Stay on target Review: ‘Fantasy Strike’ Is A Fighting Game That Understands…Game of the Year: Jordan Minor’s Best Video Games of 2018 For too long the definition of “Game of the Year” has been unfairly narrow. How boring is it to see every website shower the same stale AAA games with praise at the end of each holiday season? So at Geek.com, we’re doing what we can to put a stop to this in Game of the Year, a new column celebrating worthy alternative picks for the year’s greatest game regardless of genre, platform, year of release, or even quality. Here, any game can be Game of the Year!Fighting games have given us amazing original characters like famous karatemen Ryu, Scorpion, and Heihachi Mishima. But my favorite fighting games will always be crossovers starring characters from other properties, games like Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros., DC’s Injustice, and Marvel vs. Capcom. It’s the purest way of acting out the fantasy of “Who would win in a fight” between childhood heroes like Superman and the dog from Duck Hunt.But you know what else is great for fans of cartoonish conflicts? The world of rap beef. Def Jam: Icon, this week’s game of the year, combines the two in a fighting game starring the rappers of recording label Def Jam.Def Jam: Icon is the first and last game in the Def Jam game series released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Previous Def Jam games developed by AKI were more wrestling-flavored, but this EA Chicago joint feels much closer to a traditional 3D fighting game.But what isn’t traditional is Def Jam: Icon’s glorious roster of rappers who were already perhaps a bit past their prime when the game launched in 2007. Ever wanted to see Ghostface Killah fight E-40? How about a brawl between T.I. and Lil Jon? This game even lets us imagine the tragedy that would be a brother-against-brother showdown between Method Man and Redman. There are 28 characters in total. Meanwhile, the single-player mode lets you create your own mogul and play out a plot of typical music industry drama and paranoid government conspiracies. There are even gameplay systems for signing new artists and using their success to improve your fighting skills.Compared to previous fighting games with real-life hip-hop characters like Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style or MTV Celebrity Deathmatch, Def Jam: Icon only needs to be competent to be the best in its subgenre. And truthfully, the game isn’t really that fantastic. Previous Def Jam games are arguably better. But the game does mesh rap beats and rapper beatdowns in cool ways worth revisiting.Instead of maining a specific character with a specific moveset, players choose between different fighting styles like Ghetto Blaster, Muay Fly, and Black Panther. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to striking, countering, and throwing. Drawing upon their Fight Night boxing game pedigree, the developers at EA Chicago also focused on analog punches and in-game visual cues rather than health bars to denote a character’s waning stamina.Being a game about musicians, music also plays a key role in Def Jam: Icon’s combat. Players can manipulate their environment like a DJ hero to gain an advantage. “Scratching” triggers different environmental hazards in stages like night clubs, subways, and Atlanta streets. Stages also change depending on the beat of a song, so paying attention to the rhythm can save you from a nasty trap or power up your own attack. Successfully switching songs awards bonuses, and characters naturally perform better when their own (uncensored) song is playing. You can even add your own soundtrack thanks to built-in beat detection.Despite the killer hook that is “Rappers: The Fighting Game,” Def Jam: Icon received a mixed reception. The only other Def Jam game afterward was the karaoke title Def Jam Rapstar released in 2010. EA Chicago was later shut down while in the middle of making a Marvel fighting game.Def Jam may be dead as a gaming brand, but I still think there is massive untapped potential in the hip-hop fighting game idea. Imagine a new hip-hop fighting game in the era of Twitter and Vine and Worldstar and Obama? Imagine taking command of Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar and Drake and Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z and Beyonce and Chance and Killer Mike? That’d be the hypest EVO tournament ever! Imagine squaring off against Satan himself, Suge Knight, for the final, unwinnable boss fight at the Grammys? Some modders already have the right idea. But until then, we’ll just to settle for Def Jam: Icon, the game of the year, and wonder what could’ve been and what could still be.Check back next week to read about the next Game of the Year!