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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!

FGC #289 Altered Beast

Reason I love videogames number two hundred eighty nine:

Okay, we’ve got this dude, nothing much going on here.

But then he kills this blue, multi-headed dog.

Grabs the orb that the dog inexplicably turns into…

And then he loses his shirt. Uh… Is that a good thing? Let’s try that orb thing again.

Whoa! Now I’m totally swole! Yeah! Let’s go kick some wolf asses! Shattering zombies with one punch! I kicked that gargoyle thing right off its wings! What’s another orb going to do for me?

HELL YEAH! FIREBALLS! FIREBALL DASH! ELECTRIC… SHOCK… THINGYS? TURNING DUDES TO STONE WITH SOMERSAULTS! I AM BECOME DEATH! NOTHING WILL EVER STOP ME!

Okay, that’s the article for today. That’s all Altered Beast needs. That’s all Altered Beast ever needed. Thanks for reading.

FGC #289 Altered Beast

  • System: Sega Genesis! It was the original pack-in game! It was also available in the arcades, and, more importantly, that one Pizza Hut where your mom would always give you a quarter because she knew it took her a damn half hour to eat a slice of pizza.
  • Number of players: Am I the only one that assumes the plot of Altered Beast involves Contra’s Lance and Bill being revived in a Greek Mythology-based underworld? Lance and Bill don’t even have to be canonically dead, it could just be one of the many Lance and Bills that I accidentally killed over the years.
  • Favorite Beast Form: The dragon always got my attention. There was something about flight in the ol’ 2-D games that was just irresistible… though it is a shame that poor dragon gets saddled with the absolute worst boss. Oh, I also liked the bear, because that meant I actually made it to Level 3.
  • Filthy Cheater: The “code” for level select and expanding your lives stock is almost too complicated to type. You have to hold down the B button, and then press Start on the title screen. Do you think you can handle that?
  • Did you know? Okay, Altered Beast actually came out for a lot of different systems, including the Famicom in Japan. And in that version, you could transform into a gorram shark. A shark man! How did we miss this!?
  • Would I play again: This game isn’t very good by basically any rubric, but damn does it feel good to turn into an unstoppable wolf man. I will inevitably replay Altered Beast again, even if it’s just for ten minutes.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Virtual Boy Wario Land! Get your 3-D glasses ready, you nerd! Please look forward to it!

AHHHHHHH

FGC #254 Streets of Rage 2

UPPER!Streets of Rage 2 might be the best beat ‘em up of all time. It’s certainly the best BEU on the 16-bit consoles, and, considering that was the heyday of the genre, it’s hard to believe it could be topped elsewhere. But why is it the best? The BEU genre is pretty straightforward, so how is this game any better than Final Fight or Double Dragon?

The answer is simple: Streets of Rage 2 doesn’t suck.

… Hm, I should probably elaborate on that.

The beat ‘em up genre, one way or another, started in the arcades. If you want to cite Kung-Fu Master or Double Dragon, either way, they both premiered in arcade cabinets well before they hit the home consoles. From there, it was a only a matter of time before we got Final Fight, and then, inevitably, the parade of licensed beat ‘em ups that offered no real innovations to the genre, but God in Heaven is it fun to hit random dudes with Bart Simpson’s skateboard. The beat ‘em up completely conquered the arcade scene roughly until Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat decided it was fighting games’ turn, but even today, you’re likely to see Turtles in Time or X-Men at a roller rink (assuming roller rinks are still a thing at all… sorry I’m not a twelve year old girl).

HIYA!So, for the beat ‘em up to maintain arcade dominance for so long, the genre must have been doing something right. But what was it? The licensed beat ‘em ups have an easy answer: do you need to hear anything more than the title “Alien vs. Predator” to waste a quarter or two on finding out what that’s all about? “Be The Punisher”? Yeah, I’ll take a chance on that. But even the less “established” beat ‘em ups offered some level of “role play” that you couldn’t really experience at home. When Mario still looked like a random collection of brown pixels, here were King Arthur and his two or three knights, traipsing across the countryside, occasionally riding amazingly obedient horses. Here are all your favorite Saturday morning and mythological heroes, all at the arcade, and all ready to be controlled for the low, low cost of a single Washington (and the silver kind to boot).

That’s enough to get 25¢ out of practically anybody that can grip a joystick, but why was the beat ‘em up so successful? Simple: OCD. Or maybe just sunk cost fallacy. In general, unless it’s your absolute first time and some damn foot soldier keeps you in an arm lock for too damn long, you can make it up to the first boss on any given beat ‘em up on one credit. And then that boss is going to trounce you. And, depending on the game, that boss is going to laugh at you while the timer ticks down. Want to add another quarter? You know you will. You’re not going to let Abobo get away with that, are you? Come on, you got through the whole stage on one quarter, you can spare another to make this doof go down.

