Tag Archives: dreamcast

FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (Live!)

Let's get ready to go!Well, this went just about as well as expected.

In honor of FGC Entry #300, I decided to do a “live pick” with BEAT and FanboyMaster. In the end, the game wound up being Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, and… I’m not very good at it. Please enjoy watching Claire Redfield die a whole lot below.

Notes! With Time Annotations!

4:00 – Our first pick is… not allowed. It turns out that if you ask BEAT to choose a number between one and ten, he will choose twelve billion. Eventually, Adventure Island 3 is chosen… and then dropped due to not actually being emulator-ly available. I am not going to fight my NES for a half hour.

6:47 – The Sega Saturn Bootleg Sampler is mentioned. Despite the name, this was an official demo disc that came with new Sega Saturns. It had a playable demo for Sega Rally Championship, and a video preview of Daytona USA. Bless the short-lived reign of the racing game. Oh, and Etrian Mystery Dungeon is also picked… but man do I not want to stream that. There are no objections.

9:50 – Okay, now we’ve settled on our actual pick. Third time’s a charm! Now I just have to wander across the room to actually find the game.

14:05 – Now we’re actually playing a videogame! Sorta! I’m having difficulty even navigating the menus… and that’s a fine preview for the rest of the evening.

21:28 – FanboyMaster proves to be the Resident Evil guru around here, while BEAT learns for the first time that Claire on the game case is not the eponymous “Veronica”. Come on, BEAT, I’m terrible at this game, and I knew that.

27:13 – Let’s talk about Sonic the Hedgehog cameras while Claire is nibbled to death by the absolute earliest zombies available. What happened to the super agile Claire of the opening cinema?

Weeeeeee37:00 – FanboyMaster continues to provide excellent coaching, but I am just terrible at this game. I’ve said it before, but I cannot in good conscience complain about the overabundance of tutorials in modern games, because I do not miss nonsense like this. I’ll echo exactly what I said in the stream: I cannot tell you how many times I opened a menu or the map screen in an attempt to shoot a zombie, and, immersion or no, I’d kind of like to have an explanation of how to defend myself before I’m chewed to pieces by the walking dead. There, that’s my big takeaway from replaying a tanky Resident Evil about two decades after its release. Now we can go back to watching me die.

42:00 – There is a brief discussion regarding third party controllers. I looked it up afterwards, and, yes, the Super Advantage was a third party controller, but the original NES Advantage was first party. I’m glad I got that fact right while showcasing my embarrassing Resident Evil skills.

49:50 –

Albert Whiskers

58:00 – Please enjoy a brief discussion of Umbrella Co. bureaucracy while my brain breaks over the first puzzle in the game. I cannot imagine why I didn’t get into the Resident Evil series until 4…

1:06:00 – I am not a cool nerd: my greatest memory of StarCraft is getting a friend to eat dog food. And then we talk about projectile vomiting.

1:09:00 – FanboyMaster leaves for parts unknown, so BEAT ‘n Goggle Bob are doomed. Let’s talk about Let’s Play styles while Claire creeps closer to her inevitable death.

1:12:00 – FanboyMaster returns to discuss Phoenix Wright, Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil 4. These are all games I would rather be playing.

1:17:00 – I finally throw in the towel, as FanboyMaster reveals I’ve been trying to extinguish the wrong fire at the wrong truck. Let’s look at some VMU saves instead.

1:20:00 – Now for random excerpts of BEAT and I chatting over Sonic Adventure 2, a Dreamcast game that I actually know how to play.

REEMAIL1:30:00 – It all comes back to Kingdom Hearts as we close out the evening around 1 AM. Thanks to everyone that watched the stream live, and extra special thanks to FanboyMaster and BEAT for guesting. Obviously, a certain non-skeleton someone was slightly more useful on this stream, but a fun time was had by all. Here’s to another 300 FGCs! Note: there will not be another 300 FGCs.

FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica

  • System: Dreamcast tonight, but it eventually returned on Playstation 2, Gamecube, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. What? It’s not on any modern compilations?
  • Number of players: The Redfield siblings are available, but only one at a time.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Haven’t I talked about it enough!? The long short of it is that I am no good at tanky Resident Evil games, and absolutely never have been. This is another Goldeneye situation where my friends were all super enthused about this series, but I just couldn’t get into it until Resident Evil 4. As a result, what little skills I had in this franchise have atrophied over time, and, again, I’m not even sure I ever actually played this game in the first place. I remember watching friends play it, as I recall many of the plot points from the game, but the actually nitty gritty of where demon dogs lie is completely absent from my brain.
  • BURN!Aw, I wanted a real Resident Evil- Code: Veronica article, and not just Goggle Bob flailing about: Don’t worry, I’m sure ROB will choose one of the remakes eventually.
  • Favorite Button: Whichever one brings up the completely useless map, evidently.
  • I’m Consistent: Come to think of it, one of my first deaths in Bioshock was ducking into a bathroom stall that I thought was an exit, and, nope, dead-end. This seems to be a problem I have.
  • Did you know? If you’re as bad at this game as myself, you’ll be interested to know that there is a novelization of the game available. It’s fairly accurate to the source material, but (of course) does not include references to story bits added for the Playstation 2 version. Also, it adds one new shadowy badguy that is an original character, do not steal.
  • Would I play again? Now I almost feel like I have to… but I’m not going to. There are so many other things I could be doing, and most of them don’t involve steering hapless women into zombie outbreaks. Sorry!

What’s next? I’m taking the rest of the week off. There may be an article or two if I get bored, but the next official post will be on Monday 7/17, and it’ll be #301 Adventure Island 3. Please look forward to it!

FGC #286 Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

BROSIt’s a common practice among nerds to attempt to uncover the “jump the shark” moment in a particular piece of media. As the theory goes, when a franchise has gone downhill in quality over time, you should be able to look back at previous chapters/episodes/editions, and find the exact moment everything started to decline. This expression originates from the show Happy Days, wherein The Fonz jumped his motorcycle over progressively more frightening sea animals, until it all culminated with a shark. And I guess the shark sued the production company for mental duress, and then the writer’s budget ran out, and the show got worse… or… something like that. Personally, I’ve never cottoned to the idea that there even are “jump the shark” moments, as I have faith that everything is connected, and nothing occurs in a vacuum. For a current example, I completely believe that American Politics 2017 is the direct result not of “but her emails” or anything like that, but a healthy combination of fifty years of politics being treated like a football game and a young Donald Trump getting his head slammed into a locker far too many times in high school. Our world, and our entertainment that reflects our world, is just the latest stop on a never-ending highway, and every shark along the way is just as important as every… not-shark? What’s the opposite of a shark? Bees?

But, beliefs aside, there are occasions when I need to admit I’m wrong, and maybe there is an exact moment when everything goes to hell. For the Sonic Franchise, it’s right about here:

This guy

Now, I want to be clear about why Shadow the Hedgehog is terrible. First of all, it’s not because he’s a lazy color swap of Sonic the Hedgehog. He’s not a color swap! He clearly has different shoes and he’s got frosted (blazed?) tips on his hair spikes. That makes him a totally original character, so do not steal. And, secondly, I don’t hate Shadow because he theoretically gave rise to the Sonic fandom’s bizarre obsession with slightly recoloring Sonic, calling it something like “Twilight the Hedgehog”, and then filling an entire Deviantart with hastily sketched nonsense depicting Twilight saving Sonic and being the ultimate best hedgehog forever before appearing in some barefoot-based fetish porn. I can’t blame Shadow for all of that, because, let’s face it, that was always going to happen. There are an equal number of ersatz Princess Peaches out there doing… stuff… and you know it. Shadow might be the start of everything wrong with Hedgehog Fandom (what an odd thing to type), but that’s not why he’s the forbearer of bad Sonic times.

No, Shadow’s worst transgressions are the result of his debut game, Sonic Adventure 2.

