Tag Archives: boomerang

MKK: Jarek & Reiko & Tanya

It’s hard to say what anybody wanted out of Mortal Kombat 4.

Friendly dude

Like, okay, yes, everybody wanted a successful videogame. Nobody got one, but you have to assume someone wanted Mortal Kombat 4 to make the same impact as literally every previous Mortal Kombat. MK4 was the first Mortal Kombat was entering the third dimension, and it would have been nice if that produced a game that was, ya know, enjoyable, too. But gameplay aside, who made it into the roster? Who was going to represent Mortal Kombat in this brand new generation of gaming? Well, we’ve got some of the best of the established roster like Goro, Jax, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, Liu Kang, Raiden, Reptile, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion. That is (almost) the entire MK1 roster, plus Jax, who was originally intended for that adventure anyway. Then we’ve got Shinnok and Quan Chi, who are the new big bads, and were just established in MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero (which, at the time of MK4’s production, was probably assumed to be successful, too). Fujin was also added from Mythologies, and interviews with developers have stated that he was there for further MK:M synergy. What more could players ask for?

Well, how about a little originality? Shinnok, Quan Chi, and Fujin may technically be new fighters, but they’re all from another Mortal Kombat game. Drop that trio, and you’ve just got MK1 + A Few Extra Dudes (and, let’s be real here, Shinnok in MK4 is a discount Shang Tsung already). So the producers could include other popular fighters like Kano, Noob Saibot, and Kitana… but why not make a few changes to those kharacters, and produce all new, all different kharacters! Brand new fighters designed to entice old players! What could possibly go wrong?

Jarek is exactly what could go wrong.

Friendly dude

Jarek is a Black Dragon thief on the run from Sonya Blade and Jackson “Jax” Briggs. He is little more than a petty criminal, but is caught up in a magical fighting tournament when an evil sorcerer decides to try to invade Earth. Jarek chooses to fight not necessarily for his home planet, but to maybe earn his freedom and a few bucks along the way. And if this sounds like Kano’s Mortal Kombat 1 story, that’s because that’s exactly what it is. Jarek is a clone of Kano in all but physical similarities. He’s got the knife throw. He’s got the cannonball roll. He’s even got the laser eye fatality, which is significant, as he doesn’t even have a cybernetic eye.

It was pretty clear, even to the uninformed, generally brain-dead Mortal Kombat fans of 1997 (I have such a low opinion of myself) that Jarek was just a “reskin” of Kano. He was a hastily assembled substitute for a kharacter we already liked (or at least begrudgingly tolerated). What’s more, he wasn’t even an interesting substitute. You replace a thief that is about two degrees removed from being a T-1000, you maybe try to add a little visual flair more exciting than a freaking goatee. Jarek’s signature item is a boring vest, which is less a combat accessory and more something you pick up at The Gap.

Stomping around
Me and the boys looking for trouble

Though, speaking of gaps, Jarek was thrown off a mountain in Jax’s MK4 ending, and that wound up being his kanon ending. Nobody wanted to see Jarek again, and the storymasters of Mortal Kombat were happy to oblige (save an appearance as a generic boss in MK: Special Forces aka the game that killed the franchise). Jarek resurfaced (along with everybody) for MK: Armageddon, where it was revealed that he barely survived his cliff diving (likely because he played enough Tekken to know the trick), and was nursed back to health exclusively by his thirst for vengeance. He became the only officially official serial killer in the MK universe (all the other serial killers are just doing their jobs in a bloody tournament), and returned to fighting wielding a bloody cleaver and his own (marginally) unique special moves. Of course, he fails to get any confirmed kills, and then dies, because nobody cares about Jarek. After the reboot, he appears in the Mortal Kombat X comic as a generic Black Dragon mook, and is last seen rotting in a dungeon with Kano (as you do). Kano escapes. Jarek is missing and presumed boring.

STARS!

Jarek wound up the most obvious loser clone in the MK4 roster, but Reiko had similar origins. Noob Saibot, a confirmed member of Shinnok/Quan Chi’s Brotherhood of Shadow and secretly the titular star of MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero, was initially supposed to be on the default MK4 roster. However, it was decided that his slot would be given to another, newer fighter, and Reiko was born. Reiko basically looked like an unmasked Ermac (that is to say, “red ninja”), but with Brotherhood of Shadow-style facial tattoos (see also Sareena). His special moves were a mix of Noob’s shadow moves and a new, unique shuriken toss. Aside from that, he was pretty unremarkable, and was inevitably heading for the Jarek pile.

