Sunday, February 20, 2011

Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

I finally feel as though I can give a proper review of this game as I've played a decent amount of it and have gone through almost every character in one fashion or another. A disclaimer to begin with, I review games differently than most others that write these things. I try my hardest not to break the game down into it's individual parts, because, to me, that's not properly analyzing the product as a whole. With that said, however, this is a fighting game which puts it apart from something like Dead Space 2, the last game I reviewed. Thus there will be a lot of talk about the individual parts.

On with the show:

First the obvious: the entire Vs. series of games from Capcom, with a few exceptions, have been games made to appeal to a wider audience than their other fighters like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter. Going back to the two pre-Vs. games in X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes, the games have had a much more simplified manner of playing and not a lot of variance in the execution of moves. There are no charge characters like Guile or M.Bison from Street Fighter here -- even if Guile and M.Bison appear in the game -- and there's no intense Zangief styled 360 rotation moves to pull of devastating wrestling attacks. It's designed so that anyone can pick up the sticks and feel as though they're actually playing the game. That being said, however, the timing on Marvel vs. Capcom 3's gameplay is quite precise and unforgiving in a lot of instances. Especially if you're the kind of player going after those devastating combos that leave the other player feeling completely helpless.

The gameplay is fast, hectic, and intense. It's the kind of fighting game where sitting around and feeling your player out for a round or two just doesn't work. You've gotta have a good knowledge base of how your character works before the fight begins, and you've gotta be pretty decent at executing that knowledge base if you want to put the hurt on people. The gameplay is also FUN. I've not had this much fun, personally, in the Vs. series of games in a very long time. And for a series of games that were designed to be total fan-service, I would assume that would be one of the most important factors.

The selection of characters is a fantastic assortment of who's who from both sides of the battle. The selection process was a long, legal battle to get the characters that do appear in the game, but I think the end result is well worth it. There's a lot of familiar faces missing from the previous game (and some long-standing characters that also didn't make the cut). The reason that Marvel vs. Capcom 2 had so many characters, however, was that the game's visuals and battle data was all copy and pasted from other games. There were only a handful of sprites that were new to Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (Cable, Marrow, Amingo, and a few others) and everything else was ripped from Darkstalkers, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, MSH vs. Street Fighter, the first Marvel vs. Capcom game, and the Street Fighter Alpha series. Visually, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was quite disappointing in that those recycled sprites didn't age well and became very pixelated (like Morrigan for instance), and even the new sprites didn't have the same polished feel as something from a Street Fighter III. Especially when set against the three dimensional backgrounds of the game. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is using a new engine (of which only two characters found in the game were previously rendered on; Chris Redfield and Wesker) in MT Framework, thus everything was being designed from the ground up. The animations for Chris and Wesker, while keeping the tone of the characters, are a bit different from Resident Evil 5; Ryu, Chun-Li and Gouki don't have any borrowed assets from Street Fighter IV, and Morrigan is actually brought into a new game with a new character model. Finally.

The character selection can be a little off when first experienced or first glanced, particularly on the Marvel Comics side of things. Especially if you don't read Marvel Comics or have a small understanding of what the New Marvel is trying to do with its properties. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of missing and/or absent faces that people would come to expect from another Vs. game, but people tend to forget that the last Vs. game came out ten or so years ago, and the landscape of Marvel Comics has changed drastically. A lot of characters that appeared in MvC2, for instance, are no longer relevant in the comics world (Gambit, Rogue, Sabretooth) and some of the characters in the game have risen up to take their places (Deadpool, X-23, and She-Hulk, for instance). While there may not be as many characters in this one compared to the previous one, I think the wide variety of the selectable characters from M.O.D.O.K. to Amaterasu balance the game out firecely. I'd also like to mention that with a much more compact selection of characters to chose from, it restricts the selection process and almost forces people to choose more characters. From a personal standpoint, I've used and have wanted to use more characters in this game than I ever did in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 across the arcade release, the Dreamcast release, and the more recent PlayStation Network release of the game. Each character is also presented in four different color schemes as per usual with Capcom's fighters. Some of them, like Spider-Man's selection, are all sorts of wonderful as I love Spider-Man's black and white costume the most even after all these years he hasn't worn it, and others are just painful on the eyes. One of Cap's and two of Magneto's are this way.

