Mortal Kombat Rebirth?

June 8th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

This is already better than any Mortal Kombat game that exists.

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Be Kind to Your Valentine

February 14th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

If you’re running late on your Valentine’s Day shopping (shame on you, by the way, we’re all very disappointed), your pals at 4thletter! got you covered. We’ve had these Street Fighter Valentine’s Day cards kicking around on the hard drive at 4l!hq forever, but they date back to the good ol’ days of 1992.

Print one out, throw a quick inscription inside (make it sheepish to avoid a fight), and hand it over. That’s how you save Valentine’s Day. You’re welcome in advance.

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The Captain N Comic: I’m Gonna Take You Back to the Past…

January 9th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Me reading a Captain N comic didn’t happen because someone suggested it to me. Nobody told me that there was a Captain N comic. I didn’t stumble upon it or come across an issue in a bin anywhere. It’s just that one day I randomly reminisced about the cartoon and thought to myself, “Was there a Captain N comic book? I bet there was.”

Lo and behold, my instincts were correct. You know I had to get my mitts on this one. The five-issue series came out over the course of 1990, released by Valiant Comics. They released the Game Boy comic around that time, which I’ve reviewed months back.

To fully understand the comic and what makes it worth talking about, you have to understand the TV show. Captain N: The Game Master is a cartoon about a teenager named Kevin Keene who is so good at playing his NES that he and his dog Duke are pulled into his Nintendo by “the Ultimate Warpzone”. It’s there that he exists in a multiverse of videogame franchises, even if they weren’t Nintendo-owned. Armed with a controller belt buckle and a zapper gun, Captain N fights for the original character Princess Lana along with existing videogame heroes Kid Icarus (aka Pit), Mega Man and Simon Belmont. Those three are probably banded together due to their shared success in having awesome theme music. The main villain is Mother Brain from Metroid, commanding over the Eggplant Wizard, King Hippo, Dr. Wily and the Count (they couldn’t call him “Dracula” for whatever reason). Donkey Kong’s there too, but he’s more of a wildcard villain, like the crocodile from Peter Pan.

In concept, it’s a videogame fanboy wet dream. Unfortunately, there were some snags to the show, such as the character designs for the preexisting heroes. Kid Icarus is a midget who won’t stop adding “icus” to the end of his sentences, yet he’s the least problematic. Mega Man is also a midget, only pudgy and more annoying. They saw how dynamic and cool his 8-bit sprite was and came up with that? Then there’s Simon Belmont. Jeeeesus. Instead of a badass vampire hunter, he’s a doofy narcissist with pilot goggles. I get that these guys are all based on early 8-bit designs that lacked characterization, but as a marketing ploy, I can’t imagine any kid was thinking, “I want to play as that annoying, scratchy-voiced toddler in the green tights!” It got even worse in the third season when they introduced Alucard, re-imagined as a totally radical skater dude.

It’s like if Poochy wanted your blood.

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Stay Tuned!

January 8th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

I have a review of a comic about a certain late-80’s/early-90’s animated series almost finished. In the meantime, here’s a segment from it that I couldn’t find a spot for in the article.

How did a shitty cartoon turn into a surprisingly good comic series? Check back in a day or so.

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Tekken 6: King of Iron Fists, Online Manga, and Paper Stories

November 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Tekken 6 came out on PS3 and 360 a while back (and is forty-four bucks on Amazon right now and totally worth the purchase) and captivated my attention, just like the five prior games did. The fighting, the Barbie to the nth level dress-up/customization stuff… half of the games I play online with friends are all about how awesome that bit of hair you put on that character is, where did you get that? And that skirt, whoo! Way to go!

(It’s like playing with dolls, only they fight.)

The thing with Tekken, though, is that its story is dumb. It has a space alien/ancient Japanese ninja who looks like a bug, a bear who takes over a corporation, a kangaroo that gets divorced and that kangaroo’s son who goes on a quest to find his deadbeat father, and a series of people being thrown into volcanos, off cliffs, and into space so that someone else can become president of Mishima Corp. Everything is treated as having happened, including the dumbest “I had a secret twin all along!” twist I’ve seen in my entire life.

