Tag Archives: sega cd

FGC #451 Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side

ETERNAL!They tried. They damn well tried.

Mortal Kombat (1) was released for the Sega Genesis on Mortal Monday, September 13, 1993. It was, by all accounts, a wildly successful launch for a game that had been haunting arcades for nearly an entire year. What’s more, thanks to the likes of the “blood code” and the lack of censorship on the console, the Sega Genesis version was considered by many to be the “real” way to play Mortal Kombat at home. This was in stark contrast to the release of Street Fighter 2, which had seen amazing success on the SNES a year earlier, but hit the Sega Genesis like a flopping pile of assorted expired organs. And, two months later, we saw Eternal Champions, the unusual offspring of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.

Now, we would hate to disparage Mortal Kombat during Mortal Kombat Week (“week”), but let’s be real here: Mortal Kombat’s initial character variety sucks. By Mortal Kombat 2, we were fighting knife mutants and Oddjobs, but our virgin foray into the world of Elder Gods and dragon men pretty much included one interesting four-armed monster fighting a bunch of dudes in marginally themed gym clothes. The motion capture graphics were revolutionary at the time, but “a pair of sunglasses” does not interesting character design make. On the other hand, you have Street Fighter, which had bright, colorful goblin people fighting stretchy yogis, sumo wrestlers, and at least one Spaniard Ninja. Even when similar fighters are involved, no one is going to mistake Ryu for Sagat. Johnny Cage and Liu Kang, meanwhile, might seem a tad similar. Sub-Zero and Scorpion being clones are a bit of an extreme case, but they also comprise 28% of the playable roster.

Let's fight!Eternal Champions seemed to take a page from Street Fighter’s book rather than Mortal Kombat. Eternal Champions employed Ernie Chan, a Filipino-American comics artist, who worked with the Buscema brothers back in the ‘70’s. Before working with Sega, Chan was known for being an artist at DC Comics (Ghosts, House of Mystery, Detective Comics) and Marvel (Conan the Barbarian, Doctor Strange). Considering Chan was responsible for a healthy number of comic book covers for a full two years at DC Comics, he knew a thing or two about dynamic characters punching each other as hard as possible (the 1970s was before comic book characters decided to just stand around and philosophize at each other for six consecutive trades). It seems only natural that he would be responsible for designing some interesting punch mans, and, let me tell you, we got some remarkable fighters here.

The base concept of Eternal Champions is that the titular (kinda) Eternal Champion has plucked a series of heroes from their respective timelines, and granted them the potential prize of avoiding their otherwise inevitable deaths. Arguably, this could lead to a number of “stock” characters, as different timelines lead naturally to different archetypes, and we can certainly forgive a knight from ancient times or a “future man” from 21XX. But, against all odds, we have a pretty diverse cast in Eternal Champions. We do have a stock caveman, and Xavier Pendragon seems like a typical wizard hailing from Salem, but we also have Shadow Yamato (hm?), a modern corporate assassin that wouldn’t be out of place in Shadowrun. Trident is Atlantean, but basically a merman. RAX is a cyborg built for Teleroboxer, and Midknight is a bio engineer who kinda sorta turned himself into a vampire. And Jetta Maxx is a 19th century circus performer that attacks with all the agility you would expect from an acrobat. Why aren’t there more tumblers in fighting games? That seems like a natural fit!

HUG!None of the fighters in Eternal Champions are exactly setting the world on fire, but there is no way you’d mistake Larcen the 1920’s PI/cat burgler for Blade, the futuristic bounty hunter. And, whether it’s an accident of the “complicated” concept of time travel being involved, or because someone genuinely wanted to create a new Eternal Champions universe, but these fighters all have in-depth, fascinating backstories to accompany their stimulating visual designs. As a prerequisite for the plot, we immediately must learn how each fighter died (which allows for some always fun dramatic irony), why they were targeted for death (the premise of entire half hours of Law & Order), and why, had they lived, they would have made the world a better place. Additionally, this setup encourages the creation of cultures old and new (of course someone has to explain how the “future” works, but even Ancient Atlantis has some ‘splainin’ to do about its fish people), and, since this is a fighting game, it’s important to explain the whys of some of these special moves. Yes, ninja use ninja stars, but why exactly does Larcen have a grappling hook? There’s a reason for that!

