Tag Archives: rhythm

FGC #637 Tekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees

TEKKENTekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees is disappointing for a few key reasons. First of all, the game sucks and playing it is the digital equivalent of having your ears fed to a particularly smelly lawnmower. But more importantly, the Tekken franchise has an amazingly huge cast of characters, and Nina Williams is about 70th from the top on rankings of exciting characters. She’s the woman! And she’s a spy! That’s it! Tekken has at least two Taekwondo-master street fighters, and neither of them would have to infiltrate a cruise ship to produce an engaging videogame.

So, with this in mind, we are going to look at all the potential Tekken spin-off titles that could have taken the place of Tekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees in 2005. Even as of the release of Tekken 5 (a year before Death by Degrees), Tekken had an extremely deep bench of fighters and potential genres.

Oh, and we’re going to ignore the Mishima family, too. They have had their time to shine, and we don’t need to see that family feud featured in Tekken spin-offs. Just consider anytime you play a game where “Tekken Force” exists to be their natural byproduct.

So with those rules set, maybe we could look at…

Tekken’s Bryan Fury in God of Rage

Friendly dudeWho are you: Bryan was introduced in Tekken 3 while the franchise was just growing out of its “rival roster” phase from Tekken 1 & 2. Replacing Bruce Irvin, Bryan was the obvious unrepentant criminal meant to contrast super cop Lei Wulong. But, right from the get go, the developers decided to emphasize that “unrepentant” aspect, and, as early as Tekken 3’s ending, he became an unstoppable vengeance zombie that would destroy everyone and every thing in his path. Pretty sure I saw the dude tear a tank in half… and wouldn’t that be a great concept for a game?

Elevator Pitch: It’s God of War, but with a regular dude. Fists are your main method of beating ‘em up, but you can grab anything from small firearms to tank turrets for additional carnage. If there is a single living thing left in the time zone after completing a level, you do not get A rank.

Other Cameos: We could throw Lei Wulong in there for a recognizable antagonist hero, but maybe make him stick to cutscenes. We can’t kill a big boy like him, and it goes against the spirit of a Bryan Fury game to leave any man standing. Depending on where we want to be in the timeline, either mad scientist Dr. Abel or good-mad scientist Dr. Bosconovitch can work in a support role. Or Bryan can be wrecking a robot army invented by either doctor if the producers want to be cowards. There are options!

Likelihood of success: High. You cannot go wrong with a HD game featuring a white dude on a rampage. And Bryan is as white as it gets!

Tekken’s Julia Chang in Aztec Tomb Raider

She's athleticWho are you: Julia was introduced in Tekken 3 as the “next generation” replacement for Michelle Chang. Both characters seemed to fill the slot of “one Native American per fighting game”, though they both separated themselves from the rest of the 90’s dudes by being dudettes with exactly zero thunder powers. Weird! The Changs were also unique for having an obvious intellectual inclination over their “spiritual” cousins. This all adds up to two important facts: Julia would be ideal for exploring centuries-old ruins across Mexico, and she would have the brains to solve ancient traps/puzzles contained therein.

Elevator Pitch: It’s Tomb Raider with historically-accurate tombs. Or… ruins? Is anyone actually buried at Chichén Itzá? No matter. Let Julia explore the place. If you want to put an emphasis on pummeling some thieving imperialists, you can also include Julia’s secret luchador identity as a powerup. Take ‘em down, Jaycee!

Other Cameos: Ogre was established as a Native American monster, so sealing and/or (accidentally) releasing him could be the entire point of the exercise. If nothing else, his True Ogre form would make for an interesting boss fight somewhere. Raven could also cameo as a “rival” tomb raider, as he is agile, adept, and willing to put in the work for some extra scratch.

Likelihood of success: Probably medium. Julia isn’t the same draw as a number of other Tekken characters, and “explore ruins, solve puzzles” as a genre just hasn’t been the same since someone went and invented escape rooms. Still, it is extremely videogame-y, so there is the possibility for a hit.

Tekken’s Tiger Jackson in Dancing All Night

Also Jimmy can come, tooWho are you: Tiger Jackson has never had much of a backstory in the Tekken universe proper. He usually shows up for cameos and “dream match” games, and he has existed as little more than a costume for years. That said, we do know one thing about Tiger Jackson: he loves to dance!

Elevator pitch: It’s a rhythm game with the fantastic Tekken soundtrack. The end. It worked for Persona, it will work for Tekken.

Other Cameos: Tiger Jackson’s body buddy, Eddy Gordo, is an obvious first choice for the second player. Similarly, Christie Monteiro has to be the lady of the party. Beyond that? Hell, just go ahead and include everybody. Who doesn’t want to see Wang Jinrei shake a leg to Eternal Paradise?

Likelihood of success: High with a very specific audience. The Tekken franchise isn’t known for its music, but I have never seen a fighting game fan disparage the various Tekken soundtracks. So an opportunity to interact with these banger ditties in a format that isn’t exclusively about punching people in the face? You know there is a huge percentage of the gaming population that would jump on a chance to go all Theatrhythm on this fighting franchise.

