Tag Archives: blood

FGC #442 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

BLOOD!Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night reminded me why I actually enjoy my favorite genre.

We live in confusing times. Just a few years back, it seemed like it was easy to define the direction of gaming. AAA was king, and, if anyone was “involved” in videogames, they knew that the next big thing was inevitably a franchise with intense graphics, open-world sandbox gameplay, and RPG-like elements. Or… something. Look, what’s important is that every gaming news site out there was telling us that the hottest titles available all cost the gross national product of South America, required twelve craptillion hours to produce, and were available now for your Playstation X or FourBox or whatever.

But things are different now. It may just be my old man imagination, but it seems like the videogame industry has finally adjusted to accommodate both AAA games and less intensive, but dramatically easier to produce, “indie” games. (In many cases, these “indie” games aren’t independently produced at all, but it seems like such an unintended slight to refer to them as “budget” or otherwise lesser titles. Though one could suppose that the “budget” thing really is the biggest factor here…) Back in the Playstation 2 days, it was newsworthy that Katamari Damacy was a “budget” title at its initial $20 MSRP. Now, presumably thanks to the advent of digital storefronts and more accessible development tools, games that could likely be best described as “light” are available at $20 just as often as the latest release drops on the same storefront at $60 (or $90 for that all-important day one edition). This has had the wonderful side effect of reviving certain genres and playstyles, so “the arcade experience” has finally resurfaced along with other categories that include “pretty much Zelda” and “shoot ‘em up (without exploitation)”. And, of course, the metroidvania has returned to us. In fact, the metroidvania has returned to us in spades.

MEOWIt seems like there is a new metroidvania released every month (every seven seconds come Fall). And, like a sucker, I have a tendency to throw myself into about every third one that comes down the pike. I like metroidvanias! I have liked them since Super Metroid (“What about the original Metroid?” “We don’t talk about that”). And I suppose that, like a plumber that is permanently thirsty after an unfortunate detour through Desert Land, I am always going to be starved for more metroidvania content. I can’t even say that I will wait to finish one metroidvania before I start the next one, as it appears I am playing another metroidvania while I am writing this very article. Load times are writing times, people! I’m a very busy man, and I have to see that sweet 100% map completion achievement somehow!

But that’s the exact problem I had that I hadn’t realized until playing Bloodstained: Not all metroidvanias are about completion.

I admit that I have played a number of metroidvanias in recent years, and now I’m pretty sure that I played them all wrong. For an easy example, I can look at Metroid 2, Metroid 2, and Metroid 2, all games that were reviewed recently (“recently”) for this site. And if you look at those articles, you will note that two out of three of those games were completed and reviewed (“reviewed”) within days of their release. How did I do that? Well, obviously, I completed the titles as quickly as possible. Why did I do that? Well, that’s simple: it’s a videogame, it’s a challenge, and you’re winning if you finish the challenge the fastest. Yes, I can and absolutely will go back to “100%” the title, but I’m going to do that as quickly as possible, too. I noticed that door I couldn’t open quite yet, you better believe I’m going to come back later and nab every last expansion pack and powerup bonus. After I’m all done with that, I’m going to check a FAQ and/or forums to learn what I missed, and maybe review a few speedrun strats. Then, after I’ve seen my own fastest run through the latest SR388, then, maybe, I’ll put it all down, call the game complete, and see you next mission. …Which might happen about seven seconds later with a certain robot named Fight…

And Bloodstained taught me that no, you’re wrong Goggle Bob. Stop and smell the roses (that may or may not be expies for medusa heads).

Too hot todayLet’s address one thing before we go any further: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is by no means a perfect game. For one thing, the bosses suck in all kinds of different ways. Practically every creature has way too much HP, you see the same stupid patterns over and over again, and there is just no universe where certain samurai bosses needed “reprise” fights (particularly in light of the Boss Rush mode). I’m pretty sure I distinctly enjoyed, like, one boss battle, and everything else was either way too stupid/easy or way too frustrating thanks to stupidity/endurance. And I’m playing on Switch, so let me tell you about how, every once in a while, I am reminded of Super Castlevania and the kind of slowdown that I thought was relegated to games from thirty freaking years ago. Oh, and speaking of thirty years ago game design: there is the occasional bit in Bloodstained that might have been more at home back in Simon’s Quest, the infamous Castlevania title that told players to literally bang their heads against the wall. At one point, I (a person who famously plays a lot of videogames) was completely stuck for finding a solution to my current predicament, and it turns out the resolution involved talking to a random NPC out in the castle boonies. Why would I ever do that? Who knows, but I couldn’t see a single clue to lead me in that direction, so I was stuck randomly wandering all over the map.

