I cannot even begin to keep professional pretense; the PlayStation (PSX) library getting rollback is one of the most fucking amazing things to happen to the FGC.

Holy shit I can’t believe it’s finally happening. Much like the implementation of rollback into Flycast, allowing Dreamcast, Naomi, and Atomiswave games to be played with good online, rollback implementation into Duckstation allows for one of the mythical final frontiers in fighting game accessibility to be shattered. The doors to El Dorado have been opened and with Fightcade 2 implementation on the horizon we are looking at a king’s ransom of really goddamn good fighting games being played with the type of online suitable for online tournaments and exhibitions.

Tekken is 3? You’re god-damn right it is. Endless Duel has had its fun, it’s time for Gundam Battle Assault 2 to take the stage. Street Fighter EX2 Plus is back and better than ever. We now live in a world where every single Guilty Gear has rollback because Missing Link is playable online. This is only the very tip of what is possible, the amount of options at our fingertips is intoxicating. Don’t be surprised to see Bloody Roar 2 weeklies or a FT10 in X-Men Mutant Academy 2 in your future. In fact I’m pretty sure the Digimon Rumble Arena community is already on the move.

But as the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. The PSX library has an unbelievable amount of fighting games on it, we are talking about a truly staggering selection of games that will now have online play on par with current releases. As much as I would love to drag you through the trenches of some of the bewildering garbage the genre had on this system, it would be more suitable to let you in on the hidden gems or at the very least interesting curiosities worth experiencing.

So let me dye my mohawk bright red and put on my best Cracked dot com impersonation because we are about to listicle our way through 10 PSX games you should play now that the rollback dream is real.

Kusoge Runner Up: Twin Goddesses

It would be improper to not at least showcase some of the true dirt poverty this system has brought to rollback. Twin Goddesses is reportedly one of the first fighting games for the system as it came out within the same month of the PSX’s launch. In a move that makes it somewhat the Who Framed Roger Rabbit of fighting games, Twin Goddesses features both digitized actors and sprite-drawn characters.

The mechanics revolve around the use of a Magic bar, as otherwise you only have a standard Light and Heavy attack and genre-staple specials at your disposal. Magic can be performed like Specials, but has to be done with the Magic button and will take some of your bar to perform. You can also press the Magic button while blocking to perform a Magic Block, which only activates when enemy magic is on the screen. This game isn’t particularly something that is going to knock your socks off, but the vibe at hand and the RPG-like structure of the single player mode makes this a great curiosity to try out.

Please, at least just watch the opening to this game. It’s magic. Beautiful, even.

10: Ehrgeiz: God Bless The Ring

A bit of an obligatory pick, but one that is worth shouting out. While Ehrgeiz is no stranger to people, almost assuredly due to its inclusion of Final Fantasy 7 characters and memetically loud menu sound effects, there is a worthwhile fighting game behind it. This 3D fighter may have a superficial comparison to Tekken (especially in how some animations are reused), but the way it operates puts it entirely in its own category. This game was also released for arcades, but the PSX version is the one where they doubled-down on the amount of FF7 guests.

How to never miss another phone notification again.

Unlike other 3D fighters, Ehrgeiz has a much larger emphasis on free run movement. Think more of like how Power Stone would play, characters are not locked into looking at each other and instead have much more fluid movements outside of ones aligned to the opponent. Probably the most defining aspect of Ehrgeiz is how it approaches Specials. Special moves in this game are unblockable, but you have a finite amount of special meter that does not recharge during the match. If you blow through all your meter you will have to hope that the stage has item drops that can regain some of it back. Specials are not the only thing tied to this meter however, as your Interrupt parry will sap meter as well. Ehrgeiz lends itself to high offense thanks to ease of access to unblockables, going so far to have Django, a character who literally cannot block, be rated highly by Japanese players due to the speed and viability of his unblockable Specials.

This Mikado tournament footage is barely comprehensible and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9: Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition

The Hyper Neo Geo 64 is one of the last major emulation hurdles being worked on. The arcade system did not have a wide library, in fact only seven games were made during its short lifespan, but of that small number over half of them are fighting games. While there may not be many people clamoring for the ability to play Samurai Shodown 64, it’s a sad fact of gaming preservation that these games are trapped on a rare system that only had one game ported to the home console.

I could spend the rest of the article talking about how beautiful these loading screens are.

That game is Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition, the Fatal Fury series’ first and only jump into 3D. Wild Ambition is a re-telling of the original Fatal Fury story (for those keeping track, Geese is currently set to Alive), but allowing characters from future games as well as some brand new characters to show up. The meter system has been given a curious overhaul, your meter bar now doubles as a stun meter of sorts. You gain meter when hitting the opponent or taunting and lose it when getting hit, but the meter will try and find its way back to the 50% portion naturally. When emptied you will be dizzied and when filled you will be able to do Supers as well as the all new Heat Attack, an unblockable attack that can be used to Combo Breaker out of your opponent’s offense.

Like many jaunts into 3D, Wild Ambition has been left by the wayside throughout history. But you should take this opportunity to play something this close to forgotten with the advanced netcode of rollback.