Which reminds me: these exciting, distinct fighters work well for not only for biography screen attract modes, but also for actually being fighters. This is another situation where, unlike Mortal Kombat, if a character has a trident for a hand, they’re not going to throw the exact same punch as the robot dude. In fact, every fighter has a defined fighting style, and, while it does seem a little odd that the vampire scientist is trained in Jeet Kune Do, it does mean that every character feels distinct in more ways than simply a special move. And, of course, the special moves are their own kind of distinct, and not just a fireball and a jumping uppercut spread out among the cast. In short, the eternal champions collectively offer a unique experience for a time when the fighting genre was flooded with monotonous knock-offs.

TIME KILL(ERS)But there is one place where Eternal Champions differed from Street Fighter: it had fatalities. Or, to be more precise, the game had “stage fatalities” in the form of “Overkills”: make sure your opponent lands on a particular spot when their health is low, and the background will do your work for you. If you’re in prehistoric times, you’re about to see someone devoured by a dinosaur. Meanwhile, if you’re hanging in the early 20th Century, get ready for a drive-by. The 60’s naturally contain napalm, and the far-flung future of 2345 AD is wall-to-wall robots. It’s entirely possible you could complete Eternal Champions without once seeing an Overkill, though, so it seems like the whole feature was an afterthought. Mortal Kombat was likely an influence, but a fighter being zapped into oblivion by a neon sign (can that actually happen?) wasn’t exactly the point of Eternal Champions. It’s all about the character variety, we don’t need gorefests to sell our Sega cartridges.

Or maybe we do, because the Sega CD exclusive sequel/upgrade, Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side dialed the gore up to eleven.

To be clear, Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side is not the kind of fighting game sequel that completely eschewed former graphics and gameplay for something completely different (Battle Arena Toshinden was fond of that move). This is much more the Super Turbo to Eternal Champions’ Champion Edition. More characters were added to the cast (and a great many of them were “joke characters”, like Hooter, a mundane owl with a taste for rats and vengeance), the special move system was rejiggered, and the same overarching plot returned with a marginal twist. The Eternal Champion has gathered his warriors once again to fight for a chance to live (and I guess nobody won the last one), but now there are a few new entrants, and the nefarious Dark Champion is hatching an evil plan to be the hardest-to-unlock character in the history of fighting games (just use the cheat code). Superficially, this Eternal Champions is just the obvious and expected fighting game upgrade that would barely necessitate a season pass in today’s market.

Not fair... for DeathBut that Dark Champion does make an impact on the fatalities of EC:CotD. The Dark Champion can be summoned for a match ending “cinekill”, which will banish your opponent to a pre-recorded FMV hell where they will endure a death based on their greatest fear. Some of these videos are goofy (at least one character is crushed with a “I’m not touching you” finger motion), but the majority are either significantly gory (the cyborg has his limbs torn off in a rather unpleasant fashion) or pure nightmare fuel (I’m not the only one that has a fear of melting into some manner of fleshy liquid, am I?). And if you think the increased gore is relegated to cutscenes, don’t worry, there are also now “Vendettas” that allow you to use a special move toward the end of the match that will be a little more special than usual. They, again, run a realism gamut (which is more likely to make an impact: a character turning into a giant bug or one just whipping out a shotgun for a headshot?), but the end result of most Vendettas is a literal bloody pulp tossed around the arena. And the stage fatalities really earned their “Overkill” moniker, as some are excessive to the point of parody. “The Pit” of EC:CotD is not one, not two, but three pits in one! And, don’t worry, you get to watch as a 16-bit human body churns through three different buzzsaws. Street Fighter has different models for every character’s skeleton thanks to Blanka’s shocking attacks, but EC:CotD goes the extra mile by modeling individual organs that are primed to leak out of those skeletons. Yummy!

And why all the gore? Well, obviously because someone wanted Eternal Champions to be popular.

