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FGC #600 Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes: Part 4

They shall take me for a rideMarvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is an amazing, once in a lifetime game that brings together over 50 characters from wildly disparate worlds and franchises. So, in an effort to pay tribute to one of the games I believe to be the greatest of all time, please enjoy day four of a five-day, 100% complete, generally alphabetical look at every fighter in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Today, we’re going to go down the rabbit hole with…

Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock

This is for Ms. Marvel…. Look, even I have limits.

We’re on day four here, and we’re at something like 15,700 words all about this nonsense, and… Gah, Psylocke. I really want every entry in this #600 to get to some “core” of a featured character. I mean, look at the crazy depth of the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 roster! It has at least one character that was five decades old when he appeared in the game, and he could fight a sentient, newborn cactus. That’s huge! That’s bigger than Mario! And the fact that it is unlikely we will see such a game again without excessive marketing department input or a bunch of weirdos meme-voting Deadpool’s companion unicorn into the proceedings is significant. We are never going to have Marvel vs. Capcom 2 again, as it was a perfect time capsule of an epoch before videogames and comics were the exclusive domain of commercial monopolies. Say what you will about the presence of Marrow or Ruby Heart, but there is no way we are seeing one of them take up a valuable “slot” again when Thanos’s latest rival is available.

But Psylocke? Even though Betsy Braddock has been kicking around comics since 1976, the “core” of this character is… It is impenetrable. You get any deeper than the surface level of Psylocke, and things get muddled at best, and downright racist at worst. I don’t want to write about how Marvel Comics had an incredibly ridiculous Asian fetish back in [insert any year since 1976], and damn near everything about that comes off as racist as hell if you examine it for more than three seconds! I just want to write about wacky mutants fighting equally wacky computer game dudes.

But, I suppose I have to see this project through to its end, so, with that in mind…

Psylocke was born Elizabeth Braddock, the mutant younger sister of Captain Britain, Sir James Braddock. She had several adventures with the X-Men as a telepathic, purple-haired supermodel with a tendency to attack her opponents via butterfly motif. In 1989, things got weird when Betsy was… urgh… okay… so originally “Psylocke” was given “new eyes” by Mojo (we will get to Spiral tomorrow), and… like… that made her Asian? But then that was misinterpreted by the next writer, so it was established that she was not just given some kind of eye surgery, but had her brain scooped out and implanted into an Asian woman that was incidentally a badass ninja assassin. And this explained why previously fairly chill Betsy suddenly could do backflips around the universe while wielding a katana that was a projection of the focused totality of her psychic powers. And, in time, there had to be an explanation on who the woman Psylocke was before she was Psylocke, so Kwannon was retconned, and now there was the eternal story hook of Psylocke being returned to a revived form of her old body, or Kwannon coming back for revenge, or… Gah!

It’s too much! In an effort to “correct” the uncomfortably racist plot of “someone made Betsy generically Asian”, an entirely new, marginally less racist story had to be created. And it is the story of a wealthy white woman stealing and tangentially killing an Asian woman. And Marvel’s staff has literally stated that it was meant to be temporary, but everybody liked Jim Lee drawing an Asian lady in a swimsuit. And damned if “Kwannon’s body” wasn’t plastered over every comic book cover, trading card, and even videogame from the 90’s until the end of time. Psylocke is even unnaturally “jiggly” in her Capcom appearances! This was a sold few years before Dead or Alive! And you don’t see Wolverine employing real-time sprite physics! All to feature a “stolen” body!

Argh! I just want to fight with the pretty ninja lady! But you jerks made it all terrible!

If you’re curious, in the current comics status quo, Betsy is back to being original Betsy, and Kwannon has reclaimed her original body (more or less) that is totally not being randomly killed by Mr. Sinister on an irregular basis. This seems like an effort to make the character(s) less problematic, but the fact that it took about forty years to get there is… a little disheartening.

And don’t get me started on all the times the writers “threatened” to bring back OG Betsy like it was the worst thing that could happen…

Anna Marie aka Rogue

Feel the MojoChrist on a cracker, Rogue is next after Psylocke? Dammit! I do not want to examine that “Southern Belle” dynamic here. Yes, she is flirty as hell but equally chaste because her power kills potential suitors. Can we look at something else? Something more fun?

