Fighters’ Destiny: Ties that Bind Review

Fighters’s Destiny is one of the first documentaries to explore the Dead or Alive franchise and the community around it and even with its problems, this film’s worth watching.

If there’s a competitive fighting game that hasn’t been explored that much in documentary form, that’s definitely Dead or Alive. Although everyone who has played it probably knows that this is a respectable 3D fighting game franchise that’s deep and extremely entertaining to play. But what about the community behind the games?

At its core, Fighters’ Destiny is a series of interviews with professional DOA players explaining what got them to play the franchise in the first place, how it evolved over time, what’s the competitive scene like, what it holds for the future and what makes it different to other popular franchises such as Tekken or Street Fighter. Each episode focuses on a specific aspect of the Dead or Alive series, such as the mechanics or the international players. Most of the interviews that are part of this film are entertaining to watch, but some of them go for way too long. The interviewees explain what Dead or Alive is all about, but in some episodes there’s not enough in-game footage to illustrate the explanations.

If you’re going to make a documentary about a game that not many people are familiar with, you better start from the beginning, explaining mechanics and concepts and assuming that everyone who’s watching has no idea about the game. Fighters’ Destiny has all that, as well as a chronicle of some of the best games in the series, such as Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate, a title that introduced online play to the franchise and was in many other ways, ahead of its time. By the time Dead or Alive 4 came out, the new graphics engine brought a lot of new mechanics to the table.

In many ways, the DOA scene was also ahead of its time. Some of the best tournaments were televised as part of DirecTV’s Championship Gaming Series, there were a lot of female players and some of the events had players from all over the world. So the DOA scene at the time was a predecessor to everything that’s happening now in competitive gaming in titles like Dota 2, League of Legends or Street Fighter V, among others.

It’s hard to complain about this documentary since there’s simply nothing else when it comes to Dead or Alive, but it definitely has an amateur feel and while that certainly can be good, it hurts more than anything else. Some interviews take place in crowded tournaments where you can’t hear the interviewees, there’s shaky camera and some interviews go for way too long. But even if there are some redundant talks about parts of the game or the scene surrounding it, there are some in-depth discussions as well. With some editing, this documentary could have been more to the point, but I still enjoyed watching it and I definitely learned more about Dead or Alive.

Like some of the players say in this documentary, more fighting game fans should give Dead or Alive a chance. Some people see it as yet another wacky 3D fighter with female characters wearing skimpy clothes, but underneath its sometimes shallow (and sexist) exterior lies a deep and enjoyable game that has a devoted community that swears by it.