Whether it’s in movies, books, or tv adaptations, older shows from the past tend to be a recurring topic going into the present. When developing new media, some franchises are used divisively to promote new growth within the show’s already durable source material. An example of this would be with the original Twilight Zone and its use of “weird, unusual circumstances and situations” to promote a manner of recognizing real, impactful notices to concerning topics. It presents something new but still invokes the general premise of what it was based on; furthermore, using the context of “weird” and now relating it to “normal abnormalities” creates a more persuasive narrative towards The Twilight Zone’s ominous take on the unknown and informing others about what is obscure; using an old franchise to promote new concepts.
The same works in regards to older video game franchises, and this was made relatively clear in a character announcement for Street Fighter 5. Since its inclusion of Seasons, a regularly attributed notice to new DLC in the form of characters, stages, mechanics, and so forth, Street Fighter 5 has built itself from its initial launch back in 2016. The game was, in a word, “rough,” and fans felt shortchanged by the efforts that Capcom produced with one of their biggest IPs and a staple point in fighting games everywhere. With their announcement of Season 5, the fanbase was surprised and blown back by the sudden appearance of a particular character, a character that hasn’t been seen in years, in the form of Akira Kazama from the Rival School Series.
Such a character’s announcement was unexpected due to the lack of interest Capcom showed towards their older games, especially towards its fighting games. Titles like Power Stone, Star Gladiator, and Rival Schools are just three of many forgotten fighting games that Capcom hasn’t digitally released or rumored for a very long while despite being popular IPs that fans, young and old, still love in the present. Since her announcement was made in August of this year, fans have been speculating the power dynamics of what Akira’s appearance could mean for Capcom fighting games.
At the time of writing this article, Producer Yoshinori Ono has departed Capcom after 30 years of working with the company. Producer, Shuhei Matsumoto, and director, Takayuki Nakayama, will potentially be responsible for the direction of new content in regards to Street Fighter, Fighting Games, and Capcom’s possibly underused series that still holds a place in older fans memories.
However, in the case that they would revitalize an older series, Rival Schools’ idea as a current fighting game is both exciting and divisively-speaking, a problematic development. As someone who wishes to create new games creatively and narratively, I wanted to try my hand at figuring out how a current generation Rival Schools game would look, feel, and be developed through a gaming workshop. In this article, I’ll focus on four points of interest that are necessary for rejuvenating the franchise and providing new content for players. These four points will be Presentation, Mechanics, Story, and Inclusions. I will be using these four interests explicitly to construct what I think a new Rival Schools game would be like. In adapting multiple references and ideas from previous Capcom games, and other notable fighting games, this is my video game workshop towards a new and improved Rival Schools innovation.
As an older franchise reintroduced into a new generation, the first idea that popped into my head was its presentation. Presentation plays a big part in how it will be received within the media and its community fanbase.
When Street Fighter IV was announced it displayed distinct animations with a flowing display of painted colors and backdrops in trailers. Artistic depictions of strong ink motions with a brush, and calligraphy-inspired movements (Which in turn would be a definitive feature known as “A Focus Attack“) made the characters feel like they were fighting on an artistic landscape. This excited fans about the future of the Street Fighter series. This presentation, first shown in FMV (Full Motion Video), before it was demonstrated in gameplay, made fans excited to play Capcom’s classic 2D fighter as a 3D fighting game.
Regarding Rival Schools, I don’t think the style of Street Fighter IV or V is necessary for their presentation. When I first heard about the Rival School series, I imagined it more like “Street Fighter High” rather than as a full-blown fighter in multiple countries. Because of its local feel, and whatever the story may be within it, I thought that the presentation for the game could be something similar to Street Fighter IV’s approach with artistic representation. Since it also has ties to being like a Marvel vs. Capcom game, perhaps it could also take a page from out of MVC3’s comic popping inspirations, and, lastly, the game itself could be presented as both a throwback and as a recollection of events that occurred within the series – like a yearbook OR a scrapbook.
Imagine it: Rival Schools’ idea as a new game would also be seen as a throwback to various events within the franchise. The game would be presented through pictures, comic strips, and the characters seamlessly walking in cutscenes from one image to another, and so forth. This would build upon the already established comic style inspirations found within the MVC series and would also play coyly with that of the Arcade endings in SFV, and tastefully incorporating the traversing mechanics of an older Sega Genesis game called Comix Zone. The game (Comix Zone) explored the idea of traversing comic panels, going page by page throughout the adventure. The presentation, not so much the gameplay, could be played around with in regards to the cutscenes with fading backgrounds, dropping polaroid frames to connect to another scene, turning the page, etc.
It’s innovated enough to show growth and presents the game in remembrance as a franchise, continuing to play upon the yearbook theme in this title. A yearbook filled with memories about Rival School characters is the perfect setup to include multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE, costumes for the franchise. Whether it involves an entirely new generation of fighters for the series, OR revels in antics made between past and present views from within the series. This level of presentation would not only make the game a standalone fighter for the series, but, in case it isn’t the best game in the world, it provides it with a last ‘hurrah‘ in regards to its comeback within Capcom’s eyes.