Oh! Let’s play with names…

FGC #600 Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes: Part 3

You know this is legitMarvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is an amazing, once in a lifetime game that brings together over 50 characters from wildly disparate worlds and franchises. So, in an effort to pay tribute to one of the games I believe to be the greatest of all time, please enjoy day three of a five-day, 100% complete, generally alphabetical look at every fighter in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Let’s suit up, and look to…

Anthony “Iron Man” Stark

An older crossoverThe basic, most driving force for Marvel comics creations in the Stan Lee era was that everybody had “real world” problems to complement their fantastic superpowers. Sometimes these problems were mundane (Mr. Fantastic had some less-than-fantastic family dynamics to deal with, Spider-Man with great responsibility yada yada yada), and sometimes they were more metaphorical (Hulk was a rage monster, Thing’s literally rocky exterior did not match his big heart). Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man, started with a pretty basic problem: if he wasn’t Iron Man, he would die. Thanks to some errant shrapnel from around when the first Iron Man suit was created, businessman Tony Stark had to wear an Iron Man chest plate at all times to keep his heart beating. This served the dual purpose of guaranteeing Tony Stark was always “stuck” being Iron Man, and also granted the “battle” weakness of setting a battery-based timer on all of Iron Man’s supervillain fights. Iron Man is invincible! Except when he has to duck out for a recharge! Sorry, Mandarin, this millionaire has to wrap this up and hit a gas station.

And this “weakness” has existed in various forms throughout the years. At one post-shrapnel point, Iron Man had “extremis” on his side, and he was powered by nanite-based armor and abilities that put his powers firmly in the futuristic category. But he once again had to rely on tech (this time repulsor-based) to keep the whole thing working and not murdering the poor billionaire. Similarly, Tony Stark’s big demon in the bottle, alcoholism, has been a consistent weakness that is a real-world problem that works not unlike his batteries of old. Instead of a stressful battle requiring a battery charge, now he has to charge his mental batteries by calling a sponsor. But by this point in continuity, the likes of extremis has fallen by the wayside, and Iron Mans Anonymous can only fuel so many stories before “nobody wants to watch a dude be sad all the time” sets in. So, now, what is left as Iron Man’s current weakness?

Well, he’s kind of a dick.

This appears to be the one constant in Iron Man’s characterization over the last twenty years. Iron Man is a brilliant futurist, and, implicitly as a direct result of that, he’s a jackass. Iron Man is invincible once again, but, more often than not, he is going to get into trouble thanks to some combination of hubris and vaguely self-serving intentions. Yes, Iron Man is going to save the world. Unfortunately, after doing so, he may have also brought back some interplanetary technology that he is going to study/watch destroy the world in a whole new way. Tony Stark has outright created about half of his rogue’s gallery, and when he was brainwashed (more or less, long story, involves Nazi Onslaught) into being an evil tech billionaire that sold people microtransactions to live, it was kind of hard to tell if this was a result of the whole brainwashing thing, or just his latest bright idea. Couple this with his current origin merging with his movie-based story of being a superpowered version of Lockheed Martin, and we come up with a Tony Stark that might be a hero, but is definitely not going to be invited to anyone’s birthday party.

Iron Man: you may enjoy his unibeam, but don’t make the mistake of talking to the trillionaire. He’s probably going to try to sell you on Starkcoin, and then tank the stock just in time to get a new paintjob on his armor. Do not engage this dick.

Jill Valentine

Hiya!The Resident Evil franchise started with a basic story about a handful of mundane cops investigating a mysterious mansion. This is an extremely well-trodden premise, and, give or take the threats being supernatural or superscientific, this is literally just the same concept as a haunted house. Or a generic horror movie! And Resident Evil, at its core, plays out like a horror story. There are characters that are not going to get out alive, a betrayer, and a pair of protagonists that will survive not only through brute force, but also the ingenuity of employing unusual skills (like lock picking, jewel sorting, or sandwich aversion). Jill Valentine was one of those survivors, and her second starring role, Resident Evil 3, ultimately cast her in the familiar “final girl” role as she made her exit stage left while pursued by a bear(-sized zombie).

And then the Resident Evil franchise got weird…

FGC #299 Kendo Rage

Has this ever happened to you? You buy a videogame that has a radical, totally Western box like so…

But then get it home, pop it in your home videogame entertainment system, and are shocked to discover something that looks like this…

Yes, it happens to the best of us. Sudden Anime Disorder can come from any piece of media, and should you not know the symptoms of SAD, before long you’ll be running to school with a piece of toast in your mouth. And you graduated two decades ago! Such is the overwhelming impact of SAD.

