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A new Super Robot Wars game is coming to the Nintendo 3DS, and at this point people know the drill. A bunch of old favorites come back, a few new series make their debut, and because it’s not on a “main” system they can be a little more daring with their choices in terms of which new anime to bring along.

Returning Series

-Aura Battler Dunbine
-Story of Aura Battler Dunbine
-Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh
-King of Braves Gaogaigar
-Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
-Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie
-Macross Frontier Movies
-Shin Mazinger (Mazinger Edition Z: The Impact!)
-Mazinkaiser SKL
-Martian Successor Nadesico

New Series

-Panzer World Galient
-SD Gundam Gaiden
-Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
-Giant Gorg
-Macross 30

While the new series at a glance might not seem that unusual, I think a second look actually brings home how bizarre the newcomers are. In some cases, it’s because they lend themselves well to the crossover nature of Super Robot Wars. Panzer World Galient and Giant Gorg are two series fans probably thought would never join SRW, yet it’s odd that this would be the case because both of their settings involve disparate levels of technology and a greater dedication to an almost more philosophical sense of science fiction that potentially lets them connect various generations together. Gundam AGE is at this point one of the black sheep of the Gundam franchise, yet its generational story can be the glue that holds similar yet different series together (Shin Mazinger and Mazinkaiser SKL, for example).

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to hearing the instrumental version of the Galient opening.

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Then you have SD Gundam Gaiden, and I think to appreciate its inclusion we have to go back to the beginnings of Super Robot Wars.

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In the early iterations of SRW, the Gundam units took their designs and aesthetics from the popular SD Gundam franchise. This meant mobile suits looked extra cutesy, with large expressive eyes that future pupils. As SRW progressed this changed: pupils disappeared, robots became not quite as squat, and the old-fashioned SD look became a relic of the past. By having a series that actively celebrates that more cartoonish look, it’s almost like a piece of SRW history is returning. It’s all the more notable then that the Unicorn Gundam from Gundam UC is probably the least chibi-looking Gundam in SRW history; its proportions are practically realistic.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 11.00.20 PM

As for Macross, that franchise is fairly common in Super Robot Wars, but Macross 30 is actually a Playstation 3 game devoted to celebrating the Macross metaseries as a whole. So, in a game dedicated to bringing together multiple giant robot anime, one of their inclusions is a video game all about celebrating decades of one series in particular. Does this mean that all of the Macross characters across history will show up, or is the intention more to focus on the original characters of Macross 30?

So, while it’s not as wild as throwing in Jushin Liger or Iron Leaguer, Super Robot Wars BX might have just enough twists to the formula to make things interesting.

Ever since the April 1st Nintendo Direct, one of the biggest talking points in the gaming community has been the Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot, which asks everyone who they’d want to see duking it out with the likes of Mario, Pikachu, and Marth. You can tell it’s a big deal when actual video game companies are pushing their own characters explicitly or implicitly, whether that’s Shantae, Sol Badguy, Gunvolt, the Giana Sisters (who began as clones of the Mario Bros), or Banjo-Kazooie. My vote has been cast, and if you’re on the fence as to who might be interesting, I made a few posts last year detailing characters that I think would be cool in Smash Bros. along with their movesets.

King K. Rool

Great Puma

Princess Daisy

Geno

(Or you could vote for NiGHTS).

Readers might find it odd that I’m talking about the Smash Ballot so late after it was first announced, as all of the news sites, blogs, and forums, were on that like white on rice in Hanayo (Love Live! for Smash?! Think about it), but I intentionally delayed my post on it to emphasize one of the most surprising and noteworthy aspects of this poll. Though it began in April, the deadline is October 3rd, which is the anniversary of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. That’s six months for people to make a decision, which means that this isn’t some flash in the pan popularity poll that goes up for a week to gauge interest in that specific moment, but rather a genuine question as to which characters have captivated generations of Nintendo fans in such a way that we want to see them slam plumbers and princesses into the abyss.

Not only that, but it was revealed that Nintendo is willing to take even 3rd-party suggestions, which opens it up to just gamers in general. As crazy and as impossible as it likely is, could someone like Master Chief or Scorpion make it into Smash Bros.?

