Archive for the 'Video Games' Category

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Growing up with Metal Gear Solid

June 18th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I remember being a kid and tripping over ads for the Ultra Games Metal Gear, the one with Snake’s whole inventory on a white background? I never played the game as a kid, not to my memory, but I saw that ad on dozens of comics, which means I saw it thousands of times as a kid. It caught my imagination. In Mario you had a fire flower, a tanooki suit, and a cape. But this guy had all types of weapons and gear, like a video game Rambo.

Nowadays, when I want to play a game, I just play it. I download it or trek to Best Buy or buy it on Amazon. It’s nearly instant gratification at this point, limited only by my bandwidth at home. But as a kid? I couldn’t talk my mom into buying anything, especially not if it was about something violent. Star Fox was one thing, but Mortal Kombat? Nah, son. Too realistic.

So I spent a lot of time thinking about video games. I pored over game magazines when I could get them. I still remember having an EGM with a big blow-out on a Samurai Shodown and some info on how to make Mai Shiranui’s boobs bounce in King of Fighters. I read it ’til it came apart, and then I kept reading it because it was the only way I’d experience KoF until years later when I got a Dreamcast.

Metal Gear came out a little early for me to be able to read about it, so the ad had to be enough. I don’t know what I thought the game was like. All I knew was that I wanted to play it because it sounded amazing.

I didn’t play a Metal Gear until Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation. I decimated my SNES collection to get a chance to buy a PlayStation for cheaper from Funcoland or Toys-r-Us or somewhere, and I survived on Madden, Suikoden II, whatever Working Designs put out, Colony Wars, a bunch of demo discs, and Final Fantasy VII for ages.

But MGS tho. I don’t remember what made me go for it, but I assume I saw news of it in the mags and then found a demo somewhere and then wheedled my way into the full disc.

It’s hard to under-sell how I felt experiencing the thing that begins to happen around 7:15 into this clip:

It looks like garbage now, all low-resolution textures and chunky polygons, but there’s a difference between watching it and playing it. In this moment, you were Snake, and that moment when your controller starts vibrating…it captured me. It got me. I loved FF7 but they didn’t ever talk and the game looked like a cartoon. MGS was next-level, ultra-realistic and grim but still incredibly fun and well-designed. Video games weren’t even really using force feedback yet, it was still new. But MGS gave me extensive, high-quality voice acting and scripted sequences, in addition to using the controller itself as a storytelling device, among other features. It was mind-blowing. MGS was the future. Static-y “Horryoukid” vocal clips were dead and gone. It raised the bar.

I’d experienced nothing like it at the time, and MGS is my favorite franchise to this day. I bought a PS3 of my own for MGS4, and beating that game gave me a feeling that hadn’t been beaten since the first time I beat Ninja Gaiden Black. It felt like an accomplishment, instead of something I did at 1 in the morning on a work night.

I can’t claim twenty-seven years of fandom. I was busy being a toddler in 1987. But MGS has been with me since 1998. I started playing it before I really knew what a pacifist or fascist really was, and as I’ve grown, I’ve found a wide variety of things to appreciate. Kojima has his hooks in me, and even though I’m mostly not into most games nowadays, I’m finding that I’m always up for Metal Gear. Nobody does it better.

Here’s what Metal Gear Solid looks like now:

La-li-lu-le-lo, forever and ever. Amen.

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Style, Substance, and Killer Is Dead

September 6th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

This is the first stage of Killer Is Dead, the new game directed by Hideyuki Shin, art direction by Takashi Kasahara, music direction by Akira Yamaoka, with story and executive production by Suda51. It’s called “Episode 1: The Man who Chose the Moon.” The video is about five minutes long.

I made a joke with a friend the other day about how if someone tried to create a Dogme 95-style movement for video games, their list of rules would essentially describe Suda51 games. Lollipop Chainsaw, No More Heroes, Killer Is Dead, all of these are basically the same game, gameplay-wise. One button to hit, one button to guard crush or secondary attack, another button to dodge/counter, and an optional jump button. Vaguely or explicitly annoying minigames. Gameplay that’s just good enough to be rewarding to a certain type of person, but not good enough to be A-list. I think of Suda51 as a dude who is really interested in making sure that the children of today still get to play Dreamcast games, and I appreciate that. All of his games are a solid B, maybe B+, but in terms of being interesting, in terms of being art, in terms of being experiences, Suda51′s games are A+ across the board. Shadows of the Damned and Black Knight Sword break the gameplay pattern, the latter being a throwback to a different genre than the other games and the former being more of a shooter than action/adventure game, but they’re both similarly obtuse and difficult, in terms of skill or patience.

“The Man who Chose the Moon” was my real introduction to Killer Is Dead. I watched a debut trailer, I think in Japanese, but I avoided any info on the game up until the day it came out and I decided to buy it. “The Man who Chose the Moon” is part-tutorial, part-cinema, and the blending of the two is what made it such a lightning strike for me. The only thing you do is walk forward, watch a cinema, and then press a button.