Tekken’s Kuma in Bear Rancher

Is bearWho are you: Okay, technically Kuma is involved in the Mishima “main story” of Tekken, but he does not have any Mishima blood, as he is a bear. And, more importantly, the “current” Kuma is not the original Kuma, but the son of the previous Kuma. What does this mean? It means Heihachi raised at least one bear from infancy to become an unstoppable fighting force. And if you do not want to play a game where you work on raising the stats of a bear until it can fight humans in a fighting tournament, then I don’t want to talk to you.

Elevator pitch: It’s Monster Rancher, but with the greatest monster of all: a bear. Do odd jobs with Kuma, work your way up through a few kiddy battle leagues, and eventually become the greatest bear/bear trainer that has ever been. Maybe you can even dress up your bear somewhere in there.

Other cameos: Tekken has quite the menagerie of animal fighters, so you have a lot of options for opponents and potential training partners. Panda would make the most obvious rival (complete with her own trainer, Xiaoyu), but Roger or Roger Jr. of the prestigious fighting kangaroo line are also available. If you want to get crazy, go ahead and include Alex the boxing raptor. It feels like a raptor would be too overpowered, but those boxing gloves should keep things under control.

Likelihood of success: 50/50. Videogame history has proven that any animal raising sim is a crap shoot. Which will it be: the next Pokémon, or the next Digimon? Princess Maker, or its army of imitators? It is hard to say how popular Kuma Rancher could be, but it does seem like the kind of release that would reward an audience for bearing with his foibles.

Tekken’s Jack in Jack Wars

Such musclesWho are you: Jack has been a mainstay of the Tekken franchise from the beginning. And, while there has been some canon finagling to confirm that every Jack since Tekken 2’s Jack-2 has had some variation on the same consciousness, Jack is most popularly known as a plural entity. There have been many, many Jacks built across the Tekken timeline, and he has proven to be an army all on his own on multiple occasions. So why not get something like a TRPG together where literal armies of Jacks fight? Seems like a good way to spend the afternoon.

Elevator pitch: It’s Advance Wars, but instead of tanks and soldiers, it is all Jacks. Or maybe we could include a few other Tekken bots…

Other cameos: The opening stages would inevitably be Jack-on-Jack combat (Jack, P-Jack, and Gun Jack have an evident progression), but how about later levels include other notable robots? Lee/Violet could be hatching a new plan with his Combot, so it seems Jack will have to deal with squares occupied by robots that can emulate anyone else in the franchise. And speaking of fighting mimics, enchanted training dummy Mokujin has a family of wooded buddies, so they would be an excellent rival army, too. And what’s that? There is also the metal Tetsujin, too? Be the true king of iron fists, Jack!

Likelihood of success: Low. Tactical RPGs have gotten popular in recent years, but only in franchises where all the army units can kiss. There is no smooching for Jack, so it is unlikely he will see any success outside of the battlefield. Then again, not like Tekken is completely alien to grid armies

Tekken’s Jun Kazama in Secret Origins

Sure looks familiarWho are you: Jun Kazama appeared in Tekken 2, fell in love with the game’s final boss, bore an heir, Jin Kazama, and then disappeared forever. Despite the fact that Ogre supposedly had a prodigious murder count in Tekken 3, every one of his “confirmed kills” has returned to service in the intervening games, and now Jun is the only one still in the grave. Or is she? The Tekken franchise could be trying to pull a fast one here, which could lead to a great…

Elevator Pitch: It’s the Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core of Tekken. Sometimes all a game needs is a decent story, and passable gameplay to keep things going. Jun was established as an excellent fighter and Wildlife Organization Officer, so there are plenty of ways to get her out and active before her featured time in Tekken 2. And then the story can follow a young, single, psychic mother as she performs the final missions that eventually led to her child being an orphan. Just make the game remotely engaging in the meanwhile, and it doesn’t matter if the whole thing has a downer ending.

Other cameos: Aside from including a Kazuya that could be showing a little more of his tender side (have to find some kind of excuse for why these crazy kids got together), Unknown is another obvious pick for Jun’s story. It is clear that creepy, goo-covered creature has always had some kind of connection to Jun, and there is no reason we can’t just bite the bullet and make her the Genesis to Jun’s Zack. Bonus points if Unknown is super talkative before some tragic/inevitable horrible accident.

Likelihood of success: Something like 70%. Like all fans, dedicated Tekken admirers will buy damn near anything if it includes the all-important lore. On the other hand, not including such in a fighting game in a fighting game franchise may be a bit of a miss. Can Tekken 8 just be all about the search for Jun through massive pummeling? It might be a nice direction for the Kazama kids.

Tekken’s Yoshimitsu in Weapon Fighter

I know this oneWho are you: Yoshimitsu is a warrior ninja that has arrived for every Tekken tournament in one form or another. His armor style may change between episodes, but one thing is always constant about Yoshimitsu: he has got a sword, and he isn’t afraid to use it. And wouldn’t it be nice if he were in a fighting game where it did not seem unsporting to whack an unarmed man with a katana?

Elevator pitch: A weapons-based fighting game starring…. Oh… Oh wait. I just invented Soulcalibur, didn’t I? Crap… uh…. Um…

Other cameos: Apparently even KOS-MOS could appear in this alternate franchise.