Now I know you’re already as concerned as can possibly be, and are likely asking “how can I identify when a videogame might afflict me with SAD?” Well, Goggle Bob says read on, and I’ll show you!

FGC #012 Otomedius Excellent

To everything, turn turn turnOur culture has a problem with death. Obviously, it is a fundamental aspect of being alive to fear death. You may even say it is something of an evolutionary imperative, as every single one of your ancestors lived at least long enough to survive some aspect of puberty, which, if my experience is correct, can last as long as thirty years. Nothing would get done if everyone was dying all the time, which is also why no one ever visits the Fire Planes of Kratok, or the Dread Island of Dr. Lasereverything.

But beyond a personal fear of death, we, as a society, seem to fear the death of others equally. It’s only natural to mourn the passing of a beloved grandparent, or even weep at the thought of losing someone close, no matter what the circumstances. There’s a kind of hope in living, some irrationality that makes us believe that even though Missy the Cat is missing three limbs, 1.5 eyes, her tail, and is starting to smell a bit unusual, maybe she’s going to pull through, and we’ll have our adorable little fluff ball back. It’s absurd from a rational perspective, but dealing with death can almost never be coherent, and witness any “death with dignity” debate to see just how heated convictions can become on this topic. We see death as a threat, and rarely as a mercy.

So it’s only natural that we apply this same brand of thinking to imaginary entities. Done right, death in media can be poignant and lasting, even in a medium like movies where, technically, every single character is effectively erased from existence within an hour and a half, but who can forget the death of REDACTED in REDACTED? On the other side of the coin, there’s “comic book death”, wherein a character that has lasted for six decades is dead now, totally completely dead (otherwise the issue wouldn’t have an entirely black cover with just the logo [and price tag]), and, make no mistake, this character is gone forever, please care, and we totally swear he’s not going to be back in eight months in a thrilling, six part trade. It’s, again, irrational, but it seems to work, as comic book companies report major sales every time they kill Spider-Man or Batman or whoever is hopping into the threshing machine this week. It’s death, so it matters.

Pixels the size of golf ballsAnd then there’s the most slippery of all deaths: the death of an idea. It has been said time and time again, by revolutionaries and rulers, that you cannot kill an idea. No matter what, as long as someone thinks it, as long as some ancient grimoire survives, an idea will live on. But ideas in the modern era have become IPs, and people, particularly gamers, are attached to these “ideas”. Ask any Mega Man fan, and you will likely hear a lament regarding the death of the Blue Bomber. If this happens to you, literally slap them in the face, and remind them that in approximately a year’s time, we’ve seen Mega Man the character join one of the most popular franchises of all time, the game series itself wrapped into a brand new, affordable six game set for the newest generation of consoles, and games like Shovel Knight and Mighty No. 9 carrying on the spirit of the little metal boy’s gameplay. But, boo hoo, we haven’t seen Mega Man 11 or Mega Man X9 or Mega Man ZYX Battle Force 4: Purple Flaming Skull of Wily. Ideas, and even IPs, are undead, like Castlevania’s own Dracula, all just biding their time until it’s decided they’ll turn a profit again. Mark my words, if Little Mac can reenter the ring, then we’ll see Master Higgins waddling across the islands again.

But “death” is still scary for us, and if “the public” doesn’t deal well with death, then what of our corporate overlords? Surely they can’t just sit idly by and watch the likes of Gradius or Castlevania fade into memory, supporting only pachinko machines and waiting for some VP twenty years down the line asking “Oh, whatever happened to…” Even if franchises like Parodius don’t sell, there must be a way to transform those precious ideas into earnings, right?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Otomedius Excelllent, the greatest evidence for the concept of IP death with dignity I can find.

Right off the bat, the gameplay here is Gradius. Straight-up Gradius: collect powerups, grab your speed-up, missles, laser (screw you, double), options, and force field, battle in space against weird lines of balls and then on a “planet” of some kind, reach the boss, destroy the core, live, die, repeat. There is practically nothing, from a level to level perspective, that differentiates this game from Gradius. And, to be absolutely clear, this is not a franchise published by some newcomer lawyer dodger that is just aping the original: this is Konami, the originators of Gradius. Konami made a Gradius game, and didn’t call it Gradius. Why?

Look away!Because Vic Vipers don’t go to Heaven.

It’s a known fact that there’s a lucrative “pervert” market in Japan. I mean, let’s not mince words here, there’s a place for porn in every society, it’s not like there isn’t a dildo factory or two hanging around the USA, we just have different kinks. The Land of the Free will keep pumping out games with Greek Murder Gods going for hot coffee with random wenches, and Japan is going to keep producing games for the otaku that eat up underdressed school girls having whacky adventures and often finding themselves comparing bust sizes in hot springs. … Man, come to think of it, I thought my own kinks were oddly specific, but what got an entire subculture hung up on the same stupid beach episodes over and over again?

However it happened, it happened, and it doesn’t seem to be going away, as indicated by that copy of Omega Quintet I purchased last month while I was drunk, I swear, you can’t prove anything. Er-hem. So Konami had the bright idea to solder the teen girl squad dynamic onto Gradius, and, poof, here’s Otomedius Excelllent, it’s like that game you used to play, but bubblegum colored and every time you beat the game, you unlock more and more embarrassing photos of the pilots in various states of undress. It’s the best of no worlds!

Nothing about this is okayKonami couldn’t stop at Gradius, though, the rest of the cast and some locations feature significant references to Parodius, Castlevania, and even Ganbare Goemon (Mystical Ninja, for those of you… no, never mind, if you remember Mystical Ninja at all, you know its Japanese name. Why did I think otherwise?). That’s right, folks, the last anyone saw of a 2-D Belmont was in a magical girl Gradius game. Got your Battle of 1999 right here, guys!

It’s a strange thing, too, as one of my most cherished franchises is Super Smash Bros., which takes a similar “kitchen sink” approach to disparate franchises and characters, but creates an air of reverence and admiration for its cast, as opposed to what we see here, where the order of the day seems to be to transform icons into teenage girls and stick ‘em in bloomers. Make no mistake, no one is reviving Goemon here because there’s a genuine love for the parent franchise, it’s because, hey, you know what IP we have laying around? Goemon! Let’s design some DLC based on that! And Ebisumaru dies a little more inside. Or farts. He probably farts.

So why do I even own this game that clearly sickens me? Because it is Gradius. As I’ve mentioned, it plays like Gradius, I enjoy Gradius, so I’m going to keep playing it. Sad confession? This is probably one of my most played Xbox 360 games, and exclusively because (we’ve covered this) I like Gradius. It’s fun, it’s “pick up and play”, and I can complete an entire game session inside of an hour or so. When I just want to “play a video game” but still want to avoid getting involved in some forty hour plot or going online and getting my ass whopped by some frame-memorizing savant, I just fire up Gradius… I mean… Otomedius Excelllent, and bust up a few big cores.

Tanuki!According the Wikipedia, the most recent Gradius game released is a 2011 slot machine. Predominantly, the world of shooters now is the likes of Geometry Wars and twin stick shooters, which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy, but they’re not Gradius. I could just go back to Gradius V, but Otomedius Excelllent does PLAY well, the only issue is it just embarrasses every fiber of my being. I don’t believe Gradius is dead, it’s just enjoying a respite beneath a hill in Avalon, waiting to awaken one day when we are most in need. But in the meanwhile, perhaps we can just let the king rest, build a few more empires in his absence, and let Vic Viper’s return be a celebrated event.

But can we avoid digging up a corpse and sticking a skirt on it. Please?

FGC #12 Otomedius Excelllent

  • System: Xbox 360, which seems wrong, but there it is.
  • Number of Players: 3, though I’ve never been able to admit to another living soul that I own this game. Incidentally, this blog will self destruct in three minutes.
  • Love ya, Konami LadyBest Pilot: Erul Tron, pilot of Lord British. Everytime I remind myself that I can recall this information at will, it feels like there are spiders crawling all over me.
  • But Tell Us How You Really Feel: Honestly, the idea of a “little” Gradius craft is kind of a fun concept. There’s a level that involves racing along a highway, and you’re no bigger than cars; later, there’s a boss that is an “original” Big Core Gradius boss that now completely dwarfs your avatar. It’s really clever for a game that couldn’t be more otaku bait if it included a Vocaloid.
  • Don’t You Own All the US released Vocaloid Games? I like rhythm games. Shut-up.
  • Did You Know? The “Special Edition” is, as of this writing, still available for less than a Jackson on Amazon.com. The Special Edition includes the game, a soundtrack, an art book, a two sided pillow case, and, for absolutely no additional charge, the sound of me silently judging you from afar. It resonates with disappointment.
  • Would I play again? Yeah… (Goggle Bob looks at the floor, forlorn) Yeah…

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s the original, Genesis version, for the record. I don’t understand, though, why isn’t Big the Cat in this game? Oh well. Please look forward to it!