Tag Archives: fighting games

FGC #567 BlazBlue: Centralfiction

This post originally appeared about two years ago on a forum post that… apparently no longer exists. Whoops! In the interest of my beloved words reaching as many people as possible, please enjoy this nonsense with the excuse that I am now playing the Switch version of BlazBlue: Centralfiction. Oh, and be aware there are spoilers for the entire franchise here, and it is super GIF heavy. I probably should have led with that…

Time to Blaze itWhat you have to understand is that BlazBlue could be so, so simple. At first glance, it’s a pretty straightforward story: 100 years in “our” future, but 100 years before the events of the game, mankind goes too far, and accidentally releases magic (good), and the Black Beast (bad) on the universe. The Black Beast nearly destroys the world, but six brave heroes rise up and seal away the ancient evil. Now, in the present (of the game), a terrorist in a red coat is running around wrecking stuff, and it is assumed he is trying to revive the ancient evil. Naturally, he’s misunderstood, and the real bad guy is hiding in plain sight within the current ruling government, so the wheel of fate is turning, action!

And were this a simple, traditional fighting game universe, that would be it. There would be a “new” gang of heroes, a few would have obvious or subtle ties to the previous legends, throw in a wannabe ninja or two, and you’d have a pretty straightforward fighting game universe. Everybody battles at first, they eventually join up, and the inevitable “return of the Black Beast” is defeated by friendship and mashing the jab button. It could work! It could work well! Perhaps in that universe, all would be joyful, and I wouldn’t be getting ready to explain how the pretty sorcerer lady had sex with a goddamn cat. Maybe that universe would be better for all of us…

This isn't realActually, speaking of universes, BlazBlue does something interesting with its overall plot. Were you around for the Mortal Kombat debates of the 90’s? I’m not talking about the silly disputes over whether Mortal Kombat was too violent for young eyeballs; no, I’m talking about the important arguments about things that mattered. I’m talking about the debates over which Mortal Kombat endings were canon. Did Scorpion really kill Sub-Zero? Did Kano really kill Sheeva, or did she kill him (and did Sonya watch)? Yes, we know Liu Kang won a tournament or two from that opening roll, but we want to know some details! Johnny Cage: Goro-slayer or conceited movie star? This is important to my fanfic, dammit!

BlazBlue does its best to sidestep all of that, and introduces some canon multiversal theory to the fighting game genre. All endings are valid. Yes, Ragna saved one world, and Arakune devoured everyone and everything in another world. Every single BlazBlue game has multiple endings for each of its characters, and every ending is equally canon, because the forces of good and evil at the highest levels are distinctly watching every universe to see the potential best outcome. And it’s a very distinct plot point in practically all of the games! All endings are canon, so, yes, that goofy finale where Dan wins the tournament and Zangief becomes a robot totally happened.

Unfortunately, it seems like the writers wanted to justify this conceit, and… things got complicated.

This story has no beginning and no end. It is a tale of souls and swords that, unfortunately, gets a little confused along the way. I guess we’ll start with the kids…

FGC #557 Street Fighter: The Movie

Let's fight some streetsIf you are concerned about your own struggles with imposter syndrome, please remember that even the big guys aren’t always confident.

Let’s talk about Street Fighter’s identity issues.

A long time ago in an arcade long forgotten, there was Street Fighter 1. The year was 1987, the cabinet was initially based on the concept of pressure-sensitive buttons, and the game… was not that great. Technically everything about Street Fighter was there: Ryu, special moves, boxers marginally based on Mike Tyson; but something was missing. Some particular, undefinable trait was absent from the original Street Fighter formula (it was probably Zangief), so, while Street Fighter was not remembered as a complete bomb, it isn’t remembered as the origin of the genre either. And then someone tried to make a sequel, and we were graced with… Final Fight. What? You were expecting Street Fighter’s nigh-holy descendant? No, much like Devil May Cry accidently being born of Resident Evil’s attempts to iterate, Final Fight was the next mutation of Street Fighter’s gameplay. And, despite the fact that the two franchises should have swapped names right then and there, we would still have to wait a little for Street Fighter 2.

And the secret truth of Street Fighter 2? It is now abundantly clear that no one at Capcom had any idea as to why it was successful.

Ruy GuyStreet Fighter 2 was popular when I was a kid, and I know that time seemed to flow relatively differently when I was a child. I am aware of this issue, but I’m still pretty confident in saying that between the release of Street Fighter 2 and Street Fighter 3, approximately 12,000 years passed. But don’t worry, children of tomorrow, we had routine Street Fighter 2 content during that time. There was Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition (play as the bosses, even if some are broken!), Street Fighter 2: Turbo (maybe Dhalsim is teleporting on purpose now!), Super Street Fighter 2 (now with four new butts!), and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (one more angry butt!). The same basic gameplay carried the title forward, though, so if you were a Blanka main (because you were awesome), all you ever got out of these upgrades was like one new move, and the ability to make Fei Long feel bad for existing. Which is great… For Capcom, at least, because they could still earn your quarters through releasing the same game over and over again. There was no risk of Street Fighter 2 accidentally becoming Final Fight: Streetwise if you never even tried to make a new Street Fighter sequel. No need to distill the essential “what works” of Street Fighter 2 if you just keep releasing Street Fighter 2: Now with Super Moves. Capcom is happy to see the quarters, you’re happy to play a game that is familiar, and E. Honda is happy just to have a steady paycheck. Everybody’s happy!

But, in the midst of Street Fighter mania, someone had the bright idea to exploit the most popular videogame in the arcades not for a sequel, but a movie. A movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, and Royal Trumpeter #3 of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. A movie that, as a result of drawing from a game that had the barest of bones of a plot to begin with, could be anything. Or it could just be Van Damme flip kicking for two hours. Who cares!? Street Fighter: The Movie was not constrained by its source material like some franchises, so it had the potential to be the greatest “videogame movie” of all time.

And that “greatest videogame movie of all time” would inevitably be… Mortal Kombat.

Street Fighter was a bit of a flop.

