Tag Archives: english dub

FGC #610 Samurai Shodown (Franchise)

So badassI have learned that I am here for the weirdos.

Samurai Shodown is not my franchise. I am a fighting game fan, and have been since I first saw a furry Soviet dude power slam some guy with too many skulls. But, by the time Samurai Shodown was appearing in my local arcade, there was already a myriad of options that more easily drew my attention. If I wanted a basic 2-D fighting game, I’d play Street Fighter 2. If I wanted to see a little super violence, I’d play Mortal Kombat. If I wanted to see a weapons-based fighter, I’d play Soul Edge/Soulcalibur. If I wanted to plug some quarters into a Neo Geo machine, I’d go with something along the lines of King of Fighters (Fatal Fury also qualifies there). Hell, even vaguely recognizable, possibly historical figures fighting was available in World Heroes, and that game had a mecha-Hitler you could pummel into the pavement. In short, Samurai Shodown held the unfortunate position of being a fighting game that looked pretty good, but was also popular at the exact same time some of the best fighting games of the era were receiving routine updates/players. Or, put another way, not only is Cammy going to grab my attention faster than Neinhalt Sieger, there are also a few more potential opponents crowded around her cabinet. Sorry, SamSho, I’ll get to you in another thirty years.

And… uh… here we are.

On my grand list of games I want to cover before this FGC project ends (I currently claim I am stopping at FGC #655… a full hundred articles past the last point I said I would stop…), I have a meager handful of fighting games remaining. Every title from that first paragraph has been examined and reexamined (sometimes ad nauseum), so now we are down to fighting games that are… let’s say… exploratory? Games wherein I do not have encyclopedic knowledge of ridiculous plots or muscle memory that will allow me to toss out down-downforward-forward-punch fireballs until three years after I’m dead. Some of these “unexplored” games on the list are amusing misfires, but I will admit I was expecting a lot of the Samurai Shodown franchise. After all, I had at least played this in the past, and, though these play sessions may have been tremendously shorter than any time I spent with Guilty Gear, they were enjoyable. And I always appreciated the Samurai Shodown characters that appeared in other games. That bird with the hawk? She seems nice! It should be fun and enlightening to play through the Samurai Shodown Neogeo Collection and see what this glorious franchise has in store.

And I found it… underwhelming.

Get 'em lil dudeTo be clear, “underwhelming” is the exact word for this situation. None of the Samurai Shodown titles appear to be outright bad. The gameplay primarily seems to be focused more on defense than offense, but, make no mistake, you can attain a victory by going in with swords blazin’. Or maybe no swords! Characters in most of the games seem to have two distinct playstyles: with or without weapon. Be disarmed as the result of a button mashing contest, and you have to rely on your fists for a moment or two, which makes for a fun change in tactics. It’s like you’re playing as two characters at once! I am always down for that! And, while the “Engrish” and general story is simultaneously noteworthy and forgettable, there is definitely something happening here. Bushido and all that riot is great, but I am going to stand at attention when some nerd cuts down a pair of trees without even trying. Oh, and who doesn’t like some random dude running around in the background of battles tossing off powerups? There is good stuff here in Samurai Shodown!

But it all felt very… slippery. Not talking about the controls, mind you, those are perfect and responsive. Just, somehow, the whole experience felt forgettable. Like whether my chosen samurai won was going to be quickly forgotten. Or, perhaps, how my fighter won was what would be forgettable. I understand that, once again, this is not my game, so it is entirely possible I was missing something, but the general reason I won any given match seemed nebulous. And, in a fighting game, that makes everything feel unusually light. Across the multiple Samurai Shodown games, there are multiple ways to win a match… Or… More accurately, there are multiple ways to practically instantly drain a life bar. And, while slicing off the limb of an opponent feels like it should be remarkable, when you stumble on “I guess that special move just does that sometimes” it feels… wrong. Did I really win? Or was that more of an accident than my usual victories? Whatever the root cause of the issue, this made the various SS titles feel insubstantial in their gameplay.

