Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 — Issue 42

The fight of the century

Who would win between Cap­com and SNK?
That’s the ques­tion that was at the fore­front of every­one’s mind in the ear­ly 2000s. The rival­ry between the com­pa­nies was well known, and the streets were hot with love for their respec­tive fight­ing game series. When Cap­com vs. SNK was released, the ques­tion was answered, though we still did­n’t know who was bet­ter defin­i­tive­ly. There’s a sequel for that.
What CvS did get right was the ini­tial ques­tion. Take some of the best and most pop­u­lar fight­ing game char­ac­ters from both com­pa­nies and pit them against each oth­er. Mar­quee SNK names like Ter­ry Bog­a­rd, Mai Shu­ranui, King and Rugal Bern­stein face off against Cap­com main­stays like Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, and Sagat. The full ros­ter has some­one for every­one from each com­pa­ny. If you like grap­plers, there’s Zang­ief rep­re­sent­ing Cap­com while Raiden shows up for SNK. Love fight­ing teenage girls? You’re cov­ered with Saku­ra and Yuri. The selec­tion is a nice buf­fet to choose from.
But then it gets a lit­tle more inter­est­ing. Each char­ac­ter is slot­ted into a one-to-four ratio cat­e­go­ry. Heavy hit­ters like Aku­ma and Orochi Iori, usu­al­ly hid­den boss char­ac­ters in their respec­tive games, are Ratio 4. Ratio 3 fea­tures boss char­ac­ters such as M. Bison, Geese and Rugal. Ratio 2 is for the mid­dle-class fight­er like Ryu, Ken, Kyo Kusana­gi and Mai. In the low­est ratio are light­weights like Saku­ra, Ben­i­maru, Yuri and Dhal­sim. The Ratio Sys­tem allows mul­ti­ple com­bi­na­tions so long as the ratio equals four. Build­ing your team is cru­cial because of the pow­er bal­ance impli­ca­tions and their poten­tial matchups.
The in-depth fight­ing sys­tem is not with­out its flaws, how­ev­er. The place­ment of some char­ac­ters in the Ratio Sys­tem is ques­tion­able and their movesets being pressed between EX and reg­u­lar cat­e­go­riza­tion is arti­fi­cial lim­i­ta­tions imposed at best. This is fixed in the sequel but here it’s a prob­lem that slight­ly affects game­play adversely.
In addi­tion to the Ratio Sys­tem there is the Groove Sys­tem. A two-part func­tion, the Groove Sys­tem deter­mines how the char­ac­ters per­form cer­tain basic moves like rolling and dash­ing and how super moves work. Cap­com Groove plays a lot like Street Fight­er Alpha 3 with access to Lev­el 3 supers imme­di­ate­ly with enough super meter built up. SNK Groove plays sim­i­lar­ly to the Extra Mode in the King of Fight­ers series. Here, you only get access to Lev­el 3 supers when your life meter is flash­ing, though you can charge your meter man­u­al­ly to gain Lev­el 1 supers. There’s a lot of strat­e­gy involved in choos­ing the right Groove and apply­ing its prop­er­ties to your advan­tage, which is a nice change of pace.
Cap­com vs. SNK also gets its envi­ron­ment right. The game looks fan­tas­tic, with beau­ti­ful back­grounds of famil­iar loca­tions for both com­pa­nies. Of spe­cial note is the SNK graph­ic mode for Cap­com char­ac­ters. Shinkiro out­did him­self with the stun­ning and life­like art­work. I was­n’t super famil­iar with his work before­hand because I was­n’t an SNK enthu­si­ast. But, you can con­sid­er me a devo­tee as of this game because I fell in love with his art through his char­ac­ter portraits.
And, along­side the gor­geous envi­ron­ments is a won­der­ful­ly nos­tal­gic sound­track. Sure, there are some new tracks, but the meat and pota­toes are in the old­er remixed tracks. The sound mix­es well with the action, and there are quite a few bops to be had here. The sound­track is one worth adding to the collection.
Cap­com vs. SNK is a great start for the fran­chise. It’s built with vet­er­ans in mind, but even as a new­com­er you can find a char­ac­ter to learn and devel­op. Cap­com banked on the unini­ti­at­ed tak­ing the time to learn the back­ground of the char­ac­ters fea­tured, and the result is worth tak­ing a spin 22 years after its ini­tial release. No, the ques­tion of who’s the best was­n’t answered here, but it’s one worth explor­ing in a top-notch release for the Dream­cast fight­ing game library.

Street Fighter V — Issue 41

Don’t call it a come­back: SFV cleans up after launch

I’m going to be intense­ly per­son­al for a minute: My life by the time of my mid-30s was not fun. It was a time of change, reboots in near­ly every area (part­ner, career, school again), loss and learn­ing from the mis­takes of my 20s. I’m good now, but it wasn’t with­out strug­gle and pain.
And the old­est entry in the fight game can com­mis­er­ate with me because they know what that time is like. Street Fight­er V is sit­ting at the bar with me, drown­ing its sor­rows because it and the series, too, went through it in its mid-30s and like me is doing much bet­ter than one could expect after the struggle.
SFV didn’t start out as mag­i­cal as it has become. The launch was mired in prob­lems and things just weren’t where they should be. The game’s sto­ry mode didn’t launch along­side the actu­al game and the net­code was ter­ri­ble. But what a dif­fer­ence time makes. 

The sto­ry, while still not as engross­ing as past entries, has improved. It moves the SF world mythos along and makes sense if you know the series’ past. Tak­ing place between Ultra SFIV and SF3: 3rd Strike, Char­lie wakes up in a tomb and is guid­ed to steal an item from Guile, which would help him defeat M. Bison. Third Strike boss Gill dri­ves the plot over­all, tying up the loose ends between SFII and the endgame of 3rd Strike, which is the known end of the series sto­ry­line-wise. I love that Gill is tied into this as it always seemed like he was out of place as the end of SF lore. I nev­er ful­ly under­stood why he was the boss of that tril­o­gy of games except as some­thing new for Cap­com to try because every­one was sick of M. Bison by that point.

