Gundam Versus — Issue 38

Gun­dam soars in top-notch mecha simulator

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 7: Fated Retribution — Issue 38

Tekken’s fate unknown after mile­stone entry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/1NfHMvq7ocI

Injustice 2: Legendary Edition — Issue 38

Injus­tice 2 hits right notes in super rematch

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.

https://youtu.be/y2pRWAccRMg

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite — Issue 38

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.

https://youtu.be/HtaPm4hF4FY

Devil May Cry 5 — 4Q2020 issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun facts

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

Mario Kart Tour — 4Q2020 issue

Mobile Mario Kart still stuck at start­ing line

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.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 — 3Q2020 issue

Gun­dam, Dynasty War­riors carry on tradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun facts

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

Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax — 3Q2020 issue

Anime fighter cre­ates clash of titans

If you’re a fight­ing game enthu­si­ast like myself, you’re happy to see the com­mu­nity enjoy­ing main­stream suc­cess now in the esports land­scape. For many years, it was rel­e­gated to a fringe activ­ity, some­thing only nerds with noth­ing else bet­ter to do and a lack of hygiene were known for enter­tain­ing. Now, it’s all over the place and there’s money to be earned. But this is now a professional-grade enter­prise and anime games are tak­ing cen­ter stage. One of the best? Dengeki Bunko: Fight­ing Climax.

The game series that I lov­ingly refer to as that “all-star anime fight­ing game” is a blast to play. You choose from 19 playable and 30 assist char­ac­ters from var­i­ous anime series who team up in duos to fight each other. Even if you’re mildly into anime, there are some well-known stars of the medium and some obscure names that will make you do a lit­tle research. For instance, your favorite edi­tor is an anime junkie and has seen or heard of most of the series with some stand­out selec­tions that she’s per­son­ally watched: Oreimo, Boo­giepop Phan­tom, The Devil is a Part-Timer and Toradora. There are oth­ers like Sword Art Online that are main­stream enough to draw in even the newest anime watcher.

So, how does it play? Much like you’d expect an anime game to play: Super floaty physics and off-the-wall attacks that feel like they do a ton of dam­age but prob­a­bly don’t in terms of fight­ing games. The game feels good once you start play­ing, and like most games of the genre, there are lev­els to the play sys­tem. You can come in on the ground floor of fight­ing game knowl­edge and be able to play and then there’s com­pet­i­tive fight­ing game-level of play that requires inti­mate knowl­edge of the game’s sys­tems. That range serves the game well as a draw for mul­ti­ple groups and it’s a tes­ta­ment to Sega’s devel­op­ment prowess.

The voice act­ing, a major part of a project like this, must be top notch and it is. Because Sega gar­nered most of the ani­ma­tions’ voice actors, there’s a high level of con­sis­tency and gloss over the game’s audio. The back­grounds are also faith­ful to the dif­fer­ent anime series, so expect to be wowed with the pro­duc­tion values.

Over­all, if you’re into anime enough to go to con­ven­tions reg­u­larly or just hav­ing a pass­ing inter­est, Dengeki Bunko: Fight­ing Cli­max is a good buy. Yes, it’s got that “super anime” feel to it, but there’s a solid engine and mechan­ics wrapped up in an extremely gor­geous pack­age that deserves to be played here. This fancy fan-service fighter is enough to make an otaku like myself sit up and take notice.

J-Stars Victory Plus — 3Q2020 issue

Jump into this fan­tas­tic anime series brawler

If you’re a manga afi­cionado like me, you’ve heard of Shonen Jump mag­a­zine. For 50 years, Japan-based pub­lisher Shueisha Inc. brought to the world to leg­endary char­ac­ters such as Son Goku, Mon­key D. Luffy and Naruto Uzi­maki. With these char­ac­ters and their respec­tive series, they became overnight hits in Japan with var­i­ous movies, mer­chan­dise (includ­ing video games) and sep­a­rate graphic nov­els. It was only a mat­ter of time that the SJ phe­nom­e­non would branch out to the rest of the world being pub­lished in var­i­ous lan­guages includ­ing Eng­lish. Shonen Jump, undis­put­edly, has become the stan­dard of intro­duc­ing new anime and manga series. J-Stars Vic­tory VS+ is an exam­ple of that stan­dard.

Pub­lished by Namco Bandai and co-developed with Spike Chun­soft, J-Stars takes more than 50 char­ac­ters from 32 series within the Shonen Jump uni­verse and pits them against each other in var­i­ous loca­tions within each SJ series. The story mode con­sists of each SJ char­ac­ter prepar­ing for the “Jump Bat­tle Tour­na­ment,” devised by the god of Jump World to deter­mine its strongest cham­pi­ons who will defend it from evil forces pos­ing as strong fight­ers.

Within the story mode there are four arcs: Dynamic with Luffy, Hope with Naruto, Inves­ti­ga­tion with Toriko and Goku and Pur­suit with Ichigo. Regard­less of the arc you choose, your char­ac­ter and their respec­tive com­rades will face off against oth­ers to obtain essen­tial parts for your pro­vided ship and badges required to enter the tour­na­ment. I like the story mode, and I also like that the arcade ver­sus mode is an option when you just want to pit char­ac­ters against each other to see who would win.
Con­trol is sim­ple, which has your char­ac­ters roam free dur­ing bat­tle to pull off their sig­na­ture moves along with a Dragon Ball-styled map to track the battle’s progress. How­ever, the down­side is the game cam­era: It moves wildly about and con­stantly requires adjust­ment. At the end of each suc­cess­ful bat­tle, your char­ac­ters not only gain expe­ri­ence points, but also gain cur­rency called “jump coins,” which upgrades skills and cloth­ing and unlocks var­i­ous theme music and addi­tional char­ac­ters to strengthen your team.

All of the sound in the game is cour­tesy of Namco Bandai’s excel­lent sound depart­ment and the use of Dolby Dig­i­tal. There isn’t an Eng­lish voice track in J-Stars, but the Japan­ese voice track for each char­ac­ter is per­formed per­fectly, as if you’re watch­ing a Shonen Jump anime. J-Stars Vic­tory VS+ is per­fect for an anime con­ven­tion tour­na­ment or if you want to spend a day with friends immers­ing your­selves in Shonen Jump lore.

This anime-infused brawler is another tes­ta­ment to Shonen Jump’s recog­ni­tion of being a leader in global pop cul­ture and how anime and manga are quickly becom­ing visual arts that aren’t just for kids.

Fun facts

  • J-Stars Vic­tory+ was billed as the “ulti­mate Jump game,” com­bin­ing past and newer jump titles.
  • Unlike “Tat­sunoko vs. Cap­com: Cross Gen­er­a­tion of Heroes,” licens­ing for all the Jump char­ac­ters was not a seri­ous issue. Accord­ing to pro­ducer Koji Naka­jima, the real prob­lem was deter­min­ing actions for char­ac­ters that do not fight. Solv­ing this prob­lem required numer­ous nego­ti­a­tions with Shueisha and the respected licensee for each series to deter­mine what was and was not accept­able for those characters.
  • J-Stars Vic­tory VS + intro­duced the “new class” of SJ series such as The Dis­as­trous Life of Saiki K., Gin­tama, To Love Ru and Reborn!. These titles have been licensed for North Amer­ica by var­i­ous anime and manga distributors.

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp — 2Q2019 issue

Camp­ing with friends

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

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

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

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

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