Likelihood of success: Proven to be infinity. I guess there is at least one way to make a successful Tekken spinoff…

FGC #637 Tekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees

  • This sucksSystem: Playstation 2, and then never seen anywhere ever again. Do not expect this to appear on any Tekken collections or virtual consoles.
  • Number of players: A proper fighting game includes two players, and even good beat ‘em ups manage to pull off the same. Death by Degrees cannot be good in any conceivable way, so it is single player.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is so bad, you guys. It is hard to believe that the same franchise that has returned such a consistently good series of fighting games is responsible for something like the worst beat ‘em up/action title on the Playstation 2. Everything about this feels so… wrong. The simple act of punching is a chore, and punching is the number one thing you should be doing. Mix in Resident Evil-style “puzzles” that would never stump a kindergartener, and… It’s just so bad!
  • Favorite Weapon: I guess it is nice when you get to swing around a katana for no reason. I mean… the reason is you want dudes dead, but this seems like a weird game to include random swords.
  • Say something nice: The hacking mini games are at least inoffensive. There isn’t, like, a lose condition where your controller convulses and transforms to kick you square in the nuts. That’s nice.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I am sure it is mentioned on the stream somewhere, but this is the first game I purchased, played up to the tutorial, and then quit because the tutorial was too annoying. In fact, this may be the only game that holds that distinction. So I have not liked this game for a good, long while.
  • Watch it, Buddy: Yes, this game was played on the Even Worse stream on two separate occasions.


    Stream Date: June 15, 2021


    Stream Date: January 11, 2022

    No, I will not be streaming it again. Apparently I was less than a third of the way through the game, and there is no way I can deal with that anymore.

  • Did you know? Heihachi and Anna Williams are the only “guest” characters in the game beyond Nina, and Heihachi mostly only appears in phone calls. A possible collection of some of the most recognizable fighters in the genre here, and someone decided all we needed were a couple of people with bad hair.
  • Would I play again: I already answered that question, and I will not entertain it again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man Legends 2! Speaking of games from streams, it is time to see the final adventure of Rock Man Dash! Please look forward to it!

THE MEAT FIGHT
Never before have I been so upset with a meat fight

WW #14 Everyday Today’s Menu for Emiya Family

Due to the subject matter today, some items may be NSFW. In fact, let this serve as an outright trigger warning for sexual material, rape, rape via magical insects, workplace sexual coercion, and just all sorts of stuff that is traditionally not discussed on this blog. This is confirming that today’s article is rated M for Mature, even if the game itself is not. Also: general spoilers for various TYPE-MOON franchises. Also also, this article is weirdly long! Guess there is a lot to say on this subject…

Let us beginI.

Let’s talk about feminism, Joss Whedon, and at least one cooking videogame.

I suppose we should start with what has been on my mind lately: As a point of fact, I enjoy strong female protagonists. Nine times out of ten, I prefer a female protagonist to a male protagonist. If I am in the mood for noir, I like Veronice Mars. If I want to see some cheesy action, I’ll take Xena: Warrior Princess. I vastly prefer K-On or Azumanga Daioh to any male-centric anime comedy I could name. And when we are talking about ensemble casts, I do often gravitate toward the women (who are usually relegated firmly to “supporting cast”). And, in some randomly introspective moments, I have wondered why that seems to be the case. If I am being generous, I ascribe to the simple theory that I have been watching men’s media since I was a child, so I am tired of hearing about Optimus Prime, and would like to move on to Arcee for a change. I have also never been a particularly masculine man, so it is possible I more readily enjoy characters with arcs that involve less punching and more introspection (Spike has a shootout to solve his problems, Faye gets to reckon with a VHS tape). There are all sorts of reasons that I, a cis white male, would more readily enjoy a woman’s story.

It also might be because…

FGC #603 Dante’s Inferno

Let us address the many sins of Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno. We shall see if absolution is possible.

The Sin of Violence: Dante’s Inferno gets a brutal update

Let's fightLet’s get the big one out of the way first: who sits down to read Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and thinks, “Damn! This would make a fine beat ‘em up”? This is something that apparently must have happened, as, here we are, living in a world where Dante ventures forth to tear Hell a new one with a magical scythe. The OG Dante was a poet who wrote his self-insert character into a complicated, but generally mellow, fanfic; this Dante is in a continual state of grating the bones of his enemies across his washboard abs. It is a significantly different interpretation of the same character. And, what’s more, OG Dante’s Inferno is amazingly descriptive in its journey from the underworld to the heavens, but it is also clearly meant as something of an allegory or “imaginary tale” right from the start. Dante was having a dream about his own moral standing in the world! Meanwhile, VG Dante is exactly fighting to save his fiancée and rescue a world threatened by Satan and the unrelenting forces of Hell. Nothing allegorical about pressing X to drive a blade into a sinner’s face!

