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FGC #340 Tekken 3

King of the Iron Fist, AgainVideogames always move forward, but is the past really the enemy?

As I’m writing this, Mario Odyssey is just around the corner, which makes it an unknown. Will the game be good? Bad? Previews have lied before, it could be anything! There is technically just as much of a chance as seeing the next Mario Galaxy as Mario is Missing. But one thing we do know is that it won’t look like this:

GLUB GLUB

In much the same way you don’t want to show your naked baby photos to a date, the old days of gaming are fairly embarrassing. Okay, yes, there is nostalgia for the “8-bit style”, and every once in a while we get a great “throwback” game like Shovel Knight or Mega Man 9/10, but those adventures are few and far between. The lamest of cell phone games do their best to have “high definition” graphics, and even something like Pokémon Go, a game that barely requires graphics at all, looks better than most of the Playstation 2 oeuvre. Videogames move forward because they must, and looking back (or releasing a product that is actively looking back as an artistic choice) should be about as successful as scoring your bald-headed granny a gig with Insane Clown Posse (this is not to say your grandmother could not be a thriving juggalo, I understand that is a very warm and welcoming community).

At first glance, Tekken 3, the third Tekken game released on the Playstation 1 (I know that sounds obvious, but it’s not like there were only three Final Fantasy games on the Playstation), seems to follow this same line of thinking. Tekken 3 was a very deliberate reboot for the series… or… perhaps that’s the wrong word? Tekken 3 is definitely a continuation of the Tekken universe (so this isn’t some alternate universe or a situation where Spock accidentally nuked the space-time continuum or anything), but from a gameplay perspective, this may as well be a reboot. Tekken 2 featured 25 characters (or thereabouts, depends on how you count model swaps), which was a fairly significant roster for 1995. Tekken 3 featured 23 (or so) characters, but only six of those characters were familiar faces from previous Tekken entries. Okay, again, that’s kind of an exaggeration, as characters like King and Kuma are just “the next generation” compared to some previous characters. Kuma II technically isn’t Kuma I, and Panda certainly has nothing to do with any of that.

WooooBut, as ever, a fighting game is defined by its roster, and this roster makes an obvious comment about the “old” roster. It’s old! Paul Phoenix has gone from the Ken of the series to a glory-seeking has-been (who, incidentally, got beat up by a bear), Lei looks like he’s getting too old for this shit, and Heihachi Mishima is your super powered grandpa. The only characters that stay youthful are the cryogenically frozen Nina and Anna, and that was only because videogames are lawfully forbidden from featuring women over 40 (that’s the explanation, right?).

The rest of the roster, meanwhile, is youth in spades. The new main character is Jin, the son of two former Tekken characters who behaves properly like a genetic mix of the duo. He comes with a love interest and new rival, and, yes, they’re all in high school. Then we’ve got Forest Law, son of Marshall Law (God I love that pun), King Jr., the protégé of King Sr., and Julia, adopted daughter of Michelle. The rest of the new characters seem to emphasize youth, with Eddy Gordo as a break-dancing hip hop gangsta octopus[citation needed], and Bryan as one of those topless zombies that all the kids seem to love. And the big boss is an “ancient evil” that has been resting for millennia, so, yes, the final battle is absolutely going to be a teenager beating up the oldest thing he can find.

But there’s very little to complain about with the youthfulness of Tekken 3, as it’s an improvement to the franchise in every way. Tekken and Tekken 2 seemed destined for the Virtua Fighter graveyard of games that are 3-D, technical, and not very fun at all for some reason. Tekken and Tekken 2 weren’t bad, and, in fact, they might have been some of the best 3-D fighters out there… but this was also during the era that “3-D fighter” was a completely new thing, and competing with the raw love some had for really creative games like Street Fighter Alpha or Darkstalkers was no simple task. Yes, Tekken 2 had a boxing dinosaur, but did it have an enchanted succubus battling a giant bee from hell? Tekken 3 turned the weird up to eleven, smoothed out the basic flow of a battle, improved the graphics, and tossed in a magical wooden man (and woman!) for good measure. YouthfulTekken 3 rode that youth wave to conquer the fighting world, and you’ll still find 30somethings wandering around local arcades talking about the wonders of that Yoshimitsu.

