engaging at the beginning, middle and end of matches.

That's not to say comeback mechanics are completely disappearing, but developers are getting better at balancing them in the flow of gameplay without being as overbearing.

Street Fighter 6 doesn't have V-Triggers or Ultras though it does still technically have a built-in comeback mechanic with Super Arts changing to more damaging Critical Arts at low health like The King of Fighters' Desperation Supers.

Then you have some more subtle implementations like Guilty Gear's Guts system or those who try and get more creative with the boosts that can be applied in DNF Duel โ€” which is also a game where you can get destroyed without ever reaching Awakening.

Right now, we're sitting with Street Fighter 6, The King of Fighters 15, Guilty Gear Strive, and MultiVersus as recent or upcoming games that don't get in your face with comeback mechanics.

We still have to see how Bandai Namco and some other developers will be approaching this apparent shift in perspective in Tekken 8 and beyond, but the landscape is looking a good bit different than it did just a few years ago.

The talk of robbery likely won't disappear though because fighters will always have crazy crap around.

But you are less likely to feel like you're losing or in imminent danger when you're technically winning.

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