My 2019 in Gaming inc. my GOTY

Yes, posts have trailed off here on Darkstalker90 Gaming but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t still being playing videogames. I’ve just been spending less time with them, and have had even less time to write about playing them. But I thought it would be a wasted opportunity NOT to look back at this year and the games I’ve played.

First of all, this might be first year that I’ve not played a single new release. Everything that I’ve spent time with or completed has been pre-2019. On the flipside, I’ve also not spent much time at all with retro games. 2019 has been about catching up on my backlog and playing stuff from recent years that I just hadn’t gotten around to until now.

My list of completed games looks like this (links to my reviews where available):

So, not very many then but that’s an accurate reflection of the sort of year I’ve had: not many games completed and most of those that were finished took me ages to get through, purely due to a lack of time and, in some cases, motivation. I can’t lie: I did fall out of love with gaming at several points in 2019 and simply couldn’t be bothered with it.

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But what I did play, I really enjoyed. Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy were two mighty fine remasters that I heaped praise upon. Spyro Reignited in particular impressed me no end. The Spyro games were, after all, some of my absolute favourites of all-time so I was concerned that the Reignited Trilogy might do too much meddling and piss all over my happy late-90’s memories. I needn’t have worried though. Yes, there were some unforgivable glitches and, yes, there were a few small alterations to pander to our overly-sensitive modern society, but otherwise this was how you remaster games.

I’m very much looking forward to getting around to the Crash Team Racing and Medievil remakes in 2020 when I finally pick them up. Hopefully, the positivity can continue (I haven’t read any reviews of either and I’ve mostly avoided gameplay videos).

Finishing Yakuza 5 after starting it years ago (literally!) felt like an almighty relief. I’m a completionist you see, and Yakuza 5 is possibly the most bloated of all the games in terms of 100% completion requirements. In the end, I had to just give up and complete the main game to get it out of the way but I did achieve well above 90% completion. I never did manage to catch that damn Ito fish nor beat the toughest difficulty of Winter Combat, though. As for the Japanese gambling minigames? I’ve decided that I’m never going to bother with these, even if it does mean forfeiting 100% completion in all Yakuza games going forward.

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[Image Source]
There was more Yakuza to come in 2019, however. After a little break, I decided to get into the PS4 generation of games and play Yakuza 0/Zero. What a game this was! First up, there was still a lot to do but Zero was nowhere near as vast as Yakuza 5 so it was definitely a less intimidating challenge. Again, I skipped the gambling games and just went for my own custom “100%” completion and did manage to complete everything else. The storyline – set in the 80’s bubble of real estate and excess – was fantastic and really helped flesh out the events of the Yakuza canon prior to the original game. The combat was much improved too with a selection of different fighting styles to master. All in all, Yakuza Zero was more of the same but, paradoxically, felt incredibly fresh, despite it being the sixth installment in the series that I have played. It’s a true testament to the quality and consistency of these games that I can play what is essentially the same thing for well over a decade and still be utterly absorbed by the experience.

So I give my Game of the Year award to Yakuza 0.

2019 was also the year in which I reacquainted myself with Platinum and their signature brand of off-the-wall, crazy action games. I started by replaying Anarchy Reigns (PS3) and finding – much to my pleasure – that I enjoyed it a lot more the second time around and, despite the many flaws, I was able to appreciate it for what it was. I then moved on to the Bayonetta games. Yes, I was well behind on playing these but that didn’t detract from the experience. The first game, for example, blew me away with its amazing style and challenging gameplay. The sequel was more of the same but not quite as impactful in my opinion. It was much more sedate near the beginning and, on the default difficulty, I didn’t die a single time, rarely having to dip into my swollen stash of health-restoring items. That said, I still got a lot out of Bayonetta 2 and, in a way, the lesser challenge allowed me to enjoy experimenting in battle a bit more. Overall though, I believe that the original is still the best.

Aside from games that I can actually say that I completed, I also put a lot of time into two fighting games this year: Soulcalibur VI and Street Fighter V. I won’t go into great depth about either here (because I’ve done enough of that this year on this blog) but suffice to say, I have really enjoyed both. Street Fighter V was a game that initially didn’t sit well with me at all and, while there are still numerous elements that I will likely never accept, I gave the game a second chance and did at last gel with it in terms of gameplay.

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I have put a considerable amount of time into gittin’ gud with Sophitia’s sister, Cassandra, since she was added to the game via DLC.

Soulcalibur VI, meanwhile, has retained its crown as my favourite fighting game of the current generation (out of those I have actually played of course…). The DLC has never failed to please me and the gameplay itself is just so much better for feeling closer to SCII/SCIII than the deflating SCV. The support shows no signs of slowing down either with a second season of DLC right around the corner kicking off with Samurai Shodown‘s Haohmaru, SCIV veteran Hilde, new moves and more customisation items. I can’t wait.

