Tag Archives: gods

FGC #520 X-Men: Children of the Atom

Let’s start at the end to find the beginning.

Let's get infiniteIn 2017, Capcom released Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, possibly the most embarrassing flop in the history of videogames. This should have been a slam dunk! It was a fighting game released after the resurgence of fighting game popularity, so there was a built-in audience ready and willing to fight online and at tournaments. The cast was also at the absolute peak of their popularity, as the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and The Guardians of the Galaxy were dominating the box office with hit after hit. The latest Avengers movie had just produced more profit than the entirety of South Americacitation needed. And the Capcom side of things? Sure, some of the cast was a little esoteric, but seeing the likes of Jedah or Dante is exciting for people that actually play videogames (and, hey, this is a videogame!). And next gen graphics! I have been led to believe that people love those crazy framerates! Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite should have been a generation-defining fighting game for all sorts of reasons.

But Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was a dud. Why? Well, it seems like the big issue was that, in trying to court the Marvel movie audience, the direction of MvC:I left its fans in the dust. A bright, cartoony style was dropped for something that was trying for realistic, but wound up settling in the uncanny valley. The gameplay was weirdly stiff, and, even though the Story Mode was a hoot, the minute-to-minute of the experience simply felt… off. And perhaps worst of all, some of the most remarkable fighters from the previous title were dropped (sorry, Phoenixes), and the new arrivals were uninteresting, limited, and mostly DLC. When a franchise introduces a playable trash panda, you can’t follow that up with “Storm, but white”. And speaking of which, likely thanks to that movie-mandate, the entire X-Men cast was dropped from the franchise. Gone were the likes of Wolverine and Sentinel, and the best we could hope for was the (paid) return of Venom.

Let's go crazyAll in all, MvC: Infinite seemed like a lesser version of a game that had been released six years prior, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds brought the Versus Franchise roaring back, and Ultimate MvC3, its seemingly inevitable update, is noted by many to be the best in the franchise. This is clearly a title that was created by fans, for the fans (how else could you explain the presence of MODOK and Trish?), but also maintained a balance between the very disparate characters. You could equally have fun choosing a wee little red power ranger or a hulking… uh… Hulk. Hell, this is a game that managed to balance fights between multi-tentacled monstrosities and god-dogs. But, balanced or not, there was no lack of spectacle, and every last fight felt appropriately marvelous. Give or take Jill Valentine becoming some kind of angry cyborg cat (sorry, I have no idea what Resident Evil was doing that week), UMvC3 was received well for being a flawless entry in the Versus Franchise.

Just what I expectedAnd it’s not like that would be a cakewalk from UMvC3’s inception; it was forced to bring back the franchise after 2000’s Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, which is noted by many to be the best in the franchise. MvC2 is not a balanced game like its descendant, but it’s not like anyone wanted balance anyway. This is mahvel, baby. This is a game that decided to cap off the (at the time) end of the Versus Franchise (mostly due to licensing issues), and include literally every fighter that had ever appeared. After years of Versus games that liberally dropped and added fighters as it moved along, MvC2 decided to just throw everything against the wall to see what stuck (and maybe include a talking cactus, too). This led to one of the wildest fighting games in history, as suddenly a gigantic stand-in for Satan could get his tailed-ass beat by an army of miniscule Servbots. There were 56 total characters, and, while there were a number of Ryu wannabes and the occasional Iron Man recolor on the roster (and two Wolverines, for some reason), this roster remains to this day one of the most eclectic in all of gaming. Where else are you going to find a metal tyrant battling a mummy? And, while some nuance amongst the characters was lost, there is no greater feeling than unleashing three hyper moves’ worth of beam attacks against a walking suit of armor. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was just the right kind of absurd foolishness we all needed after weathering the Y2K bug (which, miraculously, was not a playable character).

Let's go crazyBut that wouldn’t have even been possible were it not for the release of Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes two years earlier. The “original” MvC is noted by many to be the best in the franchise, as it wrung every bit of action and distinction out of its (compared to its descendants) limited roster. This was the initial game to introduce familiar videogame faces that were new to the world of fighting games, so now, like Athena ascending to King of Fighters, you saw Captain Commando and Strider executing fierce punches for the first time. It also included a bevy of cameo characters that guested for singular attacks, which, finally, allowed Jubilee to join in the melee. And if the balanced tag team action of the Versus Franchise wasn’t enough for you, there was also the Variable Cross, which allowed a whole team to attack simultaneously, so War Machine could set Morrigan up for the spike. This was the perfect mix of old and new, so, like a playable Mega Man, it was the familiar seen in an all-new light that was somehow instantly and effortlessly refined.

KISSESBut why was it all familiar? Well, because we had already enjoyed X-Men vs. Street Fighter in 1996 and Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter in 1997. Both games were the starting bell for what would be known as the Versus Franchise, but primarily only reused assists from prior games, whether they be Marvel or Street Fighter titles. X-Men vs. Street Fighter at least gave us luminaries like Rogue or Sabertooth, but MSHvSF was wholly recycled from previous titles, and was likely only published because someone wanted to see Shuma Gorath tackle Sakura. Whether sprites and moves were recycled from earlier titles is immaterial, though, as this crossover gameplay was wholly new to the Capcom stable. You can fight as two people at once (kinda)! You can combine super moves (totally)! Wolverine can finally take a chunk out of M. Bison! And MSHvSF may have been light on new character content, but it did introduce the vital ability to summon your partner for an assist. In short, everything that defines the Versus Franchise was right there at its beginning, even if it wasn’t yet a welcoming place for Arthur to hang out.

