Death by Degrees [Playstation 2]

Year: 2005 // Developer: Namco // Publisher: Namco // Also On: N/A

THE LEGEND OF TEKKEN’S FIRST LADY BEGINS HERE, the back of Death by Degrees‘ box proudly claims. And why not? Nina Williams was/is one of Tekken‘s most popular mainstays, and there was no reason why an action-based spin-off shouldn’t work when the Tekken team had previously ventured outside of the standard 1-v-1 fighting with the Tekken Force modes. Unfortunately, Nina’s solo adventure received poor to (at best) lukewarm review scores on release, and I even recall seeing Death by Degrees in a countdown of worst games for the PS2. I disagreed with these scores vehemently back in the day and, after revisiting the game in 2020, I can honestly say that I still enjoy this game.

Is it a misunderstood gem? No. There are loads of things about Death by Degrees that piss me off and were rightly criticised in period, but I feel that the good outweighs the crappy to enough of a degree (get it?) that I feel motivated to defend Namco’s Tekken spin-off.

Continue reading “Death by Degrees [Playstation 2]”

Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance [Playstation 2]

Every so often I will actively purge my videogame collection of all the games I know I’ll never play again, or those that I haven’t touched for years. I used to keep everything but, over time, I’ve managed to wrestle the inner hoarder into partial submission. After all, there isn’t the time to keep up with new releases let alone return to everything I’ve already experienced. You have to be realistic sometimes and simply let go. Tying in with this philosophy, I recently decided to turn a critical eye towards my PS2 collection. I’ve long considered this shelf to be slimmed down to the bare essentials but when “essentials” is still around fifty titles, there remains space for improvement.

Rather than simply get shot however, I’ve decided to play some of these games again to see whether or not they actually hold up in the harsh light of 2020. First up, Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance, a 2005 beat ’em up from Capcom. When I originally played this, I loved it. I considered it to be underrated; a hidden gem if you will.

But how does the 2020 edition of me feel about Beat Down?

Continue reading “Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance [Playstation 2]”

Walking the Streets of Rage once again…

sor4-1

It’s been a while since I posted something here on Darkstalker90. There are various reasons for that but I won’t bore you with those because that’s not why you’re here, is it? You’re here for some gaming-related content so I’ve skipped over the (frankly embarassing) backlog of semi-completed drafts to talk about a game that has commanded my attention over the last week or so: the mighty Streets of Rage 4.

Go back just a few years, and SoR4 would have been just a fantasy – one of those games that cropped up on many a retro-head’s I-wish-they-would-make-this-but-they-probably-never-will list. The franchise’s future seemed to be confined to re-releases on retro Sega compilations and those iffy plug ‘n play devices. Sega themselves had tried and failed in the 90’s to develop a Streets of Rage 4, and the popularity of the side-scrolling beat ’em up had rapidly waned with the demise of arcade-style gaming.

So it was a pretty earth-shaking shock to say the least when Streets of Rage 4 was first shown in 2018. With Sega acting solely as a licensor this time, it was down to the collaboration of Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush games to do the series justice and deliver on twenty-six years of fan anticipation. No pressure, then… Continue reading “Walking the Streets of Rage once again…”

Greed: The Killer of DOA6

Well, that’s that then: Dead or Alive 6 is officially, er…dead and I couldn’t be happier about it. That’s probably a bizarre thing for a fan of the series to say. Doubly so given that – at the time of typing this post – I still haven’t purchased DOA6.

However, the recent Twitter announcement from Koei-Tecmo, about April’s DLC update being the final batch of support for DOA6, felt like justice in a warped way. The game has badly underperformed at market and consistently attracted low player numbers. It’s a big turnaround from the success of Dead or Alive 5 and there’s a good reason for it.

Greed.

doa6-3

Let’s put this into perspective. Dead or Alive 5 was severely criticised for its fuck-ton of DLC and neverending stream of season passes. Yet, the tide of add-ons was viewed with a raised eyebrow and a knowing smirk. It was Koei-Tecmo playing the “sex sells” card and it more or less perfectly straddled the line between being acceptable and straight-up taking the piss. If any proof was required that the DLC tactics didn’t push fans away, consider that DOA5 had two updated editions (Ultimate and Last Round), spanned two hardware generations, and was supported for six years.

DOA6, on the other hand, is being put out to pasture barely a year after the initial release. To me, this is JUSTICE, because it is a case of a publisher pushing the limits of DLC beyond the realm of acceptability and being punished for it. Gamers were rightly horrified by how brazen Koei-Tecmo were being with DOA6‘s add-on content and clearly voted with their wallets. It’s something that we – as consumers – need to do in order to show big publishers that we won’t lap up any old bullshit.

DOA6 ran into trouble straight away when Koei-Tecmo vowed to tone down the game’s sexuality in order to get more people involved and give the series a greater chance at being taken seriously. As it transpired, it wasn’t the drastic Victorian-era suppression of the female figure that we feared but the story nevertheless generated negative press and worried a good chunk of the DOA fanbase. But it wasn’t paranoia over SJW rule that ultimately killed sales of DOA6. It was the publisher’s determination to wring their customer’s wallets dry.

First of all, Dead or Alive 6 has had FOUR season passes in less than a year! As far I’m aware, Season Passes cover a year’s worth of DLC in most games, hence the name. Not in DOA6 however. Fuck that logic. They were eye-wateringly expensive too, with the most recent Season Pass 4 retailing for $90.

Overall, the game has hundreds upon hundreds of dollars-worth of DLC available to download. You thought DOA5 was bad? Well, Team Ninja really upped their work rate for 6, pumping out new costume packs at an insane rate. It really is the undisputed claimant to the title of DLC: The Game.

doa6-1
This is a pretty gloomy story so here’s a pic of Honkers Honoka showing off Koei-Tecmo’s commitment to cleaning up their act.