While I’m impressed with the sto­ry, I’m more impressed with the pre­sen­ta­tion. Much like its pre­de­ces­sors, SFV looks gor­geous. The back­grounds are beau­ti­ful as are most of the char­ac­ter designs. Even the menus look good. Some­times, when I start the game, I take a sec­ond just to mar­vel at the main menu and how the modes are pre­sent­ed. And let’s talk about the sound­track for a sec­ond. The music is all-around amaz­ing. Every time I get in-game, I dis­cov­er anoth­er track that I feel like I haven’t pre­vi­ous­ly heard, and I fall in love all over again. It’s so good that it’s worth track­ing down and adding to your music collection.

While I love the game, there is a big sec­tion I don’t care for: the play style. I’m an Alpha purist, specif­i­cal­ly SF Alpha 3. That’s my Street Fight­er style and has been for years. How­ev­er, SFV plays kind of stiff — a lot like SFIV — and that’s hard for me to grasp. It’s playable, obvi­ous­ly, but it’s not my style of Street Fight­er play. And that’s OK. It real­ly doesn’t detract from the game’s abil­i­ty to shine or be Street Fight­er, but it’s not my per­son­al pref­er­ence to play. It is a lot of fun to watch being played pro­fes­sion­al­ly, though.

Street Fight­er V has come a long way as the most cur­rent entry in the series. Game ele­ments have got­ten a lot of pol­ish, whether it’s fix­ing the net­code or expand­ing the ros­ter with old favorites and skins allud­ing to long-dor­mant char­ac­ters. It’s now the flag­ship game it should have been, and it’s still rul­ing the fight game roost while every­one waits for the announced Street Fight­er 6. 

Some­times, with the strug­gle comes the rewards and SFV has more than earned its life fight money.

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) — Issue 40

Mario Kart races back to form in Wii U edition

There comes a time in every Mario Kart fan’s life when you have to make a choice of whether you still love the series or if you don’t. I assume this, of course, because I have no idea if any­one still plays Mario Kart or not. I assume they do, and I just don’t know it. The series hit that fabled peak of ques­tion­abil­i­ty for me when Mario Kart Wii was released. GI wasn’t using a rat­ing scale when we reviewed it (editor’s note: This was reviewed in 3Q2008), but suf­fice to say it would not have received a good score. Mario Kart had a lot of work to redeem itself for me, a long­time lover of the series who start­ed in 1992. The lat­est orig­i­nal entry, Mario Kart 8, has made sig­nif­i­cant effort to pol­ish the series again.
Mario Kart, at its core, has always been about arcade rac­ing. There’s noth­ing real­is­tic about play­ing as var­i­ous Mario and oth­er gen­er­al Nin­ten­do char­ac­ters while romp­ing through var­i­ous Mush­room King­dom locales. It’s always been about the Mario charm expand­ed to fit with­in a palat­able dri­ving scheme that makes any­one a cham­pi­on go-kart enthu­si­ast. Mario Kart 8 does not shirk on this charm. If it’s a mem­o­rable Mario char­ac­ter, they’re prob­a­bly in this game. 
And, in a nod to the appeal of Nin­ten­do crossover and nos­tal­gia, there are new addi­tions from out­side the port­ly mus­ta­chioed plumber’s usu­al sus­pects: You can now play as Ani­mal Crossing’s Isabelle and The Leg­end of Zelda’s Link. While they don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly con­tribute any­thing new to the series, their pres­ence is enough to elic­it excite­ment because it means Nin­ten­do is final­ly open­ing Mario Kart up to the gen­er­al ros­ter. There is much to mine from, and if you’re ques­tion­ing any of this, look at the lead Smash Bros. has tak­en in this field.
Mario Kart has always been the sort of series that takes its his­to­ry seri­ous­ly. Entries after Mario Kart: Dou­ble Dash have begun ref­er­enc­ing the pre­vi­ous tracks of yore, some­times with var­ied results. Mario Kart 8 man­ages to gath­er a lot of stel­lar new tracks and some old that aren’t favorites but will suf­fice as entries. A lot of the old­er tracks are from more recent entries but make no mis­take — they are there for the pur­pose of draw­ing you in to remind you of the good times and then send you on your mer­ry way to try the new tracks. Tug­ging at my heart strings with a mod­ern SNES Rain­bow Road remake will get you every­where, though there are caveats to these remakes. 
While the tracks are great graph­i­cal­ly, the music is hit or miss. When I say I want a Rain­bow Road throw­back, I also want the orig­i­nal music to go with it. It doesn’t need a musi­cal over­haul because the orig­i­nal music was bril­liant. I’m not sure why Nin­ten­do thought it need­ed to have the sound remade, but it wasn’t a par­tic­u­lar­ly great deci­sion. Oth­er remas­tered stage choic­es, includ­ing Grum­ble Vol­cano and Music Park, are fine. And a lot of the new tracks are great; Drag­on Drift­way and Excite­bike Are­na are def­i­nite standouts.
Graph­i­cal­ly, the game looks amaz­ing. It’s the best-look­ing Mario Kart pro­duced yet. All the char­ac­ters look life-like, and the stages are incred­i­bly detailed. Even the water par­ti­cle effects look amaz­ing. There are times when there’s a brief lull in action that I can soak up the sur­round­ings, and I’m impressed by the Wii U’s under­stat­ed capa­bil­i­ty. Mario Kart 8 shows what the sys­tem could poten­tial­ly do. It’s a tes­ta­ment also to just how good Mario Kart looks in the mod­ern era.
Now, here’s where we may have some issues. I’m not fond of the AI rub­ber­band­ing, and I haven’t been a fan of it since the Mario Kart 64 days. We are a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry grown up and past that, and we’re still hav­ing issues with last-minute vic­to­ries by the AI. This is a known issue at this point, yet it rears its ugly head still. Also, while a lot of the new tracks are cool — Excite­bike Are­na among the best of the bunch — there are some that do absolute­ly noth­ing for me. Track selec­tion is impor­tant, and this entry has dullards. Big Blue, for what­ev­er rea­son, keeps show­ing up in mod­ern catchall Nin­ten­do games, and it’s here, too. I’m not impressed with the track at all, and they could have come up with some­thing else. 
Also, while I love the Ani­mal Cross­ing track, it needs some­thing else than the series’ cute motif and catchy music. It’s your basic, run of the mill dri­ve around in a loop track, but it needs some­thing else to give it some pop. Same thing goes for the Hyrule track. It’s basic, too. What makes this worse is that the tracks are part of the DLC bun­dle for the game. If you’re ask­ing me to spend hard-earned mon­ey on extras, the extras need to be super spe­cial. I’m not get­ting that with those two tracks, specif­i­cal­ly. Thank­ful­ly, there are oth­er extras to be had that kind of make up for those.
Over­all, this is a sol­id entry in the Mario Kart sphere of influ­ence. This is the best entry in years, and it deserves some high praise for a lot of the things that it gets right. There’s always room for improve­ment, but the rac­ing king con­tin­ues to show why it’s the arcade rac­ing champ and why it con­tin­ues to rule the road of go-karting.

