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FGC #533 Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Please note that this article contains spoilers for the whole of the Tekken franchise, including the fairly recently released Tekken 7. You have been warned.

Let's TekkenTekken Tag Tournament 2 boasts a roster of 59 characters, the largest selectable cast ever in a Tekken title. And, while you have a variety of choices between Bob, Slim Bob, and other dudes with less awesome names, the story of Tekken only cares about a handful of established characters. Who, you may ask, are the most important people in the Tekken universe? It’s the Mishima family! They’re the source of all evil in their world, but also the people most likely to save it.

So, since the Mishimas are the only people in Tekken that matter, let’s rank their relative threat-of-global-extinction levels.

Asuka Kazama

HiyaWho is She: Asuka is on this list by a technicality: she’s the cousin of Jin Kazama (basically), and only related to the Mishimas because someone with her last name boinked one of ‘em. She is not invited to family reunions, and it appears she is one of the few relevant characters that doesn’t want to fight for a piece of the Mishima Corp pie. She only joined the tournament in the first place because some thugs roughed up her dad, and she’s only stuck around since then because some French debutant really, really wants to punch her in the face. If the whole “Japanese schoolgirl that doesn’t really impact the plot but has a rich, blonde rival” thing sounds familiar, that’s because it is exactly Sakura of Street Fighter’s plot tracing back to Street Fighter Alpha, and the writers of Tekken should be ashamed of themselves for heisting a plot that has not appeared in every other anime ever. Anywho, Asuka is basically a normie that occasionally has to deal with Mishima hijinks, so there isn’t much to worry about.

Threat Level: Extremely Low. She has vague, angelic powers, but they only manifest when she’s not punching people. Given she lives in a punch-based universe, that’s not going to happen very often. Other than that, unless the world is destroyed by some light incense, she’s a complete lack of a threat.

Lars Alexandersson

He gonna getchaWho is He: The Tekken franchise, right from the beginning, has had no problem with including “goofy” characters. Yoshimitsu is a cyborg ninja robot dude, and Ganryu is a sumo wrestler in pursuit of kisses. There’s a kangaroo with boxing gloves somewhere in there. But Tekken’s real plot was always helmed by serious dudes with serious issues wearing shirts… until Tekken 6. Tekken 6 was the story of an ancient god of death resurfacing, and the only man that could stop him was this sentai looking mofo. He’s got a red cape. He’s got preposterous anime hair. His sidekick is an android girl with dubious clothing options. And you can tell he’s a real Tekken protagonist, because he’s a Mishima. He’s the illegitimate son of Heihachi Mishima, and, after years of working for Tekken Force, he decided to (bloodline) rebel and be whatever counts as a good guy in this universe. Lars is on the side of the angels (metaphorical, not the literal ones in this story), and is now fighting against his former employer/dad.

Threat Level: Vaguely Low. Lars is currently fighting the good fight… but he is using his own private army to do so. Like his hair buddy, Goku, this is a dude with a lot of power and a lot of potential to destroy the planet, but he’s firmly established as being on the light side of things, so we’re probably safe from this swede.

Jun Kazama

She seems niceWho is She: Jun Kazama made her debut in Tekken 2… and then died. But before she died, she fell for Kazuya Mishima, and had a son, Jin Kazama. She met her baby daddy while fighting for an organization run by Captain Planet, and she also has some ability to transform into an angel (literally, again) and heal the tormented soul of Kazuya. So she’s a good gal! But, again, she is currently dead, and, unlike nearly every other Tekken character, she seems to be staying dead. When Ogre kills you so the rest of your family can experience man pain, he doesn’t mess around.

Threat Level: Theoretically Low. Jun is dead, but she also slept with a devil, and eventually birthed another. That is just the kind of thing that swirls around a resurrection, so nobody is going to be surprised if she returns to life, and, like, has guns for arms or something. There’s a precedent.

Lee Chaolan

You're turning violet, VioletWho is He: Lee was introduced in Tekken 1 as Kazuya’s rival. The source of their rivalry? Heihachi dropped his son Kazuya off a cliff at a young age (as you do), and adopted a scrappy street urchin as his new, better, more-resistant-to-gravity son. Thus, Lee is not a Mishima by blood, but has been the heir to the kingdom on more than a few occasions. He was technically expelled from the family/company for siding with Kazuya during Tekken 2, but then decided to start his own company in time for Tekken 4. Lee now has his own megacorporation, and bankrolls Lars in his quest to stop the Mishimas. He also built a robot.

Threat Level: Medium-to-Low. You can’t trust anyone in this universe that has their own potentially evil corporation, but Lee is generally a pretty relaxed dude. He could take over the world tomorrow with his army of robots that understand every martial art ever conceived… but he’d rather just dress in all violent and hang around his palatial Bahamas estate. We’re in trouble if he ever gets off his ass, though.

