Tag Archives: fighting games

FGC #264 Fighters Megamix

Let's fight!Fighters Megamix didn’t create the crossover fighting game genre. Fighters Megamix didn’t create the 3-D fighter. No, what Fighter’s Megamix did was create the first fighting game where you could fight as a car.

In my book, that counts for a lot.

Fighters Megamix is one of many fighting games to grace the Sega Saturn. The intention of the advertising campaign surrounding Fighters Megamix is right there on the box: “The ultimate team-up – Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter 2”… which, uh, is apparently a line from Game Informer. Wow, really low standard for pull quotes back then. Regardless, Fighters Megamix, despite the seemingly “unlimited” mega moniker, is, superficially, Virtua Fighter + Fighting Vipers. This, frankly, could have been enough to sell a game back in the day, because, hey, VF and FV are pretty fun games on their own. This isn’t even a Vs. game situation where the rosters are randomly trimmed in the name of balance and hitting release dates: this is straight up the complete cast of Virtua Fighter 2 battling every last fighter in Fighting Vipers 2. Fun times will be had by all!

The cast of Virtua Fighter 2 is not that exciting, though. Maybe Sega was trying to be more realistic, maybe the God of Fighting Games (Punchilicus) had a cold that day, but, somehow, in a post-Street Fighter 2 world, we got a cast of characters that are roughly as generic as America’s Best Cola Flavored Sugar Drink. Give or take a metal woman or two, we’ve got Karate Man, Chinese Lady, Gentle Wrestler, Woman, Ninja, Other Woman, and, my personal favorite, Kid in a Life Preserver. But, when those doofs are next to the cast of Fighting Vipers, their “seriousness” actually seems to work. Fighting Vipers has got a teenage girl in homemade, plastic armor, a radical glam rocker who attacks with his guitar, and not one, but two whole characters based on an executive asking, “well, aren’t rollerblades popular?”. This seems to make the Virtua Fighter cast appear as the valid, “mature” alternative to playing as a character dressed like Serpentor. Virtua Fighters are boring in their own games, but when a Megamix starts happening, they kind of work out.

And it appears someone noticed that, and decided to turn the contrasting weirdness up to eleven.

What just happened?Like many fighting games of the mid-to-late 90’s, there are a few unlockable characters to earn through repeated playthroughs. The first characters you’re likely to unlock are URA Bahn, a variant on Fighting Vipers’ Ryu, and Kids Akira, also a variant, but this time on Virtua Fighter’s main character. Except, while URA Bahn is just Bahn’s color (costume) swap, Kids Akira is Akira as a “chibi”, large-headed, and, frankly, adorable variation on Akira straight out of Virtua Fighter Kids. Right off the bat, we’ve got what seems to be a shot across the bow of Virtua Fighter’s steadfast seriousness. And then there’s Kumachan, a bear with zero points of articulation, so he basically “fights” like he’s being manipulated by an unseen toddler that is attempting to wring some fun out of an inanimate action figure. Oh, but Kumachan appears to be wearing armor, if you break his costume, then you will find that beneath the outer Kumachan shell of a bear, there’s… another bear. It’s bears all the way down!

And it’s weirdness all the way down, too. Siba seems like the most mundane hidden character, but his existence is owed to being deliberately cut content from the original Virtua Fighter, so he’s basically a playable piece of trivia. Then there’s Janet from Virtua Cop, and, even though she doesn’t get a “kick ‘em square in the bean machine” finisher from Dynamite Cop, she’s obviously a million times more interesting than the entire Virtua Fighter cast. That brings us to Rent-A-Hero, who hails from a franchise that has never made it out of Japan, mainly because it seems to be a humongous parody of sentai shows. So, basically, he’s a Power Ranger with the noticeable handicap of being battery-powered, so… uh… don’t take him into any matches that might take longer than a minute. And that luminary is our last human hidden character.