I think one of the reasons why being in Smash Bros. is such a big deal is not only the idea that your favorite character appears in a crossover fighting game, but that the series as a whole has done such justice to its characters, at least for the most part (seriously, Ganondorf, where are your projectiles?!). Just look at Mega Man, Solid Snake, and Sonic, all of whom are not Nintendo properties but were given so many visual, aural, and gameplay cues that make them feel as if they’d been ripped straight from their original games. Mega Man’s crisp movement feels almost just like the NES, Snake’s explosives made him a unique experience in Brawl, and Sonic drives people nuts with his spinning hit-and-run style that makes every person feel as if they were shouting, “I HATE THAT HEDGEHOG!”

Not to say that other crossover games and the like don’t give characters their due. In fact, Mortal Kombat X probably has the best portrayal of Jason in any video game ever (not that there’s much competition). However, I think what Smash Bros. epitomizes above all else is just deep respect for the characters involved. To become a Smash Bros. character is to know you’re something special, or perhaps a time-saving clone, but it’s an honor unlike any other, and if video game characters were real it’d probably be like winning an Oscar.

Upon hearing Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U for the first time, I was convinced that they had brought back the original actor, Ichimura Masachika, from the film Mewtwo Strikes Back. However, it actually turns out to be someone doing an excellent imitation (with the help of a voice filter), and whose acting chops are impressive in their own right. While the new actor Fujiwara Keiji might not have the cred of being an established theater actor like Ichimura is (he’s most famous for playing the titular character in the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera), you might know him for some of the following roles:

Ladd Russo in Baccano!

Nohara Hiroshi in Crayon Shin-chan

Kuzuhara Kinnosuke (Biker Cop) in Durarara!!

Holland Novak in Eureka Seven

Maes Hughes in Full Metal Alchemist (both original and Brotherhood)

Ali-al Saachez in Mobile Suit Gundam 00

Hannes in Attack on Titan

Jake Martinez in Tiger & Bunny

I actually had my suspicions because Mewtwo makes certain sounds in the new Smash Bros. that I don’t recall from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but I chalked it up to my own faulty memory. It’s also a lot more difficult to hear because only the Japanese version has voiced victory quotes. It was the same in Melee, except you could change the language settings there to Japanese, which is how I and a lot of other people learned that Mewtwo had victory quotes in the first place.

Here are videos of the old and new voices for you to compare:

Old (ignore the skins; they’re from a mod)

New

And for fun, here’s a video of Ichimura Masachika as the Phantom of the Opera:

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It’s been six months since Mewtwo was announced as a downloadable character for Smash 4, but it’s felt more like a lifetime. With the vague arrival date of “Spring 2015″ and not a single image beyond a basic character model, information was scarce, and it left Mewtwo fans such as myself starving. Then came the April Nintendo Direct, which not only showed Mewtwo in action and gave an April 28th release date (April 15th for people who registered both games through Club Nintendo), but also revealed the return of Mother 3 hero Lucas as well as a worldwide poll asking who you want in Super Smash Bros. Suffice it to say, it’s been crazy.

(More on the poll in the future. Stay tuned!)

That brings us to today. As one of the many people who bought and registered both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions, I’ve had the privilege of getting early access to Mewtwo, and I’d like to give my impressions. This comes from the perspective  of someone who used the character avidly in Super Smash Bros. Melee (though not so much in a high-level competitive sense), as well as a long-time fan of Mewtwo as a character.

On an aesthetic level, Mewtwo looks so much better than it did in Melee, with body proportions closer to more recent depictions (taller, smaller head, etc.), as well as much more detailed animations. Though all of Mewtwo’s moves are more or less the same as they were back in the Gamecube era, they all have an extra bit of flair that really captures the essence of the character. When Mewtwo does a back throw, it effortlessly lifts the opponent through its telekinesis and, with its eyes closed as if it’s discarded a piece of trash, launches them. The voice, which I know was a bit of a concern for people, is actually just the same as its Melee voice, veteran theater actor Ichimura Masachika. Actually, it’s literally the Melee clips re-used, only that we don’t get the option of changing the game language to Japanese and hearing Mewtwo speak actual lines. I’m not totally against English dubs, but a part of me would have been a bit sad if this had been replaced.