But the worst of all didn’t come until this year, when the publisher decided that it was acceptable to charge players for a change of hair colour…and make them pay for said colour every time they changed it.

In a way, the audacity of Koei-Tecmo has to be admired.

On the other hand, the whole saga of DOA6 has been an embarassing series of apologies to the fans, promises of fixes and back-tracking. Add to this the crappy in-game unlock system and the fact that DLC can’t be purchased individually for American/European PS4 owners of the game specifically, and you have a really unappealing fighting game on your hands.

The other big problem is that the game isn’t THAT big of an upgrade over Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, which still looks fantastic in PS4/XBO form, plays brilliantly and isn’t saddled with terrible money-making schemes. Yes, the DLC for that game is still a joke, but it is at least more honest (if you can get past the awful organisation and confusing compatibility Catalogue add-ons) and what’s available is the accumulation of six years worth of steady support as opposed to a relentless tide of DLC being vomited out in single year. I, for one, saw no reason to upgrade from 5 to 6 and have yet to be convinced. Unless Koei-Tecmo announce some sort of all-in-one retail package of the game, then I doubt I ever will.

So I’m glad that gamers have woken up and rejected Koei-Tecmo’s business strategy.

Unfortunately, it does mean that the DOA series may well be mothballed as a result of this commercial failure. I also wouldn’t be surprised if KT blame “market trends” or other vague reasons for the absence of a DOA7, rather than holding their hands up and publicly accepting that they went too far with 6 and allowed greed too much of a say.

I hope that this isn’t the end of Dead or Alive but Koei-Tecmo need to learn from the failure of DOA6 and take a leaf from the books of other publishers of fighting games.

 

 

Review – Rival Schools: United by Fate (Playstation)

rival-schools-1Platform(s): Playstation (reviewed), Arcade
Year: 1998 (Playstation version), 1997 (Arcade)
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Virgin Interactive (PAL), Capcom (North America/Japan)
Genre: Fighting

Whenever there’s a discussion about which of Capcom’s forgotten fighting games (so anything other than flippin’ Street Fighter, then…) should be brought back in a blaze of current-gen glory, there’s usually only one franchise that tops the polls: Darkstalkers. As a huge fan of the Darkstalkers, I can’t suppress the fanboy in me very effectively and I tend to agree. That said, there is another fighting game with a cult following that has been pushed to the back of Capcom’s storage locker for far too long: Rival Schools.

I’ve always been aware of Rival Schools but it was one of those games that I didn’t get around to playing in period. Until recently, the closest I came to the franchise was playing as Kyosuke in Capcom Vs SNK 2 and Batsu in Tatsunoko Vs Capcom. That all changed when I was slimming down my collection and testing out game discs (many of which I’d bought years ago and never played) before listing them for sale on ebay. The Playstation port of Rival Schools: United by Fate was one such game and there was a part of me that had to wonder why I had shoved this to the back of the shelves and ignored it for so long, especially since I’m a big fan of classic Capcom.

It’s what’s inside that counts

The first hurdle that needs to be cleared, when playing Rival Schools for the first time in 2020, are the horribly outdated visuals. Look, I’m no graphics whore. I grew up playing the Playstation and I’ve also enjoyed Sega Saturn and 3DO games long after they were “current” systems, so I’m no snob when it comes to old 3D. But it’s an unavoidable fact that we’ve been spoilt by the realistic graphics of the last few hardware generations, so returning to the era that pushed crude textures and pioneering polygons into the mainstream is always going to be jarring and requires a brief adjustment.

As such, I was initially taken aback by the character models in Rival Schools when I first booted up the game. Perhaps I’d just become accustomed to the perfect curvature of Sophitia’s bosom in Soulcalibur VI, or maybe it was because I’d not played Rival Schools before so my eyes weren’t prepared. Whatever the case, some of the most enjoyable fighting games of the 90’s – Tekken 2, Street Fighter EX and Virtua Fighter 2 – all look pretty blocky these days but that shouldn’t (and doesn’t) detract from the quality of the games.

rival-schools-5
Spoilt for choice. Some fantastic portrait art too.

So once I’d acclimatised to some of the derpy expressions and Tiffany’s cubism-inspired tits (complete with a primitive jiggle effect), I found myself enjoying the game, warts and all. In truth, the characters only look janky up close during win animations. During regular gameplay, they actually look pretty good for their age and you’d be a fool to expect much better from the original Playstation. Perhaps Tekken 3 and Soulblade are a little easier on the eyes but Rival Schools isn’t that far behind.

But it really is what’s under the skin that counts.

Rival Schools is presented as a three-dimensional fighting game fit for the late 90’s but, in truth, it’s a bit of a hybrid. While it does have a sidestep feature and dynamic camera angles to capture the crazy super moves, it still feels like a 2D fighting game. That’s because it uses the familiar Street Fighter-style inputs on the d-pad and a light/heavy attack set-up over on the buttons.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing however because I immediately knew what I was doing, allowing me to pick the game up quickly and concentrate solely on getting to grips with Rival Schools‘ unique mechanics.