Excuse me. I’m getting ahead of myself. My own prejudices against PS2/PS3-style “mature” games are shining through here, and I apologize for dismissing Dante’s Inferno for being a reimagining that was beholden to (then) modern videogame trends. This is unfair, as Real Dante’s Inferno likely survived to the present day entirely because it was contemporary. It was an epic poem, but it was not written in Latin. It involved historical and fictional celebrities that were bumming around various parts of the afterlife. The main character was the prototypical everyman hanging with a trendy historical figure. Complete with more name-dropping than a Kardashian feature, the Divine Comedy was made from its outset to be a popular piece of media, and it is only through centuries and gradually changing standards that it now seems so stiff and religious. I mean, it was always going to be religious as hell with all those popes running around, but popes were basically the Avengers of 1320.

So, alright, VG Dante’s Inferno can be forgiven for going the “popular” route with its interpretation of OG Dante’s Inferno. History has proven that Dante Alighieri clearly would have forsaken all the indie JRPGs of the era to make his story a 3-D action title if he had the technology. But there is still the problem of…

The Sin of Heresy: Dante must cry

OopsDante’s Inferno was released for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PSP in 2010. Given the marketing blitz that accompanied the game (“Please visit our E3 booth and be tortured by something other than long lines!”) and the years that have passed since, we will likely never get a real answer on exactly what the designers and marketing department responsible for Dante’s Inferno were thinking. In an obvious way, this deadly Dante screams “this isn’t your daddy’s epic poem,” and lurks around the caverns of Hell doing all sorts of things that could not even be imagined by an epic poet from 690 years prior. This is a videogame from the future, old man, get out of the way and start hammering O to earn salvation!

On the other hand, Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno is inexplicably beholden to the original source material. All of the Circles of Hell are followed precisely according to the source material, despite the fact that figuring out an action-game interpretation of “Level 13: Wood of the Suicides” must have been a pain in the branches. The setting is also firmly rooted in its original epoch, and many of the damned souls that appear across the game are not only seven centuries out of fashion, but also punished for a number of sins we wouldn’t even think about today (“Oh, damned to the circle of violence for… being gay? Really?”). It would have been wholly in the spirit of Dante’s Inferno to update Hell for the modern damned (“Do you punish for forgive this prominent ex-president that may or may not have started a hostage crisis to further his political career?”), or at least drop in period-appropriate fictional characters that are more familiar to modern audiences (not like Dante was doing anything but biting on myths about Helen of Troy anyway), but, nope, you get to make measured choices about Emperor Frederick II. You know! Emperor Frederick II! From all those movies!

And then there are all the little “flourishes” to remind you of the original poem. Game over screens drop annotated passages after every death (and there are quite a few before you see a repeat… assuming you don’t die every seven seconds). Virgil makes absolutely no sense as a character, but stops by to offer his (sometimes literally) same advice and narration as in the original work. And, if you need to answer the question of “what is the absolute worst way to experience a piece of literature”, you can read the entirety of this third of the Divine Comedy via a saved file on your Dante’s Inferno disc. Press L1 to scroll the text faster!

But this, too, could be forgiven. It is cynical to interpret all of these choices as some bizarre, aborted attempt at tying a videogame into school curriculums or college literary programs. Maybe the designers just loved the source material, and wanted to expose the unwashed masses to some culture. Maybe all of these attempts to cram more epic poetry into an epic game was wholly altruistic.

Though that would raise questions about tone…

The Sin of Fraud: Is this supposed to be serious?

The baby!So it is God of War, but instead of Greek/Roman mythology, it is Christian mythology (and, to be clear, I am a Christian, and I can tell you that 99% of Dante’s writings do not appear in the Bible, so “mythology” is the best way to designate this imagining of Hell). And the God of War franchise is known for being equally deadly serious about deicide or Icarus tripping down a hole. It is almost funny how Kratos responds to literally everything from enemy warriors to a dude trapped in a box with “this person must die”, but that is just who Kratos (circa 2010) is as a person. He lives in a serious, violent world, and he has serious, violent solutions to problems.

And then there’s Dante. Dante fights babies.

Dante’s Inferno has an amazing, unique bestiary with delightfully grotesque monsters symbolizing the various sins. There are also the unbaptized babies of limbo, which are literally just toddlers with swords for arms. And, since babies are not generally known for their threat level, you often fight many of the little tykes at once, prompting bizarre fights wherein you are viciously reaping widdle cutiepies. It is… a choice, and, while the grim and focused start of Dante’s Inferno tells you that this is supposed to be a tale of serious betrayal and heartbreaking consequences, the fact that you are slaughtering babies shortly thereafter undercuts the narrative. Earning the “bad nanny” achievement for “Kill(ing) 20 Unbaptized Children” is something that leaves an impression, too.

And, lest you think we are merely focusing on one ill-advised enemy, there are plenty of moments in Dante’s Inferno that turn hell into a circus (though, in case you are wondering, all clowns do go to Hell). The choice of torturing or absolving sinners is a constant struggle throughout this adventure, and, while torturing prompts a quick and gory cutscene, the road to salvation involves an unusual rhythm game that is shockingly reminiscent of Gitaroo Man. Then you have the fact that Hell is apparently littered with enough collectibles to make a bird ‘n bear proud, complete with happy little messages every time you find Tristan’s Desire or complete a challenge or whatever. Oh, and every goddamned person Dante has ever met in his life has apparently been damned to Hell, so get ready for the most family-reunion-based journey into darkness you could ever imagine.