Hit a homerSonic Adventure 2 has a loose theme about good and evil. This is appropriate, as SA2 is an unholy abomination created by soldering a good game and bad game together. On one hand, we’ve got probably the best Sonic the Hedgehog 3-D gameplay ever seen. It is not by any means perfect, but, once you master the intricacies of some horrible hitboxes, you really do feel like you’re rolling around at the speed of sound. Clearing a level without stopping and just creating a blue blur of spin dashing, homing dashing, and light speed ring collection feels amazing, and that general rollercoaster feeling hasn’t been matched by any later Sonic games. On the other hand, this is the game that introduced Sonic to rail-grinding, and that has never been fun. Those stupid rails effectively turn great swaths of levels (including the final, real Sonic stage) into minecart challenges, and… no, just no. Basically, every moment a hedgehog is on-screen, it’s guaranteed that you’re either really enjoying it or participating in some manner of hell.

Which brings us to the other fun bit: you’re not guaranteed any hedgehog time from level to level. Sometimes you’re Tails, who has eschewed his normal wannabe Sonic gameplay for something more like the shooting bits of Sonic Adventure. And that’s not bad! The “robo sections” of SA were exciting in their chaos, and nothing much has changed between games, save eliminating the time limits that could make those areas stressful. And Nibbles is back in his SA role of finding emerald shards for the flimsiest of reasons, but that’s just SA’s excuse for more exploratory, less dash-y gameplay. It’s not what one signs up for with a Sonic game, but, for its epoch, it was an entertaining distraction. Though, I suppose, that is the issue, as, in order to play the Sonic game you inexorably wanted (there were two hedgehogs on the cover of this game, it should have to go fast!), you have to clear all the Tails/Nurples nonsense, which means slowing down to their levels. Boo slowdown!

But we still have the bad guy side. Dr. Robotnik is clearly the big bad of the Sonic franchise, so he’s obviously the leader of Team Bad. And, yes, he plays exactly like robo-Tails, so that kind of makes sense. But… aside from an army of generic robots, now we’re out of antagonists for the franchise. Sonic doesn’t even have a Tatanga or Wart, so I guess we need to get a Wario and Waluigi in here. Rogue the Bat was introduced as one part Catwoman and one part… No, she’s pretty much just a furry Catwoman, complete with the shifting alliances and a weird inclination toward being attracted to her oblivious rival. And then we’ve got Shadow, the escaped science experiment and preposterous dark hedgehog.

NOBODY LIKES YOUAnd Shadow… kind of works.

So he’s a cryogenically frozen hedgehog from two generations back? Sure, okay. I mean, there were already two games’ worth of echidna murals depicting a hedgehog saving the world, so it’s only natural that Grandpappy Robotnik would make his “ultimate life form” a hedgehog. Grease the wheels of prophecy whenever you get a chance, ya know? And he can pull off some magical teleporting abilities with the aid of a Chaos Emerald. That makes sense, too. I mean, Sonic and Knux are confirmed idiots, and Tails is pretty laser focused on machines, so it stands to reason there was more to those silly gems than going super saiyan. And Shadow has a bad attitude? Is that a problem? I mean, Sonic is the original animal with attitude (as far as videogames go, at least), and he’s only lost his edge over the years thanks to a decade of being merchandized by Urkel. Shadow the Edgelord is just a return to established hedgehog roots.

But the reason Shadow really works on an intrinsic level is that he is the core of the game’s plot. He was built by Grandpa Gerald to be the ultimate life form powered by Chaos Emeralds, and, by the end of the game, we’ll find that Gerald built his own Death Star and mecha-dinosaur, and it was all an insidious plot to destroy the world, and who will save us now!? Don’t worry, citizens, Shadow is here, and he’s equipped with the knowledge of the past and the support of Sad Auntie Eggwoman, and everything is going to be okay! Shadow will, at the final hour, sacrifice himself for the good of humanity, and, see? Team Bad Guy was actually Team Pretty Okay Guy all along.