Jinpachi Mishima

Friendly dudeWho is He: The patriarch of the Mishima clan, father of Heihachi, grandfather of Kazuya, and great-grandfather of Jin. Also maybe a demon? He founded the Mishima Zaibatsu during World War 2, made a whole lot of money on a whole lot of death, and then had a Tony Stark-esque turn to the light when he realized he was profiting from needless misery. Jinpachi wanted focused misery, so he dedicated himself and his company to martial arts, so he could more effectively punch individual men square in the balls. That’s satisfying! Heihachi wasn’t a fan, though, so he overtook the company, and left his dad bound in the basement. Jinpachi straight up died of starvation. But! He was revived by a demon of some sort, and became the hardest boss in Tekken history. Jin put an end to that, though, as Jinpachi was purified with a mighty great-grandson punch to his mean bean machine.

Threat Level: Medium. Jinpachi was a good guy, and then a dead guy, but that somehow didn’t stop him from coming back as a friggin’ Ghouls ‘n Ghosts boss. Sure, he’s just a dead old man right now, but Mishimas seem to be pretty indestructible, and we’re only ever one bad eclipse away from an army of malevolent grandpas overrunning the human realm. Keep an eye on that grave, Jin.

Unknown

Who knowsWho is She: Nobody knows! The ostensible boss of both Tekken Tag Tournament titles is a woman covered in goop. She originally seemed to be possessed by some kind of wolf spirit, but, in her most recent appearance, the wolf is gone, but she disguises herself as Jun Kazama. Final bosses being malevolent copies of the protagonist’s mother was a popular trend at the time (see also Soulcalibur). Regardless of her origins, Unknown seems to have power to spare (she spars with Ogre without hesitation) along with her ability to leak oil all over the scenery, so she’s clearly a menace.

Threat Level: Theoretically high, practically low. Unknown unfortunately only exists in a non-canon version of the universe, so she has about as much likelihood of destroying the world as Howard the Duck. But the Tekken franchise has never shied away from adopting non-canon people and events as law at a later date (there is an entire convoluted backstory for that fighting raptor and the wooden dummy), so Unknown could make a deadly comeback! She did get to have the time of her soulless life in the Namco x Capcom Universe, after all.

Kazumi Mishima

Say hi, momWho is She: Given Jinpachi spent his autumn years shooting fireballs out of his chest and generally menacing the populace during Tekken 5, it was assumed that Jinpachi was the origin of the “devil gene” that granted super powers to some of his progeny. Sure, Heihachi never had those abilities, but he was kind of a dick, and science has proven that certain genetic traits skip a generation if they feel like it. But it turns out the real origin of the devil gene was Heihachi’s wife/Kazuya’s mom, Kazumi. Kazumi was originally fated to kill Heihachi, but, because he pleased her pet tiger, they wound up married instead. They had a very nice family life, until that pesky devil gene manifested in Kazumi, and, one particularly physical spat later, Kazumi had a neck that was a lot more flexible. Kazumi didn’t want to live as someone possessed by her devil genetics, so Heihachi’s murder of his wife was a noble sacrifice he had to make (thanks again, man pain!), but Kazuya didn’t get the memo on that one, so he’s been more than a little pissed off ever since.

Threat Level: Theoretically high, effectively low. Kazumi is dead, but, like Jinpachi, that didn’t stop her from being a final boss. Kazumi initially embraced her devil side to stop Heihachi because she thought he might turn out to be a bad guy, and, now, after three generations of Mishimas wrecking up the place, Kazumi would be downright righteous in embracing her dark side. Could she cause a cataclysm in an attempt to clean up the place? Probably! If her corpse gets out there again, we’re all gonna fear a spankin’ from mama. Oh! And Akuma of Street Fighter owes her a favor, so that can’t be good.

Jin Kazama

The sonWho is He: Oh, don’t even get me started. Tekken 3 decided to add an extra generation to the central conflict of Tekken, and introduced Jin, son of Jun and Kazuya. At this time, Kazuya had been killed during the climax of T2, and Jun was dead by the hands of T3’s final boss. This meant that Jin was little more than an excuse to include moves from both of his parents, and his easy, simple goal was avenging his mother. Simple protagonist, simple motivations. Unfortunately, things escalated quickly from there, and, yada yada yada, now Jin is the anti-hero at the center of literally every war in the Tekken universe. The whole place is going to hell in a hand basket, and it’s all because Jin has issues with his clone-daddy and grandpa.

Threat Level: Unequivocally high. Jin possesses that devil gene, and has been transforming into a winged monster man since the finale of Tekken 3. This has influenced his behavior a bit of late, being ultimately responsible for an awful lot of hardship during Tekken 6 (when he kinda sorta summoned a god of death), even if said conflict was in pursuit of ridding himself of his devil half. Like, dude, the ends don’t justify the means if you have to figure out the plural of “genocide” to explain your plan. And it didn’t work anyway! Regardless, Jin is technically a good guy, he’s just extremely likely to level a continent in his pursuit of “good”.

