It’s not easy to get into fighting games these days, especially if you have not kept up with the evolution of the genre or never played one. Recently released Soul Calibur VI has a roster of over twenty characters, with dozens of moves each. Remembering even one moveset proves a challenge. FOOTSIES goes the other way and gets rid of everything apart from necessities for the purest fighting-game experience.
Basics — quarter-circle what?
FOOTSIES has the simplest possible control scheme: players can move side to side and attack with one button. Another simplified thing is health — there is none. Players can only get knocked out with special moves, which can either be done by themselves (by a hold and then release while holding a forward/back or down) or as a follow-up from a normal move. However, players each get three blocks to guard from attacks; after that, each time they get hit, they become wide open for attacks.
There is another way to create an opening — each attack leaves some space free for the opponent to get a hit. This means that once you learn the ropes, the game becomes about trying to read your opponent, timing the hits and specials, and punishing the opponent’s mistakes. It feels like something straight out of a fighting-game tournament.
FOOTSIES was created by HiFight -- who themselves are a part of the fighting-game community -- as a way to teach themselves game development using Unity. They mention wanting to create a small project by themselves and release it, and a fighting game was perfect for them. Because of the close bond with the community and the genre, they kept on with the project and never lost focus, something that happens quite often with indie games, especially smaller ones.
Audiovisual experience — can’t be clearer
FOOTSIES’ creator admits that art and music aren’t their strong suit — and while that shows, the way the game is presented brings it up to a good level. The players control simple black and white characters; there are no needless effects obscuring the action; and the animation, while simple, leaves no questions about what is going on. The same can be said about audio, as the only music loop is simple but feels right at home with this visual style.
However, that can get very repetitive for a more casual player — the simple artwork and repetitive music does not engage in the long run. And while the audio issues can be fixed by muting the game and putting on your favourite tune, it’s not as simple with visuals. I asked the creator if there are any plans on putting more work in on the visual side. They replied that they think the way the game looks currently is charming and they don’t plan on doing anything more with it.
The feel — just like butter
What FOOTSIES gets right is the feel of a fighting game — it is as simple as it can without losing the fact that it is a fighting game through and through. There is no distinction between high- and low-level play. You can learn how it works, then immediately go on to play in a tournament with no problem, something that no other fighting game can do. There are tournaments for the game already happening, but they are mostly within the fighting-game community.
The game runs smooth, and because of its simplicity it can run on any machine (I am almost certain that it could be coded for an NES and it would work as well). There are no frame drops and I experienced no glitches or anything that would otherwise suck the fun out of it. Just like butter, it’s incredibly smooth and goes down with no problem -- the problems start to arise when you try to eat a whole block.
What I mean by that is that if you’re not a fan of fighting games, FOOTSIES will get boring incredibly fast. As a test, I showed the game to my partner, a fairly casual player, and they played with me for maybe a couple of minutes. There is nothing engaging to bring in people with no fighting-game experience — something that games like the Smash Bros. series can accomplish easily thanks to colorful visuals and a well-known roster.
Still, if you enjoy the game, in addition to the player-versus-player mode there is a player-versus-CPU mode where you can hone your skills against a computer. This is something I found myself playing a lot, as it meant I could try out tactics and learn exactly how the game works and how the attacks are timed. You can also turn on the hitboxes to see exactly what’s going on (press F12 during a fight for that).
FOOTSIES is an incredibly simple yet deep experience, and one that will definitely be enjoyed by fans of fighting games. I found great enjoyment within the game and I definitely want to run a tournament of it to see other people have fun with it as well. If you’re not into fighting games, it could easily get boring, especially if you have no one to play against.
FOOTSIES is available on Windows and Android, with an iOS version in planning as well. All can be found on the HiFight’s page.