In terms of gameplay, the first thing I want to say is that it actually took me less time to figure out how Mewtwo is supposed to function as a character than it did for me to learn Mega Man, who has been my primary character (the spotlight will now be shared between Blue Bomber and Genetic Pokemon). Once you get a sense of Mewtwo’s attributes, including its attacks, its speed, and its weaknesses, its game plan becomes clear. Mewtwo is a glass cannon, with an overwhelmingly powerful offense contrasted by being one of the lightest characters in the game who’s also one of the largest targets out there.

Especially coming from the perspective of a Mega Man player, Mewtwo’s attacks flow together incredibly well. A lot of its attacks, namely down tilt, up tilt, Side Special (Confusion), and Down Special (Disable) are designed to set opponents up for juggles or follow-ups. There aren’t very many reliable combos from Mewtwo, but a lot of the character is about forcing 50/50 guessing situations that favor you in terms of reward, and you can do things like Confusion -> down tilt, dash attack, forward air, second jump into up air. If you’re not someone who plays and found that a bit confusing, just know that Mega Man by comparison is lucky to get more than 3 hits on an opponent while juggling.

Another feature of Mewtwo’s is that it’s actually much faster on the ground now compared to Melee, and both the range and power of its attacks have been increased. Dash attack in particularly is affected positively by this new-found speed and range, as it’s easy to catch someone landing with it, pop them up in the air, and start a juggle. Mewtwo also now sports some of the most tremendous and reliable kill power in the game. Shadow Ball has more kill power than Samus’s Charge Shot and can be spammed more reliably than Lucario’s Aura Sphere. Up Smash comes out quickly and is absurdly strong, KOing many opponents off the top at about 90%. Forward Smash and Down Smash are slow but powerful, and their weak points can be mitigated through setups such as Confusion and Disable. In particular, if you Disable someone at about 80% and charge a smash attack, they’re almost assuredly going to get taken out.

Mewtwo also eats shields for breakfast, and it’s kind of frightening to see just how effective it is at whittling them down. Many characters have attacks that can either destroy shields or do massive damage to them, but none are quite as reliable and effective as Mewtwo’s Shadow Ball. Its only real weakness is that it takes a while to charge, but once you have it at full power, it has positive effects whether it hits or is blocked, and its erratic trajectory can make it difficult to avoid through dodging. Even if it doesn’t hit anything, Mewtwo can act quickly out of the move allowing follow-ups, and for those characters that love to reflect projectiles, Mewtwo now has a properly-working Confusion that can send it right back for a game of Ocarina of Time-esque volleyball.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Mewtwo without some strong throws, and it sports some of the best around. All of them do significant amounts of damage, somewhere between 9-11%. Back throw is a decent kill move, and up throw is the strongest in its class. With a good amount of rage (in Smash 4, characters become stronger as they take more damage), up throw can KO most opponents between 120-140%. While that might not seem too impressive, and it’s actually weaker when compared to Melee, it’s important to remember that, unlike many other killing throws (which are mostly back throws), Mewtwo’s is reliable at pretty much any point on the stage, instead of requiring you to be closer to one side or the other.

That’s Mewtwo on offense. Mewtwo on defense is another matter, as it is actually one of the lightest characters in the game, even easier to KO than Mr. Game & Watch. Combined with its large frame, it takes attacks easily, and doesn’t have many moves that can keep it from being juggled. Somewhat similar to Mega Man, Mewtwo’s main game plan is to drift towards the edges to avoid follow-ups, and thankfully a combination of excellent air speed, huge jumps, and the best teleport in the game means that it can often escape. However, because Mewtwo is so frail, it sometimes doesn’t matter, as a stiff breeze can send it reeling. In other words, the basic principle of Mewtwo is to deal a crazy amount of damage before the opponent gets the chance to touch you, otherwise you’re probably in trouble. In this way, Mewtwo somewhat resembles Akuma from Street Fighter, another character known for having high damage and low health.