Heihachi Mishima

The grandpaWho is He: This Mishima is not a good guy. Heihachi is the most common leader of the Mishima Zaibatsu, and the man who still claims he left his father to starve to death in the basement for benevolent reasons. Do not believe a thing this man says. In the same year he killed his wife and imprisoned his father, he threw his son off a cliff; so, once again, this is not someone who should be trusted with, like, hand soap, left alone King of Iron Fist trophies. Heihachi often asserts that he is on the side of the angels (“I threw you off that mountain for your own good, son”), but there is always a devious angle involved. The best you can say for Heihachi is that he is not distinctly inclined to do evil by some devil gene, so at least he’s not a literal monster like some of his offspring. Or does the fact that he does all of this willingly make him even worse? It is worse, isn’t it?

Threat Level: At this absolute moment, low, any other moment, incredibly high. Heihachi is a global threat to himself and others (mostly others), and the only thing holding him back is that he’s currently deceased. This has not stopped him before, though, as Heihachi has been “confirmed dead” in pretty much every other Tekken release (sometimes even dying during the intro!). This time, after broadcasting a fight between Akuma and his son and exposing the latter as a devil to the entire world, Kazuya came looking for revenge (oh, also, Heihachi shot him with a space laser), and the two battled in the corona of an active volcano (the… uh… volcano location wasn’t relevant to the story or fight or anything, it was just metal as hell). Kazuya wound up emerging victorious, mainly because he had the devil gene, and he wasn’t a friggen 75 year old man. Heihachi then took a dip in the magma (oh! The volcano was relevant!), and that’s the last anyone saw him outside of a Smash Bros cameo. Will he return? If he does, he’ll probably be an unstoppable lava monster, so he’s still pretty damn high on the threat index.

Kazuya Mishima

The daddy issuesWho is He: The goddamned man of the hour. In Tekken 1, Kazuya was just a street fighter attempting to defeat his abusive dad. He succeeded, took the reins of his father’s business, and then tried to conquer Japan with an army of dinosaur soldiers (see? Canon). This was blamed on his devil gene attempting to take control, but, even after his death and resurrection, Kazuya has been a cuss throughout the rest of the series. You know he killed and conquered the corporation that clone-resurrected him in the first place? It’s what he does! At this point, he’s successfully killed his father and gained full control of his devil powers, so the only thing standing in his way is his flake of a son.

Threat Level: Gigantic. Kazuya always had two goals: 1. Kill dad 2. Take over the world. Now number one is crossed off the list! And we’re talking about a guy that is a trained martial artist, can fly, and shrugged off a laser from space. Do you know what that means? He’s basically Final Fantasy’s Bahamut! He’s a space dragon in the making, and everyone is just going to have to deal with that. Kazuya ZERO is coming.

Kuma II

UnbearableWho is He: Kuma II is the son of Kuma, a bear that died of old age. Kuma II is an animal with the intelligence of a man, and has served as Heihachi’s bodyguard since Tekken 3. Kuma has trained with Heihachi and on his own, and is an expert martial artist/bear. He is currently an officer in the same Tekken Force that once hosted Lars.

Threat Level: Immeasurable. Screw devil genes and ancient ghosts, Kuma II is a bear! A real bear! And his old master/friend/father is dead! Have you ever seen a bear smart enough to become a military officer when he’s pissed off? No! Of course not! That would be silly! Because Kuma II is one of a kind, and now Kazuya is going to be in his sights. Screw space lasers, bears are the true kings of the world, and Kazuya is going to take a lava-dip via vengeful paws. And after that? Kuma II is going to have some time on his hands, and we all better beware…

FGC #533 Tekken Tag Tournament 2

  • System: Arcade, Playstation 3, Xbox 360/One, and WiiU. WiiU? Really? Huh.
  • Number of players: Four fighters controlled by two people equals one good time.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I like tag-team fighting games. I like Tekken. I like unwieldy rosters. I like… basically everything about Tekken Tag Tournament 2. They even brought back dedicated endings that are completely ridiculous! And I guess the fighting portions of the game are good, too!
  • These dorksFavorite Character: You might expect Kuma, but Doctor Bosconovitch is my first pick whenever he appears. He falls down a lot! But he’s trying! And, like all good Tekken characters, he’s probably been dead for years, and that doesn’t matter one iota.
  • Be the Boss: The fact that you can finally play as Jinpachi in this title is worth the price of admission. He’s so strong! And bad at directions! He might not have a mouth for a stomach anymore (or vice versa?), but he’s a great pick all the same.
  • Bob or Skinny Bob: Regular, overweight Bob seems more honest.
  • Gon? No Gon.
  • Did you know? According to events in the story mode of Tekken 6, Kuma understands both English and German. Given he was raised in Japan by a Japanese man, we can assume Kuma is trilingual.
  • The devil insideWould I play again: Odds are really high on this one. If it weren’t for Tekken 7 including its host of completely ridiculous new characters (Negan versus a giant robot? Sweet), it wouldn’t even be a contest. As it is, TTT2 is just a really good Tekken experience, and I’ll at least play it over the previous six or seven Tekken titles.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Limbo for the Xbox 360! How low can you go? Can you go so low you touch the dark, murky depths of your soul? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

FGC #504 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

CORRUPTION MOST FOULChildren of the future! This article is for you, those with covid-resistant immune systems and glorious vestigial pinky fingers. This humble 21st century boy is considering why Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the only Metroid Prime game he ever unequivocally enjoyed, and whether or not such an outcome is even possible for the eternally forthcoming Metroid Prime 4. Future people! You have Metroid Prime 4. It may be glorious! But please enable your Ancient English translators, and enjoy the musings of this prehistoric gamer.