MAGIC!But that does not have to be the be all and end all of a fighting game. A fun cast can completely rescue confusing gameplay. The previously mentioned World Heroes was not a great game by any means, but it did include a football player fighting Jack the Ripper, so it more than qualifies for gold status. Samurai Shodown’s cast meanwhile… Well, it is hard to judge some of these characters in 2021, as, like Samurai Shodown itself, there are clear examples of “this was done better elsewhere” through the decades. Like World Heroes already had a pretty good Joan de Arc analogue, so Charlotte is lacking. Haohmaru, the games’ marquee hero, feels like a lesser Mitsurugi of Soulcalibur. Hanzo the ninja could not be any more generically “this is our ninja” if he tried, and I’d rather pick up Red Earth if that is all that is available. Weller the American “I wanna be Japanese” character is so much more distinctive as Bang of BlazBlue, and I’m pretty sure Kyoshiro Senryo was one of the final bosses in that Simpsons beat ‘em up. It is no wonder that Nakoruru wound up as the persistent Samurai Showdown rep, as “has a bird” separates her from much of her fighting game sorority (though her general “fighting shrine maiden” thing causes her to blend into the anime trope ether).

But there was one character that seemed tremendously less forgettable than his contemporaries: Genan Shiranui, aka the little green guy with a claw.

Get 'emArguably, this is another example of “done elsewhere”, as Genan and his obvious spiritual brother, Earthquake, both resemble SNK/King of Fighters characters Choi Bounge and Chang Koehan. And if you wanted to claim that it was a coincidence that there was a King of Fighters influence, please note that Genan’s surname is Shiranui, the same as Mai Shiranui, heroine of Fatal Fury and King of Fighters. And, oh yeah, Mai (or at least her identical, historically appropriate ancestor) outright appears in Genan’s Samurai Shodown (1) ending. So, ya know, wearing influences on their sleeve there.

But Genan is memorable all on his own. He is green. He is wearing torn clothing that tells more of a story with visuals than Jubei can hope to muster with an entire story mode. He is constantly licking a metal claw, which is probably unsanitary. His background involves implied cannibalism. He apparently has a pair of kids that hide in his sack-clothes. This is the exact kind of eccentricity I want from a fighting game character, and it was clear right from the first Samurai Shodown that Genan was gonna be my guy.

And then the franchise dropped him like a rotten potato as of Samurai Shodown 3. Dammit! Only two games for my green meanie!

While I tried to soldier on with some pale dork with blue hair… it just wasn’t the same. I have to assume that Genan was nixed in an effort to make Samurai Shodown slightly more realistic (in a universe where people routinely, graphically die before being revived by a quarter), or to pad out the roster with slightly more distinctively “Samurai Shodown” characters (there was that brief period in the 90’s when crossovers and/or homages were considered bad). Whatever the cause, Genan was gone before we truly knew ye, and, in his absence, everything about Samurai Shodown became slippery again. Oh, build up a rage meter to do super moves? Ho-hum. I don’t want red skin. I want it green, dammit! And, given how the franchise seemed to drift into generally more serious settings over time, I was convinced Samurai Shodown was never going to have an entry that was “for Goggle Bob”. Not the end of the world, there are plenty of fighting game franchises that I can enjoy; but it would be a hard confirmation that this wasn’t “for me”.

Then I got to Samuri Shodown 6. Then I got to this nonsense…

What is even happening here?

That appears to be some manner of ancient puppet automaton, and it is fighting… a dog. Just a dog.

I am here for that.

Samurai Shodown 6 is a “dream match” title that includes a playable version of practically every character that had appeared in Samurai Shodown up to that point. Genan is back. Earthquake is back. That big red guy that was a mix of Genan and Earthquake is back. The flag dude hidden character is back. And speaking of “hidden” characters, every pet and animal is playable, too. Are they effective? Not remotely. But sometimes you just want to play as a monkey. It worked for Eternal Champions (no it didn’t). And the new characters of Samurai Shodown 6, like a swan-turned-maid and a chubby guy who really likes fireworks, all exude a noticeable air of levity. Ocha-Maro Karakuri, that mobile puppet up there, seems positively mundane in a roster that includes an anime pretty boy that is based on historical jackass/president Andrew Jackson.

