Guest Characters: Trading Balance For Hype

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love when things like what Tekken 7 is doing happens. You take characters who have little to no business being in the game and just kinda shove them in there with some reason few will care about. We see it with Akuma, Geese Howard, and now Noctis. None of these characters have good reasons to be in Tekken 7, yet here they are in this nonsensical game. And that isn’t to say they don’t belong. No, there just isn’t a reason. And that’s fine.
But whether or not those characters belong is far from the issue here. No, in my experience in fighting games, I’ve come to learn that while guest characters are fun as hell, they kinda break the game a bit. Or, they turn out to be absolutely horrible. I’m looking at you, Heihachi from Soul Calibur 2. For competitive play, that can be a pain. On the other hand, these characters can be totally hype and can even move units. Though, some companies have struck that balance with a guest character not overshadowing the game and still having their time to shine. No matter what category they fall in, their purpose is clear: HYPE.
Mortal Kombat X, right? Quite a few guests there that ran each of these kinda. Jason was bad. Really bad. Like, why was he this bad kind of bad. So was Leatherface. However, watching them be played was exciting because they were horror icons and you had no idea what to expect. Predator was alright; probably the most balanced of the guests. Then came Alien, who was just good. Really good. So good that the Acidic variant sits at the top of many tier lists. Before this game, it was uncommon to see so many guests. MK9 had Kratos and Freddy Kreuger, but typically one or two was all there really was. Unless we count Soul Calibur 2 as having three across the three platforms, but I don’t.
Speaking of them, they were an interesting set of characters. Particularly Spawn and Link. Heihachi can die slow. Many will tell you Spawn was broken, and with my limited knowledge of the game I am inclined to agree. However, if you wanna talk busted, I think Link was way more broken. I understood why Link had so many tools, but I was still so baffled as to why Link was allowed to be so good. 
Then came the realization that guest characters are more about the hype and representation. And…that’s fine. I love that, honestly. For better or for worse, I think that a character being properly presented is more important than balance because…well, it’s fun. It’s like watching a live fanfic. If they can strike both notes, more power to them. But if Noctis or Geese become broken because they were faithful to their source material then so be it. Especially Geese. He’s amazing and deserves to be top tier. There’s my plug of propaganda.
Now, I can also see the flip of this. Seeing a character do things that’ll obviously impact the game as a whole can be troubling. To stray from Tekken 7, let’s get to Injustice 2 who has had what is arguably the biggest “oh my god” moment in fighting games today. The Ninja Turtles. They will probably be one character because it’ll fall in line with the release format. How will that change the game? How will it be implicated? Will it break the game? We don’t know and won’t know for a while. I really only want them to be fun. I’ve struggled to get into Injustice 2, and this just might be the answer.
At the end of the day, guest characters are inoffensive ways to generate some hype and inject some fun in a game. Rash in Killer Instinct, Mai Shiranui in Dead or Alive 5, Darth Vader and Yoda in Soul Calibur 4, and so on. Are they balanced? Probably not. Still, I think that sometimes the competitive aspect can be forgotten for that chance to beat up Batman with the Ninja Turtles. In fact, I think more game companies should do outlandish things like this. Especially Street Fighter. And no, not with its own properties and no Street Fighter X Tekken doesn’t count. I mean something ridiculous. Like Sol Badguy or something. 

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