And, individually, any one of these transgressions against sincerity would not impact the narrative. But when they all combine, they form an unstoppable Voltron of silliness that threatens to blazing sword any shred of dignity in Dante’s world to pieces. You can have a story about a disgraced knight fighting his way through Hell to save the world, but you cannot involve this many angry babies in the proceedings and expect it to be taken seriously.

But being silly should not be a sin. A sin should be something like…

The Sin of Sloth: This Hell is Tedious

It's a little chilly hereWriting in a contemporary vernacular is often cited as a prime reason Dante’s Divine Comedy has endured through the ages, but it is likely there is another, more obvious reason people have been reading The Inferno for so long: it is friggen fun. For being a tale of woe and suffering, it is enjoyable to see all the ironic punishments that Dante has imagined for the various sinners of the ages. In an unusual way, when you consider the number of “celebrity” sentences involved in the Inferno, Dante’s Inferno could have and likely did read as a revenge tale in its day. Did not like that one Emperor that overtaxed your grandpa? Well now he’s rutting about in poop for the rest of eternity! That’s what you get, loser! And that kind of thing persists into the modern era, because the concept of your landlord forever being tortured by Lucifer’s freezing wings is everlasting.

Gamer Dante’s Inferno is less everlasting, though. In defense of the game, there is a consistent, intimidating art style, and the monsters you fight across Hell are a lot more unique and diverse than your average beat ‘em up of the same three guys (or an army of the same shadow people). But sometime around when you explode your twelfth super fat puking guy, you realize that there is not much there there. This has a very American McGee’s Alice or McFarlane Toys Reimagining vibe to it, as everything has been reimagined to be broadly edgier… but that’s about all they got. Once you get past Dante’s bizarre fashion choices and slaughtered a baby or two, you realize that the best they will ever be able to do with the final boss is toss a few extra pentagrams into the proceeding. And once you do come to that realization, Hell becomes boring. There is a palpable tedium to seeing “shocking” items over and over, and it really does not help when those same outrageous opponents start looping endlessly during the finale.

And abandon all hope ye who believe the gameplay will save this adventure. That dreariness is locked in practically from the start, with the only real ability enhancements that significantly impact playstyles being reserved for four distinct points across the journey. Beyond that, you simply have relics and upgrade trees that make insignificant changes to the action (“Stop the presses! The combo meter has an extra two seconds of forgiveness!”), and the action is only ever “it’s God of War”. There were already, like, a bunch of God of War games before Dante’s Inferno hit the Playstation, guys! And the PSP does too count!

Look, when your Hell is defined by its monotony, you are committing a mortal sin. But even that sin is nothing before…

The Sin of Lust: Forsaken Beatrice

There is no saving thisThis Dante is not a poet or everyman. This Dante is specifically a knight of the Crusades. This Dante is a man that was deceived by The Church, and was told that his sins would be absolved if he was a good little soldier. When he died, he found he was damned, so he fought back against Death, stole his scythe, and then decided to fight to redeem his myriad sins (though you have to wonder how super damned you would be after literally killing the anthropomorphism of a cosmic rule). Unfortunately, he was dragged to Hell when he returned home and found his father and fiancée were both killed in his absence. Now the soul of said fiancée is in the hands of Lucifer (also his father, but nobody cares about that jerk). Dante dives into the pit to rescue Beatrice, and save us all from Satan along the way.

So before we go any further in this sad tale, let us examine the original Divine Comedy’s Beatrice. To be clear, in reality, Beatrice was not ever Dante’s wife, and was merely a nine year old girl who made a significant impression on ol’ Dante when he was also nine (if this sounds ridiculous, please consider that this whole scenario apparently worked for Darth Vader). Beatrice was a real person first, and never a lover. In the context of the Divine Comedy, Fictional Beatrice basically steals the chronicler role from Virgil when Dante hits Heaven, because Virgil isn’t allowed past purgatory. But don’t worry, Beatrice is more than a replacement Navi, as while Virgil is the eternal symbol of man’s intelligence and reason, Beatrice is meant to represent the divine, and the holiness of the humanities and man’s general impulses towards art. Yes, it is a bit of a cliché that a poet would consider poetry to be sacred, but you must give Dante a break, as you are someone reading these words on a gorram videogame blog. Beyond all that, though, Beatrice is certainly an unattainable beauty to Dante, but she is also literally the most helpful person in Heaven. That says a lot about the measure of the woman that is the celestial Beatrice.

In Dante’s Inferno for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Beatrice open mouth kisses Satan. For a while.

Big sloppy kisses

That looks vaguely uncomfortable for a woman that avoided the male gaze a few centuries back by simply being described as having fair skin and emerald eyes.

