Tag Archives: fighting games

FGC #314 Kung Fu

HIYAHKung-Fu is the NES port of Kung-Fu Master, an arcade game originally intended to be based on Jackie Chan’s 1984 film, Wheels on Meals. By all accounts, such a dubious origin should not be the foundation for every fighting game that has ever been produced, but, hey, here we are.

Kung-Fu originates from the early “arcade” era of videogames, a time when “fun” had to be carefully balanced with “player will never ever succeed”. Kung-Fu appeased these twin masters with a fun, interesting gauntlet of unlimited, faceless mooks that want nothing more than to see your immediate death. Everyone remembers the bizarre “man train” of random dudes, but those that actually had the quarters to finish Kung-Fu also encountered dragons, moths, and a unusually high number of acrobatic dwarves. Each stage finished with a unique boss, and the final level of the pagoda hosted none other than Chuck Norris. Or maybe that guy from Karate Kid? Look, it doesn’t matter, the point is that that guy is capable of some punishing kicks, so trouncing him and reclaiming the captured Sylvia felt like a real accomplishment. And then the whole thing looped back to the beginning (complete with a bit of text that seems to imply that Sylvia is a professional kidnapping victim), because an arcade is not happy until you leave the place a penniless (quarterless) hobo.

Now, to be honest, that account could describe a number of games. Who is Mario but an average dude that deals with generic/murderous monsters on his way through a castle to rescue a princess from a big boss? And this game is based on a movie… a movie that didn’t have that much of an original plot to begin with. Come on, if battling up a pagoda was at all original, it wouldn’t be a lame sidequest in Final Fantasy 7. No, there isn’t much of a plot and story for Kung-Fu to latch onto. And if we’re going to claim this is the origin of fighting games, welp, it ain’t because this was the secret origin of Ryu.

Growl!But in the same way that Space Invaders tells you everything you need to know within its title, and Pac-Man never need be anything more than a puck-shaped man, Kung-Fu’s fighting origins come from the simplest of sources: the joypad. Ever seen a Kung-Fu Master arcade cabinet? There is a completely centered joystick, punch and kick buttons on either side (seemingly to, for once, placate our left handed community), and a complete lack of a jump button. Where did jump go? It’s the up key, and that’s all it ever needed to be.

And that changes everything.

Remember Donkey Kong? Why did Mario need separate “up” and “jump” buttons? Because ladders, that’s why. Mario had to distinctly climb his way to rescuing Pauline, and, while Jump Man may have been on a 2-D plane, he needed the faux 3-D motion of “going up” to properly ascend. In some stages there were elevators or moving platforms, but “up” was a necessary way of scaling the heights. “Jump” was there not to soar, but to avoid obstacles in Mario’s path. And when Mario became Super (after the release of Kung-Fu Master, incidentally), “jump” became Mario’s offense, defense, and a way to properly climb over blocks and up towards clouds. Mario’s jump was versatile to a ridiculous degree, and time has shown the many, many ways a jump can be applied to both terrible platformers and more interesting jump-a-thons.

But the jump of Kung-Fu is a very different animal. When you jump in Kung-Fu, you are doing one of two things:

  1. Avoiding a low attack
  2. Delivering a hella rad jump kick

HIYAHThat’s it! That’s all a Kung-Fu jump does. There are no ladders to climb. There are no doors to enter. Even vaulting over an enemy is less satisfying than simply kicking that creeping snake right in the asp. The jump of Kung-Fu is there for one reason and one reason only: it is another avenue of attack. The best defense is a good offense, so the best way to avoid a million encroaching dudes is to distribute a million deadly punches. If that doesn’t work, leap over the incoming attack, and, hi-yah, jump kick to the face. Who needs “environmental hazards” when you’ve got dudes tossing friggin’ knives!?