And so begins the worst problem in beat ‘em ups: quarter-killer, damage-sponge bosses. Rocksteady of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, possibly one of the most fought level one bosses in any videogame, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. He has, what, three moves? A kick, a charge, and a gun for jump kickers. That’s it. He should last for maybe eight hits, because, come on, a mouser is more complicated than this guy. But, no, he lasts forever, because if he can’t take the punishment, he’s not going to require more quarters to defeat, and if he doesn’t fleece your poor pockets, then what’s the point in being an arcade game?

YummyIn other words, beat ‘em ups were kings of the arcade because they were fun… and they made their owners a lot of dough. I don’t think those fat cat arcade barons are moving to Maui, but Final Fight probably did pay for at least a few trips to Disney World.

Streets of Rage apparently started in the arcades, but, fun fact, I have never seen a SoR cabinet in my life (I’m pretty sure this is another case of Wikipedia lying to me). Regardless, SoR started off a little… janky, and, in my humble opinion, wasn’t very good. It’s one of those Metroid 1 situations: you know there’s something cool here, but there is a lot of cruft involved, and, by the time you’re finally used to everything, it’s over. Though I suppose I’ll preserve that kind of whining for when ROB chooses that particular game…

What we’re here for today is Streets of Rage 2, and it does one thing absolutely marvelously: it actually scales boss health to something reasonable. It even scales all enemy health to a practical level.

It’s the subtlest little change, but it means so much to the game. The first boss in Streets of Rage 2 does not, at any point, retreat and force you to fight some random thugs while he eats a hamburger. The fourth boss does not have seventeen lifebars. Heck, the second boss brought a damn jetpack to the fight, but his HP is scaled to account for the fact that he can’t be hit all the time. He barely has more life than Symbol Y! It’s like Streets of Rage 2 actually respects the player’s time, and accounts for “this boss has three main patterns, he doesn’t have to be fought for the next ten minutes”. The average Streets of Rage 2 boss goes down in about as much time as a Robot Master, and that’s phenomenal! I might finish this game before I run out of imaginary, arbitrarily assigned credits because this is a console game, dammit! Somebody finally acknowledged that simple fact!

THE ENDishAnd there are a lot of little things in Streets of Rage 2 that make it appear as if the designers actually wanted to see the player succeed, and not just empty their coin purses into an imaginary arcade console. Food distribution is less random and closer to the power-up distribution of Super Mario Bros. games, for instance. Yes, there’s still a big fill up of meat before every boss, but you’re a lot more likely to see a life granting apple at more conscientious points than in any other beat ‘em up. And the average mooks, like their big boss brothers, aren’t massive damage sponges, so you’re not stuck in the same six square feet of a random city until the timer runs out. And even some of the less fair baddies, like those Road Warrior rejects or that one dude with a knife knifing around, can be defeating easily by acknowledging that jump kicks exist. There is not a single situation where there’s an infinity trap on the screen, and you’re going to die a thousand deaths to some random laser while you’re trying to position your character around that damn blast radius. Oh, and the special moves are pretty rad, too.

So, yes, you put it all together, and Streets of Rage 2 is the best beat ‘em up out there. It’s a lot of little things and one big thing working in concert, but, when it all combines, it forms a Voltron that blazing swords the competition.

Other beat ‘em ups are quick to rely on their arcade roots and suck for it. Streets of Rage 2 doesn’t (suck).

FGC #254 Streets of Rage 2

  • System: Sega Genesis and arcade, though it has also seen rerelease on more systems than I’m going to list. The 3DS version is, as always, pretty damn rad.
  • Number of players: Oh, yeah, another reason people play beat ‘em ups is for the “easy” two player factor. Practically anyone can join in and be “helpful”, so whether it’s your videogame adverse mate or little brother, you can get a few extra punches in with a buddy.
  • WeeeeWhat’s in a name: The arcade machines glimpsed in Level 3 are for a game called “Bare Knuckle”. Ha! What nitwit would play a game called Bare Knuckle?
  • Favorite character: Normally Blaze would be my go-to, as I (almost) always favor the “faster” character in beat ‘em ups. But, in this case, I’m going to go with Skate. He’s faster than Blaze and he’s the only character with a proper dash attack. Considering the dash is my preferred attack in any BEU, that’s kind of deal sealer. Guess I do always go with the quickest choice.
  • Did you know? Let’s not talk about Blaze’s underwear. Let’s… just not.
  • Would I play again: Yes, which is always surprising for an “ancient” Genesis game. I just have to convince my friends that this is the beat ‘em up to play, and not The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, X-Men, Battletoads, Dungeons and Dragons, Final Fight, Knights of the Round…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS! Get your leaves ready, it’s time to go fluttering with Mario! Please look forward to it!

DO NOT CLICK