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ups: Making your own fighters and customizing them, right down to move animations.
downs: It takes a long time to make anything good; the actual fighting isn't great.

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Fighter Maker 2
game: Fighter Maker 2
three star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Agetec
developer: Enterbrain
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Dec 22nd, 2002

Every gamer I have ever known has had a desire to someday work in the videogame industry. It is easy to understand why so many people want to contribute to the industry that has brought them so much joy, but most people do not understand the time and dedication it takes to actually make a videogame. As we progress through school, most of us realize rather quickly that we aren't programming whiz kids or gifted artists, so unless one of our other talents can relate to the videogame industry (like writing), we have to give up on our dream. For those of us who still want to try our hand at game design but lack the skill to do it the old fashioned way, games like Fighter Maker and RPG Maker are the next best thing. They allow you to create your own characters and worlds and create games that are only as good as the amount of time you put into them. It can take hours and even days to put everything together properly, so these types of games definitely won't appeal to everyone.

Fighter Maker 2 is the latest in this genre of \"create your own game\" games and allows gamers to create their own fighters to use in a 3-D fighting game. You can edit character models, create move lists, and edit the animation for everything your character does. The timeframe from a basic character model to a running, punching, ass kicking machine can run anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The process is also rather complicated and can be very tedious at times. The clunky interface and poor preview controls fight you every step of the way and make a process that is already extremely difficult even more so. This is a game that you definitely have to read the instruction manual very thoroughly before you begin or you'll simply become lost. I said it before and I'll keep saying it: Fighter Maker 2 is not a game that everyone will enjoy. It is intended for people who have a bottomless well of patience and an obsessive love of figuring everything out to the very finest detail.

The only game of recent memory that has tried to tackle the same sort of character customization and animation editing as Fighter Maker 2 is WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth. Fighter Maker 2 has the advantage in animation because you can string moves together to create your own combos as well as the ability to edit individual moves frame by frame until they are exactly what you want. Smackdown has the superior character editing tools, however, and is definitely a lot easier to use than Fighter Maker 2.

Creating a character in FM2 basically takes three steps. First, you use the body editor to choose how you want your fighter to look. Next, you can use the animation editor to edit moves frame by frame. Finally, you use the sequence editor to assign move commands and to link moves together to create combos. Each of these modes shares similar problems that seriously hinder your progress, though.

The most annoying aspect of creating a new character is that there isn't an easy way to preview your character. It would have been easy to use a system similar to the one that Smackdown uses where the shoulder buttons rotate the camera and zoom in on the character, but in FM2 you have to stop whatever you are doing and enter a separate preview mode. Once in the preview mode, you have very limited camera control. For editing moves and animations, the camera angles are fine, but trying to edit your characters appearance, particularly the face, is a pain because you simply can't see what you are doing well enough. The worst part of these clunky preview controls is that you have to use the preview mode a lot when you are making a character and you have no other choice than to just put up with it.

Part of the reason why you have to use the preview mode so much is because you really can't see much in the editors themselves. Sure, the character is onscreen and all of the changes you make are made in real time, but it is nigh impossible to see through all of the menus that you have to go through to change things. The menus aren't much to look at and the text within them is blurry and too small. For an experience that relies entirely on the visuals, it is surprisingly hard to see what you are doing in FM2.

Like I said above, the character editor in Fighter Maker 2 doesn't offer nearly as much stuff as the latest Smackdown. The options for clothing, facial features, and accessories are rather limited, but you should be able to find what you want. One thing worth noting is that there are several cases where the top of a certain clothing style is available but the bottom part isn't anywhere to be found. FM2 lacks the body morphing of Smackdown, and that is regrettable. Fighter Maker 2 allows you to make up to four different looks for your character that you can select from at the character select screen, which is a pretty neat option. Overall, Fighter Maker 2 simply doesn't offer enough character creation options, but since the real draw of FM2 is the animation and sequence editors, the puny assortment of cosmetic editing features is forgivable.

Using the animation and sequence editors is fairly simple once you have gone over the manual and know your way around the menus. Editing animations is rather tedious, but there is nothing that can be done to speed the process up. The sequence editor is a lot more fun to use because you can create your own combos and even determine things such as damage, the command input, priority, and the time frame for things such as combo delays. It is possible to create moves and combinations that are seemingly ripped right out of Virtua Fighter and Tekken. Finishing off the creation process and actually using your new character is an extremely rewarding feeling that no other game can touch. That is, of course, if you are patient enough to actually finish what you start.

Once you are done tweaking your character, you can put it to use. Sadly, the 3-D fighting engine the game uses is very disappointing. Fighter Maker 2 uses a control setup similar to Virtua Fighter 4, but lacks the bells and whistles and overall depth that make VF4 great. Not only are the controls overly simplistic, but the gameplay itself isn't even as good as 3-D fighters from four years ago, and nowhere near as good as the perfected tours de force we have today. There is a half second delay between pressing a button and seeing that move performed on screen. Also, the fights have no flow to them because almost every combo, other than the ones you make yourself to specifically combat this, ends up with a powerful move that throws the opponent all the way across the stage. I want to perform intricate combo strings and thoroughly destroy my opponent as fast as possible, not spend most of my time slowly chasing my opponent around the arena.

The poor fighting engine in Fighter Maker 2 is the thing that will ultimately turn people away from it. I, personally, can't see the point in spending several days perfecting a character to be used in a game that I don't even like. The whole point is to make a fighter that you actually would want to use to play the game, but for most of us, FM2 simply doesn't offer an interesting experience to deserve our time.

The sound and graphics in Fighter Maker 2 are average at best. It is unfair to expect every game to look just like VF4 of T4, and it is obvious that most of the developer's time went towards the creation tools, so the graphics are acceptable. There is sound in the game, supposedly, but I can't remember anything other than the simple grunts and groans of combat. Other than the ugly menus, the graphics and sound get the job done and that is all you can ask in a game like this.

Overall, Fighter Maker 2 is an extremely complex set of character creation tools connected to a sub-par 3-D fighting game. If you have a lot of patience, an eye for detail and/or a desire to someday work in the videogame industry, try it out. If you can not only get through the long creation process, but also enjoy the fighting game underneath, you'll probably be playing and enjoying Fighter Maker 2 forever. For the rest of us, we'll just keep using the prepackaged warriors of other games. At the very least, we can use the superior character editing and simplified animation editor of Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth to create our own little slices of game development heaven. If you are just looking for a fighting game, you can do a lot better than FM2. Anyone up for a game of Tekken 4?

Eric Qualls (12/22/2002)