THE PITApparently the production of Street Fighter was a legendary disaster, so it’s really little surprise that the whole thing turned out a bit off. What’s more, the direction seemed to go well out of its way to include every Street Fighter that had appeared in Street Fighter 2 (give or take the one that was actually supposed to be a movie star), which mean that a lot of characters were adapted in unfortunate ways. Vega is a cage fighter, and Sagat is an arms dealer? Okay, it’s a little GI Joe, but it could work. But Balrog is a camera man in Chun-Li’s employ? That is less defensible. Dhalsim becoming a scientist is a vague stereotype upgrade (at least he isn’t wearing skulls like a necklace anymore), but Zangief as a mindless minion works dramatically less so. And Ryu and Ken go from franchise heroes to… karate hobos. Granted, that’s always been kind of Ryu’s thing (dude probably has an awful credit score), but he’s more of a grifter than the world’s greatest fighter in Street Fighter: The Movie. And, given one of Street Fighter 2’s paramount attributes was allowing the player to choose a “favorite character” out of a very varied (and international!) cast, the fact that the movie reduced most of those luminaries to be sidekicks to one of three “real stars” was a roundhouse to the lil’ Bison.

And then came the videogame tie-in…

Rat fireballs?You may be thinking that, given Street Fighter: The Movie existed only because it was based on one of the most popular videogames of the time, it did not need another, additional videogame exclusively based on the movie itself. But you’d be wrong, apparently, because Capcom commissioned Street Fighter: The Movie for arcades. And please note that this Street Fighter game was not actually developed by Capcom, but Incredible Technologies, the maniacs behind Time Killers, BloodStorm, and Peggle: The Game Inexplicably Not about Pegging. Why do such a thing? Well, at the time, Mortal Kombat was starting to eat Street Fighter’s lunch, so why not make a Street Fighter title with digitized actors, extra violence, and have it all thrown together by some nerds in Chicago? It worked for Midway and Mortal Kombat, so why not the game that popularized the genre in the first place, too?

Well, it might not work because it sucked, for one thing.

Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game: The Arcade Experience is not the Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat title that was so clearly intended here. This is Street Fighter x Pit Fighter. It’s sloppy. It features (almost) all the familiar Street Fighters and their familiar moves, but in a world that juggles just a little too easy. It feels weightless. It feels… wrong. And the many ways it deliberately apes Mortal Kombat feel particularly slapdash as well. There is an original character that seems to be born of a teenager’s notebook doodles (Blade! He has blades! He’s secretly Guile’s brother!), and he’s got three different color swapped buddies that really stretch the definition of “different”. There’s a stage that is an obvious cross between MK’s The Pit and Shao Kahn’s arena of Mortal Kombat 2. Sometimes digitized human spectators explode. Why? Don’t worry about it. And, while this game does seem to put more of an emphasis on uppercuts, it doesn’t feel enough like Mortal Kombat to warrant the many ways it feels like a lesser Street Fighter 2.

So, naturally, when Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game was ported to the home consoles, Capcom tossed the arcade version in the garbage.

CHOOSE YOUR DESTINYAt a time when home consoles were finally reaching that coveted echelon of “arcade perfect”, the concept of anything about Street Fighter: The Movie being arcade perfect was wholly dropped. Now appropriate for a movie game, Street Fighter: The Movie: The Home Game featured a dedicated “story mode” that would not be seen again in the franchise until Street Fighter 5. You can guide Guile through different locations and scenarios, and fight your way up to beating Bison. It’s… not very good, but it feels more like a justified videogame of a movie than its arcade counterpoint. And speaking of being a videogame, this version drops the physics of the arcade version, and returns to gameplay that is virtually indistinguishable from Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Give or take the impact of real digitized actors and actresses versus the stretching and shrinking of animated sprites (yes, Virginia, Ryu’s fist is normally an object of variable size), this is Street Fighter 2, the game you all know and love.

Well… I mean… mostly…

Dhalsim didn’t make the cut. It was probably too hard to figure out a way to make his stretching appear real (short of strapping Roshan Seth to a rack). In his place, there is Sawada, an original character from the movie that also appeared in the arcade game (though with different moves). Blade and his arcade buddies are missing, so sorry if you enjoyed their edgy (ha!) presence. And if you’re playing on the Playstation 1 version (a game that was literally a launch title for the system), well… you’re going to have a bad time. The Playstation wasn’t built for 2-D fighters, and you really need to migrate over to the Saturn to get the true Street Fighter: The Movie: Not A Gift Basket experience. And, oh yeah, if you can play it on the Saturn, there are real Capcom games that are a lot of fun on the system, so maybe just go ahead and ignore the whole thing. Darkstalkers is pretty fun…

My boy!So we’ve got two different versions of Street Fighter 2: both based on the original smash hit in one way or another, and both are totally skippable. Why? Well, that’s likely something someone at Capcom circa 1995 would like to know. Hell, maybe they still would like to know. Why is Street Fighter 2 successful? It’s not just the characters, because they’re all (mostly) here, and that didn’t do the trick. The lack of super violence? No. The special moves? Probably not. Whatever made Street Fighter 2 into the juggernaut it became could not be replicated for two different movie games, and two duds were dropped out into the world, never to be seen again (save by bored bloggers bossed around by bots).

Though there is a bright side here. Another movie, this time the animated Street Fighter feature, inspired its own tie-in title. Street Fighter Alpha/Zero started as little more than an excuse for a new, beefier Bison, but it quickly graduated through its own revisions into a worthy successor to the Street Fighter throne. This eventually led to not only the inevitable Street Fighter 3, but also the entire Versus franchise. What separated the Alpha series from its The Movie brethren? More issues than anyone could ever count. But could Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game(s) have been as good and memorable as the Alpha series? Sure! If only someone at Capcom had been able to figure out what made Street Fighter 2 so dang good.

