The Quadrupedal Street Fighter - Them's Fightin' Herds Review
Built for veterans and casuals alike, this unique fighter is good fun that anyone can enjoy.
If the 200+ hours I've spent on this game doesn't tip off how addicting it is, then I don't know what would.
Although much of its design screams "unconventional", fans of classic 2D fighters like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or even modern classics like Skullgirls will feel right at home with Them's Fightin' Herds's combo system. Despite the quadrupedal cast of characters and adorable art direction, this is a remarkably sophisticated game with detailed mechanics for very fast-paced and reactive gameplay - so much so that I can see some serious high-profile tournaments for the game in the future.
But with that said, the game isn't strictly for the pros - far, far from it, in fact. The wide variety of interactive tutorials and game modes - including the very highly anticipated story mode - make it easy for even those with no prior experience with 2D fighters to get in on the action and have a fantastic, fulfilling time with it as well.
The story behind TFH's development is just as fascinating as the game itself; the spiritual successor to developer Mane 6's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan game Fighting is Magic, TFH officially started development after Hasbro shut down the fan game's production with a cease-and-desist, which inspired Lauren Faust herself to join the team and create adorable original characters for the existing gameplay, and from there the game only kept expanding - even now, after three years of early access, the game is nowhere near complete, as the developers continue to add new features and fixes with each update, including an extensive chaptered story mode and work on a completely new playable character.
And that hard work, ambition, and determination was what led Mane 6 to create an incredibly special game. It controls similarly to classic 2D fighters with a Light-Medium-Heavy (A-B-C) button style, while also adding a fourth button (D) for special Magic moves; while all fighters can dish out these simple combos, the gameplay also includes more complex specials that require directional inputs such as half-circle and charge inputs to add to each character's unique style and leave room for loads of experimentation with chaining different combos with different fighters.
But, if you're like me and that explanation didn't make a lick of sense the first time around, then don't worry at all; I'd never got into a single 2D fighter like Street Fighter before discovering TFH, and you have no idea how relieving it was seeing that Mane 6 apparently knew that players like me would approach the game with caution, thus they created detailed yet incredibly easy-to-follow tutorials and training modes, which break down even the more complex concepts like frame rates and hitstun times so that even the most inexperienced players can learn the basics easily. They were even so kind as to include tutorials for a handful of each character's more advanced combos, which helped me understand how to play each creature even more than I had before; honestly, if the training hadn't been so welcoming and understandable, I probably never would have picked up the game in the first place.
But despite it's beginner-friendly atmosphere and cutesy MLP-like art style, nobody should believe this game is "easy"; just like the other 2D fighters I've mentioned before, this game is complex and advanced enough for even the most seasoned fighting game veterans to have a hard grasp on. As you'd expect from a game that runs on the same engine as Skullgirls, this game is insanely fast with transitions between animations that look perfectly seamless - which is exactly what you'd want in a fighter like this. That high-energy pace only accentuates the adrenaline rush from each match, and that motivates me even more to keep improving my skills for my next opponent. It's fun because it's fast while also staying digestible, and wow if it isn't satisfying transitioning from one move to the next with such smooth, gorgeous animation on display.
Not to mention that every character fights in their own way, and nobody is a copy or "echo" of each other. Their personalities fit each of their general playstyle as well: Arizona the cow (voiced by Tara Strong) is small but brave and down-to-earth fights best on the ground and can use her lasso to extend rushdown combos; Paprika the alpaca (Marieve Herington) loves everyone but makes no sense at all, which lends well to her unusual, tricky, and seemingly random attacks; Velvet the deer (Tia Lynn Ballard) uses winter magic to distance the opponent and chip away their health with sharp ice and projectiles, the perfect fighting style for a snoot who detests chipping her hooves; Pom the sheep (Allie Moreno) would rather sit trembling on the sidelines than get into a fight, which is why she relies on summoning her herds of Sheep dog puppies to attack for her; Tianhuo the longma (Kay Bess) is a half-horse half-dragon creature full of honor and pride who fights best in the air with fast rushdown moves; and then there's Oleander (Alexa Kahn), who is perhaps the most all-around one of the bunch, a cynical unicorn who relies on dark magic to confuse, trip-up, and beat up opponents with the help of the demon inside her spellbook, whom she calls "Fred" (Keith Ferguson). Such a diverse cast keeps the gameplay vibrant and exciting, and it keeps the characters even more interesting beyond just how they fight.
That is especially important during the game's story mode, the first chapter of which came out earlier this year alongside version 1.0's release; I'll keep this section brief out of interest of spoilers, but I will say that I was very impressed and very entertained by this first impression of this ungulate-world's grand story and I can't wait to experience the rest of it in the coming months.
Whether you're just a casual fan or somebody who lives-and-breathes fighting games, I'd highly recommend you check out Them's Fightin' Herds. It's fast and complex and everything that you could ever want in a My Little Pony-inspired fighter, with beautiful animation, lovable characters and a fascinating world that only gets even more fascinating the more you experience it. I'm certain I will keep playing this title long after the final update drops - if such an update ever drops, that is. Which I highly doubt, anyway - Mane 6 knows they made something great, I don't imagine they'll ever stop making it even greater.
Version 1.0 trailer can be viewed here: