Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bits and Pieces # 19: Nighttime Sleep-Aid.


Status Update

                Things on the new blog project are taking longer than anticipated thanks to that situation called Life-Gets-In-The-Way and because I thought Windows 8’s automatic updates ate the entire thing that I had written, but it turns out that it didn’t.  It’s a bit of a depressing thing when you spend a bit of time at the keyboard jotting down all these thoughts and whatnot, only to have it completely disappear for one reason or another and, for me at least, it takes a while to build up the desire to even try it again.  I thought I was going to have to start over, but it turns out that I don’t.  So that’s pretty awesome.

                Because I thought it was gone completely – and, to be honest, I didn’t even check in the saved folder to make sure that it was still there ‘cause I was rather certain that I didn’t save it at all – I veered away from the project in terms of gaming altogether.  Didn’t help much that I added several new games to the list and dove into those straight away, either.  I finished Batman: Arkham Origins and Call of Duty: Ghosts, spent some time in the Ghosts’ MP, and then went into Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and almost immediately became overwhelmed by the size of the game and a strange desire to not play that one until after I’ve gone back and played through all the previous Assassin’s Creed games.  This is a problem I have.  Don’t worry about it.

                Sometimes playing games that are of that scope and you know they’re of that scope right off the bat gives this wiff of intimidation the same sort of way looking at a massive eight-hundred to a thousand page novel does.  It’s so massive, and you don’t know how you can absorb all that information and still remember anything about it, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?  I started it.  And then I stopped.  But not because of the intimidation, but because of other things – Life-Gets-In-The-Way type things – and didn’t play anything in over a week.

                Then one of those strange things happened.  Well, strange as strange can be when I’m concerned.  One of those things that when I tell other people about it, they look at me like I just stepped off some sort of rocket ship or another and asked them to take me to their leader.  But, please, show me the bathroom first, and can I have a Mountain Dew?  I get this look a lot, because I have weird habits.  I don’t care.  Eat them; eat my habits.  Devour them and let them become a part of you and then, AND ONLY THEN, might you maybe understand why I do this weird shit that I do.  Anyway, the strange thing was this: I was watching Event Horizon, which is a horrible-horrible horror flick that no one should ever watch.  Ever.  It’s so fucking awful and derivative that they didn’t even try to hide how derivative it was.  There’s direct lines of dialogue ripped from other movies – movies I adore, mind you – that I don’t really understand how they got away with making this movie, and how Paul WS Anderson still has a filmmaking career.  Oh, those movies are Aliens and Hellraiser, by the way.  If you know those movies and then watch Event Horizon, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

                As I was sitting there trying my hardest to make it through this picture – which was like trying to take a really painful shit, mind you – I started to get that urge to play something.  Play a game.  A certain kind of game.  A Visceral game.

                Dead Space.

                So I started playing Dead Space again.  The first one, else there’d be a fucking number in the title.  I picked up where I had left off previously: a save file where I had just beaten impossible mode and had all sorts of doodads and gadgets that were maxed out and I was slaying everything that came in my path like a mighty slayer of things that come in their path.  Whatever those things are called.  Then I stopped.  I stopped completely.  I stopped because I wanted to take it back old school and try to relive that initial experience I had when I first put Dead Space into the PlayStation 3 and fired it up for the first time.  It must be noted right here and right now that nothing scares me.  Not in fiction anyway.  Not in movies or books or comics or video games.  I’ve not been terrified of anything horror-related since I was about eight years old and that thing was Fright Night.  I’ve seen the sorts of movies that would frighten most casual viewers and I’ve read things that are unpleasant in every sense of the word (I love it nevertheless!) but Dead Space has the honor of being the first thing in twenty-nine years (well, twenty-four or five at the time, ‘cause it came out four or five years ago) that really freaked me out.

                In order to spark that old horror glow that the game had on me that initial play-through, I turned out the lights (as I had when I first played it) and slapped on the headset to fully immerse myself into the game.  And it worked.  Boy, howdy, did it work!  What the fuck does boy, howdy! Mean?  I’ve heard it used before and it just popped in my head randomly while I was clacking at the keyboard, and I threw it in here.  Eh.  I’m sitting there in the dark with headphones on and I’m playing this game in the dark corridors of the USG Ishimura and just like the first time, I keep getting that very uncomfortable feeling that something was behind me and it was fantastic!  That moment where the line between reality and fiction blurs for just a moment and your imagination steals it and starts playing tricks with you.

                I was intending on continuing the first game tonight, but oh, look, new Hopsin album for me to download – ‘cause I preordered it! – and I’m writing a blog.  So there, you go!  There’s my video gaming update.

                Now, a writing update: the story I’m working on is playing with my depression in a way that’s making it harder to write and it’s taking me longer to get through the second draft.  It’s okay, I enjoy it, and I need to keep plowing through the bastard until it’s finished.  I’ve toyed with putting it away and coming back to it later after I do something much more light-hearted in nature, but decided against it.  If I keep putting things off, nothing will get finished.  This one needs to get finished before I move onto anything else.


Fresh Ass Kicks and Kung-Fu Chops

                Oh, no, there was nothing behind me.

                I’m a concerned citizen, I am.  I sometimes done a mask and go out in the back yard of the house and imagine fighting crime before lighting up a cigarette and telling myself that shits for retards and fuckwits and the mask is just ‘cause I like it.  Normally I’m drunk when I do this and the end results end up on facebook, ‘cause those are the only “selfies” I care to fuckin’ take.  Besides the ones of my feet in those fresh ass kicks I mentioned.  I smoke the cigarette and then go back inside and think about what I’m actually concerned about and it has nothing to do with crime at all.

                Instead it’s insanely silly shit like the business model that Microsoft has created for their revival of Killer Instinct.  Yeah, this is some serious shit.  Fuck starving people, fuck social injustices; THIS IS WHAT I’M CONCERNED ABOUT.  Not really, I just don’t like to think about all that other stuff ‘cause it crushes my brain in ways that I don’t care to talk about.  BUT YES.  I’m concerned, Microsoft.  What are you doing?!

                What the fuck is Killer Instinct, anyway?

                Well, sir, Killer Instinct is pretty much a bullshit fighting game from the mid-to-late 1990s that aped several mechanics from other fighting games – mainly Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat – and wrapped them into the shiny brand new package of pre-rendered CGI character models – which, for the most part, were very mediocre.  But, SHIT MAN, that game was fucking fun!  Of course I was the only one that cared for it amongst the kids I hung around at the time, which is a continuing trend, really.  HA!  I mained Orchid in both Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct 2 in the ‘cades and on the SNES ports of the game.  But then the game died out for some reason or another that I really don’t care to look up right now.

                Earlier this year it was announced to be coming back as a console exclusive for Microsoft’s Xbox One!  HOLY FUCK!  I know, excited!  Not really.  Killer Instinct died for me three console generations ago, and I’ve moved on to the greener pastures that are tenderly cared for by Namco.  Y’know, that Tekken shit.  Plus Capcom is still tending to the fields of Street Fighter, and NetherRealm came out swinging with Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us.  But it was announced!

                And it was announced as Free-to-Play!


                Free fighting games are always worth a whirl, right?

                No, ‘cause as it turns out, it’s not free-to-play at all.  It’s an over-glorified demo where you get Jago and only Jago, and if you want the other five characters (yeah, a six-character character roster is all they’re throwing at us for the first two months or so of release!) you gotta pay for ‘em, and they average around five bucks a piece!

                What this business model does is make sure that this game won’t have the support from the competitive circuit outside of tournaments held by Microsoft themselves or online tournaments.  Why?  Because the folks that run those circuits have no way of telling if everyone who has the game and is entering the tournament has access to all the same characters, which creates problems.  And this puts a MASSIVE dent in the effect and sales figures that Microsoft is going to see on Killer Instinct as a whole.

                How do I know this?  ‘Cause this always happens with DLC characters, and since this game is made up of nothing but DLC characters, there’s no way to know who is gonna have what and how many times they’ve faced that character or this character, how much time they spent with that character over yonder, and it interrupts the balancing that’s always necessary to ensure that the game stays competitive.  At EVO the past two years, all DLC-based characters that any of the games offered were banned from competitive play.  All those DLC characters from Mortal Kombat?  Banned.  All those extras from Injustice?  Banned.  Sorry, Batgirl, you’re banned.  Hell, since the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Mortal Kombat weren’t identical, because Sony allowed the usage of Kratos from God of War in their console’s version of the game, adjustments were made there, too.  Yes, Kratos fought the pantheon of Olympus and won… but he was banned from EVO.

                Killer Instinct was developed by Double Helix who have a less than stellar track record in the gaming world.  Really.  They make shit games, if I can be honest, and have NO experience in making fighting games WHATSOEVER – which is really weird, why isn’t the original development team making this game? – and have a business model in place that’s been structured around extra DLC characters from other fighting games.  Five dollars is how much Darth Vader and Yoda cost in Soul Calibur IV across two platforms; five bucks is how much Jill Valentine and Shuma Gorath cost in Marvel vs. Capcom 3/Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (and I’m steamed about that, ‘cause I got the collector’s edition of that game and got them with the package and downloaded them and everything and they’ve suddenly disappeared from my downloaded games list and I have no access to them whatsoever THANKS OBAMA) instead of releasing the base package and then adding more characters later.  Well, they ARE releasing a base package, but they’re pretending that it’s free-to-play.  Well, they ARE releasing the base package, and WERE pretending that it’s free-to-play, but the launch trailer for the game says, “FREE TO DOWNLOAD!”

                When I saw that I half-expected a ;) to follow it.

                Unfortunately, there are no sales figures to see how the title is doing, and I think because of the model they’ve made up out of thin air for it, I think tracking those sales figures will be like tracking a fart in the wind.

                Without a hefty amount of support from the fighting game community, I don’t think Killer Instinct is going to make that much of an impact.

                And by doing absolutely fuck nothing about that atrocious D-Pad on the Xbox controller kinda shows me that Microsoft isn’t taking this genre seriously.

                And, well, that just something something something.

                People are always telling me that they prefer the Xbox controllers to the DualShocks.

                Here’s what happens when people tell me that:

                When people tell me they prefer the Xbox controllers to the PlayStations, I roll my goddamned eyes.  Not because they’re bad controllers, or they’re inferior products or that they way too much – although the controllers for the original Xbox when it first came out where like seven hundred pounds of what the fuck sitting in your hands; it was like you were shaking hands with a malformed gorilla named Xbox – but because of the type of gamer I am.

                Here’s the kind of gamer I am: there’s every game in the world and then there’s fighting games.  I might play every game in the world, and I may even enjoy them – sometimes immensely! – but then there’s fighting games.  There’s the countless amounts of hours I spent in the arcades trying to learn that godfucked fireball and dragon punch in Street Fighter!  There was the countless amounts of hours I spent on the SNES perfecting those same moves!  There was the countless amounts of hours I put in performing every goddamned fatality across NINE fucking Mortal Kombat games!  Then there’s the countless amounts of hours I’ve spent learning and memorizing a few sets of King’s multi-throws and ten-strings in Tekken, only to have them not mean shit when they added the juggling system, so I had to completely change my game and start pouncing on motherfuckers brutally and never letting them off the ground because they might not let me hit the goddamned ground!  AHHHHH!  FUCK JUGGLING!  Oh, wait, it’s kinda fun once you start doing it.  Never mind.  I love you, Juggles.

                Being a fighting game gamer (haha, what the hell?) first means that D-Pad?  That D-Pad has to have pin-point precision, or as close to it as you can get, and it has to be accurate and hella responsive, AND, AND, AND it has to be comfortable!  And while Sony’s isn’t the BEST D-Pad I’ve ever had the pleasure of stroking my thumb along its sweet, sweet surfaces (ha, pervy!) – that privilege goes to SEGA’s six button controller for the SEGA Saturn, son! – it gets the job done very well.  Better for me than a fight stick, ‘cause while I do love a fight stick for that awesome arcade-perfect experience, my wrists get all wonky and start to ache after a few bouts, and we can’t have that!  Xbox’s controllers have always, always, always been one-hunnit-pursint BULLSHIT when it comes to fighting games.  Xbox?  It sucked.  Playing SNK vs. Capcom: Chaos on that machine was a nightmare of sand-paper-to-the-genitals-whilst-masturbating preportions.  Xbox 360?  Oh, for fuck’s sake, Mitsurugi go the right way!  And from what I’m reading about the Xbone?  Same.  Goddamned.  Shit.

                It’s nice to know that Microsoft puts all its money into these awesome technologies like voice commands and a camera that can watch me do everything I don’t want it watching me do, yet where it counts for me they can’t do a goddamned thing.  I can’t go, “Xbox, counter, counter, perry, ten string combo, win!” and have the fuckin’ thing fight the game for me, can I?  I’m most certainly not going to pretend Killer Instinct is Dance Dance Revolution and do what my nephew thinks would be the “COOLEST FIGHTING GAME THINGER EVER INVENTED” and mimic the characters movements in front of the Kinnect.  No, sir.  Proper D-Pad for fighting games is a must, and since they can’t put a proper one in their fucking controllers, I’m concerned.

                In fact, I’m putting on the mask and going into the backyard.

                I’ll be right back.

                Anyways, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  See, I have no problems with video game controllers whatsoever.  I can go from the Xbox to the DualShock 1, 2, or 3, to the GameCube, to the SNES, and back with no problems whatsoever.  There might be a slight learning curve as I readjust, but it’s not really a problem.  EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO FIGHTING GAMES.   The Xbox controllers are so unresponsive to what I want to do in the game, that the PlayStation is my preferred console of choice because of that – well, not JUST because of that, it’s also because I prefer games like God of War and Uncharted to Gears of War and Halo, exclusives, y’know?  So in order to comfortably play Killer Instinct I’d have to A) buy an Xbox One, which I fully intend on doing once Titanfall comes out B) wait for a third party to make proper fighting game controllers for the console or b) buy that bastard  two-hundred dollar Killer Instinct fight stick from MadKatz, and I’ve already mentioned how I can’t play on fightsticks for long periods of time.  Who the fuck is THAT into Killer Instinct?  A series that essentially died almost twenty years ago – seriously, Killer Instinct 2 was released in the arcades in 1994, and on the N64 in 1996 (oh, dear lord, I’ve never even thought of playing a fighting game on that atrocious controller!  Wait!  I did!  ‘Cause I played Killer Instinct Gold on it, haha, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but not enough to really remember having a good time with it).  Who is that much into Killer Instinct that they’re going to drop that much money JUST for that game that was supposed to have been free-to-play?

                Now, free-to-play gets a bad rap for some reason that I can’t fathom.  But there’s a model out there that Microsoft should have followed, but obviously decided not to on two separate fronts.

                That model is Namco’s model they adopted when they released Tekken Revolution on the PlayStation 3.  Ahhh, Tekken.  My favorite!  Tekken Revolution is true free-to-play, even in the limited format that they adopted.  You get tokens that refresh every half-hour to an hour depending on the game mode the tokens are used for, to play the game.  One set of tokens is for single player arcade mode, and they refresh after an hour.  The other set is for online competitive play – where the netcode is actually very nice, very smooth, and doesn’t suffer from the other netcodes used for games like Street Fighter IV – that refresh every thirty minutes, and you can max those out to five.  Revolution launched with eight players off the bat, all accessible from the start by everyone, with more characters added through updates to the software.  Those additional characters are available through gift-points which are awarded to the player by playing the game, or you can just buy them.  You can also buy more tokens if you wish, but it’s purely optional.

                It’s a very smooth and easy free-to-play model that keeps me going back for more and more.

                What’s funny about it is that it wasn’t conceived as a PlayStation exclusive, it was intended to be multi-platform, but for some reason Microsoft said no.  No, no, no.  Prolly because nothing is free-to-play on the Xbox.  Not even Netflix (not that Netflix is free, mind you); everything is tucked behind that pay-wall that is Xbox Live.  If and when – because Katsuhiro Harada has said they’re looking into it – Tekken Revolution comes to the PlayStation 4, it’ll be free-to-play.  Just like DCUO and other f2p games, you won’t have to have a PlayStation Plus account to play these games online, just as you don’t have to have a PlayStation Plus account to access Netflix.  HA.

                Free-to-play, my ass.


                Yeah, I’m pretty sure that while it might see some initial success in one form or another, Killer Instinct is DOA.


Dead Or Alive is Dead On Arrival
(for me anyways)

                In October of this year, Sony did this neat little promotion where for every fifty bucks you spent on the PlayStation Network, you’d get ten bucks back, and, well, I spent a lot on there.  Bought a lot of shit, ‘cause that’s what I do.  Some people call themselves gamers and say they love video games and play nothing but Call of Duty or Halo or some such, but I literally play everything.  Except those fucking wank as shit sports games.  Fuck those.

                With that money I bought Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate.


                I remember playing Dead or Alive 2 on one of the other PlayStation consoles a long time ago and thinking it was kinda quaint.  There was nothing there, really, to keep me coming back for more.  Not even the jiggling titties physics engine, ha!  I was mostly interested in Ryu Hayabusa being in the game because he was the ninja from those old school Ninja Gaiden games on the NES – and this DOA game came out before the revival of the Ninja Gaiden series on the Xbox.  So I played it, beat it a couple of times and never looked back.  The entire engine was centered around the same fighting engine that Virtua Fighter used, and I’m not a big fan of that franchise either.  I watched the subsequent releases on the various Xbox consoles, but since GameStop employees had a way of making me never want one of those, I never played them.  Hell, I own an Xbox 360 now, and didn’t by a DOA game for it.  But free money, so what the hell, right?!


                Everything about this game is relatively unimpressive and not very funny.  The backgrounds are uninteresting and boring and very fucking plain.  The fighting engine isn’t very exciting, the sound effects are still the same that I remember and still sound ridiculously similar to those from Virtua Fighter, but hey, jiggling titties.  WHO DOESN’T LOVE THOSE?!


                That’s really all this game is about.  It’s not very fun, but man!  Titties are everywhere.

                I swear if a woman’s boobs went in the directions that these fighting game girls’ boobs do in DOA, they’d rip themselves off their chests, become sentient and conquer the world.  Then no one would like titties, ‘cause we’d all be the titties slaves.

                Wait, what?

                Even with the addition of several characters from the Virtua Fighter series, this fighting game isn’t very interesting.

                …and this is coming from the guy that thinks Street Fighter and Tekken’s plots are AWESOME.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bits and Pieces # 18: TWO.EIGHT.ONE.

New Project

PS3 library part one!
                The Summer of Platinum came to a rather abrupt end because the point and purpose of even doing it came to fruition.  It was mostly an exercise in getting me to write on a semi-regular basis to push myself to write actual fiction on a regular basis.  It worked rather well, as I started writing every day somewhere in August.  Yet, I’ve found myself in a massive rut in regards to almost everything, especially writing – I wrote myself into a wall the way some people drive cars into them – and writing in the blog seems to clear the brain meats of the overwhelming entity that is my thought process.

                Realizing this, I decided to take another gaming-related journey and jot down its progress in the blog.  The journey, or project, is called Two-Eighty-One.  That is the number of games I currently own across two consoles, a handheld, and my PC.  A great amount of which has gone unplayed or unfinished, and the idea is that by forcing myself to write about the progression through each game I own as I play them will help me finish this humongous backlog of games as well as keep me writing on a semi-regular basis.

PS3 library part 2!  PSVita included.
                This month is the birth of the Next Generation of console gaming that sees the release of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.  I had both consoles preordered and was very excited to be participating in something I don’t ever remember happening in any generation’s life-cycle: the birth of two new consoles relatively at the same time.  Both consoles are releasing within a week of one another with a rather large library of games to support them and some pretty interestin
g first party releases on both systems.  Yet, I completely bowed out of it.

  I bowed out of the Xbox One because I looked at the game releases for the console, especially the first party exclusives and third party exclusives and realized that there were only two games being released for it exclusively that I wanted to play.  Dead Rising 3 and Crimson Dragon.

                Dead Rising 3 was a minor interest because I love zombie fiction and have since 1991, but I really do not like the Dead Rising series.  As far as zombies go, this world Capcom has built isn’t very interesting, nor is it very player friendly.  Dead Rising was a bust, and Dead Rising 2 was a complete let down, so zombie fetish aside, there’s nothing for me in this game, really.  Crimson Dragon comes about simply because I enjoyed Panzer Dragoon all those ages ago on the Sega Saturn, so it was mostly nostalgia that was wanting me to play that game.  The one game I absolutely want for the Xbox One isn’t a launch title: Titanfall.  It’s set to release some time next year.  Realizing all of that, I cancelled the Xbox One, all the games (I was buying a copy of Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts for that console as well as the PlayStation 4) and the extra controller.

Xbox 360 Library; most aren't even open!
                The PlayStation 4 was a bit trickier because that’s what I was primarily buying everything else for.  But over the span of about three days, I kept looking at my physical game library – because it’s very easy for me to ignore the digital library ‘cause it’s all in a folder with the number 135 underneath it – and my eyes kept going to the games I’ve not played, the games I’ve not finished, and the games I haven’t even opened.  So I weighed in on it logically and realized that the PlayStation 4 as well won’t hit its first serious stride until sometime next year when infamous: Second Son and The Order 1886 is released, as well as the promise of future exclusives.  Killzone: Shadow Fall, while I enjoyed Killzone 3, isn’t the console selling game that I would love it to be at this moment, and neither is Knack or Driveclub.  Add to that the fact that most of the third-party multiplatform games that are being released are really just graphically superior – and not even that much superior except for surface stuff – versions of games that are coming out on the consoles I already own.  Games like Assassin’s Creed IV, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and several others.  There’s nothing coming out this fall for these two new consoles that’s telling me that it’s something I have to own right away.  Thus, I cancelled the PlayStation 4, the extra controller, and the fifteen or so games I had preordered.

                Instead I opted to just go with the current generation releases investing in Batman: Arkham Origins, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, Assassin’s Creed IV, and Lego Marvel Superheroes.  I finished Lego Marvel rather quickly before feeling overwhelmed with the scope of the game, finished Batman: Arkham Origins very meticulously (I’ve still got a lot to do, but I took my time with this one versus Arkham Asylum and Arkham City) and once again felt immensely overwhelmed by Assassin’s Creed IV.

                A big part of it is because this game is very large and while I love very large games, it just seemed so daunting.  I’m pretty sure it’s similar to the sensation I have after I finish a book, it’s very hard for me to start a new one.  The second part of it is that I really want to go through and play through all of the Assassin’s Creed games again beginning with the original and including Brotherhood, Revelations, Liberation and Bloodline (which I don’t own currently).  So, I stopped playing, sat and stared at my game library once again, and decided to go through with this idea that I’ve been trying to do for a while.