The Street Fighter franchise: it has defined the genre to this very day, yet no one in charge of it had any damn idea why. Bunch of imposters…

FGC #557 Street Fighter: The Movie

  • System: A wholly unique experience for the arcades, and then the more traditional version for Sega Saturn and Playstation (1).
  • Go Sawada!Number of players: The arcade version has a hidden tag team mode (once again aping Mortal Kombat’s endurance matches), but all versions are still just two players.
  • Favorite Fighter: Blanka for the home versions (“Charlie” looks so ridiculous!), Ken for the arcade versions. Honestly, in aping Mortal Kombat, none of the fighters feel all that distinct in the arcade, so I might as well be playing as Blade anyway…
  • The Specialest Moves: The home version also introduced “EX” versions of regular special moves for the first time in the franchise. If you want super armor, you have a lousy Playstation game to thank.
  • What’s in a name: Like in the movies, the jumbled Vega/M. Bison/Balrog triangle is stuck in American mode, even for Japanese audiences. Though, oddly enough, Akuma retains his original Gouki name in his native land. Maybe that’s because he didn’t actually appear in the movie due to Jean-Claude’s inability to win without losing a round?
  • Did you know? Street Fighter 5 included a data entry for Blade, aka Gunloc of Saturday Night Slam Masters. This means Street Fighter: The Movie: The Arcade Experience is somehow a canon game in some way.
  • Would I play again: I’m not even going to watch the movie again, left alone play the tie-in titles. Making this game may have been the most important part of someone’s life, but for me, it was an unpleasant Tuesday.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mappy Land for the Nintendo Entertainment System! Let’s visit the house of mouse for some trampoline times! Please look forward to it!

Slice n dice

FGC #538 Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

ZOOMI don’t know about your experience, but, back in the 90’s, the local arcades had more than a few beat ‘em up mainstays. There was always Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles and/or Turtles in Time. The Simpsons was a staple, and so was X-Men. But once you got past those, there could be anything and everything. Did this arcade have Final Fight? Or a Neo-Geo? Or… what? There were so many beat ‘em ups back in the day, and it’s a damn shame so many have been lost from the annals of time. So, on the occasion of ROB choosing Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (making a choice leftover from our “games preservation is important” featured series), let’s take a look at the 90’s beat ‘em ups that time forgot. After all, in this modern age, these are games that are as classic as cadillacs, but as extinct as dinosaurs.

Ninja Combat

Go ninja goRelease Year: 1990

Length: 0:35

What is it? Good ol’ fashioned ninja violence erupts as a pair of ninja have to fight evil ninja in a ninja fortress that has appeared in Ninja York City. Joe and Hayabusa (no relation to other, better-known ninja) are against the world, and all they have to help them is infinity shurikens and the occasional ninja scroll (no relation to other, better-known ninja scrolls).

What’s the hook? Actually, they’re not completely alone. The duo are joined by three other allies that start as enemies, and, as the stages progress, you can select different characters with different abilities. So you actually earn skills as you progress in a beat ‘em up! That’s neat! Other than that, it’s a pretty traditional beat ‘em up featuring terrible walk animations and a main attack that has slightly better range than Cody’s fists.

How is the cast? The original dummies are useless, and should be banished to World Heroes. Then you get a dude that dual-wields swords, and you never have to deal with those nitwits again. You also eventually have the choice of an overly muscled bruiser that punches swords for fun, and a woman that is just straight-up a rejected 80’s She-Ra character. She can summon butterflies, apparently. I’m pretty sure her name is Butter-Beater or something.

Best Boss? A mecha dinosaur-man starts a fight by tackling an entire train, and the battle ends when you decapitate the sucker. That’s 30% more radical than anything that happens in most beat ‘em ups.

What’s that on the ground? You’re in New York City, so American food abounds. Grab a burger or two if you need some health.

Anything else? There are a number of opponents that look like klansmen. Punch them extra hard.

Is it worth a quarter? This is an extremely janky game, but it’s not without its merits. As a title that came out in… 1990? What? I thought this was, like, something from 1986. What the hell? Dude, SNK/Alpha Denshi should have known better by this point. I take it back, play anything other than Ninja Combat. You can summon a fire dragon better in other games.

Growl / Runark

GROWL!Release Year: 1991

Length: 0:35

What is it? Nefarious poachers are capturing local animals, so it’s your job to get out there and rescue ‘em all! Save elephants, birds, and at least two guerillas by punching every ever-loving thing you can see. And if you happen to find a weapon, you can whip ‘em, and whip ‘em good.

What’s the hook? This is pulpy as hell, so if you like Indiana Jones or Doc Savage, you’ll be right at home. Additionally, some animals wind up helping during the battle, so it’s nice to play at least one old school game where birds aren’t your mortal enemy. But if Growl does one thing well, it’s mobs. There are so many opponents on the screen at one time that you’ll have to invite three buddies to come along for some poachin’ punchin’. And Growl is equal opportunity! There are women in business suits with grenades, so don’t feel bad about inviting some gals to the party.

How is the cast? There are four possible characters, but, visually, it’s two sets of twins. Though they do all have different stats! … Which also kind of sucks, as “health” is a stat, and why are you going to take a gamble on dying faster in a game that literally charges you more the more you die? That’s just not cool, Growl!

Best Boss? About halfway through the game, you must fight an army of classy, chubby dudes in fezzes. Now, I’m not saying that this finally simulates what it would be like to face an army consisting entirely of evil clones of Sallah, John Rhys-Davies’s character from Indiana Jones, but it is certainly similar to that situation straight from our wildest dreams.

What’s that on the ground? The Sega Genesis port provided health powerups (apples, incidentally), but the original arcade version only offers weapons. Grenades, guns, and daggers are all available for your fighting pleasure. Oh, and be careful with that dynamite, opponents literally explode in this universe, and you don’t want to get too many human remains on your unbuttoned shirt.

Anything else? There is exactly one, seemingly random platforming section inside of a volcano. Other than that and one bonus stage that involves punching boxes, this is all violence against your fellow man.

Is it worth a quarter? Oh, I completely forgot to mention the dude with lit dynamite strapped to his chest that throws tanks around. He seemed kind of important. Whatever! This is a fun beat ‘em up, and offers no lack of people to beat up. Give or take how easily your character can be hit-stunned (which is why you bring a buddy!), this is a great time for all, and particularly enjoyable if you’re interested in finding out the greatest secret behind poaching (spoilers: all poachers are led by an evil butler that is being mind-controlled by an alien worm. Now you know!).

