Watch who watches society in surveillance thriller
I am sort of a tech geek. While I do not have the latest gadgets in gaming or modern living, I love to have knowledge about the latest in digital security. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent time off binge-watching the USA network show “Mr. Robot.” The protagonist, Elliot Anderson, was not a social butterfly, but if he wanted to know something about someone, all he needs is their digital details and he would either help or hinder them. Before Mr. Robot took form, Ubisoft in 2014 developed a game that applied action-adventure elements and mixed them with cybersecurity and personal privacy issues involving big technology companies. Watch Dogs was born of that curiosity. In Watch Dogs, you take on the role of hacker Aiden Pierce, who in 2012 was collaborating with his mentor/partner Damien Brenks on an electronic financial heist in a fictional Chicago hotel. Unknown to the hacking duo, they tripped off an alarm set by another hacker, which forces Aiden to take his family out of the city. While on the run, they are pursued by hitman Maurice Vega in a car chase that kills Aiden’s niece. Enraged, Aiden, along with partner/fixer Jordi Chin, sets off to find Vega and his employer while uncovering a hideous conspiracy behind the popular CtOS (Central Operating System) that has Chicago heavily dependent on it. Watch Dogs is simple to play yet requires some practice to be familiar with. Using the analog sticks to control Aiden’s movements and the in-game camera was difficult at first; however, with enough practice, you will have him almost invincible. The menu for Aiden’s collected items as well as driving scenarios are like Grand Theft Auto, which I found frustrating but not unplayable. Aiden’s main weapons are a collapsible baton and a portable device known as the Profiler. The Profiler picks up NPC info that could be used to loot or embarrass them, depending on the situation. Also, you scan scale vertical walls and crouch behind walls to hide from enemies. I especially like the ability to hide because it’s well done in its application. During the first mission of the game, I found Vega and roughed him up, hacked the baseball stadium’s power grid to cause a blackout and snuck away from the police. With the well-practiced controls, it was easy to make this sequence work and get on with the rest of the game. That’s how smooth it should be. The graphics in Watch Dogs are sharp and do well in taking advantage of Ubisoft’s Disrupt engine, which presented the city of Chicago and its landmarks with great care and detail. Another detail I liked was the ability to set the time for Aiden to rest. The representation of the day and night cycle was perfect. Watch Dog’s music is a nice mix of adrenaline and house music and contributed well to the overall atmosphere. Watch Dogs is great to play if you want to act out your vigilante hero fantasies, legally, of course. Watch Dogs will not disappoint, although I would recommend using a strategy guide to help make your first playthrough more enjoyable. For those who are interested in cybersecurity like I am or want to experience control of a city by technology, get to hacking.
Veteran fighting series Samurai Shodown returns with few flaws
SNK has done it again. Gorgeous graphics, fun play mechanics and a solid fighting game engine make up the core of one of its flagship fighting franchises featuring samurai. If you’re in the mode for beautiful fighting in the Japanese feudal era, you’ve come to the right place in the 2019 revival of Samurai Shodown.
Getting back to the root of what makes Samurai Shodown fun and unique, the 2019 reboot is basic in every way. The barebones options mean there isn’t much to do, but if you’re looking to just pick a fighter and jump in, it’s clearly there for that. You choose from 18 base roster fighters and duke it out in feudal Japan with various motivations. All are investigating a coming catastrophe, but their intention in the face of a sinister environment is unique. Timeline-wise, the game is set between the prequel Samurai Shodown V and the original Samurai Shodown. So, you’re getting a taste of the story before the main series even kicks off.
The characters, as well as the backgrounds, are stunning. SNK has always been known for its impressive attention to detail when it comes to graphics with Samurai Shodown, and this entry is no different. The colors pop with an emphasis on non-realistic graphics that resemble what we know in the West as ukiyo‑e and woodblock paintings; everything is utterly gorgeous, beginning with the menu and options screens.
