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.

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

Final Fight 2 — Issue 38

Cap­com brawler takes fight worldwide

As a child of the early ’90s, Final Fight not only increased my addic­tion to arcade games, but also intro­duced me fur­ther to Capcom’s sky­rock­et­ing rise as a game devel­oper. I dived into Final Fight 2 to relive my arcade glory days.

In Final Fight 2, time has passed since Mike Hag­gar, Cody Tra­vers and Cody’s friend Guy defeated the Mad Gear gang, restored peace to the streets of Metro City and res­cued Haggar’s daugh­ter Jes­sica from the Mad Gear’s leader, Bel­ger. That peace is short-lived when the rem­nants of Mad Gear return under a new leader and kid­nap Guy’s fiancée, Rena, and Guy’s sen­sei, Genryusai.

With Cody away on a trip with Jes­sica and Guy away on secret train­ing, Hag­gar is joined by Rena’s sis­ter, Maki, and Haggar’s friend Car­los Miyamoto on a world­wide quest to crush the Mad Gear and res­cue Rena and Gen­ryu­sai. FF2 has a lot going for it; it’s a direct sequel never released in arcades with a lot of new mate­r­ial despite no new gen­eral mechanics.

FF2 has an expanded bat­tle­field with Hag­gar, Maki and Car­los start­ing their jour­ney in Hong Kong and end­ing that jour­ney in Japan. The main pro­tag­o­nists make their way through sev­eral locales in Europe in their search for Rena, all the while sur­rounded by improved graph­ics over the first game. The back­grounds are high qual­ity, and the sprites are well-drawn and crisp for each char­ac­ter with a lot of atten­tion to detail.

The atten­tion to detail also shows up in the con­trols. Over­all, con­trol is sim­ple even though each char­ac­ter has a unique fight­ing style. Hag­gar still has his pro wrestling moves, Maki makes use of Nin­jitsu and Car­los prac­tices mar­tial arts and sword skills. Though they are generic in exe­cu­tion, it’s fun to see how each char­ac­ter oper­ates dur­ing the fight.

Power-ups are still obtained via smash­ing var­i­ous objects and range from steamed Chi­nese buns to a pair of shoes that can increase health or score points. Find­ing either a Gen­ryu­sai or Guy doll will give an extra life or invin­ci­bil­ity. As for the music, it is arcade per­fect just like its pre­de­ces­sor. It’s a nice sound­track of early Cap­com brawler, and it fits the action per­fectly in each of the game’s locations.

As much as I enjoyed FF2, the game does have some flaws. While each char­ac­ter has their own awe­some spe­cial moves, using them does cost health. That’s annoy­ing when you’re try­ing to use more pow­er­ful moves to defeat bosses and try­ing not to die at the same time. Also, dur­ing the timed bonus stages, con­trol is hit or miss when strik­ing objects; if it’s not done per­fectly, you lose the bonus points. I also got frus­trated when I couldn’t take the weapons I found into other areas. That cheap­ens the use of the weapon and makes it use­less shortly after pick­ing it up. And, the chal­lenge level is ridicu­lous. I needed a cheat code just to get to the real end­ing in expert mode. It’s too easy to die and tak­ing hits from off-screen ene­mies is terrible.

Final Fight 2 placed the series in the ranks of Capcom’s top-tier fran­chises. While it hasn’t seen the level of push of say, Street Fighter or Res­i­dent Evil, the beat-’em-up is fondly remem­bered as one of Capcom’s crown­ing achievements.

https://youtu.be/a4MOiv7R0el

Killer Instinct Gold — Issue 38

A killer Nin­tendo 64 fight­ing sequel

It’s not been that long ago that Killer Instinct was still being rec­og­nized in the top ech­e­lon of fight­ing game series. But that was then, and this is now, and folks have a crit­i­cal eye toward the legacy of the defunct series. What folks really want to know: Where does KI Gold – the 2.5 sequel game – appear in that legacy?