Visually, the game does what it's supposed to do. The design of the game was intended to be a living comic book, if I remember correctly, and it does just that. Each character model's rendering looks as though it could have been pencilled, inked and colored by any given comic book artist and then thrown into the game. This is one of the few games that really captures that vibe well, especially for a comic book related game. I don't know if this is a cell-shading process or what, but the end result is a rather brilliantly colored spectical of constant action. One of my biggest fears about fighting games going to a three-dimensional presentation from a two-dimensional one was the loss of intricate details such as flowing clothing, facial expressions, and the like, but this game has further cemented what Capcom has been doing with Street Fighter the past few years, and that fear has been silenced completely. There's a lot of detail going on in this game that, to me, rivals some of the animation that SNK has done with the King of Fighters series for a very long time. The backgrounds are also really well done, though I wish there was a background viewer of some sort in the game's gallery so you could see what was going on and fully appreciate it as it's almost nearly impossible to do so while playing the game. The backgrounds are just as varied as the characters, though there's a lot less of them, which is a bit of a downer for me. I miss the days of old when every character had their own background full of details, and then there were special backgrounds for specific things. Like the bottom of the Pit when you fought Reptile in Mortal Kombat, or the tall grass field in Australia where Ryu and Sagat fight in Street Fighter Alpha 2. My favorite backgrounds presented here are the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and the Tricell Laboratory (which is full of Lickers and a Tyrant).

The sound of the game is just bat-poop crazy. There's so much going on all the time it's hard to decipher what's what at times. The character vocalizations are more present here than in any of the previous games, or any other fighting game for that matter, and they really do illustrate the personalities of the characters. Deadpool, by far and far, is the most hilarious and outspoken character of the game. From his opening game taunts against Wolverine, Magneto or any Street Fighter character ("I love Street Fighter! Would you mind signing your spleen for me?!), to his fake Shoryuken, to the random names for his own moves (Katana-Rama! Chimichangas!), and finishing it up with his win-quotes, which are done in pure Deadpool style. He breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to you. Wolverine sounds gruff and growling as always, but it is definitely a different voice actor this time around. Spider-Man mocks and is quite playful, Doom is dominant and egotistical, M.O.D.O.K. is insane, X-23 is trying to hard to be a better Wolverine, so on and so forth. Capcom really went all out to capture the what makes Marvel's characters... well, Marvel's characters and nailed it on the head with all of them. And they didn't do too shappy with the Capcom side either. The game also comes with a really neat Japanese voice over track option for the Capcom side, and if you set it to "original" you'll get a nice presentation of how the characters have always been shown. Certain characters (Ryu, Zero, Arthur) will speak Japanese, while others (Chris, Wesker) will speak english.

There's a ton of music in the game as well. Each of the nine stages has three different themes going on at different times, and each character has their own theme, a lot of which are brand new, others are remixed versions of their classic themes from other games.

The presentation of the game, from the cinematic sequences which are nothing short of amazing, to the game's menus and game's modes are all well done. There's the traditional fighting game stuff of course (arcade, versus, online battles) and there's the training mode which, I have to say is a stroke of genius on Capcom's part, has the option to simulate connection speed. Part of the reason I don't play fighters online is because I can't adjust very well to bad connections and lag (the other reasons are input delay, and it lacks the intimacy and fun of being right next to the person you're playing against). Here you can select what kind of connection you are playing at or who you're playing against has and relearn the characters accordingly. There's also a Mission mode that operates like the Trial mode from Street Fighter IV and gives you some time to learn specific moves and combos for every character in the game.

All in all, the game was more than well done, and I think it was more than worth the ten year wait for it. Not everyone is going to like it for whatever reason, but it's a solid fighter that presents itself as a game that anyone can pick up and play and it executes that presentation very well. On the flipside of that, however, it's also got a great deal of depth to it for all those tournament-like players, and frame-counters and the like. I think the people that would enjoy this game the most are, of course, people that REALLY enjoy fighting games, and fans of Capcom and/or Marvel.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bits and Pieces 8: ENTER THE SUBTITLE.

Nerd Shit

So Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation are coming out on Blu-Ray on April 19th, 2011. Two shitty movies made by some fucking dude that has no idea how a martial arts tournament works and a complete fucking asshat that no one should really pay attention to. Although I was a bit fond of the original attempt at turning Mortal Kombat into a movie, I have since grown up and pushed the action button, and realized that, just like his godawful attempts at making Resident Evil into movies, that guy ripped everything that was Mortal Kombat out of the movie and threw it in the trash, then made things up as he went along. Seriously, not one real fatality in the game? Hokey, pokey martial arts sequences that were better rendered in their native China than in any American flick EVAR?! It was nothing more than a case of some snooty filmmaker snob saying, "HEY, WE CAN DO STORIES BETTER THAN THOSE GUYS CAN, SO LETS JUST FUCK SHIT UP!"

This happens all the time in American cinema. Just look at every superhero movie made in the last two decades (minus the first two Blade movies, 'cause those were better than any comic Blade had ever been in) or any movie based on a video game. Especially Resident Evil and that Tomb Raider garbage.