Ghost of Tsushima — Issue 39

A ghost­ly com­pelling tale

Beau­ti­ful. Stun­ning. Breath­tak­ing. The Japan­ese coun­try­side of Tsushi­ma can only be described this way, and this is being mod­est. Immer­sion in the strug­gle and bur­den of a samu­rai lord in 13th cen­tu­ry Japan against invad­ing Mon­gols is stu­pe­fy­ing once you real­ize that it’s intri­cate­ly craft­ed in a video game. You are the ghost, the Ghost of Tsushima.

Wan­der­ing around the real island of Tsushi­ma, Japan, in 1274 is a fairy­tale. Every loca­tion and near­ly every blade of grass or tree tells a sto­ry. That sto­ry is of samu­rai lord Jin Sakai, a man des­per­ate to save his home from an invad­ing Mon­go­lian force led by the grand­son of Genghis Khan. Jin gath­ers a coun­ter­force, only to be defeat­ed and near­ly killed. In the process of heal­ing, Jin finds allies to ral­ly to the cause and peti­tions for help from the shogu­nate to defeat the Mon­gols. You become Jin in your quest to save his home and gath­er weapons and sup­plies, learn skills, acquire alliances, and fight to repeal the invaders. There is much to learn and see in the open world pre­sent­ed to you even if you aren’t a his­to­ry buff or care about the pol­i­tics, econ­o­my, or goings on of feu­dal Japan. There are no time lim­its for tack­ling mis­sions, and you are encour­aged to free roam and explore the land.

Much like any oth­er open world game I’ve ever played, what I like to call the “Metroid instinct” kicks in and I find myself search­ing every nook and cran­ny to find hid­den sup­plies and oth­er good­ies. Dur­ing my explo­ration, of course, I come across peo­ple who don’t like Jin. I note the pres­ence of bon­fires, which gen­er­al­ly indi­cates who I like to refer to as “dudes.” Dudes are the type that are gen­er­al­ly hos­tile to me and my inter­ests. Those inter­ests involve inves­ti­ga­tion and sav­ing peo­ple in the gen­er­al pop­u­lace who require the ser­vices of a skilled samu­rai and con­tract killer. This is usu­al­ly how the fight starts: Dudes notice me in my fin­ery and my mag­i­cal horse frol­ick­ing in the coun­try­side and now they want to get reck­less about things.

In an absolute­ly fun mechan­ic, I tend to get into stand­offs with ban­dits. Now, my fight­ing skills here with a katana and tan­tō are not the best, but I have been known to make dudes meet their mak­er quick­ly. Sim­i­lar­ly, I’m not great with archery, but I make the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion and stealth kill my way through the coun­try­side clean­ly and quick­ly. My grasp of the con­trols is ten­u­ous at best, but that’s on me and my lack of skill and “old­er folks’ reflex­es™”. Ghost’s con­trol mechan­ics are sound and easy to pick up with a lit­tle practice.

As I explore after my fights, loot­ing what I need, I take in the scenery. Ghost of Tsushi­ma is quite pos­si­bly the most beau­ti­ful video game I have ever seen. I’ve been play­ing games a long time, and I can’t say until now that I’ve ever been just wowed by a game where I specif­i­cal­ly take in-game pho­tog­ra­phy to use as a back­ground. This is what you buy the lat­est con­sole for and the best TV for: mar­veling at the graph­ics. I’m not even on the lat­est PlaySta­tion mod­el (I’m play­ing with a PS4 Pro), and Ghost makes almost every­thing else look like stick fig­ures from the Atari 2600 era.

With a mas­ter­ful audio expe­ri­ence, Ghost has the sound and feel of a Kuro­sawa mas­ter­piece. You want to feel like the epic Sev­en Samu­rai? Turn on the Japan­ese dia­logue and Eng­lish sub­ti­tles. It’s that type of expe­ri­ence. The nat­ur­al ambiance is also nice. It’s com­fort­ing to know that pay­ing atten­tion to sounds in the envi­ron­ment can save Jin’s life when I’m explor­ing. I’ve lost count of the num­ber of times lis­ten­ing for audio cues linked to bears or dudes has helped me avoid an ambush.

While it’s a great expe­ri­ence, Ghost is not with­out its prob­lems. The cam­era work doesn’t always help when it’s time to fight. Often, I’m fight­ing the cam­era to see my ene­mies and avoid tak­ing mas­sive dam­age. The cam­era could use some refine­ment in lat­er updates. And my oth­er issue is the Leg­ends mode, added after the game’s ini­tial release. I was all geared up to play with my part­ner and then real­ized that this long-await­ed co-op mode does not sup­port local play. We were hot­ly antic­i­pat­ing being able to roam around Tsushi­ma togeth­er as we’re gamers, engrossed in the tale of Jin who absolute­ly love samu­rai. But we were high­ly dis­ap­point­ed to learn that the only co-op sup­port­ed is online. Though the mode is free, it was a mas­sive let­down to real­ize that we weren’t going to be play­ing this epic together.

Despite some minor tech­ni­cal issues, Ghost of Tsushi­ma hits the mark in a lot of areas. A com­pe­tent nar­ra­tive, open world explo­ration, stun­ning visu­als and an easy-to-grasp sys­tem are just some of the good­ies await­ing engross­ment in Jin’s tale of revenge and rev­o­lu­tion in 1274 feu­dal Japan. Ghost of Tsushi­ma scares up a great adven­ture wor­thy of all the praise one can muster.

Tekken 7: Fated Retribution — Issue 38

Tekken’s fate unknown after mile­stone entry

Tekken is about a cer­tain sub­stance and style. The fight­ing engine is so deep in Tekken that if you’re just start­ing with the sev­enth game, you’re at an imme­di­ate dis­ad­van­tage because you’re behind. Way behind. Sto­ry-wise, you’re behind, too. There’s so much going on with the Mishi­ma clan that you’re bound to be ask­ing the ques­tion: Why now? Tekken isn’t just answer­ing that; it’s pos­ing the ques­tion of what’s next?

For the Mishi­ma clan — and Tekken’s ros­ter at large — the future is the ques­tion on everyone’s mind, but to get there, Tekken 7 stakes its ambi­tions on look­ing back to tell the sto­ry of the future. Spoil­er alert: With Hei­hachi gone, there’s only Kazuya and Jin left to car­ry on the blood feud of the clan. The sur­round­ing enti­ties are on either side of the con­flict between father and son, and there will be casu­al­ties. But that isn’t Tekken 7’s main sto­ry to tell. Real­ly, it’s two ques­tions: How did Kazuya become enmeshed in the dev­il gene fool­ish­ness, and how is Hei­hachi entan­gled in that as well? The answers lay with new char­ac­ter Kazu­mi Mishi­ma, Kazuya’s moth­er and Heihachi’s wife. She plays a cen­tral role in unrav­el­ing the mys­tery of Kazuya’s trans­for­ma­tion using the dev­il gene and why Hei­hachi threw his child off a cliff more than 40 years before.

While Bandai Nam­co is set­ting up the pay­off, look around. You’re in a Tekken game and many things will be true at once: The sound will be phe­nom­e­nal, and the graph­ics will be stun­ning. After all, this is a Tekken title; the King of the Iron Fist tour­na­ment does not slouch. What’s strik­ing is, this is a four-year-old game and it still looks decent. Tekken has nev­er been one to hold back when it comes to looks, and even with the upgrad­ed PlaySta­tion 4 Pro, it’s still a good-look­ing game. Tekken 7 could look worse with the ben­e­fit of more pro­cess­ing pow­er, and some sec­tions do show the age of the game. How­ev­er, it’s min­i­mal as far as Tekken is con­cerned, and Tekken 7 is still a pow­er­house when com­pared to every­thing else on the market.

The sound­track is excel­lent, though I want­ed a lit­tle more from it. I real­ize that not every Tekken sound­track is going to be the first Tag, where every track was a banger. How­ev­er, this is Tekken, and a cer­tain bar has been set by past games that cur­rent games must live up to. There are some bangers here, but not near­ly enough. For ref­er­ence, I have every Tekken sound­track ever released, arcade and home ver­sions. For the first four games, I have the entire sound­track saved on my iPod. As the series pro­gressed, I had few­er songs from each sound­track. As of Tekken 7, I have two tracks. It’s a good sound­track, but it just isn’t any­thing I haven’t heard before in a Tekken game. Tekken 8, or what­ev­er it will be called, will have to step things up in the sound department.

As far as Tekken’s playa­bil­i­ty, I can’t real­ly attest to it on a hands-on lev­el. Full dis­clo­sure: I’m not a good Tekken play­er. That said, how­ev­er, I find it a lit­tle eas­i­er to pick up Tekken and play with the new fea­tures added in the arcade mode. I real­ly like that there’s an easy com­bo assist fea­ture. It makes it far less frus­trat­ing to learn the com­bo sys­tem, and it makes it much eas­i­er for begin­ners to under­stand how moves flow together.

Tekken, despite hav­ing only four attack but­tons, has always been about depth, and that’s scary for the unini­ti­at­ed like myself. With the assist fea­ture, I’m more inclined to take the time to learn and dig just a lit­tle deep­er with the series. It’s a fan­tas­tic addi­tion that needs to stick around in future entries.

The char­ac­ter cus­tomiza­tion mode also deserves some praise as it’s com­ing along nice­ly. It’s been around now for at least three games, and it’s got­ten bet­ter each iter­a­tion. This is part of the depth of Tekken — along with its engine and com­bo sys­tem — that makes it such a great series. Tekken 7 takes care of the details, and the obvi­ous love and care put into the cus­tomiza­tion sys­tem gives the game con­tin­ued life, even as it gets a lit­tle long in the tooth. The fact that new char­ac­ters and upgrades are still being released is fan­tas­tic con­sid­er­ing the game’s age.

With the sto­ry­line dic­tat­ing growth and the graph­ics engine need­ing to catch up to oth­er fight­ing game dar­lings, Tekken has its work cut out in keep­ing up with the sur­round­ing com­pe­ti­tion. Tekken 7 does an admirable job demon­strat­ing its sta­bil­i­ty and abil­i­ty to lead the pack as the King of the Iron Fist, and its longevi­ty and intu­itive fea­tures con­tin­ue to make it an attrac­tive option for those need­ing a fix from Mishi­ma and Co. Tekken 7 is good enough to keep its crown and can prob­a­bly shrug off new chal­lenges for the throne until its time for the eighth go-round. Long live the king.

Devil May Cry 5 — 4Q2020 issue

Fifth time’s a charm: DMC 5 hunts down payoff

Dev­il may cry.” To some, it sounds like the lat­est quote from one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars. To me, it’s one of Capcom’s biggest fran­chis­es that does not involve “Street Fight­er” and “Res­i­dent Evil” that is a labor of love to play. Nero and Dante are back along with some new faces to raise more demon­ic hell across next gen gam­ing con­soles with the hack and slash style of gam­ing that put it on the map. I wait­ed five years to play the fifth install­ment of this series and the kick-ass pro­mo­tion­al song “Dev­il Trig­ger” helped move that wait right along. In April 2019, me and EIC Lyn­d­sey were on a spur-of-the-moment gam­ing shop­ping spree and not only did we pick up a PlaySta­tion 4 Pro, but also we picked up a boun­ty of games includ­ing DMC5. Could it sur­pass pre­vi­ous suc­cess­es that defined the series?

In DMC5, years after the events in DMC4, Nero has got­ten Dante’s bless­ing to jump in the demon-hunt­ing busi­ness but one May night, Nero is accost­ed by a famil­iar foe who has not only tak­en the demon sword Yam­a­to, but also Nero’s demon­ic arm. Vow­ing vengeance, Nero pur­sues the foe to Red­wood City where he is intro­duced to a new evil known as Urizen. He, Dante and fel­low demon hunters Trish and Lady are swat­ted instant­ly by Urizen. Now hav­ing a HUGE chip on his shoul­der, Nero returns with a new arm and part­ner in crime, Nico, and sets out on his sec­ond adven­ture filled with old and new allies and ene­mies while mak­ing his name as a mas­ter demon hunter to sur­pass his infa­mous uncle.

Game­play in DMC5 fol­lows the same high-speed action for­mu­la found in pre­vi­ous games in the series. Con­trol­ling Nero, Dante and the newest char­ac­ter V is per­fect. Nero still has his trusty sword Red Queen and revolver Blue Rose, but instead of his Dev­il Bringer he uses a pros­thet­ic arm called a Dev­il Break­er, which was devel­oped by Nico. It has extra punch than the Dev­il Bringer and can be upgrad­ed after bat­tles with var­i­ous bosses.

Dante has his dual pis­tols Ebony and Ivory as well as his usu­al swords Rebel­lion and Spar­ta, but also has five addi­tions: Cav­i­lare (a motor­cy­cle that when sep­a­rat­ed, becomes a buz­z­saw-like weapon); Bal­rog (yes, THAT Bal­rog), gauntlets and boots that increas­es Dante’s melee pow­er ten­fold; KalinaAnn2, a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Kali­naAnn used in DMC3; and, Dr. Faust, a hat that shoots out red orbs when worn.

V has some tricks up his sleeve with his famil­iars Grif­fon, a demon hawk capa­ble of fir­ing light­ning bolts and pro­jec­tiles; Shad­ow, a pan­ther-like famil­iar that is melee com­bat ori­ent­ed, using its body to form blade and nee­dle weapons; and, final­ly Night­mare, a golem-famil­iar that moves slow­ly, but packs a MAJOR punch against giant ene­mies. I should also note that Night­mare can change his height to titan-lev­el and use a huge laser beam to destroy ene­my boss­es, which allows V to use his Roy­al Fork cane and its copies to land the fin­ish blow.

Anoth­er fea­ture I liked in DMC5 was the train­ing ses­sion that allows you to learn and prac­tice avail­able skills before pur­chas­ing them, allow­ing you to decide whether to buy or hold off.

The RE5 engine brings every detail to life, com­ple­ment­ing Dol­by Atmos sound’s abil­i­ties, which made me think I was play­ing a 3D movie instead of a video game. The voice cast is a mix of well-known and new voice actors led by Reuben Lang­don, John­ny Yong Bosch and Daniel South­worth repris­ing their roles as Dante, Nero and Vergil, respec­tive­ly. Stephanie Sheh returns as Kyrie but in voice form only. I also give kudos to Bri­an Han­ford for voic­ing V and Faye Kingslee as Nico. Brad Ven­able as Grif­fon stole the show, and Kate Hig­gins (Bleach, Code Geass) and Wendee Lee were excel­lent as Lady and Trish.

The only neg­a­tive thing I have about the game is the cam­era con­trol. It has improved GREATLY, but it still takes some time to mas­ter­ful­ly plan a character’s next move. The pow­er-up sit­u­a­tion that occurred in DMC4 was fixed, but you still need to con­serve your red orbs, espe­cial­ly if you use Dr. Faust.

DMC5 is wor­thy of replay because of its excel­lent blend of action, dra­ma and envi­ron­ment. Cap­com is doing this series right again and while I don’t agree that milk­ing a fran­chise is the best busi­ness deci­sion, DMC fans can begin to for­give Cap­com for its lack of judge­ment for DMC: Dev­il May Cry. Let the heal­ing begin.

Fun facts

  • Reuben Lang­don, John­ny Yong Bosch and Daniel South­worth have a con­nec­tion to the Pow­er Rangers fran­chise. Bosch was the sec­ond Black Ranger in Mighty Mor­phin’ Pow­er Rangers and the Green Ranger in Pow­er Rangers ZEO and Pow­er Rangers Tur­bo, while Lang­don did stunt work and South­worth played the Quan­tum Ranger in Pow­er Rangers: Time Force. All have pro­vid­ed voice and motion cap­ture work for the DMC series.
  • South­worth and Wendee Lee had dual roles as Urizen and Eva, Dante’s and Vergil’s mother.
  • If Red­wood City looks like Lon­don, you are cor­rect. Cap­com sent the DMC5 devel­op­ment team to Lon­don — specif­i­cal­ly Mid­hurst in West Sus­sex, Rochester, Kent, Can­ter­bury and Leeds Cas­tle in Kent — for inspi­ra­tion in design­ing loca­tions in the game. Var­i­ous mod­els and clothes were acquired and scanned in Lon­don and Serbia.
  • In addi­tion to the RE5 engine, Cap­com used Microsoft’s Sim­ply­gon graph­ic soft­ware to assist with graph­ics and the inter­mis­sion graphics.
  • The most notable song of the game, “Dev­il Trig­ger,” by Casey and Ali Edwards, has had more than 2.8 mil­lion views on Cap­com Japan’s YouTube chan­nel. Ali Edwards was also the lyri­cist and vocal­ist for the game’s end­ing theme “Lega­cy,” with com­po­si­tion by Kota Suzuki.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 — 3Q2020 issue

Gun­dam, Dynasty War­riors car­ry on tradition

Gun­dam, what a strong sound­ing name.”- Lacus Clyne, Mobile Suit Gun­dam SEED/SEED Destiny

Next to my love for Mega Man, I’m also a fan of the Gun­dam series. Since 1979, the space mecha ani­me has brought thought-pro­vok­ing per­spec­tives on issues of human­i­ty and war, and has cre­at­ed a stan­dard for all sci-fi series, espe­cial­ly ani­me with sci-fi and mecha ele­ments. Through var­i­ous series, mer­chan­dise (includ­ing video games for var­i­ous con­soles) and oth­er media, Gun­dam and its stu­dio, Sun­rise Inc., has secured its place among the GOATs of glob­al pop cul­ture. Lyn­d­sey and I have also tak­en a lik­ing to the Dynasty War­riors game series. I thought: “What would hap­pened if a Dynasty War­riors game was made with Gun­dam ele­ments?” I got my answer in Dynasty War­riors Gun­dam 3.

In DWG3, you play as a cho­sen indi­vid­ual who has been select­ed to a pass a test of skill and deter­mi­na­tion. Your requests come from a mys­te­ri­ous Gun­dam suit that asks why humanity’s exis­tence in the uni­verse should con­tin­ue. This test is con­duct­ed in four orig­i­nal sto­ry arcs that pair char­ac­ters from var­i­ous Gun­dam series such as the MS Gun­dam, Gun­dam Wing, G Gun­dam, Gun­dam 00, Gun­dam Uni­corn and oth­ers who have hero­ic, vil­lain­ous or neu­tral opin­ions to this mys­te­ri­ous Gundam’s test. These arcs also con­tain side mis­sion that explains each rep­re­sent­ed series’ his­to­ry, rein­force a group’s cama­raderie or dis­plays each mobile suit’s spe­cial abilities. 

Con­trol of these suits is easy whether you use the PlaySta­tion 3’s ana­log sticks or con­trol pad. Shoot­ing and melee attacks are flaw­less, and good con­trols help to pull off some dev­as­tat­ing com­bos to dri­ve oppo­nents back for a moment. In true Dynasty War­riors form, your char­ac­ter will have a part­ner or part­ners with sim­i­lar abil­i­ties and less­er suits to help take down cer­tain key areas of stages. I’m sug­gest­ing three pieces of advice when play­ing: Plan to take places such as repair hang­ers, suit fac­to­ries and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tow­ers ASAP; know when to team up with your com­rades to take on stronger suit; and, keep an eye on your side map to avoid being lost. 

At the end of each stage, your char­ac­ter will be shown how many expe­ri­ence points he or she earned and how much gold was col­lect­ed. These ele­ments help you to earn new skills and more stronger suits. To help your char­ac­ter out, there is a tuto­r­i­al stage with prac­tice mis­sions that will help them earn more points or to refresh basic skills. 
The graph­ics were designed as if you are play­ing in an actu­al Gun­dam episode with spe­cial detail giv­en to the suits and their sur­round­ing envi­ron­ments. Nam­co Bandai and Koei did a great job with keep­ing the game’s for­mu­la sim­ple: Keep Dynasty War­riors ele­ments intact while adding Gun­dam elements. 

The sound is on point with the addi­tion of Dol­by Dig­i­tal Sound ensur­ing that every sound effect stays true to Gundam’s lega­cy of high-lev­el ani­me action. Cred­it should also be giv­en to the Ocean Group for assist­ing with voice cast­ing, which includ­ed some of the orig­i­nal ani­me Eng­lish voic­es per­form­ing their respec­tive char­ac­ters for the game. The replay val­ue of DWG3 is very high and is per­fect for a Gun­dam enthu­si­ast or for a friend­ly scrim­mage at your local ani­me convention.

Gun­dam is and will always be the absolute stan­dard bear­er in sci-fi mecha ani­me. DWG3 is an exam­ple of how to build an ani­me mas­ter­piece and present it for a dif­fer­ent medi­um. With its 40th anniver­sary, the Gun­dam name has earned the respect of many ani­me fans new and old with a qual­i­ty title such as Dynasty War­riors Gun­dam 3 to car­ry on the Gun­dam tradition. 

Fun facts

  • Gun­dam was not Sunrise’s only smash hit. They con­tin­ued the trend with the Big O, Cow­boy Bebop, Out­law Star and Code Geass, dis­play­ing Gun­dam design traits in each of those shows.
  • Gun­dam has made its Hol­ly­wood appear­ance recent­ly in the movie “Ready Play­er One” and will do so again in a live-action movie being devel­oped and co-pro­duced with Leg­endary Pic­tures (Pacif­ic Rim, Poké­mon: Detec­tive Pikachu, Hang­over trilogy).
  • Brad Swaile, Richard Cox, Bri­an Drum­mond, Michael Adamwaite and Kir­by Mor­row are five mem­bers of the Eng­lish voice cast that reprised their orig­i­nal respec­tive roles. Swaile and Cox played Amuro and Kai in the orig­i­nal Gun­dam and returned to voice Set­suna and Allelu­jah in Gun­dam 00. Mor­row and Swaile also played Trowa and Qua­tre while Drum­mond voiced Zechs/Milliardo Peace­craft in Gun­dam Wing. Adamwaite voiced Rib­bons in Gun­dam 00.