But what got me, what made me realize I was going to see the game through instead of getting bored as quickly as I usually do these days, was the moment you had to press and hold R1. Mondo Zappa, the main character, raises his sword, the screen changes, a voice says “Killer is dead,” and then you’re told to release R1, at which point the sword comes down and Tokio’s head comes off.

There was something about that moment, about a quicktime event being used in this fashion, as opposed to the normally annoying way they’re deployed now. (Do this on short notice, or repeat this section forever!) It felt cinematic and interesting in a way most QTEs don’t. It feels stylish. It blends story and gameplay into one thing, putting you directly into Mondo Zappa’s shoes.

Style is substance. I tend to think of substance as deep gameplay or a rewarding story, something along those lines. Something that takes time to digest, the concrete and quantifiable aspects of video game production. The Last of Us, for example, excelled at substance, even in the multiplayer. I like substance because it feels like I’m getting my money’s worth. Games are expensive, and if I’m dropping sixty on a disc or download, I need to be wowed. The most direct method is substance, but style’s just as good.

Style is harder to quantify. It’s not just visual style, or audio direction, or gameplay. It’s Mondo Zappa murdering people to finance sexual encounters, a grown man having a catchphrase, gameplay that continues to refine a blueprint established forever ago. Style is the aggregate of everything.

Killer Is Dead has style in spades, and the substance derives from that.

Further Reading:
I like this look at Killer Is Dead through the lens of Sigmund Freud’s pleasure principle and death drive concepts. It’s deeper than I went, but having played through the game a couple of times, it feels right.

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Salty Bet: One Gigantic Waste of Time… and I Love It

August 17th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

So now that I have a new writing job, you’d think that I’d dedicate more of my time strictly to writing. You’d be right, but yet these days I’m finding my attention being dragged away by something incredibly stupid that can’t help but captivate me.

It’s the phenomenon that’s sweeping the internet. I bring you, Salty Bet!

So what is Salty Bet? Salty Bet is a 24/7 site that streams MUGEN matches and allows its users to bet fake money. The odds and payout are calculated based on how much people have collectively bet on which character.

I think I might be getting a little ahead of myself. First I should explain MUGEN. MUGEN is a program that’s been around since 1999 that lets you custom make your own fighting games. You get to put together your own roster of characters from Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat and really anywhere. Like I said, it’s completely custom. You can have anyone from Rolento from Street Fighter Alpha 3 to a terrible series of MS Paint frames turned into something halfway playable. Programmers from all over made thousands of characters of varying quality.

I paid a good amount of attention to MUGEN back in the early 00′s. What I found was that a lot of the enthusiasts and detractors both took it way too seriously most of the time. This was during the time when fighting games were still 2D and easy to rip onto your computer, so there were a lot of faithful depictions of mainstream fighters. I’ve seen people looked down upon for basically having fun with MUGEN. Like, say, making a version of Sagat with two eyes and crazy attacks that he never had. Or maybe Ken with angel wings.

Things got looser as the years progressed, mainly because MUGENgineers had to find new ground. 2D fighters were dying out and they were running out of characters to rip. I stopped paying attention for a while, but I always saw some kind of “Marvel vs. DC” or “Marvel Superheroes 2″ type project. As a whole, more people tried to make either original characters based on preexisting sprites, upgraded characters or flat-out new guys. And it’s awesome.

Detractors of MUGEN mainly point out that the whole thing is pretty worthless because it’s the most unbalanced garbage in the fighting game universe. And they’re right! But that was never what MUGEN was about to me. I think I actually played MUGEN once. The rest of the time, I played around in CPU vs. CPU mode. I mean, what’s the point of having Sub-Zero and Ryu in the same game if you can’t just sit back and watch them duke it out?

That’s what Salty Bet is all about. Just showing random AI-based exhibitions isn’t really enough, even with the people in the chat going nuts over it. Salty Bets includes the ability to bet fake money. You start off with $400 and you can bet however much on each match. Based on the bets, the odds and potential payouts are tabulated and the fights begin. Sometimes it’ll be obvious. If one character has over a million salty bucks gambled on them while the other has maybe ten thousand, it’s going to be a slaughter. Like clockwork, one of the people who bet on the underdog will announce in the chat, “I have made a terrible mistake!”

They also say a bunch of sexist shit, but we don’t have to talk about that right now.

If you bet away all your money, luckily there’s a bailout system that doesn’t let you go under a certain amount. I heard it was $10, but these days I’m finding myself at $28 an awful lot. They also refer to this place as the “salt mines”. If you donate money to Salty Bet, you’ll always have a minimum of $666 and can go all-in on your heart’s content.

So how do you know who to bet on? It can be hard. Sometimes you might see two guys from the same game who aren’t even comparable. One will dominate while the other just stands around and gets killed. It’s a pile of different things to take in mind, such as move set, speed, hit points, hit box, damage and AI. For instance, Takuma Sakazaki from the latest King of Fighters game looks really well-animated and all, but he will just stand around and punch every now and then when he isn’t getting his ass handed to him.

