Review of Them’s Fightin’ Herds (Switch)
The hobby, now coined as “bronchitis” – well documented My little pony a fandom that took root in 2010 turned out to be more about inclusivity than the show (Friendship is Magic) myself. Despite our attempts to get into it based on recommendations, we found its adult appeal to be grossly overrated. It acted as a conduit through which people could share and be part of something, and every bronie probably knows deep down that the main attraction is the community associated with it. However, it turned out that this was only the beginning of the next decade of media activities and socio-political initiatives based on a similar set of principles.
Twelve years have passed and the fandom is not yet ready to leave. Them’s Fightin’ Herds is not a licensed product and does not feature any of the characters from the show, but its art style, themes, and performance match his influences so perfectly that it requires close scrutiny to understand that this is not an official Hasbro product. Obviously, the main role here is that Lauren Faust, the creator of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, reproduced the game’s cast of characters, making it completely authentic.
Indie developer Mane6 took the path of fighting games back in 2012 when his unofficial My Little Pony game, Wrestling is magic, was killed on Hasbro’s cease and desist order. With the ghost of the lawsuit now buried, Them’s Fightin’ Herds brings together six playable characters: a reindeer, a unicorn, an alpaca, a cow, a longma, and a sheep. It’s a somewhat anemic initial line-up, and as a result the game is fast-paced in single-player mode, but the depth of moves and the breadth of combat styles on offer provide plenty of options for fighting game fans. For those who are willing to spend more money, four additional fighters are promised in the future DLC.
However, the effort put into its story mode cannot be overstated. As the Arizona Cow, you can navigate through a full, albeit largely linear, 2D RPG world. Here you interact with NPCs and work your way through dungeons, solving simple puzzles and engaging in fights that can level up your character. The action switches to side view in certain sections, and while the game initially teaches you how to use small, medium, and large jumps in combat, the dungeon maps aren’t particularly well designed for platformers, with somewhat fuzzy platform edges. This is a much enhanced story mode compared to other fighting games. Long cutscenes with a lot of dialogue, wit and inimitable design create a completely different game compared to the usual arcade mode. For fans of Hasbro’s horse-themed cartoon, its appeal is obvious. For those who just want a fight, maybe less.
Visually, the game is excellent; it’s clean, bright, colorful, and superbly animated. Lauren Faust’s design is superb, each character is filled with personality and they look great against the Looney Tunes fantasy world of Fenum. Designed in much the same style as My Little Pony, she feels like a real spin-off.
Arcade mode lets you control (pun intended) any of the six main characters with no extra effort. However, practice mode is a recommended first port of call as it allows you to practice a huge array of playable combos, from easy to intermediate to master classes. The breadth and depth of the four-button system really shows the seriousness of the effort. These days, the fighting game format has reached a stage of evolution where building huge combos has become the norm, and this game has it all: technical strikes, air juggling, counterattacks and recovery, and a great combo building exposition. Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a complete fighting game that aims to rival the best Arc System players, and it shows.
The combat system is loose and fast, yet well-defined, allowing for experimentation with its four-button layout. While Street Fighters and Virtua fighters favored by tactical precision and defensive play, the genre evolved into something more exuberant, requiring combo excess and flamboyant theatricality. Using the Z-Engine from Lab Zero (Skullgirls), Them’s Fightin’ Herds action works perfectly. One might assume that there would be comprehension issues with the hitbox when using four-legged characters, but it has been tuned to make connections as reliable, intuitive, and as simple as in more well-known games in this genre.
While the backgrounds aren’t particularly impressive or memorable, the character roster certainly is. Arizona’s cow horns, Pom’s helper pups, Velvet’s Christmas reindeer sorcery, and Shanti’s wall-hugging pirate abilities all work in different ways and can be learned and used for offensive strategies. Some characters also benefit from unique attributes such as double jumps and air dashes. With light, medium, strong, and extra EX attacks, the four-button setup is more than enough with a range of special moves and supers on offer.
It’s not as crazy as Guilty Gear, but its furious combo building is no different in function. It’s more complex than some parts of Street Fighter, and its target audience is definitely out of the story for newbies. At the same time, it is very pleasant to play. There’s a time and place to preload input buttons to keep your connections working, and with a bit of memory work, you’ll soon be able to trigger great, impactful strings,
The game is multifunctional and has extensive customization options – everything is presented in a simple and understandable way. And, of course, it’s a joy to play in both local and online multiplayer, where network code rollback and the ability to tweak your settings succeed where many other veteran developers have failed. It’s rightfully one of the game’s most important assets, and its cross-platform playability makes Them’s Fightin’ Herds a must-have for hardcore fans of the genre.
Their Fightin’ Herds is not an entry-level product, and it’s impressive that an independent developer has created something that takes years for professional teams to master. Soft and fluffy to the touch, this is a solid and polished fighting game that takes practice. It is difficult even at standard difficulty with artificial intelligence that will not fall prey to simple or repetitive procedures. While its story mode is designed for a specific fan base, its wild combo building makes for a great multiplayer experience. Thematically, its appeal may be limited, but there’s no real ceiling to its appeal to fighting game fans. While it would be nice to have a few more pre-made characters and a little more ingenuity in its worldbuilding backgrounds, if you’re here for a pure action fighting game, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.