I’m old enough to remem­ber the launch of KI2 and then Gold for the Nin­tendo 64 in 1996. I was heav­ily into fight­ing games then, still stick­ing with Mor­tal Kom­bat and look­ing for some­thing new to sup­ple­ment that fight­ing game itch. Enter Gold, which is an upgrade of KI2 for the home mar­ket. It’s a slight uptick in graph­ics, music and tweaks over the arcade ver­sion. The upgrades make it the bet­ter ver­sion of the game and push it toward must-have sta­tus for the N64.

Control-wise, KI Gold is easy to pick up and a lot more acces­si­ble than its pre­de­ces­sor. For con­text, I barely under­stood the combo sys­tem of the first game, but by the time Gold came along, I could hold my own against other KI mas­ters, such as long­time friend of GI David Rhodes. If I could actu­ally win some rounds and every so often matches against him, that’s evi­dence that the sys­tem is improved for casual fans. The con­cept of link­ers and chain com­bos made much more sense with a lit­tle in-game expla­na­tion, so this made the learn­ing process a lot eas­ier to grasp. The change in sys­tems was the best in terms of accessibility.

Gold’s graph­ics are a slight improve­ment over the arcade ver­sion and even more so over the orig­i­nal game. But, in com­par­i­son to other games on the mar­ket at the time, Gold doesn’t hold up par­tic­u­larly well. Putting it along­side other games avail­able at the same time, such as Tekken 2, doesn’t bode well for Gold. In par­tic­u­lar, there are janky tex­tures that snag and tear in the back­ground envi­ron­ments, which detracts from the oth­er­wise solid char­ac­ter models.

The sound­track, much like the pre­vi­ous game, car­ries the bur­den for the rest of the game. Rare’s sound depart­ment was known for pump­ing out good music, and Gold’s sound­track has quite a few bangers. It’s a lot of hard rock and a few techno tracks thrown in for good mea­sure, but it still holds up. In par­tic­u­lar, the char­ac­ter select theme – which was recre­ated for the 2013 revival of the series – is a toe-tapper and still sounds fan­tas­tic on mod­ern sound systems.

But, the per­ti­nent ques­tion still remains: Where does Gold rank in fight­ing game genre legacy? It depends. If you care about flashy com­bos and aren’t too much of a tech­ni­cal con­tent fight­ing purist, Gold is prob­a­bly your fancy. It’s got enough to draw the casual fan in, but it’s light on the tech­ni­cal aspect of fight­ing games that the long­time purist would be look­ing for. It’s fun to play and revisit from time to time, but if you’re look­ing to get bogged down in frame data and dig a lit­tle deeper, Gold isn’t going to be your color. Your best bet is to look to the future of the series, and let this instinct die out.

https://youtu.be/tevpZf962Os

Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers 2 — Issue 38

Furry duo return in solid fun

In a pre­vi­ous issue, I reviewed Disney’s Chip ’n Dale Res­cue Rangers for the NES. I reviewed the game as a nod to the times of the late ’80s and early ’90s where you knew the ins and outs of your favorite shows, includ­ing the open­ing and end­ing theme songs. With the arrival of Dis­ney+ and Capcom’s re-release of Dis­ney Afternoon-themed games for cur­rent con­soles, I heard that Disney’s dynamic duo had another game for the NES. I reviewed Chip ’n Dale Res­cue Rangers 2 to see if it would jump start my care­free kid memories.

Res­cue Rangers 2 starts off with our furry heroes and their com­rades enjoy­ing a well-deserved rest after stop­ping their noto­ri­ous arch neme­sis, Fat Cat, in the first game. How­ever, like most great vil­lains, Fat Cat was able to mas­ter­mind his escape from prison and acquire the leg­endary Urn of the Pharaoh to re-launch his fiendish plans. With Fat Cat on the loose and hav­ing evil spir­its at his dis­posal, the Res­cue Rangers are the only ones stand­ing between Fat Cat and world peace.

Res­cue Rangers 2’s game­play is exactly like the orig­i­nal; you can choose either Chip or Dale to bat­tle through sev­eral lev­els to do bat­tle against Fat Cat’s legions of hench­men who are deter­mined to stop our heroes from sav­ing the day. Chip and Dale can jump, duck and used pint-sized boxes to throw either hor­i­zon­tally or ver­ti­cally to defeat ene­mies. These boxes have var­i­ous power-ups, such as acorns, to replen­ish health, extra lives or Res­cue Rangers plaques that can earn Ranger icons. These icons will give the char­ac­ter of your choice an extra heart.