This is beary confusingBut don’t worry, we’ve still got Bean the Dynamite and Bark the Polar Bear. If those sound like lame Sonic the Hedgehogoriginal characters”, it’s because they are: Bean (who is apparently a duck?) and Bark both hail from Sonic The Fighters. Remember that Sonic the Hedgehog fighting game? No? Well, it was on one of the Sonic collections, and it was apparently from the same studio as Fighters Megamix, so here are a few refugees. Note that no one thought to go the obvious route and include, ya know, Sonic the friggen Hedgehog (on a Sega system lacking a definitive Sonic game to boot), but here’s Bark the Polar Bear, and he’s wearing a Santa costume! Oh boy!

And, finally, we have Deku, a green bean in a sombrero. Deku is not to be confused with Amingo, a cactus in a sombrero that would eventually appear in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. These are two totally separate characters, and “two fighting game crossovers featuring a bizarre Mexican stereotype” is just the kind of coincidence that happens when companies make fighting games for a decade or so. It was bound to happen.

Oh, wait, Deku isn’t our final hidden character after all. Technically, there’s also Mr. Meat (a piece of videogame meat with inexplicable [and unattached] hands and feet), Palm Tree (who is a palm tree), and, finally, Hornet. Hornet is a car that walks like a man. Hornet must suck the blood of the living, lest Hornet return to a lowly life as a race car. Also, Hornet is as tall as a human right now, for some reason. Hornet fights about as well as you’d expect a car with absolutely zero martial arts training to fight, but, hey, how many games can you fight as a car? (No, not fight as cars, that’s something else entirely.)

VROOM!

Let’s face facts: Fighting Vipers is long forgotten, and Virtua Fighter, try as it might, has never achieved the acclaim or fame of even lesser fighting games. But, for one shining moment, both franchises combined into the most memorable fighting game on the Sega Saturn. No, it didn’t change the face of the genre or invent a whole new playstyle like some of its contemporaries, but it was a fun time… mostly because most of its hidden cast is the result of a fever dream. Marvel vs. Capcom or King of the Fighters might be fun games, but they don’t allow the player to pit a car against a bean. That’s a matchup you’ll only find on the Saturn.

Head for Saturn, little polar bear. Head for Saturn.

FGC #264 Fighters Megamix

  • System: Sega Saturn. This is unlikely to see a rerelease, as it is impossible to sort out the rights to Deku,
  • Number of players: Two car-people enter, only one vrooms away.
  • Land of the Rising Fun: There’s a snake-themed character with brown coloring named B.M. … Someone had to know what was going on there. It’s not just me with my mind in the gutter… right?
  • What?Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: Fighters Megamix creates an interesting twist on the typical arcade mode, and includes a number of “brackets” with distinct characters, like Muscle (for the “Zangief-esque” characters”) or Smart Guys (for the more tactical characters). There’s even a “Girls” tier exclusively for the female characters. That’s good! There are enough women in a fighting game that they can flesh out an entire tower of girl power, and that’s rare! What’s not so great is that your reward for battling through this mode is a credits sequence that contains more cheesecake than my dad’s birthday party. And, side note, that man really enjoys his cheesecake.
  • Also gross: Honey/Candy is sexualized to a fairly insane degree, and she’s supposed to be sixteen. Thanks, Sega!
  • Favorite Character: Gonna say it again, “Car that walks like a man.”
  • Did you know? The Dirty Fighters tournament involves a lot of characters that crouch and punch. I’m almost certain this means that the “dirty fighters” are all trying to punch my chosen hero where Virtua Fighter Kids come from. That’s dirty.
  • Would I play again: This is like the one Sega Saturn game I enjoy replaying. Good thing, too, considering I have to start a new save file every time I boot up the damn thing…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Scribblenauts Unmasked for WiiU! Typing time with Batman! Please look forward to it!

