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.

QuackShot Starring Donald Duck — Issue 42

Don­ald the Explorer

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 — Issue 42

The ulti­mate nin­ja warrior

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.

Final Fantasy Anthology — Issue 42

Reach­ing a new audience

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 — Issue 42

The mods must be unimpressed

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.

Super Princess Peach — Issue 42

A peachy keen adventure

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.

Marvel Puzzle Quest — Issue 41

A mar­velous puz­zle journey

Ah, qui­et, placid Puz­zle Quest. We’ve seen many ver­sions of the clas­sic match-three game and yet, some­how, some way there’s a unique spin added that catch­es the eye and delights. Mar­vel Puz­zle Quest, the mobile jug­ger­naut from Demi­urge Stu­dios, is a spec­tac­u­lar extra move-laden free-to-play boun­ty for on the go.

I’ve played at least two ver­sions of Puz­zle Quest and they’re decent. Hav­ing that his­to­ry helps with con­cepts and under­stand­ing some of the intri­ca­cies of MPQ, but the base match-three con­cept is not hard, though. Your goal is to match three or more like-col­ored gems (green, black, yel­low, blue, red, pur­ple, and sil­ver) to dam­age your oppo­nent until they are downed. You can have a team of one to three char­ac­ters who will take turns match­ing gems against an AI-con­trolled team. From time to time, match con­di­tions vary — espe­cial­ly depend­ing on the mode or in-game event, but the main goal is gen­er­al­ly to take out your oppo­nent as clean­ly as possible. 

The Mar­vel com­po­nent comes in through char­ac­ters to col­lect from the sto­ried com­ic book com­pa­ny. Your team and the AI’s team will be com­posed of Mar­vel char­ac­ters rang­ing from the obscure to the most recent MCU-themed ver­sions, ranked in a five-star sys­tem. Char­ac­ters have three spe­cial moves — some­times with sub­sets and pas­sives — that must be unlocked. How you obtain them is where the pay aspect comes into play. Pric­ing can be steep when you’re try­ing to build a decent ros­ter, but it’s no worse than some of the oth­er options out in the mar­ket­place right now, and it has a more sat­is­fy­ing feel to com­plet­ing a col­lec­tion here. As a well-known Mar­vel doc­tor­al can­di­date, I have had a lot of fun pulling togeth­er a ros­ter with MPQ. I know most, if not all, of the char­ac­ters and their vari­ants (thanks, Loki!), and it’s decent work to keep track of who I have earned or am still hunt­ing down. In the year that I’ve been play­ing, I’ve cre­at­ed a spread­sheet that’s updat­ed dai­ly to track where my col­lec­tion stands. It’s that deep.

The depth of the puz­zle engine is also sur­pris­ing. It’s not uncom­mon to strate­gize moves, match­es and board set­up to max­i­mize poten­tial dam­age in a fight. The AI is well-bal­anced, enough that I rarely feel as though it’s unfair. I also very sel­dom lose match­es now that my ros­ter is about 80 per­cent com­plete. And in terms of ros­ter-build­ing, I also tend to get my fair share of rare and pow­er­ful five-star char­ac­ters. MPQ could eas­i­ly be a mon­ey sink, but it’s avoid­ed with a lot of devel­op­er bal­anc­ing behind the scenes.

The bal­anc­ing act also extends to the dif­fer­ent modes, and it’s a job well done. There are quite a few events to choose from at any giv­en time, and they’re fun to mill around in to improve your skills and earn rewards. You can join an Alliance, which is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed. The ben­e­fits from join­ing a sol­id squad can mean get­ting a rare char­ac­ter for free, or oth­er perks you might have to pay for nor­mal­ly. The modes are nice and pro­vide a change of pace. There’s a dai­ly mode fea­tur­ing Dead­pool with dif­fer­ent require­ments; Ver­sus mode, where you face off against AI-con­trolled avatars of real teams; Puz­zle Gaunt­let, where there are solu­tion-ori­ent­ed puz­zles against teams; Sto­ry events, where pre-deter­mined sto­ries play out through match­es and cut scenes; and, time-lim­it­ed events, where you and pos­si­bly your alliance join forces to take down a boss.

Demi­urge Stu­dios also does a great job with how the game looks, as well. MPQ has some of the best mobile graph­ics of any­thing on the mar­ket right now, and the use of actu­al run com­ic book cov­ers to rep­re­sent char­ac­ters is fan­tas­tic. The back­ground art also looks amaz­ing and crisp. Demi­urge out­did them­selves and for a sev­en-year-old game, it still looks sol­id and well done. The sound­track is nice, but it’s noth­ing to write home about. I usu­al­ly keep the music turned off, but it’s by no means terrible.

If you’re into Mar­vel, you’re going to love this. You’re going to drop a lot of mon­ey try­ing to build your ros­ter, and you’re going to have fun doing it. Even if you’re not into Mar­vel that much, you’re going to find some val­ue in this. It’s a good time wrapped up in a mobile game that plays well and pro­vides a lot in small pack­age. It’s a mar­velous play no mat­ter how you look at it.

Mega Man 9 — Issue 41

Blue Bomber relives glo­ry days in No. 9

Ah, Mega Man and Dr. Wily. Capcom’s con­tri­bu­tion to video game rival­ries have bat­tled through numer­ous episodes in the 8‑bit, 16-bit and first PlaySta­tion era. These infa­mous icons have tak­en their bat­tle of good vs. evil to anoth­er bat­tle­field: next-gen­er­a­tion con­soles. Like many fans of the Blue Bomber, I won­dered how Cap­com would present Mega Man and com­pa­ny to a new audi­ence while keep­ing ded­i­cat­ed fans like myself invest­ed in new adven­tures. Mega Man 9 hit the spot.