UPPERCUTBut even before we ever had a single tag battle, the basic gameplay of the Versus Franchise premiered with 1995’s X-Men: Children of the Atom. XM:CotA (and its spiritual sequel a year later, Marvel Super Heroes) was essentially based on the Street Fighter Alpha engine, but with a little… mutation. While the Street Fighter franchise veered more into realistic, restrained fighting in Street Fighter 3 (well, as realistic as a fight can be when one participant is an albino made of electrified jelly), X-Men:CotA adopted all the “based on an anime” indulgences of Alpha, and dialed it up to eleven with super jumping, laser beams, and midair combos. It was still natural to anyone that had played Street Fighter (or, of course, Darkstalkers), but the pomp and bombast of every battle was an experience that was wholly unique. And that made perfect sense! These weren’t mundane “street fighters”, these were Marvel’s mightiest mutants, so you had to have a game that accounted for characters with a non-standard number of arms. X-Men: CotA started what would become a franchise all its own by taking the familiar and marrying it to the fantastic.

But where did X-Men: Children of the Atom come from? From Cyclops battling Silver Samurai to Mega Man blasting Marrow to Thor fighting Sigma on the Rainbow Bridge, where did this all truly begin? With Street Fighter? Final Fight? What is the origin of this decades-old fighting game franchise?

Well, if I told you it all spun out of the opening credits adaption of the Japanese localization of a Fox Kids cartoon from 1992, would you believe me?

So much jumping

No, of course not. That would be silly. Let’s just say this all started with Street Fighter, and call it a day.

Thank you, Ryu, for bringing us the amazing Versus Franchise. Let us never speak of Omega Red’s impact ever again.

FGC #520 X-Men: Children of the Atom

  • System: Arcade for the arcade experience, but the Sega Saturn version will do in a pinch. It kind of has a weird screen aspect thing going on, but it’s otherwise pretty tops. The Playstation 1 version is not discussed in polite company.
  • Number of players: We might not be able to select two X-Men at once yet, but you can certainly have two players.
  • Death SpiralWho Are These Guys: Even assuming the game is based primarily on the X-Men animated series, you have to wonder where half this roster came from. Wolverine? Great! Cyclops? A keeper! Psylocke? Okay, I guess Jim Lee got a vote. Omega Red? A poor man’s Sabertooth at least would have an interesting moveset. But Spiral? Spiral? Mojo’s occasional sidekick? And Silver Samurai? Did someone just have a “sword guy” moveset laying around, and here we are? I would love to see an interview with the team that made those decisions.
  • Favorite Fighter: That said, give me Omega Red any day. He’s got range, the ability to drain the life out of his opponents, and a rad ponytail. What more could you ask for?
  • Say Something Mean: I love this game and everything in it… save the fact that way too many of the fireballs or fireball-type moves are directionally controlled by your chosen attack button. That’s the kind of thing that works well in theory, but I despise keying in a fireball motion, but hitting the wrong button, so now said fireball is going straight up in the air, damned never to hit a soul. Maybe this is why Wolverine and his limited claws are chosen so often.
  • Versus Origins: In case anyone was curious, both of the “original” Versus games were Versus games before they ever officially earned that moniker. X-Men vs. Street Fighter starts in X-Men: CotA via a secret battle with Akuma, and a certain wee Darkstalker snuck into Marvel Super Heroes before Marvel vs. Capcom.
  • Win Quotes: The Versus Franchise eventually dropped win quotes (and then returned to them), but the fact that they discarded gems like Cyclops passively aggressively insulting the X-Men…
    I don't get it

    Or some big Akira Yoshida energy…
    Gaijin?

    Is a loss.
  • Forgotten Worlds: Playing through the whole of the Versus Franchise is interesting, as, while the characters are generally perennial (sorry, Marrow), the backgrounds of the various stages over the years portray storylines and locations that were important once, and are now completely forgotten. Remember when Daredevil was the leader of a ninja cabal? Or when the Celestials were prominent? Or when there was a Mega Man Legends franchise?
  • Did you know? When the Fox Kids X-Men series aired in Japan, each episode suffered some content cuts so they could make room for… promotion for this X-Men videogame. It traditionally involved the (Japanese) voice actors playing the game, and “acting out” their characters’ reactions to parts of the game. So maybe there is a significant connection here…
  • Would I play again: There are some parts of X-Men: Children of the Atom that are wholly unique and not simply absorbed by later sequels, so I occasionally return to this old standby. That said, it doesn’t happen very often, so my thumbs are a lot more likely to see Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Crash Team Racing: Nitro Refueled! Guess there’s going to be some racing, and we’ll try not to crash. Ha ha ha. Please look forward to it!

This seems apt
Submitted without comment

FGC #489 Breath of Fire 2

BREATH OF DEMONS!Breath of Fire 2 is the story of Ryu, an orphan adventurer who starts out by rescuing a pig from a hungry old man, but eventually graduates to killing god. Pretty typical JRPG stuff. Though there is a bit of a twist on the JRPG formula here: god is bad. Yes, god is usually bad when he’s the final boss worthy of an assault of chainsaws, but, in this case, there is no question as to Deathevan’s intentions. His name is Deathevan, for crying out loud! And his “secret origin” is that he is a deliberate “scar” left by the final boss of Breath of Fire (1), and has no other purpose other than to fester, grow, and eventually wipe out humanity. The whole “god” angle? He’s no more a god than any other JRPG opponent, he simply set himself up as the head of a religion in order to suck up sacrifices. Though perhaps the same could be said of all religions.