Before we approach an even remote present, we have to look at the distant past. Super Metroid was (and continues to be) one of the most amazing games that was ever released by Nintendo. And to follow this epic adventure, there was… nothing. I was barely in elementary school when Super Metroid hit the shelves, and we wouldn’t hear an official peep about its follow-up until I was well into high school. And that’s forever when you’re not old enough to purchase renters’ insurance! And when we did finally get word about this long awaited sequel, it was not what anyone expected. A first person shooter! Like Doom! That’s not Metroid! That’s barely even a Nintendo genre! Many japes were made about the Metroid franchise being “reborn” as something similarly nonsensical, like a puzzle or pinball game, because, seriously, could you imagine something more absurd? Super Metroid defined an entire subset of 2-D action titles, and moving its heroine into another dimension would be tantamount to having Robert Downey Jr. fight Jeff Bridges in a realistic superhero movie. Such a thing could never work! And Nintendo even seemed to have its own doubts, as the eventual Metroid Prime launched right alongside a 2-D Metroid adventure. We’re going to try this, guys, but if anyone gets scared, there’s a blue Samus right there if you need her…

This is ballsLuckily, Metroid Prime was a pretty great experience (he wrote, implying that great videogames are somehow a matter of luck and not hours and years worth of hard work). In fact, it could be argued that Metroid Prime was a success because it was the perfect inverse of its 2-D twin, Metroid Fusion (maybe an evil twin, but certainly fraternal). Metroid Fusion superficially retained the exact same gameplay as Super Metroid, but was a very separate animal from its ancestor, as it adopted much more of a “level by level” structure with a dash of overly talkative robot. Meanwhile, Metroid Prime changed seemingly everything by entering the third dimension and putting a much larger emphasis on things like “beam switching” or “log scanning”, but the world of Metroid Prime was very much Super Metroid. Give or take an icy area, practically every environment on Tallon IV could be matched to a location in Super Metroid, and this was clearly by (brilliant) design. Controlling Samus in Metroid Prime may have been new and scary, but, altered names or no, this was a very familiar environment with very familiar opponents for our players. That missile tank is hidden in that same wall, your x-ray scope is just a little different now.

And, if pressed, I would tell you that is exactly why I finished Metroid Prime. It’s also a significant factor in why I didn’t finish Metroid Prime 2.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was a more confident version of Metroid Prime. No longer aping Super Metroid out of a (probably well-placed) fear of offending the Metroid fanbase, MP2 utilized a number of new ideas that further separated this adventure from the traditional Metroid experience (which had only cemented itself in, what, four games?). Required beams had carefully rationed ammo counts. Many caverns were designed around the concept of “cover” (what else do you call ducking behind a wall because the air is trying to kill you?). And the light/dark world of Aether was a completely new environment for our cosmic star heroine (though not new for another Nintendo hero). In short, MP2 did advance the Metroid Prime series on its own, separate track, and that repelled some fans.

… Or it was just me. And maybe I just don’t like ammo managing. Whatever! I didn’t like Echoes. Get over it. I have.

But Metroid Prime 3: Corruption? Now there is a game I could play all day (and did!).

BLUE BLUEIn many ways, MP3:C continues the innovative spirit of MP2. A large, continuous “world” has been ditched for multiple planets (and the occasional spacecraft) that all have separate, disparate maps. The concept of “beam ammo” has been dropped, but a new hyper mode fueled by energy tanks seems to organically fill that resource-based hole. And, for the first time in this franchise, the story seems to be genuinely and progressively character-driven. The Metroid Prime series has always had oodles of log entries and amazing environmental storytelling, but this is the first time a trio of frenemy bounty hunters was introduced so they could eventually be corrupted and become exciting boss battles. Samus Aran is the ruthless hunter of legend, but this is the first time in her franchise she felt moderately sad about missiling an opponent to oblivion (there had been deaths that made Samus sad in previous games, but those were mostly induced by Mother Brain, and not Samus’s own blaster). All new gameplay and all new feelings seem like a terrible fit for a new Metroid title, and, by all accounts, your cranky-about-any-and-all-change Goggle Bob should have bounced off Metroid Prime 3 just as quickly as Metroid Prime 2. But there’s a 100% save game file here that says that bad end never happened…

What did happen? Simple answer: for the first time, a FPS felt natural.