But Tekken 3 didn’t quite forget its past.

Tekken 3 was the final Tekken title on the Playstation 1. It might seem ridiculous now, but the original Playstation was kind of a big deal in its time, as it was Sony’s first foray into the videogame console market, and the first successful console to support CDs (sorry, Sega). And Tekken was right there at the start of the Playstation’s R U E adventures, complete with next gen, blocky as hell graphics and “a TV scorching 50 frames per second”. So it seemed only appropriate that Tekken 3 would find an apposite way to close out the generation (before kickstarting it again with Tekken Tag Tournament).

Tekken 3 included a pile of unlockables, as was the style at the time. Over half the roster is missing at the start, and then there is a Final Fight-esque beat ‘em up mode to be completed. And I’m pretty sure you had to do something ridiculous to score the one and only Tiger, too. But after earning the entire cast, you could beat the game with said cast, and gradually unlock all of their endings. And then, after all that was done, you finally earned a completed Theater Mode. And do you know what you could do with complete Theater Mode? You could pop in an old Tekken or Tekken 2 disc, and watch every ending in the entire franchise.

Never understood the shoe thingThis was unprecedented in videogames! This is still incredibly unusual! You, dedicated Tekken fan, are actually being rewarded for owning old games. In an industry that’s constantly pushing the new and… that’s it. Just the new. It doesn’t matter if the latest version is actually better than the previous game (or not), what’s important is that you buy the newest hotness, and trade in those old discs at Gamestop or some other wretched pawn shop. A game (and the people producing said game, obviously) actually remembering that older games even exist is amazing, and, simply a “theater mode” or not, it’s great to see a franchise remember its roots.

So, way to go, Tekken 3. In an industry obsessed with the latest thing, you managed to marry the new and old with aplomb. You truly are the King of the Iron Fist.

…. Whatever the hell that means.

FGC #340 Tekken 3

  • System: Playstation 1, though probably also available on every system produced by Sony. Vita? Sure, probably.
  • Number of players: Fight, fight, two players, always fight.
  • Yay Gon!Favorite Character: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Ending: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Game Mode: Tekken didn’t establish itself as Tekken until Tekken Ball, the only fighting match that requires a giant beach ball to win. Or… wait… did that happen in Dead or Alive?
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So, first of all, I managed to score my copy of Tekken 3 right before leaving on my freshman high school band trip to Myrtle Beach. Like, I literally bought it an hour before the bus left. So, since I naturally brought my Playstation along, our room was basically just all Tekken 3, all the time. Pretty sure the entire roster was unlocked before the second day. On the other hand, I distinctly recall my freshman crush looking over the instruction manual and noting, “Wow, that guy has a huge package”. “That guy” was Eddy Gordo, and I have been jealous of that digital beefcake ever since.
  • What is even happening here?Did you know? It sounds like a high school rumor, but Anna actually has two different endings. In America, Anna’s ending is a poolside bit of sibling rivalry where Nina has to watch her sister get the attention of all the boys. In Japan, the ending ends with Nina snapping Anna’s bikini, and we close on a triumphant Nina and a topless Anna. It’s true! It’s on youtube! My uncle told me!
  • Would I play again: There’s actually a Tekken 3 arcade cabinet in the retro section of my local arcade, and I’ve hit that a time or two. It’s a fun way to beat up a bear, so, yeah, I’ll play it again.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo! Good! I needed an excuse to try out that SNES Classic! Please look forward to it!

FGC #337 Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil

Sing along!Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil is a videogame that was released last week (or so). It is, basically, a Contra/Gradius game with an extremely unique “old cartoons” art style. That’s it. That’s the game. Nothing revolutionary, nothing we haven’t seen before, just an old school, hard as heck game about the dangers of dealing with the devil (don’t do it).

