Five Fascinating Fighting Game Stories

If you hang around certain people long enough, you’ll hear them say that fighting games aren’t about storylines. Oh, they have plots and characters, of course, but they don’t need them. Fighters live or die by their gameplay, their competitive intricacies, and their embodiment of the basic human desire to punch something. After all, the crowds at fighting game tournaments aren’t massing because they’re heavily intrigued by Tekken’s ongoing subplot about Kuma the bear being in love with Xiaoyu’s pet panda.

Well, I don't agree. More than any other genre, fighting games are all about characters. It's the characters who introduce the game, the characters who must be immediately appealing in their designs, and the characters who invite players to learn and master their favorites. And when you’ve spent hours perfecting controller gymnastics and analyzing combo attacks, it’s hard to NOT care a little about Scorpion getting revenge on Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat, Sakura all but admitting she wants to have Ryu’s children in Street Fighter V, and whether or not every Samurai Shodown game since the second is a prequel just because Nakoruru is still alive.

I can’t resist that. I do my best to dig into the mechanics and head-to-hear furor of fighting games, but the truth is that I'm much more into their ongoing character arcs. If a new Power Instinct game appeared tomorrow, my first question would be “Does it resolve Angela and Sahad’s rumored romance?”

Yes, I care about those dumb fighting-game stories, and I’ll prove it by picking five arcs in which I’m far too invested.

(Chaos Code)
The original Chaos Code almost gets it right. It lacks a decent online mode and other refinements one expects from a modern fighting game, but it has some intriguing characters, including a hulking chef, twins who function as a single combatant, and a manga author who changes cosplay with each combo attack. My personal favorites, however, are two special operatives: one has a cyborg arm, and the other has a body pillow with an anime girl on it.

Hikaru looks a lot like a typical fighting-game hero, apart from the anime-girl pillow he drags with him to every match in Chaos Code. In one of his story-mode endings, he’s congratulated by a fellow agent who asks him out for drinks and perhaps more. Hikaru’s on the verge of accepting until he remembers that a new otaku-bait video game is out, and he invites his co-worker along. She declines, apparently being unfamiliar with the phrase “fixer-upper.”

Chaos Code’s first expansion, New Sign of Catastrophe, tells us more. Hikaru’s co-worker is named Lupinus, and she’s a fully playable character with a cybernetic arm and a less cautious crush on Hikaru. By the end of the game, she's dragging him along on shopping trips.

There's no lack of nerd-fantasy fulfillment in modern fiction, but I enjoy the simple clash of Hikaru's brazen nerdery and Lupinus' more conventional tastes. As it turns out, she wasn't repulsed by his geek fixations. She’s just insecure about her robotic limb and, of course, her figure, because fighting games have told us that all women everywhere worry about their cup sizes to the point where it's a  recognized disorder in the DSM-5.

And where will the long-in-development Chaos Code 2 take this? Will Hikaru get over his anime-wife fixations while Lupinus gets over her clich├ęd hang-ups? I suspect that I’m not alone in hoping for more of this subplot, since developer FK Digital's early promo art for the game shows Lupinus and Hikaru in formal wear.

See? They know where that Chaos Code bread is buttered.