The con­trols also remain the same from the first game. Res­cue Rangers vet­er­ans will be famil­iar with the con­trol lay­out, but new­com­ers will go through trial
and error until they are comfortable.

All the lev­els and back­grounds were done with great care, mak­ing me believe that I was play­ing an actual episode of Res­cue Rangers. I com­mend Cap­com for let­ting Dis­ney ani­ma­tors work their magic on heroes and boss char­ac­ters, ensur­ing that the bosses pro­vided a chal­lenge with­out los­ing Dis­ney elements.

As much as I enjoyed Res­cue Rangers 2, it’s not with­out some flaws. I stated ear­lier that con­trol­ling either Chip or Dale would take prac­tice; that is impor­tant since dur­ing stages, you can­not go back to a lower level to pick up items with­out los­ing a life. That makes things unnec­es­sar­ily tough. Also, the Res­cue Rangers’ roles were dras­ti­cally from the first game. The first game incor­po­rated Mon­terey Jack, Gad­get and Zip­per into find­ing hid­den paths, scout­ing for ene­mies, and backup and reach sup­port; they’re now reduced to back­ground scenery with lit­tle screen time.

Audio-wise, the music sounds dialed-in like the music from “1945,” show­ing that Capcom’s devel­op­ment starts strong but becomes weak in cer­tain areas. Finally, the chal­lenge level is high, but I advise play­ers to have spe­cial cheat codes enabled if they want to fin­ish this game. You shouldn’t have to use them, but they are a must here.

Chip ’n Dale Res­cue Rangers 2 has deliv­ered, keep­ing intact all the ele­ments that made it a Dis­ney favorite but, unfor­tu­nately, keeps some of Capcom’s bad habits as well. The Dis­ney After­noon lives on in this small but solid sequel.

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.

Super Street Fighter II4Q2020 issue

Super fight­ing fun again

Though I play a lot of fight­ing game series, I keep com­ing back to Street Fighter. I don’t know if it’s out of habit or because I’m com­fort­able with the series’ sys­tems, but I find myself inti­mately famil­iar with the Cap­com cre­ation. It started with Street Fighter II for SNES, not the arcade. As the series moved along incre­men­tally, so did I and I dis­cov­ered the upgrade. The home port of Super Street Fighter II for SNES was one of the best and that acco­lade still stands after nearly 30 years.

Though Cap­com still hadn’t learned to count to three and Super Street Fighter II reeks of milk­ing the fran­chise for all it was worth, it’s tech­ni­cally a good port. This is the best ver­sion of the arcade expe­ri­ence before Super Turbo, and the SNES, despite its prob­lems with cen­sor­ship, is the best ver­sion you’re going to get. Super is where you’re intro­duced to the four new chal­lengers, who add some inter­est­ing ele­ments. Each of their fight­ing styles are already rep­re­sented in the game with other stal­warts, but they’re fun to play, nevertheless.

The music has hit its peak here, too. It’s the same as the orig­i­nal Street Fighter II and Hyper Fight­ing, but it’s Street Fighter at peak Street Fighter. That also applies to the con­trols. It’s the Street Fighter that you know and love but cleaned up just a tad.

My main gripe with the game is the fact that it’s not Street Fighter III, which it would have been if not for the insis­tence of Cap­com not count­ing ahead. Cap­com knew it had a win­ner on its hands but repeat­edly milked the fran­chise until there was noth­ing else to wring from it. Super would absolutely have been great if not for the fact that Super Turbo came a year later and there had already been two other incre­men­tal iter­a­tions of the game pre­vi­ously. That cheap­ens Super to a degree all around. How­ever, given that Super Turbo did not come home from the arcades for the SNES, Super gets a boost in nos­tal­gic factor.

What you need to take away from SSFII is the refine­ment of the Street Fighter II expe­ri­ence, and this is where it shines. Every­thing about Street Fighter II was at peak con­di­tion and refined to a tee with this iter­a­tion. Yes, this is pre-Turbo super moves and spe­cials but in a way that makes it the last true unspoiled Street Fighter II expe­ri­ence. It was so good that later Street Fighter games attempt to repli­cate this ver­sion with modes that play like Super with no super moves and most, if not all, of its mechan­ics. That’s how you know it’s a defin­ing moment in a series’ lifes­pan. It’s a super fight­ing game for a super sys­tem that still holds up.