First up, Rival Schools is a tag-team fighting game of sorts. I say “of sorts” because you can’t actively tag back and forth between your two characters, as in the Marvel Vs series, but you can switch in between rounds. You can also utilise your partner for powerful combination super move known as a Team Up Technique. Depending on your partner, the Team Up move can be an outrageous tag-team super move for big damage, a stat boost, or even a cheeky health boost. I really like this tag-team system because it injects strategy into a fighting game; do you choose a partner that can restore health and simply use them solely for that purpose or do you forfeit the stat/health boosts, select two characters that you are competent with, continuously switch between them and opt for the big damage Team Up Techniques?

rival-schools-3
Tiffany’s kiss restores health. She doesn’t discriminate between boys and girls either…

Each character also has a selection of “Burning Vigour” super move attacks. These and the dual-character Team Up Techniques are all ridiculously awesome because they are incredibly over-the-top and feel stupidly OP. These crazy moves also tend to be shown off with different camera angles, taking advantage of the game’s 3D engine. I’ve played a lot of Capcom fighting games and I have to say that the Burning Vigour and Team-Up Techniques in Rival Schools are probably some of the most visually satisfying of the lot.

rival-schools-4You also get plenty of access to these attacks too because the super guage fills up faster than The Flash on Speed. Some may criticise this because it makes the game feel easy and the super moves throwaway. I get that, and agree to a small extent, but Rival Schools is more about the entertainment factor than being a serious tournament game.

But there’s still more to the core gameplay. For instance, there is the Textbook Combo (a nice school-themed pun!) which is the ability to string together a short sequence of light and heavy hits, similar to Darkstalkers‘ Chain Combo system. You can also launch enemies skyward then jump up to hit them with a Textbook Combo in mid-air and even cancel into Burning Vigour supers. If it sounds similar to the the Vs series’ air combos then that’s because it feels exactly like that, down to the launcher input being the same.

There are also Defensive Fall and Get Up Attack techniques, as well as dash attacks. Finally, there is the Dodge ability that snaps you out of the 2D plane and back into the 3D realm. You can dodge sideways in either direction and, if you time it just right, you can evade an incoming attack at the very last moment and slide all the way around to your opponent’s back to catch them off-guard with a combo or deliver a different, more powerful throw attack that can only be used at an rival’s back.

A loaded package

Away from the actual gameplay, Rival Schools is simply bursting with charm and it’s easy to see why so many people love this neglected series. The characters are bold and full of personality, the music is terribly catchy and there is a big effort put into the presentation of the game. There is an anime-style intro upon booting the game up, for example, multiple animated endings and every character has their own unique illustrated endings to their stories. It’s one of those games where even the sound effects for selecting menu items are endearing.

The characters all feel unique to play as, and there are twenty of them to choose from as standard. That said, the veteran fighting game player will spot some cheeky imitations in amongst the roster, such as Hideo who is essentially the Ryu of Rival Schools with Shoto-style special moves. Roy seems to have borrowed Ken’s Shoryu-Reppa super move and Street Fighter Alpha‘s Sakura is included in the line-up. Overall however, the roster isn’t simply a copy-paste job; the majority of the fighters have their own style and are fun to experiment with.

DSC_0127

Capcom really went all out with the Playstation conversion of this game too. There are two discs: an Arcade disc and the Evolution disc. The Arcade disc alone would have been acceptable enough since it features a fantastic conversion of the arcade original, a training mode and extra, bonus features. But Capcom also threw in the Evolution disc which is just so much more.

The Evolution disc contains an optimised, more balanced version of the game and more characters. As well as unlockable, alternate outfit versions of four of Rival Schools‘ female characters (complete with unique Team Up Techniques), there are 24 pre-edited special characters – mash-ups of the original characters and their moves. You also have the new Group Battle, League Battle and Tournament Battle modes, as well as the Cooperate Battle which allows four players to get in on the tag-team fighting with the assistance of the Playstation Multi-Tap. Finally, there is a “Lesson” mode and an art gallery. Phew!

It seems surreal in this post-Street Fighter V age to be playing a Capcom fighting game that had a warehouse of kitchen sinks thrown at it. To any younger readers of this blog, I would say this: go play PS1 Rival Schools and you’ll understand why us grumpy old farts moan about the bare-bones menu screens on modern fighting games, and the way that there is nothing to unlock (unless you are paying by credit card).

Conclusion

Rival Schools: United by Fate was an incredibly pleasant surprise and I think I need to be sent back to education myself for making the schoolboy error of not playing this sooner (enough with the school jokes!). After spending a good amount of time with the game, I can definitely confirm that the characters have just as much charm and appeal as Morrigan and co. from Darkstalkers. What’s more, the fighting system is excellent and strikes a perfect balance between the technical stuff and accessible, mental fun. It certainly wouldn’t need much to be brought up to scratch for a modern revival, something I’m now very much all for.

The only downside is that the Playstation port isn’t the cheapest used game to pick up these days, and it hasn’t been re-released on PSN outside of Japan (reportedly due to licensing issues) which certainly doesn’t help. That said, I think that Rival Schools is worth every penny of your money if you are a fighting game nut or a fan of classic Capcom.

Dead or Alive 6: Hair-Dye Simulator 2020

doa6-kasumi-1

I’m very late to the party on this one. Pretty much every videogame journo and Twitterati has ripped Koei-Tecmo to shreds over this pay-to-change-your-character’s-hair-colour debacle but guess what? I can still come along and pick up the scraps…and tear them into even smaller pieces. That’s just how I roll here.

It’s already well-known that Dead or Alive 5 saw Koei-Tecmo turn their famous fighting game into a hybrid fighting game/dress-up experience. Sure, DLC was around on the Xbox 360 in the days of DoA4 but it was the fifth installment that really saw the publisher slip into bed with DLC and flaunt their staggering stamina stat by fucking, non-stop for several years. The resulting offspring was a library of add-ons that allegedly (I haven’t fact-checked) exceeded $1,000.

Many were disappointed that the publisher had sold out to the portion of the fanbase that was more invested in the sexy stuff than the actual gameplay. DoA5 was almost like dressing up a bunch of dolls and playing with them, rather than taking this punching thing seriously.