Eight Man

Eat it, SevenRelease Year: 1991

Length: 0:30

What is it? Eight Man, Kazumasa Hirai’s 1963 manga, is widely regarded as the origin of super cyborg heroics in Japanese culture. In much the same way that Superman got a weird, quasi-beat ‘em up in the arcades in 1988, Eight Man earned his time to shine in 1991. It was exactly as weird as Superman’s adventure.

What’s the hook? This is another beat ‘em up that tows the line between outright beatin’ and 2-D platforming. There are bottomless pits abound, and you’re constrained to the one dimension. That said, for being that weird kind of in-between experience, it’s pretty good. There may be an overreliance on stages that take place while running, though. They’re all the exact same stage! And they happen way too often!

How is the cast? Eight and Nine are just color swaps, so nothing interesting there. I suppose it should be noted that Nine is his own distinct person in the manga, but here he’s just Super Mario Bros. 3 Luigi. Let the second player have his own personality!

Best Boss? Just like R-Type, there is one stage that is entirely given to some giant floating fortress thingy. Unlike R-Type, you’re just a little dude, so it’s a little more difficult to punch a plane into submission. But you can do it! If you try!

What’s that on the ground? No food for Eight Man, but you can grab some capsules out of the sky for additional energy. It’s very Contra. And if you score enough Eight Energy, you’ll be an explosive ball of invincible energy. Nothing like mowing down every evil robot in town.

Anything else? Apparently everyone in this world subsists on a steady diet of gasoline, so absolutely everything is about as volatile as a hummingbird sipping on nitrous. Sometimes sharks explode.

Is it worth a quarter? Everybody should fight an angry, biologically engineered dog at least once, right? It’s not the best beat ‘em up out there (or maybe even a beat ‘em up at all, depending on your criteria), but it does continually convey a feeling of “action”, so it should get your adrenaline pumping. If you feel like being a super-powered cyborg man, you could do much worse.

Pu•Li•Ru•La

Release Year: 1991

Length: 0:25

What is it? It’s a beat ‘em up of a different color. This whole game looks like a Ghibli film (albeit one possible on 90’s arcade hardware), and the plot is a little unusual for the genre. A boy and a girl are given magic wands to rescue the concept of time from a time-guard that has accidentally transformed into a malevolent clown. This ain’t Metro City! The majority of your opponents are also animals that have been transformed, so whacking them into submission also leads to a surprising amount of platypuses running around the screen.

What’s the hook? Look at this nonsense! There’s an entire stage that exists in a living dream, and it’s crowded with photo-realistic giant people. All of Radishland is a fever dream of colors and animations, and you’d be hard pressed to find another beat ‘em up with such a creative look. Bart Simpson never had to deal with being licked to death.

How is the cast? Unfortunately, for all the creativity on display, the actual playable characters are rather dull. You’ve got boy, who is occasionally surly in dialogue, and girl, who seems to be the responsible “big sister” type. Apparently their names are Zac and Mel? It doesn’t matter, though, as they’re just Mario & Luigi and little more than combat delivery devices.

Best Boss? Disappointingly, the ridiculous dream stage ends with a Kabuki Quantum Fighter boss, and not some manner of photo-realistic cow or whatever. However, the previous level involves some kind of Tengu-Face-Woman monster with an incredibly phallic nose, so that’s going to be my pick. Incidentally, there’s another boss with what seems to be a bladed-codpiece, so I don’t think that nose flopping around is an accident.

What’s that on the ground? There aren’t traditional food pickups in PLRL, but there are bikinis scattered about that, when whacked with a magical wand, summon faeries. They may restore health or magic. Oh yeah. Did I mention the magic yet? These are essentially Golden Axe-style magic spells, but instead of summoning a blazing dragon, you wind up with a stampede of dogs, or a giant microwave. That is a good trade-off for never finding floor meat.

Anything else? The American/International version is censored. The original involves an area featuring giant lady legs, and a door between them that releases pink elephants. This may or may not be a metaphor.

Is it worth a quarter? You could get a lot out of Pu•Li•Ru•La just by watching its attract screen, but it is worth a play to “see what happens next” at least once. And you get to save woodland creatures! That’s always worked for Sonic the Hedgehog.

Metamorphic Force

BEAST MODERelease Year: 1993

Length: 0:40

What is it? This is practically a license-less version of Konami’s own X-Men arcade game, but, since those mighty mutants set the standard for super powers, somebody had to figure out an alternative. How about the same gameplay, but now you’re a werewolf? Does that work for everybody?

What’s the hook? Obviously, we’re pulling a page from Altered Beast, and each of the fighters can transform into anthropomorphic animals on the regular. Naturally, this means you have to fight an army of lizard creatures (and the occasional oni), and the final boss is going to be Trogdor the Dragon Man. It’s a furry convention. That’s the hook.

How is the cast? In what may or may not be an allusion to Captain Planet, four generally fit dudes have been chosen from across the globe to channel the spirits of ancient animal warriors. The French Claude attacks with a rapier and can become a wolfman. Ban is a Japanese martial artist that may be a bull. Max appears to be the American boxer that can transform into a panther. And the best is Ivan, who is supposed to be Russian, but is clearly Canadian. He’s wearing flannel and attacking with a recently cut log! … Or maybe I imagined the flannel. He’s still got the log, though! And he can transform into a bear, which, given the beard, seems redundant.

Best Boss? An entire stage is given over to the She-Devil that is decked out in some manner of 90’s swimsuit, but the more worthy boss is the Optimus Prime-looking robot man that lives in the Moai ruins. Granted, he’s probably just a rejected design for Nimrod from the X-Men game, but it’s nice to have something metal to punch in a game full of scaly dudes.

What’s that on the ground? There is one hidden prime rib in this game, but otherwise, you’re stuck with chalices that reward health and/or animal energy. And when these powerups don’t explode out of defeated bosses, they’re generally found by pummeling Golden Axe-esque gnomes… or at least some dude running around with a giant bag. That is marginally more interesting than an army of barrels (also available).

Anything else? You’ve got Gauntlet-style health, so it’s a numeral, and it’s constantly decreasing, regardless of your own skill level. This is a quarter killer down to the bone.

