Tag Archives: predator

FGC #493 Alien vs. Predator

Predator is gonna winNow let’s talk about the other kind of crossover.

Back in 1994, the concept of Ridley Scott’s xenomorph Alien fighting the Predator that menaced Arnold Schwarzenegger was a pretty hot commodity. We were still a decade away from the first Alien vs. Predator film, and… That’s what everybody wanted, right? Alien was a popular trilogy (I’m not being glib! It was only a trilogy in ’94!), and everyone fondly remembered Predator’s time in the jungle. These were movies that defined sci-fi features for a decade, so it would make sense that only a movie could contain the sheer enormity of their first encounter. Unfortunately, that showdown was going to have to wait, and, in the meantime, we had to content ourselves with comic books inspired by easily missable cameos in Danny Glover vehicles. But the early to mid 90’s is when things started to kick into high gear, as there was supposed to be a movie that never wound up materializing, so we at least got a novelization and videogame or two. And, hey, videogames are always great!

… Except when they’re on the Atari Jaguar. So we’re going to go ahead and ignore that game.

But Alien vs. Predator the arcade cabinet by Capcom was pretty boss, so we’re going to look at that one.

Little hot in hereAlien vs. Predator is superficially exactly what you would expect of any given franchise adapted into a quarter muncher for ’94. We’ve got seven levels filled with monsters and mooks that all have to be punched until they flicker off the screen. There are crates and barrels that must be pummeled until pizza comes out, and a powerup or two along the way that enhances your ability to punish pursuers. Every level ends with a boss, and, by the end, of course those “bosses” have become common enemies with unreasonable health bars. And, like some of the latter beat ‘em ups of the era, there’s a complete story, with text that changes according to your chosen hero, so there’s a tiny bit of replay value beyond seeing how differently everyone performs their jumpkick. It’s a beat ‘em up. It could be The Simpsons or The X-Men or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it’s Alien vs. Predator, so here are a few aliens instead of foot soldiers. They explode less. Have a fun time.

And, no matter the era, this is the crux of the problem with many crossover games: they’re only popular characters soldered onto whatever genre is available.

Back in the 90’s, it was the beat ‘em up. Shortly thereafter, it was kart-based racing. Nowadays, it seems every franchise gets a tactics game. It’s not Alien versus Predator, it’s Tekken vs. Mega Man. It’s Pokémon vs. Nobunaga. Even titles like Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games take their all-star, unmistakably varied casts and boil them down to “this one is slightly faster than that other one”. Waluigi can outrun Sonic the Hedgehog! This is the greatest injustice in the history of videogame canon! What is unique about the individual characters involved must be boiled down to little more than a collection of relevant stats. Why? Because it would take far too long to flesh out complete “moves” for every participant, and then balance those skills against every other character in this crossover. So when huge, bulky Bowser and small, nimble Diddy Kong settle their differences with kart-racing, their differences barely register.

WeeeeAnd, unfortunately, this seems to be the standard for many crossover games. Fantastic characters from multiple franchises might be interacting for the first time, but they all “play” exactly the same. And that, objectively, sucks! Videogames are unique in that they can define characters through not only motivations or physical design, but also through movements and “skills”. Mario jumps. Mega Man shoots. Sonic runs. If you smoosh all these characters together, you can either find a way that jumping is effective against shooting and jumping, or you can simply give them all jetpacks and claim it’s a jetpacking contest of champions and call it a day (obviously, I believe the next big gaming trend to be jetpack racing). It flattens all the exceptional protagonists involved into an identical, unremarkable blob. Basically, many crossover games take a wonderful dinner of roast turkey, curried chicken, and garlic shrimp, slap all the dishes into a blender, and serve up a humdrum banquet of hotdog milkshakes. Even with perfect ingredients, a hotdog is still a basic meat tube!