That's why he's the champMortal Kombat hit the Genesis in 1993, Eternal Champions saw its sequel released in 1995. In those intervening years, Mortal Kombat continued to be a juggernaut, particularly on the Sega Genesis. Street Fighter may have proven to be a lasting victor, but the sales numbers all touted Mortal Kombat as the champion of the system. Eternal Champions wanted a piece of that pie so badly. Sega did everything it could to promote EC, from country-wide, EGM-sponsored tournaments to a 7-11 slurpee promotion, but it couldn’t touch the genuine appeal of the game with the angry skeleton and the kung-fu dude. Eternal Champions never had a hold of the arcade appeal, tried to pump up the blood to compensate, and still got nowhere. An excellently crafted fighting game, and it’s still relegated to the discount bin of history.

Oh, and what finally killed Eternal Champions? Why was there never a third title? Well, there was supposed to be a Saturn version to wrap everything up, but Sega of Japan decided that Sega had too many fighting games (two), Eternal Champions was stealing too much attention from Virtua Fighter, and the eternal champions had to be retired. Sorry, guys, but there’s only room for one fighting game in this company.

Sorry, Eternal Champions. We know you tried everything, but it just wasn’t enough.

FGC #451 Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side

  • System: Sega CD for Challenge, but just regular Sega Genesis for just regular Eternal Champions. The new Sega Genesis Mini Classic Console is also available, but go ahead and grab the 6-button controller for that one.
  • Number of players: Up to and including two.
  • Favorite Character: Dr. Mitchell Midleton Knight has become the bio-engineered vampire monster Midknight! … Okay, he’s just Spider-Man’s Morbius, but… wait a tick. RAX is Cyborg, Shadow is Elektra, Trident is Aquaman, Blade is named friggen’ Blade… maybe these characters aren’t all that original…
  • Send in the Clowns: This happened.
    AHHHHHHH

    I’m never playing this again.
  • So 90’s it’s Grody: Want to know how to determine this game came out in 1995? Well, there’s a hidden fighter simply known as “The Senator” who exists as a parody of the controversy surrounding violent videogames. And he fights in front of an ersatz McDonalds surrounded by security, an obvious sendup of Bill Clinton’s love of jogging to burger joints. And Senator’s fatality is transforming into an uzi-wielding berserk postal clerk. And they claim memes were invented by the internet!
  • Failure State: Okay, maybe the reason Eternal Champions never became popular was because it was impossible to beat. The final boss is the Eternal Champion, and he’s got eight different “forms”, and they all have to be fought and defeated over the course of two rounds. And if you lose two rounds, there are no continues, you’re just booted back to your original timeline as a Bad End. So win eight continuous fights, or die. And Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side introduced another, meaner Eternal Champion after the first one, so good luck winning sixteen continuous fights.
  • Favorite Ending: Shadow Yamoto is a corporate ninja saboteur… and her ending sees her entering witness protection and making the world a better place by testifying against her former employer. It’s not exactly the most action packed finale for a ninja, but it does feel pretty right.
  • An End: Also, Crispy the Chicken’s ending involves losing his fortune in the 90’s financial crisis and then selling his eggs for booz money. This is a very dark game.
  • VIDEOGAME VIOLENCEDid you know? In further support of the Eternal Champions Expanded Universe, there were two spin-off titles released. Chicago Syndicate was a Game Gear title that was fairly Shinobi-esque and featured Larcen cleaning up Chicago in a bright green trench coat (the ‘20’s were a different time). And then there was X-Perts for the Sega Genesis, a light beat ‘em up presenting Shadow and her previously unseen team of X-Men wannabes. Both games are… not worth exploring.
  • Would I play again: If I’m in the mood for a distinctly 16-bit fighting game, I’ll choose Eternal Champions. Of course, that mood rarely happens…

What’s next? We’re going to kill some time with a game with the exact same plot all over again. Please look forward to it!

FGC #450 Mortal Kombat

MORTAL KOMBATMortal Kombat was one of (if not the) defining games of the 90’s, a time when gaming was just starting to stand on its own two feet. And, for better or worse, it changed gaming forever (M for Mature… or just “Mortal Kombat”? Makes ya think!). Mortal Kombat, with its spine-rips and death kisses, left an undeniable mark on the face of gaming, and whether it’s a rad scar or festering wound is up to the beholder.

But… why was Mortal Kombat popular?