Is it worth a quarter? It turns out X-Men might not be that fun without the X-Men! Metamorphic Force has an interesting style, but the fact that you can’t always be in beast mode really detracts from the experience. Whenever you’ve been beaten down into human form, everything takes far too long to die, and you’re mostly just idling, waiting for that powerup gnome to waddle on over. And nobody likes to kill time in a beat ‘em up! That said, the graphics are memorable, the vaguely Grecian setting is distinct, and you’d be hard pressed to find another game that offers more lizard punching.

Ninja Baseball Bat Man

Further go ninjaRelease Year: 1993

Length: 1:00

What is it? The Baseball Hall of Fame has been ransacked, and you control one of four sentai/robot baseball people. They vaguely resemble what would happen if Mega Man had to fight a series of Robot Masters all based on Strike Man. But the nonsensical plot is nothing next to the bright, colorful visuals and general sense of humor throughout this universe.

What’s the hook? It’s a beat ‘em up from Irem, so this doesn’t come from the Capcom/Konami pedigree. But is it any good? Oh my yes. This game deserves to steal X-Men’s spot in the arcade! If the game wasn’t impregnably Japanese, this would have probably been a gigantic hit stateside. In a world that didn’t need another overly dour beat ‘em up, Ninja Baseball Bat Man goes all in on being “fun”, and it wholly succeeds.

How is the cast? Another “everybody gets a specific skill” situation. Captain Jose (Red) is balanced, Twinbats Ryno (Green) dualwields (baseball bats) with incredible speed, Beanball Roger (Yellow) is heavy and powerful, and Stick Straw (Blue) has significant reach. Also, unlike a certain group of turtles, these brothers all have distinct body types and sizes. Straw (“Daaaaarryl”) is the best, not because of his long range, but because he has the classiest walking animation.

Best Boss? The finale is the evil baseball commissioner wearing a golden statue of Babe Ruth that has been partially transformed into a giant robot. Coincidentally enough, that antagonist also appears during the finale of The Grapes of Wrath.

What’s that on the ground? Pizza and various baseball foods are available. You can also summon a troop of cheerleaders that may damage your opponents, or leave additional food. No matter what happens, they will make you feel better about your quest to stamp out a bunch of murderous baseball robots.

Anything else? This was apparently an attempt by Irem to appeal to Americans. We like baseball, right? And sentai heroes fighting tanookis? That sounds American!

Is it worth a quarter? Do I need to repeat the bit about the Babe Ruth statue again? Because I will if I have to.

Monster Maulers

MonstrousRelease Year: 1993

Length: 0:30

What is it? Choose one of three sentai-esque heroes, and repel a monster invasion across the globe. There are special moves, a malevolent/medium-sexy centaur, and ultimate villains that are basically the
Doronbo Gang. Haven’t you always wanted to punch them? Now you can!

What’s the hook? Truth be told, this is mostly an asymmetrical fighting game. The various monsters across the globe could be interpreted as a series of “bosses” that are missing their usual mooks, but this still controls like a fighting game, complete with fireball motions. That said, the last levels finally offer some generic guys in the form of regular-sized robots, so Monster Maulers is going on this list. Consider this the lost bridge between the gameplay of Final Fight and Street Fighter 2, as remixed by Konami (and maybe Yatterman).

How is the cast? Your sentai heroes du jour are generic guy, generic girl, and super wrestler prime. Eagle, the man with the muscles, offers the opportunity to piledrive a floating brain, so he’s clearly the best pick. But Kotetsu and Anne are both very distinctive, and you can probably have fun with them while pummeling intermittently gross collections of sentient organs. After all, somebody has to choose Ryu every once in a while.

Best Boss? Fungus/Slime is a… slime. It morphs through a variety of forms, though, so it’s a little more interesting than your typical Dragon Quest opponent. Just try not to get absorbed into its membrane. It is going to take, like, seventeen bottles of shampoo to cure that condition.

What’s that on the ground? Monster Maulers is unfortunately too close to a fighting game to include powerups. Sorry!

Anything else? The best way to beat the multi-headed Dragon is to get up on the hydra’s back.

Is it worth a quarter? This is a very unique game (for the 90’s), so it’s worth giving it a go at least once. The bosses are interesting, the graphic design is eclectic, and the ending involves a surprising amount of man butt. And it’s a Konami game, so you know you’ll get to pummel a Moai head. What’s not to like?

Violent Storm

Too violentRelease Year: 1993

Length: 0:45

What is it? In a post-apocalyptic future, three buds must battle through a street gang of mutants and cyborgs in an effort to rescue their friend that is also a girl. It’s basically Double Dragon… which itself was biting hard on Fight of the North Star, but there is an important difference here…

What’s the hook? Violent Storm is arguably a parody of Double Dragon, as it certainly leans hard into its own madcap humor. What’s funnier than physical violence? More beat ‘em ups should be this amusing! Regardless, “Dabel” busting through a wall is clearly not Abobo, so stop trying to claim this game is plagiarism. Parody is fair use!

How is the cast? Wade, Boris, and Kyle are all very distinct with their own special moves and preferences for radio stations. They absolutely do not have any idea how to dress, but they’re excellent martial artists, and Kyle even went the extra mile and stole Chun-Li’s lightning kick. He’s the winner, but all of the boys “feel” fun to use, so you can’t go wrong with this trio.

Best Boss? It’s hard to choose! Perusing the final stage’s museum for portraits of the bosses, you’re reminded of the likes of Drigger the wrestler that looks like he was beamed out of Conan the Barbarian, or Sledge, who may or may not be trying (and failing) to cosplay as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. But I’m going to go with Doyle, the boss of the factory stage, who apparently attempted to load himself into Power Loader, but only got halfway through, so he’s merely equipped with fork arms and a jetpack. He tried!

What’s that on the ground? There is food all over the place. There’s even a woman in the background of one stage eating what is clearly a pizza powerup, but she won’t share. Hand that over, lady, I’m trying to rescue people here.

Anything else? The music is Splatoon-y as hell. Not coincidentally, this might be the one game on this list that really makes me want to find the soundtrack.

Is it worth a quarter? Yes. God yes. Maybe this is just because I play a lot of beat ‘em ups, but it is a breath of fresh air to play one that doesn’t take itself absurdly seriously. This is a genre about punching the same dudes over and over again in remotely different configurations. You need to be able to have fun with that, every other beat ‘em up producer of the 90’s! Are you listening to me?!