And… I enjoyed that.

I didn’t know what I was doing, and I enjoyed that.

It has been said a thousand times that the appeal of a number of videogames and their associated genres (that is to say, all the games that copied the original title until they were defined as belonging to a genre) was always their level of freedom. Grand Theft Auto 3 is a title that was probably completed by about 25% of its players, but was somehow still enjoyed for hours upon hours thanks to all the fun one could have with a cheat code and a rocket launcher. Skyrim probably has something to do with terrifying dragons, but it is also a cheese wheel discovery simulator. And The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild allows for a Link that can ignore the literal apocalypse and dick around discovering tree poop for entire months. Freedom is the name of the game!

Another terrible night for a commuteBut “freedom” is something that is generally lacking in 2-D adventures. Mario might have been able to find a key or two in his 2-D outings, but those levels were still “courses”, not “environments” (and you could likely claim the collectathons of the late SNES era were Mario and others growing against their 2-D confines). And while there were a few 2-D games based on exploring, that entire perspective has always been about finding the next checkpoint or powerup that helps you to find the next powerup. There’s a reason that Metroid rewards you with its heroine in her knickers for a speedy run through Zebes, and totally ignores how you used your grappling beam to teach the etecoons how to love. The point of a 2-D adventure is not to “have fun” in the environments, it is to find the optimal way to move forward, to gain more skills, and then see what’s around that next bend. The fun is in the discovery of new areas and powers, not in simply reveling in the areas you’ve already traversed.

But when I got stuck in Bloodstained, I discovered that I actually liked playing around in this haunted castle. I didn’t have any new abilities. I didn’t have some grinding goal. In fact, I didn’t have a damn clue where I was supposed to be heading, or what I was supposed to be doing. But I was at least at the point in the game where Miriam’s moveset is more robust than your typical Castlevania protagonist. It was fun to play as Miriam, and, as a result, it was fun to revisit older areas with Miriam. It was fun to see monsters that had previously been a detriment, and were now a possible source for new and exciting items. It was fun to see old areas, and enjoy the ambiance of any given room in a capacity beyond just randomly hitting walls and hoping for a meat drop. I want one, too!It was fun! It was fun exploring the world of Bloodstained not for some overarching goal, but just exploring for the sake of exploring! Like some kind of fancy-pants, city-slicker 3-D game. And even if I wasn’t making any “plot” progress, I was still collecting a host of materials, shards, and experience from my unplanned sojourn. Even when I’m not doing anything, I’m doing something! That’s the sign of a good videogame!

And, ultimately, I feel like that is the source of the good from the “vania” side of the metroidvania equation. My personal theory for years has been that Metroid games are better than Castlevania games. Why? Well, if you find a Super Missile container hiding behind a wall while exploring Zebes, you can enjoy that Super Missile upgrade whether you’re at the start of the adventure or heading toward the final confrontation. Meanwhile, while exploring Castlevania (or… Igavania? Huh?), you might find a +1 sword hidden in a concealed room. But you’ve already discovered a +4 sword. Why would you ever bother with such a piddling weapon? Congratulations, you found the secret, and it’s completely useless. Why did you even bother exploring?

But that’s only true in a bad Castlevania. In a game where your every undertaking is enjoyable, then finding even the crappiest of swords is enjoyable, because you enjoyed getting there. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is such a game. Bloodstained is fun to play, and, in that way, encourages the player to stop and take it all in. Every movement, every monster, every gigantic severed dog’s head (it’s a weird game) contributes to an overall feeling that is bizarrely welcoming. Yes, Bloodstained predominantly takes place in a deadly castle filled with murder-beasts, but it also feels like Iga is inviting you to his magical kingdom (that incidentally contains giant werewolves). It’s fun to play Bloodstained, and it’s fun to be in Bloodstained.

Ante Up!I feel like that is something I forgot along the way. Through the portable metroidvanias, through the reimaginings of other titles, and through the current bounty of excellent indie titles, I’ve been focusing on “beating” these ‘vanias. And, while that is a perfectly valid approach to any videogame, somewhere I lost the simple ability to enjoy the moment. Stop, smell the zombies. and encounter a castle on its own terms. With an interesting moveset and environments, Bloodstained encourages exploration as slow and meticulous as the effort it inevitably took to build this kingdom.

Bloodstained isn’t a perfect game. It might not even be a truly great game. But it is a game that encouraged me to look at games differently, and that’s always perfect.