BEAR OVER

FGC #258 Vigilante 8

Ready to fireFighting games are the closest experiences we have to “standard” cinematic experiences. Your average “action”-based affair features a hero, hero’s best friend, and hero’s inevitable love interest versus the forces of bad guy and bad guy’s second. Toss in a couple of comic relief characters (works for either side), an inescapably doomed mentor, and maybe the romantic lead’s chubby friend, and, basically, you’ve got the full cast of a movie, dramatic television show, or fighting game. Walter and Jessie versus Gus and Mike, or Ryu and Ken versus M Bison and Sagat? It doesn’t matter from a basic story structure perspective. What does matter is how many videogames necessitate… a slightly larger cast. The blockbuster, genre-defining Super Mario Bros. movie involved King Koopa and his army of two (2) goombas. Super Mario Bros. for the NES included more goombas in its first ten seconds, and never mind the sheer number of surprisingly lethal turtles wandering around. JRPGs are all about defeating Big Bad and his four malevolent lieutenants… and the 17,000 random monsters between here and the next town. Remember that beloved scene in Back to the Future when Marty is walking back and forth between Doc’s Mansion and Hill Valley, and he has to slaughter twenty random wolves and Big Boss Wolf? Yeah, me neither. In short, a number of videogame genres are forced into a sort of endless loop of adding more and more “nobodies” to the plot to validate gameplay conventions, while Fighting Games have to put in no such effort. Liu Kang hates Shao Kahn, and, after fighting six guys, they’re gonna settle this thing. Who would want to play a game that complicates that story?

So it’s always kind of surprised me that more games don’t borrow (re: steal) the basic layout of a fighting game. I’d argue that Smash Bros. does this with aplomb while still being more of a “platform/action” game without carrying all the baggage of a typical fighter (and I suppose that statement thus includes every game that ever copied Smash Bros). And, in a way, most sports games follow the same template, as you don’t have to battle, say, the Dallas Cowboys Color Guard before tackling the real Cowboy opponents in the latest Madden. But I guess that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? In film, a tight cast is a standard bit of storytelling, while, in a videogame, you’re only going to see such a thing in a sports/competitive environment. Otherwise, without a bunch of random nobodies to kill, what are you going to do? We all love that Street Fighter 2 bonus stage, but you can only beat up a car so many times before it gets old.

Or maybe cars can beat up… each other?

Look out!Today we’re looking at a game from the Playstation/N64 days. Most people remember the mid to late 90’s as the age of the JRPG boom brought on by Final Fantasy 7; however, this was also the epoch of the rise of “cool people games”. After a decade of videogames being synonymous with furry mascots and stabby elves, the big guys all seemed anxious to push a mandate of more “mature” gaming. And by “mature”, I mean “appeals to teenagers that so desperately want to drive a car and maybe touch a boob”. This led to the premiere of many “realistic” heroes, like Gordon Freeman and Lara Croft, who fought real-life problems, like aliens and t-rexes. Okay, the games might not have been any more realistic than what came before, but at least they were less cartoony, and that was good enough for a generation that was, finally, ready to play it loud.

This, coupled with the advances in graphics and scaling technology, led to a lot of racing games. A lot. Like, there was a time when you could walk into an Electronics Boutique, and there was just a wall of random cool looking cars staring back at you. “Realistic” racing games were meant to be system sellers, and, perhaps as some kind of residual aftereffect of Blast Processing, speed was king. One of these days I’m going to review that Playstation “future” racing game that involves the half-pipe and moving at super-speed… but I’m not going to name it right now, because I can’t remember if it’s that game I’m thinking of, or that other game with the exact same premise. Or maybe it was that other one? Meh, I’ll figure out later. Point is that there were a lot of racing games at the time.

Racing games naturally fall into that “competition” category like fighting and sports games. That means that your average “car game” could easily copy the fighting game template, and do the whole “unique character/unique story/unique ending” thing. That’s good! That creates memorable characters, that, in a sea of “red car vs. blue car” could make your new unique IP standout. People are always going to remember Scorpion, you could transform your racing competition game into something perennial with the right merchandising. Let’s make a car fighting game, and be legends forever!

