Tag Archives: streets of rage

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

FGC #166 Project X Zone 2

Hi, everybody!Today’s post is brought to you by the little voice in my head that doubts everything!

So what’s this game about?

Project X Zone 2 is a crossover title featuring characters from Capcom, Namco, Sega, and a few special guests from the Nintendo stable. This is ideal, as beloved characters like Mega Man X get to do something, hidden gems like Axel Stone get a little more exposure, and the Virtua Fighter cast gets to pretend they have personalities. A surprising amount of care went into balancing how these characters react to each other, so Erica Fontaine of Sakura Wars and Felicia of Darkstalkers have a lot to talk about, what with being randomly catty members of the clergy an’ all. Oh, and someone remembered that Resonance of Fate happened, and that’s always good.

So this is another crossover fighting game?

Well, no, this is a tactical RPG. Each “unit” is a pair of characters, usually from the same game (like Chris and Jill of Resident Evil), genre (like Chun-Li of Street Fighter and Xiaoyu of Tekken), or “theme” (Strider and Shinobi are ninja bros). Additionally, each unit may have a supporting “solo unit”, which is a lone character that may be randomly assigned. Want to have Captain Commando team up with Dante and Virgil? Go for it! Though he might be more at home with the .hack team…

Wait. I thought you hated TRPGs?

I do! I really do!

Look, I’ve got this theory about videogames, and it goes like this: I’m lazy. Wait, that isn’t a theory at all. Take two! My theory about videogames is that any game that takes too long to do something that would be really easy in another game is kind of crap. Easy example:

  • Super Mario Bros: walk forward, see goomba, jump, kill goomba, move on.
  • Super Mario RPG: walk forward, see goomba, jump, initiate battle, choose commands, defend against attack, attack, kill goomba, earn exp, move on.
  • Super Mario TRPG (nonexistent, thank God): prepare unit, map route, move forward, see goomba, goomba advances, initiate battle, watch combat, hopefully win, kill goomba, earn items, move on.

See how there’s a lot more involved in the (J)RPG and TRPG than the basic action game? It is draining to get the same result (dead goomba) out of so many more steps. And don’t get me started on the fact that it’s impossible to have a “no hits” JRPG run. It’s all about minimizing damage, not avoiding it. How does that make sense!?

You obviously enjoy JRPGs, so why single out TRPGs?

NOOOOOPE!Because they take forever! I can deal with the typical JRPG party of three to five dudes and dudettes fighting through a single battle, but a TRPG “army” of pieces traipsing around a map, waiting for enemy units to move, battling only when everyone involved is within proper ranges… it takes forever! Who has time for that!?

So it’s just a matter of time spent?

That’s a factor, yes, but the problem is tension. If a Super Mario Bros. level takes a maximum of 300 seconds, that means you can only, at absolute maximum, waste 300 seconds if you die inches from the goal. Meanwhile, in a JRPG, you’re limited by save points: you can lose all your progress thanks to a difficult monster mob, but every time you save, you’re “safe”, and that counter begins again. In a TRPG, you’re generally not allowed to save until the end of the battle, and, with every unit moving and fighting and whatever, some “battles” may take an entire hour. That means everything you do for a full hour could be for naught if you made some dumb moves during round one… and that gets pretty damn frustrating pretty damn fast.

So if you could save/undo every round, a TRPG would be fun?

No, because then there wouldn’t be any tension. Like calling a mulligan on every golf swing, the “sport” wouldn’t mean anything, and you’d be moving pieces around with all the anxiety of a game of The Sims. Frankly, I don’t enjoy TRPGs because I feel like I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. This isn’t to say I can’t identify good TRPGs (I pretty much have Ogre Battle Stockholm Syndrome), just that it’s the genre I’m pretty much least likely to get excited about.

So does Project X Zone 2 do something new with the TRPG genre to get your interest?

Also NopeNot… really? If anything, with its pre-configured units and the fact that the different characters barely have dissimilar attack attributes, PXZ2 is easily one of the dumbest TRPGs out there. Like, say what you will about Wild Arms XF, but its variety of classes and configurations allowed for at least an appealing selection of options for combat. Here, you’ve got nineteen different chess pieces, but they’re secretly all pawns. Some units may be a little stronger, and some may be able to move a few more squares, but it barely matters anyway, because each level seems to randomly toss the pieces onto the board. Got Team Yakuza up to a powerful level? Too bad, they’re not involved in this skirmish, better luck next time.