And, as much as I agree with that, I have also defended the game numerous times. After all, the gameplay was probably the best it had ever been and the graphics were fantastic. I also really enjoyed the ability to customise stages with past music. As for the DLC…well, nobody was forcing you to purchase costumes. If you want it, then buy it. If you disagree that strongly, then boycott – simple. I bought a fair few outfits but only for my favourite characters. Yes, the prices were sometimes heavier than Tina’s in-game bust but, again, you were still able to play the game without buying maid outfits and the yearly batches of Halloween costumes. If it extended the life of the game and kept you playing, then that’s a good thing.

doa5-ayane-1
This one of my favourites that I paid for. Conveniently (and amazingly) that chain of flowers always manages to remain in the right place to keep the game PEGI 16-rated.

That said, I wasn’t blind.

There’s a balancing act between accepting a DLC structure and being taken advantage of. Arguably, the latter was already happening given that Koei-Tecmo were well aware of how sexually appealing DoA‘s girls are to their consumer base hence the drive to squeeze more and more money from fans by selling increasingly-skimpy bikinis and risque outfits.

As I have already said, I don’t mind cherry-picking the DLC that interests me if it keeps me playing and enjoying a game for longer. BUT there is a tipping point when that aforementioned fine balancing act fails and you – as the customer – must put your foot down and say “no,” if things tip into the realm of the publisher just taking the piss. This is what has happened with Dead or Alive 6.

It must be mentioned – before I continue – that I still haven’t played DoA6 because every time the game is in the news, it rubs me up the wrong way and I’ve yet to read anything to convince me that things have changed. It got off to a bad start when Koei-Tecmo claimed that they were going to be cleaning up the series’ image. I’ve already talked about that at length before but, to quickly re-cap, I am an unashamed fan of the boob physics and revealing outfits. I see it as escapism and harmless fun. It’s DoA‘s USP for crying out loud. The last thing I wanted was the series to bow to the pressures of the Woke generation. Yes, it wasn’t a deal-breaker (as I also made clear in my DoA6 reveal post) but it was disappointing.

So I would have still bought the game but worse was to come. First, there was the really crappy system of unlocking new constumes. Then came the absolute bullshit of western PS4 owners being the only group that couldn’t purchase costumes individually, meaning that you had to buy entire packs or commit to the big-money season passes.

Perhaps these things have been fixed – I don’t know. What I do know is that the balance had well and truly shifted in my view, and even I wasn’t able to defend the janky, money-grabbing execution of DoA6. As much as I still wanted to give it a go, Koei-Tecmo had simply gone too far. At the end of the day, DoA5 was still on my shelf and still everything that I’d ever wanted from the series. Why expose myself to shit that was just going to piss me off and attempt to rape my wallet?

doa6-kula-1
As a King of Fighters fan, I have to admit that I do want to play DoA6 to try out Kula.

Give us humans enough time, however, and we get over it. DoA6 had been creeping back onto my mental “maybe I’ll finally buy a copy?” list. Then this fucking hair thing happened.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you can now use Premium Tickets  – which are obtained in exchange for actual money – to change the colour of your character’s hair. Paying to dye Kasumi’s hair is pathetic enough, you might think, but this is no normal DLC. In fact, it isn’t even DLC proper. It’s a non-permanent micro-transaction that has to be paid for again if you switch said character’s hair back to the default colour. It only costs one ticket (which is $1.00) but that isn’t the point. The point is that you are effectively renting a hair colour. Koei-Tecmo’s audacity with this is a new low in my opinion. Paying for something so small in the first place is straight-up robbery but, if you have to do so, then it should at least be a permanent option unlocked/added to your game.

Heck, I’d want to go even further. If I’ve got to pay a dollar to swap Kasumi’s hair colour then, without wishing to be too crass, that buck had better also cover a hue change for the bush between her legs. Then again, judging by the fan-made renders and in-game mods of the DoA lasses, they’re all bald down below anyway so that’s my value-for-money notion in the bin.

You know, I thought that Street Fighter V was having a laugh when the game wanted the player to pay for palette swaps but this is something else. Koei-Tecmo has at least responded to the slating on Twitter:

“Dear fans, we hear and acknowledge your disappointment behind our roll out of the new hair color feature for DoA6. We greatly appreciate your feedback, and are working towards a solution that helps to mitigate this issue and will share our plans in the coming days.

We apologize for our misstep, and are working hard to resolve this situation. We thank you in advance for your patience and hope you continue to enjoy DoA6.”

“Misstep”? Bullshit. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing. To me, it seems as if they decided to push the envelope anyway to see if they could get away with it, and if they couldn’t? Well, just pass it off as a glitch or a harmless error of judgment. This isn’t an “issue” or a “situation”; it’s straight-up taking the piss and it isn’t even funny anymore. Previously, we would joke about DoA being a shopping simulator or a dress-up game but I’m not laughing now. The joke isn’t funny.

I’ll be voting with my wallet and continuing to not purchase a copy of Dead or Alive 6.

Shame.

 

Street Fighter V: Champion Edition…

I honestly thought that I was done discussing this game. I’d spoken at length about my problems with Street Fighter V in general THEN I gave the uprated Arcade Edition a second chance before finally reaching my concluding sentiments towards Capcom’s flagship fighting game. I didn’t think I’d be making any further posts about SFV and that I’d simply enjoy playing the game from time to time (because Soulcalibur VI is just BETTER and enjoys more of my attention).

But then Capcom decide that they are going to release ANOTHER subtitled entry into the Street Fighter V series – Street Fighter V: Champion Edition

SFVCE-2

The gaming world be like:

tenor

Now, some people are pissed about this and some aren’t but before I get into that, let’s have a look at what the Champion Edition consists of, shall we? Essentially, it’s as close as you can get to a “complete” edition of SFV. CE includes all of the currently available DLC characters, stages, costumes and new V-Skills. The only bits not included are the Fighting Chance costumes, collaboration costumes and Pro Tour DLC. Even so, that’s one whopper of a deal.