As a title set in feudal Japan, the music must reflect the environment — and it’s well done as well. The use of traditional Japanese instruments has always been present in Samurai Shodown and it’s used liberally and to great effect. Also, the voice work is excellent. We appreciate the Japanese language, and it sounds beautiful and clear here.
We do have an obvious issue with the reboot, despite its beauty. There is a noticeable lack of things to do once you stop marveling at the graphics. Where are the modes beyond the standard offerings? So much more could have been added, especially with the series’ history at hand. It’s a pretty package but it’s missing a lot.
Samurai Shodown has been around for a long time, and this revival is just that: A return to the roots of a fantastic fighting game series. This entry is stunning and graceful yet just enough to whet the appetite of a fighting game newcomer or a seasoned veteran. With this success, SNK now knows what it needs to do to show up and show out with the renewed interest in the showstopper that is Samurai Shodown.
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.
In my vast inventory of interests, mafia movies are one that would make me curl up on a weekend afternoon with popcorn, drinks and other treats in hand. While I know that some famous mafia movies and television series are being developed into video games, Sega’s Yakuza series is already a perfect combination of action, adventure, and the mafia. I was thrilled to combine my love for the series with zombie elements in Yakuza: Dead Souls.
Set a year after the events in Yakuza 4, an unknown disease outbreak in the district of Kamurochō has affected its residents, turning them into zombies through bites. As a result, the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force has been called in to assist with the slow and expanding quarantine. During this chaotic time, certain enemies of the Tojo clan have arisen to take advantage of Kamurochō’s suffering. The fate of Kamurochō and Japan rests in the hands of four men: Shun Akiyama, a loan shark trying to save his sick receptionist; Goro Majima, a feared yakuza and construction company owner who is fighting his own infection; Ryuji Goda, a disgraced yakuza and takoyaki chef whose clan has a tie to the outbreak; and, series protagonist Kiryu Kazuma, who runs a children’s orphanage and returns to Kamurochō when his adoptive daughter is kidnapped.
Dead Souls is an open-world game that combines action, adventure, and survival horror elements. The plot is one akin to samurai movies where there are four chapters with four parts for each character with the final chapter reserved for Kiryu. Controls for movement and the game camera are simple with the analog sticks. You will also be given “memos,” a list with special sections to teach you basics such as using weapons, evasion, and close quarter combat, which help when facing off against the legion of zombies. I appreciated the ability to level up each character’s attributes through use of soul points that upgrades abilities to carry more items, improve knowledge of zombies, weapons modifications and protective gear, and master advanced close quarter combat techniques.
As the game progresses, your current character will be assisted by three NPCs: Reiko Hasekawa, a researcher who offers information and rewards for completed tasks; Gary “Buster” Holmes, a firearms expert who helps the protagonists and their temporary companions with gun training; and, Renji Kamiyama, weapons seller and modifier of weapons and protective gear who can also be used as a pawnbroker to buy rare items.
I also appreciate the classification of various zombie enemies; that organization method can help you plan the appropriate strategy or simply avoid contact with them. While you’re running around Kamurochō, pay attention to the music. It’s one of Sega’s best soundtracks in the modern era and puts the Yakuza series among Sega’s go-to roster of great soundtracks.
The graphics are OK for the time when it released. It’s good for an open world game, though there’s room for improvement. Though, compared to other games at the time, Yakuza: Dead Souls doesn’t necessarily outshine the competition; it just merely competes. The only real problem I have with Dead Souls is the inclusion of scenarios where you must chase down people while fending off zombies. I know a yakuza got to make his money, but Sega was putting these characters in dangerous conditions without any protective gear, which is slightly unrealistic.
Dead Souls is great to play on a day off or slow weekend, though I would offer two pieces of advice: Do not play late at night, and do not play while COVID-19 is still around. It’s a nice attempt to mix multiple genres. I can say this with no doubt: Sega’s got a smash hit ready to secure all bags and show its competition why it does not pay to underestimate the Yakuza.
* Yakuza is the term given to transnational crime organizations based in Japan. They are also known as” boryokudan,” which the Japanese police advise for public media to use when covering yakuza-related stories. The yakuza also call themselves “ninkyo dantai,” or chivalrous groups.