So here’s Alien versus Predator, one of the earliest crossover titles in gaming. It may not be a crossover title between strictly videogame-based characters, but it is a crossover between two huge franchises. And, even if we want to ignore how badly everyone wanted to see aliens and predators fight back in the 90’s, you could even consider Alien versus Predator a crossover between three franchises: Alien, Predator, and the surprisingly well-defined “90’s Capcom Aesthetic”. The two humans starring in Alien versus Predator could have been Final Fight characters (and one arguably swiftly inspired both Resident Evil and Street Fighter characters), and, give or take a gun-for-an-arm, they’d be comfortable in any other beat ‘em up in the Capcom stable. So how do these “three” franchises interact? Well, the aliens are the persistent enemies of the game… but they’re indistinguishable from typical beat ‘em up opponents in all ways save their iconic visual design. The “facehugger” alien babies even operate exactly like TMNT’s mousers! And the differences between the “unevolved” Capcom humans and their advanced Predator compatriots? Barely worth mentioning. Yes, there are variances in speed or skill between the four playable characters, and every fighter gets a unique weapon, and there are a handful of “subtle” differences amongst the cast in things like firearm-usage… but they’re essentially interchangeable. The entire point of the original Predator film was that humans are at a slight disadvantage when combating an alien threat that happens to have advanced weaponry and the ability to Unpleasantbecome completely invisible, but you’d never know there was such a gulf in capability from playing Alien versus Predator. Apparently Lt. Linn Kurosawa has a greater “skill” stat than either playable predator. Does that mean she’s a thousand times more skilled than ol’ Dutch? And why couldn’t Ripley punch her way across a xenomorph invasion? Was it just because her stats were too low for anyone to hear her scream?

Is Aliens versus Predator a fun arcade game? Of course it is. It’s one of the best beat ‘em ups out there, and it’s a genuine shame that it was not available for home play for decades (well, legally, at least). But is it a good crossover game? No. It irons out everything unique about the franchises involved, and offers a smooth, indistinct product that is indistinguishable from any other beat ‘em up of the day. The gameplay of AvP is great, but it is gameplay that could be featuring Captain Commando as easily as Predator Hunter. In the end, the very diverse stars of these very diverse franchises only add up to “look at that thar alien”.

And an entire generation of gaming crossovers followed suit.

And when that happens, whoever wins, we lose.

FGC #493 Alien vs. Predator

  • System: Initially only arcade, but now available for the Capcom Home Arcade. You know that one, right? It’s that “mini console” that looks like a giant Capcom logo/arcade stick? I’m sure it actually exists. I think I saw it in England one time.
  • Number of players: Three simultaneous players. Why they didn’t just allow for free reign with a full set of the four selectable characters is beyond me.
  • BraaaaainsFavorite Character: Predator Warrior is the obvious best, despite the clear disadvantage of deciding to bring a pointy stick to an alien fight. Linn Kurosawa gets second place for being nimble as hell. Predator Hunter and Major Dutch don’t even rank.
  • But Dutch is supposed to be Arnold Schwarzenegger with a gun arm, right? Oh yes. Certainly. That is the eventual governor of California running around and pounding aliens. I wonder if Arnold ever gets residuals for all the videogame characters that aped him for a solid two decades…
  • The beauty of Aliens: Thanks to the attendant franchise, this is one of those rare beat ‘em ups where you don’t fight a single “generic guy” until around the fourth level. It’s all aliens until you kill the queen, and they return again later when it’s revealed that the big secret of the story is that humans are breeding their own aliens. Who would have suspected that humans were the real aliens all along? Or… something.
  • The ugly of Aliens: Unfortunately, the flip side of the alien army is that the majority of the bosses are just “alien with a new skill”. Spitting alien. Hard-shelled alien. Make space great again alien. When the inevitable boss rush occurs during the final level, you can barely tell the big boys from the lil’ dudes.
  • Bonus Time: There is exactly one stage where you’re granted unlimited ammo, and are asked to gun down every last alien from the back of a moving truck. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. And now I want an AvP shootin’ game (not on the Jaguar).
  • Conventions of the genre: A predator eating hot pizza off the floor never gets old.
  • Bonus!Did you know? Lt. Linn Kurosawa likely inspired Ibuki from Street Fighter 3, who debuted three years later. There’s a distinct similarity in hairstyling there, and there’s also the minor fact that Ibuki has a classmate named Sarai Kurosawa. There might be a connection!
  • Would I play again: Hopefully this arcade game makes its way to modern consoles, as it would be an ideal budget beat ‘em up for the Switch or PS4. I would spend five dollars to play through this again with friends. Maybe even ten!

What’s next? Crossovers continue with another game featuring humans and aliens playing well together. Please look forward to it!

WRONG FRANCHISE

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