Some Bugs Show Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Well, let’s just kick it off by talking about actual game-breaking bugs by looking at the grandfather of all fighting games, which as most people know is Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. Not only is this the first real modern fighter that actually matters, but it’s a totally broken mess of a game, too. It was infamous even in its own day for things like the Guile handcuff glitch:
You did this by entering the Flash Kick motion, and then hitting the Strong and Forward buttons in a particular fashion, effectively kara-canceling Flash Kick into a throw. Basically you ‘handcuffed’ your opponent to you and kind of dragged them around the screen until the timer ran out or someone spilled soda on the machine. This was just one among many, many, many other bugs that ruined matches and got you kicked out of arcades.
I think we can both agree that these kinds of bugs were totally unintentional and not super fun to do more than a dozen times to people you didn’t like.
I remember people who knew how to do the handcuffs thing went to local arcades just to piss people off. It was kind of like a novelty if you knew how to do it. Sort of like when you knew the inputs for Mortal Kombat fatalities that you stole from your friend’s Gamepro magazine, but wouldn’t tell anyone. Except bugs like these actually kill the entire game. At least handcuffs was a glitch that couldn’t really be done accidentally, right?
I think it happened pretty rarely as an ‘accident’. That’s not really the case with some of the other bugs in this category that exist in even modern fighters - check out these glitches in Street Fighter x Tekken, which came out in 2012:
Here, if Megaman performs a Quick Combo in conjunction with one of his air moves, he will fly off the top of the screen forever, and the only solution is to wait for time out.
There's also the infamous glitch where, if Rolento’s knife contacts a projectile hitbox, the game freezes - permanently - and forces you to reset the console. And there’s this Kuro run glitch, where you tag in a way that gives you permanent forward momentum. You would never get pushed back from the hit, and since crouching MP links into itself, it leads to an easy infinite combo.
These were all patched out pretty quick, but I think it demonstrates that these kinds of bugs still show up even today. There are lots of examples in other games, too.
Ahh, poor Kuro. A PS3-exclusive DLC character that had literally half the health of all other characters. I don’t think they tested him very well.
And yeah, while it is pretty easy to forgive an early 90s arcade game like SF2 that defined a new genre, bugs that shut down the entire game haven’t really gotten any less prevalent as time went on. As games got more complex, so did the bugs that came along with them. For example, the “Quicksilver Glitch” in vanilla Marvel vs. Capcom 3 let players do a team super attack with Dante as the first character, then freeze his opponent permanently in place while he continually canceled moves into one another. As long as Dante continued to execute Bold cancels, the super freeze state would never go away.
Another glitch that puts the game in an unplayable state involved perpetually top tier character Zero. If you had a life lead, and caught your opponent in a Happy Birthday (hitting two characters at once), you could activate Zero’s Sougenmu super, and then perform a Snapback attack in such a way that tricked the game into not bringing out the snapped-in character. The opponent would have no characters on the screen, forevermore. Some people call Marvel a single player game, but I think this stretches the definition a little too far.
The two other examples I think are worth mentioning are really famous among OG players - the first is the Gambit Glitch in Marvel vs Capcom 2, where Gambit bravely runs away:
It was really not all that uncommon for some idiot to do this and get punched for it. You basically got pranked for a quarter. There’s also this glitch in Street Fighter III: Third Strike where if Ken kills Makoto with a neutral throw, her body kinda spasms in midair. What's worse, in the arcade version, this would actually crash the entire machine, which is why it belongs in this category.
It’s interesting to think about these glitches in the framework of modern games. Now they’d just be patched, right? But back then, you had no choice but to simply play the game with those glitches. Maybe there was an unwritten rule that you just didn’t do them, but that often wasn’t enough. With the Makoto glitch, for example, it’s very easy to kill a character with neutral throw by accident. Your only option was to train your muscle memory to never use neutral throw in that matchup. Either that, or you’d have to play a different character.
And it does kinda seem like we’re picking on Capcom games here a bit (and the problem hasn’t gone away with Street Fighter V, even though the game is mechanically simpler than past SF games), but they are certainly far from the only glitched games in this rodeo. Killer Instinct, for example, has had several game-crashing (but quickly patched) bugs across its life, from Spinal in Season 1 crashing the game every time he teleported into the corner, or Season 3 Kan-Ra’s swarms infinitely locking the game whenever they came in contact with another projectile.
Injustice: Gods Among Us’s DLC character Zod had two infamous glitches, which were shown off during a tournament match! In Game 1, a bug causes a projectile to have a permanently lingering hitbox, which causes a block or hit infinite if you touch it, forcing the players to either laugh at the camera or check their phone in disgust, depending on which side you were playing. In Game 2 of the same set, another bug forces your opponent to remain permanently knocked down until you decide to OTG them (if you’re nice).
To be honest, we could keep going on and on, but I think there are probably enough examples of this to make the point. Do you think there is anything meaningful to take away from these glitches? To me, it seems like patches exist to fix bugs like this. There is nothing redeeming about their existence, except as a mean prank, and they can do serious damage to a game’s viability in online or tournament play.
Game-breaking bugs are bad. They’re really only useful if you’re kind of a dick. Despite them being rather well documented (and being the most frustrating) these bugs are actually mechanically the least interesting for people who actually enjoy pressing buttons. The categories right after this - bugs that totally defined their games, but somehow didn’t make them unplayable or unfun - are a lot more interesting to me.