Price-wise, Champion Edition will weigh in at £24.99/$29.99 for the physical edition (out February 2020) or £19.99/$24.99 for the digital upgrade kit. If you want to simply upgrade whatever version you currently have then you can do that now and get ahead of the physical release, though it’s worth remembering that the “physical” version is likely going to be a tea coaster of a disc with a voucher code in the box for the content, so the digital upgrade is worth considering.

Additionally, everybody – regardless of which version of SFV they currently own – will receive a free update that adds the new V-Skills and balance changes to their game.

Finally, there are going to be two new DLC characters added to the game and the first one is an absolute tool that Street Fighter veterans will have to remove their forcibly-erected mental blockades to recall. I am, of course, talking about the ultra-cheap Gill – one of the most notorious and cheesy bastards from the entire fighting game genre. I personally hate Gill. I LOVE playing Third Strike…but I don’t like reaching the end of an arcade run-through and dealing with THIS shit:

gill-resurrection
“Resurrection!” Literal nightmare fuel.

Hopefully, they tone this guy down for SFV. I mean, it’s kinda cool that he’s back at last – after years of being exclusive to SFIII – but he just needs to chill the fuck out.

But let’s get back to Champion Edition‘s bundled content because many are (understandably) not too happy about this. Anybody who is familiar with SFV will know that it isn’t a cheap game. Gamers who have stuck with it since launch will likely have spent a pretty penny on DLC OR earnt the add-on content by grinding away online and using hard-won Fight Money to purchase new characters, costumes and stages. Characters tend to cost around the £5 mark while costumes are (at least) a few quid apiece, as are stages. Even colour swaps cost money (remember when you had those just for using different buttons to select characters? Ah, the old days…).

So £25 for the whole shebang is a bit of a kick in the teeth for long-term players. For one, complete newbies will be able to rock up to the party late and purchase everything for this budget price. Secondly, can you even forgive Champion Edition‘s existence and low price-point when it makes a mockery of how much you’ve paid over the years for add-ons? Let’s not forget that the disc version will likely get even cheaper once it’s been on the shelves for a while.

And it isn’t as if Capcom are rewarding your loyalty because the digital upgrade to your existing copy is a mere £5.00/$5.00 cheaper. In my opinion, the discount should be a lot bigger than that. After all, that difference will be negated in no time once the retail edition’s price drops.

Of course, there are a few things to remember. Firstly, if a Street Fighter V player has been playing the game, buying bits and pieces of add-on content here and there, and feels like they’ve had their value (regardless of Champion Edition‘s devaluing of existing DLC prices), then that’s fair play. Not everybody cares about being outraged over stuff like this.

Secondly, nobody ever puts a gun to the head of a gamer and forces them to buy DLC. It is – and always will be – entirely optional. It is – as depressing as it is – just the way that modern gaming is and the way that publishers make money. If you feel that strongly about a publisher’s business model for their game, then don’t buy what they’re peddling.

Lastly, Capcom have some form with this. If you were naive enough to believe that THIS time it would be different, and that THIS time, Capcom would “play fair”, then I only have one response for you:

hyena-1

This is the company that charged full price again and again for multiple updates of Street Fighter II back in the 90’s. It’s the same company that promised that it would be different with Street Fighter IV…before they released Super, Arcade Edition and Ultra flavours. And it’s the same company that APPEARED to be doing something different with SFV, and though they technically haven’t gone back on their guarantee of the base version being the only disc you will ever need to buy, they are still trolling those who spent a fortune on DLC by packaging it all up in a cheap bundle.

I’m not defending Capcom at all but what I AM saying is that the consumer needs to accept some of the blame for trusting them over and over and over. This shit? It was always going to happen. Menat could have seen it in her crystal ball thingamagic. The smart people are those who avoided the game until now because they knew that this would happen. Those people are set for a hell of a deal if they pick up Champion Edition and obtain everything for £25/$30.

Am I annoyed? Of course I am. I only recently bought the Arcade Edition, after all, and I have purchased several characters and costumes throughout Street Fighter V‘s life. But I’m still going to pick up Champion Edition because the content I haven’t yet bought far outweighs what I have, so that £25 price point still represents big value (and I will make sure to pull the trigger once that price has dropped even lower). But I went into this game knowing that Capcom would pull these sorts of stunts; I expected it to happen so how can I be outraged? This is what they DO and people are furious every single time as if they expected something different. I mean, if being charged for fucking palette swaps didn’t alert you to that fact, then what would?

In conclusion, Champion Edition is Capcom at their trollish best and I absolutely don’t blame anybody who is angry. The discount for going digital and upgrading early isn’t big enough and the package is an almighty kick in the balls for anybody who has already sunk a lot of money into DLC. That said, perhaps it’s time to finally wise-up and take Capcom’s promises with a pinch of salt when the inevitable Street Fighter VI arrives with the ‘promise’ of there being no revised versions down the line.

History will repeat itself. You have been warned.

 

Street Fighter V: My Final Verdict (Super Ultra Turbo Dash Edition)

Almost two months ago, I decided to give Street Fighter V a second chance after ditching the pre-Arcade Edition version some time ago on the grounds that I just didn’t like what Capcom had done with it. I chronicled my thoughts, justifications and rants (mostly just me moaning, then…) in a dedicated post which you can read here, if you missed it. I signed off with an intelligent cheap “Meh” meme and these words…

…I still don’t really feel anything when I’m playing. It’s a solid game but that’s all. There’s a certain magic that I feel whenever I play Alpha 3 or Third Strike for example but not here. As with my first tour of Street Fighter V, I feel that there is a good game suffocating beneath all that F2P and online-biased structure.

But I carried on playing and thought I may as well share my final verdict now that I’ve played the expanded Arcade Edition.

And, well, it’s a good job that I’m feeling hungry because there’s a plate of humble pie in front of me.

Yes, that means I enjoyed SFV.