WeeeeeAnd everyone knew that plot would work, because it’s the exact same plot as the last Sonic Adventure game. Shadow is basically SA’s Tikal, the ancient model swap of Noodles the Echidna that wound up wrapped up in an ancient weapon that threatens to destroy humanity and only focused caring will save us all. Except Tikal was not a hedgehog, so she was a lot more mopey than radical, and she never made it past her debut game (save a cameo or two). Shadow, meanwhile… well… Are there any games post SA2 that haven’t involved Shadow? Was he in Sonic 4? I want to say he at least got a cameo…

And that’s Shadow’s biggest problem: he just won’t go away. Shadow had a perfect little plot in Sonic Adventure 2, and, by the finale, it’s time for him to heroically perish, the end, thanks for coming by, Shadow. But, no, Shadow came back in the very next Sonic game, and he kept coming back after that. He even got his own game! It was confusing! And why did this keep happening? Was it because he was just that popular? The fans demanded it? Is it because it’s so simple to implement the Luigi to Sonic’s Mario? Does Sonic Team just want more gosh darn cussin’? Who can really provide the actual answer? I sure don’t know, but it is clear that Shadow the Hedgehog is here to stay.

The best characterAnd it’s that damn hedgehog that flushed the series. It’s not about him having too much attitude or using a gun or whatever other sins Shadow has committed; it’s about the keepers of Sonic looking at this singular, silly, dead character, and deciding to revive him because he should somehow be essential to the Hedgehog Universe. That makes Shadow the representative of the exact moment this franchise stopped being about blast processing, and more about the greater Chaos Emerald Mythology…. And Sonic got left by the wayside. It took over a decade after Shadow’s debut for Sonic and Sonic Gameplay to take center stage again, but, by that time, the damage was already done. We were cursed to live in a world where the word “werehedgehog” exists, and it all started with Shadow.

Shadow the Hedgehog, you were born the exact moment your species jumped the shark.

FGC #286 Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

  • System: Well, “Battle” technically appeared on the Gamecube (and was the first time Sonic starred in a game on a Nintendo home console… I think), but the original Sonic Adventure 2 first appeared on the Dreamcast. It was also then rereleased on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Hedgehogs get around.
  • Number of players: There’s a two player “battle mode”, and it’s theoretically more robust on all post-Dreamcast releases. Except… there isn’t much of a difference. You can play as additional characters!… that were all in the original, but had to be unlocked first. And there are new costumes? Who cares.
  • PUMPKIN HILL, YOJust play the gig, man: This is the best music in the Sonic in the franchise. I’m not kidding. At all. The original games have fun music, but I find myself humming other Genesis tunes a lot more often. And the latter games have ridiculous lyric/guitar songs, but they’ve gotten progressively more… I think “trendy” is the right word. But for Sonic Adventure 2? Oh man, they totally got the sweet spot on something that will be in your head all day and is completely incomprehensible. That’s exactly what I look for in a Dreamcast soundtrack.
  • I am an addict: Let me tell you about how I was glued to a Dreamcast VMU for a solid two months thanks to the damn Chao Garden minigame. Actually, no, I’m not going to tell you about that, because I’m pretty sure it ends with my friends flattening that VMU for my own safety.
  • Favorite Character: I mentioned it briefly in the article proper, but I really do enjoy the Tails/Eggman sections of the game. And, of the two, I kind of enjoy playing as Eggman more. He’s just so happy about winning for once!
  • Did you know? There is also a lame racing game hiding in Sonic Adventure. It is… so terrible.
  • Would I play again: Every once in a while, I get a hankering to play City Escape or… whatever stage it is where Shadow is on the bridge. City… Hazard? Something like that. But other than that, I rarely revisit this game, as I generally prefer the good ol’ days of 2-D.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pac-Man for the Gameboy! Yellow Man becomes Gray Man! Please look forward to it!

Master Emerald?  Get it?
Should we be seeing this?

FGC #260 Giga Wing

So many wingsI remember the old days of entertainment. Back in that bygone age, the internet as we now know it didn’t exist, and “streaming” was a marvelous fantasy imagined only by those that had modems capable of downloading more than six JPEGs per day. While many of you younger readers are likely desperately attempting to imagine the full ramifications of that past (“where did centaur porn come from?”), consider that the older members of the audience know exactly the trials of those troubling times. And, should you speak to one of those elders, you might hear tales of days when the entire viewing guide for Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t available at all times on a device you keep in your coat pocket. This made television watching very hard! If you missed an episode, you just had to hope you caught it again in the ol’ rerun cycle (maybe TNT picked up the show for 24 hour syndication), or you were out of luck. Do you know how difficult it was to watch The X-Files? Every time you’d tune in, you’d hope to get some new information on that smoking dude, but, no, it was that damn episode about the guy with the tail. X-Files was never good! Everyone tuned in every week hoping against hope that this was a new episode, and by the time you realized it was a repeat, well, it was Friday night, not much else to do, anyway, may as well stick around. Ratings blockbuster!