And, somehow, I can’t toss a teacup without hitting another article about “what Cuphead means” or its greater sociological ramifications, or how difficult games are the gatekeepers of the industry, or whatever.

I’m sick of it. I just want to talk about how Cuphead is one of the best games, graphically and gameplay-wise, of 2017 (a year already chock full of amazing games). I want to say, “Dammit, look at this gorgeous nonsense. This is next gen. This is what I’ve wanted since I was five. This is all I need.”

So… uh… I may as well just say that.

Screw words, we’re just looking at GIFs today, because I’m going to bop back to this “article” every time I want to experience pure joy. Here are some random GIFs from Cuphead, boys and girls. Every single one is a delight.

Click here to download a bunch of Cuphead art directly into your brain…

FGC #333 Ex-Mutants

Here come these dorks!This game is filled with hate… and it might be accidental.

Ex-Mutants is a 16-bit videogame for the Sega Genesis. Right off the bat, you’d probably assume this is some manner of Donkey Kong to X-Men’s King Kong. The videogame industry has a long and storied history of committing light plagiarism on the way to making an extra buck, and for every Enter the Dragon there are about six hundred videogame “homages” (and, oh yeah, the entire fighting game genre). It wouldn’t surprise anybody that, in an effort to get a chunk of that Fox Kids pie, someone cut off a slice of the X-Men, and renamed the thing to be just confusing enough to trick grandma into a purchase. Little Timmy really enjoys those Ex-Mutants, right? Better get this game featuring Gambo, Jaguar, and One-Eyed.

But the Ex-Mutants were not created to rip off the X-Men for videogame gains. No, the Ex-Mutants were created to rip off the X-Men for comic book cash. Back in 1986, Ex-Mutants was created to be, basically, a parody of the X-Men franchise. This was a sort of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles situation, wherein the original premise is kind of reversed or otherwise distorted (reminder: TMNT is a Daredevil parody that took on a life of its own), and a completely different animal emerges from the… mutation. In this particular case, in a world of mutants, five “genetically pure” humans are cloned and released into the wild. The humans are supposed to bring a message of hope and humanity… but with four women and one man, it winds up being a sort of goofy Tenchi Muyo-esque affair with an excuse for Ron Lim to draw pretty ladies every other page. What’s important is that the tone isn’t all that serious, and it wasn’t really meant as a “competitor” for the X-franchise any more than any other comic book. Oh, also, there were like ten issues, total, so it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Away we goBut then came the ridiculous comics boom of the early 90’s. For reasons no one has ever quite understood, comic books suddenly became collector’s items for a period of about seventy minutes, and the entire industry made a mad dash to publish any old crap and slap sixteen holofoil covers on said crap. Malibu picked up Ex-Mutants, and then the series ran for a solid eighteen issues (over a year!), before being cancelled forever. In case you’re curious, this Genesis game was based on the Malibu incarnation.

At this point, I’d like to describe the Malibu Ex-Mutants series for you… but, for some reason, there is a dearth of information available on the net regarding that particular failed franchise. Basically, every description of Ex-Mutants I can find is focused exclusively on the original series, and I guess nobody cares about the Malibu incarnation. This… may be for the best. From what I can tell, Malibu Ex-Mutants was much more of a dedicated X-Men/Gen 13 affair, and featured an even division of men and women. But don’t worry, Ex-Mutants did remember its roots, as the cover of issue 2 was already leaning pretty heavily into the cheesecake…

Let’s put this behind a NSFW link…

Of course, without some helpful Ex-Mutants wiki, those kinds of covers are all we have to go on for this series. It… looks serious? I mean… could it be when their prime villain is a giant slug named Sluggo? But these covers are practically indistinguishable from the X-Men 2099 line, and those were the most serious comics that ever happened. Oh, Ex-Mutants, we hardly knew ye.

But perhaps looking to the Genesis tie-in game will provide some answers. The Genesis X-Men games were some of the best on the system, and, for those of us that didn’t read comics, were an excellent introduction to the series. This is Gambit, these are his powers, and check out his rad stick. Here’s Wolverine, he’s got claws, and aren’t they cool? Ex-Mutants could do the same for its parent franchise, and the game does do a great job of introducing the premise right off the bat. Here’s a fun fact: the Ex-Mutants are racist!

