Tag Archives: resident evil

FGC #518 Cannon Spike

Let's spike it!Let’s pour one out for the concept of videogame characters as actors.

Today’s title is Cannon Spike, what could best be described as one of Capcom’s final arcade experiments. The same company that revolutionized the arcades by establishing at least two genres (crediting beat ‘em ups to Final Fight and fighting games to Street Fighter 2) while pumping out more than a few general hits for two decades basically attempted to create a twin-stick shoot ‘em up for the arcade and Dreamcast. Such a genre would become very popular around when the Xbox 360 started warring against Geometry a few years later, but in 2000, Cannon Spike was showcasing a fairly unexplored genre. And it was character based! No space ships for this shooter, it’s all about actual humans (give or take) zooming around and shooting on… roller blades. Okay, one kid has a skateboard. Look, this was clearly designed in the late 90’s. Don’t have a cow, man.

But this makes perfect sense for Capcom, as its bread and butter was earned through bright, colorful, memorable characters, rollerblades or no. Final Fight was a dumb beat ‘em up, but Haggar-mania led to more than a few dudes walking the streets sporting that glorious “one-suspender strap, no shirt” style. Mega Man’s host of robot masters guaranteed everyone had a favorite robot (I’m fond of Snake Man), and Ghouls ‘n Ghosts had some monsters that became so popular, they got their own games. Even Capcom’s JRPG division gave us the wonderful world of furries that is the Breath of Fire franchise. And Street Fighter 2? After the wholly forgettable duds of Street Fighter 1 (sorry, Birdie, but you know it’s true), the cast of SF2 was nothing but solid gold that got us to a point where “generic sumo guy” has more renown than the car manufacturer that also bears his moniker. And by 2000, we had seen Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter 3. Say what you will about SF3, but no one is ever going to forget battling a final boss that can rock a banana hammock so hard. Face it, in the era of Cannon Spike’s release, Capcom was the absolute best at creating remarkable characters, and every other gaming company should have just gone home to be a family man. Why would Capcom generate a generic shoot ‘em up ship when it could build the game around characters as extraordinary as those Street Fighters?

Or, here’s a thought, let’s just go ahead and use those Street Fighters wholesale. Is Cammy doing anything else this week?

Go Arthur!The cast of Cannon Spike is very familiar. They might be wearing slightly different outfits, but Cammy of Super Street Fighter 2 and Charlie of Street Fighter Alpha are immediately recognizable. Arthur of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts returns, too, but he’s encased in a vaguely familiar suit of golden armor. Shiba comes compliments of Three Wonders (look it up!), and Simone is technically original, but clearly has origins in a shared, licensed title. And, just for giggles, the two secret characters are B.B. Hood (of the Darkstalkers franchise) and Mega Man (of the Dr. Wily and his Rambunctious Robo Pals franchise). Give or take how much you believe in the omnipresent threat of xenomorphs, the cast of Cannon Spike is entirely recycled from other Capcom titles, complete with expies of Vega and Felicia on the villain’s roster. If you were a fan of Capcom and saw Cannon Spike’s player select screen, you were looking square at a screen full of familiar faces.

But… isn’t Charlie supposed to be dead? Aren’t Mega Man and B.B. Hood from another time and/or dimension? Arthur shouldn’t be palling around with robots! He’s from some silly medieval time that hasn’t even properly worked out pants-based technology! Is Cammy fighting Vega because of a Shadaloo-based sleight? And where does that leave Chun-Li? What’s going on here?!

And the answer is a resounding “it doesn’t matter”.

Blast itCannon Spike is not “canon” with the Street Fighter universe. Cannon Spike is not canon with any universe, Capcom or otherwise. Mega Man and The Hood feel like cameos, but Charlie, Cammy, and Vega are very much their own characters that just happen to resemble other videogame stars. You can count on these heroes and villains to behave similarly to their other-universe doppelgangers, but they’re their own men and women, with their own motivations and lives. Charlie never died fighting some evil organization, because this is his first evil organization. Cammy was never brainwashed (or grown?) by Bison, because there is no Bison. And Arthur never fought a legion of demons, because this is a world generally devoid of ghosts and/or goblins. You know these characters. You might love these characters. But these are not the characters you are used to seeing.