Once again, if you squint, you can almost see how this story was created. Dante is an unrepentantly (okay, not technically true) violent man that is irredeemable (again, the whole point is…) in his many murderous actions, so it is easy to see how he needed something “pure” to fight for to endear himself to the player. So if rescuing a princess worked for Link, let’s apply it to another knight. Unfortunately, that immediately delves into the “women as objects” trope, so someone likely thought it would be a good idea to give Beatrice some of her own agency. So no longer is Beatrice simply being damned by Dante’s actions, now she is a woman that chose to go the evil route with Lucifer as her new groom. Apparently selecting Hell in the stratum of the mortal sin of lust is… well, no two ways about it, you’re gonna turn into a whore. Like, literally, complete with pinup transformation and a whole lot of necking. And then, of course Dante has to rescue his former bride from the clutches of almost certainly kinky sex with the Prince of Darkness, because, dang, wouldn’t Dante feel bad if he went through all of this nonsense, and he didn’t win a sexy lady out of the deal?

And, hell, that’s terrible.

Just like the rest of Dante’s Inferno.

Yeah, let’s go ahead and damn Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno for all eternity. Some sins are beyond forgiveness.

FGC #603 Dante’s Inferno

  • I always liked NormanSystem: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PSP. The Playstation 3 version was used for this review, and the PSP is clearly some kind of mad dream of a deranged, damned king.
  • Number of players: Virgil would have been the obvious second player, but no dice there. Just Dante.
  • Pick your poison: In other games, Classic Mode implies the greatest challenge. Here, apparently, “classic” is meant to denote “based on a literary classic that does not involve buttons”, so Classic Mode is 100% easy mode. You can switch at any time, too, so maybe “practically invincible” mode can come in handy once in a while.
  • Eat the baby: Dante’s Inferno was released during that era where every game had to have a superficial morality system (thank you very much, Bioshock). Thus, you continually have the option of punishing or absolving sinners and/or demons. And, much like in many games of the era, absolving appears to always be the proper answer, as you continually gain more “holy bullets” and experience points from showing mercy. I appreciate the moral, but it is yet another example of Dante’s Inferno going about 30% into an interesting idea before immediately giving up.
  • Speaking of Morality: Okay, so the sin that damns Beatrice in the first place is that Dante forsook the vow he made before God to never make love to another woman. And why did he do that? Well, because an “enemy” woman begged for her brother’s life to be spared, and Dante satisfied this request for the nookie. But! The saved soldier was not her brother! He was her husband! And said husband then spent the remainder of his life tracking down Dante’s family, and then killing his father and Beatrice! And what are we supposed to take from that? Mercy leads to more violence? Sinning in the name of kindness leads to more sins? Sex equals homicide? Murderers are always gonna murder? Going to be a while before I unpack that one.
  • Plot Twist: At the finale of the adventure, Lucifer reveals that the gigantic chains Dante/you have randomly severed throughout Hell were actually the only things holding ol’ Scratch back. This would have been a much bigger surprise if you couldn’t hear Satan laugh maniacally every single time you cut a chain. Dude just has zero poker face.
  • What is he thinking?Downloadable Content: There were eventually legitimate expansions to Dante’s Inferno that offer a prelude (based on the poem, and involves werewolves) and an additional playable character (Dante’s guardian angel in the flesh). But right there from launch were purchasable “experience points” to kit out Dante with new moves faster for a few bucks. This is likely why the save file for Dante’s Inferno is locked against copying, because what is player autonomy in the face of potential DLC sales?
  • Watch along: Dante apparently stitched his own cross onto his chest, and that iconic quilt offers animated vignettes about Dante’s various sins. This… is actually kind of cool, even if it does raise more than a few questions about Dante’s apparently enormous embroidery skills. Less cool is that there was an animated tie-in film that corralled some pretty big name creators in the name of Dante’s Inferno: The Anime. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic seems to maintain the general visuals of its source game, but dodges some pretty important plot beats, like Dante conquering the Grim Reaper and stealing his signature weapon. And given it was Direct-to-DVD, watching it through traditional means may be all but impossible now. Maybe Dante could sew a recap blanket for you.
  • Did you know? They motion-captured an actual toddler to get realistic baby motions for the murder-infants. The designers were so proud of this, they made a featurette about it that only unlocks after completing the game. Learning more about child monsters is your reward for trudging through Hell. That has to be a sin, too, right?
  • Would I play again: I was very happy to see this disc leave my Playstation 3. I played the silly Dante game, Lord, do You want me to suffer again?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance! It just wouldn’t be October without a trip to Castlevania! Please look forward to it!

Eat up!

FGC #592 Muse Dash

Let's DashSo you’ve decided to get into the wonderful world of the videogame rhythm genre. Good for you! Rhythm games are some of the best pickup and play games out there, as they traditionally feature challenges that are exactly one song’s length. No half-hour failure states to be seen in this genre! And the music! Who doesn’t love music? Nobody, that’s who! So everyone should love rhythm games, too!

But, please be aware that there are three distinct kinds of rhythm games. In an effort to help a neophyte understand what has been happening in this genre that has been kicking around for 25 years, please enjoy a quick rundown of the places you’ll see.

The Artisanal Rhythm Game

There were proto-rhythm games practically as long as gaming has existed (anyone remember that bit in Back to the Future? I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet), but many point to PaRappa the Rapper as the true origin of what we consider to be rhythm games. And it makes sense! This was one of the first games released on a CD-based system that could handle something like “real” songs (if there is a library of early PC games weeping in the corner at this statement: good), and, after a slew of games where children wearing their pants backwards demanded that you make their videos, someone had finally figured out a good way to marry music to gameplay. On a superficial level, PaRappa was just pressing prescribed buttons to a preset beat. But on a practical level? Like all artisanal rhythm games, PaRappa was an inimitable experience that left an indelible impression on anyone that dared take driving lessons with a rapping dog.

