This article is part of my ongoing “Indie Fighting Game Thursday” review/retrospective series, now on supercombo.gg! This week we talk about not one, but two demos, fresh out of a rocky Kickstarter campaign: the drag queen antics of the crazy “Drag Her!” and the ambitious “Blazing Worldstars”!
Crowdfunding is a harsh mistress. Gone are the days where you, as a game developer, could just post a video of yourself, appearing in a cloud of CGI bats, sipping wine, and mimicking a certain famous vampire rambling about piles of secrets… only to collect nothing short of five million bucks. This is especially true for indie fighting games: For every 5 Force Fighters and MerFight that got funded, there are many Cereal Killaz, Pocket Bravery Head2Head and Blazing Strike who crashed against the walls of public reception (the latter game in this list was however picked up by Aksys Games, so it’s at least a sort of happy ending).
Despite the horrors and stress that come with this endeavor, there are still plenty of developers putting all their skills on the line to get their ideas backed. In today’s Indie Fighting Game Thursday, we will have a look at two upcoming games that are running a Kickstarter campaign right as you are reading these words (or not, if by chance you are reading this article after March 2022): The stylish “Drag Her!” and the ambitious “Blazing Worldstars“!
No, it’s not a TaleSpin fighting game
The first project we are talking about today is “Blazing Worldstars“, a traditional 1v1 fighting game with some solid chain attack mechanics and a (planned) extensive cast of anthropomorphic animal characters. Before we start, however, let me address the elephant in the room (or, well, the bear): Yes, I agree, Batrice looks similar to Baloo. Many of you asked me this exact question on Discord or Twitter, so I relayed it to the developer, to report their take on the subject. Here’s their reply:
Batrice is only a reference in terms of looks, but he’s vastly different from Baloo, both in terms of character and backstory: Baloo has no history in wrestling or being part of a seedy operation — the only overlap is that he is a bear in a coat with an aviator hat. Batrice is just a dad who has a messed up life, all he can do is try to make ends meet.
Now that this is settled, let’s delve a bit more into what this early demo offers!
Ye olde good fighting
Blazing Worldstars takes inspiration from many classics of the genre, bashing together mechanics from different fighting games. There are six attack buttons (light punch, light kick, medium punch, medium kick, heavy punch, heavy kick), which can be freely chained into attacks of the same weight or higher. These chains are the meat and potatoes of the basic offence, together with traditional special moves, performed with standard inputs (quarter circles, half circles, dragon punch motions…). One thing I noticed is that, while the game has no standard throws — which is honestly understandable, as they can be a money and time sink from a development perspective — each playable character at least one command grab.
There is a standard super meter, which is used for activating EX Moves and Desperation Moves, and an Enhance meter that can be used to activate the so called Enhanced Moves. Each character has access to two enhance moves, one active move requiring one bar segment (called Warrior Instinct) and one passive status requiring the full Enhance bar. The latter is an install-type move that drains the bar over time and gives access to character-specific buffs, not dissimilar to a V-Trigger from Street Fighter V. While this status is active, characters also gain access to an enhanced Desperation Move that deals significantly more damage, but also drains the Enhance bar completely. As of demo version 0.22, Batrice has no implemented Warrior Instinct.
There is also a traditional stun bar, with a twist: Hitting a stunned character with normal attacks will immediately knock them down, instead of leaving them open for a combo. However, some special moves like Mesmerle’s Eagle Cross can be used for this purpose instead, as they will cause the opponent to be open for more attacks.
As for defense, the game features 3rd-Strike-like parries (with a “SIKE!” sound effect coming out if they are successful) and a sort of projectile invulnerable backdash. Last but not least, this game has a sort of Crush Counter mechanic that triggers when you hit an opponent after they whiffed an attack. This is called Stinger and can lead to pretty damaging combos.
A grizzly roster
The current alpha demo features three characters: the stunt actress Mesmerle, who plays like a shoto with some additional tools; the good-for-nothin’ wrestling bear Batrice, who is the Hugo-meets-Abigail of the cast; the shady ninja Matthias, who prizes speed over resilience. The characters play fairly differently from each other and offer a good variety for a first public demo. There are some heavy references in the move sets: Batrice’s normals and specials seem to have been inspired by Hugo and Mike Haggar, with his EX Grizzly Tackle reminding of Abigail’s Metro Charge, down to the guard break at the end; Matthias’s kunai slashes are reminiscent of Strider’s or Chipp Zanuff’s; Mersmerle’s Eagle Cross was instead inspired by Mai Shiranui. Overall, the characters feel already pretty good to fiddle with, having access to several specials and unique tools to deal with the upcoming battles.
Those pesky alpha bugs
The alpha version of Blazing Worldstars is pretty rough around the edges. The pixel art is scaled by the Unity engine in a way that isn’t exactly pleasant to the eye and there are still some major bugs that plague the current build, including Batrice’s EX clothesline becoming randomly unblockable (thus making him a horrible nightmare to fight against) and some freeze-game glitches that happen very rarely during some specific interactions. Bugs like these are to be expected in an early alpha, so I wouldn’t take it as a negative point. On a presentation level, all characters are nicely drawn and have some quality voice acting and there is already some original music. The stages are quite well done too, with background characters and some well animated moving elements. The HUD is clean and functional, and the demo already avoids some of the common pitfalls of stock Unity Universal Fighting Engine games, such as the impossibility to select the training dummy with player 1 controls (kudos to the development team for having addressed this limitation of the underlying engine).