So, yes, in the end, Ryu and the gang are putting down a boss monster. The end. They’re not killing god anymore than Cloud, Ashley, or even Mario (give or take Culex). They save the world from a creature lurking in the depths of the underworld, and return to the light of day to find a beautiful, appreciative world waiting for them.

Or… nobody notices they did anything.

They saved the world, but did anyone even notice? Let’s take a look at the world of Breath of Fire 2, and see if there’s a single person on that planet that would have noticed the death of an evil, wannabe god.

The not-so-good churchWe’ll start with the obvious source of all this trouble: Evrai, the holy city of the Church of St. Eva. Evrai is a small town attached to a gigantic, magic-powered church/fortress. It is the base of operations for the whole of the St. Eva religion, and, likely because they’re responsible for recruiting people to worship an evil god, the place is just crawling with monsters. And church services are led by Habaruku, a Lovecraftian squid dude that apparently kills enough people during services that his congregation doesn’t even bat an eye when a tiger person is struck down by unholy lightning. The whole premise of BoF2 is that the St. Eva church has been masquerading as a benevolent organization this whole time… but there sure is a lot of blood splattered around their base.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter anyway, because the party needs a friggen’ magical bird to scale the sheer cliffs that surround Evrai. If nobody is making it back to the home office, it doesn’t matter if the religion is obviously a death cult. That’s been working out for the Republican Party for years, so it would undoubtedly work in a world without videoconferencing.

Oh, and also related: Ryu blew the whole church, city, and presumably every follower in it straight to Infinity when he rescued his dad from a magical eyeball machine, so it’s kind of a moot point. The explosive end of Evrai probably made more of an obvious impact on the world than defeating Deathevan, but it’s not like anyone was going to visit that freshly smoking crater anyway. Package delivery was probably screwed up for a week, but then all of Habaruku’s mail started forwarding to Gate, and business returned to normal.

This guy might be evilAnd if you’re curious how anyone ever even gets to Evrai, there’s Bando Church, which supposedly takes the most dedicated believers to their grand home. The only issue? Bando Church is actually led by a skeleton demon that zombifies his followers, and then sends them out into the wild to be slain by adventurers hoping to gain a few zenny for herbs. Naturally, Ryu takes care of this issue through unrelenting dragon blizzards, and the one place on the planet that was offering direct flights to Evrai is also left abandoned. So, just to be clear, long before he discovered the secret truth of Deathevan, Ryu really did a number on church infrastructure.

But let’s stop focusing on the malevolent Church of St. Evan. The whole point is that they A. are evil as hell, and B. they’re infiltrating otherwise “good” towns and growing their followers. Ryu was inevitably going to wipe their bases off the face of the Earth (or… uh… “Earth”), so let’s look at some population centers Ryu didn’t completely obliterate.

I don't buy itWe may as well start at the beginning, so HomeTown is first up. This is the adopted hometown of Ryu and Bow (oh, I just got that), and it’s a surprisingly affluent area for a pair of street urchins. The only two rich guys on the planet live here, and HomeTown is also home to the only school, magic or otherwise, anyone will ever see in Breath of Fire 2. There’s a church, too, but it is by no means the center of the city. It’s slightly left of the center. But HomeTown’s biggest problem is the same as Gotham’s: the local Joker Gang is menacing random townsfolk, and it winds up being Ryu’s responsibility to stop their attempted kidnapping. He does so through some light genocide, and HomeTown returns to a peaceful life, give or take one of the two rich dudes turning out to be a greed demon. But it’s not like the townsfolk care about such a thing. The wealthy always have strange hobbies.

The director of HRThough if we’re talking about strange hobbies, we may as well hit Coursair. Coursair is home to a coliseum (and, depending on your transliteration, the whole place is just plain called “Coliseum”), and it’s a town that lives for bloodshed. Violent battles are held here as often as the plot demands, and gigantic lumberjacks can roughhouse with catgirls to their heart’s content. And it’s all a secret front for that evil church to get people to pray. Or… something? Look, there isn’t a clear connection between “church that publicly is all about peace and love” and “thunderdome”, but somehow it all works out for Deathevan and Augus, the local two-headed wolf monster. Ryu defeats Augus, but it’s not like anyone knew there was deception afoot. The coliseum isn’t even closed for renovations after Augus’ defeat, so Coursair is going to be business as usual before and after Ryu’s adventure. At least Katt has a job to fall back on.

Dammit, momBut Coursair is where Ryu finds his horse-friend, Rand. And Rand’s hometown is FarmTown. FarmTown is interesting, as it is one of the few places that does not worship the Dragon God (good!) or St. Eva (bad!), but St. Namanda, an earth god. Daisy, Rand’s mother, appears to be the mayor (or… something?) of this town of horse folk (not centaurs. Never centaurs), and there is much concern about messengers from St. Eva attempting to get a foothold in FarmTown. Do they succeed? Well, they successfully forge Daisy’s signature (and kidnap the poor woman just for funsies), but that winds up being the inciting incident for Rand and Ryu invading Evrai and blowing the whole organization sky high. Dangerous blunder! In the end, Daisy winds up dead anyway, and it’s unclear why that wasn’t just everybody’s first move. I’m not saying murder is always the answer in real estate dealings, but when you’re running a death cult, it sure does seem like a viable option. Regardless, thanks to a shakeup-by-swordpoint in St. Eva management, FarmTown’s church never gets built, and the residents probably just went ahead and anointed Rand as Daisy’s successor, anyway. Back to plowing the fields, Shell Clan, the rest of the world needs you to drop turnip prices.