There’s also an influx of Dragonball Z characters. Those guys are a crapshoot. They’re mostly very small, which gives them a tiny hit box. In other words, if their opponent keeps punching most of the time, they aren’t going to land most of their attacks. The DBZ folks also tend to have super attacks where not only do they shoot laser beams, but they kill their opponents in one hit. The drawback is that the AI in these guys are usually terrible, so even if they have three bars, they’ll still just take a beating and abstain from trying to go for the easy win.

It’s also important not to listen to the advice of the chat. They might be telling you that Kabal is “real”, but they’re just trying to convince you to bet everything on him. That in turn increases their winnings when Kabal turns out to be totally shitty and eats it in five seconds.

Watching Salty Bet can be a fun showcase of the original/edited characters, especially in the superhero sense. I’ve seen Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, Black Adam, the Atom, Plastic Man, Flash, Jean Grey, Mongul, Mr. Fantastic, Darkseid, Thanoseid, Astonishing-style Cyclops, Iron Lantern, Wonder Woman, Thor, Carnage, Scream, Agony, Sandman, Kitty Pryde and Mole Man. Some of them are really expertly done (ESPECIALLY Sandman). There’s also an Ash from Evil Dead who pops up a lot and some really cool Mega Man characters redrawn from the Mega Man from Marvel vs. Capcom.

It will eat up your hours if you let it, but just remember one piece of advice: NEVER bet against Rare Akuma, Ronald McDonald or Silversamurai. Betting against Silver Samurai is fine, though.

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: DLC Appendix 6

August 7th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Zatanna was announced as the next Injustice: Gods Among Us DLC character, so you know what that means.

ZATANNA ZATARA

Alias: No, that’s her actual name!
First Appearance: Hawkman #4 (1964)
Powers: Skilled in all sorts of magic
Other Media: Appeared on all sorts of cartoons, Smallville

Zatanna is one of the earliest legacy characters in comic books. Her father Giovanni Zatara was a crime-fighting magician who appeared all the way back in Action Comics #1 (the comic that debuted Superman). Zatanna lived as a stage magician and illusionist for years, leaving it to search the world for her lost father. Over the course of her journey, she discovered that she was a special kind of human called “homo magi” that made her able to control magic. No longer would she rely on sleight of hand. She was the real deal. Like her father before her, she is able to project spells by speaking backwards. When her ability to speak is removed, she’s still able to project her spells by writing them out in her own blood.

Her search for her father took place over the course of various comic titles, culminating in the Justice League helping her. She worked with the League a handful of times before becoming a full-fledged member. During the 80′s, she got rid of her more memorable fishnets and top hat look for something incredibly generic and had some romantic tension with Barry Allen Flash (he was a widower at the time). She left in the middle of the ill-fated Justice League Detroit era.

For a while, Zatanna would usually team up with fellow magic user John Constantine, who she had an on-again-off-again relationship. She also had something going with Doctor Thirteen, a detective known for being the last skeptic in the DC Universe. What I mean is that he believes that everything from magic to Superman sightings is smoke and mirrors and ravings of lunatics. His daughter Traci doesn’t have the nerve to tell him that she too has magical powers.

The retcon introduced in Identity Crisis brought Zatanna back into the forefront. Years ago in the Justice League, the team found supervillain Dr. Light raping Elongated Man’s wife Sue. As voted by the League, Zatanna mindwiped Dr. Light and made it so that not only could he not remember the act, but she rewired his head so that he wouldn’t do it again, forcing him into the role of an inept comedy villain. Then she mindwiped Batman because he saw what she did. Then she mindwiped Catwoman to be nicer as a way to make Batman feel better. Then she mindwiped Flash villain the Top into being good, who in turn also mindwiped other Flash villains into doing the same. All of that exploded in her face over time.

This led to a sweet-ass story by Grant Morrison called Seven Soldiers of Victory. It was 30 issues where the first and last were bookends and the other issues were split into 4-issue miniseries about seven different characters. The characters included the C-listers (Zatanna and Mr. Miracle) as well as the reimagined (Frankenstein, Guardian, Klarion the Witch Boy, Bulleteer and Shining Knight). The seven different miniseries would show the different characters fighting different aspects of the same major threat while never crossing paths until the end. All of them intertwined in really cool ways.

In Zatanna’s story, she dealt with her problems with using magic too much for her own ends, including the mindwipe episodes. She ended up fighting against Zor, an evil magician who was meant to represent both writer Alan Moore and the idea of a comic book writer (or “Time Tailor”) going out of his way to shit up a superhero’s life because darker = better. This made thematic sense as years earlier in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing series, he proceeded to kill off Zatanna’s father and end the Zatanna/Constantine relationship in one fell swoop.

Against Zor, Zatanna was able to break through reality and reach out through the panels and towards the reader, wishing for forgiveness for all the bad things she’s done. In a nice touch, she said she could feel thousands of pairs of eyes looking at her all at different times. The other Time Tailors (the other DC writers) saved her by removing Zor from the equation and allowed her a brief reunion with her late father. During the story’s big finale, Zatanna magically set all the players into the correct positions by shouting, “!EKIRTS SREIDLOS NEVES”

What I mean to say is that Grant Morrison’s writing is fucking weird, but also fucking awesome.