The future is pale

Okay, this might be a problem with being a dedicated X-Men fan for decades, but when the concept is that mutants have “polluted our gene pool” and only “pure” humans should be the future… Like, that’s something the nefarious Senator Robert Kelly says before he’s proven to be a sentinel plant, right? This is exactly what Magneto was afraid of, and he’s usually right when he’s not secretly Hitler. But X-bias aside, there is the little matter that the “genetically pure” examples of the human race are… a little pale. The guys are certainly all white guys, and… I think we maybe have one Asian woman? Other than that, we have tan-white and super-white. I realize that this was kind of a standard for the 90’s (including “maybe Asian”, this is technically a gang that is actually more diverse than the cast of Friends), but it becomes something else when you’re talking about “genetic purity” and “the future of the human race”. The original Ex-Mutants included an African-American (… does that term still apply to ex-mutants of the future?) woman, I’m not sure why her and her entire race got ditched for the reboot.

Are you from the future?But, fine, let’s just chalk that one up to white defaulting and move on. Ex-Mutants for Genesis lamely chooses to follow the Battletoads route to success: there’s a full team of six Ex-Mutants, but all but Player 1 and Player 2 have been captured, because there is only so much sprite budget to go around. This is forgivable, but it does the franchise no favors, as we have no idea if the other Ex-Mutants are unique and beautiful humans (Princess Daisy) or just professional kidnap victims (Princess Peach). Then again, all we learn about the two playable characters are that Ackroyd has an axe, and Shannon has an ass. Not exactly a great way to get a neophyte into the franchise (unless you’re Sir Mix-a-Lot).

But we do get some information on Sluggy the super villain and Professor Kildare, the leader of the Ex-Mutants. Sluggo is a giant slug mutant… and that’s all we need to know about that. But Professor Kildare, now there’s a character! He’s a brilliant scientist and a cyborg! Who apparently runs on batteries! And, since he’s your boss, you have to find a fresh battery for him somewhere in every level, or you must repeat the stage! But it’s worth it! Because if you didn’t have Professor Kildare around, you wouldn’t have his great tips… on where to find his batteries. … This is cyborg slavery!

But don’t worry, the fun doesn’t end there! Ex-Mutants plays very similarly to the Genesis X-Men titles, but, while those could be generally difficult (or marginally impossible) because they were built to be difficult, Ex-Mutants is a pain in the ex-butt because of various places where the traps are ambiguously impossible. Alternating disappearing platforms are just fine in Mega Man because they’re precisely timed, in Ex-Mutants, you’re likely to jump around like an idiot because it will take a solid thirty seconds before all the platforms actually line up properly… and then you’re greeted with a deadly buzzsaw! Bosses, naturally, are no better, as they have long, long periods of invincibility or patterns wherein it’s impossible to even approach their general proximity without taking a hit. And, just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, there’s a mine cart stage! And it goes without saying that you get absolutely no invincibility frames after being hit.

BUZZ BUZZThis all adds up to… a less than enjoyable experience. Maybe Ex-Mutants started as a parody. Maybe the Malibu Ex-Mutants videogame was supposed to be an amusing spoof of similar videogames. Maybe this game was supposed to popularize the Ex-Mutants for the 16-bit generation. Maybe the game was supposed to be, in some tiny way, actually fun. Unfortunately, Ex-Mutants fails on all these points, and all that is left is a lousy platforming/action game that kinda looks like an X-Men title if you squint really hard. If you don’t squint, though, all you’ll see is hate. Hate for the player, hate for the franchise, and hate for the poor schlub that thought that was Scott Summers on the cover, and not some dork with an axe.

Ex-Mutants is hate for your Sega Genesis.