And don't get me started on Street Fighter.

But that's all besides the point. Despite my ranting and raving and SHEER NERDRAGEHATE for the Mortal Kombat movies, I can still enjoy them.

I can enjoy them even more when they have nerdshit stuffed away in them that makes Ed Boon and his crew at Netherrealm Studios the kings of SECRET FIGHTING GAME SHIT. They actually started all that, by the way. With Reptile in the original Mortal Kombat arcade... oh, and those "fatality" things.

The Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation Blu-Rays (both films probably make for really good films for me to watch really drunk, or to be watched with me while I'm really drunk) have a nice little easter egg stuffed away in them for the gamers. Yeah, folks like me. Embedded in the secret coding of the Blu-Ray lies an extra costume for Mortal Kombat -- the video game that's being released on the same day that's a reboot for the franchise -- for Jade. Jade's digital life began as a hidden character in Mortal Kombat II, before debuting in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as a fully playable character. In order to fight her in MKII you had to use nothing but the low-kick button during one of the rounds that you win, and she'd take you back to Goro's Lair -- a stage from the original Mortal Kombat -- and beat the crap out of you.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the second time a Blu-Ray disc has featured a video game aspect to it that is only functional on the PlayStation 3 console. The first was the fully playable demo of God of War III on the District 9 Blu-Ray.

And just to connect the two, Kratos, the lead character from the God of War series -- and the most badass badass to ever grace the world with his GODRAGEHATE presence -- is a fully playable character on the PlayStation 3 version of the new Mortal Kombat game.

I Hate Hollywood

I do. I really, really do. But to keep this rant to the bare minimum of wordage, I'm hating them now for what they do to video games. It's no secret that video games make more money than Hollywood does nowadays. They just do. You want a good example? Look at the sales and money generated from Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops. It smashed all records in the entertainment fields like the Hulk when he got back to Earth after Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and the others shot him into space. If you didn't get that, or didn't understand it, then obviously you're not spending enough time reading comics. And that just makes you UnAmerican.

But it doesn't stop there, oh, no. Video games also offer better production (nothing can look fake in an all digital world), better acting for a great deal of the time, and... DUN DUN DUN, better stories. Take Black Ops again. It's a standard, big budget action flick, but it out action flicked most of the big budget action flicks I saw last year, and it was better written. And that's saying a lot since the Call of Duty series is hugely popular for it's online multiplayer, and isn't known for it's epic, cerebral storytelling masterpieces.

But... God of War III blew the remake of The Clash of the Titans to absolute fuckall IN THE TITLE SEQUENCE ALONE.

Yet, Hollywood still has this 'holier-than-thou' aspect to it where the collective they, whomever these faceless twats are, think they can take some concept that was thought up in a video game -- or in a comic or some other medium that wasn't in the HOLY GRAIL CINEMA -- and do a better job. And they fail. Miserably. Instead of making a straight on horror film that involves zombies, but spirals out into an elaborate biochemical fuckjob like the Resident Evil games WERE, they put in made up characters that aren't even in the game, and make them wannabe kung-fu action stars (sorry, Milla, you're no Donnie Yen), and take the story into weirdville.

And it continues. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves are video games that make a flawless merger between the lazy, voyeuristic, inactive aspects of the cinema, and the involved, interactive, busy-bee aspect of the video game. It's a mix between Raiders of the Lost Ark style adventure and... I've got nothing else. Yet, when the rights were optioned to make a film based on the franchise, this guy starts yammering on about making a movie about a family of folks to be reckoned with in the antiquities world. Which has absolutely nothing to do with Nathan Drake, the world he operates in, his motivations, let alone either of the two (soon to be three) game's the character has appeared in. What his intentions are... they're like optioning the rights to make a Batman movie, then dealing solely on Bruce's family issues, keeping Martha and Thomas Wayne alive... and never having him actually be Batman.

Okay, that was probably a bit much, but still... stop licensing stuff out and make Hollywood, it's shite writing staff, it's shite directors; make them find original material inside their own fucking brains for once.

It's a retard's medium, cinema. Good for wide-eyed, doped up entertainment, but little else.

And don't get me started on horror cinema from America. For the past twenty years or so, horror from Hollywood has been a giant turd that's been forcefully smashed into the surface of my eyeballs. Even video games get horror right.

Just look at Dead Space 2. Heh, heh.

My apologies for those of you that subscribe to the HOLY GRAIL OF ENTERTAINMENT that movies seem to hold over people. I just don't share that opinion at all. It's a passive and lazy form of entertainment that's the equivalent of a cellophane packaged yellow-sponged snack cake with cream filling.

Yes. A goddamned Twinkie.