Seven Soldiers also gave us the Frankenstein Monster as a grim, sword-swinging slayer of all that is wicked who works for a secret government organization and OH MY GOD WHY AM I THE ONLY PERSON ON THIS EARTH WHO IS RALLYING FOR FRANKENSTEIN AS A DOWNLOADABLE CHARACTER FOR INJUSTICE WHAT THE FUCK?!

Anyway. Zatanna has remained a bit of a supporting character in the DC Universe since then, briefly being a member of the Justice League again and having a bit of a fling with Batman at one point. She had her own ongoing series that didn’t last long, mainly because it’s really, really hard to get behind a magic-based superhero. I mean, Superman has to actually punch a villain, easy as it is. It’s hard to write a story where a magic-user doesn’t just snap his or her fingers and wish the bad guy away.

That series was written by one Paul Dini and I suppose I should talk about him. Paul Dini is known for being one of the big wheels in the creation of Batman: The Animated Series and all of its spinoffs. Dini is also known for being a little TOO into Zatanna. Just off the top of my head:

- Did a Zatanna-centered episode of Batman despite her not really having much to do with him in the comics. Not that that’s really a problem in itself, but he later went on to force a romantic relationship between the two when he was writing Detective Comics, going so far as to retcon in a childhood friendship. This was kind of weird because the main Batman book was playing up Bruce Wayne’s relationship with then-girlfriend Jezebel Jet as being seriously serious.

- Before Zatanna had made a single appearance anywhere outside of comics, Paul Dini wrote an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures where recurring character Batduck was invited to join the Just Us League. This included an appearance of Fifi the Skunk as Scentanna, whose sole screen time was dedicated to having Hampton bust a pig nut over how hot she is.

- Dini married a Zatanna lookalike who is also a stage magician. Artist Alex Ross began using her as a model for whenever he’d include Zatanna in his realistic-looking comics.

Since New 52, Zatanna has appeared as a member of Justice League Dark, an offshoot team of magic users who take on mystical threats that the regular Justice League are ill-equipped to face themselves. The team includes the likes of John Constantine, Dead Man, Shade the Changing Man and FRANKENSTEIN WHO SHOULD BE IN INJUSTICE I SWEAR TO GOD GOD DAMN IT!

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: DLC Appendix 5

July 16th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Evo 2013 has come and gone and while the bland Injustice: Gods Among Us tournament showcase probably poisoned the well for the game getting another high-profile appearance next year, it did at least show off a new trailer for Injustice DLC. Not only is John Stewart an available alternate skin for Green Lantern (Phil LaMarr voice acting included), but they’ve announced the first of the second set of DLC characters in Martian Manhunter.

So let’s take a look at the history of everyone’s second-favorite cookie monster.

MARTIAN MANHUNTER

Alias: J’onn J’onzz, John Jones, Fernus the Burning, Bloodwynd, Bronze Wraith and dozens of others
First Appearance: Detective Comics #225 (1955)
Powers: Super strength, speed, shape-shifting, telepathy, invisibility, laser vision, flight, intangibility
Other Media: Was a big player in the Justice League cartoon, showed up on some of the different Batman cartoons and starred in the terrible live-action Justice League pilot/movie.

Years ago, Patton Oswalt wrote a graphic novel called JLA: Welcome to the Working Week, where the main character – existing as Oswalt’s mouthpiece – referred to Martian Manhunter as the Bob Dylan to Superman’s Elvis Presley. When you’re a kid, you love the optimistic spitcurl, but when you get older, you start to appreciate the more serious giant brow. Martian Manhunter is a great foil for Superman, mainly different in that he was an adult when he made his exodus from his dying planet and that affects him differently.

The original origin was that J’onn J’onnz, a Martian lawman, was accidentally transported to Earth thanks to an experiment by Dr. Erdel. While Erdel would have been able to send him back, the shock of seeing this Martian caused him to have a heart attack and die. In the original continuity, Mars was still populated, so J’onn was driven by his quest to return. Back then, the idea of shipping a guy to Mars, even in a superhero world, was considered rather difficult. How novel.

J’onn used his shape-shifting abilities to take the identity of John Jones (get it?) and became a detective who would use his powers to give him the edge. His appearance as Martian Manhunter was meant to be a middle-ground version between Martian and human, being the best of both worlds. He joined the Justice League, used mainly as a stand-in for when the publishers felt Superman was being used way too much. For decades, J’onn was considered to be THE staple member of the Justice League. He appeared in nearly every incarnation of the team, which offset how little juice he had in carrying his own solo series, no matter how many times they tried.

Eventually, J’onn was reunited with his people and went on to rule Mars. He was written out of comics for a while until being brought back into the Justice League fold. I seem to remember that he had to save Earth from his own people in the final adventure of the classic “Satellite-Era Justice League” (ie. the original version of the team that started in the 60′s and ended in the 80′s). There was a part where he challenged another Martian to a fight and while the narrative strictly said that they were both invisible during this fight, the artist drew them like normal anyway.

