In an effort to bring in new players, recent fighting games have trended toward lower barriers to entry with easier controls and inputs. But how simple can a fighting game really be? That is the question in Divekick, One True Game Studios’ loving roast of the fighting game community.
Originally released in 2013, Divekick is a 2D fighting game that foregoes the traditional six button layout pioneered by Street Fighter in favor of two buttons: dive and kick. With no combos, counters, or quarter circles, Divekick’s laughably minimal approach to the 2D fighting genre results in a game that’s easily approachable by casual fans but offers a level of depth that will satisfy any fighting game veteran.
Divekick’s gameplay may seem simple at first glance, but make no mistake, Divekick is a fighting game through and through, with the same level of depth and strategy the genre is known for. Each character has a health bar at the top of the screen, but it’s just for show as one kick will kill.
Landing a kick will win you a round, and the first to win five rounds wins. The two buttons, dive and kick, offer more control than one might think. The dive button causes the character to jump straight up in the air and pressing the kick button while airborne sends the character back down at an angle with their signature divekick. Pressing “kick” on the ground doesn’t perform a traditional kick like other fighting games, but rather a kickback: a short hop backwards.
Each character has different properties for their dive and kick, changing the speed and height of the dive or the angle of the divekick. This all adds up to a tense one-versus-one showdown where a hasty button press can lead to a divekick in the face. Add in a special meter activated by pressing both buttons together, and a world of options opens up with each character having their own special moves.
To master the art of diving and kicking, one must know their opponent’s range, their abilities, their habits, predict their next move, bait them into making a mistake, control space, manage meter… and hey, what do you know, sounds like a real fighting game to me. Of course, with only two buttons casual players can jump in and have fun without needing strong fundamentals, but button mashing won’t always work against seasoned fighting game players, and that’s really who this game is really for.
Fighting Game Community
Initially created as a joke, a demo of Divekick gained popularity in the fighting game community (FGC), and with the backing of the FGC, Divekick expanded into a full game boasting 15 characters. Each character in Divekick parodies a person or character in fighting game history, lifting their signature divekick from the moveset of classic fighters.
Take Dr. Shoals, a thinly-veiled play on the infamous Doctor Doom, who borrows her foot dive technique from Doom’s appearance in the Marvel vs. Capcom games, or Kung Pao, Divekick’s send up of Mortal Kombat’s Kung Lao.
Other characters like S-Kill and Jefailey take inspiration from real-life members of the FGC Seth Killian and Alex Jebaily and push them to the extreme. For instance, every time Jefailey wins a round, his head grows larger to match his inflated ego, eventually growing bigger than the rest of his body.
Divekick shoves in-jokes into every possible place, from characters and stages to alternate colors, loading screens, and more. One of my favorite features is the fraud detector, appearing when someone is about to get 5-0’d. On the other hand, if a player gets four round wins and proceeds to lose the next four, the choke detector starts going off.
There aren’t any gameplay-related consequences to these detectors; they just inflame the pride of the players, a staple of fighting game culture. For those in the know, Divekick offers a lot of humor and history, but for those who aren’t as familiar with the FGC, Divekick has plenty of other jokes and pop culture references.
In terms of content, Divekick doesn’t offer much replay value outside of the versus mode, which can get somewhat stale after a while with a comparatively small move list and roster of characters compared to other fighting games. The other offerings include an arcade mode, a riff on classic arcade modes of the past, and an online multiplayer, which in 2019 doesn’t have a large player base. Divekick is best played with a few friends on the couch for an hour or two, but in terms of single player content there are better options. For only five dollars, FGC fans will get more than their money’s worth and casual players will have a fun intro to fighting games, but don’t expect much more.
Divekick is a love letter to the FGC, commemorating its past and lightly ribbing those who make it all work. It’s a game that celebrates a very specific and passionate group of gamers, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It rewards those who have put in the time and effort to understand this community yet remains accessible to those who don’t know a hadoken from a shoryuken. The grassroots nature of the FGC shines through in Divekick, a community that created their own game to make fun of themselves, and really there aren’t many other communities that could produce an experience quite like this.