Shoot 'em upI’ve mentioned before (possibly even in this current screed) that I can barely deal with first person shooter titles. I bounce off the general “feel” of FPSs like a wave beam plinking off an Alpha Metroid’s carapace. For reasons I’ve never been able to completely understand, I deal poorly with the first person perspective (it might have something to do with my real-life terrible depth perception), and have never wholly enjoyed a FPS title. Until Metroid Prime 3. MP3:C I played and played, and, give or take times when those AAs drained down to nothing and had to be recharged, I kept my wiimote at the ready nigh-constantly for this experience. And that wiimote was likely the entire reason for such an unprecedented event. The sharp motion controls of Metroid Prime 3 made the entire experience, from Samus first exiting her ship to her final showdown with not-Mother Brain, one that felt natural for the first time in the franchise. Samus is wearing a magical technological suit of armor, and any FPS worth its salt is going to do its best to make that situation feel normal. But traditional controller-based FPS titles make it feel like you’re inhabiting a mascot costume that incidentally shoots laser beams. MP3:C grants you the feeling of being a person that has a screw attack, but, more importantly, also has peripheral vision. Moving that wiimote around will allow Samus (and the player) to quickly survey an area, and, when you’re exploring multiple worlds that contain roughly 90% deadly fauna by volume, it makes all the difference. No more drained energy because a pirate drone was hiding in the corner of the room, Samus now has a full, reflexive range of vision, and it makes Metroid Prime 3 a wholly unique experience.

… And it’s going to continue to be a unique experience, because the Nintendo Wii was apparently an evolutionary dead-end. Star Fox Zero seemed to prove the same “motion controls and views working in concert” effect wasn’t possible with the WiiU, and the Nintendo Switch is more concerned with portability than a control scheme that is wholly motion-based. And that’s a good thing! Watch any Nintendo fan immediately wince at the mention of “waggle”, and you’ll understand why motion controls have fallen by the wayside. But they worked amazingly well in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and it will feel like a loss when they don’t return for Metroid Prime 4.

Pew PewSo, readers of the future, please use your time-jumping cellular phones to email Gogglebob.com and let this humble author know how Metroid Prime 4 has finally turned out. The Metroid Prime franchise went from red-headed stepchild to interesting diversion to ignorable variation to one of the best franchises on the Nintendo Wii, and I’m inordinately interested in how its descendant will fair in our unknown future. Maybe it will “only” be another fun FPS. Maybe it will revolutionize the franchise and videogame controls again. Maybe it will be a complete dud that fails to distract humanity from their daily struggles against hordes of invading metal bugs. Whatever the case, the franchise has been so many things across three simple games, it is a complete unknown as to how the fourth will impact the gaming landscape.

Will Metroid Prime 4 merely be worthy of a few hours of grapple hooking around, or another 100% complete mission? Only time will tell…

FGC #504 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

  • System: Nintendo Wii, and then also available for the Nintendo Wii U while emulating the Nintendo Wii. …. Does that even count?
  • Number of players: This bounty hunter works alone.
  • Wasn’t there also a Metroid Prime title for the Nintendo DS? Nope.
  • But there was a big demo that launched with the Nintendo DS and everything! Really have no idea what you’re talking about. This is the only Metroid game where Samus must fight against other, rogue bounty hunters. Any other such game clearly doesn’t exist. Got Metroid Prime Trilogy right here. Trilogy. Three.
  • Ah, screw itAnd don’t the other games in Metroid Prime Trilogy have retrofitted motion controls? Yes, but they were added after the fact, and it just doesn’t feel the same as a game that was designed for them from the start. Very subtle differences in there that make Metroid Prime 1 & 2’s controls feel different from 3.
  • Is that just an excuse to continue to not play Metroid Prime 2: Echoes? Nope. Moving on!
  • Regarding the Metroid Prime: It will never not be interesting to me that the main antagonist for all of the Metroid Prime titles is a mutated creature that was originally called “Metroid Prime”. It was initially just a metroid, then it got phazoned to all hell, then got beat by Samus, and then became Samus thanks primarily to some random suit hijinks. But Dark Samus is still, at its core, the Metroid Prime, and, considering this is a franchise already named for its murder amoebas, this trilogy might have the cleverest title in gaming.
  • How about that final boss: It was Mother Brain, but not Mother Brain, because Mother Brain is a separate entity, and… You know what, it doesn’t matter. The directors of Metroid Prime finally found a way to wedge the OG Metroid final boss in there, and we should just be happy for the fanservice instead of chastising yet another strafe-based final boss that turned one of the most unique final encounters in a NES game into a pretty typical final fight. Just let me blow up a floating brain in peace, Retro!
  • Love that guyRidley is Too Big: After taking a game off, Ridley returns for a number of battles. Meta Ridley is pretty similar to his OG prime form, but Omega Ridley is a big, bad, phazon-powered machine. And I am here for anything that makes big ol’ Ridley even bigger. And, hey, Proteus Ridley of Samus Returns seems to confirm that Omega Ridley “outgrowing” his cybernetics is what eventually leads to “regular” Ridley in Super Metroid. … I may spend way too much time considering the biological timeline of your average Ridley. Just so long as he isn’t some dumb bird this time…
  • Favorite Bounty Hunter: Ghor, Rundas, and Gandrayda were three bounty hunters brought in to assist the Galactic Federation on this whole “Dark Samus threatening the universe thing”, and, naturally, they all become corrupted and must be laid low by Samus. Ghor is portrayed as some kind of mecha-Ghandi (he gives his bounties to the poor? Really?) before corruption, and Rundas was just kind of cool (get it!?) and generally helpful, but Gandrayda, the sassy shape-shifter, makes the best impression. Though she does lose a few points for mimicking Samus with her abilities, as we’re already dealing with a game that has one “Bad Samus” running around, and an entire army of parasite Samus creatures over in Fusion. Just be yourself, Gandrayda! We don’t need any more Samuses!
  • Did you know: Gandrayda and Samus Aran are the only two female bounty hunters so far to appear in the Metroid franchise. Considering these games started with exactly one woman, it’s rather concerning that number has only grown to two after thirty years.
  • Would I play again: Yes, but only with proper Wii controls. I can’t imagine a Metroid Prime Trilogy existing outside of the Nintendo Wii… and I’m pretty sure that’s the only Wii title that makes me say that. Maybe Wii Sports? Whatever the case, Metroid Prime 3 will be played again, just only ever with its original hardware.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for the Sega Genesis. That’s not going to be awkward! Please look forward to dancing around that one!