Things got pretty dark for Martian Manhunter around this time. He was on the outs with his race. He joined the infamously bad Justice League Detroit (otherwise known as Aquaman leading a team of angsty teenagers) and ended up becoming the leader towards the end, only to have a couple of the kids tragically die on his watch. Then after Crisis on Infinite Earths changed continuity, it also reshaped J’onn’s origin. J’onn’s insane brother unleashed a plague upon Mars that wiped out everyone but J’onn himself. Not only did Dr. Erdel’s machine pull him from space, but also from time. The destruction of Mars was thousands of years ago. Like Superman, he was the last of his kind… until they brought in guys who were also Martians down the line.

It picked up for J’onn, though. He had a big role in Justice League International, known for being the fun and funny era. He mainly played the straight man to jokey characters Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. Thanks to Captain Marvel, he was also turned onto Oreo cookies (later renamed Chocos due to trademark) and became addicted. He also led his own Justice League side-team called Justice League: Task Force and nothing of note came from that other than the time he temporarily turned himself female.

Every now and then, J’onn and the Justice League would have to face the White Martians, a genetic offshoot who were more dedicated to war while the Green Martians were more peaceful. The most famous of these battles was the beginning of Grant Morrison’s Justice League run where a team of superheroes came to Earth to create a utopia while antagonizing the Justice League. Batman figured out that they were White Martians in disguise and easily defeated them thanks to their weakness of fire.

Fire is something all Martians fear, though it’s shown to be more of a psychological weakness than physiological. In other words, fire only hurts J’onn because he lets it. He briefly got together with a reformed fire-based villain named Scorch, who helped him get over his fear of fire. This turned out disastrous. We found out that eons ago, when the Martians were still primitive life forms, they were both bloodthirsty and virtually unstoppable. The Guardians of the Universe (Green Lantern’s bosses) were concerned with what this would mean if the Martians could evolve to figure out space flight. They intervened and subdued the entire race, injecting them all with a fear of fire as a way to keep them all in check.

No longer bound by this gigantic weakness, J’onn became corrupted by this savage, forgotten piece of his bloodline. He became a beast known as Fernus the Burning and showed that he was really the most powerful member of the League all along, as even Superman was helpless against him. Turned out Batman had a solution to this situation as well by siccing Plastic Man on him. Plastic Man’s immune to mind control and has a better grasp on shapeshifting, so he was able to help take down the mad Martian. J’onn and Fernus were separated from each other as two different identities in the end.

Nothing much happened with J’onn for a while. After Infinite Crisis, he got a new look that looked closer to his pure Martian form, mainly due to his pessimism towards humanity. This was for his new solo series which once again sold like shit and was canceled. J’onn was killed by Libra and the Secret Society of Supervillains in the story Final Crisis. Sweetly enough, Batman visited J’onn’s tomb and left a single Choco cookie.

J’onn returned from the grave during Blackest Night as one of the more unbeatable walking corpses. At the end of the story, he was one of the dozen characters fully resurrected. J’onn then starred in the series Brightest Day, where he was able to make Mars fertile again and ended up clashing with an insane Green Martian D’kay. J’onn had to kill D’kay and destroy the budding life on Mars, showing that in the end, Earth was his only true home.

With the New 52 reboot, J’onn had never joined the Justice League in the past but instead was part of Stormwatch, a cloak and dagger superhero organization. There, J’onn fought against evil from the shadows, but eventually left the team and removed all their memories of him being there in the first place. Since then, Martian Manhunter has been brought into the Justice League of America, the US government’s personal team meant to counter the regular Justice League if they ever get out of line. Martian Manhunter is there to deal with Superman.

Probably the saddest depiction of J’onn is in Kingdom Come, the dystopian future storyline. In order to give Superman vs. Captain Marvel more gravitas, J’onn had to be taken off the table. He appeared in one scene to aid Batman, depicted as a gibbering and mentally broken John Jones who could barely function after trying to open his mind to all of humanity. Poor guy.

One of the better Martian Manhunter stories is New Frontier, which exists as both a wonderful graphic novel and a pretty good animated film. When showing off his hybrid superhero appearance to a human friend, he was flatly told, “Real men wear pants.” And that’s a fair point because, really, what the hell is that outfit?

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The Top 200 Fighting Game Endings: Part Ten

July 2nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

20) Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – BOB RICHARDS/SLIM BOB
2012

Bob rules. With a design that’s Ken Masters meets Sammo Hung, his confidence comes from his massive size. Despite only three game appearances to his name, Bob’s been all sorts of things. Top US martial artist, celebrity, suave ladies man, bounty hunter and superhero. At least, that’s what he is in his Tekken Tag 2 ending.

The art style here is beautiful, taking the form of stylized motion comics with a little more movement mixed in. Bob sees some kids being picked on by a gang of punks. He shows up on the scene in a yellow superhero costume, introducing his battle cry, “SPEED AND… WEIGHT!” The punks aren’t impressed and think he’s supposed to be a road sign. They tell him to be like a good road sign and go stand in traffic. Bob doesn’t take their advice.