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp — 2Q2019 issue

Camp­ing with friends

My love affair with Ani­mal Cross­ing began in 2003, a year after the Game­Cube ver­sion was released in the U.S. It wasn’t enough to mere­ly start a life with a char­ac­ter — known as Rubes(kitty) — in my pro­ce­du­ral­ly gen­er­at­ed town known as Tokyo; I had to col­lect every­thing in my cat­a­logue, build my house into a man­sion and catch every insect and fish just for com­ple­tion sake. In the ensu­ing 16 years, I have played every iter­a­tion of Ani­mal Cross­ing avail­able. So, you can imag­ine my pal­pa­ble joy when a mobile ver­sion of Ani­mal Cross­ing was announced in 2016. Cue Ani­mal Cross­ing: Pock­et Camp in 2017, and I’m still going strong in my quest to build the per­fect camp.

Pock­et Camp is a spin­off of the main Ani­mal Cross­ing series but retains ele­ments of the series. Famil­iar tasks such as pay­ing off your debt for your liv­ing quar­ters, com­plet­ing requests for ani­mals that vis­it or improv­ing your finances through item sales are abun­dant in the Pock­et Camp land­scape. New to the series is the timed rota­tion of the ani­mals that are in one of four loca­tions scat­tered around the land­scape. Four ani­mals will be in these loca­tions with options to talk to you and request items; whether you choose to give them the spe­cif­ic items they request or just chat it up for expe­ri­ence points is up to you. Also new are the afore­men­tioned expe­ri­ence points. Each ani­mal has a meter that gauges their friend­ship lev­el with you. The high­er the lev­el, the more rewards they give in exchange for items they request. The rewards are also new, usu­al­ly in the form of Leaf Tick­ets and raw mate­ri­als that are used in craft­ing fur­ni­ture and clothes that can be used to dec­o­rate your camp site and RV.

Pock­et Camp, in its most sim­plis­tic form, is a dumb­ed down portable Ani­mal Cross­ing main game that requires inven­to­ry man­age­ment and micro trans­ac­tions. And it’s a sat­is­fy­ing way to get that quick Ani­mal Cross­ing fix. Much like the main series, it’s relax­ing and fun to pop in and check with the camp site to see what’s hap­pen­ing, pick up some gifts or get involved in fes­ti­vals and events at my own leisure. Time is still mea­sured real­is­ti­cal­ly, and insects and fish are still viable at cer­tain times, though the sea­son require­ment is not in use. Mon­ey is still prac­ti­cal­ly around every cor­ner, and it’s eas­i­er than ever to pay off the debt of upgrad­ing your hum­ble abode when rare bugs and fish are more plen­ti­ful this time around. It’s also quite nice to be able to buy items from oth­er play­ers world­wide in an item mar­ket­place with the Mar­ket Box­es option. The econ­o­my that has devel­oped still has some work to do, but the abil­i­ty to find rare insects, fruit, shells and fish for sale from oth­er friends and strangers is a great start.

For a long­time Ani­mal Cross­ing play­er, the fun in Pock­et Camp is imme­di­ate­ly there but not with­out some caveats. After a cer­tain point, the in-game cur­ren­cy of Bells ceas­es to be a prob­lem. While scarce in the ear­ly going, Bells aren’t an issue once the final upgrade for the RV is obtained and paid off. I now reg­u­lar­ly have about 1.8 mil­lion Bells on hand dai­ly and can’t spend it fast enough on things oth­er than craft­ing and a rare item inven­to­ry econ­o­my that has con­ve­nient­ly sprung up in my friends list. This is like the issue of Bells in the main series so while it’s not sur­pris­ing, it’s still an issue that needs to be reme­died with more things to do. And, the price of Leaf Tick­ets is a bit much. Their addi­tion is help­ful, but their pric­ing should be adjust­ed. Also, in-game cur­ren­cy should be allowed to be used to buy Leaf Tick­ets. That would give anoth­er rea­son to hoard mon­ey lat­er in the game.

While it might not be a main­line game, Ani­mal Cross­ing: Pock­et Camp is still a neat and wel­come addi­tion to the Ani­mal Cross­ing fran­chise. With its con­tin­ued updates and addi­tions, the Ani­mal Cross­ing pop­u­la­tion is still growing.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend — 3Q2018 issue

Guilty Gear suc­ces­sor cleans up nice­ly in fight­ing game arena

Fight­ing game con­nois­seurs have a robust buf­fet to choose from these days. There’s Mar­vel, Street Fight­er, Tekken and Mor­tal Kom­bat for tour­na­ment purists, a new Soul Cal­ibur has been announced, and a new Smash is on the hori­zon and the old­er games in the series are still played in some cir­cles. Guilty Gear, which has always been qui­et­ly in the back of the lunch­room, was a mix of tour­na­ment and casu­al, so it stands to rea­son that its spir­i­tu­al suc­ces­sor — BlazBlue — would mim­ic that notion.

BlazBlue arrived in the fight­ing game scene as a new entry in the port­fo­lio of Guilty Gear devel­op­er Arc­Sys­tem. Tak­ing what they learned from that series, Arc­Sys­tem improved upon the for­mu­la they’d cre­at­ed with gor­geous visu­als, a rock­ing sound­track and impres­sive game­play options that ensure you’ll have plen­ty to do.