FGC #442 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

  • System: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, and Switch if you’re nasty. Vita and WiiU are right out.
  • Number of players: There’s some manner of multiplayer somewhere in here, right? For all I care, it’s single player, but I’m pretty sure there was a stretch goal somewhere in there…
  • Kickstart This: Yes, I contributed money to see this game produced. Do I feel that influences my own opinion on the game? No. Considering I am really terrible about checking any developer update emails, I’m going to go ahead and say my “production credit” is just an eternal reminder that I reserved this game way early.
  • Favorite Shard: Being able to manually “aim” Miriam’s hand is the perfect middle ground between your average metroidvania and Samus Returns’ continual aiming. And the best use of aiming Miriam’s hand is to shoot a bevy of True Arrows right at your opponents. There’s nothing finer than seeing a goopy zombie puddling around with arrows in its knees.
  • Look out!Boss Battler: It seems like the bosses that were most difficult in Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon have been converted to extremely easy encounters for this adventure. In particular, Andrealphus, the bird-armor thing, goes from the biggest bad to the smallest chump. Though I suppose a lack of pits really takes something away from the poor guy…
  • Say something mean: The entire first area is terrible. Bloodstained offers easily the worst opening I have seen in a videogame in years. Miriam starts off too limited, the areas are claustrophobic, and the boss of the area is just the worst. Did someone demand a really s*** prologue area? Because we got a really s*** prologue area.
  • Did you know? While Dracula technically doesn’t appear in this game, the ultimate impetus for the final villain of the game is very similar to the motivations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. So even when the count doesn’t show up, it seems he has an influence on final bosses.
  • Would I play again: I feel like I got everything I wanted out of this castle, but I’m certainly going to dive in when further character DLC drops. I will be returning to this magical land once again. Actually, come to think of it…

What’s next? We’re going to continue our Bloodstained coverage. Kinda. Next up is Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, and we’re going to play a little game of compare and contrast between the seemingly very similar protagonists. Please look forward to it!

Robin!

FGC #433 Castlevania: Bloodlines

BLOOD!If gaming is a language, then franchises must be dialects. And among dialects, of course there must be regional variances. And Castlevania: Bloodlines is, unfortunately, the regional dialect of Atlantis.

Gogglebob.com: come for the videogames, stay for the extremely strained metaphors.

Castlevania: Bloodlines is a game very near and dear to my heart. Back in my younger days, I was very much a Nintendo kid, but a Sega Genesis was available to me by about the midpoint of the 16-bit console wars. And, while I owned a mere three Genesis games, my dad granted me one Sega Genesis rental every two weeks. So, about twice a month, my ADD-addled brain got to experience a brand new videogame for a few days, and that whole new experience that was sure to make me scream, “Sega!”

…. Or I just rented Castlevania: Bloodlines again.

I’ve always been a Castlevania fan, and, frankly, I’ve always been a sucker for a game that I have to “defeat”. It took me a long time to come to grips with the idea that I don’t have to “beat” or “100%” a videogame, and showing my love for a piece of art doesn’t mean I have to experience every last secret room or collectible. But back in my younger years? If there was a game that I thought was even marginally fun, and I didn’t beat it? Then what the hell was I even playing the game for!? Fish gotta swim, dogs gotta bark, Pokémon gotta track my sleep for some reason, and videogames gotta get beat, ya know? And, since Castlevania: Bloodlines was an enjoyable Castlevania game that I absolutely could not beat (on Normal difficulty), it meant that I had to retry that title over and over again until I finally conquered death itself (and Death). My young thumbs were still not developed enough to suffer through its insane final boss gauntlet, but I was going to try, dammit!

Swing is the thingAnd, if I’m looking at this title with some kind of wizened hindsight, I can probably admit that the other reason I kept coming back to Castlevania: Bloodlines was that it was simply a damn good game. It features the signature measured level design of previous Castlevania titles, and, while your protagonist often feels like he is being propelled by the same force that could eventually push a snail to cross a parkway, the majority of the title feels fair and appropriately scaled to Belmont (Morris) speeds. The dual heroes of the tale are different enough to feature their own unique (and fun) moves (spear vaulting is great for vertical areas, and whip swinging is… amusing to look at), but also similar enough that we don’t wind up with an X/Zero situation where one character is that much more of an advantage. And, as always in the Castlevania series (give or take a Gameboy adventure), the music is top notch, and the creepy crawlies that haunt the European countryside are numerous and inventive. And murderous. They’re always murderous.

So it’s kind of a shame that the majority of the Castlevania loving public forgot Castlevania: Bloodlines ever existed.