So you can’t customize your units at all?

Oh, you can, but it’s horrible. You may purchase two equippable items for each unit, and, between rounds, you may powerup the individual moves of each unit, but… it’s just a pain in the ass. While there are all sorts of stat parameters for each item and attack, all that ever matters is your attack power (to make sure battles go a little faster) and your HP/DEF (to make sure you don’t die). These are stats that level up with every, ya know, level up, so the extra “go to the shop now to buy crap” step doesn’t enhance anything. It’s just one more time wasting chore to perform between stages. And, yes, if you ignore this “step”, you will be stomped into oblivion during your next battle. Joy.

So the gameplay sucks. Playing it for the story?

That's gonna stingOh, God no. The story is so damn stupid. The entire story could be condensed to “bad guys are doing bad guy thing”. Why are they doing it? That’s mysterious. Where did they get the ability to nearly destroy the world(s)? Nobody knows. Why is one of the villains a bunny girl that speaks in broken English? Nobody wants to know.

And every level starts and ends with, “Oh no, bad guys are doing bad thing, we’ve got to stop them… but how!?” And then every stupid issue is solved by beating thirty or so enemy units and a boss or two. Like, okay, I’m not expecting Shakespeare here, but this is the most pointless plot since Seymour the Slug Sloshes Through Salt. We knew what was going to happen! There was a picture of melted slug on the cover!

So it’s just the crossover aspect that is appealing?

Man, even that is a giant disappointment. It’s kind of fun when there’s a new enemy or ally every level, but even then, it seems like every dumb action has to get a reaction from about half the cast. I counted four different occasions when the party had to make a “scary jump”, and about half the players had to contribute some inane drivel about heights being frightening or whatever. Newsflash, there’s no tension in a TRPG when combat units have to do something during a cutscene, and pressing A over and over again is only fun for so long.

Then, past about Level 20, the game doesn’t introduce any new characters, and just recycles the same old scenarios and characters. It’s not a bad thing that your party is done and “complete” by that point, but the designers seem to revel in reusing the same old bosses continuously, and, frankly, that bunny with a tank wasn’t threatening the first six times he was defeated.

It stops being interesting at Level 20? How many levels are there?

42.

Jesus Christ.

I know.

I assume you quit well before the end?

Nope, cleared the entire game.

WHY?!

And that's all!If I’m being honest? Because the game doesn’t try.

It’s a TRPG, but it’s on a portable system, so I can play it while watching TV. If I waste an hour on a failed mission, then at least I watched some Bojack Horseman while doing it. If I keep my equipment and abilities up to spec between battles, then I should have no trouble plowing over monsters during the campaign. If I keep an eye on my counter gauge and use items liberally, I should be able to stomp any rivals. Protect the areas that need protecting with my extra units, and send the big guns up against that big gun boss. Sure, I might not completely be paying attention to the scintillating dialogue, but I’ll keep an eye out for any time a favorite character it speaking. That X is the Abraham Lincoln of reploids.

And, in that fashion, I finish a 30 hour game I don’t even like. It… didn’t really bother me too much, so… hooray?

That’s kind of sad.

Hey, I’ve got a lot of videogames. They can’t all be winners.

FGC #166 Project X Zone 2

  • System: 3DS. This would be unbearable on a television.
  • Number of players: Just one. You’d think there’d be more two player TRPGs. I mean, people have been playing chess for years, right? It’s not that different, and now that we have online play…
  • Favorite Unit: It might be the most boring choice, but having Jin, Kazuya, and Heihachi of Tekken all working together feels oddly satisfying. Three generations of kicking ass! Woo!
  • Lucy on the battlefield with diamondsFashion Faux Pas: It seems like every other female character has an excuse to change into another costume during attacks. It’s to be expected with the cast of Sakura Wars, but it’s more than a little weird that Fire Emblem’s Lucina dons a bridal dress, or that KOS-MOS produces a sailor fuku. The men don’t seem to have the same problem, though a few dudes transform into demons because… why not?
  • Popular Culture: The localization team obviously had a blast wedging as many eclectic references into the script as possible. You know that when a reference to Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom drops into the script that things have gone well and truly insane.
  • Did you know? Star Gladiator is a game that happened, and Project X Zone 2 remembers that. Maybe that’s all I need to be entertained.
  • Would I play again: God, I hope not.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Adventures of Lolo 2 for the NES! Blocks must be pushed, and there’s only one little blue guy to do it! Please look forward to it!

So much fanfic