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.
As a child of the ’90s, I grew up on the “Disney Afternoon” cartoon lineup. All the shows received the video game treatment for either 8‑bit, 16-bit systems or for both consoles at the time. I had a Sega Genesis and wondered when Disney would license a game based on a DA show for Genesis. Little did I know, Sega had license deals with Disney directly, and like Disney games made by Capcom, Sega made a game that wasn’t another “DuckTales,” but was set in the series’ universe and had its regular characters. His name is Donald Duck, and he made his debut in platform gaming in “QuackShot Starring Donald Duck.” In QuackShot, Donald sets out on a treasure hunt stretching across nine stages. One day in Duckburg, Donald visits his Uncle Scrooge and while checking out his library, Donald stumbles upon a message from King Grazuia, an old ruler of the Great Duck Kingdom who has hidden his legendary treasure across the world. Enclosed with the message is a map that Donald believes leads to treasure that would make him richer than Uncle Scrooge. However, Big Bad Pete and his gang also find out about the treasure and set off after Donald, turning the treasure hunt into a race to see who gets it first. Control of our daring adventurer is simple with the d‑pad and, combined with abundant options, ensures that you can set up movement, weapon use and dashing to specific buyouts. Donald may have odds against him, but he has some advantages with his plunger gun utilizing yellow plungers to stop Pete’s henchmen and other foes temporarily with an unlimited supply, and a reloadable popcorn gun that shoots five kernels at once. Donald also has some of the “DuckTales” crew helping him: Nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie provide transportation to each destination, and Gyro Gearloose provides Donald with bubblegum ammo that can break down obstacles. The MVP weapon in the game is the “quack attack,” which Donald can use to knock down any enemies instantly. I give credit to Sega for using Disney’s knowledge of Donald’s temper. The graphics and music were excellent, lively, and bright for an appropriately spry game. The downsides to “QuackShot” are few but are similarly found in most platform games. You must ensure perfect timing for Donald when he either crosses dangerous obstacles or performs his dash move. Also, mildly infuriating is small voice sample usage for the characters as this was not only a debut game for Donald, but also it is set in the DuckTales universe. There was so much untapped potential for rich, established history. Finally, you can only start the game in Duckburg, Mexico, or Transylvania. To pass later stages, you need a particular item, so there is a lot of backtracking unnecessarily. “QuackShot Starring Donald Duck” was one of the games that I started off with as a Genesis owner. A solid platformer, it showed that Sega had talent of developing consoles and legendary games using original and licensed characters. Most importantly, I got to see another Disney classic character get his limelight in his first video game with a starring role. Carry on Donald, carry on.
Strider Hiryu. Best known for his appearances in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, he has been considered a top-tier character by players and is consistently popular. Strider also appeared in a standalone game in 2014 for various consoles at the time. However, Strider was already established, starting in 1989 with his original arcade release that was ported to the NES and to the Genesis in 1990 via Sega. It was titled, yep, you guessed it, “Strider.” In the year 1998, after a series of disasters fell upon Earth, people across the globe realized their situation and began to work together to rebuild. Four years later, in an Eastern European nation called Kazafu several red dots appeared as the advance guard of the evil space being Meio. They caused immediate destruction of Kafazu, Europe, and North and South America, resulting in 80 percent of Earth’s population being wiped out. However, on a small South Seas Island called Moralos, a secret organization known as “Striders” began to move to stop Meio’s reign of terror. They sent their best agent, Hiryu, forward with the task of stopping Meio and his plans for world domination. Control of Hiryu is simple, allowing him to attack in either direction, duck when fighting, and climb to reach higher areas. Hiryu also has use of his plasma sword, Falchion, to assist in removing enemies from any direction on the screen. I also found that Hiryu has two reliable techniques that are game-changers: a sliding move that gets him in tight areas, and a cartwheel move that allows you to glide from surface to surface while in a spinning wheel, making Hiryu unpredictable when he lands. Hiryu also can perform a vertical jump, hanging and squatting attacks with Falchion. Hiryu will also get some mission support from three battle robots: Dipodal Saucer, which fires lighting bolts wherever Hiryu swings Falchion; RoboPanther, which covers Hiryu from frontal attacks; and, Robot Hawk, which assists Hiryu by severely attacking airborne enemies. Apart from the usual powerups in hack-and-slash games, there’s also a powerup that increases Falchion’s power. The music is acceptable for each stage, matching its theme with a few standout tracks for the levels. As much as I love Strider, there are a few flaws. The challenge is on full display from the moment you hit start. In the options screen, you can add up to five lives for Hiryu, but you must frustratingly hunt down extra lives and score points to acquire the rest. You also have an obnoxious time limit for each stage; if you don’t clear a level in time, you’ll lose a life. I also found it frustrating that Hiryu can gain up to five life bars, but if he has a support partner, that can be taken away if he suffers too much damage. That makes his mission much more difficult unnecessarily at times. Strider is perfect for anyone who wants to act out their post-dystopian hero fantasies without fear of possible legal retribution. It’s an enduring classic that has transcended the hack-and-slash genre and made a name for itself in the fighting game community via the MvC series. If there was ever a time that I wish that Strider Hiryu was real and ready to kick a certain villainous country’s ass, that time is now. Hail, Hiryu-sama.
