In a recent interview I did with Netflix Castlevania producer Adi Shankar, the topic of fighting games came up. It was in relation to Castlevania of course - we both felt the series’ vast lore and diverse, often ancestrally connected cast of characters would make an excellent fit for a fighting-game spinoff, technical or otherwise.
As it turns out, such a thing did exist on the Wii, but it wasn’t exactly well received. What if a plot-relevant, character-focused Castlevania fighting title, complete with a robust roster and rock-solid mechanics, were brought to life on current-gen systems? This of course got me thinking about other franchises that could (feasibly) benefit from similar treatment, and the rest is history.
The results of my musings are below. Got a franchise you think deserves to be considered? Agree or disagree? Be sure to let us know.
As the progenitor of this article, Castlevania is first on the list. How is it that the Belmonts, Dracula, and the associated family trees have been deprived of detailed and well-planned melee combat glory up to this point? That’s not to say the main games don’t sometimes deliver this in spades, but the beauty of a fighter is the resulting fantasy matchups we’d never get to see otherwise. Inter-family squabbles or Belmont v. Belmont smackdowns would be great fun, and further exploring the uniquities of beloved and underappreciated characters alike would go a long way conveying the extent of their abilities.
Regarding visual style, Judgement did aim to retain the series’ gothic nature onscreen, but perhaps due to the Wii’s power limitations it came up a bit bland and short. I’d love to see a 2D style implemented, except swap the vibrant anime color-pallette for swatches a bit more dark and dreary. Imagine something powered by similar tech to Ubisoft’s UbiArt Framework, then paired with a killer fighting engine? It’s a tall order, but hey, I’m just trying to have fun speculating here. If a game like this simply resembled the series’ official art, the experience would be unbelievable.
Persona does this, so why not Zero Escape? For those who don’t know, Zero Escape is the cult hit, escape-the-room visual novel franchise with a knack for telling some of the best sci-fi mysteries around. It’s no stretch to say that Virtue’s Last Reward stands in a league all its own when it comes to plot-driven videogame narrative, and as such controlling its characters in a perhaps-not-canon all-out beatdown would be all the more gleeful and ironic to behold.
I’d be less worried about visual style here, as Zero Escape is visually a very simple series, and instead about how these characters’ movesets would be imagined and realized. We knonw from Zero Time Dilemma that the mysterious Phi has a penchant for kicking people in the face, while hulking characters like K or Seven’s theoretical bruiser-style moves become more immediately obvious just by looking at them. It’s not as easy to predict what “normal” folks like Junpei or Sigma might resort to, but I’ll leave that up to the developers at Spike Chunsoft who definitely want to make this game now that they’ve read this. Either way, Dio could make like Trevor Belmont if given a whip - it matches his Ringling Brothers get-up perfectly.
The Legend of Zelda
This may seem like an obvious choice, but so are most possibilities; if a Zero Escape fighter is fantasy-land, then at least something Zelda-based stands a better chance to shift some units from store and digital shelves. I’m a proponent of not muddying the brand too much, but Nintendo has loosened its grip and allowed Hyrule Warriors to great success, so why not take that a step further?
The most important goal for a game like this would be exploration of characters’ capabilities not seen in main games. It’s true we get this in Hyrule Warriors, but it’s ham-fisted - if everyone including Tingle can decimate hordes of enemies, then what’s so special about it? We see Ganon flex his moveset at the end of Twilight Princess for example, and it’s quite glorious, so sign me up for more of that. From Impa to Ghirahim and from Vaati to Midna/Wolf Link, there’s a wealth of potential here waiting to be tapped. There’s no reason an encounter such as this one couldn’t be emulated with real-time gameplay.
Disgaea and/or Fire Emblem
Strategy RPGs are superb candidates for fighting spinoffs. Why? Well, their character rosters over decades of installations are near limitless, as are the fanbases of said characters, relatively speaking. Not to get too corporate about it, but can you imagine the DLC possibilities? Smash Ballot style voting would be a huge hit, as we saw when Sakurai announced it back in 2014, as well as more recently with the Fire Emblem Heroes version of the same thing.
Better yet, would this theoretical game be best-served as a Fire Emblem and Disgaea crossover? The mashing of cartoony and slightly-less-cartoony art styles might be tough to realize at first, but if a hybrid with Persona already worked then in theory this should too. Obviously fans would want to see full-moveset realizations of Prinny and Etna, while there’s little doubt the likes of Tharja, Ike, Lucina, Roy, and others would get big support on the Fire Emblem side. You might worry about the abundance of sword-wielders such a creation would bring, but I wouldn’t - though slightly problematic for Super Smash Bros., such a concern about a dedicated FE/Disgaea fighter would be like saying Dead or Alive 5 contains too many characters with feet and fists. Besides, I need to see Prinny go up against Walhart. Right now.