* According to Japan’s National Police Agency as of 2020, there are at least 25,900 active yakuza members, despite rigid legislation aimed to combat yakuza involvement with the Japanese public. These members are accounted among the three major yakuza families: Yamaguchi-gumi, Somiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai.
* Yakuza groups have been known to operate in major U.S. cities and use Hawaii as a hub to conduct various legal and illegal enterprises.
I’m a HUGE Gundam fan. Next to my love of Mega Man, Gundam is my second greatest obsession. Because of limited space, I’ll have to be content with the limited Gundam merch that I have amassed. The latest addition was given to me for my recent birthday; it made me recall playing a Gundam arcade fighting game at Nashicon 2016. Would it serve to satisfy my hunger for giant robots causing massive damage and beating themselves to oblivion? “Gundam Versus” for PlayStation 4 gave me my answer.
Gundam Versus has some unique advantages going for it as a fighting game. Its source material is based on a universally recognized anime series. Unlike other fighting games, it does not have a storyline, allowing you to jump straight to the action without knowing background story. That sold me as someone who knows a series’ background, not needing knowledge about specific characters’ background.
The ability to choose a series favorite from a roster of more than 90 mobile suits from various Gundam works ensures that you are not limited to characters in Gundam series only aired in the U.S. Each stage is open area, allowing you to plan offense or defense with the benefit of hiding or running from your opponents while recovering from attacks. Also, you can have two additional characters to back you with one serving as a striking partner to tag team opposing forces with the perfect timing. They are available to have a training session to get you familiar with your chosen suit.
Those who are not accustomed to run-and-gun gaming will get frustrated and want to quit playing. The open battlefield requires a 360-degree view, which the PS4 controls are decent enough to help handle the action. While Gundam Versus made an honorable attempt to include all Gundam elements, some opening themes were played on repeat way too much and that took away the focus from gameplay and placed it on the music. Music for the game is top notch, which is to be expected from the Bandai Namco sound team. This was the first time the team did an international collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra for the opening visual. That adds some flavor and extras to the presentation. While I was disappointed that the game didn’t offer an English dub track, the original Japanese audio for the Gundam franchise ensured that Versus has the appropriate Gundam feel.
A downside is that certain series I liked and wanted to use suits from are stuck as paid content, which left Gundam fans like me at Bandai Namco’s mercy regarding affordable pricing.
Gundam Versus is a testimony of how anime, sci-fi and fighting games have merged to create a product that is playable for everyone, regardless of fandom knowledge. As a Gundam aficionado, Versus is well worth the time spent playing and is the next best thing to owning a Gundam or mobile suit. I welcome this new addition to my Gundam collection as I continue my quest to build a masterpiece collection of all things Gundam.
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.
The intricacies of determining the winner of the storied fight between Batman and the Joker all depend on prep time for Batman and the Joker’s maniacal state at the time of the battle. We’ve thought this through and determined that even with minimal prep time, Batman could win this fight considering his previous experience with the Joker. To simulate it, we would need only one thing: the Injustice series of games. And considering Injustice 2 has more chances for this to happen with proper simulation, you can best believe we’re diving deep into the solid sequel DC comic book fighting game.
Injustice 2 is a competent storyteller in its quest to be a DC comic book simulator. Set after the fall of Superman’s tyrannical regime, Injustice 2 places Batman at the forefront again to take on the task of rebuilding society and combating a new threat in the form of The Society. Mixing in longtime Superman foe Braniac only adds to the chaos. What it boils down to is that these are characters you know from the DC universe — even if you’re passingly familiar with them — fighting it out to stop Superman from continuing his reign of tyranny established in the previous game.
Where Injustice 2 shines is its presentation and its characters. Everything that looked good in the first Injustice is much-better looking the second time around. The user interface got a newer, sleeker coat of paint, and all the character models and backgrounds look better and cleaner, too. The character select screen even looks better and more fluid. NetherRealm’s fighting game visuals get better with each game, so this is just a testament to their growing prowess. The music isn’t standout, but it’s serviceable.