Thanks, RayAnd speaking of places where the church has meddled (and everyone got over it), Capitan seems to be home to one of the few actually successful St. Eva operations. This tiny village has a well full of monsters (mostly of the face-hugging variety, which never ends well), and Ryu assists Ray Bradoc, a priest of St. Eva, in saving the town. And that’s pretty great! Ray has magical powers that are generally divine in nature (even if they originate from a slightly different god), and his helpfulness and heroism is clear for all the townsfolk to see. He’s a good guy! St. Eva must be full of good guys! And if he wasn’t literally the only good guy to ever be associated with St. Eva, he might trick our good guys, too. Unfortunately, Capitan doesn’t seem to have any particularly exciting plans for Capitan: they’ve already got a church, and there are, like, nine people living in town, so building another church just seems gauche. Maybe there was some blank that was to be filled in later on this plan before the “profit” step, but it sure seems like all we’ve got here is a well full of dead monsters. One way or another, that’s not going to put a crimp in the average villager’s day. Well… until they die of the magical equivalent of lead poisoning, at least.

Nothing going on hereAnd speaking of terrible plans, it seems like the bad church has a number of bizarre irons in the fire. Is the traveling circus sowing discord by showing children turtles? Is Whale Cape’s titular whale frozen in rock so the local children can keep selling disgusting cakes? Does Guntz, home to the Iron Ogre Clan, not have anything to do with anything, so why even bother? St. Eva has one clear goal: gain more followers. How is trapping a grass man in a cage or threatening some dolphins going to help achieve that? Who knows, but it does mean there are a number of places on the planet that don’t even know they were ever being menaced, left alone that Ryu saved them from an evil god.

CroakBut maybe we’re not thinking big enough! We need to look at the real players in this world! We need to look at the kingdoms! Like SimaFort, a castle full of frog people living in the middle of a moat. What resources do they have? They’ve got a lot of cockroaches, worms, and flies! Is their national army powerful? No, they’re mostly just fun-loving, artistically oriented amphibians who would rather host a cooking contest. Is there absolutely anything of value in SimaFort? Well, there’s supposed to be a magically powerful sword in the basement, but, like SimaFort’s own Prince Jean, it’s very likely to make you croak. Regardless of having absolutely no strategic merit, Kuwadora attempts to infiltrate and conquer SimaFort through guile and trickery on behalf of St. Eva. Ryu defeats the fake prince via swords/vomit, and life in SimaFort continues on as normal, complete with Prince Jean wandering off again. At least the local battle princess feels better about the situation.

MONKEY FIGHT!And speaking of princesses, distant Highfort is being menaced by another usurper, Shupkay. This demon is taking a much more direct route, and has earned her position of leadership through leading the Highlander Tribe (monkeys, not immortals) as a general in many wars that you think you would see some evidence of somewhere else in the world. Maybe this is why the whole continent is a wasteland? Regardless, Shupkay threatens to take over Highfort through word and deed, and attempts to gain control of Highfort’s lost technology (I’m sensing a pattern here). This time, Shupkay is thwarted by party member Sten, who fakes his own death along the way because he missed two mortgage payments while he was out adventuring. It was the only way. Oh, and there isn’t a church or clergy to be found within Highfort, so no monkey is going to miss that meddling god.

Toot tootYou know what? Screw these Johnny come lately kingdoms, let’s look at the big boys that have been around since Breath of Fire 1. Now here are some locations where a Ryu made a difference! Like Tunlan! Back in Breath of Fire 1, Tunlan’s matriarch fell in love with the evil emperor, and the party had to commit a daring robbery to save a kingdom from the poor decisions of its own ruler. Surely, BoF2 offers a scenario that is just as thrilling and… Oh. Uh… apparently Deathevan made the queen fat. And I guess there’s a multipart quest that involves finding a weird old man, mushroom medicine, and eventually shrinking down and fighting Fatties hiding within the queen’s bloodstream. Huh. Apparently cellulite is the proper punishment for not giving the evil church enough advertising in your kingdom. “Cursed to be fat” sure is a moral everyone loves to see…

Fly awayBut Windia! There’s an old standby! And the Princess of Windia isn’t weighing down your sidequests, she’s an active member of the party! And there’s this whole, ancient prophecy about a princess being born with black wings, and how that will destroy the kingdom! And the king has been poisoned by the church, and he only gets better during the finale, after sealing Deathevan! So chalk this one up to a win for the party! Everyone in Windia is going to notice that the king is better!

Except… the party kind of turned the other princess of Windia into an unintelligent, giant bird in the quest to stop Deathevan. And, thanks to that prophecy, Nina was hidden from the public from a young age. So all the population knows is that their former future ruler is mysteriously missing and presumed bird-brained. And it’s not like anything was done to avert or satisfy that prophecy about Nina destroying the kingdom, so she can’t very well pop up in the public eye now. “I’m your princess! Don’t mind the death wings!” It’s not gonna fly. So, the king might be feeling better, but Windia has got bigger fish to fry when Nina flies home on her massive, avian sister.