Regardless of how good Mewtwo is as a character in the end, the collective effect of all of this is that Mewtwo feels more representative of the character’s original concept. In the original Pokemon games, Mewtwo is among the strongest in the game, with insanely high offensive stats and relatively good defensive stats. In an effort to promote game balance, the creators of Smash 4 clearly decided to make these aspects more extreme by giving it such terrible defenses, but I think this plays into Mewtwo’s character more than what it had in Melee, which generally amount to having a few decent moves wrapped up in a bunch of terrible qualities. Now, at least those terrible qualities are equally met with terrifying potential on offense. Destroy or be destroyed.

I do find it kind of interesting that the two characters I picked are the ones that are deceptive in terms of size to weight ratios. Mewtwo is very large and extremely light, while Mega Man is much heavier than he looks. It also means that their game plans are also somewhat opposite, as Mewtwo is a very unforgiving character while Mega Man can be afforded more mistakes. Whether they complement each other or succumb to the same issues, only time will tell.

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youkai

The Yo-Kai Watch video game series has been a smash hit in Japan, even managing to outsell Pokemon. Recently there has been news to start bringing the franchise and its accompanying merchandise to English-speaking audiences, and the main character of Yo-Kai Watch, Amano Keita (pictured above, right), has become Nathan Adams. This leads me to speculate on the specific choice made here, and to think about how it compares to the meaning inherent to the original name.

Video games are no stranger to changing characters’ names to make them more culturally accessible, but a question arises as to whether there is any meaning lost (or even gained) in localization of names. For example, a lot of Pokemon characters names gain become much more explicit in terms of wordplay though in a way that has less to do with the inherent meanings of names and more to do with how they sound or have built up associations through culture and history (Lance the Dragon Master, Brock the Rock Gym Leader).

In the case of Amano Keita (which sounds like a fairly typical Japanese name) in Japanese his name references very specific things, and because the name has official kanji it becomes easier to see what it could mean. Amano Keita is 天野景太, where 天 means “sky/heaven,” and 景 means “scenery/view.” The Ama in Amano is on a basic level associated with the Japanese goddess Amaterasu (EDIT: It also might very well refer to Amanojaku, a demon-like creature in Japanese folklore. Thanks to Zack Davisson for informing me!). Thus, Amano Keita’s name basically means “a view of the heavens,” which I think associates him with spirituality and mythology and thus the titular youkai in Yo-Kai Watch.

What about Nathan Adams? Initially, what can’t be ignored is the fact that “Amano” and “Adams” sound somewhat similar. I have little doubt about that.

In terms of basic meaning, a Google search reveals that both Nathan and Adam are Hebrew in origin (Adam being a little more obvious in that regard), so there might very well be a continued connection to heaven and spirituality through the name as well. At the same time it probably won’t earn the ire of those who don’t wish to associate Judeo-Christian beliefs with the Japanese occult, because even though Nathan means “gift from God,” Nathan Adams is also fairly generic-sounding and few truly associate names like “Christopher” with Christ anymore.

However, I’m not sure if this is the actual reasoning, because as explained above, I don’t know the degree to which a localization would actually pursue the deeper origins of names, especially because they don’t have the benefit of kanji to make things explicit. That said, sometimes names are selected because of how they sound, with different kanji used to transform it into a “real” name, similar to English. For example, the female character in Hurricane Polymar is Nanba Teru, or “Number Telephone.”

There is another way in which the English name can be associated with the spiritual and the occult, which is The Addams Family. This, I think is actually more of a likely origin, and while Yo-Kai Watch isn’t focused on the macabre the way The Addams Family is, there’s still that connection with the afterlife, ghosts, and monsters. As for Keita vs. Nathan, I wonder if Nathan was picked because it sounds close to “nature.”

While it’s difficult to draw firm conclusion, I believe that both names spirits and the occult/celestial, though due to cultural differences their exact meanings don’t exactly draw from quite the same concepts. I get the feeling little of this will actually matter in terms of how the character of “Nathan Adams” is perceived, but it was at least fun to explore the potential connotations of his name.

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sehagirls-radionights-small

A couple of cool podcasts, Anime World Order and GME Anime Fun Time, recently released their reviews of Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls, a bizarre, low-budget 3DCG anime about personified Sega game consoles from the creators of the incredible gdgd Fairies and Straight Title Robot Anime. As a huge fan of Sega growing up, the show hit all the right spots.