Despite its shiny upgraded presentation, I’m still not a fan of how it plays. The combat doesn’t feel natural, like say, how Mortal Kombat feels. It still feels like it’s a step or two behind MK and like it’s trying too hard to differentiate itself from that series by throwing a wrench into the basic combo setups. I’m also not a fan of the unlock system. It’s a lot of gear to unlock for a lot of characters, but I don’t really have the time or the inclination to sit and work on it. I’m not saying have it unlocked immediately when I first start the game, but I am saying it needs to be easier. The experience is not the most enjoyable.
Injustice 2 is a nice upgrade from the first game. It’s got the name factor, characters you probably know and slick presentation that will catch most anyone’s eye who is into fighting games. Whether you’re a comic book fan or a casual fighting game connoisseur, Injustice 2 is worth a look to see if it’s worth its weight in kryptonite.
Marvel vs. Capcom now infinitely frustrating series
The Marvel fighting game scene is well known by now and well worn. Pretty much, anyone who’s anyone in the Marvel comic universe and movies has been in a Marvel Versus game. This is nothing new by now. You’ve seen these people before and, if you’re a Capcom fan, you have seen their side of the roster in other games before you got here. So, what exactly are you getting out of playing the latest iteration in the long-running Marvel Versus Capcom series? Not much, but Capcom already knew that. They just hoped you wouldn’t notice.
If you’re invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but don’t know anything about the comics, MvC: Infinite serves as a starting point for understanding the comics side of things in preparation for Avengers Endgame. Oh, yeah, there’s some Capcom story set up, too, as an afterthought. Really, this is several stories mashed together: From Marvel, you get the Infinity Saga and Age of Ultron story; from Capcom comes Sigma and Mega Man X’s story and some of Vampire Savior/Darkstalker’s 3 arc dealing with Jedah Dohma. The story kind of makes sense in a mashed-up way. It’s not half bad, given that the previous efforts of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to give a cinematic team up was decent and miles ahead of any other title in the series to date. Mostly, the Marvel Versus series has followed an established comic book arc — Marvel vs. Street Fighter was mostly Apocalypse and the first Marvel vs. Capcom focused on Onslaught — and this is no different. Where it falters is oversimplification.
The Infinity Saga is never truly finished in the comics because Marvel constantly returns to it over the years to explain a lot of things. Also, thinking critically about what this is really based on, the story of the Infinity Saga really took about 18 of the 22 MCU movies to tell its story. You cannot tell this story in two games — Marvel Super Heroes being the first to tell this arc. Infinite tries to and winds up half accomplishing it with some weird, forced Capcom story side foolishness thrown in for good measure, because hey, Capcom is also in the name.
You get the sense that if Capcom’s angle of things was removed, this would be just fine, and Infinite would be OK without it. That does not help Capcom at all here. Immediately, it destroys the need for a new team-up game and renders Capcom’s side of the roster unnecessary. I do not feel Ryu or Chun Li are useful in any of the situations presented in the story mode.
The roster is actually not bad, but with the few new additions locked behind a DLC paywall, you’re kind of left to wonder would Infinite be just a tad bit better if the more noteworthy characters were available from the start. The base group is basically a retread roster from MvC3, and the new additions should have been in the series; the fact that we’re just now getting Black Widow, Black Panther, Jedah and the Winter Soldier is a crime that only Capcom seems to like committing.
In addition to the generic oversimplification of the story, the presentation is just as generic and bland. The Marvel Versus series has always had strong presentation, and to be frank, this ain’t it, as the kids say these days. The backgrounds are good, but some of the character designs have an oof level the size of Ultron Sigma’s final form. They are, quite frankly, terrible a lot of the time. There seems to be an attempt at realism but not, at the same time, because some of the Marvel characters look like their MCU counterparts, but then when you look closer, there’s a detail that keeps them from looking exactly like the actor or actress that plays the character.
