Now that we’ve had some time to kind of marinate in all that we’ve learned from EVO, it’s safe to say that the announcements this year have been pretty hype. Garou 2 is greenlit and we know the next 5 characters coming to KOF 15, Kimberly and Juri got announced for Street Fighter 6 with some damn good trailers, but most were the rollback announcements. Samurai Shodown, Persona 4 Ultimax (which released that night), and Dragonball FighterZ all got announcements for the coveted rollback netcode. Given the atrocious delay-based netcode they had before, this was exciting. So this meant that the other games with delay-based netcode would get some sort of update…right?
Speaking for myself, the three games I was hoping to hear getting updates on were Guilty Gear Rev2, Tekken 7, and Granblue Fantasy Versus. The first 2 were dreams born from too much copium. Rev2 getting rollback may still happen one day but EVO 2022 wasn’t its day. Instead, we got Bridget, and you know what? I’ll take her. Tekken 7 was a pipe dream, thanks to Harada’s stance on rollback netcode not being the fix we all think it is…apparently. I’m not a developer, so I’ll respectfully disagree on that. At least they hinted at Tekken 8 coming, so that’s something.
Those two were easy enough pills to swallow, but Granblue. I’ve had this game since it was released on the Hong Kong PSN. I thought the visual style was amazing and I had high hopes that the gameplay would be fun. For the most part, it was! Until I got online and everything went wrong. The netcode on that game was hideous. I hadn’t had such bad matches since trying to play KOFXIII online. Yet, I kept trying it until I couldn’t keep putting myself through that horrid netcode. Then, you’d think Cygames would hear the declining community and at the very least give them that.
Instead, there was only a video of Tetsuya Fukuhara, senior director at Cygames. After over 4 minutes of behind the scenes talk about Granblue Fantasy Versus and ReLink (some of it almost insulting as it directly addresses the western market). They announced a new online community league for a game with horrid netcode. That was it. That was the big announcement for Granblue. It’s been almost a month since this announcement and Sony’s latest PS+ offerings are up. Wouldn’t you know it? One of the games is Granblue! I’d be happy but this is almost ironic. How cool would it have been to get this game for free and have rollback netcode? To say that this would be what the community needed would be an understatement. For now, at least people can play it for low investment.
Despite all I’ve said thus far, the reaction to the lack of a rollback announcement has made me happy. Before the so-called “Rollback Revolution,” we didn’t make too many demands of our fighting games. If the online was trash, and it usually was, then we shrugged and waited to play online. This was despite the examples of what good netcode was from releases like 3rd Strike: Online Edition and Darkstalkers: Resurrection. Nowadays, fighting games without rollback netcode stick out like a sore thumb. I mean, we are about to live in an age where Dragonball FighterZ is about to have rollback! People who’ve endured that netcode understand how important that is.
What shouldn’t get lost in the push for rollback though is the smaller, but as important, push for cross play. This one has been trickier, since Sony has made it such. We already know that the functionality is there. We also know that Sony has made it difficult for developers to want to implement it out the gate. Despite that, they are. Guilty Gear Strive, KOFXV, and Street Fighter 6 are games we know will have crossplay in the future. This is great and is a huge boon for a game’s longevity. How many games have fallen to the wayside because of a lack of players? Far too many, I’d guess. For now, this is the next step to the “ideal” as far as fighting games.
Fighting games are moving toward a much better place than they’ve ever been in, I would say. Good netcode and cross play are good steps forward, but that isn’t where it ends. That also includes: single player content, feature rich training modes, good and engaging tutorials, different price models. We’ve seen it all separately in many other games, but all in one? The closest we’ve gotten so far has, somehow, been WB’s MultiVersus. Here’s to hoping developers and publishers can move forward with the rest of the industry. One day, Granblue and various other games who deserve another fair shot will get that. For now, we can only keep pushing forward toward that ideal fighting game.