Tag Archives: a lion that walks like a man

FGC #578 Red Earth & Capcom Fighting Evolution

Let's fightNow for the tale of two separate and incredibly unequal videogames.

And, uh, don’t worry. Both games contain dinosaur-dragons, so that should keep your interest.

In 1996, Capcom released Red Earth. Known by the much more metal name of War-Zard in Japan, Red Earth was a fighting game that did its best to set itself apart from its peers. Just how different is it? Well…

· There are four selectable characters, and if you do not play 2-P mode, you will never fight the other heroes of the adventure. But who do you fight?
· Dinosaurs! And Squids! And at least one Chimera+ (the plus is for two extra heads)! There are eight levels in Red Earth, and each features a decidedly not-human adversary. The closest you are going to see to something like an even matchup is a harpy that at least does not have any extra limbs on your character, but the same cannot be said for Gi Gi the robotic statue with as many arms as possible.
· And, to be clear, these “bosses” are absolutely not fair fights, complete with a few super moves that can eliminate half your lifebar in one go. These moves are very telegraphed, but if you choose not to dodge at the right time? Down you go.
· Likely to mitigate some of this unfairness, there are health power-ups randomly scattered around. Additionally, continuing after a loss does not reset your opponent’s life meter. Unlike in your typical fighting game, you can (more or less) pick up exactly where you left off after dropping in another quarter.
ROAR· And you’ll want to pick up that joystick again, because every fighter has a story that advances with every fight, and an ending or three with multiple available choices. Play the game well enough, and you just might see your heroine naked and humping an alien. Or maybe she gets a puppy!
· And you may want to pursue all those extra endings, because your character actually levels up, gains new abilities, and increases stats with points that are awarded for every hit. This serves the dual purpose of encouraging playing the game more, and offering the possibility of growing stronger mid-match even if you have been repeatedly losing to the oni du jour.

This all adds up to a game that feels like a fighting game in the individual moments, but plays like an entirely different animal. Much like Konami’s Monster Maulers (released three years prior), this is an attempt to bring some of the most popular conventions of the beat ‘em up genre (health powerups, “boss fights”, multiple routes) into a fighting game to create a more inimitable experience. Additionally, the “leveling system” may unfortunately be a naked attempt at adding “grinding” to a genre that absolutely does not need that kind of nonsense, but it does encourage the player to earn a “new experience” when trying a replay. And, if you are the type to never deviate from a preferred “main”, that’s a pretty big get. Make your Lion King (uh… not that Lion King. He’s just a king that happens to be half-lion) the best Lion King (still not Disney-related) he can be.

Squidly bitsAnd while we are looking at reasons Red Earth was able to set itself apart from the pack (no lions at all involved in that statement, to be clear), consider that this was the first of three(ish) games to feature Capcom’s CP System III. In layman’s terms, pondexter? It means that, like its CPS3 brother, Street Fighter 3, this is one of the most gorgeous sprite-based fighting games out there. Everything from the cloth on Tessa’s hammer pants to the heat bellowing out of Hauzer’s maw is elegantly animated. Even “incidental” bits, like the continue screen countdown, include pixels not likely to ever be seen again. CPS3 may be known for Street Fighter 3 (and maybe a JoJo game), but its maiden voyage here really makes an impact on the ol’ eyeballs.

In short, Red Earth is unique and stunning. It is exactly the kind of fighting game the world needed in 1996, and it promised a great future for the genre.

But there never was a Red Earth 2. Not even a “Turbo” edition graced this title, and the OG version was barely even distributed in North America. If you wanted to play as the lord of lions or the ninja that could fell a sphinx, you would have to wait eight years to see their second adventure. You would have to wait for Capcom Fighting Evolution.

And, sorry Warzard fans, it wasn’t very good.