Take it easyAnd why was PaRappa so unforgettable? Well, quite simply, because it was fun while goddamned everything about it funneled back into “make this more fun”. It was fun to press buttons to the beat. It was fun to be ranked “cool”. It was fun to meet these goofy characters. It was fun to see this unique art style in motion. The music was fun. The graphics were fun. Even seeing a game over screen, complete with PaRappa lamenting how he apparently did not believe hard enough, is fun. Absolutely everything about PaRappa fed back into one incredibly solid presentation, and, while the game was maybe not as long as those “70 hour JRPGs” that were also on the system, every moment you did play was incredible. It was not just about the songs or the lyrics or the characters, it was everything.

PaRappa the Rapper itself had a handful of sequels, and there were a few other games outside of PaRappa’s universe that tried for something similar. Gitaroo-Man immediately springs to mind as one of the luminaries of this era of rhythm games, but there was also the likes of Mad Maestro and Vib-Ribbon. All of these titles were unique not in just their subjects and presentations, but also in that they generally had wildly different ways to interpret “rhythm” as more than merely “press X when I say so”. Um Jammer Lammy and Gitaroo-Man both strummed their guitars in very different ways. And, give or take the classics of Mad Maestro, all of these games had wholly unique soundtracks that had to be good songs and good levels.

Unfortunately, it seems that this kind of presentation was not sustainable. Even at the height of the artisanal rhythm game age, there were only a few Space Channels to tune into. Entirely “artisanal” titles basically required that the games last about as long as your average album (or maybe a 2-disc greatest hits CD set), and, amazing presentation or no, people wanted more content. Pouring piles of resources into a 40 minute experience was never going to be viable, and the only reason we have a modern descendant of this age of rhythm games is that apparently Hatsune Miku is more prodigious than we ever could have imagined. If you want a Gitaroo-esque experience, you basically need to sign on with a Vocaloid. Otherwise, you are probably playing with the rhythm genre that ate artisanal’s lunch…

The Song-based Rhythm Game

Stay classyThis one makes sense, right? You play rhythm games for the music, so why not base the entire game around the music. Drop any unnecessary graphics, give up on even the illusion of a story, make all the characters generic avatars, and pour your entire budget into licensing rights. Maybe invest an extra six bucks in some hunk of plastic vaguely shaped like a musical instrument, and, bingo bongo, you’ve got an award-winning genre. Guitar Hero killed the Gitaroo-Man.

And that may not have been a bad thing.

If we acknowledge that artisanal rhythm titles were unsustainable, then perhaps we should admit that the likes of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, or even Dance Dance Revolution could be an infinite source of games. There is new music being produced every second of every day, and it would not be impossible to adapt every week’s Top 40 to a Rock Band chart. And, looking at a few digital storefronts, I am pretty sure the Rock Band DLC model tried that! And why wouldn’t they? When divorced from the burden of things like varied presentation or any semblance of a plot, you can just sync up your game to the radio and call it a day. Nobody is ever going to complain about more Beatles songs!

And while it may sound harsh to repeatedly insult an entire genre because nobody wanted to dress a teenager up in a winged helmet anymore, let us be clear on one thing: these rhythm games are just as fun as their more intricate forbearers. There is a reason the Guitar Hero controller became a staple of households in the early 21st Century, and you will pry my Taiko: Drum Master drum from my cold, calloused drummin’ hands. Some attempts within this genre did not work particularly well (hello again, DJ Hero), but whether you were rolling out a dance mat or an entire multipiece rock band, the rhythm games that existed to support their song libraries were universally fun. And modern releases in this genre (Taiko drumming is back, baby) remind us that we do not need ridiculous peripherals to have fun. Of course, Just Dance 20XX already knew that…

ShinyBut, as Rock Band gradually faded into memory (and Dance Dance Revolution barely made it out of the 90s), a simple question was posed: could rhythm games get back to being games? Sure, we have all seen people use a DDR mat to beat Final Fantasy 7, but could there be games designed to be videogames and rhythm games? Not quite the rhythm experiences of the artisanal titles, and something that could include a playlist like your typical Guitar Hero? Well…

The Rhythm Game Games

What makes a videogame a videogame? Why is digital solitaire considered some kind of empty diversion, while Triple Triad is lauded as the second coming of Cyber Jesus? How is Tetris the most important videogame of all time, while Candy Crush is exploitative dreck? Because nerds are snobs we have certain expectations about what makes a videogame a videogame. If you want to differentiate Lord of the Rings cosplay from a formal Final Fantasy game, you need a few of those trappings that always work as bullet points on the back of a box. Leveling system? Item management? Crafting? Gimme something, potential videogame, otherwise you will have to wallow in the Minesweeper pit.