It would work very well as a comic, and luckily, Japan is on top of things. Ultra Jump, a spinoff of Shonen Jump, has an online arm called Ultra Jump Egg. And on Ultra Jump Egg is… TekkenComic, a Tekken manga by Rui Takato (author of Scape-God, summaries available here), produced for Tekken’s 15th anniversary and Ultra Jump’s 20th.


tekkencomic01The twist is that it’s also available in English, which is new and neat. Pressing a button overlays English text over the Japanese balloons. It’s a little punctuation starved, save for… ellipses, and the font could scale better, but it reads pretty well. And it’s funny. It opens on the story of Paul Phoenix, who, along with Steve Fox and Marshall Law, have entered the King of Iron Fist Tournament to cheat their way to the ten million yen.

The comic has three chapters up (of three?) and it’s pretty entertaining. The shower scene is kind of gratuitous, and I hadn’t realized exactly how much of a stereotypical anime girl Asuka Kazama was before now (all she needs is a magically appearing hammer). Despite that, Lili as Schoolgirl Imperialist really, really works. And I dug Leo’s brief interlude, too. Considering the last page of Battle 03, if this is an ongoing thing (and some 4l! reader with Japanese language skills please let me know!) I’ll tune in once a week. It’s just as delightfully dumb as the game’s story, which may well be the anti-pull quote of all anti-pull quotes, but I like it. Maybe Viz will license it and put it out over here?

Fair warning, though. Battle 03 is basically frilly panty heaven. Or maybe hell, depending on who you are and where you work.


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Champions, of the Online variety

August 24th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I spent most (all) of last week sick and asleep, so I didn’t get much done overall. However, I did get a chance to play a little of Champions Online, though, and it’s pretty neat.

I like the character creation system quite a bit. It’s pretty in-depth, but also very easy to use. I ended up making a guy wearing a black and white suit, with black boots, and a bald head. I added an all-black skull mask for effect, gave him martial arts and gun powers, and bam: Spaceman Piff was born.

Combat is pretty simple, and about what you’d expect. Attacks are mapped to number keys, you can move with WASD, etc, etc. If you’ve played an MMO or a computer game before, you know how it goes. Mousing controls the camera, WASD controls movement. I saw options that say you can use a controller, too, which may be a slightly more comfortable way to play.

It seems pretty cool overall. I didn’t get to play much (benefit of a PC with an older video card and being a Mac-fan in general), but I liked what I saw. Getting around and finding missions was easy-peasy. The level of customization involved is also pretty attractive. You really can design the superhero you’ve always wanted, and there are enough familiar bits and pieces that you can finally make that Hawkgirl+Wolverine combination you’ve been dreaming about lately.

It’s the kind of game I could see myself fooling around with every once and a while. Character creation is actually pretty fun, and it’d be pretty easy to create a gang of gun-using pop culture-inspired characters. Donnie Blasto, Spaceman Piff, Stabber Lee, etc etc. I think the end result of all my tinkering would be a bunch of guys with superspeed, hand to hand weapons, and guns. I’m a child of the ’90s, what can I say. Punching people in the face is pretty awesome.

It drops September 1st, a week from tomorrow. Pre-order it on Amazon or from any of their retail partners, including UK, French, and German outlets. Their archive of online screenshots is pretty thorough and should give you a good idea how of the game looks.

Developer interview after the jump!
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Off to the Real Life 616

August 10th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

It’s a good thing Ultimatum #5 hadn’t been delayed another week because that would have cut into my current vacation. Right now I’m getting ready for a trip to Orlando, to experience Disney World and Universal. I’ll see about getting a picture with Dr. Doom. Hey, you know what they should do? They should have someone working at Universal Islands of Adventure dressed as Mace the cyber ninja. That would rule and be a waste of everybody’s time.