In closing, I won’t make any resolutions or promises for 2020 because I know that I likely won’t stick to them. However, I feel that I played far more games this year that I enjoyed as opposed to games that I didn’t, so if I can have a similar strike rate for next year then that would be enough for me.

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

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The gaming world be like:

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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:

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“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:

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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.

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[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

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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.

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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.

Giving Street Fighter V a Second Chance

I first played Street Fighter V around a year after it came out. By that time, it seemed that a great deal of those who had been disgruntled with the original launch had cooled down somewhat and were now accepting of the game. I wasn’t one of those people. I was highly critical of Capcom’s fighting game and recall branding it a “disgrace”. The game was released in what appeared to be a sparse unfinished state. In truth, Capcom had simply adopted a variation of the F2P approach with an increasing amount of content hidden behind a paywall. That approach is fine if it is advertised as such. But to go down that route AND sell the game disc for full RRP is to take the piss (to put it politely).

Single-player content was more-or-less extinct and you had to pay for everything, even down to colour swaps. The rub was that you could earn all of this stuff for free using the in-game Fight Money currency but amassing enough of it to unlock everything was impossible if you were an offline player. Believe me, I tried.

What Capcom did with SFV was appeal to the hardcore tournament types who were all about being online and increasing their win tallies. Single-player? What’s that? The lack of offline modes and the fact that Fight Money was easier to earn online was proof of that. In fairness, I can’t 100% blame Capcom for that because fighting games have always been about competitive play so it’s understandable that Capcom’s focus would be on the online side of things.

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[Source]
But it was still a bitter pill to swallow for somebody like me who has been playing fighting games since the 90’s and was used to loads of single-player content/modes and working to unlock stuff. The genre has changed a lot since those days however and fighting games in general don’t have a lot of SP content. As for those unlockables, they are now on the Playstation Store (and whatever the Xbox equivalent is) for you to unlock with your credit card, not perseverence and skill. To say that I’m still angry about this would be incorrect because it’s just how videogames have evolved and how publishers operate as businesses in 2019. I get it. I don’t have to like it at all but I get it.

Street Fighter V felt like a step too far however. I played the game for a while and enjoyed what I played. The gameplay is pretty damn tight and I did dig the art style and exaggerated characters. SFV also saw the return of Rainbow Mika – one of my favourite fighting game babes of all-time – so I had to play it. But I lost interest in the game fairly quickly and set it aside. I was enjoying the likes of The King of Fighters XIV, Dead or Alive 5 and even Mortal Kombat X more. True, all of these games had DLC strategies too but nothing as in-your-face as Capcom’s game. KOF for example had a mixture of free and paid-for DLC updates. DOA charged the player to play dress-up with more DLC outfits than were ever needed but at least there was ample single-player content and a standalone F2P edition (Core Fighters) that didn’t encroach on the ‘normal’ game. As for MKX, I just waited for ‘XL’ edition which had all of the DLC on the disc.

And I haven’t even mentioned the ridiculous censorship that Capcom forced on SFV, just in case people were had nightmares about a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of Cammy’s gusset or were offended by Mika smacking her juicy booty. I’ve already said my piece on this before so I won’t go into it again. All I’ll say is that it was so unnecessary and the edits were nothing other than quick hack jobs.

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Retro nostalgia plus curves aplenty. Yep, I’m pretty easy to sell to despite my deep cynicism.

So I’d stopped playing SFV and, quite honestly, didn’t feel like I was missing anything. The new characters that were drip-fed over the course of several season passes didn’t really tempt me back in either. But fast-forward to the present and I have decided to give Street Fighter V a second chance. It all started when I noticed that Capcom had raided their back catalogue of slightly obscure characters and brought Final Fight 3‘s Lucia to the game. I always enjoyed FF3 so this was a nice surprise. Following this, another of my favourites – Poison – was also introduced to SFV. Yes, I like the female characters with the exaggerated curvature and big boobs – guilty as charged.

Clearly, I was a victim of the “sex sells” philosophy because I thought “fuck it” and decided that the introduction of a few more bodacious babes was the ideal excuse to give the game another shot. Aside from the expanded roster, I was distantly aware that some new offline modes had also been added. Maybe I’d enjoy the game now? I managed to pick up a cheap copy of the ‘Arcade Edition’ since it includes all of the characters from the first two season passes. A bit of a blow for those who paid for them originally but this is Capcom – what did you expect? The first thing I discovered was that you absolutely MUST buy this game sealed because the additional content isn’t on the disc itself.