So pointy

FGC #497.2 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

Please note that this article contains distinct spoilers regarding Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. You have been warned!

Go Goku!There’s this moment in Dragon Ball Z at the end of the first significant story arc when Goku uses the Spirit Bomb. At this point, Goku has died, ventured through the afterlife, and returned from the grave when needed most to utilize a technique he could only learn from a nigh-god in another dimension. This attack, the Spirit Bomb, drains a tiny portion of power (“power” being vaguely nebulous in this case) from every living being on the planet, and combines all that strength into one focused “bomb” that he can hurl at his opponent, a giant monkey that is threatening everyone on Goku’s adopted planet (which is also Earth. You live there). In the grand scheme of narrative conceits, this is meant to be an important moment for Goku: he is the undisputed lead, the hero of this tale, but he cannot solve this problem with his own power. There is no solution here where Goku alone wins, so he must use this sacred technique, and, with the assistance of everyone on Earth, he can snatch victory from the hairy jaws of defeat. He can save the world thanks to the world. If this overarching metaphor isn’t obvious enough, Goku even whiffs his chance at pegging his opponent with this spirit ball, and requires another assist from another two fighters (one of which is best known for his propensity toward dying). Goku’s (currently) hated enemy is ultimately defeated by this spirit bomb, proving that it was not the super powerful Goku that was required to save the planet, but the strength of every person. Don’t put all of your faith in one “savior”, believe in the power of not one, but everyone.

And then Goku goes on to defeat every other opponent through hours and hours of one-on-one grunting ‘n punching. Goku is our Superman. Goku is our Jesus. All hail Goku, the guy that singlehandedly saved the world over and over again!

This happens often in fiction: the hero is the hero, and while there might be some moment or technique that uses “everyone’s power”, it all seems to come back to the one and only luminary. This is even more prevalent in videogames, as they are single-person experiences. Everyone in the party is working together to defeat the evil god du jour, but it all comes back to you, the exceptional player, making decisions, so the moral is muddied. And when you have RPGs that all but require the player to be the center of the universe, it gets even worse. That town lives or dies according to what sidequests you choose to complete, so it’s pretty obvious the world revolves around only you. Give me a moral about teamwork or whatever, fine, but in the end you intrinsically know that you are the only person that matters.

So you can imagine my surprise when Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE actually pulled off a “spirit bomb” finale without making its main character the center of the universe….

FGC #497.1 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

Let's go to TokyoTokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE contains possibly the best idea in all of crossover games, and it is a complete waste.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a crossover game involving the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises. However, while both franchises are unmistakably involved, TMS♯FE has much more in common with Shin Megami Tensei’s own spinoff: Persona. And, to be clear, that would the almost spinoff of a spinoff, the post-Persona 3 editions of Persona. Like those games, this is a story predominantly featuring quirky teenagers banding together to fight unknowable, wicked forces while also occasionally hanging out and buying maid costumes at the mall. In this case, the twist is that there is less of a focus on school and “mundane” daily life, as the heroes of the tale are also performers of varying disciplines. Singing! Acting! Whatever it’s called when you’re secretly a Power Ranger! The whole gang is entertaining fans by day, but clearing out monsters by night. … Or… also during the day… I don’t remember if there actually is a “night” in this game…

Regardless! While it’s always interesting to know whether or not your favorite is getting enough hits on Youtube or whatever, the meat and potatoes of TMS♯FE is based on beating back the malevolent mirages in dangerous dungeons. Mirages are essentially demons from another world that prey on the raw fan-power of citizens of our planet, and if these creatures are not defeated, then the whole of the population might not be able to enjoy the finer points of the latest Hatsune Miku release. And, somehow, it is revealed that the whole enterprise of this soul-sucking was supposed to revive an enormous black dragon that could theoretically obliterate the planet, so there are some stakes that go beyond whether some models are inconvenienced by a possessed pervert (it’s… a weird game).