Further squidsCapcom Fighting Evolution came on the heels of the Marvel vs. Capcom series that was amazing, but also assumed to be totally dead/impossible thanks to Capcom losing Marvel’s favor (don’t worry, kiddies, it would eventually return). Capcom Fighting Evolution also came after the Capcom vs. SNK series, an evolutionary offshoot of the Versus franchise that some still claim is some of the best 2-D fighting you’ll ever see. And what could Capcom Fighting Evolution offer after all of that? Well, even without the accompaniment of Captain America or Geese Howard, the Capcom universe had its fair share of luminaries. You could simply toss every Street Fighter into a game, and it would be gold. Or you could combine Darkstalkers, Street Fighters, Final Fighters, and… what have we got left here? Rival Schools? Whatever! It could work! And that’s before you get into including the likes of Mega Man or Breath of Fire heroes. A “pure” Capcom Versus fighter could be a thing of beauty!

Or it could just be a mishmash of random sprites all slapping against each other. Guess which one we got?

While Red Earth was a potential new future for fighting games, Capcom Fighting Evolution forsook its name and sounded a death knell for the genre. Capcom Fighting Evolution was less a brand new experience and more of a “going out of business sale” for an era. Capcom took four fighters from each of its most popular fighting games, and plunked them all in a 2v2 fighting game. And, while that could have been fun for everybody, a significant drawback of this process was reusing the original sprites of each of these brawlers without any attempt to visually normalize… anything. Morrigan’s sprite was the creaky bane of MvC2 in 2000, and Dimitri did not look any better next to Street Fighter 3 characters four years later. And, to make matters worse, those sprites from Street Fighter 3 that looked so gorgeous in their original game had a number of frames and animations reduced, so they were literally pale imitations of their former selves. And, lest you think these complaints are entirely graphics-based, don’t worry, a game that attempts to merge the intricacies of three different Street Fighter games, Darkstalkers, and an asymmetrical “boss fighter” doesn’t exactly work from a gameplay perspective either. You wouldn’t parry a dinosaur!

WINNER!But that’s kind of the thing: you can parry a dinosaur. Capcom Fighting Evolution contains characters from Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter 3, Darkstalkers, and (most importantly) Red Earth. And, while there are still exactly four Red Earth playable characters, now two of the “bosses” are available for your playing pleasure. Want to be the dinosaur? Or the squid? Have at it! Are these former boss-class monsters rebalanced to be appropriate combatants? Well, as much as anything else is balanced in this game! You probably do not want to take a lumbering dinosaur’s gigantic hitbox up against Metro City’s best ninja, but you can certainly fell that fighter if your fireballs are true. And, while playing as ol’ squidly bits is probably less rewarding than the more sensible adventures of Tessa back on Red Earth, it is inordinately satisfying to see Zangief piledrive an eldritch horror.

And that’s basically Capcom Fighting Evolution in a nutshell: it is objectively bad, but can be subjectively good. CFE is a rushed product featuring many poorly considered decisions, but it is also a game wherein Sakura can fell a furry Conan. Is Red Earth a better game than Capcom Fighting Evolution? Pretty much by every metric! But, in being a tighter experience, it loses the fun you might experience with a looser game that lets you pit a rifle-toting ninja against a psycho-powered dictator.

Some games are good. Some games are bad. But any game where you can fight a dinosaur at least has its priorities straight.