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs!Release Year: 1993

Length: 1:00

What is it? Based on the animated series of the same name (itself based on a comic), this is a Capcom beat ‘em up very much in the vein of Final Fight. In fact, the general gameplay feels exactly the same, the graphics for the map are very similar, and some of the generic mooks are all but exact copies of their Metro City cousins. But Final Fight didn’t feature any dinosaurs, now did it? Also, Blanka of Street Fighter is a guest opponent (under the alias “Bludge”), and he’s always a good time.

What’s the hook? Aside from dinosaurs that must be “protected” lest they become rampaging monsters, the hook here is that you get to drive a Cadillac and mow down baddies for exactly one level. Other than that, the best you can hope for is the occasional lizard man to break up the monotony.

How is the cast? This one takes a page from Alien vs. Predator and makes the characters distinct through their proficiencies. Jack is balanced, Hannah uses items (re: guns) effectively, Mustapha is quick, and Mess is the bruiser. Mess completely wrecks house, and his only downside is an impossibly stupid name.

Best Boss? One stage features a parasite monster that leaps from generic guy to generic guy creating new dinosaur-mutants. This bug creates an unusual amount of tension, as it’s hard to tell when and if it will ever be defeated, as it continually finds new and bigger hosts. That’s a pretty good trick for a game in a genre that traditionally betrays pressure with life bars.

What’s that on the ground? This is a Capcom beat ‘em up, so a whole variety of different food items are available. There are also guns and rocket launchers that will literally blast your opponents into meaty pieces. Please do not eat the chunks.

Anything else? The final boss is a two headed tyrannosaurus man with a scientist stuck in his chest. That leaves an impression.

Is it worth a quarter? It might be a Final Fight clone with guns, but Final Fight is one of the best, so it’s pretty damn fun. Like every beat ‘em up on this list, it’s easy to enjoy your time with Cadillacs and dinosaurs.

FGC #538 Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

  • The living endSystem: Arcade only, guys. Maybe one day we’ll see some kind of home version. Maybe something that inexplicably also includes every other game on this list? You can use my name if you want, developers!
  • Number of players: The rare three-player option. It would be four, but somebody has to drive the caddy.
  • Favorite Weapon: You get a free rocket launcher every time you have to continue. This allows you to absolutely obliterate your opponents, and I see no problem with that. Rockets are surely worth a quarter.
  • It Stinks: The official, canon explanation for how cars run in the future of CaD is that all vehicles have been modified to be fueled by dinosaur dung. Crapillacs from Dinosaurs.
  • For the Sequel: Cadillacs and Dinosaurs: The Second Cataclysm for the Sega CD is more of a shoot ‘em up than a beat ‘em up. It also bombed miserably, which is probably why we never saw a home port of the arcade game. Elon Musk was also a credited programmer on that project, which cannot be good for anybody.
  • Did you know? Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is based on the comic Xenozoic Tales. XT was published from 1987 to 1996 by Kitchen Sink Press, and offers… 14 issues. Man, Spider-Man stars in that many comic books in like a week! Whatever, at least it was popular enough to spawn a videogame and a candy bar.
  • Would I play again: Why not? It’s a fun little beat ‘em up, and those can be an excellent way to relax. The fact that dinosaurs are involved in this title is just gravy.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ironsword: Wizards and Warriors 2! Wizards are moderately scary, so that’s an allowed pick for October. … Even if I hate the damn game. Please look forward to it!

FGC #533 Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Please note that this article contains spoilers for the whole of the Tekken franchise, including the fairly recently released Tekken 7. You have been warned.

Let's TekkenTekken Tag Tournament 2 boasts a roster of 59 characters, the largest selectable cast ever in a Tekken title. And, while you have a variety of choices between Bob, Slim Bob, and other dudes with less awesome names, the story of Tekken only cares about a handful of established characters. Who, you may ask, are the most important people in the Tekken universe? It’s the Mishima family! They’re the source of all evil in their world, but also the people most likely to save it.

So, since the Mishimas are the only people in Tekken that matter, let’s rank their relative threat-of-global-extinction levels.

Asuka Kazama

HiyaWho is She: Asuka is on this list by a technicality: she’s the cousin of Jin Kazama (basically), and only related to the Mishimas because someone with her last name boinked one of ‘em. She is not invited to family reunions, and it appears she is one of the few relevant characters that doesn’t want to fight for a piece of the Mishima Corp pie. She only joined the tournament in the first place because some thugs roughed up her dad, and she’s only stuck around since then because some French debutant really, really wants to punch her in the face. If the whole “Japanese schoolgirl that doesn’t really impact the plot but has a rich, blonde rival” thing sounds familiar, that’s because it is exactly Sakura of Street Fighter’s plot tracing back to Street Fighter Alpha, and the writers of Tekken should be ashamed of themselves for heisting a plot that has not appeared in every other anime ever. Anywho, Asuka is basically a normie that occasionally has to deal with Mishima hijinks, so there isn’t much to worry about.

Threat Level: Extremely Low. She has vague, angelic powers, but they only manifest when she’s not punching people. Given she lives in a punch-based universe, that’s not going to happen very often. Other than that, unless the world is destroyed by some light incense, she’s a complete lack of a threat.

Lars Alexandersson

He gonna getchaWho is He: The Tekken franchise, right from the beginning, has had no problem with including “goofy” characters. Yoshimitsu is a cyborg ninja robot dude, and Ganryu is a sumo wrestler in pursuit of kisses. There’s a kangaroo with boxing gloves somewhere in there. But Tekken’s real plot was always helmed by serious dudes with serious issues wearing shirts… until Tekken 6. Tekken 6 was the story of an ancient god of death resurfacing, and the only man that could stop him was this sentai looking mofo. He’s got a red cape. He’s got preposterous anime hair. His sidekick is an android girl with dubious clothing options. And you can tell he’s a real Tekken protagonist, because he’s a Mishima. He’s the illegitimate son of Heihachi Mishima, and, after years of working for Tekken Force, he decided to (bloodline) rebel and be whatever counts as a good guy in this universe. Lars is on the side of the angels (metaphorical, not the literal ones in this story), and is now fighting against his former employer/dad.