The kids cheer him on and join in with his battle cry. Then he sees a woman falling off a ledge on a nearby building. Bob tries to figure out how to get to her and sees a man putting bungee cords into a van. Bob steals those bungees and uses them to propel himself into the air, catch the woman and cause massive shockwaves in the ground upon landing, all while yelling, “SPEED AND… WEIGHT!” There’s an awesome shot of one of the kids he rescued excitedly high fiving the bungee van driver. An entire crowd gathers to cheer him on.

The next day, Bob is disappointed when he sees the headlines.

Bob has a similar ending in the form of Slim Bob. See, Bob is like the anti-Elvis Presley. He takes pride in his girth, but in his Tekken 6 ending, the success led to him letting himself go and becoming thin and handsome, much to his horror. That version of him became playable in Tekken Tag 2 and in his ending, he wears a red version of the superhero outfit. Unfortunately, it’s many sizes too big and he has to keep the pants from falling down. He rescues an old man in a subway from the same muggers, only this time they refer to him as “Sci-Fi Santa Claus.” Slim Bob takes them out, but feels weaker compared to his true, blubbery self.

Then he sees that the same woman from the other ending is on the train tracks, screaming for help. He picks her up, throws her off the track and then lays on the track just as a train goes over him. He’s fine, but is horrified when the woman hands him his accidentally-discarded mask. She calls him her hero and kisses him with an entire cheering crowd around them, but we later see that despite everything, Bob is still depressed over his slim frame.

19) Mortal Kombat 4 – JAX
1997

God bless the terrible Mortal Kombat 4 endings. After figuring that text was the way of the dinosaurs, Midway decided that their first 3D Mortal Kombat game needed cutscene endings. While the Playstation version had full motion video, the arcade and Nintendo 64 versions had to rely on the in-game graphics to tell the stories. Stories filled with jerky animation, horrible dialogue and even worse voice acting. They’re magnificent.

Jax easily has the best, especially since it’s an extension of Jarek’s ending, which is sort of an extension of Sonya’s ending. Sonya confronts Jarek on a completely generic-looking plain of grass about how now that Shinnok is defeated, Jarek is going to be taken into custody. Jarek advances on Sonya, saying that he agreed to help them during this crisis, but he’ll never turn himself in. “THE BLACK DRAGON LIVE ON!”

Suddenly, it pans out to show that they’re on top of a cliff, accompanied by the worst dramatic music you’ve ever heard. Sonya tells Jarek that the Black Dragon died with Kano and that Jarek is the last one around. With a scream of, “UMMBSULKAIIIIEEEEEEE!” Jarek runs at her, misses and falls off the cliff. Sonya calls Jax on her walky-talky to inform him what just happened, but Jarek shows that he’s not so dead after all. He climbs back up, grabs Sonya by the ankle and throws her to her death. Then he stomps down on the walky-talky so hard that it not only breaks, but vanishes completely! There are no pieces of it anywhere when he moves his foot!

The walky-talky business was pointless anyway, because Jax turns out to be five feet away all this time. Weird how Jarek didn’t notice him what with there being no trees or anything. Jarek tries to talk his way out of it, but Jax isn’t hearing it. He grabs Jarek by the throat and holds him over the cliff with absolutely zero detail below. Jarek begs for his life and says that Jax has to uphold the law. This is brutality!

“Wrong, Jarek! This is not a brutality… this is a Fatality!”

Despite the subtitles, he’s still saying, “UMMBSULKAIIIIEEEEEEE!!”

It’s so beautifully shitty.

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The Top 200 Fighting Game Endings: Part Nine

June 25th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

40) Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe – SUB-ZERO
2008

Sub-Zero gets the special treatment in the big DC crossover game. He’s the only guy on the Mortal Kombat side who’s aloud to take down Batman in a straight fight in the story mode. The story mode also paints a picture of Sub-Zero being a guy who’s unsure of what it is he should be doing. He’s more virtuous than what his ninja clan stands for, but he’s also the odd man out when it comes to the other defenders of Earthrealm. Nobody trusts him to do the right thing, but he does want to do the right thing.

Inspired by Batman, Sub-Zero decides to use his efforts to being a cape-wearing vigilante who creeps through the darkness and cold to crush evil wherever it lies. This way he can be a good guy and defend Earthrealm without having to put up with Liu Kang and the others. The Lin Kuei doesn’t take the desertion well and much like Batman, Sub-Zero will now have to contend with a pissed off league of assassins trying to hunt him down.

39) Skullgirls – PEACOCK
2012

Peacock is the one character in Skullgirls who has a personal connection with the final boss Marie (otherwise known as the Skullgirl). Patricia was mutilated by the mafia and her friend Marie, in all her sadness and anger, found the Skull Heart and wished for revenge. She’s since started massacring the mafia, while at the same time, becoming more and more of a puppet for the Skull Heart’s evil and turning into something increasingly demonic. Patricia was rebuilt as Peacock to destroy Marie, augmented with reality-bending cybernetics. Due to her own shattered psyche over what she’s gone through and her love for cartoons, Peacock takes the form of an old-timey cartoon character and fights with cartoon physics.