Possibly more than any other franchise, Castlevania has always been a very… what’s the complete opposite of progressive?… nostalgic franchise. When Bowser got seven Koopa Kids and a brand new butt stomp for Super Mario Bros. 3, Dracula was still using his same ol’ teleport/fireball pattern for Castlevania 3. When Mega Man X completely redefined everything that Mega Man ever was, Super Castlevania IV still had Simon trudging through Drac’s dilapidated hallway o’ zombies. This isn’t to say that Castlevania has never had an original bone in its obviously an angry skeleton-based body, but Castlevania has always reveled in its past since before it escaped the gravity of the NES.

DEATH!And (I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear me say this) there is nothing wrong with a little videogame nostalgia. Particularly in the 16 and 32-bit days, it seemed like games were rapidly attempting to burn their pasts on the altar of “cool” and “new”. But it was still cool to see old mainstays like Frankenstein(‘s Monster) or Medusa show up when many contemporary titles were trying to reinvent the wheel by detonating every nearby car (literally, in the case of Grand Theft Auto III).

And, while Castlevania: Bloodlines certainly pays tribute to the Castlevanias we all loved before (“Hi, Frankenstein! Hi, Medusa!”), for a long time, it seemed like appropriate acknowledgment was not paid to Bloodlines in kind. Castlevania Symphony of the Night is the uncontested turning point of the franchise, and, as a direct sequel, it owed much of its plot and iconography to Rondo of Blood and its PC Engine/SNES origins. It also was clearly influenced by much of the imagery of Super Castlevania (that’s where Death met his buddies!), and the Reverse Castle featured the pieces of Dracula of Castlevania 2 mixed with the iconic bosses of Castlevania 1. And, while it almost seems like a footnote at this point, let’s not forget that Alucard premiered in Castlevania 3, and wound up fighting his zombified allies. Truly, Castlevania Symphony of the Night was the culmination of all console Castlevanias that came before, and paid homage to all of those titles in fun and inventive ways.

Except Bloodlines. Nobody cared about Castlevania: Bloodlines.

This is not a glitchAnd, unfortunately, this created a sort of ripple effect in the fandom. While Symphony of the Night encouraged visiting old titles to see first appearances of Slogra & Gaibon, Phantom Bat, or Grant DangheNasty, there was no such drive for Bloodlines. And when future titles decided to bring back more past friends and foes, we saw Skull Knight of Castlevania 3, not Mecha Knight of Bloodlines. And when we finally saw some significant references to Bloodlines in Portrait of Ruin, it was to let us know that both of Bloodlines’ protagonists died inglorious deaths, and Eric’s lance would only return as an accessory for a ghost. A whole Castlevania game was lost, and when the entire experience was lost and forgotten from the virtual consoles and collections that accompanied the new digital era, nobody batted an eye. You could download Super Castlevania, Castlevania: Dracula X, and even Castlevania Rondo of Blood, but Bloodlines was wholly absent. And there were no conversations about the title, because, frankly, who cared? We got all the good Castlevanias, right? If Bloodlines was any good, it would be referenced heavily like those other titles. Symphony of the Night was the pinnacle. IGA wouldn’t steer us wrong.

But a miracle happened just recently. Castlevania: Bloodlines was released as part of the excellent Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Now, Bloodlines is able to stand tall next to its early Castlevania console brethren. Now, people are talking about Bloodlines, and many of them are talking about it for the first time. And they like it! They really, really like it! Because it’s a good game, and always has been! After a 25 year banishment from the gaming consciousness, Bloodlines has returned, and people are again speaking the language of magical lances and Gear Steamers. Bloodlines can once again take its proper place in the Castlevania pantheon, and rest easy knowing that now more people have seen its horrible Dracula and his disturbing crotch face.

DONT LOOK AT MEUltimately, I find this success story to be the best way to conclude this Game Preservation Week (“Week”). None of these games that have been discussed have to be gone forever. Like Castlevania: Bloodlines, we’re always just one collection or digital release (or mini console, apparently) from a title returning to the gaming consciousness. And let’s see some solid videogame archiving in the future, so another game isn’t lost to decades again. The future of gaming may be streaming, but let’s remember our past, our dead languages, and see how they can make our future better.

And then let’s whip some skeletons but good.