And that right there is the origin of the fighting game. I’ve said it before, but fighting games are pure expressions of basic concepts. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Self (mirror match). Man vs. Metal Slug. When Chun-Li experiences a particularly bad Tuesday and needs to avenge her father, she doesn’t need to jump over seventeen barrels and then successfully bop sixty turtles before finally moving onto the main boss; no, all she need do is beat ten dudes to a pulp, prove her worth in a simple 2-D plane, and advance to the tournament organizer/Magic Hitler. And, yes, Chun-Li jumps by simply tapping up, because her jump exists exclusively to necessitate various kinds of sweet kicks. In fact, upgrade for better graphics, buttons, and the occasional fireball, and Chun-Li controls exactly like Thomas the Kung-Fu Dude. And the boss of the third stage of Kung-Fu? You can’t tell me that ain’t Mike Bison Balrog.

So many little peopleKung-Fu might not be a true fighting game, but all the elements are starting to coalesce here in this 1984 game. Play Street Fighter, Blazblue, or even Tekken, then return to Kung-Fu, and things will seem… very familiar. It all starts with a simple jump interface, and it ends with Ryu tossing dragon punches.

And the poor folks behind Kung Fu Master never get any credit…

Oh, wait, apparently Kung-Fu Master was created by Takashi Nishiyama, the man responsible for Street Fighter who then went on to SNK to start Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, and Samurai Shodown. Huh. I guess that guy knew what he was doing.

Well, nobody ever claims Moon Patrol was the start of all fighting games…

FGC #314 Kung Fu

  • System: NES for the review (and certainly the version I played the most), but Kung-Fu also appeared in the arcades (duh), Apple devices, a couple of Ataris, and the Commodore 64.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. This is not the game where two guys fight in front of a judge with weird hair. That’s Karate Champ.
  • HIYAHFavorite Boss: The magician at the end of the fourth stage will literally lose his head if you knock it off with a kick. He… gets better.
  • Did you know? Koji Kondo, the composer for Street Fighter 2 (and thus, Guile’s theme) composed the soundtrack for the NES version. Another fighting game connection!
  • Would I play again: This is an important piece of history that is hard as steel. I might play it again for thirty seconds, but I’m totally quitting after my first death.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Generations! Dammit, ROB! Sonic Mania just came out! Can’t I write about that game? Or could you have picked Sonic Generations last week, and we could have made a theme out of it? No? Damn you, robot. Fine, Sonic Generations it is. Please look forward to it!

HIYAH

FGC #306 King of Fighters 2006

Let's go, brosVideogames are subjective. Yes, that is obvious, but considering how often a review or preview boils down to, “Well, is it good?” it’s worth remembering that, for a lot of people, that’s all that matters. And “good”, practically by definition, is subjective. What’s more, videogames are gestalts. Actually, just typing that reminds me NieR: Gestalt and NieR: Automata again. I managed to barely mention the gameplay of both of those games during that article, but, from my perspective, I prefer Gestalt’s “simple” combat to Automata’s Platinum “dodge all the time” combat. I hate “waiting for an opening”, and would much rather just slam the attack button mindlessly until the giant mutant cows come home. Does this mean I think Automata “isn’t good”? No, of course not, but it does mean that I would prefer a “version” of Automata that is a little more… mindless. And do I think my opinion is “right”? Heck no, I simply know what I like. Hey, if I’m going to play through a forty hour story, I don’t want to get stuck on one stupid boss because I don’t 100% understand its dodge window.

But sometimes knowing your opinion is wrong is a tad… disheartening. NieR Automata has outsold NieR Gestalt by a roughly twelve billion to one ratio, so it’s pretty safe to say that if there is another NieR adventure, it’s more likely to feature pretty robots dodging bullets than grizzled old men clumsily waving around spears. It’s the way of things. Even though videogames are made up of many completely separate pieces (what I like most about Automata could arguably work just as well in a JRPG… or even a “light” platformer), the people that judge “what went right” often latch onto one or two tiny facets and emulate that for years. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Skyrim for its expansive world or because you really like collecting cheese wedges, the game is deemed a success exclusively for its “open world gameplay”. And then “Skyrim clones” are thus labeled because of that emulated open world, and not because they borrowed any of the other billion moving pieces found in a game that large. Success can only be one thing, and look no further than the army of Super Mario Bros. imitators on the NES to see how well that works when the game in question is “simple”. And it’s just as easy to copy your favorite part of a game as its worst.