                I’m going to play through every game I own again (some for the very first time) starting from when the games were originally released – even if it’s an HD remix or some other sort of re-release.  This is a huge task, and it’s one that’s going to influence and alter how I play games and even how I buy them.  I added the notion of writing about them as I play through them because of the wall I wrote myself into, and it gives me something to concentrate on a constant basis.  I’ve already played through thirteen of the games out of the two-hundred-eighty-one, and am currently playing through the original Resident Evil game.  Well, it’s the “director’s cut” of the game, but for the US it really didn’t alter much to the game except allow the player to use the added analog sticks of the DualShock controller and added a re-arrange mode that alters where the items and whatnot are in the game.  So I’ve already got a pretty good head start on material to write about, and I can write about this sort of nonsense at great length.  I mean, I’ve not even really written about anything and I’m already over 1100 words!

                So let’s get started.



Back when boxart was awesome.
    Jordan Mercher is a name that should be familiar to a lot of folks, but I’m not sure he is at all.  In 1984 while at Yale University, Mercher wrote several games that were never published except a game called Karateka.  This was a side-scrolling action game that involved martial arts and very fluid and exceptional animation using pix
elated sprites.  He did all the work by himself, which is very impressive, especially by today’s standards of AAA game development where the dev-studios number into the several hundred at times.  Marcher followed up Karateka – which was considered a very successful game at its time – with Prince of Persia, which is why everyone should know his name.

                Karateka and I have a very brief history.  I never knew of the game really, didn’t know what its name was, didn’t know what it was about, nothing.  What I do remember is having a very limited amount of playing time in a computer class in the seventh grade and being mesmerized with the games animation and the depiction of martial arts.  This was a time when I was just growing out of my first phase of my martial arts obsession – a very weird and awkward obsessions considering I’ve never studied practical and physical use of any martial system and only read about it and watch other people do it; I dislike confrontations of all kinds – when I first played the game and had graduated from the Atari to the Nintendo Entertainment System, so this was now well below my radar.  But the game was fun, and I sucked at it greatly.

                Fast forward to 2012 and the original game gets an HD remake for the current generation of consoles, and it went, once again, under my radar until about two or three months ago.  I saw it, as very curious about it because I remembered the name of it, the developer sounded familiar, Liquid Entertainment (which is just a coincidence as far as I can tell), and wanted to play it.  So, I bought it.

                Much to my surprise, the games approach to aesthetics was revamped in a more cartoony style instead of sticking to a very realistic approach that the original had (well, as original as you can be with sprite based animation and a four to eight color palate to select from) and the art direction of the game was centered around Jeff Matsuda’s artwork.  Jeff Matsuda is an artist I’m very familiar with.  His career began in comics after submitting samples of his work to Extreme Studios and WildStorm, two of the independent branches of the Image Comics umbrella, and he was picked up by Extreme Studios via Rob Liefeld.  Jeff went on to draw several of the books in Rob’s library including Brigade and Team Youngblood, but he really found his feet with a book called New Men which was eventually taken over by Todd Nauck.  Much like a lot of other young comic artists at that time, he seemed to just disappear from the world entirely.  Turns out, like a lot of other young comic artists at that time, he found his way into the world of video games.  A new project of his can be found at http://www.x-raykid.com/

The Karateka game itself functions primarily similar to the original.  It’s a pseudo-3d game that operates on a single plane, meaning you cannot really adventure into the world and are restricted to a very linear path as you progress.  The camera will trick you at times that you’re moving further or deeper into the world, but you’re really travelling a path of a straight line.  You’ve been given a bit more of a range in your attacks, but it’s still very simplistic in nature.  One button strikes with a punch, the other with a kick, another for a super move that you’ve to build a meter for, and a button for dodging and countering.  You progress through the game by moving forward and fighting various opponents of various difficulty, until the game just shits on you and gets extremely difficult in a very short amount of time.