Chances are, if you’re thinking about buying this retro package of Final Fantasy, you’ve already played at least one of the two games included. So, why buy this? Because the packaging is the draw, and it’s a must-own if you like the Final Fantasy series. Let’s start with the obvious: Final Fantasy Anthology does not have a lot of Final Fantasy games included. Two classics with interesting and storied backgrounds are here: Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI. Until this release, Final Fantasy V had never been translated and released in the U.S because it was deemed too hard for the market. Final Fantasy VI was released in the U.S. as Final Fantasy III. It was a critical darling in both markets and is widely regarded as one of the best retro-era Final Fantasy games and role-playing games ever. So, Square Enix putting these two games together in a package would kill two birds with one stone: Good sales — nearly a million copies sold — and introduction of a “lost” game to the barely tapped market. Square Enix succeeded on both fronts. Released in the U.S. and PAL regions, FF Anthology features FFV and FFVI in full with new CG introduction movies for both games. Although we have reviewed FFV previously (see 2Q2010 issue), we have never reviewed FFVI. Just know, however, that both games are fantastic, with FFV as our choice to play in the package. Both games have a deep story with memorable characters that you come to know and love by the end of your adventure, and beautiful graphics and stunning soundtracks. It’s a testament to the strong storytelling found in the retro FF era, and the package is better for including these two games particularly. Rounding out the package is the other highlight: The included bonus soundtrack CD. The soundtrack features 22 of the best tracks from both games, with our favorites coming from the FFV portion. FFVI does have some bangers, also, so the soundtrack is great addition all around. What you should care about — and why you should buy this package — is the fact that you’re getting the best of the 2D Final Fantasy games. Add in that soundtrack CD, which is like a gateway to FF music, and you have a good deal with in-depth gameplay to boot. This is Square Enix at its best before it embraced the 3D era for its flagship role-playing series.
ModNation Racers stumbles at starting line despite wealth of options
When you come for the king, you better not miss. And, as much as ModNation Racers tries to come for Mario Kart, it misses by quite a wide mile. ModNation Racers tries, I’ll give it that. There’s depth to be had here for an arcade go-kart racer. There are various modes to jump into, including a career mode and online and offline play. Additionally, the create-a-character and track editors are serious time sinks. A once-thriving and robust online store for all sorts of mods — the name of the game — is still there. The customization remains deep, with various ways to dress your character and build a rig that suits your aesthetic. This is where ModNation has the advantage over Mario Kart, and that’s obvious from the get-go. But underneath the surface, ModNation starts to falter big time. The tracks are generic and boring and are generally underwhelming with a clunky design to the overall feel. There was nothing that jumped out as interesting, and they feel slapped together and cliche. And, equally as boring is the character design. Despite the characters being chibi-racers, they aren’t cute. The super-deformed look works when you can pull it off, and United Front Games didn’t succeed here. The characters look generic and stale with no personality. As bland as the character design is, even goofier are the controls. Kart racing, while not a precision genre, should be easy to control. ModNation Racers is not easy to race in, considering there’s something assigned to every button on the controller and then some. On top of that, the controls feel imprecise, loose, and sloppy. Also, the speed levels, while customizable, are not tuned properly. What should have been the easiest and slowest speed for a newcomer still felt like the equivalent of 150CC in Mario Kart. That’s not easy, and the controls are unhelpful in dealing with that sensation of speed. Also, some of the racing mechanics are questionable at best. The drifting feature is terrible; at no point was completing a drift possible going as fast as I was going. And, the AI’s consistent ability to prevent weapon pickup even on the easiest level was grating as was