Is it supposed to be heart?Today’s game is technically King of Fighters 2006, but, as I realized after ROB picked the dang thing, it’s a game with another name: King of Fighters Maximum Impact 2. What’s the distinction? Why does that name strike fear into my heart? Well, because this, like Street Fighter EX before it, is yet another 2-D fighting game franchise that decided to make the leap to 3-D, and forsake everything good about the good ol’ days. Delightful sprite-work? Gone for the sake of clunky 3-D models. Fireballs owning the only plane available? Welcome to sidestep city. And the beloved, honed-over-a-decade incremental improvements to the KOF franchise were all tossed out with the bathwater to make way for new characters like Kyo with a Dye Job and Butterfly Girl. The old King of Fighters is dead, long live the new 3-D king (of fighters).

And… uh… I feel kind of bad because… ya know… I actually like King of Fighters: Maximum Impact.

Fighting games, by my reckoning, are pretty much pure videogame experiences. There are no ways to “emulate” a fighting game outside of a computer simulation (you could, for instance, set up a Super Mario Bros.-esque obstacle course in reality, or just read Xenosaga: The Book and get much the same experience as the game, but the only way to hurl a fireball directly at an opponent that is attempting to dodge via a punch that launches its user three body lengths in the air is to ask Capcom nicely), and, in a manner of speaking, Poor guyyou know everything a fighting game has to offer within its first few moments. It’s extremely rare to see a fighting game that follows the JRPG tradition of “stick around, it really gets good about 20 hours in”, or the old action game chestnut of switching control to some unwanted gimmick randomly until the real game starts up again (I’m going to start calling this Batmobile syndrome). Ultimately, what you see is what you get with a fighting game, and if it doesn’t click in the first few minutes, you’re probably never going to like it. Yes, there’s the chance you’ll get better at a fighting game, or learn to appreciate it more as you discover the various systems, but that first impression is at its most pure in the fighting genre.

And from that perspective, from that general “does it feel right”, I’d much rather play Maximum Impact over practically every other King of Fighters game released before or after. And I kind of like the King of Fighters franchise! It’s no Street Fighter, MvC, or even Blazblue, but it’s always been generally fun. I played King of Fighters ’95 on the Playstation (1) roughly until about ten minutes after my eyes started bleeding, and I’d hop right back onto the Chang Koehan train if the doctors ever let me have that disc back. And, with the exception of King of Fighters 12 (or was it 13? Or both?), I have yet to find a King of Fighters game that I distinctly dislike. But, for no reason other than an extremely vague “cuz I like it”, I have enjoyed Maximum Impact from its first moment. And “Maximum Impact 2” is just MI, but with more characters (including Fio of Metal Slug!), so it’s arguably my favorite King of Fighters game in the franchise. In fact, before the release of King of Fighters 14, it was indisputably my number one KoF. King of Fighters 2006, you’re a pretty rad game.

LOOK OUTBut I feel almost ashamed to admit that. This is the King of Fighters game that is the least King of Fighters. All the little pieces that should make up a King of Fighters game aren’t here. Despite the 2006 moniker, it is forever relegated to the spin-off ghetto, where it’s forced to hang out with the likes of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and (shudder) Soulcalibur Legends. Ask any true King of Fighters fan, and Maximum Impact is bound to be derided. According to history, it’s the black sheep of the franchise, an evolutionary dead end that was later abandoned for more traditional gameplay. King of Fighters 2006 was a mistake, plain and simple.

But it’s one of my favorite mistakes, so eat it, objective reviews of the franchise. This gestalt, somehow, adds up to something great. Heck, show me another King of Fighters where I can fight a bleeding Metal Slug, and then maybe we’ll talk.