Peacock confronts Marie and tries to talk her down to no avail. Marie shows off that she even took out the man who nearly killed Peacock and started this mess. Still, Peacock knows that Marie is fighting a losing war for her soul and it’s only a matter of time before the Skull Heart takes over completely and makes her unstoppable. Peacock defeats her friend and as part of her victory, is offered the Skull Heart. She’s able to make any wish her heart desires, but why do that when she’s already the strongest?

Marie is still alive, but is falling to pieces by the second. She apologizes for all she’s done. Peacock smiles and forgives her, saying that they’ll always be friends. Besides, now that she’s fulfilled her purpose of destroying the Skullgirl, she can find a new purpose in continuing where Marie left off, killing off mobsters left and right. Marie feels happy about this and burns to nothing.

Peacock makes good on her promise and takes out most of the mafia. With only a couple left, she goes after a mobster named Lorenzo. Lorenzo has something up his sleeve with his enforcer Black Dahlia. It ends with Peacock and Dahlia going at it.

You know what’s crazy? In an ending where our hero kills her best friend, it’s still the most optimistic ending in such an otherwise colorful and wacky game.

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The Top 200 Fighting Game Endings: Part Eight

June 22nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

60) Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side – SENATOR
1995

When Eternal Champions was upgraded into its Challenge from the Dark Side form, they introduced a lot of new characters. Some were other fallen would-be heroes from throughout history. Some were playable animals. There was even Death himself, who had mysteriously lost his status. The most memorable new guy was the Senator, a spoof on the government focus on violent video games and a headswap of Larcen Tyler.

The Senator was a selfish, corrupt politician who sold out to all the corporations and special interest groups until making an actual humane decision for once and being rejected by his Republican brethren. He ran as an independent and lost by a landslide, causing him to die of a heart attack. In the game, his fighting style is described as “Dishonesty”, which includes throwing red tape, banning violence and turning invisible while yelling, “I AM NOT A CROOK!”

Given a second chance, he calms down his heart rate and gives a concession speech where he admits his own wrongdoing, but also incriminates the other fat cats in Washington. This takes the world by storm and a mulligan election is demanded. Truly, this man has learned his lesson and will bring true political reform to the government!

Only a flood of scandals come out about the Senator, such as how he hires illegal immigrants, has sold military secrets to other countries and has a mistress in each state. It ruins his political career, but he still comes out a winner due to his budding career of writing books, selling the movie rights and appearing on talkshows for the rest of his life.

59) Mortal Kombat 9 – RAIN
2011

People joke about Raiden being a complete, destructive dumbass during the course of the Mortal Kombat reboot, but at the end of the day, he did win. Sure, all the good guys other than himself, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade are dead and the world is easy pickings for fallen god Shinnok, but at least he succeeded in stopping Shao Kahn for good, right? Maybe the idea that Raiden being a dunce is overblown. Maybe…

Rain’s story is that he’s the adopted son of an Edenian general who fell to Shao Kahn years ago. Rain had trained with the Edenian resistance, but grew arrogant due to his own skills and was offended that he didn’t get his own army to lead. He betrayed his people to join Shao Kahn, but in his ending, he turns on Kahn for refusing to give him his own army, as agreed. Not the most heroic of reasons by any means, but he got the job done and that’s worth something, right?

Raiden congratulates Rain and considers his actions heroic and befitting of a man of his bloodline. Raiden brings it to Rain’s attention that he is the long-lost son of Argus, a god of Edenia and Raiden’s counterpart as that realm’s protector. In a moment that’s meant to inspire Rain to greatness, it has a different effect.

Seeing that he’s a demigod, Rain figures that domination is his birthright, so he finally gets his own army by taking over where Shao Kahn left off. He conquers Earthrealm as a first step in overtaking all reality.

Thanks a lot, Raiden!

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The Top 200 Fighting Game Endings: Part Seven

June 18th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

80) Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – SEBASTIAN
2012

Tekken Tag 2 has a roster of nearly every Tekken character ever and when it came time for downloadable content, they tried to fill in every gap possible. That included including Sebastian, Lili’s elderly and loyal butler. Fittingly, he fights just like her.

His ending has a neat chiaroscuro style where it’s in black and white with only whiteness for the background. All we can see are the limo, Sebastian and Lili. Lili sits in silence, obviously too annoyed for words. Sebastian drives and offers to calm her down with some music. He turns on the radio and hears a ecstatic DJ.

“The results of the last tournament are in! No one expected that this wildcard would appear from out of nowhere to claim the top prize! Yes, we’re talking about Sebastian! Who could’ve imagined this would happen? But ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a new martial arts champion!”

Sebastian begins to panic as Lili remains silently pissed. Sebastian keeps changing the radio station, but on every station, people are excitedly talking about how he won the King of Iron Fist tournament and that he’s this amazing inspiration. Growing increasingly afraid, Sebastian starts attacking the radio itself.

The radio is turned off and they reach their destination. Sebastian lets Lili out and she takes a second to begrudgingly congratulate him on his win. Sebastian, relieved, thanks her.