Though I suppose one advantage of living through that unenlightened time is that it instilled in my generation an inescapable feeling of… hm, there’s probably a German word for this… solace in not knowing everything. For an easy, nerdy example, look no further than Sailor Moon. Here’s a series that premiered daily every morning before school. Unlike, say, Sonic the Hedgehog the Cartoon, Sailor Moon was a (mostly) serial story, with new characters appearing, old villains being defeated, and the occasional “arc” that would end and lead to some kids playing a flute for some reason. In modern “binge” thinking, it seems like skipping even one episode of a serial story is tantamount to forgetting your mother’s birthday, yet, back then, if it was revealed that Tuxedo Mask was actually that dude that occasionally dresses like Dracula and now he’s evil for some reason, and you missed it, meh, you got on with your life and watched the next episode. This dude that is named after a rock is actually a dudette in the Japanese version? Neat. Doesn’t matter, though, this episode is about a blue version of Garfield. To be clear, it’s not that we reveled in our ignorance (that is a luxury that can only be afforded to modern man), simply that we acknowledged there were things we’d never know, and we moved on. It could be confusing, but it worked.

pew pewGiga Wing is a colorful Capcom shooter for the Sega Dreamcast. It vaguely resembles another beloved Capcomian shoot ‘em up, 1942, and, considering the Dreamcast didn’t have that many games (ever), it was likely to sneak into your average DC owner’s collection. Giga Wing, technically, had no barrier to entry: it was not “the latest in the franchise”, it did not feature some abstruse control scheme or 3-D “upgrade” of old play styles. It was, simply, a new shoot ‘em up, which puts it in a genre that barely needs more than one button. Bundle in two player, simultaneous co-op mode, and this seems like a game that could be the easiest “pick up and play” game on the system since SoulCalibur.

Unfortunately, while America wasn’t looking, the shoot ‘em up genre changed a little bit.

You’re likely familiar with the phrase “bullet hell shooter”. For those of you that have avoided the genre, it basically describes any game where there are approximately infinity “bullets” on the screen at any given moment, and you must steer your lil’ space ship deftly through the hail of death to avoid a practically inevitable crash landing into flaming wreckage. In a way, this is the logical endpoint of the “dodge everything” areas of Gradius and alike, but, on the other hand, it’s nigh a genre onto itself. While shoot ‘em up skills are valuable in a bullet hell game, a true bullet hell experience effectively begs for its own very specific skill set. And really good eyes, too. Dem bullets are tiny.

Pewin'But it’s not difficult to spot the evolution of the bullet hell. Obviously, you needed to wait until systems could process 7,00,00,000 little glowing balls of death on the screen at a time, so the genre didn’t really get going until the 90s. Many point toward Batsugun as the start of the fire, but DonPachi is practically the Super Mario Bros. of the field. And then there’s Radiant Silvergun, probably best known as the predecessor to Ikaruga, one of the best bullet hells in all the cosmos. There are plenty of famous/infamous bullet hell games that preceded Giga Wing.

… Only problem is that they were all released exclusively in Japan. Whoops.

So, for anyone that scored a copy of Giga Wing back in the Summer of 2000, the experience was… kind of confusing. Giga Wing offers infinite and instant continues, which is ideal, but if you’re someone that doesn’t enjoy their own death, it can get pretty frustrating, pretty fast. The opening stages are manageable, but, for anyone expecting “1942: The Next Generation”, well, bad news, but I don’t think the Allies are winning this war. This is a bullet hell game through and through, and that means that it requires more practice than it takes to get to Carnegie Hall. And, for whatever reason, we’re following Metal Slug rules here, so every continue means a reset to your high score, and good bloody luck surviving long enough to climb to that top of that score table. Entering into a bullet hell without any advance warning is just as welcoming as walking into actual hell. Abandon all hope ye who load this disc.