There – I’ve said it.

HP-1
[Image Source]
That doesn’t mean that the game is completely off the hook though. I still rank it below the other Street Fighter games (with the exception of the EX spin-offs), including Street Fighter IV, which in itself polarised opinion amongst the fanbase. To recap the things I didn’t and still don’t appreciate:

  • Being charged for everything, including simple colour swaps (seriously?)
  • The silly amount of in-game currencies, fortune tickets and all that BS; basically the smoke and mirrors that attempt (and fail) to disguise that SFV is an F2P game where you will simply end up paying real money for stuff.
  • The shift in focus to the online/tourney scene. Understandable but a definite thumbs-down from me.
  • The hack-job censorship applied to characters like Cammy and Mika…because we can’t scare the kiddies now, can we? Screw that shit.

And there’s a new one for the list that I hadn’t included before because I needed more time with the updated version of the game; the new characters. I’m assuming that Capcom has run out of ideas because the brand-new characters are just crap in my humble opinion. I’m not necessarily talking about their play style; more their look and inspiration. There’s ‘G’ who looks like lanky riff on Uncle Sam for starters. I thought it was a joke to begin with. At least his theme is cool.

Falke and Ed are just…whatever…more ‘tragic’ Shadaloo experiments. Abigail is Hugo on steroids and Zeku is Guy’s master from Street Fighter Alpha 2 but still not very interesting (why not just give us Guy?). His link to the Strider clan is a neat move on Capcom’s part but I still struggle to care about the guy (no pun intended). Then there is Necalli. Does anybody give a shit about this bloke or his story? I suppose somebody must…somewhere.

Finally, I really, really fucking hate Kage. Talk about lazy! I suppose his design is supposed to be ‘epic’ but really, it’s just yet another Evil Ryu with familiar moves. You know, I like Shoto characters, with Akuma being one of my go-to Street Fighter favourites, but I think I’ve had enough of all these new ones. Aside from the powered-up ‘Shin’ versions, there has also been various versions of Evil Ryu, a Super-Saiyan Akuma by the name of Oni, Violent Ken and now Kage. Just stop

Kage-1
Horns, fangs and a few more red flames…is this really the BEST you could do, Capcom? I worry for Street Fighter VI…

I’m undecided on Menat. She seems to have become popular enough but, eh…she’s just a new version of Rose, isn’t she?

The only new characters I’ve warmed to on any level are Laura and Kolin, though you could argue that the latter isn’t technically a new character since she was Gill’s assistant in SFIII, albeit non-playable.

ALL of that aside, I have enjoyed playing Street Fighter V. The Arcade mode has to take the lion’s share of the credit here because it finally allows me to do what I wanted to do in the first place – just have a few run-throughs with my favourite characters in the same format as Street Fighters of old. Prior to this mode’s addition, I was stuck playing Survival in the offline mode and while that was okay, it wasn’t really the same given the different rules. Arcade gives me – a non-online player – something to do and it has been an absolute godsend.

I enjoy getting good as my favourite characters and adjusting the CPU difficulty to suit but I know I’m not good enough to take it online. I’m just not that serious about fighting games anyway, and never have been. While the gameplay ‘feel’ is damn important, I’m more about the characters, design and art direction when it comes to fighting games. If all of that is spot-on, then I’ll get a lot out of a game.

Karin-1
Recently, I have been playing as Karin which has been fun. [Image Source]
With that said, I know I’m in a minority so I DO understand that I’m not Capcom’s priority or target audience anymore. My refusal to go online, for example, would probably render a lot of my complaints irrelevant in the eyes of many and I get that – I truly do. Nonetheless, I’m still a paying customer and long-time veteran supporter of the Street Fighter franchise so i’m going to give my opinion, no matter what it’s worth.

In summary, I’m not in love with Street Fighter V, but I have found myself losing more time to the game than I’d expected. I like how the game plays and the aesthetics are pleasing enough to my eyes. The game is now back in ‘rotation’ on my gaming playlist and that’s not something I could have imagined myself saying earlier in the year when the box was sitting, forgotten, on my shelf.

Moral of the story: don’t rule out giving games a second chance.

Review – Anarchy Reigns (Playstation 3)

anarchy-1Platform(s): Playstation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360
Year: 2013
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Third-person beat ’em up

“Platinum” and “Games” are two words that should absolutely be put together, because when you do this, you get the name of one of the most interesting and creative studios in modern gaming. It’s not the done thing to include personal bias or opinion within critical assessments but screw the rules; this reviewer is a Platinum devout and will buy any new game from the developer regardless of any pre-release impressions.

I have a great deal of faith in Platinum. After all, this is the team that brought us Bayonetta, Vanquish and Madworld – all highly entertaining, off-the-wall thrillfests. Let us not forget that before Platinum there was Clover Studio, a group responsible for God Hand, Okami and Viewtiful Joe. Combine the works of both Platinum and Clover and you get one hell of a fucking resume.

So with that gushing intro out of the way, you may expect me to proceed into a glowing review for 2013’s Anarchy Reigns.

You’d be wrong.

I really like this game but, objectively speaking, Anarchy Reigns isn’t a must-play classic.

A familiar criticism

That’s not to say that the game is bad, because it isn’t – at all. But it’s certainly a case of style-over-substance. Platinum’s calling cards of over-the-top action, non-conformist game design and liquid nitrogen-cool styling are all present in Anarchy Reigns but none of this can disguise the fact that the game feels lacking in content. Essentially, it’s a case of Platinum’s signature flair compensating for an extremely thin experience. Whether this succeeds or not is down to personal opinion. For me it does, because I adore the game’s artistic design and no-fucks-given attitude but, if you prioritise gameplay over art, then you’d be forgiven for thinking, “is this it?”