It’s all about Originality

Street Fighter 2 is easy to understand. Street Fighter 2 is a damn fine fighting game with unique characters that can appeal to any (well, probably male) player. Don’t like generic karate guy? Here’s a green beast man, and he plays totally differently. There’s the lithe and nimble woman versus the gigantic, hairy grappler man. There are bosses that are carefully calibrated to drain your credits, but there is also a two player mode that is a significant draw. Take out your favorite sumo for a date with a yoga master, and battle all night long. Learn those special moves! Master one character, and move on to the next! Maybe one day you’ll beat Red Hitler and his stupid scissor kicks!

YOU GOT KANGEDMortal Kombat features four offensive buttons: High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick, and Low Kick. This is two less buttons than Street Fighter 2’s six button layout. If you’ve ever paid attention to Street Fighter 2’s jabs, you’ll note that every single Street Fighter has a different “light punch”. Same for medium. Same for every damn offensive option available. This is absolutely not the case in Mortal Kombat. “High Punch” is exactly the same for Liu Kang as Johnny Cage. Sonya’s got a jump kick, but it may as well belong to Kano. And you better believe Sub-Zero and Scorpion have the exact same animations, because, ya know, they’re the same person.

Ultimately, the only difference between characters in Mortal Kombat is the special moves, and, bad news, they’re all almost exactly the same, too. Liu Kang has a fireball that flies straight and true. Johnny Cage does, too. And Kano. And Sonya. And Raiden. Oh! Sub-Zero’s fireball freezes the opponent in place. And Scorpion’s fireball freezes the opponent and requires less walking. No wonder he’s the most popular character! Now give everybody a special that helps ‘em get across the screen, and… are we done here? There may be a few outliers, but, by and large, all of these unique characters play about as “uniquely” as White Bomberman and Black Bomberman.

Though maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree there. Maybe people are more interested not in what the characters do, but who the characters are. Maybe…

It’s all about the Characters

RAIDEN!Mortal Kombat has produced some very iconic videogame characters. There’s vain but heroic Johnny Cage, inordinately heroic Liu Kang, generally heroic Sonya, and… wait a tick, all those characters are just the same obvious traits plus one tiny quirk. Maybe they’re physically dissimilar? No, Sonya, Liu Kang, and Johnny Cage all just look like regular dudes that showed up in their gym clothes. Johnny and Looey didn’t even remember to pack a shirt. And it’s pretty clear that Sub-Zero and Scorpion totally botched their twin day fashions.

Am I just looking at the superficial? Well, when Mortal Kombat was lighting the arcades and home consoles ablaze, there wasn’t much more than that, anyway. Like with most fighting games, you got a character profile, and an ending, and that was it. There was the accompanying Mortal Kombat comic book, but its razor thin characterization didn’t exactly fill in the blanks on why Kano was a cyborg (eventual answer: why not?) or how Johnny Cage came to participate in this deadly fighting tournament (answer: he got a letter). Sub-Zero hates Scorpion, Sonya hates Kano, and I guess Goro killed Liu Kang’s ancestor. These razor-thin motivations don’t support characters, they simply support reasons for punching.

So, okay, punching is kind of the point, though. So does that mean…

It’s All About the Gameplay

mortal kombatMortal Kombat is a fighting game, so characters don’t matter past how much fun the game is to play. And is Mortal Kombat fun? Of course it is! I just said it was a fighting game! Pay attention! Fighting games are always fun, because punching some other dude in a digital arena is top shelf entertainment. Even the worst fighting games are fun for a little while.

But does the fun of Mortal Kombat last? At all? Well… uh… We already covered how every character is practically the same, so 2-player battles are going to get pretty predictable pretty fast. Maybe one player mode is more interesting? That has some fights against CPU opponents, the always popular mirror match, and then endurance matches. Endurance matches are kind of cool, right? Like, the same fight, but double? Who could say no to double the fighting? Aside from everyone that just finds it grueling and unfair, of course. And while we’re on the topic of unfair, we have Goro, the penultimate boss that in no way plays by the rules, so he absorbs your punches like they’re being thrown by some pasty nerd standing over an arcade cabinet. And the final challenge is just all the other fighters mixed together with a fireball barrage that can bleed off about 75% health.

The gameplay is pretty damn limited. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not the kind of gameplay that should make Mortal Kombat a perennial favorite that dominated the arcades and home consoles.