FGC #306 King of Fighters 2006

  • System: Playstation 2, and like six arcades worldwide. You know, the PS2 era was kind of weird: a game was either on every system, or only PS2. That seems odd compared to the 360/PS3 “universal” era.
  • Number of players: Only two people may become the King of Fighters. Wait, no, that doesn’t quite work.
  • Favorite Character: I really enjoy the cast of this game, as it includes luminaries from Mark of the Wolves, Metal Slug, and the ol’ King of Fighters standbys like Mai and Ralf. But I’m going to go with one of the more unique Maximum Impact characters, Mignon Beart. She’s supposed to be Athena’s “rival” character, and she’s designed to be… as annoying as possible. And she succeeds! So I prefer to see her crazy antics defeating the hyper-serious main characters of the franchise. Nobody likes you, Kyo.
  • OwieA shape of things to dumb: Everyone in the cast gets a “fun” alternate costume. And most of these costumes are pure fan service for other SNK games! And you know all of these costumes would be deemed DLC a console generation later.
  • Sideshow: This might be the only fighting game wherein the silly side games are more fun than… anything. Like, anything ever. Who wants to beat up a stationary car when there’s a Metal Slug available? Or an encroaching steamroller, so you can act out your wildest Who Framed Roger Rabbit fantasies? And there’s always the option to beat moai heads out of solid rock.
  • What’s in a name? This is Maximum Impact 2 everywhere but on North American Playstation 2s. Considering King of Fighters has always been something of a niche of a niche genre (particularly in 2006), it’s a bizarre appeal to the diehard fans.
  • Did you know? Billy Kane’s little sister makes her only playable appearance in this one. She’s basically a Billy clone, but it’s nice to see a little more female representation from the franchise.
  • Would I play again: Maybe! I mean, I like this game, but there are a lot of other fighting games out there. Maybe the next time I need to see the Beart family again, I’ll shake off the dust.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Disney Infinity (3.whatever)! Time to play with toys! Please look forward to it!

Owie

FGC #298 Rumble Roses

Due to the subject matter of today’s entry, images may not be completely safe for work. Please be aware.

Here we goAnd now for a collection of reasons Rumble Roses may or may not be a straight up porn game.

David Lee Roth kicks off the festivities!

The first thing you’ll notice when Rumble Roses starts up is that there is an animated “attract” cinema. This is pretty normal, but less normal is the fact that this intro is accompanied by Yankee Rose, a song by David Lee Roth. DLR isn’t terrible, but many of his songs do seem to have a… focus on the female anatomy, and the various things that Davey would like to do to that anatomy. Yankee Rose isn’t much different, as it’s a song elucidating the virtues of “the original good time girl”. Also, the song is somehow about The Statue of Liberty, so that puts David Lee Roth in the same company as Peter Venkman, Spacehog, and other men who clearly want to boink Lady Liberty. It is… a weird way to start a videogame.

But then again…

Rumble Roses is a Konami videogame from the Playstation 2 era. After the ludicrous failure of I am the Wind back in the Playstation 1 epoch, it would make sense for Konami to try to procure some “real” songs. And this is a Japanese company, it’s not like they understand the cultural clout of the once and future singer of Van Halen. Rumble Roses features a pretty clear American “cowgirl” archetype, so this Yankee Rose song really could apply. She is beautiful all right, nothing like her in the whole world.

The protagonist is dressed like a hooker…

FGC #292 Brutal Paws of Fury

Here come some bunnies!I misread the title, and now we’re going to talk about furries. This is how the world works, get used to it.

First of all, to be absolutely clear, I am not a furry. I have some friends that seem to be into the scene, and I know a few more people online, and that’s about it. I’m not a furry, and, more importantly to this article, I am not a furry expert by any means. I am sympathetic to the furry community to the extent that I have a peculiar inclination to defend any group of nerds that are generally derided in polite society (but while still calling them a group of nerds), but aside from going to one furry convention with a friend pretty much entirely because I had nothing better to do, I do not have any ties to the furry community. Oh, my step brother used to date a girl that drew cartoon lizards in sexual situations for money. Does that count? It sure made Thanksgiving conversation interesting.