And that can be pretty great sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love continuity as much as the next nerd. But sometimes it’s nice to throw off the shackles of continuous stories, and just have fun with the basic archetypes involved. Arthur and Mega Man are always going to fight for justice for the sake of righteousness. Charlie is always going to be a hero that is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Cammy is always going to like cats (it’s part of her ending!). But consider that the Street Fighter story has technically been going strong since 1987, and has definitely been rigid since Street Fighter 2 in 1991. Include “sister series” Final Fight in that equation, and you have 30 years and hundreds of characters that have to be accounted for every time you tell a Street Fighter story. So wouldn’t it be nice to just have a game where Charlie doesn’t have to worry about being an undead abomination, and he’s allowed to zoom around on rollerblades? So can we have more games where Samus Aran doesn’t have to constantly reference her daddy issues, or where 2-B can run around without bearing the weight of the world? Can’t these characters from famous franchises just be like “actors”, and, like when you see Tom Hanks light up the cinema screen, you can just smile at the appearance of good ol’ Charlie once again?

In the HoodApparently the answer is no, as even “simple” characters like Mario are stuck with decades’ worth of continuity. Link has to consult a complicated timeline involving multiple dimensions before he can even get out of bed, and Mega Man is overwhelmingly tied to a chronology that sees the literal end of all humanity. Yes, while you’re having fun steering Mega Man through Coffee Man’s latest maze of zany traps and colorful robots, remember that this all ends with global catastrophe and thousands of years of mavericks warring against elves. It seems our heroes are stuck with histories that are often older than the people playing their games, and we’re not allowed a simple, Bugs Bunny-esque “he’s an opera singer now, just roll with it” reprieve. Even when we see such a thing, it’s generally because a director has gone soft on characters that were created for a dud, like when the cast of Snatcher kept migrating over to the Metal Gear universe. For reasons that have never been adequately explained, videogames are stuck with continuity like a bad case of crabs, and Mario doesn’t seem to be getting around to clearing out this sewer.

But at least we have Cannon Spike. At least we have one Capcom game where the heroes don’t have to explain themselves, and we can all just have fun runnin’ n’ gunnin’ on some anonymous secret base. At least this Charlie gets to have a life that doesn’t end before Street Fighter 2 even begins, and an Arthur that isn’t shackled to a literal hell world.

It just goes to show: to enjoy a company’s canon, sometimes you have to spike it.

FGC #518 Cannon Spike

  • System: Sega Dreamcast and Arcade. Modern gamers are going to have just the easiest time playing this one!
  • Number of players: Two! And it’s cooperative! It’s pretty great!
  • Let's rockPort-o-Call: Cannon Spike has the unfortunate issue of being a quarter-killer arcade title that limits credits on the home version. I completely understand the concept behind adding challenge through limitation here, but maybe we could have an infinite credits cheat for those of us that don’t want to play the first level over and over again? Actually, I think the first level is randomized… but still!
  • What’s in a name? Charlie is definitely named Charlie, not Nash like he is in Japanese territories. But the flamboyant murderer with a claw hand is named Balrog, ala his Japanese moniker, not Vega, his more familiar, American designation. So it appears there was some localization here, but not an awful lot.
  • Additional Names: One boss is a trio of mech opponents. They seem to be named according to their robot colors: Rick Blue, Bob Green, and Ken Brown. I don’t know about Rick, but Bob and Ken wind up with incredibly mundane names, which seems a little unusual for gigantic fighting robots.
  • Favorite Character: I like every character except Shiba, who refused to be an actual dog. That said, if I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Mega Man. Don’t look at me like that! I have a type!
  • Other Crossovers: There aren’t any members of STARS, but there is a haunted mansion with zombie dogs, giant bio-monsters, and at least one peculiarly rotting guerilla. This is all an obvious allusion to Resident Evil, but the setting and the bullets flying fast and furious also evokes Sega’s House of the Dead franchise. Maybe this was an homage to another company that was having issues with the fall of the arcades?
  • I have to get to that game sometimeAn End: Cannon Spike not only has individual endings for every character, but it also has unique endings for every 2-player pairing of characters. An obvious advantage of this situation is that Charlie dies in his own, solo ending, but survives every other ending where he has a buddy around. An unfortunate side effect of this, though, is that every ending with Mega Man almost exclusively focuses on the Blue Bomber… which kind of gives the impression that Rock jets off on Rush while his partner is left to explode. It… does not portray our favorite robot in a favorable light.
  • Did you know? Cammy gets a Cannon Spike costume in Street Fighter 5, and it impacts her win quotes against Charlie and Vega. Unfortunately, Vega doesn’t get the same courtesy, which is a shame, as his Cannon Spike look of “emaciated, murderous zombie” is pretty distinctive… assuming you don’t just think he looks like Mumkhar.
  • Would I play again: Oh yeah, I kinda forgot to talk about the gameplay. It’s fun! It’s a lot of skating and shooting and could be pretty entertaining for an hour or so on a modern system. I’d play Cannon Spike again in a heartbeat… assuming there was an easy way to do that.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Smash TV! Wow! It’s twin stick shooting before twin stick shooting week! Or something! And there will be fabulous prizes! Please look forward to it!

