Not that it doesn’t deserve to exist; quite the contrary actually. I first heard of Fighting Is Magic in 2011 and was ecstatic. I enjoyed the show it was based on and I was a casual fan of fighting games. It looked like a lot of fun and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Sadly, in February 2013, Fighting Is Magic was cancelled due to copyright issues. It was a very sad scenario, because the game’s developers, Mane6, had put so much work into the game, and it looked astoundingly impressive. Alas, Mane6 complied and stopped all production on the game known as Fighting Is Magic, and started creating their own, original fighting game. However, Fighting Is Magic didn’t stay dead for very long, with new developers Squirrelnet now heading production. It’s unclear at this point how much was added to the existing system, but nevertheless, the game is now available.
I tell you this because the game was clearly in the black hole known as Development Hell, and history shows that any media going through this process tends to suffer greatly. Fighting Is Magic manages to avoid suffering in ways that are almost unbelievable.
When you first start up the game, you’ll notice right away how smooth everything is. The game runs at a brisk sixty frames per second, and each character has a very well done idle animation. When the action starts the game manages to keep up extremely well, hardly ever showing even a bit of slowdown. The lovingly crafted and detailed animations are a joy to witness. Seeing Pinkie with that constant smile or Twilight reading a book always manages to bring a smile to my face. Those are good examples of the level of detail to expect in Fighting Is Magic: Tribute Edition.
While a little more accessible than your average tournament fighter, Fighting Is Magic still has a fairly steep learning curve. I was personally surprised to see just how deep the fighting engine really was. Fighting Is Magic is a sort of mixture of Marvel vs. Capcom and Skullgirls. The fighting system relies on air combos and juggling your opponents, but there are no set combos so you have to create your own by experimenting with different moves and seeing what works best. Each pony has their own completely unique moveset, and they are all enjoyable to play. It should be no trouble at all for players to find a pony that fits their play style. Here is a run-down of how each of the available characters play:
Twilight Sparkle is the jack-of-all-trades character. She has a mix of close ranged melee attacks and long ranged magic attacks. She plays best on the ground, but she has a few aerial combos when there’s a need for it. She’s not incredibly easy to learn, and she’s a little slow.
Applejack is the grappler character. All of her attacks are very close range, and the only long range moves she has involves her lassoing in the opponent. Her play style is strictly focused on ground attacks, so it’s best to keep your opponents out of the air when playing as her. Her speed and accessibility is similar to Twilight’s.
Rainbow Dash is my personal favorite. She’s the aerial combo character. She attacks fast, and you have to keep up heavy combos with her to get any real damage in. When you play as her, you want to be jumping and flying around as much as possible. She’s perfect for players who just want to go all in on their attacks and not try to play too strategically.
Fluttershy is a pegasus, like Rainbow Dash, but her moves are much less focused on the air and more focused on support. Most of her moves involve her summoning various animal friends that attack opponents for her. She’s a little difficult to learn, especially if you lack the patience, but she can definitely be a powerhouse in the right hands.
Pinkie Pie is possibly the most “fun” to play as. She feels as though she was designed to be the most accessible close ranged fighter, or at the very least she’s the most accessible jack-of-all-trades fighter. She’s very fast and floaty, and most of her attacks will lead into good combos. She’s a good fighter on both the ground and the air, and while she doesn’t have any extremely devastating attacks, she also doesn’t not have any glaring weaknesses. If you don’t already have a character that you want to play as first in mind, beginners should definitely start out with Pinkie.
As Pinkie is the most accessible close ranged fighter, Rarity is the most accessible long ranged fighter. She has a mix of long range and close range attacks, similar to Twilight, but they’re much easier to perform with Rarity. She also has a lot of attacks focused solely on the ground, so if you’re playing as her, make sure you keep your opponent out of the air.
Unfortunately, there are only six characters available right now, but if the character select screen isn’t just a remnant from the Mane 6 version of the game, it would seem that four more characters are on their way. Those characters are Trixie, Gilda, Octavia, and Derpy Hooves, all of which are fan favorites and should provide interesting gameplay.
As with any fighting game, you have both a Story and a Versus mode However, the story mode is more like an arcade, almost ladder-based mode since there’s not actually a plot involved. On top of that the AI is brutally difficult and with no setting to change that, the game is even less forgiving to newcomers. In mere seconds of my first AI battle, I had lost. However, there is a brilliant aspect to the game’s level of difficulty. In every character’s first Story mode fight, you fight whichever character you’re currently playing as. I love this, because it forces you to learn the character you’ve picked on both and offensive and defensive side. Even if you know every single strength of your favorite character, you won’t get very far if you don’t also know their weaknesses.
Sadly, if you just want to test out a character’s moves or combos, there aren’t many options for you. The previously mentioned Story mode is definitely not a great place for that, and there is no practice mode available. Your only option is to set up a multiplayer Versus match without an actual second player.
With Versus, you can play with your friends locally or online through Squirrelnet’s “Telepone” client. This will give you access to multiple servers, and even allow you to create your own. It’s nice that this client is available, but it can be very confusing to get working correctly. My friend David and I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes just trying to start a match. We tried making our own server, but we eventually had to give up and use Squirrelnet’s main server lobby. The online play itself works well enough. It will vary with each person, since the gameplay servers are peer-to-peer (computer networks in which each computer can act as a server for the others). Thankfully, any lag we experienced was fixed with a quick reset of our internet routers.
I also want to note that Fighting Is Magic is a beautiful game. Everything is very colorful, but it’s never overbearing on the eyes. The character designs and environments, such as Sweet Apple Acres and Rarity’s Boutique, look exactly like their in-show counterparts. The character art on the selection screen is also incredibly well done, and I smile every time I see it. Furthermore, the game also sounds very nice. The fan voice actors are decent enough, and they’re given some fun between-round lines to work with. The sound effects are also satisfying, but the main draw is definitely the music. Every stage theme is a remix of one of the show’s songs, and they all fit their respective characters extremely well.
Have you ever wanted to play a My Little Pony fighting game that was made on a professional level? Probably not, but now you have that option, thanks to Fighting Is Magic: Tribute Edition. The fact that you’re fighting with ponies is almost irrelevant; this game would be a great fighter even without that novelty. And with it’s fast and fun gameplay, it’s not just an impressive fan-made fighting game, it’s an impressive fighting game.