And… that’s everybody, right? The whole of the world, and, at best, some towns maybe notice that the local church isn’t getting as much mail as it used to. God is dead, Ryu killed him, and life goes on. Maybe that’s the real moral of Breath of Fire 2: your chosen deity might be good or evil, but what really matters is what people do in their lives. Ryu changes the world not through slaying a mysterious spirit hiding at the center of the planet, but by changing the lives of people globally for the better. God can live or die, but as long as people keep making the world better, there will be good in the world. We don’t need change any more dramatic than that.

Oh, except in Gate, where Ryu smashed an entire flying town into another town in an effort to seal Deathevan forever. Those people probably noticed something had changed.

FGC #489 Breath of Fire 2

  • Tony the tiger!System: Super Nintendo, then Gameboy Advance, and now available on the Nintendo Switch. There was probably a Wii version somewhere in there, too.
  • Number of players: Ryu and his six or seven companions can only be controlled by one player.
  • Favorite Character: When I was first playing this game on the cusp of adolescence, I preferred Katt, as she was a woman that notably did not ever wear pants. However, as an adult, I prefer Rand, the big, reliable horse-man who can roll around the world map without random encounters. Any person or thing that can stop random encounters in this game is a godsend.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This was one of my absolute favorite JRPGs as a kid, but it is rough to play as an adult. The encounters happen roughly every three seconds, and it’s nearly impossible to get a sense of “place” in some of the larger dungeons as a result. The final dungeon is a nightmare, and I’m not certain I’ve ever determined the exact dimensions of the closing area as a result. That said, BoF2 oozes personality, and, somehow, you know everything you ever need to know about characters like Bow or Spar from like three dialogue boxes. In an alternate universe where BoF2 was a runaway success, people are still taking online quizzes telling them “which BoF2 character are you”.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I want to say I got this game for Christmas at the same time my dad received the Queen’s Greatest Hits 2-CD set. As a result, while I can dimly recall any BoF2 musical track, what really plays in my head when seeing any screen from this game is likely Bohemian Rhapsody or Fat Bottomed Girls. I have no complaints about this issue.
  • Flowers for this jerkFeeling Bleu: Bleu/Deis, an immortal sorceress that recurs over the Breath of Fire franchise, is a hidden character available for your party. This is the only BoF where she appears but can be completely missed, and I’m still considering how I feel about that. On one hand, it is really easy to miss her “secret town” and then the additional unlock condition of scooting over to an area you’re unlikely to revisit again. On the other hand, it’s the kind of “secret” that, once you know the trick, you will literally never forget what to do (which is something that cannot, for instance, be said of the “true ending” conditions for Persona 4). So… I guess it works? Still, I would like to see more active Bleuing in any given Breath of Fire.
  • Favorite Shaman Combination: Jean the frog can upgrade from slimy little loser to handsome frog prince of destruction thanks to the combination of the Holy and Water shamans. He’s… still not all that useful, but he can randomly kill literally everybody in a strike if he feels like it. Not bad, toady, not bad.
  • The Sad Tale of Patty: Ryu’s sister is lost at the top of the game, and apparently grows into the “bat-winged” thief that the party spends like half the game tracking. There’s a really interesting parallel story there… and BoF2 never follows up on any of it in any way. This is the biggest reason I’d like to see a “Breath of Fire 2 Remake”, because, dammit, I want to know more about what happened to Yui. She could have been the destined child, too, guys!
  • I know him!Further Sad Tales: This is the only videogame I’m aware of where you can unknowingly, accidentally kill your own father. That’s usually slightly more telegraphed.
  • Did you know? Eichichi is the technologically savvy ogre woman that is essential to getting your flying town off the ground. Unfortunately, like another Capcom heroine, her whole name is a breasts-pun, and her original dialogue involves questioning her about her “dimensions”. And her full name (available during the credits) is “A Titi Efcup”. Capcom horny, Michael.
  • Would I play again: Definitely, but with cheats. Game Genie has a “turn off random encounters” code, and I want to say that would make the game about 90% more enjoyable. And I still have to try that “real” translation patch…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dig Dug for the Atari 2600! I was just saying I wanted to try Dig Dug again, and here we are. Thanks, ROB! Please look forward to it!

Big problems
2020 state of the USA in a nutshell…

MKK: Guest Kharacters (Part 2)

The Mortal Kombat universe may have crossed over with the DC Universe a couple of times, but once it had a taste for crossovers, it had its own share of guest kombatants. Technically, the first guest character to appear in a “real” Mortal Kombat title was Kratos, the Greek/Sony God of War, in Mortal Kombat 9.

One god down

For anyone unfamiliar with this seething ball of rage, Kratos basically has the same backstory as Scorpion. He just wanted to be a family man that incidentally murdered boatloads of people, but, in a horrible twist of fate, one night, it was Kratos’s own family that was murdered. And, bonus problem, Kratos technically killed his own family! Gasp! Granted, it was on the orders of Ares, God of War, so Kratos decided to avenge himself upon Ares… and then, incidentally, kill every other living creature, god, man, or goat, in Greece. According to MK kanon, somewhere in there, during the events of Nu Mortal Kombat 3/9 (we’ll get to that next week), Shao Kahn summoned “the most bitchin’ fighter of all time”, and Kratos popped through a crossover hole. In the microcontinuity of Kratos winning the tournament, he murders Shao Kahn for this summoning, and becomes bros with noted gods Raiden and Fujin. He returns home, confused at himself for not murdering a pair of gods when they were right there. What has he become!?

