Crossover games mean many things to many different groups of people: For fandoms they’re an opportunity for people of varying demographics and personal preferences to come together and argue over whose opinion is right; For publishers they’re a chance not only to pool resources and profits through a common effort but also to squabble over intellectual property rights; For the characters involved they’re an opportunity to be duped into bloodsport by whatever cross-universal entity brought them onto the same stage or simply to hash out an allegorical grudge between respective companies.
Considering the conflict inherent to the subject, it comes as no surprise that a good deal of crossover games are fighters. After all, what more satisfying or definitive way is there to settle one’s differences than with a good old-fashioned brawl? Well, it now appears that Sony is throwing its hat in the ring by way of SuperBot Entertainment as a few small details have recently come to light concerning their rumored mascot fighter, Title Fight. This game would throw Playstation exclusive characters from myriad properties together in a similar manner to Nintendo’s runaway hit Super Smash Brothers series, but would a game like this have what it takes to distinguish itself from its peers? Let’s look at a couple of the key elements to a solid, successful crossover game and see if Title Fight has the potential to be a hit:
Stable of characters
A party’s no fun if you don’t have plenty of friends to invite, and a fight’s not a fight if nobody shows up. Sony historically has not successfully pushed a single character to the forefront as its mascot, and as such doesn’t have the luxury of a Mario or (unofficially) a Master Chief to be the pole to the Title Fight tent. This is by no means an indication that Sony is incapable of filling a roster, though; Being a multimedia company means not being able to throw quite so much into in-house game development, so while they’ve got a system-exclusive collection on-par with Nintendo most of those games are third party, meaning their respective IPs aren’t identified first as Sony’s so much as their respective development houses’.
The character closest to being confirmed at this point – thanks to the leaked programming screen that kickstarted the whole thing – is Twisted Metal poster boy Needles Kane (known erroneously to many by his vehicle’s name, Sweet Tooth), a solid choice considering the series’ history with Sony and the upcoming new installment. Rumors of Sly Cooper, Kratos, Sackboy, Nathan Drake and Jak and Daxter are popular and well within the realm of possibility, and mentions of PSN darling’s titular Fat Princess persist as well. A spread like this might even leave room for the likes of Ratchet and Clank or Cole MacGrath if we’re lucky. Considering that this is just the tip of the iceberg in the way of usable IPs it looks like Sony will be safe on this front.
There’s a reason Tatsunoko vs. Capcom was such a hard sell stateside: You’ve got to know your market if you want your game to have a chance. Niche games are great, but unfortunately gaming is a business first and the more popular your characters are the more sales your game is likely to get. None of those characters we just got done talking about would be much good for this if they didn’t have a sizeable audience behind their games.
That’s part of the beauty of crossovers, though. The whole idea is to bring fandoms together through common interest in the product, and ultimately that’s what makes games like the aforementioned Tatsunoko possible. So far Sony’s sticking with their big names from all across the board, hitting everything from family friendly fare to the decidedly mature. How they reconcile the wide range of demographics they’re representing here will be important, especially if they’re planning on keeping it accessible to a young crowd. We’re much more likely to see some of the more brutal characters lose their M-rated fangs than for any of the cartoonier characters to step up their games, but that’s probably for the best. Mixing the prospect of sex minigames with a character named “Sackboy” has unfortunate implications.
X-Men vs. Street Fighter introduced tag team functionality to fighters. Super Smash Brothers brought an as yet unseen blend of platforming and pseudo-sumo wrestling to the table. Crossovers – hell, games in general – don’t need a gimmick or innovation to sell, but having a unique feature or different perspective on a tried genre can really help one stand out from the pack.
If what we’ve heard so far is true, it sounds like the game will be set in terms of originality, too: According to the first available reports, Title Fight will feature a mechanic through which characters will level up through the course of a fight and take increasingly powerful forms, one in particular rumored to be Needles Kane growing into a cyborg amalgamation with his signature ice cream truck. The specifics of this mechanic are as of yet unconfirmed, it would be easy to imagine and implement a variation on the common super meter system with further energy gathered from successful attacks converted to experience and levels as opposed to storing it for attacks.
In the end, even if the impetus behind this game is simply to have a vehicle for other upcoming projects it’d be hard to pass it up. Hopefully as more details emerge that trust won’t be betrayed, but until then we’re left to dream of the possibilties… like how exactly Fat Princess scoring a win over Kratos might be feasible.