Except…

In the original arcade version of MK4 (and the N64 version, for whatever reason), Reiko’s ending was a pretty “we had thirty seconds to make something” affair, featuring only Reiko enigmatically entering a portal. Where is he going? What is he doing? Nobody knows! Like, literally, as the designers have commented they didn’t have anything in mind for poor Reiko. But! The Playstation version of MK4, and the Champion Edition of MK4, Mortal Kombat Gold, modified that ending just a little bit. In the new version, Reiko steps through the portal, and arrives… in Shao Kahn’s throne room. And then he wears Shao Kahn’s helmet! Holy $&$*! Reiko is secretly Shao Kahn! The Gameboy Color version of MK4 even added narration alluding to Reiko wanting to conquer Earth! Oh man!

STARS!

Except it was all bullshit. The developers eventually noted that this whole thing was just done “to be funny”, and, since they didn’t really have anything in mind for Reiko in MK4, tying him to Shao Kahn (at the time, presumed dead) seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t intended as some sort of secret identity situation, simply a way to humorously add a slight bit of depth to a character that is otherwise little more than another ninja.

But that didn’t stop the fan community from speculating for years. Reiko was the orangutan in the fandom for quite a while, until, finally, in Mortal Kombat Deception, Shao Kahn made reference to one of his generals wearing/stealing the good (bad) emperor’s helmet. And thus was a controversy put to rest by a one-off gag line.

Of course, MK loves sniffing its own butt, so Reiko returned in MK: Armageddon as a character that completely ditched the Brotherhood of Shadow, and is now Shao Kahn’s Number #1 Fanboy. He’s got the shoulder pads, his own giant hammer, and can even perform Shao Kahn’s dash (complete with a magical little Shao Kahn helmet appearing during the attack). His ending features Reiko literally becoming Shao Kahn. But that wasn’t kanon. Kanon is that Reiko died with everybody else.

Reiko hasn’t returned for the new timeline, but he was at least mentioned in MK9 as a dude fighting Kenshi off-screen during nuMK2. He was also practically the star of the Mortal Kombat X comic series, but his whole stupid quest to become a god to rival Shao Kahn turns out to be trickery provided by another god, and Reiko winds up destroyed by Shinnok’s amulet. So even when he’s featured in a Mortal Kombat adventure, Reiko can’t win. But at least he isn’t Shao Kahn!

Ambassador of Boomerangs

Our final “clone” character in MK4 is the most successful of the lot… and that might not be an accident. Tanya was originally going to be Kitana, but blue ninja girl was modified into yellow ninja girl in an effort to see more original characters. Unlike Reiko and Jarek, though, this switch apparently happened very early in development, so Tanya wound up with a wholly unique moveset. Tanya has her own fireballs, a drill kick, and even the most powerful of all videogame weapons: the boomerang. Tanya was her own woman in a way Reiko and Jarek couldn’t even touch, and the fact that she resurfaced for later titles seemed to reinforce her status as one of the few gems of the MK4 lineup.

And her general storyline wasn’t bad, either. Actually, scratch that, Tanya’s story is good for general storytelling, but terrible for Tanya herself. Simple rule: Tanya always backs the loser. Always. Right from the start, she’s presented as the daughter of an Edenian ambassador, and she was involved in accidentally allowing Shinnok into Edenia and whoopsie poopsie starting an interdimensional war. However, her ending reveals that she deliberately allowed Shinnok to enter the realm, and was always working with the baddies because… I guess that’s what she does. Shinnok loses, and then she gets a new job with Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, the Deadly Alliance. Then they fail, and she winds up working for the Dragon King, because Baraka said so. This allows her to participate in Mortal Kombat: Deception, and she continues to be the ambassador of evil in MK: Armageddon. She dies a bad guy, but at least she died on the same team as every other bad guy she served before.

Such a friendly lady

Tanya returns in Mortal Kombat X, and is now serving Mileena. Mileena ran for empress on a platform that she would release Edenia from Outworld’s rule, so Tanya battles on her behalf against Kotal Kahn, who wants to make Outworld great again by never breaking up the band. Tanya is featured on Team Mileena during story mode, and returns as a playable kharacter through DLC. Thus, Tanya winds up with a kanon ending that notes she betrayed fellow Mileena acolyte Rain, got his fool ass killed, and is currently chilling in Kotal Kahn’s dungeon. Considering her ending’s only sanguinity comes in the form of “at least I’m not dead”, it seems the current Tanya might have a general idea where a few decades of only serving bad guys gets her. Now I just want to see another MK vs. DC where Tanya winds up hanging out with Harley Quinn and Mercy.