DO NOT LIKEAnd it wasn’t until I hit Samurai Shodown 6 that I realized that this kind of nonsense is exactly what I want. Who have I always gravitated towards in other fighting games? Blanka. Tung Fu Rue. Cyrax. The misfits. The absolute last fighter I ever pick is your typical Ryu or Bruce Lee clone du jour. My favorite fighting game is a title wherein you can have a multi-tentacled god team up with a teeny tiny robot servant working alongside a member of S.T.A.R.S. This is why the other Samurai Shodown titles seemed boring to me! I simply cannot enjoy a videogame unless the character select screen includes a healthy number of people that have absolutely no business being in any sort of polite society, left alone a videogame (sorry, Dr. Faust, you know it is true). Apparently I do not care if there is an amazing combo system, intuitive gameplay, or the best netcode in the universe. All I want is some dork cosplaying as Freddy Krueger (and, no, actual Freddy doesn’t count).

Is Samurai Shodown ever going to be “my” fighting game franchise? No. But does it remind me what I actually want in a fighting game? Absolutely. Give me a little green weirdo any day of the week, and I’ll give your game a fair shake.

And if you want to have a brand new, modern edition of your franchise, and you choose to drop said weirdo? Well, don’t expect me to buy a season pass anytime soon…

FGC #610 Samurai Shodown (Franchise)

  • OuchSystem: Samurai Shodown is supposedly the fighting game that put the Neo Geo on the map. But I don’t see no King of Samurai ’99 on my Playstation! Whatever! The franchise has been on practically every system from a certain epoch (take a look at that Gameboy version sometime), but the collection is currently available on (mostly) modern consoles like Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. Most of what you see here is via Switch and PS4.
  • Number of players: This isn’t Super Samurai Bros, so two players.
  • Who let the dogs out? Perhaps, once you get past the violence, rage, and weapon-combat, the defining characteristic of Samurai Shodown is how many fighters have pets and other auxiliary sprites as “backup”. It would certainly explain why bird-lady is so heavily featured in crossovers…
  • Favorite Character (not the green guy): It’s the red guy. Youkai Kusaregedo is a gigantic monster that first appeared in Samurai Shodown 5. He is described as an undead devil that was a “very kind man” in life, but was also a cannibal. That… is certainly a type of kind. Regardless, now he is a hulking beast, and I am only mildly disturbed by the fact that his canon story is that, in a fit of hunger, he devoured his pregnant daughter. I like playing as him, but I’m not inviting him to Christmas dinner anytime soon.
  • Land of the Rising Fun: I am required by law to note my favorite bit of Engrish from Samurai Shodown 2.

    Funster!

    As a noted funster, this had to be logged.

  • Lost in Translation: Maybe Samurai Shodown is supposed to be funny, but got lost in translation? Like, there are some goofy, tropey fighters skulking around, and maybe their intrinsic humor doesn’t come through in a different culture. Nicotine Caffeine has to have something going on here.
  • Let's go nutsThe Black Swan: Iroha is a scantily clad maid premiering in Samurai Shodown 6. She was previously a swan, but transformed into a woman wielding guillotines so as to get closer to her master. And that master? They are supposed to be the player. So, yes, this character is a walking fetish in more ways than one. Is it any wonder she got her own spin off game, and was some of the earliest DLC for the latest Samurai Shodown?
  • Favorite Samurai Shodown Title: As if it was not obvious, Samurai Shodown 6 wins here. The recently released Samurai Shodown 5 Gold is very close to 6’s complete nonsense, but, to my knowledge, you cannot play as a dog in Gold. You can do that in 6. Twice.
  • Did you know? The one character that had been previously playable but is not in Samurai Shodown 6 is Hikyaku, the delivery man that runs through the background in other Shodown titles. He was playable in the Gameboy port of Samurai Shodown as a bonus for anyone that deigned to play a Neo Geo fighting game on the friggen’ Gameboy, but was never available on a big boy system. If you are unfamiliar with the Samurai Shodown franchise, Here we go againjust imagine a playable version of the postman from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask. This is also a likely explanation for why he was never seen again.
  • Would I play again: There are so many good fighting games out there! Maybe I’ll hit the modern SamSho when all the DLC is on sale/includes my boy.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Misadventures of Tron Bonne! We’re going to go on a misadventure, Miss Tron! Please look forward to it!