Airwolf — 4Q2020 issue

Let this low-flying mess stay grounded

As a child of the 1980s, there was one major require­ment I had to know: the major prime time action shows and what nights and net­works that they came on. Two of those shows were Knight Rider on Fri­days on NBC and Air­wolf on Sat­ur­days on CBS. These two shows were so pop­u­lar that Acclaim Enter­tain­ment was able to get license rights from Uni­ver­sal Tele­vi­sion to develop video games for both shows. In a pre­vi­ous issue of GI, we reviewed Knight Rider for the NES in the Tor­ture of the Quar­ter sec­tion. Could Air­wolf break this curse of pop­u­lar shows turned into hor­ri­ble games? It was time to find out.

Air­wolf fol­lows the plot based on the TV show in that you take the role of Stringfel­low “String” Hawke, who is given a mis­sion by the CIA to res­cue pris­on­ers of war from unknown ter­ror­ist groups using the top-secret heli­copter known as Air­wolf. As String con­ducts the mis­sion, he finds out that one of the pris­on­ers being held is his long-lost brother who was declared miss­ing in action dur­ing the Viet­nam War. This gives him added incen­tive to carry out his given mission.

Airwolf’s game­play is a sim­u­lated first-person view that was applied to the Knight Rider game. You have the view of Air­wolf that is clear enough to see your ene­mies and to attack enemy strong­holds such as air­craft tow­ers, pris­oner camps and repair depots. How­ever, this is the game’s Achilles’ heel. Con­trol is not flex­i­ble when you need it to be dur­ing dog­fights with enemy air­craft. You’re required to shoot first or destroy air­craft tow­ers if you don’t fire your lim­ited mis­siles with pre­cise tim­ing. The inflex­i­bil­ity rears again when you land at a pris­oner camp land­ing gen­tly and still die.

The graph­ics were OK, but they were akin to flight sim­u­la­tor games that were highly pop­u­lar dur­ing the ’80s. To give Air­wolf a frac­tion of a chance for a good review, I found the debrief­ing scene excel­lent, giv­ing me the appro­pri­ate data of destroyed ene­mies, res­cued pris­on­ers and inter­cepted missiles.

Sadly, I was ENRAGED that Acclaim could be this sloppy with a fran­chise such as Air­wolf. Don’t get me wrong, Acclaim did go on to make bet­ter video games based on pop­u­lar fran­chises, but like Knight Rider, Air­wolf failed to show me any redeem­ing rea­son for replay.

Air­wolf — like Knight Rider — are games that are rec­om­mended only for the diehard fans of the ’80s that want to relive the action-packed nights of their child­hood. While I loved both shows, unfor­tu­nately their action-packed for­mula that pro­duced major rat­ings for TV did not trans­late well into video game for­mat. Acclaim did learn well from these mis­takes, but they gave the first Mas­ter­Class les­son in video gam­ing of being care­ful with pop­u­lar fran­chises. If you want my advice, skip both games and play them on read­ily avail­able emu­la­tors; you’ll save time and hard-earned money.

Fun Facts

  • Air­wolf was cre­ated by Don­ald P. Belis­ario, who was known for pop culture-worthy shows such as Quan­tum Leap, Mag­num, P.I., JAG and NCIS, which is still air­ing on CBS.
  • The actual Air­wolf was based on a Bell 222 heli­copter designed for cor­po­rate travel, emer­gency med­ical trans­port and util­ity trans­port. A full replica of Air­wolf was on dis­play at a Ten­nessee avi­a­tion museum but has since been sold to a pri­vate col­lec­tor in Bel Aire, Calif.
  • There were numer­ous ver­sions of Air­wolf made for var­i­ous home sys­tems, but a side scrolling arcade ver­sion was devel­oped by Japan­ese devel­oper Kyugo in 1987. Acclaim released the NES ver­sion a year later, after the show went off the air four years earlier.