And that car fighting game became… Twisted Metal. Who doesn’t love Sweet Tooth!? He was in Playstation All-Stars!

Fear of a yellow busThree years later, there was Vigilante 8. Vigilante 8 does not feature any characters that resurfaced for Playstation All-Stars… or… anything else, so I guess there’s something to be said for being first to the finish line. However, Vigilante 8 attempted to do something rather unique with its car combat simulator: it copied everything about fighting games. Not content to just copy the (good) basic plot structure of a fighting game, Vigilante 8 went the extra mile by copying the worst part of fighting games: the distinctive, often esoteric motions for special moves. And it married that concept to a “fight” where you basically only have one reliable offensive option (shoot), so a new player will have something of an distinct disadvantage when battling a veteran player (or, ya know, the entire single player campaign). There are even car “fatalities” available, and the game constantly prompts the player to “total” incapacitated enemies… but… how am I supposed to do that again? Come on, Activision, you always knew this game was a rental at best, why do you think anyone would read the instruction manual?

Vigilante 8 isn’t a terrible game; it can actually be quite fun if everyone involved knows what they’re doing (and you have a TV large enough to accommodate blurry 64-bit split screens), and you’re not just skidding around each other desperately trying to clip your opponent with a Stay on target, jerkdinky machine gun (only in Videogame Land may a machine gun be effectively useless). But what could easily have been a memorable game with interesting characters (interesting by late 90’s videogame standards, mind you) is severely marred by a bizarre insistence on copying everything about fighting games, good and bad. Mortal Kombat with cars could be a great game, but only if you leave the silly input motions on the cutting room floor.

Pull that off, and maybe then we’ll get some decent memories out of a bunch of fighting cars.

FGC #258 Vigilante 8

  • System: Playstation, N64, and… Gameboy Color. Suffice it to say, the GBC version is a tweeeeak different, and looks more like R.C. Pro-AM. There’s also a modern HD version that I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anyone ever mention.
  • Number of players: I believe we’re limited to the standard two on Playstation, but the N64 version takes full advantage of those multiple controller ports, and allows for up to four. The Gameboy port has never been simultaneously played by two people on Earth, so who knows about that one.
  • Get 'em, paPort-o-Call: The N64 version was released a solid nine months after the Playstation release, and seemed to gain a few bells and whistles to overcompensate for the delay. The most important changes seem to be that the secret character (an Area 51 alien) gets his own story mode, and story mode itself can be played with 2 player co-op. More wannabe fighting games need co-op story modes.
  • Favorite character: Beezwax is a bee keeper with bee-based special moves and a battle-camper. I can’t say no to that kind of insanity.
  • Did you know? Molo’s “battle school bus” featured heavily in advertising and the game’s box art. Then Columbine happened. Then, for some reason, the advertising campaign for Vigilante 8 went the way of the dodo. Go fig.
  • Would I play again: For a kid that wanted to claim that the N64 was somehow better than Playstation and its Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8 at least could start an argument. Now, however, it’s little more than a curiosity. I doubt I’ll ever revisit this title.

What’s next? Random ROB is back up and working again, and we’ve got… Strider 2 for the Playstation! Yay! Ninja times are here again! Please look forward to it!

FGC #257 Waku Waku 7

SUPER WAKU FIGHTING TIMEI love a good knock-off.

There is a fine line in any medium between original and IP theft. What’s the difference between Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam? Well, one is an alien from another planet with strengths granted by his alien biology, and the other is a little kid with magical powers that allow him to instantly transform into an adult with super speed and muscles. But both Superman and Captain Marvel can fly, fight, and wear a cape, so, uh, guess they’re legally the same dude. Meanwhile, King Kong and Donkey Kong, both giant guerillas that climbed towers after kidnapping blonde damsels, are totally different ape creatures, so don’t even try to claim they’re remotely the same. When you look at history, you see the only difference between an “original character” becoming successful or being devoured by a rival corporate entity is a good lawyer or two, so let’s stop pretending there is some gigantic gulf between Midnighter, Batman, and your Sonic the Hedgehog fan character (do not steal) Bruce the Bathog.