I’ll be back in a week, but stick around for the 50 articles hermanos is working on and whatever it is Esther is doing. I’m sure she’s up to something.

In the meantime, here’s something rather odd I discovered on YouTube when I typed “Herman Smirch” through Google. Herman, you might remember, is the main character and lowlife from the Game Boy comic. There isn’t much about him out there, other than an entry on a Mario Wiki site, but I did find… whatever this is.


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The Game Boy Comic: Now You’re Reading with Power! Portable Power!

July 28th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Back in the early 90’s, the comic company Valiant struck a deal with Nintendo. Over the next two years or so, Valiant would release a multitude of series based on Nintendo franchises. There were a couple that felt natural. Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda each had their own cartoons at the time, so they would get picked up. Captain N: The Game Master would also get his own comic, though transformed due to the inability to use videogame characters outside of Nintendo. There was even a series called Nintendo Comics System that acted like an anthology of stories featuring those I mentioned and miscellaneous games like Dr. Mario and Punch Out.

Around that time, Nintendo’s Game Boy was still fresh on the scene and they wanted to do whatever they could to get the word out. Sure, advertising was easy for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Captain N was one big commercial for the console and all its games. Well, all the games that weren’t on that crappy knockoff cartoon Power Team (anyone else remember that? It had the monster truck Bigfoot, a basketball player and a talking tomato). Anyway, outside of commercials and magazine ads, how do you advertise what is essentially a lesser NES that you can carry around with you?

With the Captain N cartoon, they eventually introduced a Slimer-like character named Game Boy who was one, big, annoying Game Boy levitating around. With Valiant, they went in another direction. They gave it its own comic book.

I’m sure by now you’re already asking the million dollar question: “How exactly does a Game Boy comic work?” That’s a very good question and having found out the answer, I just had to get my hands on this 4-issue series.

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Eyedol Worship: The Killer Instinct C-C-Comic Book

June 17th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

(Gavok note: This is another old PopCultureShock article I wrote that I figured I’d bring home to 4th Letter. Call it nostalgia from doing the Tekken article.)

Back in the mid-90’s, fighting games were a pretty big thing. Over the span of several years, an untold amount of sequels and forgettable copycats oversaturated the videogame market. Once all of that calmed down – somewhere around the turn of the millennium – only the big names remained: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, Virtua Fighter, etc. They continued to have sequels and updates as the others just got thrown to the curb.

And yet, for whatever reason, Killer Instinct fell off the face of the Earth despite its popularity. In the mid-90’s, the first game was huge. It was a huge seller on the SNES and the sequel was one of the first big games for the Nintendo 64. After that, it just died. Rare just kind of forgot it existed and instead made a bunch of games starring talking animals.

But you know what? I still remember Killer Instinct. I remember it enough that when I found out that it had its own comic back in the day, I had to get my hands on it. Scoot over, kids, and I’ll tell you the story of a ninja monk, a killer robot, a disgraced boxer, a secret agent, an animated skeleton, a man made of fire, an alien made of ice, a cyber Native American, a cloned dinosaur, a two-headed Cyclops and the evil organization that brought them all together. Let’s look at the Acclaim-released Killer Instinct comic book.

Each cover uses the rendered style that came with the games. While the style is a bit dated, it still just feels… right. That would get old quick if the interiors were like that, but thankfully they are not. Amazingly, the interior art is excellent throughout the series. They’re done by Bart Sears, Sean Chen, Steven Butler, Dale Eaglesham, Doug Tropea-Wheatley, Scot Eaton and David Boller. What the hell? The comic has seven different pencillers for six issues and somehow it feels totally consistent! That’s weird. There are a handful of different inkers too, so they can’t be to blame. Huh!

There is only one writer, though. Art Holcomb takes the reigns in all six issues of this. What’s interesting is how the series is laid out. The first three issues are a basic retelling of the first Killer Instinct game. The latter three issues are special one-shots that take place afterwards. This came out in the latter half of 1996, around the time the second game was making its way to the arcades.