79) Street Fighter Alpha 3 – GUILE
1998

I touched on this last article, but one of the annoying things about the Street Fighter Alpha endings was how by being a prequel, it locks certain storytelling options. For instance, Chun-Li can defeat Bison, but then he’ll just get up and hospitalize her because he’s going to survive into Street Fighter II. The worst offender for all of this was Charlie. Charlie was known before this game as that guy who Guile had to avenge. That meant Charlie had to die.

Until the next game, where they’d bring him back because the last game no longer counted. And they’d kill him again.

The problem was that Charlie kept dying like a punk. In the first Alpha, he defeats Bison and gets on his walky-talky. This gives Bison the chance to get back up, pounce onto him and kill him. Then in Alpha 2, Charlie defeats Bison and gets gunned down by a military helicopter whose pilot was bought off by Shadaloo. Charlie falls off a cliff, presumably to his death. While X-Men vs. Street Fighter was never going to be canon, his ending is simply that he’s captured by Shadaloo and painfully tortured to death. The poor guy doesn’t even get to die with dignity.

(Yeah, yeah, I know that X-Men vs. Street Fighter one led to him becoming Shadow in the sequels, but that was retroactive context)

Guile’s storyline in Alpha 3 is that he’s sent to go find his good friend Charlie and bring him home from his mission because he’s too personally invested. There’s probably some unsaid political corruption in there too that Guile doesn’t know about. He finds Charlie and subdues him, but tells him that he still understands the importance of the mission and will help out, even if he isn’t the hero Charlie is. He defeats Bison, who slinks off to go recharge his batteries.

Guile and Charlie look around the Shadaloo base, find the room with the Psycho Drive and plant a whole bunch of bombs. Bison appears and badly wounds Charlie, laughing about how pets are worthless once they have their own free will. He flies at Guile to finish him off with the Psycho Crusher, but Charlie intercepts him.

Charlie orders him to leave before the place goes up. Guile escapes, seeing the Shadaloo base reduced to a mushroom cloud. From there, he and Chun-Li lament the loss of Charlie. Guile tries to believe that Charlie is still alive somewhere out there.

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: DLC Appendix 4

June 13th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

While E3 is mostly remembered for the shellacking Sony is giving to Microsoft (oh my God!), they’ve also shown off the fourth DLC character for Injustice: Gods Among Us. Then Conan O’Brien got to feature the reveal on his show, making it official. This will be the last character for the season pass, but there are strong hints that we’ll be getting more in the future. Martian Manhunter, definitely.

GENERAL ZOD

Alias: Dru-Zod
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #283 (1961)
Powers: You know all that crap Superman does? He does that.
Other media: Other than his obvious movie appearances, he’s sort-of-but-not-quite appeared in the cartoons, Smallville and was in both a novel the Last Days of Krypton and a choose-your-own adventure book I remember owning when I was 8

I can’t think of a comic character who owes more to an actor’s portrayal than General Zod. It’s not like all the other memorable villain portrayals like Lex Luthor, Bane and Joker. If it wasn’t for Terence Stamp, not a single person would give a damn about Zod except for writers who love tossing in obscure supervillains that only the hardcore have heard of before.

Zod appeared in the early days of the Silver Age where he looked like M. Bison dressed in green while forgetting to wear pants. He was charged with trying to take over Krypton with his army of Bizarro soldiers and got sentenced to 40 years in the Phantom Zone, the dimensional prison of no escape (except when someone escapes). Superboy found out about that and released Zod once his time was up. Zod tried to take over Earth a handful of times and constantly got tossed back into the Phantom Zone. Since he was a soldier, he had an edge over Superman and was one of the few Silver Age characters who was stronger than the Man of Steel.

Superman II came out in 1980 and led to more appearances by Zod. Nothing memorable to mention, really. The Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot kicked in and DC practically took Zod off the table. With continuity made simple, there were some ground rules to Post-Crisis DC. For one, Superman had to be the ONLY Kryptonian. He was the Last Son of Krypton. That was his thing! So of course, within two years of this change, writer John Byrne decided to introduce Zod and Supergirl. Luckily, he had an out. They were from an alternate universe! …Except DC mandated that there could be no more alternate universes. That was the problem that got them into having to write Crisis in the first place. Byrne instead claimed they were from a “pocket dimension”. How that makes it right, I have no idea.

In this “pocket dimension”, Zod’s basic storyline still happened, only he killed Superboy with the help of his lieutenants Quex-Ul (essentially Non) and Faora (essentially Ursa) and annihilated much of the planet. Superman was asked to help out and defeated the three via exposing them to gold kryptonite, which permanently removed their powers. Zod warned Superman that they’d get their powers back, find out where he lived and kill his planet. Superman decided he had a point and killed the three with green kryptonite just to be sure. Then he moped around for a while because of it. Also, Supergirl came back with him, but she was manmade, so it didn’t step on the “no Kryptonians” edict.

DC Comics tried so, so hard to make Zod relevant again over the years. After all, he was the villain from the last good Superman movie. They had to make him a big deal in the comics. They came up with certain weird ideas. Or should I say other weird ideas.

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