But at least we got one decent recurring kharacter out of the three “clone” characters. Jarek and Reiko might have been complete duds, but Tanya is always a fun time. 33% accuracy ain’t bad. So let’s give Mortal Kombat 4 a healthy review score of 33%. That sounds about right.

Such a friendly lady

Next time: The one completely original Mortal Kombat 4 fighter!

FGC #389 Super Mario 3D World

Mario!There are some videogame franchises I can “rank” without question. Want to know my order for favorite Mega Man games? I made that sequence my pin number. How about a comprehensive explanation of why Final Fantasy 10 is better than Final Fantasy 12? I’ve got you covered. Heck, if you’re feeling really saucy, I could probably compare and contrast nearly every JRPG that was released in the last decade. Well… not every JRPG, despite recent posts, there are some Omega Quintet titles out there that even I can’t stomach. But I’m pretty sure I could accurately compare the finer points of Radiant Historia to some of the nonsense in Persona 5.

And there’s a reason I feel I could perform such a feat. It’s simple: so many videogames are exactly the same. Okay, that’s a touch of an exaggeration, but the concept seems rather pat. After all, this is why we like videogames. I enjoy some variety once in a while, but I don’t want to have to spend the next three weeks figuring out a control scheme just so I can play a fifteen hour game. To again use Persona as an example, while there are many fascinating ideas and concepts in that franchise (even going back to the pre-Persona 3 titles), that entre quinology (not the word I’m thinking of) still boils down to “is a JRPG”. Run through dungeons, fight monsters, use the spells and attacks that make the battles end quickly, and earn new skills and powers as you move along. And that’s what I want! Sitting down to play a new game shouldn’t be a chore, and immediately knowing what to do gets the dopamine a-pumpin’. Haha! An ice dragon? I’ve got my fire sword, and I’m going to be feasting on frozen dragon gizzards by nightfall!

Here he comes!And, while that may make some games predictable, it certainly makes them a lot easier to compare. When every game has an obvious A, B, and C, then you can effortlessly compare those ABCs to each other. Is this Robot Master better than that Robot Master? (Note: every Robot Master is better than Toad Man.) Does this title have the better soundtrack? How about controls? If the interface is vastly improved from original to sequel, that’s going to make a huge impact. And the levels! The dungeons! Surely there must be a difference between lava caves. These items are the lifeblood of any given franchise, and it’s fun to objectively compare these matters until you have a vigorous understanding of your “favorite”.

And then there’s the Mario franchise. Trying to compare Mario games is… tricky.

While Mario has always appeared to be the All-Father of gaming’s most familiar faces, it’s a lot more accurate to identify Mario as the trickster god of the medium. Donkey Kong featured a Jump Man that could barely vault a barrel, but then Mario Bros starred brothers that could leap a third of the screen in a single bound. Super Mario Bros. was all about turtles and flinging fireballs, and then Super Mario Bros. 2 brought us a bounty of vegetables and shy guys. Ever seen a raccoon fly? Maybe a dude riding a dinosaur? Now save some stars in a painting! Or clean up an island resort with your water gun! Travel to the furthest reaches of the Galaxy! Or just hang out in some random city! Mario is, and has always been, all over the map. And that’s even before you get to the time his fat, elven twin tried to steal his private theme park. Those overalls might be consistent, but Mario’s gameplay is as mercurial as the T-1000.

Go!Given we had to wait for the Switch to see Mario scoot along on his own little odyssey, it would be fair to call Super Mario 3D World the significant Mario game for the WiiU. In an attempt to define this Mario, it is a sequel to a portable Mario title that had been released a few years earlier. Or, it’s a sequel to another Mario lineage that brought four player couch co-op to the Mushroom Kingdom. Or it’s the sequel to Mario Galaxy? I saw a Charging Chuck in there, let’s just claim it’s a Super Mario World sequel, and move on. What’s important is that Super Mario 3D World is a platforming style Mario game (not to be confused with tennis or racing or… qix?), and we all know what to expect from that. Jumping, running, goomba squishing, and maybe Princess Peach can float in this one. She can? Awesome. Super Mario 3D World is another Mario game on another Mario system.