Note that this is the first crossover character that doesn’t originate from another dimension, and is just nebulously part of the universe (in this case, “the past”). That’s going to continue with the majority of MK guests.

Oh, and before we move on, let’s note that Kratos came with a few “restrictions” compliments of Sony. For instance, Kratos is never allowed to be afraid in fatalities. This means he often faces his own death… like some kind of annoyed, impatient idiot. Okay, I guess that is kind of par for the course for the dude…

Interestingly, unlike every other fighting game franchise out there, Kratos is currently the only MK guest to originate from a videogame. This is likely because a whole host of other MK guests hail from movies, specifically horror movies. And that all started with Mortal Kombat 9 and its final DLC fighter, Freddy Krueger.

Look out!

Frederick Charles Krueger is the dream monster you know and love from his many films. In this universe, he’s apparently an immortal denizen of the Dream Realm (never mentioned before in MK, but does make a return in Tremor’s backstory in MKX), and Shao Kahn accidentally draws out Freddy during the invasion of MK3/9. This has the side-effect of making Freddy mortal and severely depowered, so he’s forced to forge a second knife hand thingy. To be clear, he has two matching claws because he needs the extra power to defeat Shao Kahn and return to the Dream Realm, and not because it would be a bear to animate a fighter with asymmetrical hands (and they didn’t even try with Hellboy). Unfortunately, Freddy doesn’t make much of an impact on MK9, as he’s almost entirely silent, and a Freddy that isn’t cracking marvelous one-liners every five seconds is no Freddy at all.

Other unfortunate news: Freddy was DLC for MK9. He stayed in MK9, and it wasn’t until Mortal Kombat X that we got Jason Voorhees. No Freddy vs. Jason for you! (Well, this is possible in the mobile version of MKX, but that’s little more than a card game…)

Run!

Jason is still the homicidal mama’s boy of Crystal Lake, and his “signature move” seems to be being completely unkillable. Jason officially exists in the Mortal Kombat universe, and is explained as a sort of “zombie man” that has been killed time and time again, but keeps busting out of Netherrealm to punish teenagers with the improper use of sleeping bags. His official story is that the current ruler of Netherrealm, Liu Kang, decided having an unstoppable killing machine in his army would be a good thing for morale, but, bad news, Jason can’t be caged. Liu Kang is bisected for his hubris, and Jason wanders off to see if anyone needs a new goalie.

Look out!

And rounding out the horror heroes of the MK universe, Leatherface also swung on in for Mortal Kombat X. Jedidiah Sawyer puts the “chainsaw” in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and he also puts a chainsaw in anyone that remotely gets in his way in the MK Universe. Leatherface is a mute cannibal that… well, I don’t think I need to explain exactly what he does with that chainsaw (or the hammer, come to think of it). This Leatherface is distinctly from the pre-reboot continuity (yes, there are multiple Leatherface continuities), and his purpose in Mortal Kombat is to find the tastiest “meat” available for his hungry family. So everybody please watch your various appendages around that guy. Leatherface seems fixated on Cassie Cage (Sonya and Johnny’s daughter), but otherwise doesn’t much care for the overall plot of the franchise. Just as well. I wouldn’t want to be the one to have to sit down and explain the complex relationship between Kitana and Kung Lao to that guy.

Nice dreds

Now we’re getting into borderline horror, but definite sci-fi. The Predator is next up. The Predator (or… uh… “this” predator) enters the fray of Mortal Kombat X for the blisteringly obvious reason of just plain killing everybody. There is prey here, he is the predator, it’s time to kick ass and take pelts. He doesn’t have any particular rivals (even if Jax is looking strangely familiar), and he doesn’t have any distinct goal beyond destruction. He’s going to fit right in with the rest of these dorks. His ending sees him mastering “sorcery”, so now he’s a magical Predator. Great. You can’t win this, Dillon.

(And side note, the Predator’s general… everything obviously inspired the design of Cyrax/Sektor in Mortal Kombat 3. While Predator can fight Triborg, it’s kind of a shame he’s forever separated from the OG cyborg hunting machines of the franchise.)

Chompy

But he might need that magic, because the last Mortal Kombat X guest is Alien. The official word on this monster is that xenomorphs showed up on Outworld ages ago (of course they would go for Outworld, that realm is like 70% acid lake), laid some eggs, and then knocked off to the pub for a cig (and to maybe catch up with Kenshi). These eggs were discovered around the time of MKX by some tarkatans, and a few face huggers later, we’ve got an Alien running around with all the powers of Baraka. And that’s how Baraka kinda-sorta got on the MKX roster! But Alien’s other moves shine through in its other fighting styles, so, don’t worry, it isn’t just limited to knifes for hands and poor dental care. It doesn’t have a particular goal for participating, but if Alien wins Mortal Kombat, it’s going to drag every last fighter back to its nest, and we’re probably going to have to deal with at least one Xenomorph with a flaming skeleton head. Can you kill such a thing with fire? Let’s not find out.