To also be clear, my strongest feeling towards furries is, basically, ambivalence. You like to wear a fursuit or can only get turned on while Gadget is watching? That’s fine! I also don’t particularly care. Like one of our greatest heroes, I have a thing for redheads, but I naturally assume that nobody gives a damn, so I don’t exactly advertise. I feel much the same way about practically all sexual preferences and fetishes: what you do in your bedroom is your business, and, unless I’m involved, I couldn’t care less. Everybody is consenting? Then Goggle Bob doesn’t much care.

But I know “who cares” is not the worst graffiti written on the walls of furry message boards. There is a vocal contingent of people that seem downright militantly against furries. On one hand, this seems like kind of an inevitability, because, if history has taught us anything, it’s that human beings love to find a new minority to discriminate against at the slightest provocation, and “dresses like some creepy other” was always going to be on the hit list. On the other hand, people who completely misunderstand everything about furries think they have a valid point: “cartoon animals” are the domain of children, so, clearly, some level of pedophilia must be happening within each and every furry. This is completely insane, but I can at least see how our stupid lizard brains might leap to that conclusion. It’s a weird situation where someone is wrong, but I can at least tangentially see how they got to that wrong in the first place. This still barely makes more sense than “Asians can’t drive” or “African Americans love watermelon”, but, still, at least I can parse the source of the prejudice in this case. That counts for something (no it doesn’t).

And then there are the anti-furries that… well, they might have a point.

There's always a fox girlOkay, full disclosure, I do have a problem with the furry community. But not the whole furry community! It’s a minority of a minority here that bothers me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that there have been occasional moments when I said, “damn furries.” I try to be nice! I try to be open to every one and every thing! But… I have limits. I also have a deviantart account. This is where I reach a sticking point. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but I’m…. I’m just going to say it…

I don’t care about your original character. I don’t care about your original character at all.

I’m a complete fiction nerd. It’s probably a side effect of not sleeping nearly enough, but I am a voracious reader, and that has always applied across the board. I used to read Nintendo Power and instruction manuals like some people currently binge Netflix, and, I would spend ages pouring over a one-paragraph character profile for a dude that most people just thought was named “Player One”. I like fighting games and their ridiculous stories. I like that Ryu of Street Fighter has had decades of story material written all about him, and he could still be easily described as “just a dude that likes to fight”. I understand Kingdom Hearts. I spent most of last night reading through the Tekken wiki. I am a God damn sucker for practically anything with a story, and I have read the absolute trashiest books (some in comic form!) to prove it. Under normal circumstances, yes, absolutely, please tell me about your anthropomorphic aardvark that has a secret destiny to save the world.

But, despite absolutely adoring literal literary garbage (I dumpster dive libraries), I can’t stand the average furry “original character”. Why? Well, it’s a simple matter of dream interpretation. And, yes, I am talking about literal dreams, and not those wild and magical aspirations for a better life. Basically, the rule of thumb goes that nobody cares about your dreams, because dreams are basically about as personal as something can be (after all, you are the only one that is ever going to see your dreams, ever), and imparting dream logic to another individual is traditionally inadvisable. It’s like attempting to relay that one feeling you get in your thumb every time you do that one thing… you know? That thing? It feels like… I don’t know… stuff? You know? To me, nearly every furry “original character” is exactly that situation: a long, meandering rant that might provide some insight into another person’s psyche, but is at lot more likely to be a giant waste of time that is actually about as “original” as a dream about falling. It happens to everybody, Liz! It doesn’t mean you’re special!