But maybe it was never about actually playing the game at all, maybe…

It’s All About the Blood and Gore

BLOOD!My dear, dead granny knew of Mortal Kombat, and she knew its name for one simple reason: blood. As was reported by a million moms clutching a million pearls, Mortal Kombat was unerringly violent, and a gross, disgusting mess of blood soaked through every interaction in this so-called vidya game. Mortal Kombat was such a blood orgy that the United States Senate had hearings showcasing the uncivilized ferocity on display for a mere half a buck in every arcade across the country! Could this epidemic of violence ever be stopped after Mortal Kombat opened the floodgates?!

Except… Mortal Kombat isn’t all that bloody.

Yes, there is blood (how else would we be able to tell the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo ports apart), but is Mortal Kombat inherently violent? Well… yes… but not anymore than any other videogame! Contra saw Bill tearing through a thousand poor dudes with backpacks, but Congress never so much as uttered the word “Contra” in its hallowed halls. And Mario! Think of how many poor goombas he led to the slaughter! Is that game inherently less violent simply because it featured a tubby guy picking on chestnuts? Well, yes, but still! Mortal Kombat might have included a coupon for a few globs of blood with every roundhouse, but was it really the bloody mess described by so many Liebermans? Absolutely not.

THE PITBut what of the infamous fatalities? Yes, the scandalous spine-rip is bloody (awesome), but arguably the most famous fatality in the franchise is Scorpion’s “Toasty” finisher, and there isn’t a speck of blood in that ghastly inferno. Sonya’s heated kiss is on the same level, and Kano’s heart rip is about as bloody as a certain Spielberg movie. And the decapitations of Johnny Cage and Raiden are more “yes, that’s right, you do need a head to live” than anything approaching what you’d see in a horror movie of the time.

We may be looking at Mortal Kombat 1 through the lens of jaded 21st Century gamers (“I just watched Samus Aran drink the blood of her enemies six times this morning”), but the violence of Mortal Kombat was often less “bloody gore” and more a literal joke.

Actually, maybe that was the point of Mortal Kombat, maybe…

It’s All About the Humor

Back in the 90’s, it was hard to claim that Mortal Kombat was “funny”. But let’s be real here: the humor was there all along. Right the start (or maybe a particular revision), there was a certain green hidden character that had unlock conditions that seemed designed to be little more than a playground rumor. If “you have to earn a double flawless victory and perform a fatality and never block all while E.T. flies across the moon” isn’t a joke, then I’m turning in my comedian license (issued and signed by Yakov Smirnoff himself!). Speaking of which, what appears to be Peter Pan, an alien, a witch, and Santa Claus will fly over the moon at certain points. That sounds a bit humorous! And there’s certainly a reason skele-face Scorpion faces the screen with his hollow eyes after every fatality. He’s mugging for a laugh!

This became much more evident in later games, when Mortal Kombat introduced such silliness as babalities, friendships, animalities, and fatalities that were clearly just some random dude on the staff playing with Claymation (see Kabal for more details). But even back at the beginning, the humor was there, even before we saw Toasty Dan pop up to announce it was time to fight Smoke.

But it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t a selling point for the original Mortal Kombat. The humor was there, but nobody was feeding those cabinets quarters just because they wanted a laugh.

So what was the secret to Mortal Kombat’s success? It seems like we’ve ruled everything out, except…

Yeah!

Oh man, we have an answer.

Mortal Kombat was successful because it’s all about the sweet uppercuts.

Yeah!

Yeah, that’s the stuff.

FGC #450 Mortal Kombat

  • System: Arcade first and foremost, but then Mortal Monday came, and we had it on Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Nintendo Gameboy. Oh boy! Mortal Kombat on a portable!
  • Number of players: 2 kombatants.
  • Preferred System: Genesis might have the blood, but Super Nintendo has graphics that don’t look like the butt end of a butt. And I’m a Nintendo kid, so here we are.
  • Favorite Character: It’s obviously Sub-Zero, as he can freeze his opponent and slide. Amusingly enough, my first “main” for Mortal Kombat was Sonya Blade, but I drifted away from her when I realized she reminded me way too much of Jane Fonda.
  • FIGHT!Did you know? An NES port of Mortal Kombat was planned, but was cancelled fairly quickly (before they even entered the programming phase). For any young’uns out there, this was back when two generations of videogame hardware could be supported by Nintendo simultaneously, and not like today, when the WiiU was publically executed the moment the Switch made the scene.
  • Would I play again: Probably not. Mortal Kombat, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that fun nowadays as anything more than a novelty, and is 100% supplicated by its sequels. If you’re getting Mortal Kombat today, it likely comes with Mortal Kombat 2 anyway…