When Boxart was poop!
                And by extremely difficult, I mostly mean frustrating as shit.  The game is all about timing, and you have to time your attacks in accordance to what your opponent is doing, which, I suppose, is what martial arts is, but the functions of the game’s engine leaves a lot to be desired, especially coming from a fighting game background.  You’re limited to three lives in the game which is a throwback to the games of yore – fuck you, Castlevania; I love you! – where there were no checkpoints, no auto-saving, and no saving really at all.  You had a limited amount of lives to complete the game which was, I think, primarily influenced by the main source of video game entertainment at the time where you had to drop quarters into a machine and advance as far as you could with what that quarter bought you before having to dump more quarters into it.  Ahhh, arcades, how I miss thee.  This game is a bit different in that each life you get is represented by a different character.  You get a traditional karateka (a practioner of karate), a monk-like gentlemen, and a giant fat man.  Their only differences, really, are in their physical representations and their super moves while everything else remains the same.  Vastly different from the games I’m used to that involve martial arts where you get a wide selection of characters of all shapes and sizes that behave and operate entirely different from one another.

                I played a little of the game after installing it and couldn’t get into it.  This is a gamer problem and one that sucks as a consumer, more so than any other form of entertainment.  You buy a book or go see a movie and you can’t get into it, and you’re put a handful of dollars.  With games?  The prices are all over the place ranging anywhere from 5.99 to 59.99, and me, personally, I try to make sure I get my money’s worth out of every game I buy – which is funny because I haven’t been doing that and this new project is a direct result of it – and when you first start playing a game and can’t get into it… well, that’s just disheartening.  I digitally shelved the game – it’s only available digitally, I think – which means I just ignored it on my PS3’s harddrive and went on to play something more appealing to me.  Which I cannot remember what that was.

  When I first started this project, I set the ultimate goal of having to FINISH the games before I can move on to the next one.  Karateka poised a problem in that field because I couldn’t get into it.  I forced myself to do it anyway and played through my three lives and actually reached the end boss.  This game is a conundrum.  I don’t particularly like the game because its learning curve is rather steep for what is nothing more than a generalized arcade beat-‘em-up and those kinds of games have simplistic control mechanics for that purpose alone.  They want you to play ‘em, so the simplistic mechanics lure you in, and slowly the game builds its difficulty by throwing more and more opponents at you, some of which take more than just a few combos to defeat.  But here, in Karateka?  Here you’re subjected to the control mechanics of timing and countering rather than just mashing the shit out of the buttons on the controller’s face to vanquish whatever is in front of you.  So it’s a bit tedious that doesn’t make me want to keep playing to get better at it, or at least good enough to finish the last boss of the game – which is some sort of daimyo or shogun type character with a bird as a weapon.  You actually have to fight the bird on several occasions before you make it to the castle to fight the bossguy.  I hate the bossguy.  The bossguy is like playing Guitar Hero on the worst difficulty setting and requires you to have perfected the timing mechanic in order to defeat him.  And having just one life left by the time you reach him is not something you put in the plus column.

                Did I already mention that I sucked at this game in its original iteration way back in 1988?  Nothing has changed in twenty-four years that have passed since then except I can now make it to the endboss.

                So I did what every gamer does when playing a game that they A) don’t like and B) completely suck at: I rage quit.

                Oh, yeah.

                We’re off to a good start on this brand new project of finishing every game I own by rage quitting the first game on the list!

                Seriously, fuck that game.

                Fuck you, Karateka!  And no, you’re not like Castlevania!  I hate you!

                After losing to the endboss several times with the last life I had, the big fat guy, I decided to call it quits and move on to the next game.

                Overall, this game just isn’t interesting enough to keep me going with it.  I mean, it should!  By all means it should.  I love martial arts with a great passion, and this game has me hating it.  That’s very awkward to me.  There’s nothing interesting about the game’s engine, the visuals, and definitely not the plot.  The plot of the game is the worst.  The daimyo or shogun guy with the bird has kidnapped some random lady – I don’t even know if any of these characters have names! – and the three guys that you play as are all in love with her and want to rescue her in order to marry her.  Not very interesting to me at all.  Not compelling, there’s no drama, there’s no real action of any sort of visceral content to keep me playing.

                So, yeah, I’m done with that one.  I quit playing it and moved on to something that I adore whole-heartedly.