Luckily, that didn’t matter.

BAMWhen you come from a background of… solace in obliviousness, it’s a lot easier to deal with the unexpected. This is what shoot ‘em ups look like now? Okay, cool, yeah, I guess that makes sense. Let’s see what this game is about. There’s barely any internet, so I can’t check online reviews or message boards to see what people are talking about, and I’m the only person in this town with a damn Dreamcast, so I can’t ask my friends. I guess I’ll just play it? Sure I’ve died a lot, but I also beat the game with that one character, so let’s see if it’s any easier with this one over here. Hey, maybe I’ll call Vinnie and we’ll try out the two player mode. Hey, this is pretty fun when you get used to it…

And so it goes. The ignorance of not having other’s opinions or any context for what the hell is actually going on here pushes you to move forward, and, the game’s already here on my system, may as well try it. Sure you missed a couple of episodes, and, yes, you might enjoy it more with more information, but you can muddle through all the same. And, in the end, you might find something you enjoy, even if you’ll never know anything more about it.

Buuuut you’ve got the internet now, so just go ahead and sit back and let me tell you about every game ever. What’s next, ROB?

FGC #260 Giga Wing

  • System: Sega Dreamcast. There’s also apparently an arcade version in some magical fairy land on the other side of the rainbow.
  • Number of players: Two! With infinite credits! Fun times are here again!
  • Odd problem I apparently have: I keep typing Wiga Ging. When did that start happening?
  • Favorite Flyer: I like the redhead. What’s her name? She’s a sky pirate? Ruby? No, that sounds too generic. Probably thinking of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Oh well, no matter. What matters is that she shoots straight and lights the entire screen ablaze. Now that’s a bullet inferno!
  • Engrish time: What in blazes is this supposed to mean?

    So true

    Is “the true meaning of ruins” going to be the subject of an afterschool special?

  • Did you know? There’s a Giga Wing 2 that was also released here, and a Giga Wing Generations that is effectively Giga Wing 3. It was only released in Japan and Europe, though. Does Europe have a larger fanbase for shooting games? That seems like a weird cultural divide.
  • Would I play again: I think I need to get a wife or roommate or something, because this is another game I want to couch co-op with somebody, but it’s not like I’m inviting anyone over to do that. Other than that, I probably won’t play this again, as there are modern, possibly fairy-based bullet hells available.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Spice World for the Sony Playstation! Ah ha ha… What!? I have got to stop hoarding videogames while drunk. That’s what I want. What I really, really want. Please look forward to it?

So true
I pretty much just like games where stuff explodes.

FGC #138 Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000

New Age of No HeroesIf you’ve been reading this site sequentially, first of all, I am so sorry. Secondly, one thing you may have noticed is that I seem to review a lot of fighting games. This is kind of surprising to me, as I didn’t think I owned that many fighting games, but the proof is in the pounding here. If I really think about it, it does make a certain amount of sense, as even just “buy every Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat” is going to lead to a number of games that are revisions, updates, or just plain lazy sequels. And beyond that, I enjoy fighting games in general, so I’m a lot more likely to take a chance on a luchadore skeleton game, than, say, a random FPS. When you consider how many fighting games were released between Street Fighter 2 and now, well, they take up a healthy portion of my library. And since the FGC is based on the games I have at hand, I guess a prodigious usage of the “fighting games” tag is gonna happen. C’est la vie (Sailor V also appeared in a fighting game).

Now, obviously, this means I play a lot of fighting games. I’m not talking about “for the FGC”, I mean that I have owned these games for years, so of course I played a number of them to death when they were first released. Like, alright, Battle Monsters didn’t see much usage, but even “lesser” fighting games like TMNT Tournament Fighters saw a lot of abused gamepads in their heyday. And a lot of fighting game experience means that I have a lot of fighting game preferences, like where my “strong attack” buttons should be located (shoulder buttons suuuuuck), a proper number of rounds (one and done, thank you), and whether or not special moves should be activated by anything other than a quarter circle motion (maybe I’ll allow two charge characters, but that’s it). It’s inevitable that when you’re a fan of a genre, you start demanding particular stipulations, and I know a number of fighting game aficionados that won’t even play a game if it has something seemingly innocuous like “distracting” backgrounds.