At one point, the AWO crew and guest Heidi Kemps talk about the SeHa Girls ending theme, which they explain is actually the company song for Sega in the 90s, but is sadly left untranslated in the official Crunchyroll release. I decided to take it upon myself to translate the song, only to realize that there is not only a full version of the original song, but that there’s also a full version of the variation used in SeHa Girls as well.

Thus, I present to you a translation of “Wakai Chikara -SEGA HARD GIRLS MIX-.”

A couple of notes: Wakai Chikara, or “Youthful Power,” was the Japanese Sega slogan in the 90s. Similarly, a lot of the quotes spoken in reference to Sega hardware are also advertising slogans.

Title: Wakai Chikara -SEGA HARD GIRLS MIX-
Composed by Wakakusa Kei
(Japanese lyrics taken from here)

Verse 1

知的創造 あふれる 英知
Chiteki souzou afureru eichi
Intelligent creations, overflowing wisdom

共に築こう 豊かな文化
Tomo ni kizukou  yutaka na bunka
Together let’s build a flourishing culture

夢と希望は 宇宙(あおぞら)高く
Yume to kibou wa aozora takaku
Dreams and hopes are as high as space (the blue sky)

社会に貢献 我らが使命
Shakai ni kouken warera ga shimei
It’s our mission to contribute to society

明日の創造 生命(いのち)にかえる
Ashita no souzou inochi ni kaeru
Creating tomorrow, changing lives

セガ(SEGA!) セガ(SEGA!) セガ(Fu-!!)若い力
SEGA! (SEGA!) SEGA (SEGA!) SEGA (Fu-!!) Wakai chikara
Sega (Sega!) Sega (Sega!) Sega (Foo!!): Youthful Power

Verse 2

先進技術 絶ゆまぬ 努力
Senshin gijutsu tayumanu doryoku
Leading technology, trustworthy effort

共に目指そう 新たな流れ
Tomo ni mezasou arata na nagare
Together, let us aim for a new current

夢と希望は 海原広く
Yume to kibou wa umibara hiroku
Dreams and hopes are as wide as the ocean

時代の先取り 我らが挑戦
Jidai no sakidori warera ga chousen
Anticipating the times is our challenge

未来の創造 生命(いのち)にかえる
Mirai no souzou inochi ni kaeru
Creating futures, changing lives

セガ(SEGA!) セガ(SEGA!) セガ(Fu-!!)若い力
SEGA! (SEGA!) SEGA (SEGA!) SEGA (Fu-!!) Wakai chikara
Sega (Sega!) Sega (Sega!) Sega (Foo!!): Youthful Power

Spoken Section

「すべての始まり」 SC-3000
“Subete no hajimari” SC-3000
“The beginning of everything” SC-3000

「楽しさいっぱい」 SG-1000
“Tanoshii ippai” SG-1000
“So much fun” SG-1000

「ソフトの数だけ 興奮してね」 SG-1000Ⅱ
“Sofuto no suu dake koufun shite ne” SG-1000II
“Just the amount of software alone is exciting! SG-1000II

「野球もテニスも」 ロボピッチャ
“Yakyuu mo tenisu mo” Robopiccha
“Baseball, and tennis too” Robo Pitcher

「1メガビットの大容量」 マークⅢ
“1 megabitto no daiyouryou” Maaku III
“1 megabit capacity” Mark III

「スーパーゲームメカ」 マスターシステム
“Suupaa geemu meka” Masutaa Shisutemu
“Super game machine” Master System

「時代が求めた16BIT」 メガドライブ
“Jidai ga motometa 16BIT” Megadoraibu
“16BIT: what the times were looking for” Mega Drive

「ワールドワイドでナンバーワン!」 ジェネシス
“Waarudowaido de nanbaa wan!” Jeneshisu
“Number one worldwide!” Genesis

「色いっぱいだよ」 ゲームギア
“Iro ippai da yo” Geemu Gia
“So many colors” Game Gear

「2つの頭脳がドッキング」 テラドライブ
“Futatsu no zunou ga dokkingu” Teradoraibu
“The docking of two brains” Tera Drive