Anarchy Reigns is a third-person beat ’em up. Playing as either Madworld‘s chainsaw-armed brute, Jack Cayman, or pretty-boy Bureau of Public Safety (BPS for short) operative, Leo Victorion, the player journeys through two interwoven stories. Jack’s is the “Black Side” while Leo’s is called the “White Side”. Once both are completed, you can access the “Red Side” and Anarchy Reigns‘ true conclusion. In principle this is a nice idea because you get to experience the same story from both lead characters’ perspectives.

Each character’s side of the game consists of four chapters. Each chapter takes place in a hub world containing three side missions and three main story missions. One of Anarchy Reigns‘ main issues arises straight away here: the repetitive and rigid structure. You must achieve a set amount of points, either through completing missions or beating up the respawning hub world enemies, in order to unlock the next side/main mission(s). If you are good at the game, then you can reach each point quota instantly by completing a mission with either a gold or a platinum ranking. If you just about scrape through the missions with a poor score however, then you might have to replay side missions or just keep battling the hub world enemies to build up points.

anarchy-4
Things can get a bit mental, sometimes. [Image Source]
I managed to achieve the gold or platinum medals on most missions so I didn’t encounter too much of the grind but on the few occasions where I did struggle, it was certainly irritating to have to replay side missions or wander around laying waste to weak enemies until I’d collected enough points.

The hub worlds aren’t all that interesting either. On the positive side, the terrain boasts some nice elevation changes and air vents/boost ramps that send your character flying through the air to different parts of the map. Also, every so often, it will start raining and much stronger enemies will replace the standard Killseeker thugs. Random hazards will also enter the map, such as an out-of-control Mad Max-style fuel tanker, poison gas or jets that carpet bomb the region. Unfortunately, all of these chaotic elements are pretty predictable and scripted, doing nothing to disguise the emptiness of the maps. Other than fighting respawning enemies to earn points, or triggering missions, there isn’t anything to do; no collectables or secrets to look for either. They remind me of the lobbies that you get in some online games where you are free to idly mess about until enough players have joined.

I don’t want  to keep sticking the boot into Anarchy Reigns‘ hub worlds but it also doesn’t help that there are only four of them, and that you will play through them again in the same order with the second character. I can’t help but wonder if this structure is a way to artificially pad the game out because a more straight-forward sequential stage/chapter structure similar to Bayonetta – to use one of Platinum’s own games as a reference point – would have eliminated the majority of the repetition, grinding for points and over-familiarity with environments.

Violence is the solution

Fortunately, the combat goes some way to redeeming the game by being satisfying, if nothing revolutionary. It’s fairly standard third person, over-the-shoulder arena-based brawling. You have light attacks and heavy attacks to construct simple combos with, grab moves and a 360 attack that saps a small portion of health. You also have access to devastating “Killer Weapon” attacks that utilise Jack’s chainsaw or Leo’s energy blades to deal out massive damage, though the use of these attacks is reliant on a gauge that is refilled (pretty quickly) by standard fist fighting.

You can also knock enemies into the air to set them up for aerial combos or drop down from above to damage multiple enemies with a ground-shattering blow. Dropping from huge heights amplifies the latter, transforming the standard drop attack into a “meteor” blow resulting in big damage.

The final ability in your arsenal is the “Rampage” mode. Fill this gauge up by fighting, and, once activated, your character becomes invincible and their attacks much more powerful. What’s more, hitting stronger enemies or bosses initiates a cool move where your character batters the enemy with a flurry of lightspeed punches for huge damage.

anarchy-3
Jack’s back, now in colour!

As you’d expect from a game like this, there is also a lock-on feature and the ability to roll out of the way of incoming attacks. As far as third-person beat ’em ups go though, Anarchy Reigns doesn’t really offer anything new or different but gets away with it thanks to the meaty feel of the combat and the more than convincing impact of the pain you dish out as either Jack or Leo. Weaker enemies explode beneath your fists and the Killer Weapon attacks tear them apart. There’s plenty of excessive blood spraying around too. It’s furious, crazy and pretty satisfying. It makes you feel powerful, as all good beat ’em ups do.

You do take damage from the strong enemies and bosses fairly quickly though (if you’ve played Bayonetta then this should sound familiar) so you have to be on the ball and fight a bit more tactically rather than charging in Dynasty Warriors-style as you are able to do with the mobs of weak enemies. The majority of missions and boss battles will give you a stock of three lives, auto-reviving you on the spot to continue the fight should you fall. Obviously, however, your score and resulting medal will suffer the more you continue.

As I’ve already said, the gameplay itself does do a lot to compensate for the uninspiring game structure but it isn’t all perfect. The bosses for example can all be approached with the exact same wash/rinse/repeat method, regardless of what moves they boast or how they come at you. You hit them with a combo or two, get clear, roll out of the way of their attacks or combos, then hit them again and restart the process. Oddly enough, the large Mutant and Berserker enemies are actually more of a challenge than the game’s bosses since they are difficult to stagger and can end you in a handful of hits.

The Rampage ability is also incredibly OP against bosses. All you have to do is spend a little time wasting enemies in the hub world(s) to charge up the Rampage gauge, so that you have it ready before beginning a mission. Then, you can usually rely on depleting at least half of your opponent’s energy through a barrage of Rampage combos, even if they guard against some of your punches before you break their defence.

Collectable power-ups can also turn you into even more of a powerhouse. You can only carry two at a time but rocket launchers and rifles are notably powerful. The temporary shields and invisibility power-ups are best saved for dealing with multiple Mutants or Berserkers. There is also an item that allows you launch into Rampage mode regardless of how full your gauge is. So, if you are packing this bad boy as well as a full gauge, you can unload on a boss with two Rampages in a row and make a fight a one-sided affair.

