If you’ve player any of the Street Fighter game in the last 15 or so year, you’ve pretty much played Street Fighter III: Online Edition in a way. Featuring essentially the same sophisticated fighting system and retro-arcade feel, it’s not a tremendous leap for the genre or franchise in general, but the coupled graphics overhaul and newly-implemented Trials and Training modes make the title far more accessible than the original. The online mode is just as challenging as you might expect, not to mention surprising lag-free, and offers a convenient way to play against other players should you reach the skill level that immediately deters all your friends from playing against you. Additional customization options allow for in-game rule tweaks, while experience points ensure you’re not always getting slaughtered online.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 — $15
When Marvel vs. Capcom 2 burst on the arcade scene more than 12 years ago, it utilized the same tried-and-true formula of its predecessors, focusing on engaging fighting dynamics and host of familiar characters from the two respective universes. The single-player mode boasts the mainstay Arcade, Training, and Score Attack modes, while multiplier options include both local head-to-head matches and a ranked, online play. The game has yet to receive the HD treatment, but the 56 characters still look visually crisp and polished, with a framerate capable of holding up under the most rigorous of combos. The six-person, tag-team matches remain one of the best aspects of the game, and though not absolute, helps answer the age-old question: who would win in a fight, Spider-Man or the Hulk?
You’ve probably read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel, Scott Pilgrim, or at least seen the novel movie adaptation thereof starring Michael Cera. The 8-bit title of the same name follows musician Scott Pilgrim’s escapades to win the love of his life, Ramona Flowers, in a benevolent battle against each of her seven evil exes. It’s a humorous side-scrolling brawler, chock full of wacky enemies and equally-absurd moments, while offering three different playable characters laden with their own set of skills and personal upgrades purchasable through coins and experience. For whatever reason, the game lacks online and drop-in co-op play, but there are still enough rollicking chiptunes and wavering nostalgic touches to keep you glued to the screen from beginning to end.
Charlie Murder — $15
Band rivalry has probably existed for as long as, well, as long as bands likely have. With indie-developed Charlie Murder, players must haphazardly tackle rival death metalers Gore Quaffer and the legion of evil resulting from the guitarist’s pact with devil. The game’s stylish design and punk-rock nuances make it a standout, as does the fantastic local or online multiplayer, and there’s plenty of characters to choose from and special abilities to earn to make it a game with high replay value. It’s an arcade throwback, but it’s also bolstered by RPG elements and other genre components, slinging button-mashing mini games alongside guitar-wielding battles and surfing excursions. Plus, there’s enough gory details, beer-related loot and cellphone tutorials thrown in a mix to prevent it from being anything but original. Rock on.
Skullgirls — $15
With Skullgirls, it feels as if art designer Alex Ahad took everything my mother hated about Japenese fighting games and compounded into one, unassuming title. The hand-drawn, HD renderings are vivid and lush, teeming with color and fluid animations, but many will find the hypersexualization of the cast to be rather insulting and misogynistic. It’s an unfortunate case though given Skullgirls’ sports a superbly-crafted and face-paced fighting system, along with comprehensive tutorials that lay the fundamental groundwork for playing the game. Each of the game’s eight players perform distinctly, with varied combos and individual dynamics, and the ability to play as many as three characters in any one match provides subtle nod to games like the aforementioned classic, Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Now just look beyond the short skirts and busty bosoms.