「ゲーム革命!」 メガCD
“Geemu kakumei!” Mega CD
“A gaming revolution!” Mega CD

「高性能ボディコン・ペア」 メガドラ2 メガCD2
Kouseinou bodikon pea” Megadora 2 Mega CD 2
“High-performance body-conforming pair” Mega Drive 2 Mega CD 2

「メガドライブ新次元」 スーパー32X
“Megadoraibu shinjingen”  Suupaa 32X
“A new dimension for the Mega Drive” Super 32X

「脳天直撃!」 セガ・サターン
“Nouten chokugeki!” Sega Sataan
“Right in the head!” Sega Saturn

「セーブはお任せ」 ビジュアルメモリ
“Seebu wa omakase” Bijuaru memori
“Leave the saving to me” Visual Memory

「夢を繋いで!」 ドリームキャスト
“Yume o tsunaide!” Doriimukyasuto
“Connect our dreams!” Dreamcast

Verse 3

人社一体 みなぎる闘志
Jinsha ittai minagiru toushi
The people and the company are as one, with overflowing fighting spirit

共に進もう 絆も固く
Tomo ni susumou kizuna mo kataku
Let’s move forward together and solidify our bonds

夢と希望は 永遠(とわ)に尽きない
Yume to kibou wa towa ni tsukinai
Hopes and dreams are never-ending

目標追求 我らが誓い
Mokuhyou tsuukyuu warera ga chikai
Pursuing our goals, that’s our vow

世界の創造 生命(いのち)にかえる
Sekai no souzou inochi ni kaeru
Creating worlds, changing lives

セガ(SEGA!) セガ(SEGA!) セガ(Fu-!!)若い力
SEGA! (SEGA!) SEGA (SEGA!) SEGA (Fu-!!) Wakai chikara
Sega (Sega!) Sega (Sega!) Sega (Foo!!): Youthful Power

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Though I don’t mention it often, over the past year or so I’ve become a fan and regular viewer of Video Game Championship Wrestling, a weekly show streamed on Twitch that uses characters from video games and has them play out both matches and stories similar to an actual WWE show, with free pay-per-views (an oxymoron yes) that cap off each arc. During this time, I’ve come to realize how interesting the concept of pro wrestling video games are.

Whenever a video game is based on a “real world” activity, be it shooting people, playing basketball, or building TCG decks, the games are designed to simulate some activity where the intention is to win or lose. With pro wrestling, however, the point isn’t to overpower the opponent but to put on a show, and to merely mimic the idea that these two wrestlers are really going at it. This is what’s known to wrestling fans as “kayfabe,” or supporting the illusion that everything happening in wrestling is 100% real, and to go off-script or to break that illusion is a “shoot.” In that sense, a wrestling video game is akin to a video game about Shakespeare, where you would have to perform plays in front of an audience and receive their applause.

The gameplay mechanics that go into these wrestling games are a reflection of this performative quality, especially as time has passed and things have gotten more sophisticated. In the “drama” of wrestling, matches go back and forth, wrestlers have “signature moves” that tell you when they have the momentum, and they have “finishers” that generally net them the win should they land. If you look at a bad old wrestling video game, like Wrestlemania for the NES, it fails to follow “wrestling logic.” You punch and kick and never use holds, while occasionally a power-up symbol floats by and makes you stronger. Very few of the wrestlers can even perform their unique finishers, and overall there was clearly little effort expended to make it “feel” like wrestling beyond slapping some popular faces on and making the background a wrestling ring. In contrast, more successful games of the era such as Tecmo World Wrestling do a much better job of replicating the idea of a wrestling match, by doing something as simple as giving the characters unique finishers and having dramatic cut-ins when used on worn-down opponents.

In the case of WWE 2K14 (which VGCW utilizes for its show), there are actual built-in “drama” mechanics such as the fact that a wrestler can make a “comeback” that replicates digging deep when the chips are down.  You have signature moves that can build up into finishers. All of the attacks are things that have happened in the history of the WWE (or at least in some sort of televised wrestling). While there is obviously a wide chasm of difference in terms of technological and graphical power between an old NES game and a PS3 game, what’s more important is that the latter is practically a game whose display is fundamentally based on “storytelling” rather than “competition.”

