If you're heavily into any form of entertainment media from Japan (anime, games, graphic novels, and manga), you may have come across the term “doujin” or “doujinshi,” which is defined as a “group of people brought together through a shared interest or hobby.” In Japan's electronic entertainment industry, a doujin is a circle of creatives who come together to self-produce products. Doujins are an important part of Japan's anime, gaming, and manga industry.
In regard to gaming, their works are called “doujin soft” titles.
These doujinshi would grow in popularity so that they would evolve into full-fledged game companies and their products, starting out as doujin soft titles, would grow into major franchises. Even though they started off without having the resources and money that major game companies have, doujins have produced decent titles for the PC until they get a major studio to publish them onto game consoles.
If you're living in or visiting Japan, you can catch the winter and summer Comiket (Comic Market) events.
They constantly fine-tune their titles to make them better, which is why they continuously release updates.
There are doujins that have members who are former employees of major game companies.
A couple of well-known fighting games either began as a doujin soft or were created by a big enough studio that started out as a doujin.
Melty Blood, jointly produced by Type-Moon and French Bread, started out as a doujin soft until Melty Blood Act Cadenza received an arcade port (via Sega with its Naomi software) and a PlayStation 2 port (via Ecole Software). The franchise received more recognition in its latest title, Melty Blood: Type Lumina, which is available on PC and last-gen consoles (including the Nintendo Switch).
Akatsuki EN-Eins, developed by Subtle Style, started out as a doujin soft until its later titles received arcade ports.
French Bread and Ecole Software would work together and develop Under Night In-Birth. Sion Eltnam Atlasia from Melty Blood and Akatsuki from Akatsuki EN-Eins would appear as special guest characters. The two studios also worked together to develop Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax which was published by Sega on the PlayStation 3 and Vita consoles.
Akatsuki and the cast from Under Night In-Birth would later appear in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle.
There are many titles that remain doujin softs and perhaps they'll get picked up by a big enough publisher, then receive a console port. You can enjoy some of these doujin soft fighting games if you have a PC.
Big Bang Beat:
If you enjoyed school-themed titles like Rival Schools: United by Fate and Project Justice (the sequel to Rival Schools), check out the 2D fighter Big Bang Beat which is adapted from the doujin soft RPG titled Big Bang Age. The story of Big Bang Beat is the same as Big Bang Age in which a “Hell Hole” erupts in the middle of Japan.
Like in the 2.5D fighter Primal Rage (where Earth got reformed into Urth), the arrival of the Hell Hole bent Japan's landscape so that it's no longer recognizable. The arrival of the Hell Hole sparks the appearance of unique things called “B-crystals” in which a select few who got exposed, generally the school-aged generation (think Neon Genesis Evangelion), are granted special powers, and they are classified as “Special Students.”
Japan fell into chaos and disarray before being isolated from the rest of the world.
A group of Special Students banded and formed the “Student Union” to bring peace and order back to the country and now one transfer student, Rouga Zanma, wants to fight his way to the top, and take control of Japan. The “might is right” and “strength rules all” paradigms play a crucial part in the story.
Compared to Big Bang Age, BBB has a smaller roster of available characters. It could get bigger if the developers decide to work on the game more and/or some major company offers to publish the title on the game consoles.
Unlike Big Bang Age, BBB allows you to play as Erika Miyazato (added to the updated version) and the sisterly duo of Kendo & Kyudo. In the original RPG, you cannot recruit Erika if you already recruited Kendo & Kyudo and vice-versa.
Unlike Rival Schools, BBB is not a tongue-in-cheek fighting game, it's a cross between Capcom's Street Fighter and Arc System Works' Guilty Gear.
If you have MUGEN installed on your system, you can add the BBB characters to your roster. It is also important to note that there are no “Shotoclones.”
Hinokakera is a 2.5D fighting game title, like Capcom's Rival Schools and Star Gladiator series, that was released in 2003 on the PC. Like Big Bang Beat (which takes place in post-apocalyptic Japan), Hinokakera takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. The world is in shambles as ninety-nine percent of the human population has died out leaving only a handful to participate in the “Demon Sealing Wars.”
There are special humans who are granted special powers that the rest of the living populace consider to be “demon-like.” That means you're persecuted as being a “demon” and hunted down by the rest of humankind.
Thus you have a fighting game in which religious persecution plays a central role in the story.
Like any doujin soft title, Hinokakera underwent a couple of updates that included additions to the playable roster.
Playing Hinokakera is like playing Guilty Gear, Melty Blood, and Fate/Unlimited Codes.
Visually, the graphics are on par with a PlayStation 2 fighting game.
The current version of the game has 13 playable characters.
Nettou Jakuniku Gakuen
Nettou Jakuniku Gakuen is a quirky 2D fighting game that seemingly uses 3D cel-shaded sprites as you would see in Arc System Works' latest fighting games (Dragon Ball Fighter Z, Guilty Gear Strive, Granblue Fantasy, and DnF Duel). It's like a quirky and comical cross between Street Fighter Alpha and Rival Schools: United by Fate.
There's a slight feel of Rival Schools in this game because some of the characters are dressed like high school students. One of them, like Shoma Sawamura from Rival Schools, wears a baseball uniform and fights with baseball moves.
One character who got my attention was “Kamen Boxer,” a fighter who's dressed like a boxer, but he wears an eye mask while wearing protective headgear. His background stage is just as wacky and it seems to be a fight gym for tokusatsu-themed heroes and villains.
Though the game mechanics could be improved, Nettou Jakuniku Gakuen is an entertaining title.
Type-Moon's Tsukihime franchise (which includes Melty Blood) has gone a long way since its doujin soft roots. The first installment of the franchise was released in 2002 in Japan on the PC. Its expansion, titled Melty Blood Re-ACT, in 2005 in Japan on the PC.
The story serves as a non-canonical tie-in to the main story of Tsukihime.
A series of murders have taken place in Misaki Town, the setting for Tsukihime, and Shiki Tohno (the main hero of the franchise) crosses paths with a mage named Sion Eltnam Atlasia.
You can still download the early versions of Melty Blood for the PC.
Its third installment, Melty Blood Cadenza, would be the first also to receive an arcade and PlayStation 2 port.
The fourth installment, Melty Blood Actress Again, is an arcade and PlayStation 2 port.
Its final expansion, Melty Blood AA Current Code, would receive an arcade and PC port. In 2016, five years after the game was released in Japan on the PC, MBAACC would be made available worldwide, making it the first title in the franchise to be available outside Japan.
French Bread would receive assistance (from Type-Moon and Aniplex) to develop the latest installment of the franchise, MB: Type Lumina, which Delightworks published for the PC and consoles. It is the first and only title in the franchise to be available on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Melty Blood goes against the proverbial grain as there are no Shotoclones present.
Sion has grown to be popular ever since she was introduced and was chosen as a special guest character for Under Night In-Birth.
If you have MUGEN installed, you can add Melty Blood characters to your roster.
Doujin soft titles are examples that dedicated fans are what keep the franchises strong and help them survive through the years. The creation of doujin soft titles is beneficial to the companies that own the rights to those beloved franchises. The major game companies also keep an eye on current and future works from those same doujinshis because of the talent they could recruit.
On the flip side, industry veterans form their own or join existing doujinshis.
Will every doujin soft fighting game receive a console port? Probably not.
Until then, enjoy these titles from the comfort of your PC. There are just four titles from the larger number of doujin soft titles in existence.