Hit itDespite ranking and scores, there is a lot about the Song-based Rhythm Games Collection that does not feel like a videogame. It is just pressing buttons to a rhythm! You could annoy the rest of the freeway and just do that with your FM radio and a car horn! Similarly, while the Artisanal Rhythm Game may have all the progress and “numbers go up” you would expect from seeing Cloud venture forth to murder the guy with the best hair on the planet, the natural limits of the presentation preclude unlimited song variety. If only there were a way to keep a rhythm game visually interesting, include a variety of “systems” to keep the gamers happy, but still keep it simple enough to slot in an entire Top 40 worth of content. And it wouldn’t hurt if there were unlockables for days, too…

The Rhythm Game Games scratch the rhythm and game itches equally. On one hand, you have a game that is simple enough to support an initial pile of songs, and then include DLC tunes that will last until the workers stop building them new ones. On the other hand, you have all sorts of interesting “systems” included, and many of these systems allow you to unlock new songs, styles, and playable characters. Can you do such in other games? Of course! But in a Rhythm Game Game, it actually matters.

Take the title that inspired today’s article: Muse Dash. Muse Dash touts “97 initial popular songs” and “continuous free updates” as of its 2019 launch. Playing this title two years later, I am pretty sure I have discovered it currently includes 9,409 songs… though my math may be a tweak off. It takes a while to scroll through the song menus! And the sheer variety of songs available is important, because you are going to want to play through a lot of songs as Muse Dash allows your “player profile to level up”, and earn a lot of bits and baubles along with every level up. Want to earn all the playable characters? The “playable” assistants? Loading screen images? Marginally animated title screens? Well then you better get to playing through some of those 88,000,000 songs, because you have a lot of trophies to earn!

Look awayActually, referring to all the collectibles in Muse Dash as “trophies” is wildly reductive. Star high school quarterbacks and gamers alike all eventually learn the same truth: trophies are useless. But in Muse Dash, you earn actual gameplay elements. There are multiple characters to unlock (well, technically, there are only three characters, but they have multiple costumes that apparently change said character’s personalities, so same diff), but, more important than the cosmetic changes, every character allows for a different play “style”. One choice allows “excellent” ratings to be more easily attainable, while another continues the combo count regardless of an errant button press. One option even transforms the game into a vertical mode! In much the same way that playing as different characters in a fighting game radically changes the experience, the possibilities in Muse Dash similarly change the game. And that is before we get to the “helper” characters that not only offer different possibilities individually, but may combine with the playable characters in strange, unique, or just plain profitable ways. Think of all the different ways you can combine these choices into a game that is wholly customized for you!

Why, it is almost like there is an entire game in these menus before you play the rhythm game proper. It is a Rhythm Game Game.

This is, of course, nothing new in gaming. The idea that you spend more time outside of battles fiddling in menus in Pokémon or Final Fantasy alike is something that was established well before the turn of the millennium. And, in fact, simulating that “menu play” from Final Fantasy may have accidentally birthed this whole genre in Final Fantasy Theatrhythm. This is all nothing new to gaming at large, but it is new to the rhythm genre that has never really found the same kind of foothold as beat ‘em ups, fighting games, or even rogue-likes. Thanks to games like Muse Dash, people who “like videogames” can like rhythm games!

Or… uh… it looks like the company that made Muse Dash filed for bankruptcy in April?

Looking forward to updating this article with the next, next generation of rhythm games!

FGC #592 Muse Dash

  • Good coloringSystem: Nintendo Switch is where I played it, and this apparently also has a following on mobile devices. … But playing without buttons is not for me. Warioware can go touch itself.
  • Number of players: You could see how split screen could work for this without much effort, but this is definitely one player.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: There does not seem to be a single named male character in this entire game. That’s good! And the first item on the PeroPeroGames webstore is a statue of the Muse Dash heroine in bunny lingerie. That’s bad! The background noise of Muse Dash seems to split its attention between “bubblegum cute” and “these characters are sexy and bouncing” amongst its various menus, but the actual gameplay and general tone leans closer to “cute”.
  • Favorite Song: I would very much like to tell you my favorite song, but… I lost it. There was one in there I really liked! And I should have marked it as a favorite, as now it is lost in the hundreds-strong playlist of Muse Dash. The dangers of always adhering to that “random” button…
  • Favorite Stage: If I have one major complaint about Muse Dash, it’s that it contains a whole seven stages for its billion songs, and of those, approximately 80% seem to utilize the boring “Space Station” area (which looks more like a construction site). That said, the Castle area, filled with ghosts, skeletons, and a succubus, should be the dominant level. Those goofy vampires look so happy!
  • Get 'emDid you know? This game recommends you wear wired headphones on every boot. I have not worn headphones with a gaming system since… the Sega Genesis. What? I usually play in a room by myself! I like a warm sound in the room… Or to be listening to something else.
  • Would I play again: This is a fun game to have loaded on my Switch forever. I could see playing a song here or there when I have a few moments between more dedicated playing experiences. … Or when I’m waiting for Smash Bros. to download an update… Whatever! This is a fun gamey game, and I can continue to earn bibs and baubles while playing great songs anytime.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest! It’s time to see if we can reassemble even a single Dracula! Please look forward to it!

Let's go!
Sometimes things can get hectic