FGC #333 Ex-Mutants

  • System: Sega Genesis. It’s the most Ex-system.
  • Number of players: Just one. You have your choice of Ex-Mutant, though.
  • Preferred Ex-Mutant: Between Ackroyd and Shannon, I’ll take Shannon. Ackroyd seems to do more damage, but Shannon is faster, and, like in other games, speed is king. Come to think of it, is that why the platforming bits were so difficult? Because Shannon moves faster than the “default” character? This is another reason this game is hate.
  • Because you Suck: Or maybe I just don’t like this game because it actively insults you for losing.
    Really?

    Thanks, playable character! Cram it!
  • 16-Bit Geography: As far as I can tell, this game takes place in a city, The Amazon Rain Forest, and then another city. Either that, or Central Park has gotten really overgrown in the future.
  • Did you know? The original Ex-Mutants protagonist was named Belushi. The second incarnation featured the heroic Ackroyd in the leading role. I’ll let you figure that one out.
  • Would I play again: Not for all the Ex-Mutants merchandise in the world.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… NBA Jam Tournament Edition for the Super Nintendo! Way to go, ROB! You’re on fire! Please look forward to it!

SLUGGO!

FGC #331 Super Mario Galaxy 2

It's a-him!So here’s why Mario games are good.

Today’s game is Super Mario Galaxy 2, the final part of the Super Mario Galaxy duology. While some endlessly debate whether Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the better game (and I will remind you that SMG2 contains Yoshi), it is perhaps better to look at Super Mario Galaxy as one solid piece, accidentally fragmented into two sections. Let’s face it, SMG was released on the cusp of Nintendo learning how to add expansions to games (see the eventual joys of Smash Bros, Hyrule Warriors, and Mario Kart), and, should SMG have initially been released on the WiiU, we likely would have seen new planets until the release of the Switch. But, for now, the two games are separate but equal, with slight differences between the two, and an aggravating need to switch discs when you have to choose between riding a dolphin or a vulture.

But the reason the difference between the two games is insignificant is because both titles are amazing. Super Mario Galaxy is easily the apex of the Mario franchise (note for future readers: this article was published before the release of Mario Odyssey, or any other inevitable future endeavors, like Mario… Omniverse?), and the sheer volume of creativity and care on display in these games is astronomical. Yes, there are a few misses bouncing around the title (mostly experiments involving motion controls), and it would be nice to be able to play this Mario game with a “real” controller, but, by and large Mario Galaxy & Mario Galaxy 2 are perfect Mario games.

But why are they perfect? What is it about blasting around Mario’s Galaxy that makes these games so much fun? Is it the gravity? The enemies? The Bowser fights? (No, it’s never that.)

I’ve got a theory for Mario games (and nearly all action/platforming games), and it’s called “The Joy of Movement”. What makes a great Mario game? It’s whether or not you actually enjoy moving around.

WeeeeeAt first blush, this seems abundantly obvious. After all, sloppy controls are often the death knell for poorly received games. Amagon probably would be a passable adventure if it were at all possible for the hero to actually deal with the encroaching threats of Everything-Kills-You Island. And while even games with terrible controls may occasionally succeed (looking at you, Grand Theft Auto), they usually nail at least one thing completely perfectly (like using rocket launchers on pedestrians). But for successful franchises, it’s obvious that enjoying actually moving your digital avatar is the most important thing. Sonic the Hedgehog is the poster child for this phenomenon (and the recent Sonic Mania being essentially Sonic & Knuckles 4 and being wildly successful cannot be a coincidence), but Mega Man also slots in perfectly here, too. Mega Man might not have 360° aiming or the ability to bend his robo-knees, but he’s perfectly suited to his world, and there’s joy to be had in flawlessly stomping over the corpse of a robot monkey on your way to barbecuing a wooden man. The joy of movement is real, and you’ve subconsciously experienced it practically every time you’ve played a worthwhile videogame.

And Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2? Here is the apex of joy of movement.

