In the third year of the pandemic, I hit upon, quite arguably, the greatest idea I’ve had in my life: a fantasy fighting league made up of your favorite 90s/00s pop bands. I’m not talking about a DDR-style or rhythm game that involves matching beats – I’m talking about a Blaseball-style league where you can draft t.A.t.U. to beat the living heck out of prime-era PJ and Duncan with power combos-based music video choreography. No, really, think about it, then think about it some more.
If you’ve watched enough S Club 7 videos – freeze-frame any of the group choreography segments and tell me that Tina’s movements aren’t a great analogue for Talim from Soulcalibur, or that Jo wouldn’t look incredible upside-down in a Voldo suit. Each band would come ready with a signature set of moves and gear per their music videos – East-17, for instance, would have an absurdly emo set involving power stances and a lot of proto-tutting handwork. Dance, especially choreographed group dance, is an art brimming with kinetic power and a sense of conflict (hello, very serious dance-fighting) – the manufactured boy/girl bands of our youth have committed more blood, sweat and tears to this endeavour than most of us ever will.
This would be a full-fledged league with seasons, similar to Blaseball where you have to pick your groups at the start of each season and consider how to invest in your fighters. The beauty of the league lies in group dynamics – no 1v1 matches. Think of the seamless team dynamics of Marvel vs. Capcom gameplay where you’d have 5ive face off against the original Take That lineup when Robbie was still in the band; switching off early 00s breakdancing against Howard Donald and Jason Orange would be a difficult sight for geriatric eyes. Imagine a match where M2M fought and wiped the floor with Jedward before going on to face t.A.T.u. at the pinnacle of their career.
Of course, each season would be themed, with several devoted to these groups’ American counterparts – you can’t deny the pain-pleasure of translating the Backstreet Boys’ greatest video into combat or the thought of New Kids on The Block getting incredibly, satisfyingly violent. One season would cover the fledgling proto-boyband days – even maybe genre veterans Bros, whose videos seethed with smooth moves and larger-than-life style – like Ultimate KAOS, one of Simon Cowell’s first projects. Cowell, by the way, got his start in the entertainment industry making novelty music with the Power Rangers and WWF (now WWE).
Given all the violence and carnage and liability issues in using real bands in a fighting game, this would have to be strictly a fantasy league setting. It would also be heinously overdone as a “real” game – far better for something of this power to exist on the fringes of the imagination than to have it manifest in flesh and bone. Dig deep into your memories, elder millennials, and tell me I’m wrong.