What’s next? It’s Mortal Week! Mortal Kombat sure hit the big time with its release, and it had a number of imitators. We’re going to look at a different wannabe fighting game Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the next two weeks, and examine how some games did their best to copy the Mortal Kombat formula (and generally still failed). First up on the list: Eternal Champions. Please look forward to it!

MIGHT!

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

Catches flies... or somethingThis game was my first exposure to Spider-Man.

Okay, that’s not 100% accurate. Growing up, I had a “read along” children’s book featuring Spider-Man at the circus. I think he fought a clown? I’m moderately certain elephants were involved. Additionally, I might have seen an episode or two of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, which apparently ended its original run shortly after I was born, but there may have been a rerun or two bumping around when I was a kid. But! That’s it! I never received current comics as a kid (see the bullet points section for more details on that), the Spider-Man animated series was still four years away, and, when The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin was released on Sega Genesis, Tobey Maguire was 16 (Tom Holland was, of course, negative six).

So, while I had a general mental image of Spider-Man (red/blue pajamas, spins a web, any size), I didn’t have a clue about all the things that make the man a spider. Peter Parker? First I heard of him. Daily Bugle? Oh, so he’s a newspaper guy like Superman, I guess. And the entire rogues gallery? First I’m hearing of them.

In other words, everything I ever needed to know about Spider-Man, I learned from a Sega Genesis game. See, Stan Lee, it’s not only any issue that might be a reader’s first, it could be a videogame, too!

With that in mind, we’re going to look at the main players of Spider-Man’s big Genesis adventure, and compare their impressions within the game to their current place in Marvel comics continuity. Let’s find a new way to learn about Spider-Man!

The Kingpin

Initial Impression: Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, is responsible for everything in this game, so it’s only natural to assume he’s Spider-Man’s prime villain. In short order, Kingpin…

    Nice suit

  • Hijacks a television station
  • Plants a mega-bomb somewhere in New York
  • Frames Spider-Man for said mega-bomb
  • Offers a huge reward for the head of Spider-Man
  • Commands every other villain to mess with Spider-Man
  • Orders Venom to kidnap Mary Jane
  • Camps out in his scary base five feet from the mega-bomb

Aside from that last blunder (when you plant a mega-bomb in a city, you leave the city), it’s clear that Kingpin is a genius and the head honcho of crime in Spider-Man’s New York. Could you even conceive of a villain more frightening than a monster that accidentally kidnaps your wife as part of a master plan?

Real Continuity: Kingpin is a big, scary villain… but he’s not really Spider-Man’s villain. Kingpin has drifted away from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, and has been primarily a Daredevil villain for… I want to say as long as I’ve been alive. This makes sense, as Kingpin is generally responsible for the death of Daredevil’s Daredaddy, and the greatest rivalry between Spidey and Kingpin is merely an ongoing discussion regarding Slimfast. Though Kingpin now has a more mundane adversary (Daredevil’s super power is “can see, but only kinda”), he has gotten up to the more ridiculous supervillainy on occasion, as there was a not insignificant run there where he commanded a legion of immortal ninja. Basically, Kingpin is every bit the badass he is in this game, he’s just not Spider-Man’s badass.

Doctor Octopus

Swings a leg, regular sizeInitial Impression: Doc Ock is a pushover in this game. Literally! He’s balancing on his long, noodley octo-arms, and, a few jump kicks to the face later, he’ll be toppled over like a turtle. And then Spider-Man webs him up, and gets him to rat out every one of his cohorts. He’s a first level boss! With a bowl cut! He never had a chance.

