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.

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.

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.

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.