MUGEN
Written by Angelo M. D'Argenio   
Tuesday, 02 October 2007

Uziana.com takes a look at this 2D fighting game maker, can it be the next engine for Street Fighter.

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Remember the good old days of Street Fighter?  Remember how you had to input that code to be able to mirror match?  Yeah it was awesome. Then Mortal Kombat came out and you saw it in an arcade somewhere and you thought it was cool until someone’s spine got ripped out and then you thought it was awesome.  Then there was the X-Men fighting game, and Darkstalkers, and King of Fighters, and the Versus series, and so on so forth and THOSE were awesome.  Let’s face it, 2d fighting games were AWSOME!

So where are all the 2D fighters now?  Well many of them went the way of the great 2d platformers of yore, retirement.  The third dimension was a cruel mistress, and when it showed its pretty polygonal face to gamers everywhere, many became interested in old reliable 2d gameplay.  Some 2d platformers are still around however, like Megaman, making their home on handhelds, with the occasional console release.  Unforutnatley, the story of 2d fighters is somewhat sadder and more pathetic. 

Three dimensions really killed the realm of the 2d fighter.  With newcomers like Soul Calibur and Tekken coming up to the plate, games were forced to evolve or go home.  Those that did evolve, like mortal kombat, are mere shadows of their former self, imitating other 3d fighters rather than staying true to their gaming roots.  Those that did not evolve like street fighter (see the god awful game street fighter ex) died and were lost to us for all eternity.  It will be a long time before we see a return of a 2d fighter, and it is a very real possibility that we will never see another one made ever again.

Scratch that, its rare we will see one made by any sort of gaming company.  Independent gamers on the other hand, well that’s a different story.  See you may be thinking for a minute “Hold on, didn’t you just say 2d fighters were awesome?  Wouldn’t gamers demand them?”  Well you are right!  Gamers DO want their 2d fighting goodness, and with the power of computers and people with too much time on their hands, they can get their daily dose of hadouken more so than every before, through the wonder of M.U.G.E.N.

M.U.G.E.N. is an all purpose 2d fighting game maker.  However, unlike other 2d fighting game makers, it A, makes complete games rather than jagged demos, and B, is easily one of the most powerful game makers out there.  Just about anything can be tweaked with M.U.G.E.N. from character damage, to how they move, to stage area, to the ability to do fatalities on certain stages like in mortal combat.  Fan’s have also released test code for M.U.G.E.N. to allow for Versus style tag play.

The problem with M.U.G.E.N. is with great power comes great complexity.  M.U.G.E.N. lacks a simple graphical user interface, and add-on programs are generally needed to do anything worth a damn when creating your own character, not to mention all the character art is needed (for each frame of animation, which is A LOT), and most gamers I know aren’t competent sprite artists.  Many characters have to be coded in text, and many moves have so many variables, none but the most skilled coders will succeed in recreating them.  Unfortunately, you aren’t a skilled coder are you?  FORTUNATLEY, there are skilled coders out there, with far too much time on their hands!

This is where the game aspect of M.U.G.E.N. comes in.  Although the intricacies are very complex, the simple stuff like character select screens are damn simple.  To use a certain type of menu or character select screen, you download it, put it in the appropriate folder, and bam you are done.  Even more importantly, M.U.G.E.N. allows for quick and easy character importing.  There is simply a list of characters you would like to use.  Simply download a character, and type then name of that character into the character roster and BAM, next time you boot up M.U.G.E.N. they are available for full play.  All you need to do is troll around the net for a while looking for them.  There are a gazillion M.U.G.E.N. fansites out there, and even M.U.G.E.N. packages which include over 500 playable characters right out of the gate.

Yes 500 characters!  More than any professionally made game has ever come close to presenting.  Many are custom made too!  Play Zero V Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario V Sol Badguy, Sephiroth V Goku, in fact just about any match you can think of is possible.  If you are a gamer just looking for a good time, you can download M.U.G.E.N. and install a fighter pack, and skip all the clunky coding, and go right into the fighting goodness.

The gameplay in M.U.G.E.N. is solid but only as solid as the person who originally programmed the character or stage you are on.  Luckily any character that is available for download is worth something or else they wouldn’t be available in the first place.  Most if not all of the time, characters run smoothly, sometimes better than their arcade made professionally produced counterparts.  Stages as I said before are available for download, and they can range from extremely tiny, to massively huge (to account for super jumps and the like).  M.U.G.E.N. also comes with music packs, but more importantly M.U.G.E.N. lets you import your own music in any format from MIDI to MP3, so the game plays exactly the music you want, on the stages you want, when you want.

Another interesting aspect of M.U.G.E.N. is the ability to download story packs and boss characters.  Simply by placing a character in a slot that isn’t shown on the character select screen (many times labeled boss) will make them unselectable by normal means.  These can be hyper powered characters that gamers will only face at the end of your custom made one player mode.  As such, cutscenes and dialogue can also be programmed into the game, giving it some semblance of story, although whatever the reason is that the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man is fighting Godzilla, is something you’ll have to come up with yourself.  In fact, some of the more interesting bosses, such as Broly from Dragon Ball Z, actually taunt you in cutscenes while you fight, deepening the play experience.

Story packs include both intros and endings (both of which there can be multiple) and scenes to play between fights.  Most of these are simple background images super imposed with text, but some can include really high quality animation.  It really comes down to how much effort the original programmer was willing to spend, or if you are a coder, how much effort you are willing to spend to make your game kick ass.  Rest assured however that for the non programming inclined, generic “save the world” story packs are available for download from the many fansites out there.  You can also download bonus stages as well, like the infamous “beat up the car” stage in Street Fighter, or even a complete recreation of the first stage of Super Mario Bros, that you can go through with your fighting game character at your leisure.

The options in M.U.G.E.N. are exhaustive in their depth.  You have several buttons (far more than any character needs) and a directional pad or stick to fool around with.  Obviously not every character uses every button depending on how they are programmed.  You may think that this is fundamentally unbalancing, but while playing a 6 button Street Fighter character against a 4 button KOF character no one seems to mind.  The characters play in the way they were originally designed, which gives the game a bit of a nostalgia feel.  Along with this, difficulty, life totals, and just about everything else you could change in a normal fighting game can also be changed, including the button layout on whatever controller you have hooked up to your computer or console.

My advice to you, get M.U.G.E.N.  It dosen’t take up much space on your Harddrive at all, and it can be imported to console systems like an Xbox or a PS3 or even a Wii (if you find the right software).  However, try to keep your character list limited, as hard as that may be.  There are a lot of joke characters out there like Omega Tom Hanks which essentially kill you in one hit, or impossible to beat.  Though funny for a while, if you are looking for a suitable play experience, you won’t find it with a roster filled with jokes and pranks.  Also if you set them at ALL selectable from one player mode, the computer might pick them against you, screwing up your trek to the top.  When it comes down to it, character content is limited for a reason in fighting games.  No one wants to have to choose between 10 different versions of Ryu.  Pick a roster, stick with it, love it, and we will all be happier.

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Related: Little Fighter II
Developer: Elecbyte
Website for Game: N/A
Publisher: N/A
O/S: Windows 98/ME/XP/Vista
Cost of Full Game: N/A
Where to get:
Download WinMugen here.
Year of Release: 1999

Requirements:
N/A
Tested on:
Intel Core2Duo 1,86 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Windows Vista

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