Manson

FGC #491 Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

Dante!What’s so wrong with taking a hit?

Today’s title is Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, featuring the titular Dante. The creation of the original Devil May Cry is a long and complicated story that involves what was originally intended to be Resident Evil 4 gradually evolving and leaving the world of “realistic survival horror” and drifting straight into “a dude with a sword menaces skeletons”. Play Devil May Cry next to Resident Evil 2 or RE: Code Veronica and you might see some similarities between the gameplay of the titles, but there is a bit of a difference between the two plots and situations. Resident Evil is the story of fragile humans desperately trying to survive in a situation where science has gone mad and turned an entire mansion and/or city into a death trap, while Devil May Cry features a one-man army beating back the legions of (literally) Hell. Basically, this means that Chris Redfield has to fight for his life when encountering a herd of zombies, while Dante would have that Raccoon City incident wrapped up inside of a level or two.

And, according to production documents regarding what would eventually become Devil May Cry, “Dante” was always going to be a big damn superhero. The original idea for Resident Evil 4 was to make an action game that was “very cool”. The hero was going to be “Tony”, a man enhanced with biotechnology to the point that he was super smart and super cool and all the ladies thought he was the bomb diggity and the coffee barista always got his name right because he was so dreamy. Also, notably, Tony was supposed to be “invincible”. Obviously, invincible doesn’t play well with a game having any sort of difficulty, so this description of Tony’s abilities was likely just an exaggeration of his general durability compared to the average Jill Sandwich. Or maybe it was always the intention that Tony-to-be-Dante could take a significant amount of damage, as, by the time Devil May Cry 3 was starting, we had a hero that could do this…

Ouch

That’s Dante attempting to eat a pizza, but unfortunately being interrupted by the forces of Hell driving a few scythes into his abdomen. Dante is unfazed. He’s still walking. And he’s still going to kick every last living sin’s ass. And who cares if there’s a blade or two stuck in his leg? He’s half demon, dammit, he knows how to take a hit and still be cool. As long as nobody steps on his pizza, this is barely an inconvenience for our “invincible” protagonist.

And then the game actually starts, and Dante dies in about six hits.

Let's playIn the grand scheme of things, Dante is a pretty resilient guy. Over the course of Devil May Cry 3, Dante has the misfortunate of being hit by demonic blades, a charging, flaming stallion, and even the occasional rocket launcher (wait, are you hit by a rocket launcher, or just the rocket? I never thought I would have to know the answer to this question…). He can survive damage from all these traditionally lethal items presumably thanks to his resilient birthright… but he can’t survive much. I know I would be dead after one cutting combo from a succubus, so I really shouldn’t be judging, but Dante can really only endure three or so intense attacks with his default life gauge (and, even with upgrades, he ain’t exactly Superman). It’s reverse Final Fantasy-syndrome! He’s invincible through cutscenes, but during the actual action, Dante must die.

And how fragile is Dante? Well, he’s so delicate that Capcom saw fit to release an entire “Special Edition” of DMC3 that “corrected” how quickly Dante dies.

Well, actually, Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition doesn’t do anything for Dante’s vulnerability. He’s still not actually going to survive that many scythes to the gut. But, when he does die, Dante gets better thanks to much more frequent checkpoints. And that’s important! Even if you’ve mastered the general mook patterns by chapter 3, you’ve still got another fifteen or so bosses that cap nearly every level with unique patterns and attacks. And how are you supposed to know how Vergil Version Two is going to kick your ass when you’re encountering that opponent for the first time? Either you’re memorizing a strategy guide/FAQ, or Dante’s gentle ass is going to get beat, and you’ll have to repeat the entire level. And what’s the fun in that? Echoing challenges you already beat because the final confrontation is complicated and unexpected? Boss fights are supposed to be interesting! And challenging! But not immediately identifying a boss’s weakness should not be an excuse to send you back to the start, particularly when Dante can go down after a mere handful of misses. DMC3: SE corrected this abhorrent mistake found in the original edition, and you only had to buy an entirely new edition of the game to enjoy such a thing. Ah, the heady days before DLC.

That could have hurtBut whether you’re playing the special edition or not, DMC3 is constantly judging you for taking any damage. Literally! Like many games of the era, DMC3 evaluates your performance at all times. You’re expected to juggle multiple enemies and gain bonus points for SSStylish!!! combos, and obviously you’re supposed to grab every last pickup you can find, but a significant part of your rank is based on damage taken and number of items used (and the main reason you’d use an item would be to recover health, so they may as well be the same thing). So even if you survive every last onslaught and never see a dead Dante, the game will go out of its way to criticize your performance for not being completely immaculate. And your combo counter resets after an opponent’s tap, too. Want that S-Rank? Well, then Dante must dodge every assault from the bottom of the tower to the top. Good luck!

And it’s easy to see how this kind of thinking led to its logical endpoint: Bayonetta. Bayonetta was not conceived as an invincible bioweapon of a human, she actually is immaculate. Her entire personality is based on the concept that no man, woman, or angel touches her unless she wants to be touched, and her gameplay follows suit. She can’t so much as open a door without dodging lightning, so it makes perfect sense that you would be judged for not properly “being” Bayonetta and taking a hit or two while controlling the bullet witch. She personifies the S rank that players are trying to achieve, and it’s practically written into her DNA (or at least her playstyle in Smash Bros).

But Dante isn’t Bayonetta. Dante is a meathead that can’t figure out what to name his business until some lady says the corniest line in history. Dante is a dumbass that saves the whole of humanity almost entirely because his brother dared to steal some jewelry. Dante goes to the Gates of Hell, and he didn’t even think to pack a shirt! This is not a guy that thinks too hard about dodging attacks that are beneath him. This is a Big McLargehuge that can soak a few bullets, knows it, and changes nothing about his lifestyle save confirming his aftershave doesn’t distinctly remind him of gunfire. Or maybe he markedly goes for that smoky scent? Regardless! Dante is a man who knows that he can take a hit or two, but his gameplay punishes you for daring to live Dante’s life like Dante. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff! Like a knife in his back! If it’s a small knife!

OuchAnd, ultimately, what would be the harm in playing a game where you are Superman? This isn’t to say you should be invulnerable at all times in all games, but what would be the issue with offering a “Dante must have a fun time” mode to compliment the seven different variations on hard mode offered in your average action game? And this isn’t a proposal for your basic “easy mode”, this is a distinct mode where you’re ranked on how many stitches Dante is going to need at the end of a stage, and rewarded for it. Do you know how many tears you put in that snazzy red coat? Cool! Now you’re living life like an unkillable half-a-demon! Sssmokin’ (bullet holes)!

So what’s so bad about taking a hit? Nothing. Nothing at all, particularly when you’re playing as a hero that spends half the game getting slashed in the face (okay, maybe not the face, that’s his moneymaker). Not every protagonist needs to be Bayonetta. Let a few heroes take their lumps, and let the player be empowered by steering an “invincible” lead.

Or, barring that, at least let Dante walk around with a scythe in his knee. It adds character.