FGC #433 Castlevania: Bloodlines

  • System: Sega Genesis. And now available for Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam via the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Sweet!
  • Number of Players: Two choices, but only one player. We’d have to wait for another forgotten Castlevania title to see some multiplayer Castlevania.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I rented Bloodlines from the local rental place so much, I eventually bought the cartridge when they were liquidating some of their “old” stock. That makes Bloodlines my fourth or fifth owned Sega Genesis game (the real money went to my beloved SNES).
  • Out of the Castle: Bloodlines follows John ‘n Eric as they battle around some of the more interesting mystical spots in Europe, like Atlantis or Pisa (?). This leads to some more interesting venues for our hunters to traverse, and maybe an excuse to battle a minotaur or two. And you get to fight World War I German war skeletons. That is so close to whipping undead Nazis!
  • RatzisFavorite Character: I lied earlier. Eric LeCarde makes this trip through Europe so much more manageable. His additional reach is a godsend, and the ability to vault straight into the skies… isn’t all the useful, actually, but it’s fun in exactly one room at Varsailles. Oh! And he has beautiful girl hair! I don’t see how that helps vampire slaying, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
  • A Little History: The big deal of Bloodlines is that it tries to tie the Castlevania mythos to Bram Stoker’s Dracula by claiming the vampire slayer Qunicey Morris (and thus his son and grandson) was actually a Belmont descendant. Who cares? What’s important is that Bloodlines seems to imply that Elizabeth Bartley started World War I as a cover for resurrecting Dracula. Now that’s something they don’t cover in history books!
  • Did you know? The Princess of Moss, the boss of The Versailles Palace stage, is a monster moth initially disguised as a woman. And that woman is apparently supposed to be Marie Antoinette, famous queen and cake-eater. Now, this is not to say that it is official Castlevania canon that Marie Antoinette was some manner of undead, immortal insect creature… but the opportunity is open for future Castlevania titles.
  • Would I play again: Now that I have it permanently loaded onto my portable Nintendo Switch? You’re damn skippy I’m going to play it again!

What’s next? Random ROB is back in action and has chosen… The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link! Are you sure that isn’t an Error, ROB? Oh well. Please look forward to it!

I hate this jerk.  He just... rains.

FGC #352 Bloody Roar 3

RAWRBloody Roar 3 is a fighting game about human fighters that may transform into anthropomorphic animals at any given moment. But are all animals created equal? Hell no. Here are the power rankings for the animalistic fighters of Bloody Roar 3.

Alice the Rabbit

Let’s start with the biggest loser in this cast. Alice is, like so many other women in fighting games, here exclusively for the fanservice. She’s been a fighter since the first game, appears in every sequel, and never, ever does anything useful in the plot. She’s a nurse, so that’s a fine excuse to squeeze her into a sexy nurse costume (never scrubs, which, take note, game developers, can actually be sexy) or a sailor fuku, because, hey, gotta compete with Dead or Alive somehow. Alice is here for every horny male in the audience, and, given the general demographics of Playstation fighting games, that might be the entire audience.

And, to further the fanservice, Alice transforms into a giant bunny rabbit. On one hand, it’s supposed to be sexy, as it’s a clear reference to the Hefner/Toriyama bunny girl of yore. On the other hand, she turns into the Easter Bunny, and, barring that one time in Reno, nobody has ever wanted to have sex with the Easter Bunny. I don’t care if she’s wearing a short skirt; the cold, dead, red eyes are a deal breaker. Bunny ears and a poofy tail can potentially be sexy, but hopping feet are a bridge too far. Ugh! I’m not going to be able to eat a Cadbury Egg in peace for the rest of the week!

Oh, also, bunnies? Not known for the fighting prowess.

Busuzima the Chameleon

Addressing Busuzima on the power rankings almost feels like cheating, as he is clearly intended to be the “joke” character of the game. He’s a lot more likely to win a tournament than Dan Hibiki, but his introduction still involves him mooning the camera, and his general fashion sense is laughable (hey, wait, we own the same shirt). Addressing the fact that the goofy scientist that can transform into a lizard might not be as strong as the lion commando is obvious from the moment he appears on screen, and I may as well be making bold claims like “Luigi will never marry Peach” or “Stryker might not be the champion of Mortal Kombat this year”.

LICKHowever, I have to address the cold-blooded elephant in the room: a chameleon is the worst choice for a fighting game. What is the chameleon’s one amazing skill? It’s a stealth monster! And what’s the one thing that that is never useful in a fighting game? Stealth! It’s a one on one match! You can’t “hide” from your opponent! Just ask Reptile! Turning invisible always sounds great in theory, but it’s not the easiest thing to control your imperceptible fighter. You’re a lot more likely to start punching air than actually achieve a hollow (ha!) victory.

And, yes, having a tongue whip is pretty cool, but there are other lizards out there. Are there any alligators in the cast? Dinosaurs? Come on, guys, we can do better.