Real Continuity: Doctor Octopus is, depending on the week, either Spider-Man’s greatest or second greatest villain. On one tentacle, he’s never been responsible for anything so traumatic as the death of any given Spider-Girlfriend; on the other pseudopod, he did straight up kill Spider-Man once, take over his body/life, and…. Earn Peter Parker a doctorate. It… probably sounded more villainous at the time. Even before all of that, Doctor Octopus was a constant thorn in Spider-Man’s side, capable of matching the wit and knowledge of Spidey in a way that Hammerhead, the man with a flat head, couldn’t even touch. Oh, and he tried to marry Aunt May one time. That had to be a huge hassle.

Point is that videogame Doctor Octopus got robbed.

The Lizard

Rock outInitial Impression: A mutant reptile that lives in the sewers? Gee, where have I heard that one before?

Real Continuity: It’s hard to sneak nuance into a Genesis game, but would it have killed anybody to have Dr. Curt Connors revert back to human form and apologize? The Lizard is yet another Jekyll/Hyde character for the Marvel pantheon (see also: Hulk, The), and his greatest tales always revolve around a man trying to make himself whole again (and then accidentally turning into a lizard). Granted, this does make Connors the dumbest scientist in the Marvel universe (“Maybe this time I won’t turn into… Nope, looks like I’m eating rats again.”), but his heart is in the right place. He might just be a stooge in this game, but The Lizard is worth one or two good stories in the real continuity.

Electro

ZAPInitial Impression: Here’s some loser with electric powers.

Real Continuity: Here’s some loser with electric powers. Seriously. For having starred in a movie and possessing nigh unlimited power usage potential (electricity is pretty important, y’all), Electro seems relegated to Rhino Tier with the other nobodies that occasionally pop up for an annual every other year or so. In fact, he accidentally got his girlfriend fried, she came back to life with his powers, and somehow she wound up being a more interesting character than OG Electro. That makes Electro even worse than The Scorpion, and you don’t want to be lower on the totem pole than a dude whose only power is “has a tail”.

Sandman

Dust in the windInitial Impression: Technopop apparently wanted to include one puzzle boss in this adventure, so Sandman winds up being nearly invincible. After Spidey has to fight an escaped gorilla in Central Park (hey, Circus Caper!), Sandman attacks, and he is completely invulnerable to Spider-Man’s webs and spider strength. The solution is to lure Sandman across the entire stage to a random fire hydrant, punch said hydrant, and then soak the man made of sand into inanimate mud. Even when you win, however, victory is fleeting, as you are informed Sandman is the first villain to escape Spider-Man’s web. Sandman must be some kind of super-super villain!

Real Continuity: He’s a jobber in a stupid sweater. Sandman did lead a long and varied life at some point in the comics (he was an Avenger! It happened!), but he’s been stuck in a generic supervillain loop of depression, loneliness, and bankrobbing for the entirety of the 21st century. I think he recently got a new suit? Yeah, that’s useful when you’re a pile of sand. For having nearly godlike (or at least Green Lantern-like) powers and virtual immortality, Sandman has been slotted into the little leagues with Paste Pot Pete and that guy from Wings.

Hobgoblin

WeeeeeInitial Impression: Spider-Man, unable to find his next villain to trounce, determines that since Kingpin put a price on his head, he could just walk around in broad daylight, see who shows up, and then it’s clobberin’ time. This miraculously works, as Hobgoblin shows up about twenty feet outside the Daily Bugle. And then Spider-Man whacks the goblin right off his dumb glider. The end.

Real Continuity: There was a magical time in Marvel Comics when a villain could stay dead for longer than a week, so Hobgoblin is clearly subbing for the then-deceased Green Goblin. This is Hobgoblin’s lot in life, as anyone in that costume is meant to be a stand-in for Spider-Man’s greatest/greenest foe, and… can you name the secret identity of even one Hobgoblin? Kingsley? Does that sound right? Doesn’t matter. He’s a knockoff, and it doesn’t matter if he gets his own sewer gang, he’s never going to be an inadvertent Trump analogue like Osborn.

Venom

We are VenomInitial Impression: Who is this guy? He looks scary enough, but he seems to be everybody’s sidekick. Play the game on hard mode, and Venom shows up as a secondary threat during any given boss fight. And… he just kinda jumps around like a monkey. That whole “unsettling black alien” thing is menacing, but that gorilla from the park was more threatening.