FGC #213 BlazBlue: Central Fiction

OuchI’ve spoken before about how I believe that videogames are art, and, in many cases, what’s important about a game is how it makes the player feel. Whether a game makes you happy, sad, or annoyed, we are primal creatures at heart, and will always remember our feelings on a particular game long after we’ve forgotten exactly what Sephiroth was actually trying to do. We are human, and we remember our feelings about anyone and anything long after we’ve forgotten the finer details of the matter that brought us to those feelings. How a videogame makes you feel is important.

That said, BlazBlue: Central Fiction makes me feel… impotent.

BB:CF is the latest, and theoretically final, chapter in the BlazBlue saga that started with BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. If those words make no sense, just be aware that BlazBlue is a fighting game series with a deathly melodramatic storyline that almost puts Kingdom Hearts to shame. Seriously, here’s a portion of the cast of BlazBlue: Central Fiction:

  • Ragna the Bloodedge
  • Ragna, but as a King of Fighters character
  • Ragna’s brother
  • Ragna’s brother, but in armor
  • Ragna’s sister
  • Ragna’s sister, but as a robot
  • Ragna’s sister, but as an obsessive robot
  • Ragna’s sister, but as a stoic robot
  • Ragna’s sister, but as a bad guy
  • Michael Jackson
  • Michael Jackson, but in a rain slicker

UNBEATABLEThrow in Squirrel Girl, a generic gothic lolita vampire, and No-Face, and we’ve got a complete cast of 35 playable characters. And each one of those jerks has a comprehensive backstory, ridiculous powers, and enough dreams to put Kirby to shame. This is clearly the final chapter because the roster has become unwieldy, and it could collapse at any moment if the catgirl accidently beats the muscled arena monster (which one? Who cares). The adage has always been that paying attention to the story in a fighting game is akin to reading erotic friend-fiction for the plot, but there are some people that slurp this nonsense up like delicious udon.

And I, as you likely know, am one of these people.

The BlazBlue plot is complete nonsense tied to a decent fighting game, and that’s all it takes for me. BlazBlue is fun to play! I like the characters, how the controls feel, and the bevy of interesting special moves and “systems” that apply to each character. On a whole, the franchise has always felt like “Street Fighter 2, but a little more complicated”, and, since that “complicated” seems to push the game into a more offensive (as in the opposite of defensive, and not as in “our president elect”) direction, I’ve always been a fan. The fact that my imagination gets to run wild every time I learn a new character and clear arcade mode is just a nice bonus between bouts. Oh, this well-endowed brunette is trying to save a bookworm that turned into a bag of bugs? Well, that’s neat, back to the fight.

And then there’s the actual Story Mode.

SHUTUP!BlazBlue Story Mode… let’s not mince words here, it has always wanted to be a damn visual novel. And that’s terrible. There are a lot of videogame genres that mix well with the visual novel format (JRPGs, TRPGs… uh… instruction manuals?), but the basic essence of a fighting game is adrenaline, and “get ready to sit around and read” does not have anything to do with fighting. I can think of a worse fit for the visual novel format, but BlazBlue, game after game, seems to send more and more words at a pretty basic plot (bad guy wants to resurrect great evil and destroy the world, good guy dislikes this). Yes, there are magical weapons and six legendary heroes and betrayal and sex and sister clones and some manner of ninja running around, but it all adds up to a story that should be 90% show and 10% tell. I know more about puppet master Relius Clover from his super move that traps an opponent in a medieval torture device than from eighteen characters in story mode claiming “Oh, that guy is evil”.

But, despite my protests, I’ve played through almost all of the BlazBlue story modes. Why? Because I’m an idiot Because it’s presented well. BlazBlue might throw a novel’s worth of text at me, but it’s all voice-acted, and I can “enjoy” the story less like reading a book and more like watching a movie. It’s not a very animated movie, but it’s passable, and it’s enough that I’ll at least give it a go some lazy Saturday afternoon. I am kind of curious why Michael Jackson picked up a raincoat, after all.

But Central Fiction makes that experience a lot more difficult to swallow for one simple reason: BlazBlue: Central Fiction does not have an English dub.