FGC #578 Red Earth

  • THE WARZARD!System: Arcade exclusive. I guess we have to hope for some manner of “Capcom Mini” device to see this one. Maybe they could stick it in the inevitable next Street Fighter 3 compilation?
  • Number of players: Two players, and you can only play as the (mostly defined as) humans. No playable living suit of armor for you.
  • Favorite Character: Like in Pocket Fighter, I’m going with Tessa here. She’s a witch that may or may not have found a second job in Little Witch Academia, and her general… Ryu-ness goes down easy. Second place goes to Kenji the Ninja, but he is a little too Strider-esque to win on his own merits.
  • Favorite Boss: Gi Gi is the robotic monster that Huitzil wishes he could be. Also, his multiple arms and swords may have inspired the best boss in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, so bonus points there.
  • Finish Him: A lot of sources will claim Red Earth was one of the few Capcom titles to include Mortal Kombat-esque fatalities. And they’re not entirely wrong… but these “fatalities” are a lot closer to “Zero slices a robot in half because he used his sword for the final hit” affairs. And, considering you’re only “killing” monsters and robots, comparing it all to Mortal Kombat seems a little disingenuous.
  • What’s in a name: In America, this is Red Earth, clearly meant to convey how this takes place in an alternate timeline/Earth that is ruled by swords and sorcery (and the occasional mech). In Japan, this is known as Warzard, because the final boss is a wizard that starts a war. Either title seems appropriate, but Red Earth at least explains why there is an island nation called “The Kingdom of Reese”.
  • SLICEAn end: If you continue too often, you only get a paragraph of text and a basic message that your protagonist won, hooray. If you manage to conserve a few credits, though, you get a “choose your own adventure” where you can decide your central character’s ultimate fate. Be warned, I was not kidding earlier when I said that the wrong choice could see Tessa naked and straddling an alien, though. Generally NSFW proof here. Oh, also, if you continue the exact right number of times with Mai-Ling, she gets a new pet. Not certain how one heroine winds up in a porno, and the other gets a puppy.
  • For the sequel: Literally every one of Kenji’s endings involves his death. I have to wonder if there were plans to make Kenji a “legacy” character in future titles (as it is easy to replace a ninja that doesn’t ever show a bit of skin, left alone his face), or if Kenji just slept with the director’s spouse, and had to be punished for his hubris. One way or another, it is a wonder that guy made it into Capcom Fighting Evolution.
  • Did you know? The most obvious bad guy (but not the final boss) is Blade, who is a living suit of armor powered by an emerald containing his (once human) soul. This is notable, because, four years later, the final boss of the seminal Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a living suit of armor powered by a magical gem-core. Is MvC2 the secret sequel to Red Earth? No, of course not. That would be silly. Shuma Gorath doesn’t have enough tentacles.
  • Would I play again: It is a shame Red Earth was only ever four playable characters and a handful of bosses. It feels like an expanded Super Red Earth II Turbo could have really been something special. As it is, it’s a game I’ll likely pick up again, if only to satisfy my need to bisect an oni.

FGC #578 Capcom Fighting Evolution

  • I ain't lionSystem: Apparently there was an arcade release, but most people were exposed to this contagion through Playstation 2 or Xbox. There is the distinct possibility you were able to get it on Playstation 3 as a PS2 rerelease, though.
  • Number of players: Two alternating fighters per team, and two players may control them. Sorry, these are more King of Fighters rules, and not the rapid switching of proper Versus titles.
  • Midnight Bliss: This is another title that went the extra mile and included Dimitri and his ability to metaphorically rape his opponents. While this move never stops being gross, at least most of the Midnight Bliss sprites lean on “humorous” rather than “sexy”. I mean, assuming “schoolgirl with the fossilized head of a dinosaur (wearing lipstick)” isn’t your fetish. If it is, hey, more power to you.
  • Original the Character: Ingrid is the only original character in Capcom Fighting Evolution, and was created for the game Capcom Fighting Evolution was always supposed to be… but never, ever came to fruition. So the last daughter of Capcom Fighting All-Stars has been forced to bounce around the universe with an ever-mutating backstory. In Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max, she was a time traveler. In Project X Zone 2, she had nigh-omnipotent dimension hopping powers. And now, in her Street Fighter 5 profile, she’s a “Code Holder” that is fighting against a fellow named Death. This is the story closest to her original concept, but who knows how long it will last…
  • What does dinosaur blood taste like?Favorite Character: This is one of the weird situations wherein my first pick is the biggest bear wrestler of them all, Zangief. Probably to balance out with the prehistoric heavyweights, Zangief actually has a little agility in this title, and a grappler with some speed is something to be feared. Or maybe they just wanted him to be able to compete with Alex? Who is pretty much the same, but without that all-important chest hair situation? I really can’t say.
  • Did you know? For the record, all sprites in CFE are from the character’s most recent appearance in their designated game… except for the iconic Street Fighter 2 cast. Ryu and M. Bison are encores from Capcom vs. SNK, and Guile is from Street Fighter Alpha 3. And Zangief? He’s a got a completely new sprite that is predominantly (but not entirely) based on his Alpha 3 incarnation. I guess somebody at Capcom liked Zangief, too.
  • Would I play again: I still think of this game as “bad”. On the other hand, in just trying to get a feel for it for this article, I wound up playing the thing for a little over an hour. That might not seem like much, but I had it in mind that I would only play for one arcade cycle… and just kept playing. So there’s something there! So, yeah, I’ll probably be tricked into playing this one again. Maybe I’ll even play as the dinosaur…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Guacamelee! 2! Enter the Mexiverse, and lucha your brains out! Please look forward to it!