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That’s right, it’s a download code on a piece of paper which means that used copies of this game are effectively worthless. This fact is also not advertised on the back of the box so be careful! As with the original version of the game, the Arcade Edition‘s Blu-Ray disc is essentially just a coaster that will be worthless in the future since there is far more DLC and digital updates for this game than whatever is actually on the disc itself. Speaking of updates…

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Yes, it had been THAT long since I’d last played this game or updated it. A whopping 27GB of data needed to be downloaded and with my extremely average internet speed, it was estimated to be a five-hour wait. This is yet another aspect of newer games that does my head in versus the put-the-disc-in-and-play simplicity of older generations. But it is what it is and so I played something else for the next TWO DAYS while this King Kong-sized update did its thing in the background.

At last, I was back into the game. Now, I did say that I thought SFV played well and I won’t retract that statement but I WILL say that it isn’t an easy game to just pick up and play. I don’t think so anyway. The basics are the same as any Street Fighter game but working out how to use the V-Trigger stuff isn’t necessarily so straightforward. Until I’d spent time experimenting, I didn’t feel as if I was playing the game properly, if you get what I mean.

Then there is an overload of rewards and in-game currencies. Fight Money, gems, Fortune Tickets…it’s all a bit too much. I’d much rather just have the game and the DLC – not all of these attempts by Capcom to make it look like you can earn stuff for free. Not easily anyway. You have to spend Fight Money to earn Fortune Tickets in Extra Battle mode for example. And even then, you can just skip this shit and pay for the stuff from the store which is what I suspect Capcom knows people will do.

All of that said, the core gameplay is still enjoyable…when you’re playing that is. I find that SFV is a very sluggish and slow-loading game. Playing the new Arcade mode for example is just boring in my opinion. I find myself looking at loading symbols spinning around or ‘dramatic’ animations announcing the next battle…just get on with it already. Being beaten and having to continue is also an irritation as it means staring at several black loading screens and having to go through the character and V-Trigger selections all over again. While this happening, I’m staring into space or at the carpet – bored. It isn’t a problem with my PS4 either because it’s just this game in particular which is so damn lazy.

Oh and I bought a costume (Mika’s School outfit) for £3.29 from the store and felt absolutely taken advantage of for doing so. But there was no way I could see myself collecting the 32000 units of FM that it would cost to obtain for “free”…

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Was this worth paying £3.29 for? Honestly, I don’t even know. [Source]
I’m not going to give up on the game. I’m going to keep playing and try out more characters beyond my usual Cammy/Mika/Akuma trinity. But at the moment, 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 the game must have been a success for Capcom to have warranted the continued support and new DLC characters. Perhaps I’m just out-of-touch with what “works” now and what gamers are willing to accept. Overall though, my sentiment towards Street Fighter V is still a resounding…

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MegaHouse Rainbow Mika Figure Review (NSFW)

RainbowResize1Manufacturer: MegaHouse   |   Year: 2008   |   Material: PVC   |   Scale: 1/8

Rainbow Mika is one of my favourite female fighting game characters. I don’t imagine that it’s difficult to guess why either. Unfortunately, there hasn’t exactly been an abundance of must-have figures based on the big-booty wrestler. As far as I am concerned, there are only two worth buying. One is the more recent effort by Kotobukiya, based on artwork by Shunya Yamashita. The other is this 2008 model from MegaHouse. For the time being, I own both of these but I will regrettably be selling the MegaHouse version very soon (as part of an ongoing personal project) so I thought I’d at least feature it here before it heads off to a new owner.

[For those who missed it, I’ve already reviewed the Kotobukiya version of Rainbow Mika here]

Anyway, what do I think of this figure? I think it captures what makes Mika, Mika I guess. She’s striking a pose with a curled bicep and one hand on her famous bottom. The quality of the figure in general is good though I think that the blue colour is definitely the wrong shade in the flesh and looks almost metallic. It’s worth noting that this costume is her original from Alpha/Zero 3 before it was updated for her return in Street Fighter V. I think I like this outfit more so it’s a shame that any future figures will likely use the SFV revision.

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The question is: which is better, this one or the Kotobukiya version? I do really like this one by MegaHouse. They put Mika in a great pose and nailed her body and the way her dramatic curves are almost overflowing from her outfit. But the colours on the later Kotobukiya figure are better and I think that the pose of that figure is a little more dynamic. It has more detailed hair too which I like. It’s a close-run thing overall though with little to choose between the two. In an ideal world, I’d keep both Rainbow Mika figures but I only need one (and some would say there is an argument for having none at all). Finally, I only paid about £40 for this many years ago when nobody was really interested. Looking around on ebay, it seems to have appreciated in both value and scarcity since then. Budding investors out there should take note as buying the right figures does tend to pay dividends down the line.

I will leave you with some more pictures of the MegaHouse Rainbow Mika. Enjoy.

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