Threat Level: Vaguely Low. Lars is currently fighting the good fight… but he is using his own private army to do so. Like his hair buddy, Goku, this is a dude with a lot of power and a lot of potential to destroy the planet, but he’s firmly established as being on the light side of things, so we’re probably safe from this swede.

Jun Kazama

She seems niceWho is She: Jun Kazama made her debut in Tekken 2… and then died. But before she died, she fell for Kazuya Mishima, and had a son, Jin Kazama. She met her baby daddy while fighting for an organization run by Captain Planet, and she also has some ability to transform into an angel (literally, again) and heal the tormented soul of Kazuya. So she’s a good gal! But, again, she is currently dead, and, unlike nearly every other Tekken character, she seems to be staying dead. When Ogre kills you so the rest of your family can experience man pain, he doesn’t mess around.

Threat Level: Theoretically Low. Jun is dead, but she also slept with a devil, and eventually birthed another. That is just the kind of thing that swirls around a resurrection, so nobody is going to be surprised if she returns to life, and, like, has guns for arms or something. There’s a precedent.

Lee Chaolan

You're turning violet, VioletWho is He: Lee was introduced in Tekken 1 as Kazuya’s rival. The source of their rivalry? Heihachi dropped his son Kazuya off a cliff at a young age (as you do), and adopted a scrappy street urchin as his new, better, more-resistant-to-gravity son. Thus, Lee is not a Mishima by blood, but has been the heir to the kingdom on more than a few occasions. He was technically expelled from the family/company for siding with Kazuya during Tekken 2, but then decided to start his own company in time for Tekken 4. Lee now has his own megacorporation, and bankrolls Lars in his quest to stop the Mishimas. He also built a robot.

Threat Level: Medium-to-Low. You can’t trust anyone in this universe that has their own potentially evil corporation, but Lee is generally a pretty relaxed dude. He could take over the world tomorrow with his army of robots that understand every martial art ever conceived… but he’d rather just dress in all violent and hang around his palatial Bahamas estate. We’re in trouble if he ever gets off his ass, though.

Jinpachi Mishima

Friendly dudeWho is He: The patriarch of the Mishima clan, father of Heihachi, grandfather of Kazuya, and great-grandfather of Jin. Also maybe a demon? He founded the Mishima Zaibatsu during World War 2, made a whole lot of money on a whole lot of death, and then had a Tony Stark-esque turn to the light when he realized he was profiting from needless misery. Jinpachi wanted focused misery, so he dedicated himself and his company to martial arts, so he could more effectively punch individual men square in the balls. That’s satisfying! Heihachi wasn’t a fan, though, so he overtook the company, and left his dad bound in the basement. Jinpachi straight up died of starvation. But! He was revived by a demon of some sort, and became the hardest boss in Tekken history. Jin put an end to that, though, as Jinpachi was purified with a mighty great-grandson punch to his mean bean machine.

Threat Level: Medium. Jinpachi was a good guy, and then a dead guy, but that somehow didn’t stop him from coming back as a friggin’ Ghouls ‘n Ghosts boss. Sure, he’s just a dead old man right now, but Mishimas seem to be pretty indestructible, and we’re only ever one bad eclipse away from an army of malevolent grandpas overrunning the human realm. Keep an eye on that grave, Jin.

Unknown

Who knowsWho is She: Nobody knows! The ostensible boss of both Tekken Tag Tournament titles is a woman covered in goop. She originally seemed to be possessed by some kind of wolf spirit, but, in her most recent appearance, the wolf is gone, but she disguises herself as Jun Kazama. Final bosses being malevolent copies of the protagonist’s mother was a popular trend at the time (see also Soulcalibur). Regardless of her origins, Unknown seems to have power to spare (she spars with Ogre without hesitation) along with her ability to leak oil all over the scenery, so she’s clearly a menace.

Threat Level: Theoretically high, practically low. Unknown unfortunately only exists in a non-canon version of the universe, so she has about as much likelihood of destroying the world as Howard the Duck. But the Tekken franchise has never shied away from adopting non-canon people and events as law at a later date (there is an entire convoluted backstory for that fighting raptor and the wooden dummy), so Unknown could make a deadly comeback! She did get to have the time of her soulless life in the Namco x Capcom Universe, after all.

Kazumi Mishima

Say hi, momWho is She: Given Jinpachi spent his autumn years shooting fireballs out of his chest and generally menacing the populace during Tekken 5, it was assumed that Jinpachi was the origin of the “devil gene” that granted super powers to some of his progeny. Sure, Heihachi never had those abilities, but he was kind of a dick, and science has proven that certain genetic traits skip a generation if they feel like it. But it turns out the real origin of the devil gene was Heihachi’s wife/Kazuya’s mom, Kazumi. Kazumi was originally fated to kill Heihachi, but, because he pleased her pet tiger, they wound up married instead. They had a very nice family life, until that pesky devil gene manifested in Kazumi, and, one particularly physical spat later, Kazumi had a neck that was a lot more flexible. Kazumi didn’t want to live as someone possessed by her devil genetics, so Heihachi’s murder of his wife was a noble sacrifice he had to make (thanks again, man pain!), but Kazuya didn’t get the memo on that one, so he’s been more than a little pissed off ever since.

Threat Level: Theoretically high, effectively low. Kazumi is dead, but, like Jinpachi, that didn’t stop her from being a final boss. Kazumi initially embraced her devil side to stop Heihachi because she thought he might turn out to be a bad guy, and, now, after three generations of Mishimas wrecking up the place, Kazumi would be downright righteous in embracing her dark side. Could she cause a cataclysm in an attempt to clean up the place? Probably! If her corpse gets out there again, we’re all gonna fear a spankin’ from mama. Oh! And Akuma of Street Fighter owes her a favor, so that can’t be good.