BlazBlue CSE starts off rather intim­i­dat­ing­ly. From the begin­ning, there are quite a few modes to choose from. If you’re not informed, you might be a lit­tle lost try­ing to under­stand just where you should start. With a var­ied plate to choose from, at the very least the modes are inter­est­ing­ly designed and add val­ue to an already-packed game. 
The stand­out fea­tures, how­ev­er, are the graph­ics and sto­ry. As with Guilty Gear, you’re get­ting a treat visu­al­ly. The lev­el of detail in each char­ac­ter and the back­grounds make the game worth sit­ting down and study­ing. If you’re into ani­me, the aes­thet­ics were designed with you in mind.

The sto­ry is also wor­thy of com­par­i­son to most mod­ern ani­me. It’s con­vo­lut­ed and com­plex and has twists and turns involv­ing a mul­ti-lay­ered cast. There’s a lot about the search­ing for a sav­ior and mag­ic — which isn’t out of place for an Arc­Sys­tem game. It feels famil­iar but it doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s lay­ered and deep.

Learn­ing the mechan­ics for most fight­ing games is a mixed bag. Some games expect you to be able to jump in and mas­ter the basics as if you’ve done noth­ing but play fight­ing games all of your gam­ing life. Oth­ers like to give you a tuto­r­i­al so that you’re not lost and quick­ly putting the game down, nev­er to return. BlazBlue CSE is in the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry: So con­cerned is the game about you learn­ing to play and mas­ter all that it has to offer that it throws a sur­pris­ing­ly deep tuto­r­i­al mode at you. It slow­ly increas­es the lev­el of com­plex­i­ty and the mechan­ics are spot on and easy to grasp. All fight­ing games need the type of learn­ing tool that’s offered here.

If you love Guilty Gear or if you just want a deep­er sto­ry­line than what’s cur­rent­ly offered by the larg­er more well-known titles on the mar­ket in fight­ing games, BlazBlue promis­es to deliv­er a rich expe­ri­ence. It deliv­ers on that promise with a com­mit­ment to extend­ing beyond just the reg­u­lar fight­ing game expectations.

Devil May Cry 3 — 1Q2017 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of GiantBomb.com

Dance with the dev­il in Dan­te’s rebound adventure

When I final­ly got my own copy of Dev­il May Cry 3, I read that it brought back the melee action that made the first game awe­some to play, but it raised the bar for future install­ments of Capcom’s demon-slay­ing series. Was the praise heaped upon DMC3 well deserved or was this anoth­er way of Cap­com milk­ing a great game series dry for more cash? I got my answer in Dev­il May Cry 3: Dante’s Awak­en­ing, Spe­cial Edition.
Set as a pre­quel to the orig­i­nal DMC, we find our fear­less demon hunter Dante begin­ning to set up shop when a mys­te­ri­ous man named Arkham arrives with a invi­ta­tion from Dante’s broth­er, Vergil. This “invi­ta­tion” turns into a demon-style, reveal­ing that Vergil has not only helped in res­ur­rect­ing a ancient demon­ic tow­er, but also he wants Dante’s amulet to open a por­tal to con­nect the human and with the demon worlds. Dante, of course, is not pleased and sets off to stop Vergil and his plans of world domination.

DMC3 starts from the begin­ning as an explo­sive non­stop melee with brief but impor­tant tuto­ri­als for play­ers to mas­ter Dante’s moves and his sig­na­ture weapons. In addi­tion to the tuto­ri­als, four dif­fer­ent com­bat­ive arts called “styles” are avail­able to Dante, giv­ing him var­i­ous abil­i­ties to increase the pow­er of var­i­ous guns, strik­ing weapons, dodge attacks, and unleash­ing hand-to-hand com­bat with dev­as­tat­ing results. Once Dante defeats a cer­tain boss, he will be able to use them in the form of unique, var­i­ous weapons. There is a lock-on fea­ture to direct­ly tar­get ene­mies that, with prac­tice, will be a valu­able tool to rip ene­mies apart. Also in the spe­cial edi­tion, there are two modes of play: Nor­mal, which is basic DMC speed; or, Tur­bo, where EVERYTHING is clocked up 20 times the nor­mal speed of the game to test your skills. Also, you can play the game not only as Dante, but also as Vergil, who has some seri­ous weapon­ry and moves that would make Jubei Yagyu be in awe.

The game music fits each lev­el with a Phan­tom of the Opera type of feel while the bat­tle scenes uses an electronic/heavy met­al beat that heats up the bat­tles. My only issue is that it’s repet­i­tive every time I fight ene­mies, but it’s well done nonethe­less. The voice act­ing in DMC is top-notch thanks to Reuben Lang­don as Dante and Daniel South­worth (Pow­er Rangers: Time Force) as Vergil. Both actors did the motion cap­ture and voice work for their respec­tive characters.

With the good comes the bad, how­ev­er. While I appre­ci­ate the use of ana­log con­trol in addi­tion to mov­ing the screen cam­era around, the con­trols are tank-like. That is frus­trat­ing because if I’m sur­round­ed by ene­mies, I’m easy pick­ings. Also, the auto­mat­ic fir­ing abil­i­ty of Ebony and Ivory is still in DMC3 but it requires rapid press­ing instead of the flu­id ease found in the first game. I also had to stock up (and I mean STOCK UP) on red orbs to pur­chase pow­er ups for Dante and his weapons or learn new moves since the game was try­ing to do a stick-up job every time I need to make some upgrades. For­tu­nate­ly, I could replay each mis­sion to get more orbs or lev­el up.

DMC3 lives up to its high praise guar­an­tee­ing plen­ty of chal­lenge and replay val­ue when you just want to get medieval on things but legal­ly. This Spe­cial Edi­tion is a no-holds barred adven­ture in demon-slay­ing with the best in the busi­ness. If Cap­com wants to do a movie for Dev­il May Cry, I’m for it, but do it right; in oth­er words Cap­com, stick to the sto­ry and the pay­day bonan­za will take care of itself.