My lethal pony – Equestria-aping fighting game Them’s Fighting Herds out this month

them's-fighting-herds

I’m not altogether sure I enjoy it when something which once caused astounded pointing and giggling later becomes An Actual Real Thing. Case in a point, I’ve got a sneaking feeling I’m going to enjoy Them’s Fighting Herds a lot less once it’s a fully-functioning fighting game installed on my hard drive than I did when it was but a totally unexpected video of suspiciously My Little Ponylike toonimals with football-sized eyes kicking seven bells out of each other.

(Oh, and before you start chanting “four legs good, but only when officially-licensed by Hasbro”, bear in mind that the art design is by the showrunner of the MLP: Friendship Is Magic series.)

It’s due out in less than three weeks, and there’s another one of those ‘this is unbelievable / I can’t believe no-one’s done this before’ trailer to remind us that mortal enmity is magic too.

Accusing Them’s Fighting Herds of a blatant pony inspiration isn’t simply a matter of clocking the characters’ giant peepers and the involvement of aforementioned Friendship Is Magic boss Lauren Faust, by the way. It began life as an unofficial My Little Pony fan-game, entitled Fighting Is Magic, but a hasty rethink was required once Ian Hasbro came a’knocking.

With over half a million dollars racked up via IndieGoGo back in 2015, the involvement of Humble as a publisher and a couple of years added to the originally-estimated release date, these more pan-quadroped hooves of death will become a reality towards the end end of this month.

I am weighing up whether or not to traumatise my Twilight Sparkle-obsessed niece with that. Fortunately my own daughter is worryingly into the idea of cartoon animals fighting, so she’ll be cool with it.

Obviously there’s a big multiplayer element to the game, but for singleplayer it’s going further than the usual loosely-linked AI battles. There’s an overworld you can explore, chat to NPCs and choose costume options in, and looks like a very light version of the sort of RPG elements you’d see in a Pokemon game.

Worth noting that this element of the game isn’t going to be finished in time for launch, with the story mode to be completed via free, post-release free updates. Other fighters will be sold as DLC.

Oh, and it’s formed an alliance of sorts with a few other cute-o’punch-’em-ups, Skullgirls, Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and Blazblue Centralfiction. If you own any of those, you’ll unlock bonus outfits and hairstyles for your murderous mammals.

Them’s Fighting Herds is due for release on February 22, and here’s the Steam page for Wishlisting if you’re so inclined.

14 Comments

  1. shinkshank says:

    I don’t think it can be that traumatic, considering what some of the later seasons of that show had in terms of fight scenes. Look at this actual DBZ fight :

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      Drib says:

      Can’t watch videos at work, but I’m guessing Tirek.

      You know, the show has never really gotten to that level of absurdity again. But I guess the entire world got destroyed a dozen times in uh, end of season five. But not that kind of out and out absurd DBZ violence.

  2. armaankhan says:

    I can’t help but hope they turn this into a franchise with a beatemup or, even better, a Dynasty Warriors clone. I’d definitely hop on board something like that.

  3. Morat Gurgeh says:

    What’s next? Sylvanain Families Shodown?

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    Drib says:

    You know, I kinda want to like this, but at the same time, I’m awful at fighting games and the fact that Hasbro is full of jerks who killed the initial fan project really does sorta sour me on the whole deal, even if it’s no fault of the game itself. Also I guess I don’t care as much about applecow or whatever, rather than the characters I know.

    That said, pretty sure your niece would be fine with it. I mean, Twilight’s far and above the most disposed to violence in the show anyway, weirdly. Princess of friendship and blasting people.

    • KRVeale says:

      You might know this already, but it’s worth emphasising: the whole project anyway exists as one big Fuck You Hasbro, but within the law.

      They killed the “Fighting is Magic” fan game, which was disappointing. Then my understanding is that Lauren Faust – recently kicked off MLP:FIM after complaining about the character designs for the Equestria Girls spinoff and other issues – *reached out to the Fighting is Magic folks* and said, “Hey folks, I did the character designs for MLP:FIM, and I’m intimately familiar with the copyright laws surrounding likeness and design. I can create characters that got RIGHT UP TO THE LINE of what’s legally acceptable for you, so that EVERYONE knows who you’re referring to, and Hasbro won’t be able to sue anybody. Interested?”

      When Lauren Faust gets involved in order to do the Raised V and PPPPPTTTTTTHHHHHHH noise from “Hot Fuzz,” I have to respect that.

      • Ghostwise says:

        Fausts of fury, indeed.

      • firekirby135 says:

        Well, it wasn’t quite as spiteful and underhanded as you seem to think it was. Mane6 knew they were walking a grey line from the start. They have, on multiple occasions, said that Hasbro were well within their rights to enforce a C&D on the project, and harbored no real resentment towards them as a result of it. As for Lauren, she wasn’t “booted off,” she willingly started stepping back. It was more a matter of her visions for the show not really meshing well with what the executives and producers wanted out of the show, and as a result, she decided to work more as a consultant in Season 2 to ensure the show was being left in capable hands, and stepped down soon after.