8: Trap Gunner: Countdown To Oblivion

One of the more unique games to be considered under the “Fighting Game” umbrella, Trap Gunner is a competitive puzzle game wrapped up in a shooter and presented in the style of Bomberman. This game pits two players, while in the constraints of split-screen, against each other across levels of different pathing and elevation to see who can out-trap, out-gun, and outsmart the other.

If you can make a CMV for it, it’s a fighting game.

Players traverse an arena setting various traps along the way, but the kicker is that they show up as invisible on the opponent’s screen. There is the ability to move around slowly and detect traps, allowing you to disarm them and get health back, but your opponent likely won’t sit there and watch you undo their handiwork. Guns and melee attacks can keep a hectic pace on someone, not allowing them the time to disarm traps. Traps also come in more variety than just explosives, Pitfalls trap an opponent for a set amount of time and Force Panels thrust and opponent in that direction, both of which can allow you to set up combo plays. All of this leads to an exciting one-on-one bout where crafty subterfuge can be what wins the game.

The most powerful weapon is the Plasma Unit, a highly-damaging homing projectile that will occasionally spawn. Thanks to it, this match turned the tables when Tarp Gunther was close to down and out.

7: Cardinal Syn

From such lows to such highs (well, in relation), Cardinal Syn is the third fighting game made by Kronos Digital Entertainment. Previous entries include the mildly-acceptable Dark Rift and the mildly-unplayable Criticom, so prepare to be shocked when I tell you that on the third try they actually stuck the landing. The last game in this loosely-defined trilogy is easily their best foray into fighting games.

Oh yeah, that’s the delicious 3D FMV I need in my life.

Cardinal Syn is a 3D fighter that has a bit more of a free roam aspect to it, as stages are littered with items and hazards. But mechanically this works pretty well as it balances the running around searching for advantages against a system of up-close combo juggles. There’s even a parry function to blow up opponents who have stale, white bread approaches. This company has seriously come a long way since the release of Criticom put them in the Garbage Hall of Fame.

Good luck trying to find footage of this game that isn’t single player runs or fatality compilations. So here’s a crappy trailer for it, best I can give ya.

6: Critical Blow

A Japanese exclusive, Critical Blow is a bit of a 2D and 3D melding. While the action persists on a 2D plane, the camera will begin to angle dynamically if the action gets too close to one side or the other. Presentation is one of this game’s strong suits, character models are crisp and beautiful looking, decorated with snappy animations, and all of it moves so smoothly at that golden 60 FPS. Critical Blow is fast, fun, and very easy to pick up because it has a control scheme closer to that of a 3D game.

I can’t get over how good Critical Blow looks, everything has such a brightness and pop to the color palette. This is some SEGA level color.

The standard 3D 3 button layout is PKG, but because Critical Blow is 2D and has back to block there is a kinda-throw button as opposed to Guard. Offense works with both attack strings as well as command input specials, making for a sizable enough movelist across Punch and Kick. The titular mechanic in this game is an instant kill unique to each character. While this does require 3 meter and for you to be under 30% health, it is possible to combo into Critical Blows and steal away the entire round.

Did you really think I would get through this article without a Epsilon Eagle clip?

5: Destrega

A 3D Fantasy fighting game based around spell-slinging and free running movement? Destrega is coming out of the gate with some serious heat behind its design. Comparable only to maybe Psychic Force 2012, Destrega is one of the few 3D games that really takes what is possible in the third dimension and applies it to fighting games. And it has a whole bushel of cool tech to go alongside it.

You’ll notice a couple combos that use terrain to their advantage, the topography of the level can come into play very fast in this game. 

Destrega works by fashioning three schools of magic; power, speed, and spread. While running around you can spend some of your meter to throw out a spell at the opponent and when up close your three magics become melee attacks. What gives Destrega its complexity is how you can stack spell effects, you can combine spell attacks to make a Level 2 or Level 3 projectile (providing you can pay the meter costs). These are created via how you input them, so Speed + Speed will give you a level 2 Speed spell, but Speed + Power will give you a Level 1 Speed spell with extra kick. Doing a Level 3 spell with all 3 forms of magic will give you each characters Special attack, but it’s gonna run your meter dry in doing so.

Barrier Canceling to get OTG loops? You know it baby (Did you really think I would get through this article without a Griffy Bones clip?).

4: Slap Happy Rhythm Busters

Without a doubt one of the most stylish fighting games on the PSX, Slap Happy Rhythm Busters exudes an aesthetic undeniably linked with Japanese turn-of-the-millenium urbanism a la Jet Set Radio. This alone would make it a video game worth checking out, as its cel-shaded art style is so strong and evocative that the game is dripping with personality. But thankfully it is not just a game with beauty skin deep.

Come on, that’s so cool. Few fighters have anywhere close to this much style.

