In China Shanda Games partnered up with SNK to develop a new sprite-based MMO named King of Fighters World. The game was set to feature the same dot-arts technology used to create the amazing graphics for the King of Fighters XII game.
The title was cancelled in 2009 after several years in development. Had it been completed the title would have turned out to be more of a brawler than the fighting game. Allowing multiple characters to take on opponents on multiple 2D planes, similar to Guardian Heroes. It would have been a slightly different experience than what was proposed in the original trailer. The sprites would have been among the most detailed ever produced for any fighting game or brawler. Unfortunately the game never came to be, killing any chance of rekindling the classic brawler by throwing in new technologies.
By a similar token the King of Fighters Online game was an MMO designed for Korea by Dragonfly. The beta version of the PC-only title lacked the cel-shaded stylings of the promotional video
It too would be scaled back for retooling in 2010. No news on when (or if) the final build would be ready for audiences.
The final title I would be mentioning in the brawler series would bring the genre full circle. Double Dragon II, Wander of the Dragons was announced as a remake by Barunson Interactive Co. for the Xbox 360. The game would be a complete remake of the arcade classic with updated 3D graphics. Unfortunately the game seemed to contain nothing of the classic gameplay from the arcade original. Based on the preview footage the game seemed to be a fixed side scrolling title with a full 360 degrees of control. Making it more like The Warriors Street Brawl or Demolish Fist than the original title.
The developers had clearly made themselves blissfully unaware of the failings with the 3D format for the brawler. Worse they ignored how remakes had been received by game players. Final Fight Streetwise showed that "updated" realistic art and graphics did nothing to win back long-time fans or help the experience. Nor did the change of characters from sprites to 3D models do anything to help the game. It was not the only 3D remake to suffer a strong backlash from players. Konami's arcade gem, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, a sequel from the original TMNT arcade game got a remake for PSN and XBLA. The Reshelled version was a 3D remake that rated a 55 to 60 point average out of 100 on Metacritic. It lacked the humor, control, animation and art of the original title. The villains, levels and characters were all there but the combat was frenetic, redundant and more difficult than the original. The classic experience had suffered during the migration to 3D. It was so poorly received that it was pulled from the DLC services shortly after release. The exact same things that plagued the Reshelled Turtle game seemed to be happening to the Double Dragon II remake.
Unless the game were delayed at the end of 2011 to address all of the concerns and pay attention to the failures of other 3D brawlers then it too would be destined to fail. New players would look at this game and ask why older gamers were so passionate about the genre. An insipid game would harm the name of the brawling godfather. It would be a sad way to end the legacy of the genre and this series.
If readers were to go by this blog alone it would have appeared that the brawler died a slow and humiliating death over the past decade. While the more familiar version of the genre did indeed lose popularity it never completely went away. The brawler actually evolved and became something more profound on consoles than it was in the arcades. I am not talking about re-releases of classics on the Wii, Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network either. The brawler itself became part of a bigger gaming picture. In order to find out how it got there we have to go back in time to the era of Kung-Fu Master and find out how the experience evolved. I hope to see you back for the first part in a new series.