FGC #491 Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

  • System: I may have purchased this game entirely too many times. Just within my own collection, I can count two versions for the Playstation 2, one collection on the Playstation 3 (but also on Xbox 360), and now the Switch version. At least I didn’t pick it up on the PC!
  • GrossNumber of players: Two in very specific areas! Like, there’s that one boss fight, or that fighting style that is earned about 75% of the way through the game. And now the Switch version allows for two players in its endless challenge mode.
  • Favorite Weapon: I’m normally a swords guy (or at least a guy that enjoys some Beowulf punching and kicking), but I’m partial to the Spiral rifle for this adventure. It packs a punch, and I have literally no idea where Dante is storing that gigantic gun when it’s not in use. His coat might be long, but it’s not a anti-tank rifle long.
  • Favorite Level: The Belly of Leviathan is about the only time that Dante gets to get out of that musty old tower until the absolute finale, so that’s going to be my pick. I love that Temen-ni-gru has this wonderful sense of place that resonates with later areas when it gets wrecked or starts rotating around like some kind of Castle Dracula, but… it gets old. Give me Dante and the whale any day.
  • How about that retconning: Vergil being made into a legitimate character and not just a sentient pile of spooky armor was the best thing that ever happened to this franchise. And the fact that Verg is a complete dick, but a different kind of dick from Dante, is just a nice bonus.
  • Boss Rush: I normally enjoy a good boss rush, and I certainly enjoy a boss rush that allows you to choose which bosses to challenge all over again (and avoiding that damn Nevan battle is icing on the cake), but, that said, I have no idea why the doppelganger battle reappears immediately after headlining a stage. It wasn’t that difficult of a battle in the first place! Why is there an abrupt repeat? It’s reeks of filler.
  • I wanna rockA Sign of the Times: It’s kind of interesting to look at this game as an obvious middle point between Resident Evil and Bayonetta. There are a number of clear “Resident Evil camera angles” here and there across the tower, and some of the weirder gate/key puzzles seem like they would be much more at home in Raccoon City. But there is also an inordinate amount of emphasis placed on combat style, and some cinema scenes that were just itching to become QTEs appropriate to the Bayonetta universe. It might not be the same creators distinctly involved across the franchises, but it seems like playing Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 3, and Bayonetta in order would give a good idea of game evolution across systems.
  • Did you know? Hideki Kamiya, the original director of Devil May Cry and the man who also directed Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and Bayonetta, did not direct Devil May Cry 3. But he did advise on Dante’s general personality and origins before scooting over to PlatinumGames. So, just so we’re clear, Dante was always intended to be a meathead. His daddy said so.
  • Would I play again: I always run out of steam by the time I unlock Vergil, and always intend to come back to his complete mode… but it hasn’t happened yet. I just keep buying new versions of Devil May Cry 3! So I guess I’ll play it again from scratch when we get the Playstation 5…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Crossover time! For the next three weeks (or six entries, whatever comes first), we’re going to look at games in the “crossover” genre. Our first game? It’ll be the granddaddy of all crossovers. Please look forward to it!

Woof

FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (Live!)

Let's get ready to go!Well, this went just about as well as expected.

In honor of FGC Entry #300, I decided to do a “live pick” with BEAT and FanboyMaster. In the end, the game wound up being Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, and… I’m not very good at it. Please enjoy watching Claire Redfield die a whole lot below.

Notes! With Time Annotations!

4:00 – Our first pick is… not allowed. It turns out that if you ask BEAT to choose a number between one and ten, he will choose twelve billion. Eventually, Adventure Island 3 is chosen… and then dropped due to not actually being emulator-ly available. I am not going to fight my NES for a half hour.

6:47 – The Sega Saturn Bootleg Sampler is mentioned. Despite the name, this was an official demo disc that came with new Sega Saturns. It had a playable demo for Sega Rally Championship, and a video preview of Daytona USA. Bless the short-lived reign of the racing game. Oh, and Etrian Mystery Dungeon is also picked… but man do I not want to stream that. There are no objections.

9:50 – Okay, now we’ve settled on our actual pick. Third time’s a charm! Now I just have to wander across the room to actually find the game.

14:05 – Now we’re actually playing a videogame! Sorta! I’m having difficulty even navigating the menus… and that’s a fine preview for the rest of the evening.