And, while you see this kind of thing in all sorts of communities (let me tell you about my original Zelda characters), it seems to be the most prominent in furry circles. Look, you’re dressed as a blue, bipedal wolf. That’s cool! That’s how you see yourself, or that’s how you’d like to see yourself, and that’s just super! That’s A-Okay with me! But please don’t tell me your origin story… No… no, please stop… I was proud of you a moment ago for making this intricate suit… please don’t tell me you’re the chosen one… No… you’re my sixteenth chosen one today.

And, bad news for anyone that is hoping to get a nice, light fighting game out of Brutal: Paws of Fury, what we have here is a damn furry fic fighting game. Go ahead, choose a character.

Hoppity
We’re gonna be here for a while!

I’m not certain who is responsible for this, but the credits list a whole fourteen people, so it has to be one of those dudes. Dave Exile, listed as programmer, seems to have stuck his name into every fight, so this might be his handy work. On the other hand, Rod V Humble is credited for design, so he might be the guy that decided Prince Leon the Lion needed a complicated backstory and a fortune cookie-esque explanation of who exactly would most enjoy Prince Leon. Whatever the source, somehow Brutal: Paws of Fury relies on its excess of words, because it clearly didn’t put effort into any other part of this game.

B:PoF has fluid animation, but its hit detection is wonky, and every movement feels about 200% more floaty than it should be. There’s an interesting system wherein your character “levels up” and learns new special moves as the game progresses, but that same system just creates a barrier for head-to-head play, and, honestly, no one wants to have to “learn” a move that is merely a taunt. And, while this is technically a passable fighting game, the damage ratios are all over the place, so expect a battle to end after a whole three heavy kicks, or twelve billion consecutive jabs. In short, B:PoF needed a solid month or two of actual play testing before it could even stand in remote vicinity of Street Fighter 2, and that clearly didn’t happen.

Winner?But there are words where gameplay might be. Every character has a complicated biography (well, “complete” compared to the 16-bit days of simply knowing Dhalsim’s blood type), and every battle ends with a comprehensive recap of the preceding fight. And, sorry, Brutal, but you absolutely do not need an oral history of a fight you just participated in thirty seconds ago. Look, I’m a damn verbose kind of guy that has difficulty getting through one sentence without hitting some ridiculously high word count for stating the simplest of brief concepts, and I think this is excessive! Brutal is a fighting game! Feelings are supposed to be expressed with fists! Ryu told me so!

And, in that way, Brutal: Paws of Fury is the ultimate furry game. The game needs a gameplay upgrade, but there’s a good foundation here. Unfortunately, it is also married to an unending stream of words and characters and.. ugh… Shut-up. Just… shut-up. Look, you had me at kung-fu fighting bunnies, why did you have to ruin it?

Don’t tell, show me why your original character is cool. And then get that original character to beat up a coyote swordsman. Then we’ll be on the same page.

FGC #292 Brutal Paws of Fury

  • System: This particular version hit the Genesis, Sega CD, and Super Nintendo, but there was a “Champion Edition” for 32X. I understand it did not help any problems I have now spent an entire article complaining about.
  • Number of players: Two furry lil’ dudes, duking it out.
  • To be perfectly clear: Furry culture is good and cool. People waxing poetic about their original character need to stop. Please, please stop.
  • Best bearFavorite Character: Ivar the Bear is basically Zangief in furry form. Actually, Zangief is already pretty furry to begin with, isn’t he? Maybe someone should check to see if he’s a regulation human.
  • An end: The final boss is Dali Llama. Look, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about Eastern Culture, but I’m pretty sure the “real” Dalai Lama didn’t attain his position through a fighting tournament. Or maybe I’m wrong? He just doesn’t look like a really tough dude to me.
  • Did you know? Brutal Unleashed: Above the Claw included a new character named Psycho Kitty that is a cat with hyperactivity disorder. So, ya know, a cat.
  • Would I play again: So many 16-bit fighting games, so little time.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… WTF? Wait, no, that’s the name of the game. WTF: Work Time Fun for the PSP. Well that sounds like fun, now doesn’t it? Please look forward to it!