the constant bumping into objects and barriers. It’s obnoxious also that there is no weapons display beyond words and a meter. Explaining what the weapons are and their effects would have contributed to more playing. Adding insult to injury, the soundtrack is generic and forgettable. Not a single track stood out, and much like the level design, seemed half-thought-out and lazy. I kept hoping and listening for something, anything, to pique my interest, but I was disappointed there also. ModNation suffers from the adage of too much of a good thing. While it’s nice to have the wealth of customization options, it comes across as what the kids call “doing too much.” Everything seems extra and a little bit too much. It’s trying too hard to tack on a lot of things that are designed to outshine the competition when it should have focused on getting the basics correct. Even where there is depth, sometimes you have to know where to rein it in, and ModNation Racers stumbles on the steps on the way to cast their ballot for themselves as the king of kart racing. It’s an admirable but ultimately flawed challenge to the throne.
Usually, for us die-hard Mario enthusiasts, saving Princess Peach is the name of the game when it comes to an adventure. After all, we started way back when with Pauline in Donkey Kong and moved up to Mushroom Kingdom clean up in Super Mario Bros. But occasionally, the script gets flipped and it’s about saving Mario instead. Super Princess Peach does just that and does a damn fine, if not stereotypically emotion-filled, job. Starting things off with business as usual, Bowser invades the Mushroom Kingdom in a bid to steal Peach and wreak havoc. He succeeds but, changing things up, manages to capture Mario and Luigi instead and create chaos with the Vibe Scepter, which controls other beings’ emotions. Instead of hoping for a hero, Peach decides she must return the favor and sets out across eight worlds set on Vibe Island to save her plumber beau and his brother. In her quest, Peach is assisted by a sentient umbrella named Perry. Perry imbues Peach with Vibe meter by defeating enemies and provides other techniques for her arsenal. And Vibe meter is really the other big mechanic here. On the DS’ bottom screen, there are four emotions that Peach utilizes to solve puzzles: Joy, Rage, Gloom and Calm. The emotions are innovative and easy to use, making controlling Peach a breeze. Rarely are the touchscreen controls an issue, and it’s easy to quickly switch among them on the fly. Graphically, Super Princess Peach is cute and vibrant, which plays well for the vibe Nintendo is going for here. I expected that Vibe Island would look bright and colorful in most places and has a light, airy feel to it. The backgrounds pop and the character sprites are cute and weird in a good way. It carries the normal Mario charm, but there’s something about running around as Peach with the adorable Perry that looks and feels genuinely refreshing. The soundtrack is also something special. It has a groovy vibe to it, and all the tracks work well with the surroundings. Also, Peach’s voice acting is spot-on. Peach sounds exactly like what I would expect in modern games, and I particularly enjoyed the sound effects for the different emotions she employs. My only bone of contention is small but a big part of the game: The Vibe meter. While a nice mechanic as far as gameplay goes, there was something about it that bothered me that I couldn’t articulate when the game was released in 2006, but I can now. I’m not overly fond of the concept that Peach is led around by manipulating her emotions. It’s the concept that women are emotion-driven creatures that jumps out at me as a little more than offensive. If we’re capable of saving our beau — which we wholly are, and it only took from 1985 to 2006 to show this — then we can do it without it implied that we’re wildly mood-swinging weirdos who are giddy at one moment and raging or crying at the next. It’s a little more than stereotypical misogynistic nonsense that quite frankly wasn’t necessary to attach to an already damsel-in-distress archetype trying to change the status quo. The game, on its technical merits, is strong enough to stand on its own, honestly. Despite some wonky ideas about Peach’s emotional stability and fortitude, Super Princess Peach is a quaint and fun adventure. It’s not a game-changer in the Mario pantheon but it’s easy, accessible, and adorable. I can’t ask for more out of my hop ‘n’ bop done right. It’s just peachy.