21:28 – FanboyMaster proves to be the Resident Evil guru around here, while BEAT learns for the first time that Claire on the game case is not the eponymous “Veronica”. Come on, BEAT, I’m terrible at this game, and I knew that.

27:13 – Let’s talk about Sonic the Hedgehog cameras while Claire is nibbled to death by the absolute earliest zombies available. What happened to the super agile Claire of the opening cinema?

Weeeeeee37:00 – FanboyMaster continues to provide excellent coaching, but I am just terrible at this game. I’ve said it before, but I cannot in good conscience complain about the overabundance of tutorials in modern games, because I do not miss nonsense like this. I’ll echo exactly what I said in the stream: I cannot tell you how many times I opened a menu or the map screen in an attempt to shoot a zombie, and, immersion or no, I’d kind of like to have an explanation of how to defend myself before I’m chewed to pieces by the walking dead. There, that’s my big takeaway from replaying a tanky Resident Evil about two decades after its release. Now we can go back to watching me die.

42:00 – There is a brief discussion regarding third party controllers. I looked it up afterwards, and, yes, the Super Advantage was a third party controller, but the original NES Advantage was first party. I’m glad I got that fact right while showcasing my embarrassing Resident Evil skills.

49:50 –

Albert Whiskers

58:00 – Please enjoy a brief discussion of Umbrella Co. bureaucracy while my brain breaks over the first puzzle in the game. I cannot imagine why I didn’t get into the Resident Evil series until 4…

1:06:00 – I am not a cool nerd: my greatest memory of StarCraft is getting a friend to eat dog food. And then we talk about projectile vomiting.

1:09:00 – FanboyMaster leaves for parts unknown, so BEAT ‘n Goggle Bob are doomed. Let’s talk about Let’s Play styles while Claire creeps closer to her inevitable death.

1:12:00 – FanboyMaster returns to discuss Phoenix Wright, Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil 4. These are all games I would rather be playing.

1:17:00 – I finally throw in the towel, as FanboyMaster reveals I’ve been trying to extinguish the wrong fire at the wrong truck. Let’s look at some VMU saves instead.

1:20:00 – Now for random excerpts of BEAT and I chatting over Sonic Adventure 2, a Dreamcast game that I actually know how to play.

REEMAIL1:30:00 – It all comes back to Kingdom Hearts as we close out the evening around 1 AM. Thanks to everyone that watched the stream live, and extra special thanks to FanboyMaster and BEAT for guesting. Obviously, a certain non-skeleton someone was slightly more useful on this stream, but a fun time was had by all. Here’s to another 300 FGCs! Note: there will not be another 300 FGCs.

FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica

  • System: Dreamcast tonight, but it eventually returned on Playstation 2, Gamecube, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. What? It’s not on any modern compilations?
  • Number of players: The Redfield siblings are available, but only one at a time.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Haven’t I talked about it enough!? The long short of it is that I am no good at tanky Resident Evil games, and absolutely never have been. This is another Goldeneye situation where my friends were all super enthused about this series, but I just couldn’t get into it until Resident Evil 4. As a result, what little skills I had in this franchise have atrophied over time, and, again, I’m not even sure I ever actually played this game in the first place. I remember watching friends play it, as I recall many of the plot points from the game, but the actually nitty gritty of where demon dogs lie is completely absent from my brain.
  • BURN!Aw, I wanted a real Resident Evil- Code: Veronica article, and not just Goggle Bob flailing about: Don’t worry, I’m sure ROB will choose one of the remakes eventually.
  • Favorite Button: Whichever one brings up the completely useless map, evidently.
  • I’m Consistent: Come to think of it, one of my first deaths in Bioshock was ducking into a bathroom stall that I thought was an exit, and, nope, dead-end. This seems to be a problem I have.
  • Did you know? If you’re as bad at this game as myself, you’ll be interested to know that there is a novelization of the game available. It’s fairly accurate to the source material, but (of course) does not include references to story bits added for the Playstation 2 version. Also, it adds one new shadowy badguy that is an original character, do not steal.
  • Would I play again? Now I almost feel like I have to… but I’m not going to. There are so many other things I could be doing, and most of them don’t involve steering hapless women into zombie outbreaks. Sorry!