For example, look at Captain America and Captain Marvel. Captain America, from far away, looks exactly like MCU Winter Soldier-era Captain America as portrayed by real-world Captain America stalwart Chris Evans. Up close, however, Cap looks just enough different for you to realize that Evans probably didn’t consent to his likeness for the game. Same for Captain Marvel and actress Brie Larson. It’s a small but noticeable quibble I have here. And, some of these Capcom characters look atrocious. Ryu’s face on the title screen is horrific. The sprites look terrible here but in game, he looks fine. It’s a shame because every other game in the series has been OK in terms of the graphics. Sure, they weren’t award-winning, but they reflected the series’ growth. Infinite looks like it took about 10 steps back in a lot of respects.
The music is just as bland. Each iteration of the Versus series has had some bangers on the soundtrack — even the much-maligned Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s soundtrack was memorable if not catchy. Here, there is absolutely nothing noteworthy. It’s the first Versus game where I don’t have something from the soundtrack saved, which is not good at all. As I played through the story mode, I kept waiting for something to jump out at me, and I got nothing. I was not impressed.
The controls didn’t impress, either. There has been a noted trend, since MvC3 was released, to simplify the game system for the Versus games to make them more accessible.
While I’m always a fan of drawing in the casual fan for these types of games, I’m not a fan of ruining a good thing. MvC2 was still accessible to even the most casual fighting game player, and this is even worse than the toning down of the controls between MvC2 and MvC3. There is no depth to the combo system now, and that doesn’t help Infinite in any way.
I’m underwhelmed when it comes to Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Nothing plays in its favor, nothing makes any sense, and the team-up crossover event is showing its age in every facet of the game. There’s nothing new here to make me say wow or push me to play as I did the other games in the series. If Capcom were to lose the Marvel license again, it wouldn’t be a shocker or unwarranted.
It’s time to admit that the series is not an infinite source of amusement. Unfortunately, at this point, it’s merely a finite source of fighting game goodness.
“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.
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.
Growing up as a gamer, there was always a series I could count on to provide a lot of enjoyment: Mario Kart. High quality, fun racing ensued as did a familiarity with the system that made up racing in the Mushroom Kingdom. But as time has marched on, there are dark clouds over the kingdom and it’s not necessarily Bowser’s fault for the foolishness for once; it’s Nintendo’s greed.
Mario Kart in mobile form has always been a safe bet for the Nintendo racing fan. Being able to race with your favorite Mario characters and take it on the go? Where do I sign up? But Mario Kart Tour, the latest mobile property for the gaming giant, is not a fun tour … er, trip. It’s Mario Kart for the SNES dumbed and watered down with gatcha elements tacked on for good measure.
Mario Kart Tour takes the usual Mario Kart formula and adds things like gatcha pulls to unlock special characters, karts and gliders, usually in the high-end category, as well as level up your established roster. The gatcha pulls are obnoxious because it’s dependent on luck of the draw using real money to fund the pulls. The real money — that you’re pulling out of your wallet — is spent in the form of rubies, which allow you to pull from pipes possibly containing the high-end items in batches of one pull for five rubies or 10 pulls for 45 rubies. Though the rubies are moderately priced, it’s the fact that you must buy the rubies or complete sometimes ridiculous challenges to get rubies that makes it beyond the pale.
And, just as infuriatingly, there’s the character/kart/glider system that’s tied to the stages chosen for each tour. Each level has three or four specific characters that are favored on this track. Usually, the characters that are favored are the flavor of the tour; that is, a character or variation created especially for the specific tour. As always, they are high-end and exceedingly hard to acquire. Because this is tied into the pipe pulls, it’s also a cash grab designed to pull in the most dedicated who have the most money and time to spend fiddling around with a mobile game. These “whales,” as they are called in online circles, keep this cash grab going and endorse this continued behavior from Nintendo, which, in all honesty, is atrocious.