OwieIn the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal, and I understand the thinking. There are 35 characters in this game (and that’s not including incidental characters like the two tailed cat or that one nurse character that keeps hanging around), so that requires, give or take, 35 voice actors (or at least a healthy number of voice actors with excellent range). And voice actors gots to get paid, son. And this isn’t just a Zelda situation with dialogue like “running grunts” and “rolling grunts”; no, this franchise always has that damn Story Mode, so some lucky voice actor has to record a movie’s worth of dialogue for the “star” character. So, before we even get going, we’ve got a pile of time and money pumped into a “feature” that, let’s be honest, is nowhere near the main draw of the franchise. I played Street Fighter 2 until my thumbs were raw back in the SNES days, and a lot of the time that was with the game on mute, because damned if I want to hear “sonic boom” over and over again (and for the record, I wasn’t just sitting in silence, I probably had Xena Warrior Princess on in the background). Point is that voice acting for a cast this ungainly is a tremendous expense for the tiniest of payoffs. Oh boy, I can finally know what the red guy is saying to the magical girl… Who cares?

Well, I guess I realized how much I do.

BlazBlue might have a stupidly large cast, but it’s a stupidly large cast I seem to care about. Yeah, I know, no one is more surprised than me. I’ve been enjoying games featuring these characters for eight years (technically, there’s only been four “games”, but each one seems to get an update… so I’ve probably played a BlazBlue game a year for nearly a decade), and, honestly, a big factor in that is probably the voice acting. Since I can understand these characters and their in-battle dialogue, I have a much better grip on how PainfulTaokaka is a bit nuts, or how Hazama is collected in nearly everything he does. In earlier games, I can literally hear how the anti-hero of the piece is conflicted about the damage he’s doing (for a good cause), and how his brother’s vengeance drives the dude… a little batty. Yes, the voice acting is only one piece of these characters, but losing that feature would be like if the next Street Fighter game didn’t include some standard part of its franchise. Imagine a Street Fighter where all the fighters wore burlap sacks instead of signature outfits. Imagine a Street Fighter without special moves, where Ryu could only throw mundane punches. Imagine a Street Fighter without an Arcade Mode (*cough*). It would still be the same game, but it would be undeniable that something was missing, and it would be a lesser experience for it.

And would you sit through a fighting game’s Story Mode where you have to actually read a novel’s length of words? Screw that jazz. I barely have time to proofreed this article.

So, as ridiculous as it sounds, BlazBlue: Central Fiction makes me feel impotent. I know voice acting is expensive. I know it takes time to record that much dialogue, and it would probably delay the game into next year. I know it’s not an essential piece of the BlazBlue experience. I know all of that, but its absence is still felt. And I know there’s nothing I can do to “get it back”, because what am I going to do? Look away!Boycott the series until the English Dub returns? Bah! I still want to play the game, I just want it to be… better? Complete? In the end, I can’t do a thing, and what I desire is likely gone forever to placate a better bottom line.

I’m playing a macho, testosterone fueled fighting game, and I feel powerless.

And that’s what I’m going to remember.

FGC #213 BlazBlue: Central Fiction

  • System: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, and arcade. Yes, arcade. There’s only one left, so we’re not using the plural anymore.
  • Number of players: Two players just whaling on each other until language means nothing.
  • Favorite Character: Kokonoe Mercury is a pink, half-catgirl (however that works) science nerd that builds giant robots and is one of the few (only?) “smart” good guys that is capable of working effectively Good kittybehind the scenes and on the battlefield. She was practically made with BlazBlue’s giant nerd audience in mind, and, yes, I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. Also, we share a birthday, so again, total sucker.
  • Progress? Mai Natsume, the paid-DLC character of BlazBlue: Central Fiction, is actually trans, and that seems to be treated with as much respect as anything else in this series. That’s good! There’s also Amane Nishiki, an effeminately dressed dancing man who is obsessed with cute, young boys, and has a finishing move that transforms his opponent into a child form before a curtain literally (and ominously) closes. That seems… wrong.
  • Did you know? Jubei, the legendary cat swordsman, is still not a playable character after having been involved in the plot from the absolute beginning. If you need any confirmation that there’s another version on the way, well, there you go.
  • Would I play again: Probably! Unless an upgraded revision is released, then I’ll ignore this one forever, just like every other previous BlazBlue. Sorry, old fighting games!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Death Smiles! Wow, it’s Aksys Anime Week all of a sudden. I’m not okay with that! But whatever! Please look forward to lolis!

AHHHH