What’s next? I’m taking the rest of the week off. There may be an article or two if I get bored, but the next official post will be on Monday 7/17, and it’ll be #301 Adventure Island 3. Please look forward to it!

FGC #144 Under the Skin

Hiya!We’re all victims of circumstance.

As I’ve randomly referenced before, I’m a professional computer geek, and I’m pretty successful in that field (by “successful” I mean “I can buy stupid video games without financial repercussions”, and that’s really all I want from life), but I know damn well that my apparent success is only the result of lucky happenstance. Yes, I studied computer science and now have years of experience in the field… but I don’t control the field. I’ve been a Windows user since eighth grade, and if Macintosh or Red Hat conquered the OS market back in those days, I might be a professional couch mover. And this is assuming “computing” as we now know it took off at all; a specialization in maintaining personal computers may have been just as useless as complete knowledge of Betamax if digital solitaire never made that splash.

And even within the field, we’ve seen dramatic shifts. A “Flash programmer” once earned $300 an hour… now you can’t give that crap away. Want to build a website? Sure, that’ll be $1500…. Or completely free and done within ten minutes on WordPress (proudly supporting Gogglebob.com for exactly a year today). And speaking of websites, who needs one of those when you’ve got a Facebook… but now we have to pay someone to update that. Yes, even within the relatively new and small “computer world” we’ve seen dramatic shifts on the micro (me, specifically) level. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a Highlander with a job at a printshop.

The videogame industry (arguably a subset of that computer industry) seems to be even weirder. Videogames are, at their core, the impossible combination of “latest technology” and “art”. No, I’m not trying to start another “are videogames art” debate, but videogames irrefutably get judged like art. The best games are the ones that make you feel something, whether that feeling be a deeper appreciation for your family, or a hate for all things furry and clad in t-shirts. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “best”… Memorable? Yes, the most memorable games are the ones that exploit completely subjective reasoning. I can’t tell you HEROICprecisely how many bits the game uses, or the exact controls, but I can tell you that MTV Remote Control for the NES is a lousy game, and it’s for reasons that have nothing to do with its technical prowess.

So, in order for a game to succeed, it must satisfy not only the hardware qualifications of the day (dig out some old magazines and read up on how Yoshi’s Island was originally reviewed. Spoilers: 2-D models are dead forever and never coming back), but also the capricious will of the gaming public. Look, I’m not just bitter because Bomberman somehow has gone away forever, I’ve seen entire franchises disappear because there was a real or perceived (adventure games?) shift in the public’s fickle desire to see certain genres. Where oh where have you gone, my Gradius?

But every once in a while, we see a game that was actually ahead of the curve. No, I’m not talking about games that practically started genres, like Doom or Super Mario Bros. And, no, I’m also not talking about games or franchises that revitalized previously generally ignored genres like Final Fantasy 7. No, what I’m talking about are games that got everything right… for a game that would be released five years later. I’m talking about games that landed like a used monkey diaper on the zookeeper of the public perception.

I’m talking about games like Under the Skin.

Under the Skin was clearly an experiment by Capcom (and if there’s any confusion as to why Capcom doesn’t experiment any more…). UTS stars Cosmi, an alien toddler that has been tasked with causing as much chaos on Earth (that’s our planet!) as possible. While simply showing up and announcing, “I’m an alien!” would likely be all you’d need to throw earthlings into anarchy, Cosmi is a little more subtle. Cosmi has the ability to disguise himself as any human, and then, once that human has been replicated, use special abilities that are specific to every person. Some of these abilities/items are mundane, simple pranks, like a set of tacks to spread along the sidewalk, or dramatically more interesting, This isn't a pranklike the capability to transform into the amazing Super Cosmi. Whatever the case, the general goal of this adventure is to hop from human to human, using as many tricks and traps to confuse and irritate the populace as much as possible.

Now the kicker is how this is all implemented into a “game”. While what I described could easily be a 2-D action game or a more modern 3-D action adventure, what we have here are a series of levels that are more akin to arenas than stages. And, in nearly every arena, your task is to, in some way, score more coins (points) from pranking than a rival second player, whether that 2P be an AI or another real life human. And, as you might expect, each arena has its own characters, traps, “panic time”, and goals.