While this could be extended to, say, fighting games (which take a lot of cues from martial arts films and anime), with the wrestling game there’s a greater sense of mixing up what is real and what is fake because of the origin of the wrestling itself. As with so many things that dramatize combat, certain techniques would never work or would be too impractical in a realistic setting In the game world, but the wrestling video games take it a step further because supporting and maintaining kayfabe is in a way the key to victory. To win is to play along with the rules of wrestling as performance, and to do otherwise is perhaps in its own way a form of shoot.

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Fighting games at this point are decades-old. While it’s debatable what can be considered the very first fighting game, what is indisputable is which game is responsible for popularizing the genre: Street Fighter II. That game, as well as all of its upgrades, are the standard by which all other fighters are judged, and it’s had a profound effect on how people discuss fighting games in terms of gameplay and strategy. However, if Street Fighter II is the archetype, there are a number of deviations from it, and one that’s become increasingly popular in recent years has been the Super Smash Bros. series.

Whereas in the past these two communities, traditional fighters and Smash, remained fairly separate (and one even unfairly mocked the other for not being a “real” fighting game), over the past year with the release of the latest Smash Bros. games, this has begun to change. One curious outcome of this has been that, when it comes to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, a number of notable traditional fighting game community (FGC) members have taken to it, such as EVO Champion Infiltration and commentators Ultra David and James Chen, but it has also received negative attention from many players of the Super Smash Bros. Melee, what is widely considered the most technical and mechanically difficult game in the franchise. The reason I believe this disparity exists is not only because of a difference in terms of the games themselves, but also a difference in how these respective communities have argued for what makes their games great.

The arguments made by many Melee supporters as to why it’s the superior game tend to revolve around the slew of difficult techniques that expand the range of possible moves available, as well as a heavier emphasis on free-form combos. The idea is that, while Melee is simple on the surface, being a game that was intentionally designed to be more accessible than the traditional fighting game, it in fact hides layers and layers of complexity. What might appear to be a game that is competitively limited due to its simplicity is in fact only the first step into a demanding realm of technical depth and discovery. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U lacks many “advanced techniques” and is slower-paced, and is therefore seen as an inferior game.

Perhaps this reasoning is a product of the way in which the FGC would dismiss Smash Bros. as a whole as “kiddie games,” but, whatever the case, this is the rhetoric that has been built up from Melee, that simplicity makes way for complexity, and that complexity equals depth. In the documentary The Smash BrothersMelee commentator Prog likens the difficulty of Melee to Starcraft, a game that is also known for its mechanical difficulty that leads to a wider range of options for a player, with the idea that this leads to a kind of expressive freedom (though it should also be noted that the documentary’s director, Samox, chose to include that in the first place).

EG|PPMD—recent champion of Apex 2015, the largest Melee tournament ever—shares this sentiment:

EG|PPMD: Melee allows me to express myself on a very profound level. I am not just playing the character, I am my character. I am not just playing against my opponent, I am communicating with that person deeply and getting to know them on a very personal level and conversing on that level with the game as a medium.

Said differently, the depth and speed of the game allow me to really bring myself out. Competition is also incredibly fun! I would be really surprised if another game gave me this feeling, but that would be awesome if it did happen.

In contrast, the most prominent arguments as to why traditional fighting games are great take the opposite angle. Traditional fighting games are known for being difficult to learn on the surface, due to specialized inputs (quarter-circle forward + punch makes Ryu throw a hadouken, while just hitting the “special move” button for Mario makes him throw a fireball) and complex combos, but the prevailing philosophies are of the mind that the ideal core of fighting games, what makes them really worthwhile and competitive, is a foundation of simplicity and elegance, and that this is what leads to depth.

While the above video is super corny, it reflects the lessons taught by great players such as Tomo Ohira, who is featured in that video and is often argued to be the first king of Street Fighter II its earliest days. For another example, take the fighting game player turned game designer David Sirlin, who argues that what makes fighting games games truly interesting is the level of mental interactions that come from “yomi,” or reading the mind of the opponent. Others such as Ultra David have argued that yomi isn’t as important as developing and executing a strategy, but the emphasis is still on the idea that technical complexity should ideally make way for something more basic and fundamental. This is what drives Divekick, a stripped-down fighting game that attempts to get to the core of fighters by limiting players to two buttons and emphasizing spacing and reads.