But there’s one place where I differ from typical fighting game fans: I don’t like tiers.

For those that haven’t spent their lives on messageboards, “tiers” refer to how certain characters in specific fighting games are supposed to compare to others. As an easy example, you have the Smash Bros series, where, according to data I am checking right now, Zero Suit Samus is supposed to be dramatically better than (last ranked) Jigglypuff. The term “tier” specifically refers to the fact that certain fighters are supposedly on exact echelons that are higher than others, so, say, POWIERosalina and Zero Suit Samus are roughly an equal match, while Ganondorf and Jiggylpuff should stick to the “scrub tier” with their own kind. In theory, tiers make a fighting game better: as long as everyone sticks to their tiers, matches are “even”, and no one has to worry about a great victory being soured by “well, sure, you won, but I was playing as Bowser Jr., so it doesn’t mean anything.” And, of course, tiers are great for players that want to maximize their effectiveness: Little Mac might seem great and powerful, but he’s loser tier, so why “learn” the lil’ lug when you’ll get better results with Rosalina? Tiers make everyone’s lives better!

Except… I kinda hate ‘em.

This may come as a shock to you, gentle reader, but I gave up on competitive sports somewhere around second grade. I want to say it was soccer, but I know it was boring. Since then, any physical activity that I’ve enjoyed has been almost dedicatedly “lonely”. I like to run. I like to swim. I like to surf. At least two of those “sports” require a great deal of being in an environment where hearing a “competitor” is next to impossible, and I use headphones to augment any other options. I’m not big into playing to win, I just like playing. I like to experience the joy of paddling through the waves as equally as I enjoy unleashing a properly timed optic blast, and neither action requires the validation of victory.

OUCHNow, I say I don’t need to “win”, but I do like to see improvement. Fighting games are all about getting better, improving, and fighting up the mountain of combatants until you’re lord of all corpses. I’ve made my peace with being one of those bodies stepped over to reach the top, and I’m perfectly content to be the very average, like many ever were. I might be able to train myself on a top tier character and claw my way to victory every time, but that’s not me, and I’d rather just figure out a few combos with Servbot. He’s adorable! My serv game is only getting better!

So imagine my surprise when I encountered a game with prebuilt “tiers”.

Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 is the Capcom produced fighting game that compliments SvC: Chaos. Right off the bat, CvS feels like a much more refined experience than its SNK brother (and it was released years earlier, too). Yes, we’re looking at a lot of reused Street Fighter Alpha 3 sprites, and, yes, this is less “Capcom vs. SNK” and more “Street Fighter vs. King of Fighters”, but, random Darkstalkers aside, who cares? Street Fighter and King of Fighters are both the kings (heh) of their respective companies, so if you’re going to have a company crossover, I’d rather see this lineup than Cut Man vs. Crystalis (okay, yes, I’d play that game, too). Minor gripes aside, though, CvS is a great fighting game in the Street Fighter (as opposed to Vs.) mold, which was a noble boon as this was released during the eleven year gap between Street Fighter 3 Mean girland Street Fighter 4. If you like tossing hadoukens at green Brazilians, you’ll like shoryukenning some redhead that managed to tie his pants together.

But there’s one big change to the “team” formula in Capcom vs. SNK, and that’s that each character belongs to a hard coded tier. Cammy is in the lowest tier, Orochi Iori is in the highest. This is important, as each team may have a certain number of characters from each tier. You may form a “team” of one tier four (highest) character, or an army of four tier one (lowest) characters. Feel free to mix and match at will, so if one tier three character teaming up with one tier one character is more your speed, go nuts. The possibilities are endless!

… Unless you want to have a team with Vega and Guile. That’s impossible, because those two characters would be just too overpowered if they worked together. May I interest you in a Dhalsim as an alternative? He’s… kinda like Guile, right?

