In any discussion about the influence and history of fighting games in entertainment at large, it is impossible to ignore the contribution that arcades made to the genre. Naturally, everyone first thinks of Street Fighter II when such games are brought up, and this issue has covered that game thoroughly.
But what about before Street Fighter II? That game was not created in an ex nihilo forge, so how did we get to that point? My intention in this article is to dig into those influences, so that we can see how the genre came into being.
At the heart of every fighting game is a basic concept that played a major role in almost every early video game – compe- tition. Players are given relatively equal means to combat each other, the rulesets allowing each user to hone their skills in the battle to come out the victor. For the earliest video games, whether that was Tennis For Two, Spacewar, Pong, or Tank, the computational power simply wasn’t there for the machine to challenge the player. Thus, the solution to make games fun was to pit one player against another.
The first real step into mano-a-mano combat didn’t come about until the mid-’70s when Taito would create the thrills of the Old West shootout in Western Gun. Licensed by Midway as Gunfight in the United States, this game pitted two cowboys against each other in a duel limited to the confines of a single screen arena. This marked the first time that to human-like char- acters would face off against the other in a video game; it also was the first arcade title to boast the use of a CPU instead of discrete logic chips. This meant smoother play and the greater potential for added features, a real game changer on the market for gaming at large.
While the cowboys would not take to landing punches or kicks against each other, players were challenged to take their opponent out as often as possible before the clock runs out, having to watch their ammunition in the process. This limitation bring both timing and strategy into focus, concepts that would later play an important role in every 1-on-1 fighting game to grace the market.
The next step in caricatures battling each other game in 1976 when two relatively obscure games found their way into arcade. While it is unclear which title was produced first, they both took these first steps onto the path of the fighting game.
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