When it comes to the mechanics for a new Rival School game, I believe it should be a mixture of old and new; however, it should be simple for newcomers and intricate enough for older fans. Given that the game’s last entry was a mixture of tag-team combat and one on one battles, I think that system should stay with new additions to the mechanics that work the 2D&3D fighting perspective:
- 2D to 3D to 2D Battle Transitions: Justice Transitions
If this particular Rival School’s game was to go in the way of being an MVC fighter, yet still grounded with what makes Rival School such a nostalgic gem, one aspect that I think Rival schools would be terrific in implementing is a 2D to the 3D transitional battle system. When I thought about Pokken Tournament and their use of 3D to 2D combat, this idea came to me, transitioning from a 3D combative phase into a close-quarters 2D phase. The plan would be implemented in a distinctly different manner than Pokken’s and would involve brief transitions to 3D, rather than a full shift into a 3D arena mode.
Let’s call these moves “Justice Transitions” (Like transitioning between 1st Period, 2nd period, etc.), and it could be used as both a dodge against specific attacks with low frames and even some of them could have super armor enabled for them, while others can be used as counterattacks to change the flow of battle. Whenever the action is perfectly executed, it leads to a transitional cut between strips of a comic, or pictures in a yearbook, that turns the arena on a 3D-axis as the opponent is propelled into nearby objects (trash, benches, statues, handrails, etc.). The follow-up can be with the controlled character for extra damage, OR it can be transitioned back into a 2D state.
Regarding the 2D vs. 3D issue, this issue can be explained through the arena. As fighters are going against one another and use a Justice Transition, bouncing on the object that they would hit, another hit can be executed to turn the stage, showing another portion of the screen and, technically, resetting the stage or getting themselves out of the corner. This system could evolve through updates or new mechanics being added into the game; however, until that beautiful Season 1 update occurs – I believe this should suffice for the first stage of the game’s evolving combat.
- Versatile Focus Attacks: Hall Pass Kenpo
Hall Pass Kenpo, or evasive moves/counters, could be implemented into the game to give everyone options when dealing with various kinds of matchups. Some of these moves will help their character speed pass projectiles, pushback opponents, initiate feints of some sort, amongst many other things that the game includes in its revamped playstyle. This would also, story-wise, make sense since for most of the characters. The use of particular sports, hobbies, and activities to produce a powerful combat style would make a bit more sense in this game if 1st years, or students that could defend themselves, had suddenly developed particular strengths in this installment. It’ll be treated as a ‘video game rule’ that the students in this game can do because of their love for the “fill in the blank activity” and that this makes sense within the game.
- Perfect Guard: Grade Adjustment(s)
Grade Adjustment would be the equivalent of a Perfect Guard, allowing the characters to guard and secure further damage from making their HP gauge decrease. While this sounds very similar to the parry system, this idea actually came to me from a concept found in some forms of JRPGS.
This particular idea came to me from games like the Mario&Luigi franchise and Paper Mario series, respectively. A chance to decrease damage, or nullify it completely, sounds like a pretty basic concept since its foundation in many fighting games comes in the form of counters and parries. The idea of being able to counter and have the choice to push back or power through to attack the opponent is only found in some technical 3D fighters; an excellent example of this would be found in Tekken and Soul Calibur as reversals.
Grade Adjustments would give the choice of either being defense or using it to be offensive. In a sense, you’re adjusting your school work/homework and making it into something viable for a better grade. It could also be used to improve your rank at the end of the match; A+ being the highest and D- being the lowest, since F wouldn’t really exist because you have to move and/or do something in these matches.
- Team Assistance (Support Attacks):
Team Attacks, which could also include specific centered Vigor Combos for each character in addition to them, could be done in three different formats. The first would be the simple assist that comes out when you’re on the ground, the next would be a different assist that occurs while you’re airborne, and the third would be a brand new assist attack that uses the combined efforts of the two assists that you are using.
Depending on the characters you’re using you’ll get different results and, in the case they don’t go together at all, the assists will come out just as they normally would; however, in the fact that they’re relatable to one another, the characters will produce a unique animation and attack, or support, for the fighter on screen.
In regards to its story, Rival Schools can go in multiple directions with its narrative. Since Akira’s inclusion into Street Fighter 5 is supposedly in the future, where Sakura goes to a university, it could be implied that the adventures in this entry are of the past. By the story’s conclusion, older models of the students could be revealed, and through the season, for both young and old models, costumes could be added for each of the characters; Past and Present versions included.
Now with most of the newly added mechanics implemented into the game, how it will be presented in-game, and a sampled story for the narrative enthusiast, let’s discuss the inclusions within the game. A game like this should have more than just the game (Controversial, I know) so, here’s a couple of ideas that could be implemented, HOWEVER, it’ll be done without a heavy data consumption:
- Digital Download of Rival Schools (1 and 2)
Sweeten the deal with a digital release of Rival Schools OR even redeem codes to download it with the game’s purchase. Gathers the old, introduces to the new, and establishes the communities that love the games.
- School Life Mode (Arcade mode, Synopsis and History Compendium, Time Archives)
School mode should be unique, maybe even like an arcade mode but with story mode notes and, if the yearbook motive is still active, you can learn more about the past of individual characters as it leads up to their graduation; so it’s sort of like a “fill in the blank” on certain characters history and giving them a synopsis by the time of their graduation, and where they would be in the Street Fighter Universe. It makes it interesting for casual players, and for diehard fans can appreciate the detail made in giving a complete synopsis on characters that haven’t been seen for 20 years!
In conclusion, this is just a possible continuation of the series and one way to pay respects to the franchise. Whether it becomes a thing or appears in the form of a new IP, this is my take at workshopping a classic game for the current generation of fighting games.