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Ever since its initial reveal last year at Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament, Divekick looked like a different change of pace for the fighting game genre. Two characters simply named Dive and Kick along with the simple two button gameplay where one hit wins a round. The game, originally thought by Adam “Keits” Heart, became a hit with the fighting game community instantly and it went through a Kickstarter campaign before being picked up by developer Iron Galaxy to be released on Playstation 3, Vita, and the PC. After numerous character reveals and appearances at tournaments and other events, some fighting game fans like yours truly just wanted Divekick available to everyone. Honestly I was getting a little tired seeing it on numerous fighting game tournament streams this year before its release. Now that is finally out, does Divekick’s simplicity and accessibility enough to keep fighting game fans entertained for a long period of time?
From the beginning, Divekick felt like a love letter to a specific audience, which is the fighting game community with characters and references fans that watch streams will recognize right away. Besides Dive and Kick, most of the characters are based an existing property, but with a twist. The most blatant one is arguably Dr. Shoals, who looks like a female version of Doctor Doom that foot dives at her opponents, one of Doom’s signature moves from the Marvel vs. Capcom games. Most dive kicks that this game’s cast have are based from existing characters from the current crop of fighting games. Examples range from Mr. N having Rufus’s dive kick from the Street Fighter IV series, Redacted using Wolverine’s from Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and so on. Even some of the fighting game community’s most recognizable names are actual characters in Divekick from MarkMan from Mad Catz and Sony Santa Monica producer Seth Killian (used to known as S-Kill in the community and former Capcom employee) being the final boss in the game’s story mode.
Believe or not there is actually a story in Divekick. S-Kill is destined to rebalance the game to his liking and it is up to the rest of the cast, whoever you play as in story mode, to stop him from doing so. The characters of course have their motives of competing in Divekick and the story mode is your traditional ladder of fights before facing S-Kill. For a game catering to the fighting game community, most of that crowd will recognize all of the references and jokes Divekick throws at players. These can be both bit and miss because at times the references are there for the sake of being there plus the casual audience won’t probably get these at all right away.
Divekick’s core fighting game mechanics are where the simplicity and accessibility kicks in. It is a two button fighting game where one button is your dive and your other button is your kick. Sounds easy right? Pressing kick while the ground allows your character to jump or dash back. All of this alone is simple enough that any player can pick up and play, but everything else Divekick matters gameplay-wise is a whole different story and it becomes more a fighting game with strategy and depth. All of the characters have different dive kick angles and matchup knowledge becomes key in higher competitive levels. Once you add in different special moves with the press of both buttons and meter management with kick factor, this game’s nod to X-Factor in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there’s much more learn in Divekick besides just diving and kicking. However, this game as a whole is a test of fighting game fundamentals and spacing where you all need is one hit to win a round, which surprisingly why Divekick is a good entry-level fighting game for those that have been daunted by the genre’s learning curve.
While Divekick tries its best to maintain its original vision since its initial reveal, the addition of more mechanics and gimmicky characters does put a damper into that. When a character like The Baz can win with lightning strikes at specific angles, other characters that have flight options, and S-Kill being a character that can teleport, the game almost loses its initial hook and charm. Sure, these characters are there to spice things up from a gameplay perspective, but there comes to a point where someone relies heavily on these characters than more fundamentally designed characters such as Dive and Kick, Then again this is the age old debate with every fighting game in general where players do whatever it takes to win any means necessary depending whether or not they rely on gimmicks than fundamentals. Despite all of that said, the game is still fun to play especially against other players locally and online.
The amount of content is light in Divekick with just the story mode and local/online multiplayer options, but it shows that the game is meant for the competitive crowd than being a complete package like some of the current crop of fighting games. Online play uses the infamous GGPO netcode for near-perfect matches, but of course your internet connection may vary against certain players. The matchmaking at default settings could have been better as it sometimes takes minutes to find a match and other times just taking seconds. There are also unranked and lobby options when it comes to Divekick’s online play. Making online players frauds, winning five rounds to zero, and even choke, coming back to win a match down four rounds to zero, are some of the more satisfying moments I had in fighting games this year.
For $10 on Playstation 3, Vita, and PC (Cross Buy is available for PS3/Vita), Divekick is definitely worth checking out for both fighting game fans and newcomers to the genre. Its simple and accessible two-button gameplay is good enough for anyone to pick up and play, but with most fighting games these days, there is still lots to learn besides fighting game fundamentals with the numerous mechanics Iron Galaxy included. For a game that felt designed specifically for the fighting game community, the numerous references and jokes throughout the game and its story mode won’t be as recognized to casual players compared to fans that play/watch fighting games on a regular basis. In addition, as the number of characters and gimmicks went up throughout the game’s development, it almost felt like it lost its initial hook and charm. The game is also light for content for those that are looking for more modes to play besides story and multiplayer.
It remains to be seen how long I will play Divekick now that it has been out for almost two weeks, but honestly, I don’t see myself doing that months and even weeks from now compared to the current lineup of fighting games that more offer depth and challenge to the table. With all of that said, Divekick is still a worthy change of pace from today’s fighting games due to its simplicity and accessibility, but can it last long with today’s fighting fans? If I, myself, am an indication, then the same could be said for the audience it was designed for, the fighting game community in the near future.