Look at that hat
Is this… like… a sex thing?

FGC #266 Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy

Trevor!The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredible game, and, should the Nintendo Switch crash and burn before we even get to see New Donk City, the Switch will be remembered fondly for its remarkable maiden voyage. Yes, there were other launch games, and, yes, Breath of the Wild is also available on the WiiU, but, for a healthy chunk of the gaming population, BoTW is always going to be the Switch, and you can’t buy that that kind of festering nostalgia. Like its ancestors, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and Wii Sports, BoTW is a game that is going to define gaming for a console generation. BoTW makes one thing clear: We’re here, we’re top tier, and we wanna ride some bears. While there are many, many reasons this is the case, it all boils down to the fact that, from the first moment and until Ganon is in the grave, BoTW is just plain impressive. And, when you’re the ambassador for a whole new videogame system, “impressive” might be more important than anything.

Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy is the least impressive console launch game in history.

The Atari Jaguar might be the worst videogame system ever released (and, as the owner of a Virtual Boy, I don’t use that phrase lightly). For those of you that missed the heady age of the Sega vs. Nintendo days, back during the 16-bit era, Atari attempted to reassert its console dominance with the release of the Jaguar, the first 64-bit gaming system. Unfortunately, that “64-bit” headline legally required asterisk after asterisk, and, spoilers, the system was “64-bit” in the same way that a “Diet Slim Jim” is healthy eating. Aside from the fact that most of the Atari Jaguar library was simply a collection of (marginally) upscaled 16-bit ports, the Jaguar also possessed what may have been the worst controller in gaming history. Look at this abomination:

What?

We’ve got three “action” buttons, a start/select, and a damned contemptible phone pad. What was the reasoning there? No one has ever enjoyed gaming on a phone pad (just ask anybody that tried those 1-900 “phone videogames” back in the 80s… not that I know anyone silly enough to try those things… on their parent’s credit cards… cough…), and it’s just few enough buttons to not work as a keyboard. I guess it could come in handy for a calculator-based videogame, but there is absolutely no part of that phrase that sounds fun at all. And heads up, holding that block of plastic is about as comfortable as attempting to beat Super Metroid with a particularly spiky rock. That is also on fire. And that fire burned off all your flesh and nerve endings long ago, so all you can do is sit and watch in horror as it consumes the last vestiges of your soul. And then your dog tells you she’s leaving you because you smell so horrible. Look, what I’m saying is that playing the Atari Jaguar is not in any way an enjoyable experience.