In addition to the tool-like single-player mode, there is the multiplayer mode from hell. I wish I could somehow convey the trash-like qualities of multiplayer in words, but I’m at a loss without getting an FCC fine for profanity. The multiplayer plays like garbage and ignores any sort of mechanics that Tour attempts to create in the single-player campaign. It is utter chaos in every match and those lucky enough to do well have to be doing that with sheer luck. It can’t be from actual skill and good mechanics, because Tour is missing the mark in both areas.
The mechanics, lacking in skill and refinement, are a serious problem. Now, I’m cognizant of the fact that this is a mobile game, so we’re not talking precision like a main entry would have. However, this is rough even for a mobile game. Often, drifting is difficult and ultra mini-turbos are next to impossible. Given that I’ve mastered the drifting feature in Mario Kart with every entry starting from the Nintendo 64 days, I shouldn’t have this much trouble maintaining a drift. The combo system, while interesting and a great feature, is not refined as well as it should be. There should be a meter that shows me the length of time between combo actions and how much time I have left if you’re going to tell me that I have a time limit on those actions. Sometimes, combos drop inexplicably, ruining a run at a challenge that requires a certain number.
Equally problematic are the weapons system and the AI level. I tend to race comfortably on 100cc, but I will race on 150cc and 200cc (with a purchased Gold Pass) if I’m working on improving scores in the bi-weekly ranked cups. In the months since I’ve begun playing, I’ve noticed the aggression of the computer-controlled karts steadily creeping up, which is a problem. It’s mostly noticeable on the weekly favored track, which quickly gets infuriating when you’re trying to maintain a ranking and the computer is hell bent on keeping you from achieving this goal. The weapons system plays a large part in this because it’s nearly impossible sometimes to receive your character’s specific weapon or a frenzy or even a useful frenzy despite your character more than likely being a high level.
Also lowering Tour’s fun factor is the character system. As in other games in the series, there are a variety of characters from the Mushroom Kingdom and Nintendo in general that can be and have been added to the roster. The sheer variety is great but the need to unlock and pay for these varieties is the problem. It’s greedy as hell that you have to buy rubies to possibly unlock a character to do well in the featured tour track or magically come up with the ways to earn them, which are far and few in between. Basically, Nintendo wants you to spend money and they’re not afraid to pimp out Mario Kart to achieve this goal, so they’ll nickel and dime you constantly.
And I hope you love a lot of the tracks already pulled into Tour because track variety is lacking. There are a lot of not-fun tracks that seem to be repeated quite often. That decreases the enjoyment of racing because you know you aren’t going to want to mess around with a cup that has an obnoxious track (I’m glaring at you, 3DS Rainbow Road).
Visually, Tour is fine. It looks like Mario Kart and has all the elements of the racing god we’ve come to know and love. As a matter of fact, the game looks like a better version of the Wii U’s Mario Kart 8, just below Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch. Those oft-repeated tracks are gorgeous recreations of old faithful favorites from the SNES, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Advance titles with a few new cities of the world tracks thrown in the mix. In the beginning there were a lot of different city tracks, but because of the pandemic, work on the tour has been kept to already established tracks from the series that can quickly be converted for use in Tour.
Musically, Mario Kart is known as having a banger soundtrack for every game. Tour doesn’t slouch in that department with the new tracks, but it does mess up with some of the older tracks. I’m not quite sure how a game can get one part of the soundtrack right but mess up the other parts, but Tour somehow manages to do it. Any of the new tracks that were created for Tour are excellent. The menu themes are excellent, as well, with new tunes mixed in with remixed favorites from previous games. But then you get to an older track, let’s say Koopa Troopa Beach from the SNES. It does not sound the same as the original version at all. The pitch sounds off by a few notes, as if someone recreated it for Tour and kind of, sort of remembered the way the original sounded. Rainbow Road from the SNES has the same problem. It sort of resembles the original tunes but also … not really. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get from tour to tour, so I don’t necessarily get my hopes up in terms of music quality when I see an older track announced.
All my problems with Mario Kart Tour are fixable, but that’s up to Nintendo to work on and decide if it’s worth it this far in. With increasing frequency, however, I find myself saying this might be the part of the Tour that’s my last stop.