Thumbs Up

But if something needs killing, Mortal Kombat 11 did give us The Terminator. This is the first guest in a while that distinctly originates from another dimension, as this T-800 is from a separate “future” timeline. Sektor never could get his cybernetic rebellion off the ground, but Skynet managed to conquer the whole of the world on an Earth that is not wholly karate-based, and it’s from this timeline that The Terminator that is distinctly from Terminator: Dark Fate hails. I’m not going to spoil the opening of Dark Fate, but, suffice to say, this Terminator is really good at his job. Anywho, this Terminator got waylaid on his way back in time, wound up in Mortal Kombat 1990s, aged to the present day of MK11 (robot flesh is still flesh, I’m told), acquired a conscious somewhere along the way, and, in his microcontinuity, defeated the big boss of MK11 in an effort to regain control of time and space. But, thanks to that pesky conscious, he realized that being a robot with omnipotent knowledge and power was maybe a terrible idea, so he drowned himself in a bottomless sea of blood. Literally, to be clear. The Blood Sea. That’s a place in the Mortal Kombat universe. It’s not great for vacations. But before his self-imposed suicide, he hit Kabal with his motorcycle (Kabal deigned to reference Jingle all the Way, he knew the consequences), so it wasn’t a total loss.

(Side note #2: Kano’s cybernetic eye was originally based on the look/coolness of The Terminator. Terminator does get to square off with Kano in MK11, and justice is wrought for this slight against androids.)

Great Al

And, finally, Spawn brings us full circle, back to the world of comic book heroes. For those unfamiliar with the Spawn mythos, Spawn was originally Keith David, mild-mannered actor known worldwide for his involvement with the unfairly maligned and often forgotten Disney hit, The Princess and the Frog. Unfortunately, Keith David was murdered during a secret mission in Botswana for the USSG’s Operation Knightstrike (dude is a very dedicated method actor). Thanks to the unforgivable sin of playing the absolute worst villain on The Flash television series, Keith David was damned to Hell, but made a deal with a being named Malebolgia to become the one and only Hellspawn. Or maybe there’s a lot of them? There was at least the medieval one… Whatever. What’s important is that Spawn (he dropped the “hell” part so he wouldn’t scare the kiddies) travels to the Mortal Kombat universe thanks to some kind of Hell-exchange program. Apparently, MK’s “The Netherrealm” is just one of eight or nine multi-dimensional rings of Hell, and skipping across them is perfectly fine. Miraculously, Spawn actually makes friends with Scorpion and Sub-Zero in the MK universe (I thought for sure he would start a rivalry with that other hellspawn vengeance demon with a penchant for chains), presumably because they’re all (mostly) revived former demons (or however the cosmology works here) at this point in their respective timelines. Together, they battle the forces of Hell(s), and things end poorly for the various Time Goddesses and Violators running around.

Remember kiddies, even when you’re triumphing over your enemies, if you team up with Mortal Kombat, you’re probably going straight to Hell.

Next time: Mortal Kombat 9 Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Reboot

MKK: Shinnok

You ever think back on old 80’s cartoons where there was some unstoppable evil force (think Cobra Commander, Megatron, Skeletor, or Ronald Reagan), but they got routinely trounced every week, so why were you afraid of them, again? Like Gargamel was a malevolent antagonist that was attempting genocide for monetary gain, but he was also routinely thwarted by a pack of brownies with names like “Happy Smurf”. Why was he at all threatening? He failed every single time! There was no stopping stopping him! He would always fail!

And here’s a villain cut from the same cloth.

BABY HANDS

Shinnok was an Elder God. The dedicated theology of Mortal Kombat is ever mutable and confusing on a good day, but we do have a general god hierarchy. There are gods of individual realms, and they seem to be based on elements and such. And then there are Elder Gods, who are gods that got promoted to the City Council of the Gods. However, what Elder Gods actually do is nebulous and unclear. We think they’re supposed to protect the realms? Probably? Well, whatever the case, Shinnok was a proud member of the God Squad, but then got demoted back in prehistory when he attempted to take the whole of Earthrealm (that’s our realm!) for himself. Raiden, (regular) god of Earth, led his own squad o’ gods against Shinnok, and eventually saved the day through a massive attack that unfortunately leveled nearly all life on Earth. In your primitive, human science, you refer to this event as the start of the Ice Age.

So, yes, it is Mortal Kombat kanon that a war between Shinnok and Raiden is what killed the dinosaurs. That’s f%#&ing metal.

Shinnok was punished for his transgression by being damned from the heavens to forever dwell in the Netherrealm, aka the Hell of the Mortal Kombat universe. Now, you might be thinking at this point that this whole mythology is kind of clever, and is arguably a retelling of the popular Christian interpretation of Lucifer/Satan, the fallen angel, waging war in Heaven and then being damned to Hell for his hubris. And that would be cool if not for the fact that “Lucifer” is already ruling in Hell. Yes, it is kanon that Shinnok was damned to Hell and then punished and tormented by the ruler of the Netherrealm, Lucifer. So, apparently, this kind of “fallen divine being” thing routinely happens in the Mortal Kombat universe.

BABY HANDS

Lucifer tortured Shinnok for a few thousand years, but eventually Shinnok made a pact with a demon-wizard, Quan Chi. Quan Chi would aid Shinnok in overthrowing Lucifer, but, in exchange, Shinnok would have to go out for ice cream with Quan Chi at least once every two weeks. Shinnok, ever the scheming god, managed to negotiate this down to once a month, but only because he convinced the vain Quan Chi that too many treats would make him “kinda paunchy”, which is not a good look for a bald guy. And so the two demon bros overthrew Lucifer, and Shinnok became the uncontested god of the underworld (and Quan Chi got Lucifer’s stash of black lipstick).