And knock-offs are important in videogames, too. Got a great idea for a magical girl game, but don’t feel like roughing out your own ideas on gameplay? Well, how about you just copy Mega Man wholesale, and call it a day. But don’t tell Astro Boy, he’s still trying to get a hold of that thieving Dr. Light. Got a brave new mascot that happens to be a bobcat that runs fast? I’ve got an idea! This all traces back to the Atari, too, the system that hosted a number of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong clones. And, again, Donkey Kong “himself” was accused of being nothing more than IP-theft at his inception. Videogames are bootlegging all the way down!

OuchBut, as ever, there are degrees of plagiarism in videogames. SoulCalibur may have imported Harley Quinn into medieval times, but… there are enough of the edges filed off, right? It’s still an almost wholly unique fighting game with weapons. On the other side of the coin, you have something like Fighter’s History, which (kinda) has unique characters, but their movements and play styles are almost exactly copied from Street Fighter 2. So, which is worse? Copying gameplay or copying characters? Is SoulCalibur “better” because its IP theft isn’t as blatant? Or should we be nicer to Fighter’s History, a game that at least had the good sense to include Karnov, who hails from a surprisingly original action game?

But when you consider which franchise is a franchise, and which is forgotten by all but the most esoteric blogs, well, maybe that means the only question should be, “but is it fun?”

Waku Waku 7 is a fun fighting game. I first discovered the game through filthy emulation back at the turn of the 21st Century, but Waku Waku 7 was formally released for the Neo Geo in ’96 or so. It was also released for the Sega Saturn… but only in Japan. Boo. Regardless, my buddy Matt and I played this game roughly 7,000 times, because it was one of the best fighting games available at the time. Okay, it was no Marvel vs. Capcom, but it could also be played on a crappy little laptop, so it was the closest we were going to get to a decent portable fighter. And by “portable”, I mean, “we’re stuck at your mom’s house for the next hour, what do you want to do?” It’s amazing how much being a poor college student is like being six…

Here they areWhere was I? Oh yeah, Waku Waku 7. It’s a 2-D fighting game, and it’s pretty much like Street Fighter 2 or King of Fighters or generally any of those games. In fact, given the Neo Geo hardware, it’s a lot like King of Fighters or Fatal Fury, and that fact might be influenced a little by how Rai Bakuoh, the “genki” teenage hero of Waku Waku 7, is a living parody of a character from Psycho Soldier/KoF and has all the same special moves as FF’s Terry Bogard. Then again, maybe Waku Waku 7 is more like Darkstalkers, as Mauru plays a lot like Sasquatch, and just happens to look a lot like (My Neighbor) Totoro. Or should I have just stuck with Street Fighter 2? Bonus-Kun is a deliberate parody of Ryu, right down to his red bandana and spinning hurricane kick. He just happens to be, ya know, a literal punching bag.

Maybe we should investigate that “parody” thing a little further. The full cast of Waku Waku 7 features seven distinct characters (oh, I just got that), but glancing at the character select screen, you’d be forgiven for assuming this is some manner of 90’s (pre-Neon Genesis Evangelion) anime reunion. Tesse is a mechanical battle maid that directly recalls Mahoromatic/Mahoro. Slash is a sword-wielding elf straight out of Record of Lodoss War, or maybe just Magic Emperor Ghaleon in glasses. Politank-Z is some bizarre mix of “chibi manga” like Dr. Slump and Dominion Tank Police… and he can’t get enough of that Cookie Crisp. Dandy-J is the most “Western” character, because his origins apparently involve Indiana Jones and JoJo(‘s Bizarre Adventure) conceiving a love child. Arina, the begoggled bunny girl, seems like the most original character, but that’s only because “a bunny girl wearing goggles” is an oddly established anime trope. It’s like saying there’s an elf in a Tolkien fantasy, or a tech-savvy support character in a Berlanti show.

