I found the weirdest fighting game at Evo 2019. Its name is Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 and it is beautiful.
Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 is the brain child of Japanese developer Suzuki Katsunari, known online as Haramaself. A prolific artist and musician, Haramaself has applied his talents over the last few years to establishing a portfolio of indie games, each one absolutely exploding with a unique aesthetic that lies somewhere between a fever dream and the absurdist anime series Pop Team Epic. The fighting game community is nothing if not receptive to eccentric, slightly weird approaches to the genre, many of which get labeled as “kusoge,” a Japanese term that roughly translates to “shit game.” As such, Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 has managed to cultivate a relatively small yet dedicated competitive fanbase.
“Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 is probably the best kusoge ever made,” Matt “MiniMatt” Leher, fighting game player and commentator, told Kotaku. “It’s not just a weird game, it’s actually a very, very good weird game. If you get past the goofy sound effects and the MSPaint look, the game itself is solid. The system is something I would enjoy even if it wasn’t a free meme game on Steam.”
Leher first encountered Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 a couple of months ago through his friend’s Twitch stream. It looked “ridiculous,” he explained, but the ease with which he was able to pick up and play the game thanks to its simplified controls—not to mention the fact that it’s free—gave him further incentive to see what it was all about. Since then, he’s attended small local tournaments and participated in online matches, first by using the pseudo-online client Parsec and then through the game itself when an update added netplay. “It’s got the best [online play] of any game,” Leher added. “It’s unbelievable that this game, of all games, has the best netplay I’ve ever seen.”
“Unbelievable” is a word Leher used throughout our interview, and it’s easy to understand why. On the surface, Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 looks and sounds like a complete joke, with eccentric character designs and sound effects comprised entirely of Haramaself’s own voice. Still, there’s something special beneath the somewhat unnerving aesthetics: a competitive fighting game that gives every character something scummy with which to annoy and frustrate opponents. Also, the game’s simplified control scheme, which is devoid of inputs like quarter-circles and dragon punch motions, makes Ultra Fight incredibly accessible to players of just about any skill level.
At the character select screen, players are given the option to build a team made up of one, two, or three characters, similar to the system utilized in Skullgirls. Additionally, players choose a “type” for each character, reminiscent of the groove system seen in Capcom vs. SNK 2. These types run the gamut from a simple HP boost to an entirely unique Demon mode that replaces the ability to use super moves with unlimited EX attacks during the mode’s duration. One example of smart Demon usage Leher provided is with Tsukinami, who can activate and lock the opponent down with continuous, Zangief-like lariats until their guard breaks, leaving them vulnerable for further punishment. “That’s the kind of stuff you just have to accept when you play Ultra Fight,” Leher explained.
That may sound cheap, but Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 is built on a foundation of scumbaggery. Every member of the cast has some nasty attack or setup that would be considered overpowered in any other fighting game, even pseudo-joke character Masao, who can still kill an opponent with one combo if he has the necessary meter. As such, the Ultra Fight meta is matchup-focused rather than having a definite individual character tier list. When creating a team—and yes, you’ll want a team of three fighters, because even the best characters can be countered—smart players focus on covering two important factors: being able to dish out as well as defend against the overpowered shenanigans.
Evo 2019 is something of a coming-out party for Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2. While its superior netplay has made it easy to grind out matches against likeminded opponents, an event like Evo is where players truly establish a game’s reputation. “I’m excited to see people do stuff I’ve never even thought of,” Leher said. “I want to see what the most busted thing in this game is. I’m going to be running the characters I think are extremely broken and can deal with every team, and I’m looking for someone to prove me wrong. I’m excited to see extreme bullshit, because that’s what makes the game fun.”
The Evolution Championship Series is special, not just because it’s the largest fighting game tournament in the world but also because you’re sure to find at least one other person interested in the same fighting game as you, no matter how obscure it is. Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 seems like it would fit neatly into that niche, with its bizarre art style and gameplay, but its 64-player bracket makes it one of the more popular side events on the show floor.
“Ultra Fight comes together in a way that’s so much more than the sum of its parts,” Leher said. “If anyone doesn’t download it and give it a try, they are doing themselves a disservice. It’s unbelievable that one dude making this wack MSPaint game actually did a better job of making it easy and accessible for new players than any other fighting game at this point.”