Let's rockBut how do your mundane teenagers save their humdrum lives from this wholly fantastic threat? Simple! They team up with their own, benevolent mirages. These “good” mirages transform into weapons and armor (or at least costumes) for our heroes, and now our leading lady is hurling supernatural blasts from a flying, mechanical pegasus (is noting a pegasus as flying redundant? I suppose it could be a lazy pegasus…). And for anyone familiar with the Persona series, yes, these mirages essentially function like the titular persona “spirits” of that franchise. Everyone gets their own unique mirage, and it is technically this spirit that levels up and learns new skills. Itsuki Aoi can’t really handle himself in a fight against eldritch horrors, but his mirage, Chrom, has got the situation well in hand.

Yes, I said Chrom. Yes, that’s the star of Fire Emblem: Awakening and incidental opponent in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He’s a luminary of the Fire Emblem franchise, and he’s the prime mirage of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. He is the main character’s mirage, so he’s the headliner of the Fire Emblem characters.

And that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s a brilliant thing! The number one obstacle to anyone starting a JRPG is that it is inevitably going to be “new”. The Final Fantasy franchise is amazing, but right from its first sequel, it has changed dramatically from edition to edition. There are always new characters, new systems, and new menus to navigate with every version. And it seems like the JRPG genre as a whole has followed suit, as we can nary get through a new Dragon Quest or Breath of Fire without a significant shuffling of the deck. Mario might get a graphical upgrade, but he’s always going to be able to jump on goombas, and it doesn’t matter if there’s a water gun strapped to his back this time. Meanwhile, the latest Final Fantasy might introduce its hottest protagonist as Sticky Wicket the Gibbering Thicket, and he may or may not even have a basic “fight” command. Final Fantasy 16 features the ARQ battle system, and you may only attack when the global price of oil has reached a high point. You’ll get used to it!

We're all real!But the benefit of the crossover integral to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE allows the user to skip that horrid “getting to know you” phase. Most obviously, the battle system of TMS♯FE combines the basic flow of Persona encounters with the nomenclature of both Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, so if you’re familiar with either franchise, you’re going to recognize the myriad of arrows you’re supposed to rain down on this mounted opponent. And the mirages serve much the same purpose, but to grease the plot in the same way as the battle system. Itsuki Aoi is a completely new character created exclusively for this adventure, and, out of the box, he could be anything. Is he aloof and distant like Squall? Is a he a debonair playboy like Zidane? What kind of protagonist is he? Well, his mirage, his “persona”, is Chrom. And that tells us a lot! This isn’t just a nebulous mythological creature like what we’re used to seeing in Persona: this is a particular, defined hero that has appeared in another game. Chrom is the star of Fire Emblem of Awakening, and there’s an entire game’s worth of story and plotting that will tell us exactly how Chrom would react to a situation. This isn’t to say that Itsuki Aoi is Chrom, but given these characters are inextricably tied together practically from their respective introductions, we do have a general idea how Itsuki and Chrom are similar. We don’t need to wonder what kind of protagonist Itsuki is supposed to be, because we’re quickly given a definitive answer: he’s like Chrom.

And this is an amazing way to handle a crossover. You can have your cake and eat it, too! You get to introduce all-new characters with unique motivations and designs, but their immediate association with established characters from another established franchise allows the player to instantaneously identify and, more importantly, identify with the new class. It’s the reason there is always a Link in every Legend of Zelda (he is always strong, but kind), and even the reason Chrom exists in the first place. Back in Fire Emblem Awakening, you were supposed to see “this guy looks like Marth” and immediately assume he is the next heroic lord of the franchise. New character, old archetypes. And using this immediate familiarity in conjunction with a crossover grants players an opportunity to see disparate franchises come together and immediately understand their apparent links.

It’s just kind of a shame that this idea was wasted by relying on the Fire Emblem franchise.

Away we goLook, I know I’m biased. As I pointed out back when I first reviewed Fire Emblem: Awakening, I am not someone that has ever been a big fan of the FE franchise. I’m not generally a fan of strategy/tactics based RPGs, and, frankly, the way the franchise introduces a new cast of fifty randos with every sequel is daunting. I don’t have the time or inclination to go down the gargantuan rabbit hole that is the complete 30 year history of Fire Emblem.

But, that said, it would be nice if I even could.