Although what I’ve shown above are not universally held beliefs by either community, I wanted more to show that they exist and are prominent parts of each community’s identity when it comes to their games. I also don’t want to give the impression that the communities believe that complexity vs. simplicity and their relationship with depth is black and white in either direction, nor that the games necessarily reflect the philosophies described above 100%. Rather, it’s more about how people visualize depth, and why the idea of depth becomes so subjective.

As for why all of this matters, there are two points to consider as to why traditional FGC members might praise Super Smash Bros. for Wii U whereas Melee enthusiasts might look down upon it. First, much like Divekick, the Super Smash Bros. games with their simplified commands have already removed a surface layer of complexity, and to many experienced fighting game players this is seen as a positive. Complexity hides an elegance of simplicity and what makes fighting games truly beautiful. These players want to introduce this beauty to as many people as possible, and Smash Bros. allows this.

Second, while previous games in the Super Smash Bros. franchise were devetrloped by its director Sakurai Masahiro with a team that was more experienced in other genres, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was developed with the help of Namco, which is known for fighting games such as Tekken and Soul Calibur. Although there haven’t been any specific statements made on this matter, I believe that the development team, rather than viewing Melee as their template, looked more to conventional fighting games for ways to add competitive depth to Super Smash Bros. and that the mechanics of the new game reflect this. In discussions with Dave Cabrera, a friend and someone much more knowledgeable about fighting games than I am, he had a similar impression. Ultra David and James Chen also state how they find Melee to be a more momentum-based game similar to the also-unconventional Marvel vs. Capcom series while Smash Wii U is more positional, similar to Street Fighter games.

The result is a clash of perspectives. On the one hand, the Melee community, which has developed its conception for what makes a good competitive game based on Melee and the idea of hidden complexity, sees Super Smash Bros. for Wii U as lacking many of the elements that made Melee great, and that it is therefore a lesser experience. On the other hand, the fighting game community, which bases its standards for fighting games on Street Fighter II and the idea of hidden simplicity, has in this new Super Smash Bros. something that exemplifies that concept while also catering more to their tastes. Whatever the reasoning, it’s clear that there are two different philosophies at work driving discussion. As for how these two ways of thinking can meet, I recommend you watch the video below of Bruce Lee, replace “martial arts” with fighting games, and consider how each side could potentially use his words to support their respective arguments.

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kantaicollection-fubuki-ep1

Despite having never played the game, I recently appeared on the Reverse Thieves’ Riot Control podcast to talk about the first episode of Kantai Collection with Alain. We just barely avoid turning the review into a Girls und Panzer podcast.

Download and listen here

Name: Furugoori, Kona (古郡こな)
Aliases: Koujiro Frau (神代フラウ), FRAUKOJIRO, Frau Bow (フラウ・ボゥ)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Robotics;Notes

Information:
Furugoori Kona, better known by her internet handle “Koujiro Frau,” is the genius hacker and programmer of the popular mecha battle game Kill-Ballad. A hikikomori who tends to use internet lingo in real life, Frau is also obsessed with yaoi and erotic games, and will make frequent mention of them in everyday conversation, provided she’s talking to anyone in the first place. She is also known for her distinct laugh: duhuhu.

Unbeknownst to most, Frau is also the daughter of the director of the giant robot anime Gunvarrel, though her mother mysteriously disappeared after the show was abruptly canceled. Though reluctant at first, Frau eventually becomes a part of the Tanegashima High School Robotics Club, where her expertise helps the club to not only create a second prototype of their life-size giant robot, but also aids them in unraveling the elaborate conspiracy responsible for her mother’s disappearance.

Fujoshi Level:
In addition to her constant playing of yaoi games, Frau also frequently exclaims her desire to see her male club mates go at it, with her continued ramblings giving increasingly elaborate detail along the way. Frau is not only a fujoshi, but also one with very little filter.

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