Real Continuity: Venom has become one of Spider-Man’s most aggressive and iconic foes, but he had only been around comics for a solid two years before his Master System debut. It’s no wonder no one really had any idea where he would “officially” fit into the Spider-Mythos at that point. He doesn’t even showcase his super rad tongue! But that tongue has been featured ad nauseam in the intervening thirty years, and now Venom has been everything from an intergalactic military vet to a tyrannosaurus. There was even a recent special wherein Venoms from different universes all banded together to fight Kinda-Venoms from other, more different universes. That’s right! Venom rips off everything about Spider-Man, all the time. But back in 1990, he barely even got web shooters.

Mary Jane Watson

Secret CrushInitial Impression: She’s stated to be Spider-Man’s wife (“your friend Peter Parker’s wife”), and she’s kidnapped by a Kingpin/Venom combo (not the cool kind of Kingpin/Venom combo, they’re just working together) in time for the final stage. During the ultimate, vaguely impossible boss fight, she is slowly lowered into a vat of acid while Spider-Man and Fat-Man duel. If you win, Spider-Man is happy to be reunited with the redhead; if you lose, Kingpin escapes, and Spider-Man gets really depressed. So she’s Spider-Man’s Princess Peach. Got it.

Real Continuity: Mary Jane Watson is the Lois Lane of DC Comics. Thanks to a million writers over a billion years, MJ is simultaneously a strong, interesting character in her own right, and a damsel that must be rescued at all times. It depends on the week. As of this writing, she’s recently been an assistant to a mostly comatose Tony Stark… which sounds like a pretty cushy job. On the other hand, she had her entire marriage mystically annulled because her husband wanted to rewrite all of reality on a whim, so that probably detracts from her agency just a tweak. Also, like practically all women in comics not continually wearing spandex, when she isn’t dating a hero, her appearances are rare (see One More Day for a fine example). So, despite the fact that she could totally carry another Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series, she’s hasn’t seen as much exposure since she cut the (spider-)man out of her life. So, yep, she is Spider-Man’s princess.

Way to go, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, you’re a pretty good introduction to Universe 616 after all.

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

  • System: Sega Genesis was the big one, but the Master System version was released a year earlier. There’s also a Game Gear version that was based on the Master System version, and a Sega CD version based on the Sega Genesis version. Got all that? I could make a chart.
  • Number of players: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. Alone.
  • Dumb monkeyPort-o-Call: Dr. Strange appears for no reason in the Master System/Game Gear version. The Sega CD version adds two new levels/bosses, and cutscenes that are… very strangely animated. Peter Parker and Mary Jane kiss during the intro and… it’s the least romantic cartoon ever.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So my parents had a friend that worked at an antique shop. Any time he would wind up with “dollar comics”, they would be donated to the Wee Goggle Bob Needs Something to Do fund. Thus, I had a number of disjointed, completely random comics as a kid. While this did nothing for me learning the wonders of Marvel continuity, I did wind up being exposed to Silver Surfer Mœbius comics from a young age, and that may have had an influence on my imagination
  • Continue? The plot dictates that any time Spider-Man gets a game over, he is captured by the local constabulary.

    Right in the kisser

    This leads to the most NWA continue screen of the 16-bit era.

  • Threat or Menace: The other cool thing about this title is that it encourages you to take pictures as Spider-Man, and use the cash to earn web fluid refills. On one hand, this is amazing, and kind of a big deal innovation in light of every damn hero having a camera nowadays. On the other hand, web fluid refills are generously scattered about any given stage, so it’s kind of unnecessary. Oh well, at least J.J. will be happy.
  • Did you know? In the main continuity of Marvel 616, the Venom symbiote has possessed Peter Parker, Eddie Brock, Flash Thompson, Carol Danvers, Groot, and Mr. Fantastic. And some dinosaurs. And at least one dog. That thing gets around.
  • Would I play again: Did I not mention that I love this game? It’s a pain in the ass by modern standards, but I played it for pretty much a solid year when I was a kid, so it is good stuff. Forget all those later games that were all about flying through the city on webs, I’ll take Spider-Man awkwardly stumbling through the sewers any day.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Monster Rancher for the Playstation! Gonna raise up some eyeballs to fight dragons! Please look forward to it!

Grrrr

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!