One thing I can't help but admire about fighting games is how well the genre uses moves and kinetics for characterization: sure, not every game has a fantastic story attached to it, but that doesn't mean a fighting game can't have well-defined, unique characters, you know?
You don't need hours of exposition to understand characters in fighting games. You just need to play as them, explore their moveset and the action itself becomes the way that you get to know a character. It's way different than, say, getting to know Uncharted's Nathan Drake—you spend the entire time shooting and climbing in that franchise, but his actual character isn't really communicated through those actions. Meanwhile you can have a fighting game that's light on the story and it doesn't matter, you'll still get to know a character—just not in the same way.
If a character is communicated through their moves, it should follow that a character's supers or ultras—or the special 'finishing moves' one can perform, typically after filling up a meter of some sort—can sometimes perfectly encapsulate a character, even if they're clones of each other. They might both be shotos, for example, but Ryu does a Hadoken, and Ken focuses on Shoryuken. They're different!
I'm a big fan of one of Juri's (from Street Fighter) ultras, which you can catch a snippet of in the GIF above—the way she'll monstrously caress the enemy before smashing them into the ground. It's evocative and kind of terrifying, and you don't have to play through a story mode to understand that about her character. You might not be surprised to hear that she has another ultra where she gets an unnerving look in her eye and licks her lips before ripping into you—sounds like it might be in-tune with her character, right?
Granted, not every ultra is awesome...Street Fighter in particular can get kind of racist here:
Of course, Street Fighter isn't the only game with finishing moves (it's just the franchise I'm the most well-acquainted with)—they're pretty common in fighting games! Who can forget the fatalities in Mortal Kombat, or the more recently introduced X-Ray moves?
God, that's gruesome—but that's also exactly why they're awesome to do, yeah? Sure, ultras and supers do tons of damage and a good player will strategically unleash these moves to exploit that...but finishing moves/supers are also a so bombastic, so showy that they can also feel intimidating to your enemy, or like a taunt. That's true even if the move doesn't kill you. All this stuff put together make ultras and supers fascinating to me.
Anyway, I'd like to invite you to share your favorite supers/ultras/whatever they're called in your fighting game of choice—let us know why you think they're rad or special, and if you can, make sure to include video/GIFs so we can see them in action. I'll leave you with the always-silly Mortal Kombat's friendship and babality finishing moves, because I'd be remiss not to mention them:
The Multiplayer is a weekly column that looks at how people crash into each other while playing games. It runs every Monday at 6PM ET.