Platinum strikes again

Now we’ve come full-circle and I can talk about the positive side of the earlier style-over-substance observation. If you want style and creativity in your videogames, then Platinum always has yo’ back, and Anarchy Reigns certainly doesn’t buck that trend. The game has a post-apocalyptic cyber-punk theme going on, with its decayed Mad Max-style world design and mechanical prosthetics galore. There’s a lot of detail in the design of the maps and the enemy models, and you can clearly tell that the artists enjoyed creating the robots and mechanical augmentations for the bloodthirsty Killseeker enemies.

The main characters are a bit stereotypical in that the men have enormous muscles (that would put Arnie to shame) and the women are all sexy with big boobs. I’ve seen some reviewers marking Anarchy Reigns down for the sexualisation of the female cast but I personally just view all of that as being part of Platinum’s design style. I’m here to be entertained after all (not to care about politics and the #metoo brigade) and Platinum are all about entertaining.

Jack Cayman is as badass as he was in Madworld – a hulking “Chaser” (bounty hunter) with no fear who just doesn’t give a shit. Several other Madworld characters are playable in the game too including the hilarious pimp-like Blacker Baron, his assistant, Mathilda, the heavy-hitting cyborg, Big Bull, and the Crimson Dragon girls – Rin Rin, Fei Rin and Ai Rin. My favourite of the new characters is the BPS agent, Sasha Ivanoff but that’s just because I’m a sucker for the Russian accent and a shiny silver, clingy bodysuit.

anarchy-2
I like Sasha, unsurprisingly. [Image Source]
Though you are primarily playing as either Jack or Leo, some story battles see the protagonists team-up with other characters and you can choose which character to play as. This is a pretty sweet feature as it gives you a chance to play as some of these other cool characters that you’ve previously only seen in the cut-scenes. Mechanically, they all play the same as Jack or Leo but there are variations in speed, attack power, combo strings etc. As you progress through the game, you gradually unlock the other characters to use freely when replaying completed chapters. If you purchase the game’s DLC, you can also play as Platinum’s slinky, butt-wiggling witch, Bayonetta, which is pretty fun – especially if you’ve played the Bayonetta games as her Torture techniques feature in her combos.

The game’s soundtrack – a mix of smooth, jazzy notes, energetic hip-hop and industrial tones – is a varied mix for sure but it all works. Some of the battle music will stick in your head long after the game is switched off for example.

Conclusion

It must be noted that I didn’t discuss Anarchy Reigns‘ multi-player mode in this review and that’s because I haven’t played it. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t a huge seller and by all accounts, the online side is dead now. It’s one of those instances where I regret not giving the online modes a go back when the game was new but, ironically, it was only during this second play-through in 2019 that I really came to appreciate the game. The online was meant to have been very fun, however, and it was a large focus point for the game which goes some way to explaining the puddle-deep single-player campaign that can be put to bed easily in under ten hours.

Even so, that short lifespan can’t be ignored, especially if you are considering picking Anarchy Reigns up today.

This is one of those games that you will either love or hate. The thin, repetitive gameplay, questionable single-player structure and combat that can take a while to properly “feel” might leave you cold and asking, “is this it?” but, if you value the cool factor, then there is a seriously fun beat ’em up here with some hard-hitting brawling. Additionally, if you love the Platinum ‘way’ then you will already know exactly what to expect from the crazy gameplay, wacky characters and the game’s gloriously non-PC streak that offers a middle finger to sensibilities.

Capcom Figure Builder Nurse Morrigan Figure Review (NSFW)

DSC_0084Manufacturer: Capcom (Capcom Figure Builder Creator’s Model)
Year: 2016
Material(s): ABS, PVC
Scale: Approx 280mm/10.92 inches (310mm inc. Injection Needle)

Darkstalkers‘ Morrigan Aensland is one of my favourite female videogame characters. I guess that’s a fairly unoriginal statement to make in 2019 but it was a different case back when Capcom’s Darkstalkers/Vampire fighting game series was a little more obscure and more the preserve of the genre faithful. Whatever your age or gaming experience, however, it isn’t difficult to fall for Ms. Aensland’s charms and so it’s no surprise that there are many figures and statues based on the sexy succubus.

There are only three that matter in my opinion though: the Max Factory statue (based on Kinu Nishmura’s Capcom Vs SNK 2 artwork), the reclining Yamato resin figure (with realistic feathers) and this nurse-themed figure from Capcom themselves, released under their Figure Builder line. The uber-talented Ms Nishimura was also behind the artwork that inspired this figure. Like the Max Factory statue (which I also have), I took one look at the preview pictures for this figure and knew I HAD to have it, despite the fact that I was adamant that my days of buying statues were over.

DSC_0085

First of all…just look at it. Whoever sculpted this figure knocked it out of the park and dialled the sexy factor up to eleven. A lot of credit for the design must also go to Kinu Nishimura and her visual design of Morrigan’s nurse outfit. The metal bat incorporated into the stocking/garter is such a nice touch. Then there is the translucent ‘blood’ base with a cute lil’ bat popping up out of the blood. Morrigan herself is posed brilliantly, giving her patient a devastating view as she produces a thermometer.

Obviously, PVC figures can’t hold a candle to the vastly superior quality of the limited polystone statues that cost hundreds of dollars, but the finish here is still pretty damn good. If I have any criticisms then the first would be the inclusion of the oversized injection needle behind Morrigan. Yeah, it looks cool and fits the horror theme but I think the figure would have been just fine without it. Secondly, I’m not sure that her breasts needed to be so enormous. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not complaining, but just a little bit smaller and they’d still be pretty damn big as well as better proportioned overall.

In conclusion, this figure is second only to the older Max Factory Morrigan statue in my opinion but that’s just because I love that particular pose and the artwork it was based on. On balance, this nurse edition of everybody’s favourite succubus is of better overall quality and pretty much essential if you are a fan of the character.

Some more pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.