The Kickstarter goal for this game is a grand total of 30.000$ and there is time until the 9th March to reach it! If you are a fan of cartoon anthropomorphic animals pummeling each other with feral viciousness, this might be the game for you!
Drag it down to the ground
On the opposite corner, we have the answer to the question “what if we tried to put drag queens and fighting games together ?” Which is one heck of a question, mind me, one that I wouldn’t have dared to ask myself. However, the fine folks at Fighting Chance Games are more than ready to satisfy this curiosity with “Drag Her!“, the second game we are talking about today! Honestly, I know next to nothing about the world of drag, but I am a fighting game enthusiast and thus I will focus on the game aspect of this experience, leaving the rest of the package for you to evaluate.
Simplicity in, like, everything
“Drag Her!” is a simplified 2D fighting game developed by Fighting Chance Games, who count among their members the very same Mattrified of MerFight and Battle High fame. Contrary to the first example in this list, this game makes of simplicity its winning point. It’s surprisingly easy to pick up, with a control scheme that reflects this design choice: There is a light attack button, a heavy attack button, a guard button and a (still unused) assist button, that will potentially call an assist character to perform a move, in the future. Characters can walk, dash, crouch and even crouch walk in both directions.
There are no motion inputs, just command normals and attack strings similar to those found in the Dragon Ball Budokai series, accessed by alternating the light and heavy attack button in a specific sequence. To spice up the juggles, there are launchers, such as Lemonade’s down-forward light attack, and some attacks can be jump canceled to extend the combo, but the gravity scaling is pretty severe. In my test, I couldn’t overcome the ten hits barrier.
There are also supers and cinematic supers, that cost one or two bars of super meter respectively and deal significant damage. Both are accessed by simply inputting forward or backward plus the heavy and light attack buttons pressed at the same time. Like “Blazing Worldstars”, “Drag Her!” doesn’t have normal grabs, but unlike the above examples there are no command grabs to take their place, thus limiting the mix-up potential to the low/high guessing game.
As for defense, the block button can be used both while standing or crouching. One can also dash out of block to dodge attacks and retain some mobility, which is good since the act of blocking freezes the character in place.
Is this, like, the right place?
Despite the very simple premise, “Drag Her!” oozes with style. The graphics are clean, the announcer voices are perfectly on point and the aesthetic is great. The life bars are giant lipsticks, the timer is a pocket mirror. The humor is there, the exaggeration, the “drama”, everything that you would expect when hearing the words “drag queen cat fight”. To illustrate this with an example, the announcer will exclaim “Oh dear! You both came here with the same outfit!” as the match starts, implying that is the reason why the character are fighting each other — which would be totally fitting, given the setting.
The only character available in the demo, Lemonade, is animated in a very convincing way, with special care given to her hair. If the target of this game is to cater to drag enthusiast and casual enjoyers of the scene, this is the right direction to take. However…
OMG, no hardcore drama here!
… compared to most fighting games, “Drag Her!” feels very simple and limited in terms of combos and competitive appeal. Not that this an issue, but don’t dive into it expecting to be able to perform 95+ hit combos with seven roman cancels: You get a launcher into a string, you jump cancel a couple attacks, score some hits and then back to neutral. Normal moves and strings cannot even be canceled into supers, as of version 0.9.2. However, not everything must be created with competitive players in mind, and this game proves decently fun in its current state. The demo has also online netcode, so you can try it out for yourself against your friends. According to the Kickstarter page, it’s “backroll netcode – it’s like rollback netcode, but with a limp wrist”, which — Mattifried confirmed — stands for server-supported rollback netcode, the same used in MerFight with very good results.
“Drag Her!” Kickstarter funding goal is set to 69.000$ (yes, no way this is not intentional) and will be over in around twenty days! If you are interested — like Matt Mercer of D&D fame was (!!!) you might want to try and make this a reality!
As both a longtime fan of fighting games & drag, I had no choice but to jump on this REAL quick! Hahaha, I cannot wait!
— Matthew Mercer (@matthewmercer) February 3, 2022
Name of the game: Blazing Worldstars (Alpha Demo)
Developer: Bloodrune Entertainment (Twitter account, Discord server)
Available on: PC (Steam, itch.io), Kickstarter
Price: Free (demo), TBA (full version)
Year of release: 2022 (demo), Q3/Q4 2023 (full version, if the funding is successful)
Engine: Unity Universal Fighting Engine 2
Netcode: None (demo)
Status: Demo — version tested: Demo version 0.22 (February, 2022)
In one sentence: A 2D traditional fighter with anthropomorphic animal characters, which takes inspiration from the classics and offers a robust chain system, albeit currently suffering from some tough bugs and a pretty rough packaging.
Name of the game: Drag Her! (Demo)
Developer: Fighting Chance Games (Twitter account, Discord server)
Available on: PC (itch.io), Kickstarter
Price: Free (demo), TBA (full version)
Year of release: 2022 (demo), TBA (full version)
Netcode: server-supported rollback netcode (Photon)
Status: Demo — version tested: Demo version 0.9.2 (February, 2022)
In one sentence: A simplified 2D fighting game featuring real-life drag queens drawn in a cartoony style. Not too technical and more catered towards casual players and drag queen drama enjoyers, but with some real charm under the hood.
If you are interested in more coverage about indie fighting games, you can find me on Twitter at @AndreaDProjects