Let’s see here… The first Fire Emblem game released in America was in 2004, far from the Japanese 1990 debut. From there, we saw the games featuring Ike on the Gamecube and Wii, but that was likely just because Nintendo was still smarting from the N64 years, and looking for a “Final Fantasy” killer… or at least one or two RPGs it could promote on its latest systems. Despite the Wii’s popularity exceeding certain kinds of bread (screw you, rye), Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn wasn’t a shining new dawn for the franchise. However, Fire Emblem Awakening, Fates, and Three Houses have been revelations across the board. If my twitter feed is any indication, Lady Edlegard is now the official Queen of Earth. However, that kind of popularity did not apply to Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, a Nintendo DS release from 2009. It was a remake of a game that was not released in America, and this remake was released in America with about the same level of hype as Blue Dragon Plus. Remember Blue Dragon Plus? Me neither. But it’s not like half the cast of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is based on characters from Blue Dragon Plus…

It’s my own fault for not playing a random DS title from a decade prior, right? If I wanted to see Marth in action, I should have taken the chance back when I could. And I did play Fire Emblem: Awakening, and that game is featured as much as (if not more than!) Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. I should recognize everybody from that game!

Except…

Here she isThe second good mirage from Fire Emblem: Awakening that is introduced is Tharja. Tharja is a sorceress that is one of the most popular characters to come out of Awakening (apparently #3 in a Japanese poll that I have to assume is part of the national Japanese democratic process). She is a mage that is very shy, but very willing to use her magic and curses to damn anyone that gets in the way of her goals. She is also canonically bisexual, as she will fall in love with the main character regardless of gender. And her outfit is about 90% transparent nylon, so there’s probably a not insignificant portion of her fandom that simply wants to see her use her dark magic in more gratifying ways. In short, Tharja is a popular and unique character in FE: Awakening, so it makes sense she would be revisited for a crossover title.

And I’d love to tell you more about her, but when I played FE: Awakening, I kinda killed her on our first encounter. Look! I was trying to rescue a queen, and…. It was a bit of a whoopsie, okay? My bad!

Which brings us to the other issue with this Fire Emblem crossover: Fire Emblem is a very variable franchise. You saw it back in the day with permanent death options meaning some support buddies might not live to see the plot past the first chapter, and you see it today with Three Houses and three entirely separate stories dividing everyone’s experiences. Did you choose the Golden Deer route? Well, sorry about that reference to Edlegard being beloved earlier. You probably think she’s a bitch! And even within Fire Emblem: Awakening, you not only have the option of popular party members being killed, but about a third of the cast might not even exist if you don’t get the other 66% to breed like bunnies. Is Morgan your favorite character? Well I missed that dude or dudette, because my Robin knew how to keep it in her pants. There is a war happening, people!

Bye, friends!So this is Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE’s greatest strength and most glaring weakness: it relies on a complete familiarity with Fire Emblem. Rather than going the “easy” crossover route of only featuring the most obvious titans of its parent franchise, it features random dudes and ladies from across a few specific titles, and thus requires the player to be unerringly knowledgeable about everything in those games. It takes days to complete a Fire Emblem: Awakening playthrough, and you better have found everything if you want to truly understand the nuances involved in another hours-long JRPG experience. What could have been an excellent introduction to the Fire Emblem world is instead hampered by its own requirement that you already be an expert. It’s a crossover by fans, for fans, and it squanders its supreme strength as a result.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a great crossover title, but it would be even better if I knew what the hell a “Draug” is supposed to be…

FGC #497.1 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

  • System: Nintendo WiiU, and now (finally) on the Nintendo Switch. No excuses! Go play it!
  • Number of players: Three man party, one man player.
  • Just play the gig man: The music is great. I mean, this is a game that is based on half the cast being in the music industry, so the music better be good, but… yeah. It’s good. It’s very easy to see how this game is the secret Persona game before Persona 5’s crazy soundtrack.
  • I assure you!Favorite Character: Ironically enough, it’s Kiria Kurono, the songstress associated with Tharja. While I’m always going to be annoyed when a character is built up as some incredible badass, and then the gameplay reveals she’s just kind of a middling mage (see also Persona 3’s Mitsuru), she also appears to be the only member of the team that actually knows what she’s doing at any given moment. And, yes, her whole “senpai” role seems to be literally designed to be appealing to the average Persona/SMT/FE player (again, see Mitsuru), and her “cool, but secretly cute” personality is obviously engineered to be endearing. But I still fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and I’m not going to over think it. Maybe I’m just happy she could hit that black dragon’s weak points.
  • Is there any other reason you like this game: Oh, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    ITS NUTS

    None at all.

  • Did you know? Draug is apparently a knight from Shadow Dragon, so that explains why I’ve never heard of the dork. According to the FE wiki, he is shown to have a comradery with two other characters, but this “link” only appeared in official art, and not actual gameplay, in his original games. So, yeah, that sounds like par for the course for the Fire Emblem franchise.
  • Would I play again: I’ll answer that shortly, as…

What’s next? We’re sticking to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE for the moment, as I still want to talk about this game in a non-crossover context. So please tune in next Monday as crossover week is finished, but talking about the same stupid game in a slightly different way is back. Please look forward to it!

Achoo