        What actually happened is more along these lines: Fighting is Magic got a C&D from Hasbro, forcing development to grind to a halt. Being so close to completion, Mane6 lamented the fact that the work they put in wouldn’t see the light of day. Some of the team stepped down as a result, but the remaining team decided they still wanted to use the assets they made to create something truly their own. Lauren had been quietly watching the team up until this point, and knowing the team would need to develop a unique set of characters and develop an entirely new world and story for their game, she made a genuine offer to join the team after seeing their announcement. Since then, she hasn’t necessarily been absent either. She’s been pretty vocal on the forums, and back when the work streams were running up until the beta release, she had been stopping in to answer questions from the chat. Having been keeping rather up-to-date with most of these events, saying this game and the team behind it were built solely out of spite is pretty far off the mark. The game is a passion project, plain and simple. It’s a project that was built, razed, and then rebuilt bigger and better than it ever would have been if left as a free fan-game. Quite honestly, it’s for this reason I’m actually kinda glad the original project got a C&D before it was finished. If it hadn’t, Lauren wouldn’t have joined, RC88 wouldn’t have developed his AWESOME dynamic music system, and Zerolabs wouldn’t have donated the licence to the Skullgirls engine. It has been many years in the making, but I really do think the end result is quite worth it.

    • firekirby135 says:

      Having played the game myself, I can go ahead and clear up your two reservations right off the bat. Firstly, all things considered, TFH is actually an GREAT entry point to fighting games. There’s only four attack buttons you really need to keep track of, there are very few complex inputs to remember, and the entire story mode is BUILT to help newer players get better. (each Predator in the story teaches a different fighting game fundamental) On top of all of this, the community is actually really friendly. And if you’re struggling to learn a character, there’s even an option in the Multiplayer lobby that allows you to request a training match, which serves as a way for veteran players to help newer players directly in a way training modes and AI opponents can’t really compare. TFH is actually one of the first fighting games I ever actually started seriously approaching, and finally learning the game and getting better in it has allowed me to more comfortably step into other fighting games with a better understanding and hold my own.

      Secondly, past knowing each character was inspired by one of the show’s characters, there’s actually very little tying them to their counterparts. The closest resemblance is PP to Paprika, but even that has a stark difference; Paprika is clingy, has no concept of personal space, gets a little too physical with her actions, and is practically despised by everyone around her as a result. Tianhuo was a bully turned military general, Pom is a free thinker than often goes against the crowd, and Oleander literally made a pact with a demon to spite the strict rules of her fellow unicorns. Each character has a short story dedicated to them on the Game’s official website, all of which were written by Faust as well. I’d absolutely recommend checking them out if you’re still on the fence of how to feel about the character stand-ins.

      • Hypocee says:

        From recently picking up on the site due to a backer update and watching a bunch of match videos: On the one hand, you’re right and TFH is probably one of the most welcoming fighters made since the ’90s. The combination of a low meter count with a four-button system is great and I really dig the explicit and varied magic button. Bespoke systemic embroidery for each character may be following a vogue, but it’s propagating through BlazBlue and Persona and Street Fighter because it’s a really good idea that the genre’s needed.

        On the other hand, it’s very, very combo heavy which I think is more repellent to newbies (and vultures like me who mostly look at the genre from outside) even than HCB motions. Really, most people can get a motion well enough in a short time but executing, let alone analysing, a 40-hit combo sequence requires/rewards/incentivises so many hours in “the lab” for so little. The designers and writers I respect most (Killian, Sirlin, Remy77077…) regard long noninteractive strings as a commercial crutch and a sickness in design.

        On the gripping hand, it’s not like I anything better to offer, or even standing as a fighter player. Sirlin might have, we’ll see, but that’s neither here nor there with regard to TFH. There is also the burst mechanic to mostly keep the game from truly turning into Fight Fight Revolution. In summary, I dunno.

        —–

        link to mane6.com
        I’ll repeat what I said in my email to RPS. The story and characterisation are…kind of…good? Look, there are so many provisos. This is “for a videogame” and especially “for a fighting game”, and Faust probably dashed this out in a day, and it’s full of typos and incorrect words and sloppy jumps in verb tense…

        …but all of the pieces have at least one bit of character or world building that makes them worth the time, and about half of them made me feel things. A little, not a lot, but that’s more than I expect from fighting game fluff or even from random fiction on the Web.

        I’d go against your contention that there’s little connection between the TFH and MLP characters. First and foremost I haven’t actually watched much of the show so knowing this stuff is largely a matter of Internet osmotic pressure. Nevertheless it’s obvious at a glance who was who. I’d spin that as a positive, though, because of the examples you gave. There’s a formula to the conversion from MLP to TFH that I find both effective and fascinating from a craft perspective. In at least five of the six cases, the TFH character is defined by the same major flaw as the MLP one – it’s just that she has fewer of her counterpart’s redeeming qualities! (In Tianhuo/Dash’s case the flaw is exaggerated in exchange for a different redeeming quality. I’m not aware of separate virtues and vices for either Arizona or Applejack, my impression is that stubbornness serves as both). For all I know this is a puzzle exercise that character writers set for themselves, but it produces better effects than it has any right to.

        I’d like to see more from this world.

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    Drib says:

    “simply a matter of clocking the characters’ giant peppers”

    Did you mean: peepers?

    Or is that too Subnautica these days?

  6. Seafoam says:

    Urgh. That’s all that needs to be said.

  7. icarussc says:

    I’m not altogether sure I enjoy it when something which once caused astounded pointing and giggling later becomes An Actual Real Thing.

    These are my precise thoughts on the Trump candidacy which became a presidency.

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