Jin Kazama

The sonWho is He: Oh, don’t even get me started. Tekken 3 decided to add an extra generation to the central conflict of Tekken, and introduced Jin, son of Jun and Kazuya. At this time, Kazuya had been killed during the climax of T2, and Jun was dead by the hands of T3’s final boss. This meant that Jin was little more than an excuse to include moves from both of his parents, and his easy, simple goal was avenging his mother. Simple protagonist, simple motivations. Unfortunately, things escalated quickly from there, and, yada yada yada, now Jin is the anti-hero at the center of literally every war in the Tekken universe. The whole place is going to hell in a hand basket, and it’s all because Jin has issues with his clone-daddy and grandpa.

Threat Level: Unequivocally high. Jin possesses that devil gene, and has been transforming into a winged monster man since the finale of Tekken 3. This has influenced his behavior a bit of late, being ultimately responsible for an awful lot of hardship during Tekken 6 (when he kinda sorta summoned a god of death), even if said conflict was in pursuit of ridding himself of his devil half. Like, dude, the ends don’t justify the means if you have to figure out the plural of “genocide” to explain your plan. And it didn’t work anyway! Regardless, Jin is technically a good guy, he’s just extremely likely to level a continent in his pursuit of “good”.

Heihachi Mishima

The grandpaWho is He: This Mishima is not a good guy. Heihachi is the most common leader of the Mishima Zaibatsu, and the man who still claims he left his father to starve to death in the basement for benevolent reasons. Do not believe a thing this man says. In the same year he killed his wife and imprisoned his father, he threw his son off a cliff; so, once again, this is not someone who should be trusted with, like, hand soap, left alone King of Iron Fist trophies. Heihachi often asserts that he is on the side of the angels (“I threw you off that mountain for your own good, son”), but there is always a devious angle involved. The best you can say for Heihachi is that he is not distinctly inclined to do evil by some devil gene, so at least he’s not a literal monster like some of his offspring. Or does the fact that he does all of this willingly make him even worse? It is worse, isn’t it?

Threat Level: At this absolute moment, low, any other moment, incredibly high. Heihachi is a global threat to himself and others (mostly others), and the only thing holding him back is that he’s currently deceased. This has not stopped him before, though, as Heihachi has been “confirmed dead” in pretty much every other Tekken release (sometimes even dying during the intro!). This time, after broadcasting a fight between Akuma and his son and exposing the latter as a devil to the entire world, Kazuya came looking for revenge (oh, also, Heihachi shot him with a space laser), and the two battled in the corona of an active volcano (the… uh… volcano location wasn’t relevant to the story or fight or anything, it was just metal as hell). Kazuya wound up emerging victorious, mainly because he had the devil gene, and he wasn’t a friggen 75 year old man. Heihachi then took a dip in the magma (oh! The volcano was relevant!), and that’s the last anyone saw him outside of a Smash Bros cameo. Will he return? If he does, he’ll probably be an unstoppable lava monster, so he’s still pretty damn high on the threat index.

Kazuya Mishima

The daddy issuesWho is He: The goddamned man of the hour. In Tekken 1, Kazuya was just a street fighter attempting to defeat his abusive dad. He succeeded, took the reins of his father’s business, and then tried to conquer Japan with an army of dinosaur soldiers (see? Canon). This was blamed on his devil gene attempting to take control, but, even after his death and resurrection, Kazuya has been a cuss throughout the rest of the series. You know he killed and conquered the corporation that clone-resurrected him in the first place? It’s what he does! At this point, he’s successfully killed his father and gained full control of his devil powers, so the only thing standing in his way is his flake of a son.

Threat Level: Gigantic. Kazuya always had two goals: 1. Kill dad 2. Take over the world. Now number one is crossed off the list! And we’re talking about a guy that is a trained martial artist, can fly, and shrugged off a laser from space. Do you know what that means? He’s basically Final Fantasy’s Bahamut! He’s a space dragon in the making, and everyone is just going to have to deal with that. Kazuya ZERO is coming.

Kuma II

UnbearableWho is He: Kuma II is the son of Kuma, a bear that died of old age. Kuma II is an animal with the intelligence of a man, and has served as Heihachi’s bodyguard since Tekken 3. Kuma has trained with Heihachi and on his own, and is an expert martial artist/bear. He is currently an officer in the same Tekken Force that once hosted Lars.

Threat Level: Immeasurable. Screw devil genes and ancient ghosts, Kuma II is a bear! A real bear! And his old master/friend/father is dead! Have you ever seen a bear smart enough to become a military officer when he’s pissed off? No! Of course not! That would be silly! Because Kuma II is one of a kind, and now Kazuya is going to be in his sights. Screw space lasers, bears are the true kings of the world, and Kazuya is going to take a lava-dip via vengeful paws. And after that? Kuma II is going to have some time on his hands, and we all better beware…

FGC #533 Tekken Tag Tournament 2

  • System: Arcade, Playstation 3, Xbox 360/One, and WiiU. WiiU? Really? Huh.
  • Number of players: Four fighters controlled by two people equals one good time.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I like tag-team fighting games. I like Tekken. I like unwieldy rosters. I like… basically everything about Tekken Tag Tournament 2. They even brought back dedicated endings that are completely ridiculous! And I guess the fighting portions of the game are good, too!
  • These dorksFavorite Character: You might expect Kuma, but Doctor Bosconovitch is my first pick whenever he appears. He falls down a lot! But he’s trying! And, like all good Tekken characters, he’s probably been dead for years, and that doesn’t matter one iota.
  • Be the Boss: The fact that you can finally play as Jinpachi in this title is worth the price of admission. He’s so strong! And bad at directions! He might not have a mouth for a stomach anymore (or vice versa?), but he’s a great pick all the same.
  • Bob or Skinny Bob: Regular, overweight Bob seems more honest.
  • Gon? No Gon.
  • Did you know? According to events in the story mode of Tekken 6, Kuma understands both English and German. Given he was raised in Japan by a Japanese man, we can assume Kuma is trilingual.
  • The devil insideWould I play again: Odds are really high on this one. If it weren’t for Tekken 7 including its host of completely ridiculous new characters (Negan versus a giant robot? Sweet), it wouldn’t even be a contest. As it is, TTT2 is just a really good Tekken experience, and I’ll at least play it over the previous six or seven Tekken titles.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Limbo for the Xbox 360! How low can you go? Can you go so low you touch the dark, murky depths of your soul? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!