OwieSo all the characters are varying degrees of outright IP theft (there has never been a person that didn’t start this game by asking, “What’s Totoro doing here?”), but what about the game plot itself? Well, there are seven magical orbs, and, if you catch ‘em all, a magical being will be summoned to grant a wish. I want to say I’ve heard that one before. Most of the characters are fireball motions and dragon punches, so the gameplay is “borrowed” as well. And it’s not even like there’s a difference in the bells and whistles between this and every 90’s fighting game ever. Profile screen during the attract mode? Check. Win/lose quotes after every match? Check. And the ol’ ending “cinema” of two or three screens with some goofy dialogue? You better believe that’s a check. Seen it all before, Waku Waku 7!

But it’s still fun, and that’s because it’s a rip-off.

King of Fighters is fun, but to the inexperienced, neophyte fighting fan, well, who are these guys? Dude with the weird pants hates the guy with the fire fist? Okay? That’s neat, but why is there a dwarf version of Freddy Kruger bouncing around? Street Fighter 2 is supposedly as iconic as it gets, but good luck getting someone new excited about Street Fighter 3 (“Why is that guy in the speedo two different colors?”) Tekken is full of bland shirtless dudes, and SoulCalibur is all about its heroines’…. assets. And we’re even ignoring the host of over 90’s fighting games that barely got past one version. Remember Weaponlord? It was like if Todd McFarlane made… never mind, it doesn’t matter. It never mattered. Point is that, whether it’s acknowledged by “the scene” or not, there is a barrier of entry to most fighting games, and, suffice it to say, it’s one that Marvel vs. Capcom doesn’t have to deal with. Everybody recognizes Spider-Man.

So proudAnd everybody recognizes Totoro, too… even if it’s not Totoro. Waku Waku 7 is guileless. Its characters are obvious archetypes (if not outright plagiarism), the gameplay is four buttons and simple special motions. The plot is funny, though it doesn’t fall all over itself to be another Clayfighter. It’s a fraud, but that deception makes it accessible. Like a pair of faux-Oakleys you can pick up for ten bucks to impress your crush so she’ll maybe say yes to prom (it works! I swear!), Waku Waku 7 is a fine knock-off.

Waku Waku 7 is not original in any way, and, sometimes, that’s just fine.

FGC #257 Waku Waku 7

  • System: Neo-Geo in likely impossible to find quantities, and a Saturn version that only appears in Japan. But now it’s available for Switch! Hooray! This is the first Switch game reviewed on this site! Technically!
  • Number of players: Two anime fighters.
  • Favorite Character: I’m going to go with Arina, the bunny girl. She’s basically the game’s Ryu in special moves and general narrative, but what’s important is that she’s rocking the goggles. Actually, there are two different characters with goggles on the roster… so maybe that’s the entire reason I like the game? Hm.
  • Don't look him in the eyeAn ending: The final boss is an unspeakable black void of horror named… Fernandez. In Japan, he is known as Fernandeath. That sounds slightly more threatening.
  • Land of the rising fun: The Switch version allows the player to choose between Japanese and American versions of the game. Having played through both, aside from a few names, I think the only difference is that the Japanese version gets character profiles that nobody felt like translating. Boo, cheap localization.
  • Did you know? Bonus-Kun, the Ryu-wannabe, premiered in Sunsoft’s earlier fighting game, Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors. I want to say that game is even more obscure than Waku Waku 7… so it should probably have a Switch release next week.
  • Would I play again: Most certainly. Having it as a downloaded title on a portable system does a lot for replayability, particularly at the start of a system’s lifespan. Politank Z will ride again!

What’s next? I kind of like that there has been a number theme matching the FGC entries all this week. Pac-Man 256 for 256, Waku Waku 7 for 257… I mean, it was an accident… but still! Let me see if I can dig up a game involving an eight, and then we’ll get back to true randomness next week. Please look forward to it!

So wrong