But the level to level creativity of this title is insane. There are grasslands, icy mountains, and lava castles just like any other platformer, but there are also stages that are built around speed boosters. Or overhead “dungeons” that would be more comfortable hiding around Hyrule. Or serene beaches crowded with vacationing goombas. And the powerups! Items like the Double Cherry or Boomerang Flower may initially seem like simple, “here’s the featured item du jour” type forgettable powerups, but once you burn through a level with an unstoppable army of four Luigis hurling boomerangs at boos, you’ll be singing a different tune. And, while the stages may all seem like complete chaos, they’re all carefully designed, and work equally marvelously with one player as well as four. It’s bedlam, and correctly guessing whether the next stage will be a “jumping puzzle” or a hammer bros. gauntlet is impossible. But it’s all the kind of organized anarchy that can only come from a deft directorial hand.

And that’s Mario.

WeeeeYou never know what you’re going to get with a Mario game. 3D? 2D? Some… kinda of… time traveling… adventure… maybe? Doesn’t matter! What’s important is that Mario has the best, most consistent perfection average in the business. Want to know why I’ll buy every Mario game from now until the end of time? It’s because there is no “Mario Cycle”, no “nobody likes this franchise until the next title comes out” corollary to its reviews. Mario games are just good, and, even when they get experimental, they still define the industry. Mario isn’t consistent in anything but being amazing, and that’s why his adventures are so unique.

Though, obviously, Super Mario 3D World is one of the best. Probably… Number 4? No, maybe 3…

FGC #389 Super Mario 3D World

  • System: Nintendo WiiU. Complete with some fairly vestigial “gamepad features”, I feel like this one could easily be ported to the fabulous success that is the WiiU’s successor.
  • Number of players: Four! I’ve never actually tried out a complete four players in this game, but three is pretty tops all by itself. Well, I mean, tops for watching all of your uncoordinated friends die.
  • So, did you beat it? Yep, every last stage, including the impossible final gauntlets. Mind you, I haven’t beaten it all with every last character… but maybe one day. Gotta use those stamps in Miiverse, right? Wait… what’s that about Miiverse?
  • WeeeeGrand Finale: Of the many recent battles with Bowser, having the big guy go hog wild with the featured powerups of the title made for one of the most memorable encounters. It’s conceptually no different from any other “Bowser chase” final area, but the lunacy of Panther Bowser popping through a wall while Panther Bowser scales a building… Amazing.
  • Toad Origins: Also, it’s telling about the significance of the Mario franchise that a “once a world minigame” grew into an entire, remarkable title all on its own. I realize that fungus have a tendency to develop wildly when they start to take over, but if that kind of growth leads to Toad hunting down treasure, I’m down.
  • Favorite Stage: Take me to the beach any day.
  • Did you know? Chargin’ Chuck first appeared in Super Mario World, then Yoshi’s Safari, and then… nothing. Chuck didn’t reappear until this title, a full 20 years later. But those football hooligans are back for Odyssey, so maybe they’ll stick around this time.
  • Would I play again: Oh my yes. Totally yes. Need an excuse to get a full complement of players in my basement yes. Just hope the WiiU holds out…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Darkstalkers 3 for the Playstation 1! Vampires and mummies and yeti, oh my! Please look forward to it!

Noooo
Why does this always happen to Weegi?

FGC #320 Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man

Low Grav, yo!Not all ideas are created equal.

Our good friend ROB has chosen Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man for today’s entry, and I have to compliment the random robot for this choice. I can tell you that, with absolute certainty, I purchased this title as a cheap, used cartridge, and the only reason I picked it up was because I confused it with (Nintendo Power’s coverage of) Metal Storm. “This is that cool NES game where you could switch gravity, right?” I asked myself as I wandered over to the cash register. I was wrong. I was very wrong, and I’m pretty sure I played this game for all of six seconds before dropping it back into the collection and then proceeding to play… let me guess the timeframe here… probably Final Fantasy X-2. No need to play another weirdo NES game where I can’t even successfully beat the first level, time to get back to being a pop-star/world savior.

And there Low G Man sat for quite a while before ROB pulled it off the shelf for this article. This led to the very unusual situation of playing a 27 year old game that created zero feelings of nostalgia, and, more importantly, I had no idea how to play. I initially figured that this was no more than a NES game, so it can’t be that complicated, and I’d bang out a few levels before the hour is up. But an hour quickly escalated to two, and, before I knew it, I had beaten the game, hopefully having uncovered all the secrets and tricks to this low gravity man’s adventure.

… Or at least figured out how the damn combat system works.

Low G Man has an amazing jump. LGM can jump to the height of the screen (and even powerup further from there), and I guess he earned his title through these miraculous ups. However, his jump is kind of… useless. Don’t get me wrong, you wouldn’t get very far in the LGM world without the ability to scale giant robots or be a human elevator, but this is not a Mario situation wherein our hero bops his way to a better future. Jumping is strictly there for traversal and dodging, which… makes sense? I mean, if he’s got the jump powers because he’s using some manner of self-anti-grav unit, then I guess the impact of boots to a head wouldn’t involve much force. Way to think it through, Low G Man producers!