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Short Takes

June 16th, 2009 Posted by Matt Jett

I’m coming at you guys with a few short blurbs this week. I’ve got a few things on my mind that aren’t really topics for longer think-pieces, but we’ll be back to the normal 4thletter! format next week.

In both the comic book community and the video game community, the release of monthly sales figures is a newsworthy event. One look at the comments on Newsarama or an NPD thread on the NeoGAF forums reveals the incredible level of importance that fans give to the raw data, even without any sort of analysis from journalists in their respective industries. What I’m stuck puzzling out, though, is what these numbers mean to people who aren’t invested in cheering on one company or another. Are they worth anything beyond a passing moment of happiness when you see that something you like sells well?

It’s tempting to just write off sales figures as nothing more than fanboy bait, mere fodder for endless arguments about which consoles, characters, and companies are better than others. That’s mostly what they’re for, after all, when you’re just looking at the commentary that follows the postings. Let’s not let the fanboys ruin things for us, though. There’s important information to be found if you’re a huge nerd about industry trends, success stories, and the difference between products that are immediate blockbusters and those with “long tails” (things that become successful, sales-wise, over a long period of time).

Admittedly there’s not a lot there for someone who isn’t invested in either comics or games, but don’t write sales off as something boring. Sales figure data is what leads to really interesting stories and analysis, enabling discussion about why nobody but Nintendo can sell games on the Wii, or why Justice League of America is still a top 15 book, or why Chris Claremont keeps getting his own series (brand recognition, name recognition, and built-in fanbases, respectively and collectively).

David and I have both been replaying Final Fantasy 7 since its release on the PlayStation Network last week. It’s got me thinking a lot about how RPG design, or at least Japanese RPG design, hasn’t really changed significantly since its original release in late ’97. Final Fantasy 7 was a watershed moment for me, the first RPG I ever played through, and since I was 12 at the time I did it, the game left a lasting impression on me. This impression, I think, is what makes me feel like just about every JRPG I’ve played since has just been a refinement of that “modern formula,” with everything post-FF7 and post-move-to-3d playing incredibly similarly.

This is clearer to me in the current generation of games than it has been in a long time. Games like Eternal Sonata, Infinite Undiscovery, Tales of Vesperia, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope, once you get past the novelty of their respective combat systems and graphical styles, all feel like variation on the same tired themes. They’re not bad games, for what they are, but there’s nothing innovative about them at all, to my eyes.

Am I completely wrong about this? In the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 era, RPGs were the games that I cut my teeth on, the genre I delved into more deeply than any other. It might just be that I’m jaded, but outside of, say, Final Fantasy 12 and the recent Persona games, it’s like the quote about there being “nothing new under the sun” is actually completely true for the genre. Please, someone tell me I’m wrong about this. I’d love to be able to play a new game instead of going through Final Fantasy 7 for the 5th time, no matter how fun it is, and how nostalgic I am.

I know I talked about this last week, but how good is inFamous? I’ve played more of it since the last time I wrote, and despite warnings that the missions would get repetitive, it hasn’t lost a single bit of its charm. I know people don’t want to read me harping on this game again and again, so this’ll be the last time I mention it, but it’s the best game I’ve played all year and anyone who has a PlayStation 3 and 60 bucks to spare has no excuse for not playing it. It’s got good combat, great platforming, and a story that’s engaging

Finally, I want to conduct an informal straw poll of the 4thletter! readers… Video games are a new topic for 4thletter! (longtime readers don’t need to worry about it taking over, It’s just me and my weekly post), so I really have no idea what kind of things you actually want to read about. So far I’ve just been winging it and assuming that my audience isn’t one full of enthusiasts, and I’ve been trying to aim my thoughts accordingly. If this is the wrong assumption to make, leave a comment or send me an e-mail. Let me know what kind of articles you guys want to read, enthusiasts or people who could not care less about games, and I’ll get to work filling that niche.

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