A quick and snappy 4 button fighter, SHRB feels at home with the more anime chain combo side of fighting games. While the movement is more grounded, combos allow for launchers and wall bounces to extend lengths past the ordinary. While the major call sign for the game is the level 3 super that makes a quick rhythm mini game happen, the more competitively important mechanic is the topsy-turvy way stun works. Unlike standard stun in most every other game, a character who has their stun bar filled up can still retain control of their character but cannot block the next attack. This makes momentum deadly, as you can combo into stun, meaty unblockable someone, and do a second highly-damaging combo. Slap Happy Rhythm Busters features more than enough to chew on for both those looking for a kooky and slightly diabolical fighting game or just a fighting game with impeccable presentation and vibes.

When the character is flashing yellow, that’s the sign that they can’t block. You’ll notice it doesn’t exactly take too much to get that stun bar filled.

3: Evil Zone

Evil Zone is an anime fighter, but not in the manner we typically ascribe to that term. Do not expect Evil Zone to be a combo-heavy game with ample air mobility, in fact Evil Zone only has one attack button to speak of. Instead expect Evil Zone to so viciously try to bring the battle shonen style of anime to a fighting game. Battles are fought in the manner of everyone trying to do their biggest coolest move and attacks in this game have been given the exaggerated cutscenes befitting of “biggest coolest move”.

Notice how much animation goes into these attacks. The type of camera work usually reserved for Supers gets sprinkled across most attacks in the move list.

But as I mentioned, this game entirely exists on one attack button. This makes Evil Zone control about as non-standard as possible, as the game operates far past standard fisticuffs range. Characters use a direction plus the attack button to launch various ranged attacks and when they move in close this becomes a canned string of melee strikes where the final hit can be changed depending on motion. Down and attack functions as this game’s throw and can trigger at any distance, in fact the furthest possible throw does the most damage. While it may take some time to understand what Evil Zone is doing with its control scheme, it offers an anime take on fighters that none else are brave enough to follow.

The internet is crazy, you can find matches of anything if you search hard enough.

2: Zero Divide 2: The Secret Wish

It’s the mid to late 90s, your diet consists of early morning Dragon Ball Z, rereading your Electric Tale Of Pikachu manga (you might not know it’s called this yet), and whatever candy of choice was stocked in the vending machine at the local arcade. Your brain has just the correct mixture to make the following statement set off a chain reaction between your synapses in excitement. “Virtua Fighter with cool Mecha”.

“Holy shit, he wasn’t kidding”

While Zero Divide 1 was released stateside, North America never got the superior sequel Zero Divide 2 The Secret Wish. It retains the Virtua Fighter style of the original, with all the Ring Outs and PKG layouts you can shake a stick at, while adding critical improvements. The action has seen a significant FPS upgrade, the Mecha damage mechanic has been enhanced, and my God this may be one of the most slept on OSTs in fighting games. Mecha damage now causes armor breaks that linger between rounds, these can extend combo routes as hit attributes change when broken. For example a move may now launch when done to a broken zone. With the combat now being some of the smoothest on the system, Zero Divide 2 is a perfect candidate for PSX Rollback flag flying.

  • Understandably there’s not a whole lot of ZD2 footage out there, but I do have a pretty basic combo video for the cast.

1: Advanced Variable Geo 2

And the award for Least Surprising List Topper Goes to IdolismJ for his continued shilling of Advanced Variable Geo 2. Anyone who knows me knew this was coming, but it’s on top for a good reason. AVG2 is a really good fighting game, not a good fighting game from an eroge series, not a good fighting game for a console release, just an incredibly good fighting game overall. This air-based but not airdash-based fighting game has one of the most interestingly mixed layers of mechanics that all blend together to create something unlike any other game

Whoa that’s crazy, tournament footage? Recent footage at that? From America? It’s almost like this game already has a groundswell of interest that will pop off once the FC2 integration happens.

While the article linked above covers AVG2 in better detail, let’s briefly go over what makes this game tick. Due to a combination of air blocking, air gatling chains, super jump having incredible horizontal range, and only one character having a DP with invincibility into the active frames, AVG2 creates a landscape where aerial approaches are both smart and lucrative. Thanks to both the lenient juggle and OTG system, an air-to-air exchange can be one of your biggest combo starters instead of some puny air reset flip out. In the place of true invincible reversals, the game instead offers a bevy of 0f unblockables; supers that lack invuln but will absolutely hit if the opponent wasn’t blocking before the super flash. While the game may look only slightly different from its contemporaries, there is so much under the hood that makes Advanced Variable Geo 2 a fighting game in a league of its own.

The iconic Versus Princess combo video was very recently remade in modern resolution. That’s right, this game is so swaggy that it has 25min of nasty combos.

The ranking of these games is mostly arbitrary (other than AVG2, but we knew that), however I am being quite serious when I say to expect communities to pop up for most things on this list. Sure, we in the AVG2 scene have been waiting for something like this with baited breath, but Critical Blow, Destrega, and Zero Divide 2 are about to spark a wildfire of interest once people glean how good these fighting games are. The excitement of PSX Rollback is practically tangible, a whole world of fighters are going to be more playable and accessible than ever before. While we wait for the FC2 implementation to happen, do yourself a favor and start grinding out anything you see on this list. Tournament viable or not, the PSX library features games everyone a fan of fighting games should check out.