PEW PEWBut there were people that bought the Atari Jaguar. Not many, mind you, as the system was a flop the likes of which the world hadn’t seen since the last time Atari tried to make videogame consoles, but there was definitely a user base (and, to be clear, I was not an Atari Jaguar early adopter, because Nintendo Power didn’t tell me to buy this system I have excellent taste). This means that, technically, there had to be people that purchased their brand new 64-bit videogame system, and, in a desperate need to see all this new system had to offer, purchased Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy, the only non-pack-in game available at the launch of the Atari Jaguar. This isn’t the demo game! This is the real McFur! The first real game for the first 64-bit system in gaming history. This is going to be marvelous!

And… it’s a lame Gradius clone.

But a shoot ‘em up could have worked! If you look at the Dreamcast (from a far-flung future where Sega crashed and burned as badly as Atari), it seemed to do well with showing off “next gen” graphics on vertical and missile-based shoot ‘em ups. Sure, we’re still talking about “primitive graphics” compared to the likes of Soulcalibur and… Sonic Adventure? Huh. Yeah, maybe a shoot ‘em up is the best way to go. After all, it started the Super Nintendo off well with Gradius 3. Do you remember that stage that was totally on fire? That was rad.

But Trevor McFur doesn’t even muster the raw graphical impressiveness of its 16-bit brethren. What we have here is a “space shooter” with levels that appear to be endless slogs in front of the most generic backgrounds available. There’s something distinctly… No need to dodgelow rent going on here, as if someone made one passable tile, and then copy and pasted it ad nauseam. All of the worlds start in space, which is penny-saver black, and then you’ve got the planets themselves, which are “generic sci-fi fantasy”, save the one level that is inexplicably just a child’s drawings. I guess it’s supposed to be a virtual world or something? Don’t know, don’t care. What I do know is that these stages all feature approximately three different enemies, and they’re repeated about as generously as their tiresome backgrounds. All told, it makes every level seem about five times longer than it really is, because you’ve literally seen everything a stage has to offer within its first few seconds. Except the bosses, which, legitimately, appear to be where the “64-bit graphics” of Trevor McFur went… except they have way too much life and the dumbest patterns, so even those showcase pieces crumble too dust (albeit, not nearly fast enough).

In short, there is nothing about Trevor McFur that encourages you to play the game.

And it’s funny how that complete blunder can sour you on an entire system. The Atari Jaguar has an awful controller, and its smattering of software was terrible. Trevor McFur was just the leader of the first vanguard, it’s not like (the other launch game) Cybermorph, Kasumi Ninja, Zool 2, or (ugh) Atari Karts ever did anything to rectify the situation. There was never any fun to be had on the Atari Jaguar, so it’s no surprise it crashed into the annals of Horrible Videogame History. And, yes, it all started with Trevor McFur, the least impressive launch game ever.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Trevor McFur was never a videogame. Perhaps Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy was nothing more than a warning to others in cartridge form. I suppose it’s a warning a number of people heeded.

FGC #266 Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy

  • System: Atari Jaguar. Just the Atari Jaguar.
  • Number of players: This kind of suffering can only be experienced by one person at a time.
  • What is even happening here?Favorite Powerup: Oh yeah, unless I’m missing a button here, there are a myriad of powerups available, but you have no control over which powerup is used at any given time. Maybe I’m supposed to touch that damn keypad? I’m not doing that. Regardless, one of the powerups summons a little ship dude to help out, and that’s a damn bit more useful than the magnet attack that drags monsters right into Trevor’s windshield.
  • Say something nice: I do like that there’s a full paragraph of “lore” for every planet and monster. They’re not really well thought out (there seems to be no distinguishing between a “planet” and a “moon”), but at least somebody tried the tiniest bit.
  • I just got that: Trevor McFur is a jaguar. Right. Duh.
  • Did you know? Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy was released the last day of November, 1993. Star Fox, a furry-based shoot ‘em up designed to showcase new videogame hardware, was released in North America on March 26, 1993.
  • Would I play again: Does anybody want a used Atari Jaguar?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Home Alone for the NES! Wow, ROB, really great picks here, champ. What’s next? Spice World 2? Bah, please look forward to even more fun!

Rawr