Now, I understand the appeal of this system. Particularly with the generally invincible SNK bosses wandering around, it makes perfect sense to “handicap” any team with Rugal on the roster. But… is that really the best move? One-on-four sounds empowering in theory, but in practice it just means four quick matches where one fighter is forced into conserving health and playing it safe to survive the parade of opponents, and that opponent likely loses fighters as quickly as they can be experienced. Okay, I think I got a good flow going with Yuri here… oh, wait, she’s dead now, time to see how King will fare. On a basic level, “even” teams are always the way to go, else you inevitably run into the same problem you see with beat ‘em up style games that contain leveling (here’s one!). Either you’re too overpowered and it’s over before it’s begun, or you’re too underpowered, and everything becomes an endless slog. On a good match, everybody is even… but why can’t that just be the answer in the first place?

Find your fighter!And balance is already delicate in a fighting game before you start introducing mandated tiers. Sakura is tier 1, Ryu and Ken are tier 2, Sagat is tier 3, and Akuma ‘n Evil Ryu are tier 4. Now, I’m not going to claim all those characters are the same… except Ryu and “Evil Ryu” are the same guy! Yes, Evil Ryu has more power and attacks, but he’s not that different, he’s still Ryu. So when you’ve got characters that are very similar on every tier, what does that mean for a more technical character like Dhalsim? I guess he’s on the suck tier because he’s not very overtly powerful, but a new player would understand Evil Ryu’s fireball/uppercuts a lot easier than the dude who can punch from one end of the screen to the other. Who’s more powerful, now? And a character like Ryuji Yamazaki is powerful and technical, and rightfully on Tier Three… but he’s kinda crap if you don’t know his gimmicks, so good luck winning a match with him out of the gate, “powerful” or no.

Look, I’m not very good at fighting games. I have pretty good odds on understanding a fighting system and scoring a few wins on opening day, but after a game becomes established and everyone has gotten in their practice, I’m still playing around seeing how many fireballs I can toss in 99 seconds. I’ve never won any tournaments, I haven’t bought a “fight pad” since the PS2 days, and the idea of memorizing enormous chain combos makes my head hurt. All that said, I just want to play fighting games how I want to play ‘em, and forcing tiers onto a game is the exact worst way to satisfy that. I want Terry to team up with Akuma, and I want a four man team of all Shadaloo Generals. But I can’t do that, because someone decided that some random dudes are too powerful to work together. How is Vega powerful? Dude hasn’t scored a win since Champion Edition!

Fighting game tiers are fun thought experiments, and likely a great way for fans to gauge how a particular character might work in a certain matchup. Just keep the dang things out of actual games, and we should be fine.

FGC #138 Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000

  • System: Arcade, Dreamcast (used for this article), and… Playstation 1? Wow, that version could not have been good.
  • Number of players: Two is the number counted, and the number counted shall be two.
  • Artsplosion: If there’s one thing that I love about this game, it’s that each character has two character portraits, one in SNK house style, and the other for Capcom. I like “artistic interpretations” of established characters to begin with, but when you’ve got SNK Zangief or Capcom Mai running around, I’m downright elated.
  • Big Boss: Technically, the final boss is using a ratio total of 6, while the player is eternally limited to 4. Somehow, this doesn’t break the game.
  • An End: Officially, this completely noncanon tournament was won by…
    Dammit Dan!

    Dan and Joe! This is kind of weird, as, aside from some terribly homophobic KoF endings, Joe isn’t generally a joke character in the SNK pantheon. Would Mr. Karate taking Joe’s place be a little too… on the nose?
  • Favorite Fighter: Vice, battle secretary to Rugal and Iori, is my favorite random KoF participant. I’ve always liked how she plays, and her sadistic streak makes for an interesting character in battle and out. Sagat is in full “I’m a bad guy!” mode in this game, so he gets second place.
  • Did you know? The Final Fight stage features a song called “Needle”. In the console Japanese versions of the game, this song has lyrics that contain the phrase, “I’m ready to fuckin’ spill.” For some reason, this was cut from Western releases.
  • Would I play again: Let’s see… the only version of this game I own is on the same system as Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Soul Calibur. Hm, I wonder which game is more likely to get played…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man, the original, for the NES! Wow, I guess this turned out to be Capcom week. Let’s join that rockin’ Mega Man on his first adventure. Please look forward to it!

Go Batty