WeeeeeeSo, in order to properly defend himself, LGM is equipped with a stun gun. That’s good! We’ve got your basic NES freeze ray here, and it works on Samus Aran rules (not to be confused with Ice Slasher rules): an enemy robot (or alien) is frozen, turns blue, and may be used as a platform at will. Bonus: this also means the frozen opponent doesn’t deal contact damage while frozen. By the time of Level 1’s boss, you’ll also be tasked with the Metroidian goal of freezing a few lesser adversaries so you may successfully scale a vertical shaft. All pretty straightforward to start, though with one glaring flaw: the stun gun does absolutely zero damage. Nothing. Frozen or not, an opponent will never die from simple stun blasts. So what’s a Low Gravity Man to do? Whip out a kick ass spear, of course!

LGM has got a spear, and he knows how to use it. Wait, scratch that, he knows how to be a dragoon… and that’s about it. Likely due to the severely lacking number of buttons on the average NES controller, LGM can only utilize his spear in an upward or downward direction. Not coincidentally, LGM also cannot shoot his stun gun straight up or down, only side to side. In a way, this couples amazingly with his crazy jumping skills, as we wouldn’t see a real “moving” Kain Highwind until that one Dissidia game, and dropping spear-first into a foe is always going to be fun. On the other hand, the antagonists of this world almost always move (and attack) horizontally, and the best LGM can consistently do is plink away with his lame stun gun, wait for the freeze to take effect, and then pull off the leaping spear “finishing move”. Pointy end goes hereIt’s kind of fun when there’s one enemy on the screen, but it’s ambiguously suicidal when the place starts filling with murderous robots (and this already happens during the first stage). And, while it can be fun once or twice, stun-jump-spear is basically “normal action gameplay, but with extra steps” when you get right down to it. That can get old across fifteen separate stages crammed with bad bots.

But it’s not the worst idea, right? It’s easy to give a NES game a lot of flack, but the brave men and women of the 8-bit console generation were pioneers working with tools that would nary impress a caveman. Four buttons? Three if you don’t count the seemingly mandatory pause? That barely allows for a second offensive option, so it’s no wonder this feels clumsy. But like how Mega Man X revolutionized weapon switching with the L&R buttons, a “next gen” Low G Man could actually make this idea work. It’s not about freezing and spearing, it’s about utilizing long distance attacks to “soften up” an enemy, and then using a close range maneuver to finish the job. There’s some meat on those bones! That could be a really interesting way to switch up the typical run ‘n gun gameplay of most 2-D action games. Get a director who has been making videogames for a solid couple of years, introduce some modern technology, toss in some dashes that make the whole process faster, and maybe…

DASH DASH SLIDE

Nah, screw it. Not gonna work.

Low G Man, there’s a reason nobody revisits your gameplay. Sorry.

FGC #320 Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man

  • System: NES exclusive. There’s not a Master System or Commodore 64 or whatever version? No? Okay, just checking.
  • Number of players: This Low G Man is an island.
  • Other X Connections: Some enemies ride hovercars or tanks, and you can snag a vehicle for yourself. Not unlike in Metal Slug, all the vehicles have limited “fuel”, and they’ll self-destruct pretty quickly if you’re not paying attention, but it’s always fun to suddenly wield a gun that actually does damage.
  • Favorite Powerup: Low G Man also has a host of sub weapons available. They’re not so great, because you have to earn them from quickly lost enemy drops, and a loss of life will lead to a complete loss of all sub weapons, but… they’re there? Whatever. You get a boomerang, and that’s the quintessential NES weapon, so I’m happy.
  • An end: In a shocking twist, the Low G Man finale, which can only be viewed after beating the game three times, advertises the “upcoming” GI Joe game:

    Just wait!

    Well, I mean, I guess it was a pretty good game.

  • Did you know? Low G Man was developed by KID, a development company that primarily seems to be responsible for a buttload of visual novel games (which can only be measured in butt-based measurements). But they’re also the deranged minds behind the Playstation 1 Pepsi Man game, so they get a pass from me.
  • Would I play again: Naw. Throw this one in the pile of “interesting, but not really enough fun” castoffs.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… WarioWare: Touched for the Nintendo DS! It’s Wario touching time, everybody! Please look forward to it!

Get the point?