Anyone who thought that the fighting genre was on its way out this year would have been left with egg on their faces. There were the entertaining sports scrappers of THQ's latest in the Smackdown vs. RAW and the new UFC reboot; Square rounded up the best heroes and villians of their flagship series for the fist-fest Dissidia: Final Fantasy; and the Wii stepped up to the plate with a cracking revamp of Punch-Out!! But perhaps most exciting, were the three returns of a trio of fighting legends. The sublime Marvel vs. Capcom 2 got itself an HD rebirth, Tekken 6 exploded onto the market with a new 'Rage' system, and finally Street Fighter IV made waves with its striking new art and focus attacks.
If you're yet to sample any of the contenders below, be sure to click on the thumbnail or game title to look at a price comparison for all available platforms:
Dissidia finally answered everybody's prayers: At last you could play as Sephiroth...and also beat the hell out of the annoying whelp Tidus. A fighting game with a difference, the battles were fast and furious, the presentation exceptional, and there was even a traditional arcade mode for Western gamers.
The 48 licensed boxers, improved physics-based realism, and a solid wealth of multiplayer options made for a content packed instalment of EA's ringside classic, but it was the strategically-minded gameplay that proved a winner, with bone-crunching realism and EA's trademark gloss making sure it got noticed.
King of Fighters XII came to the table this year sporting a whole host of new gameplay mechanics. The new critical counter system allowed for some chained attacks with the right counter timing, and the Guard Attack and Deadlock moves made for some incredibly tense contests.
Although relatively unchanged, Marvel vs Capcom 2 burst onto consoles with new additional online multiplayer, a spectator feature, widescreen support and three different graphical modes. With an expansive roster of 56 of the finest the two companies had to offer, it was another perfect opportunity to worked out who'd beat who in a straight fight between Ryu and iron Man.
The Wii version of Punch-Out!! was a stormer. With Shigeru Miyamoto on board as the producer, we hoped it'd be good, but the fact that Next Level managed to make a boxing game that was hilarious to watch, even more fun to play, and took full advantage of the Wii's Balance Board if you had one, was simply brilliant. 15 years of pent-up nostalgia had rarely tasted so good.
Targeting newcomers to the series, Broken Destiny saw the Soul Calibur debut of ultra-violent god-killer Kratos, an expansive Weapons Master-style tutorial mode named The Gauntlet, and a new original character named Dampierre. Although lacking a proper story mode, Broken Destiny still managed to put some serious ass-kicking potential in your PSP-clad hands.
Stuffed with new gameplay modes such as the focus attacks and ultra combos, Street Fighter came back with a bang for a fourth instalment in the series. Gone were the sprites of the past, and in came strikingly beautiful calligraphic artwork, all rendered with full 3D modelling. The result? The best-looking Street Fighter to date, with a ramped-up variation on the classic gameplay to match..
Not to be outdone by Capcom, Namco had a few surprises up their sleeve for the return of Tekken. The new scenario Campaign mode was matched with bigger and more interactive fighting stages for the traditional battles, and there were new tweaks to the fighting system too with the new Rage function allowing for some truly nail-biting last stands. Add in the largest roster of playable fighters yet, and it was definitely game-on.
Described as a realistic mixed-martial arts simulator by its developers, one thing was for certain, UFC returned to the gaming scene after a 5 year hiatus. With nearly 100 fighters to choose from, six major primary fighting styles to battle with, and one of the deepest combat systems around, Undisputed proved to be an impressive and worthy return for the series.
It just gets better each year. More wrestlers, more options, more customisation. everything returned but bigger and better than before. Now you could even create your own storylines featuring the WWE's weekly shows, setting up fights, power-plays and twists in the tale to your liking. Oh yeah, and they finally fixed it so that Royal Rumble didn't suck.