Mega Man 9 is exact­ly like pre­vi­ous Mega Man games of the 8‑bit era: Easy to play. Using the PS3’s d‑pad made me feel that I was play­ing on the NES with sim­pli­fied con­trols. When Mega Man defeats a Robot Mas­ter, he acquires that boss’ weapon which — along with his Mega Buster — make up the meat of his con­trols. I have only two issues with this fea­ture: You can­not use a charged Mega Buster blast like in Mega Man 4; and, you must acquire weapon pow­er-ups to keep the spe­cial weapons run­ning prop­er­ly. Mega Man does have help in his lat­est adven­ture with his help­ful canine, Rush, and allies Eddie, Beat and Roll, who sup­ply spe­cial gad­gets in exchange for screws via their shop between stages. Sav­ing all col­lect­ed screws when pur­chas­ing cer­tain items is a smart move. 

The graph­ics in Mega Man 9 are 8‑bit qual­i­ty and nos­tal­gic, which I com­mend Cap­com for doing. It looks like Mega Man of yes­ter­year, which is always a good thing. The music was also a win since it stayed with each stage’s design. 

I felt that as an old­er gamer, Mega Man 9 was not only sim­ple, but also fun. I didn’t have to wor­ry about time lim­its or oth­er friv­o­lous things that would induce rage quit­ting. Every­thing was Mega Man ori­ent­ed, just as it should be.

Mega Man 9 is a game for not only Mega Man fans, but also for those who want to expe­ri­ence 8‑bit gam­ing on a next gen­er­a­tion con­sole. Who­ev­er said that gam­ing clas­sics can’t keep atten­tion like new­er triple‑A titles obvi­ous­ly have not played a clas­sic series like Mega Man and cer­tain­ly haven’t run into Mega Man 9. 
Car­ry on, Blue Bomber. Car­ry on.

Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus — Issue 41

First time’s a steal for Sly Cooper

Ever since the now-Sony Inter­ac­tive Enter­tain­ment intro­duced the PlaySta­tion 2 to Amer­i­can gamers in 2000, the news sur­round­ing the new gam­ing con­sole ranged from a strong suc­ces­sor to the PlaySta­tion name to the “Dream­cast Killer,” refer­ring to Sega’s bow­ing out of mak­ing gam­ing con­soles for the home mar­ket. While this was true, Sony was build­ing up a rela­tion­ship with a lit­tle-known gam­ing stu­dio called Suck­er Punch to intro­duce a char­ac­ter that would suc­ceed Sony’s oth­er well-known char­ac­ter, Crash Bandi­coot. The result: “Sly Coop­er and the Thievius Raccoonus.”

Though we’re jump­ing into the remas­tered ver­sion for the PS3, the base game is a result of what would hap­pen if you put anthro­po­mor­phic ani­mals togeth­er with Ocean’s Eleven and Splin­ter Cell games. The sto­ry is that Sly Coop­er along with his team of Bent­ley Tur­tle and Mur­ray Hip­popota­mus are try­ing to recov­er the Thievius Rac­coonus, a scared book passed down in the Coop­er fam­i­ly that records skills and tech­niques used to steal valu­ables from oth­er thieves. 

At age 8, Sly was to inher­it the book, but a group known as the Fiendish Five appeared that day, killing his moth­er and father and tak­ing all the pages of the Thievius Rac­coonus, scat­ter­ing them across the world. Now old­er and wis­er, Sly, Bent­ley and Mur­ray begin their quest to recov­er the Thievius Rac­coonus and destroy the Fiendish Five. 

The game­play takes time to adjust to, but it is sim­ple. You can either use the d‑pad or left ana­log stick to con­trol Sly while using the square but­ton to use his cane to strike, and the X but­ton to jump and dou­ble jump. Sly also gets some help look­ing around his sur­round­ings with the help of the in-game cam­era by using the right ana­log stick. 

You pick up var­i­ous objects such as coins, extra lives, and bot­tled clues to cre­ate gear, solve puz­zles, and learn new skills. Sly also has a spe­cial sneak­ing tech­nique that acti­vates in times of need. Fair warn­ing: Sly does not have a life bar. If he falls in water or gets hit by an ene­my, you will lose a life. This adds to an already chal­leng­ing set­up. The graph­ics are well drawn and appear crisp in every lev­el while the cut scenes pay trib­ute to the Ocean movie series. Suck­er Punch took great care in the lev­el design, which made the game seem more like an ani­mat­ed movie. 

The music was ener­getic and relaxed enough for me to take my time play­ing espe­cial­ly when Sly per­formed a sneak­ing maneu­ver. The music was so top tier that I’m sold on a sound­track CD to make a playlist. Voice act­ing was excel­lent with Kevin Miller as Sly, Matt Olsen as Bent­ley and Chris Mur­phy as Mur­ray, adding to the theme of expert thievery. 

Sly Coop­er and the Thievius Rac­coonus is a game that aims high and grabs replay val­ue and fun. If you want to escape bore­dom and pull off a caper with the Coop­er gang with great rewards and brag­ging rights, jump into the adven­ture instead of try­ing to be a real thief. 

It’s a steal of a game.

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.