Stun the Insect

Another one that is hard to judge. Let’s face it: Spider-Man has crapped in the hot tub, and now every other anthropomorphic insect has to take a poo bath. Spider-Man does everything a spider can, and he has “the proportionate strength of a spider”, so every insect or arachnid hero is expected to be on the same level. And can we really maintain that echelon of insectoid power? Of course not! If Spider-Man actually punched Doc Ock with the same power that could lift a Volkswagen, they’d be scraping up Ock brains over in Queens. Similarly, if Stun the Rhinoceros Beetle punched a random human with rhino beetle strength, we’re going to need the official Killer Instinct mop.

So once you drop the cool powers, what’s left for a giant insect? Not much. I guess being part of a hive or rolling around dung is cool an’ all, but it doesn’t really make for an interesting fighting character. And after that, you’ve just a got a head, thorax, abdomen, and not much else.

You know what would be cooler than a rhinoceros beetle? A freaking rhinoceros!

Xion the Unborn

“Unborn” my ass. That is a mantis, and I will waste no more time on yet another dumb bug.

Stupid bug

Jenny the Bat

Bats used to be cool. They’re nocturnal flying masters of the night, and man has feared their skittery advance for eons. They are the basis for any number of myths, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single vampire tale from the modern age that doesn’t include our favorite flapping fiend. And the blood sucking! Nobody is afraid of mosquitoes, but we’ve got a thousand Jungian archetypes surrounding our greatest naturally enemy, the bat.

And then we hit the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. And now we know that bats are adorable.

I am the nightHave you seen the videos? You’ve seen the videos. Everyone has. Bats are basically highly mobile puppies. Did you see that one with the milk bottle? Or those three that were hanging upside down on a dude’s finger? Bats don’t strike fear into the hearts of the weak and cowardly lot, they’re about one step removed from being helper animals. They should give bats to disabled vets. Oh man, can we train seeing-eye bats? That would be delightful!

In conclusion, bats are not scary, and I don’t care if Jenny wants to cosplay as a vampire.

Bakuryu the Mole

Here is the opposite problem. Despite appearing to merely be the bane of golf courses, moles are kind of vicious. Have you ever tried to dig… anything? It’s hard work! Just moving the tiniest bit of dirt is a tremendous effort. But for a mole, that ain’t no thang. Digging the deepest, darkest hole is second nature to those little dudes. And why? Because they have shovels for hands. Sharp shovels. They’re basically born with sword fingers, but everybody treats ‘em like some manner of subterranean squirrel. Squirrels can barely deal with acorns, moles could ruin entire continents if they deigned to dirty their knife hands.

KARATE MOLEBakuryu the Mole thus becomes our first combatant that really chose an excellent animal form… and he gets no respect. Sure, he’s got a cyborg clone, but he’s not exactly the marquee character of the franchise. Typical. You choose one of the technically more impressive animals available, and you’re outshone by the freaking bunny girl. It’s all politics.

Yugo the Wolf

Wolves are scarier in packs. One wolf alone in a fighting tournament? Probably going to mess you up, but only a little worse than the giant bugs. Yugo only gets this position because I really can’t see a mole consistently defeating a puppy, left alone its more feral ancestor. It’s probably the vision advantage.

Uriko the Half-Beast

Uriko is another misnamed creature, but there’s a plot reason this time. In the original Bloody Roar, Uriko was a science experiment gone wrong, and was transformed into a Chimera. The Chimera is obviously queen of the roost, because, in a game about random animals fighting, the winner is the animal that is the most animals. Three in one? That’s going to do it. Unfortunately (or fortunately for her hopes of getting into a decent college), Uriko was “cured” of this chimera-ness at the end of Bloody Roar 1, and now the unfortunately named Uranus picked up her discarded goat/snake/lion powers.

Of course, nobody stays retired in fighting games, so Uriko was conscripted back into action, now with a “lesser” version of her Bloody Roar ultra beast form. Now Uriko is known as the “half-beast”. But in truth? She’s a kitty cat. She’s been demoted from final boss to our second fanservice character, and given the mysterious title “half beast” because it sounds better than Uriko the LOL Cat. Can she has cheeseburger?

CHOMP CHOMP

She can!

Though I suppose you’re asking why the character that barely even qualifies for beast citizenship is so high on the list. This is because Uriko is a cat, and cats are terrifying. Yes, they can be adorable little balls of floof that bounce around after laser pointers and lick all sorts of crazy things; but they’re also monsters that play with their prey, destroy the furniture, and occasionally sleep on your head in an effort to obtain an earlier breakfast. Basically, if cats could ever get out of that one place where the sun shines and get their tails together, they’d have the planet conquered inside of a week. And then it would be us humans being dragged to Petsmart for a manicure.

And a cat with human intelligence? Frightening.

Long the Tiger / Shenlong the Tiger

Double tiger backfire. Disqualified.