In other words, this game is basically the prototype to the modern arena shooter. Just, ya know, without the shooting.

In pretty much every way, this game could have been much more successful just a generation later. Under the Skin feels like a vaguely incomplete product, like there should be a more dedicated “one player mode” or “story mode” or something, as opposed to what we have, which is an arena competitor with a perfunctory story soldered on. But I wouldn’t even be making that complaint if this were a $20 downloadable title. Speaking of internet features, it’s a pain in the ass to find someone to sit on the couch and play this game when Smash Bros Melee is right there, so how about some online multiplayer to get Cosmi going? And that couch co-op isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: complete with the “disguise” feature, this is a game that lives and breathes by whether or not you can see your Should he be wearing red?opponent’s location… and that’s not so hard when you just have to glance at the bottom screen. Online play? Not so much an issue. As a full-fledged PS2 title, Under the Skin fails, but as a PS3 or PS4 downloadable “let’s play around” title, UTS may have flourished.

Personally, I want to live in that world. Here is my secret shame (#3,528): I can’t aim for crap. Like, I generally like the idea of online arena shooters… but I’m terrible at them. As I write this, I’m eyeing Overwatch, a game with a great art style, interesting lore, and… oh yeah, I’m never going to win a round. That’s something of a deal breaker. But I enjoy the arena shooter concept! It’s pretty much the same reason I like fighting games: quick matches with unique characters in eclectic areas, and we’ve got a winner inside of a few minutes. Time for the next match. I like that setup, I’m just terrible at it, so I, at best, watch from afar. Until Splatoon, when (thank you, Nintendo) I could finally contribute by missing every damn thing and just spraying the floor to my content. I’m erratically hopping around with a paint roller, and I’m helping! Yay!

My nemesisThat’s why I feel bad for Under the Skin. This isn’t a great game, but it’s a Capcom game, those guys only know how to make sequels good anyway (Street Fighter 2, Mega Man 2, Resident Evil 2, Dragon’s Dogma: The Next Day). If Under the Skin had a chance to flourish on the next gen systems, it may have spawned a great sequel (Under the Skin 2: Electric Boogaloo) that could have been Splatoon before Splatoon. The world needs more innovative, different arena “shooters”, and UTS could have fit that bill. But Under the Skin was a touch too early, and it left us before the party really got going. Cosmi left well before Callie and Marie hit the stage.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong diaper. Guess we’ll never know what might have been…

FGC #144 Under the Skin

  • System: Playstation 2. Huh, I want to say even the original Xbox might have been a better fit…
  • Number of players: Two, and only two. Bigger arenas and four player online action? Would have been nice.
  • Capcomian: Probably the only reason people remember this game is that one of the locations is Raccoon City, and the goal of that arena is defeating Nemesis (in Resident Evil 3 mode) while assisting other members of STARS. More subtly, however, is how your life is measured: one hit leads to being stripped to your underwear, while a second leads to death. Sound familiar?
  • Favorite Arena: Alright, I’m a sucker for cameos, so Raccoon City takes the gold here. It’s not just because I’m a RE fan, though! Raccoon City is one of the few stages where you have to actually cooperate with your “opponent”, as opposed to just beating the poor AI into oblivion, so it makes for a more interesting, unique experience.
  • No touchingFavorite Prank: You can inexplicably summon a tornado, because… that’s a common prank? I guess? It seems to work well.
  • Wait, this is your one year anniversary article? Hey, I didn’t realize the date until the article was already going. Uh… I’ll put something cool together for #150. In the meanwhile, there will be celebratory cake in the comments section.
  • Did you know? There are a number of auxiliary characters in this game, and each seems to have their own reason for pranking the people of Earth. For instance, one of the aliens was lost and alone, but was taken in by a convent of nuns, and now wishes to win the global prank contest to secure the prize money and pay back the needy nuns. This character’s name is… Baron von Proptop. Huh.
  • Would I play again: I’d like to play the sequel that will never exist. In the meanwhile, we’ve got this half a game that doesn’t quite pass muster. And now I’ve got Splatoon…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bayonetta! It’s witch time, baby! Please look forward to it!