But Shinnok still wanted to rule Earthrealm, so he hatched a plan to eventually reclaim what he saw as his birthright. Back when Shinnok was still living it up as an Elder God, he transferred the bulk of his power to a magical amulet. Why did he do this? Why did he willingly concede his own power to a trinket that could be removed or stolen? Well, obviously, if we knew the answer to that, then we’d be as smart as Elder Gods, right? And do I see you ruling any mystical realms filled with multi-armed weirdos? No! So shut-up and just deal with the fact that there’s a magical amulet out there possessing all of Shinnok’s powers, and he managed to drop it on his way down to Hell. And Raiden nabbed this amulet, and, as one does, sealed its power in four elemental dungeons guarded by four elemental bosses. And, worst of all, Raiden didn’t tell Shinnok where any of those elemental temples were! Is the fire one in a volcano? But which one? Earth has so many! This left good ol’ Quan Chi to align himself with Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung, and set up a little tit-for-tat for the information Shang Tsung had gained from devouring a million or so souls over the years. Quan Chi discovered the location of the amulet, Shao Kahn gained the ability to revive his dead wife at the time and dimension of his choosing, and everybody was happy. Quan Chi eventually used this information to hire Sub-Zero, reclaim the amulet, and nearly free Shinnok from Hell… but Shinnok decided to chill and wait for a little bit when Sub-Zero fought back. Soon, my pet, soon we’ll have all the failure we can carry in our wee, skeletal baby hands…

BABY HANDS

Shinnok’s big day finally came after Mortal Kombat 3. Shao Kahn’s attempted merging of the realms was just enough to weaken everyone’s defenses, and Shinnok started his invasion with… Edenia, for some reason. In what must have been the first infernal invasion based on a Benny Hill sketch, Shinnok and his buddies disguised themselves as helpless refugees, snuck into Kitana’s home realm, and took over the place inside of an hour. Edenians are really good at being conquered. Then Shinnok turned his divine eyes on Earthrealm, and kicked off Mortal Kombat 4 with a fighting tournament (as this is how things are done). Unfortunately, things went south for Shinnok almost immediately. For one thing, Shinnok was only “empowered” during this time because of Quan Chi, who had stolen the real super amulet, and was kind of making a point of standing next to Shinnok at all times, letting the old god soak up ambient amulet rays, and hoping he wouldn’t notice the ruse. This plan fell apart when Scorpion dragged Quan Chi right back to Hell (which, come to think of it, wouldn’t it have been easier for Scorpion to get his revenge while everyone was already in Hell?), and Shinnok was left fairly defenseless against the combined might of the Earthrealm warriors. As ever, Liu Kang delivered the final jump kick to that dollar-store Shang Tsung, and Shinnok was sent right back down to where the goblins go.
BABY HANDS

Absolutely no one begged for the return of Shinnok, so he spent some quality time with his remaining infernal minions until Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Shinnok was one of the many supporting villains in that tale, and he spent a little time allying himself with the protagonist of that adventure’s (literal) evil twin. But, in the end, Shao Kahn won that battle anyway, so Shinnok was left dead on the ground… which kind of shouldn’t be possible, but I’ll allow it, because it means there is one less Shinnok in the universe.

Take 2 on this story. When the Mortal Kombat kontinuity rebooted, it rebooted at the restore point of Mortal Kombat 1, so all of Shinnok’s complicated mythology remained firmly in place. However, this universe featured a Quan Chi that, thanks to a coin flip that went a different way, got two scoops of Scorpion Flamin’ Hot Crunch, and not Stryker’s Sundae Best. As a result, Quan Chi was in a much better mood in time for Mortal Kombat 4, and decided to give Shinnok the real amulet for this go round. Well, either that, or since Quan Chi had gained an entire army of superpowered undead karate wizards, he decided he didn’t need the stupid amulet anyway. Whatever the case, Shinnok kicked off nu-MK4 completely flush with power, and forsook his whole “Edenian refugees plan” for just flying in on an army of winged demons. Less evil masterminding, more shock and awe. But! Bad news for ol’ Shinnok again, just when the big bad was going to conquer the planet, Johnny Cage stepped up to the plate and magic-kicked Shinnok into next week. And next week is precisely when Raiden figured he could seal Shinnok within his own stupid amulet. So rebooted MK4 is over before it begins thanks to Raiden having not ever once played a JRPG featuring an ancient, evil god sealed into mystical jewelry (which, come to think of it, is every JRPG).

BABY HANDS

So the proper story of Mortal Kombat 10 is that, about twenty years after MK4*, most of the planet seems to be in a mad scramble to either release or permanently seal Shinnok from/to his amulet. As must inevitably happen in such a narrative, Shinnok escapes his bonds again, and… is immediately defeated by a teenage girl. Before Shinnok is Kim Possible’d into defeat, though, he does manage to obtain some kind of “devil form” by welding that amulet onto his tummy. Makes for a dude that at least looks like a decent final boss (finally!). But then Raiden chops off the former Elder God’s head. Shinnok is thus theoretically alive for the rest of eternity, but left as little more than a sputtering skull.

Shinnok isn’t technically consciously involved in Mortal Kombat 11 (some of his old zombie pals use his head as a mystical set of AAs), but his mom does show up, who turns out to be the Goddess/Titan of Time. And it’s revealed that Shinnok’s sister is also the Goddess of Good & Life, recontextualizing Shinnok as distinctly her opposite number, the God of Evil & Death. This really makes you wonder how Shinnok got a seat in the pantheon before his fall… but I guess it’s all about who you know, even when you’re a god of repeated failures.

NO MORE BABY HANDS

Next time: Some more gods and demons.