Gado the Lion

Imagine all the cunning and intelligence of the common house cat, but in a body that could topple a car. Now imagine that same beast attaining human intelligence, and, I don’t know, maybe it has hair like Cloud Strife. And it can smell fear.

MrowGado is a mercenary or soldier or something (does the United Nations have foot soldiers? They do in this universe!), and he can turn into a freaking lion. There’s no stopping that! Part lion, part warrior is the exact thing we have been fearing since that one Mega Man episode, and here it is after it got a gym membership. Gado was the final boss of much of Bloody Roar 2, and that’s no surprise when you’ve got the king of the jungle running around. The Lion is the winner. There’s only one apex feline so powerful, so fear-inducing that it could possibly top…

Shina the Leopard

Nope. Article over. Not thinking about this game ever again.

FGC #352 Bloody Roar 3

  • System: Playstation 2 almost exclusively, though there is an arcade version in Japan.
  • Number of players: Two bloody animals.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s a Playstation 2 fighting game that is more or less a lot closer to the Playstation 1 fighting game mold (ala Tekken 3). This isn’t a bad thing! It might not be advancing the genre or anything so lofty, but it’s a fun time, and the whole beast mode system incorporates a very natural handicap into the gameplay. Really kicking butt? Try not morphing, and let your opponent recover some of that lost health while you’re more defensive. More fighting games should allow for such an obvious “gimme” (and also the ability to turn into a lion).
  • Favorite Character: Uriko the Half-Beast, because I like the fast, easy to use characters. And I’m a horrible person.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: The first Bloody Roar seemed to have the most robust, varied roster in the series, and among its members was Mitsuko the Boar. Mitsuko was Uriko’s mother, and she was the extremely rare “heavy” female fighting game character. And she was rad! She was a basically a lady Zangief, and a boar is a pretty imposing animal form. Aaaaand she was never seen again. Bunny girl has appeared in every game in the series, though.
  • Did you know? There was an official Bloody Roar Chia Pet. Don’t laugh! There are Guardians of the Galaxy Groot Chia Pets, so it’s clear these guys know how to capture the zeitgeist.
  • Would I play again: There are so many fighting games on the Playstation 2, and, while this is the only one where I can control a mole-man, I don’t think we’ll see this one again. There’s a fighting lizard man in Mortal Kombat if I get in the mood.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Metal Slug 3! Get ready to shoot every damn thing between here and Mars! Please look forward to it!

Hey, I used all the images for once
Ahhhhhhhhhh!

FGC #206 Bushido Blade

Slashy slashyBushido Blade is the most prominent evolutionary dead-end in fighting game history.

One fun aspect of the FGC has been playing videogames from all over gaming history, and experiencing the various quirks and signs of the games’ respective times. It’s easy to say that “fighting games” have been practically unchanged since Street Fighter 2 first hit the arcades, but, depending on the console generation, you can see the exact fluctuations and gimmicks that have grown over the epochs. Combos started as practically a glitch, but then dominated the late 16-bit/early 32-bit era. The emergence of the “super bar” and “rationing meter” became more important as time went on, and the main trait of 2-D fighters just a few years ago seemed to be “all teleportation, all the time”. Even items on the backend of fighting games seemed to evolve, from codes to access hidden characters, then insane unlock conditions, and now season passes and microtransactions. So now, whether you’re playing Blazblue, Mortal Kombat, or Street Fighter, you can expect to see many of the same “moves” and “features” across franchises, and half of those innovations didn’t exist a few years ago. Fighting games have evolved, but it’s only through playing old and new side-by-side that one sees the differences.

And Bushido Blade influenced exactly none of those games.

I guess Bushido Blade is a 3-D fighting game, so maybe I should be comparing it to the likes of SoulCalibur or Tekken… but Bushido Blade seems a lot more 2-D than its theoretical 3-D contemporaries, at least in the “fighting” department… Maybe that’s the first problem. Bushido Blade is truly 3-D, and allows the fighters to completely explore the wide open arenas of its stages.

And… there’s never any reason to that. This is a fighting game, not Zelda. Climbing vines should only ever be a last resort!

OwieEven if this were Zelda, though, at least that franchise has the decency to provide a heart meter. There is no fight timer or life meter in Bushido Blade. Conceptually, this is interesting. Rather than constantly scanning the top of the screen to interpret an abstract bar that is meant to represent the accumulated damage of a thousand jabs to the face, the fighters wear their wounds on their sleeves (literally, in the case of arm attacks). Limbs may be damaged, so the big bruiser might get stuck crawling around on dummy legs, or the favored samurai might wind up with unusable arms. Of course, that will never happen, because it is really easy to land an instantly mortal blow. And I do mean instantly.