It’s initially very simple: Mario just plain controls well. You’ve got analogue walking/running, you’ve got the triple jump, and you can even hold a button to crawl along. Start combining some of these commands, and you’ve got the inimitable long jump and backflip. Go a little further, and you’ve got Mario exploring weird little planets with their weird little gravities, but still “moving” exactly the same. And intuitively, too! Leaping from one planetoid to another always “feels right”, and switching gravities is as natural as stomping on goombas. And speaking of feelings, the aggressive spin attack or the frantic spin jump both feel wonderful when you use the technique to survive an incoming chomp or avoid a crushing black hole.

Well, I like itBut the powerups… now that’s where things get crazy. Bee Mario buzzes along and crawls exactly how anyone who has ever been outside would expect (though, granted, not every Mario fan has been outside recently). Boo Mario’s spectral floating feels fittingly weightless. Rock ‘n roll Mario moves with all the heft of a boulder, and no one bats an eye when inertia causes that Mario to go meteor. Running around at full tilt with an invincibility star is always cool, and fire flowers exploit a player’s desire to shake that wiimote and vaporize everything on six planets. Cloud Mario is likely the best thing to ever happen to the franchise, as generating your own platform with a panicked spin is something Mario has needed since he first dropped into that hole in World 1-1. Spring Mario can be a blast… you just have to think like a kangaroo. Or maybe an injured bird? Frog? I think frogs hop a lot.

Even Yoshi gets into the act. Tongue twisting across platforms is an innate delight, and swallowing every troopa in a ten mile radius is literally the reason these Yoshis were born. And Yoshi gets his own powerups! Balloon fetishists delight at a round and floating Yoshi. And the dash pepper leads to new and exciting challenges of the Turbo Tunnel variety, but with the important caveat of not being terrible. And, whether you’re riding a dinosaur or literally skating around a frozen planet, it’s all completely instinctive and… fun.

WeeeeeAnd that’s the joy of movement, the joy of a good Mario adventure. Every trot, every jump, every powerup just feels good, and that’s what keeps the player running towards 242 stars. Every obstacle course is masterfully crafted with Mario’s skills in mind, and every powerup is utilized in unique and electrifying ways to surmount new challenges.

When it feels good to just move, that’s when you’re playing a wonderful videogame.

FGC #331 Super Mario Galaxy 2

  • System: Nintendo Wii. Also available on the WiiU download service… but that system plays Wii discs, anyway. So does that even count?
  • Number of players: I laud any game that involves a two player mode that is meant for casual accompaniment. Not enough people celebrate the humble person that wants to participate in a friend’s favorite past time, but has absolutely no skills suited to the task. I blindly tried to help my buddy, One Handed Joe, with his carpentry hobby a couple of years back, and it ended… poorly.
  • And where is the joy of movement in Fluzzard? The joy of Fluzzard is selecting another level that does not include Fluzzard.
  • Question for the Ages: What nimrod decided they should replace Princess Rosalina with Party Pants Starfy?

    GO ON A DIET

    Hey, Rosalina, get out of the shot! You’re ruining my bullet point.

  • Favorite Powerup: Cloud Mario has saved that plumber’s peperoni more times than I care to admit.
  • So, did you beat it? Of course. I got all the stars, and conquered the final daredevil challenge. I even tried that final stage again for this article… and I barely got past the first area. Look, I need to get back in practice, okay?
  • But you still beat the repeat of Luigi’s purple coins, right? Some things never leave you.
  • What’s in a name? The internal title for Super Mario Galaxy 2 is Super Mario Galaxy More. I agree.
  • Did you know? The Flying Star that barely appeared in Super Mario Galaxy is buried in the code of Super Mario Galaxy 2. But it’s not completely forgotten! It has an updated theme, and can be patched into being a wholly working powerup. This seems to suggest that the star was intended to be used in Super Mario Galaxy 2, but was left on the cutting room floor because it was too joyous for this fallen world.
  • Would I play again: I love this game. I love it so much. I’d like to be able to play it with a “real” controller, as the wiimote/chuck has never felt 100% natural to me, but, other than that, this is one game that I can practically guarantee I’ll play again.

What’s next? Random ROB… better shut his trap, because I feel like playing Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. That’s just the way it is, robot. Please look forward to it!

Yay Mario!