The thing everyone seems to remember about Bushido Blade is that the weapons work like, well, weapons. This is not Battle Arena Toshinden, a game where you can soak a few chainsaw blows; no, a well-placed sword strike well abruptly end a match with the tiniest nick. Sorry, dude, kinda chipped an artery there, and now you’re bleeding out before the match even really began. Hell, you can literally end the battle before it begins by metaphorically lobbing your opponent’s head off while the sucker performs a welcoming bow. Never show your neck to a guy brandishing a sword.

But don’t worry! A “dishonorable” player will be punished for sneaky actions. Bushido Blade, as one might expect, holds true to the Bushido Code, which I’m moderately certain wasn’t something invented after the fact to make samurai movies more interesting. Even though you can kill your opponent instantly, you shouldn’t, because it is far more honorable to drag it out and maybe suffer a debilitating injury for the sake of everybody playing fair. It’s the Bushido way. If you’re playing the one player “Story Mode”, you’ll find your journey cut short by a chastising message should you recklessly manslaughter your way through the game. A samurai should be noble and…

And…

Uh…

OuchDammit. Bushido Blade doesn’t actually tell you the Bushido Code at any point, nor does it offer any immediate “you weren’t supposed to do that” messages when you’re playing the game. So, while this morality system is fun an’ all, it’s kind of inscrutable without a FAQ or manual. Why do I even have the ability to throw dirt in a dude’s eye if I’m not allowed to use it!?

And there’s a Beat ‘em Up mode! Hey, that got used by a lot of future fighters! Does this qualify? Well, no, because everyone involved is just as fragile as ever, so it’s less Final Fight and more Survival Mode, a thing that has existed in fighting games practically since Dhalsim breathed his first fireball. Good try at relevance, though.

Finally, there’s the most bizarre artifact of them all: 3-D First Person Mode. Perhaps in an effort to ape the First Person Shooters of the time, Bushido Blade offers a First Person Fighting Mode. It’s not mandatory (thank God), and it plays more like a “tech demo” than a full-fledged “mode”, but it is there if you want to experience a fighting game from the perspective of the fighter. Even though the mode itself seems limited, the actual second-to-second of it seems well considered, as you have a little “dummy” in the top right displaying your character’s current stance and movements. What is even happening?Considering this thing would be completely impossible without such a guide, it makes sense that such a visual concession is there… but considering the rest of Bushido Blade, I’m kind of surprised this FPF works as well as it does.

And that’s basically Bushido Blade in a nutshell. It works… but only on its own terms. You must follow the code of Bushido (even if you have no idea what it is), you must explore the open arenas for secrets (even if there doesn’t immediately appear to be a reason to do so), and you must survive the onslaught of potential instant kills (even if some of the fatal blows seem completely arbitrary). It’s not hard to see why future fighters didn’t follow in Bushido Blade’s footsteps when the average player probably never had any real idea what was going on.

Wait a tick, you explained why the game was an evolutionary dead-end, why was it the most prominent evolutionary dead-end?

Oh, right. Because hitting your buddy with a sledgehammer until he can’t stand up is always going to be fun.

FGC #206 Bushido Blade

  • System: Playstation. It apparently had some rereleases digitally in Japan, but I can’t find any evidence that that was released in America. And by “evidence” I mean “I searched the Playstation store once”. We all know that really means nothing.
  • Number of players: Two samurai enter, one samurai leaves. The other one leaves, too, but there is probably limping involved.
  • Favorite Character: I feel like there isn’t a lot of distinction between the characters in this game, which is a serious black mark for a fighter. I’m going to choose… Red Shadow? That sounds right. It doesn’t really matter, because…
  • ShinyFavorite Weapon: Here’s where all the distinction in Bushido Blade lies. Yes, the sledgehammer is the most… murder-y weapon, but it does feel the most like cheating. So I usually try the broadsword, which offers all the heft of the sledgehammer, but at least it’s an actual sword, and not masonry equipment.
  • Did you know: Unlike some games, blood was actually added to the NA version. A fatal blow just creates yellow whatsits in the Japanese version, but us bloodthirsty Americans get a healthy spritz of body goo. Maybe this was because Mortal Kombat was and forever will be a thing, but whatever the reason, I vastly prefer the bloody version. Makes everything more… visceral.
  • Would I play again: As a novelty between friends, yes, but I’d much prefer it to be available on a modern system. Hint hint, Sony/Square/Whoever!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past! Good job, ROB! Don’t be late to the party with this link to the past! Please look forward to it!