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Ninja Time

by Todd Ciolek, Mar 30th 2011

This week marks the passing of UK Resistance, long a bright point in the often unremarkable landscape of game-related websites. It was caustic, offensive, and acutely focused on the excesses of the game industry. There were crusades against modern violent games, half-joking tirades against old games, calls to vandalize Wikipedia, and an overriding zealous, delusional, self-loathing, self-aware affection for Sega. And as someone who's sifted through dozens of boring promotional photos, I always appreciated UK Resistance's knack for finding the especially awkward ones.

And now it's over. Site owner Gary Cutlack announced its closure with a video that recalls the site's funnier moments and some not entirely work-safe images. Cutlack made mocking posts about giving up on the site (and games in general) many times before, but this time it's for real.

So long, UK Resistance. I'll always remember you when I see Sonic merchandise in unexpected places.

NEWS

CAPCOM ROLLS OUT EVIL RYU ONE MORE TIME
Evil Ryu is part of the considerable debt that Street Fighter games owe to manga author Masahiko Nakahira. The character first appeared in Nakahira's Street Fighter comics, as did super-rich schoolgirl Karin Kanzuki. Granted, Evil Ryu is a rather obvious idea, as he's just vanilla Ryu infused with the same dark energy that fuels Akuma. And now he's in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition.

Evil Ryu and his counterpart, Oni Akuma, were unofficially revealed shortly after this new arcade-exclusive version of Super Street Fighter IV was announced, as were Yun and Yang from Street Fighter III. But Capcom recently gave Evil Ryu a proper unveiling with decent screenshots and all that. Evil Ryu even has a hole in his chest, possibly a reference to the Nakahira-drawn manga Ryu Final. It has Akuma and Ryu totally punching through each other.

This has many wondering just what Capcom's going to do with Arcade Edition. Will they really bring out a third entirely separate Street Fighter IV game for the sake of a few new characters? Or will they be downloadable for Super Street Fighter IV owners? And what's with the two empty spaces on Arcade Edition's roster? Will they be filled by Rolento, Karin, or maybe even the star of Nakahira's ongoing manga Sadamitsu the Destroyer? Capcom apparently plans on bringing out the upgrade someplace other than arcades; ratings boards in Korea and Great Britain already evaluated Arcade Edition for home release.

RIVER CITY RANSOM 2 HEADS FOR WIIWARE, POSSIBLY SAYS 'BARF'
It's odd that River City Ransom still stands so proudly among fans. It's part of the Kunio-Kun series, which includes at least a dozen other games of similar design, with several River City Ransom remakes among them. Yet it's River City Ransom that's remembered everywhere from message boards to the pages of Scott Pilgrim. Perhaps that's because it came out for the nostalgia-inducing NES. Or maybe River City Ransom, with its free-roaming brawls and RPG-style progression, really is that good. Whatever the reason, River City Ransom has a sequel on the way. Miracle Kids is developing Downtown Nekketsu 2, in keeping with the game's Japanese title, for the WiiWare service. Only a Japanese summer release date was given, and the same goes for the company's WiiWare version of Downtown Smash Dodgeball.

MORTAL KOMBAT ROSTER REVEALED IN DIFFERENT COLORS
I haven't covered the new Mortal Kombat here, perhaps because it's a Western-made game that's already promoted at websites not adorned in ads for Durarara!! and Chrome Shelled Regios. But Mortal Kombat was part of the fighter explosion of the 1990s, and I have no doubt that it was played by the same kids who dug into every version of Street Fighter and Samurai Shodown. And the new Mortal Kombat is a return to that heyday, with a roster made up primarily of '90s characters.

The lineup for this ninth proper Mortal Kombat features Scorpion, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sub-Zero, Sindel, Ermac, Reptile, Kitana, Johnny Cage, Jade, Mileena, Nightwolf, Cyrax, Noob Saibot, Smoke, Sektor, Sonya, Jax, Kano, Stryker, Shang Tsung, Baraka, Kabal, Raiden, Sheeva, cyborg Sub-Zero, and Quan Chi. This isn't a complete list, of course, as Kratos from God of War shows up in the PlayStation 3 version, along with a woman known as Lady in Red, the blind warrior Kenshi, and, one would assume, playable versions of bosses Goro and Shao Kahn.

The most important character for me is, of course, Kurtis Stryker. That's because he marks the point where I stopped caring about Mortal Kombat. As a '90s kid thoroughly obsessed with fighting games, I followed Mortal Kombat for the first two games, learning all of the fatalities, the secrets, and even the backstories. And I kept following it when Mortal Kombat 3 rolled around. Sure, the endearing karate-movie hokum of Mortal Kombat II gave way to a boring modern apocalyptic feel, but I wasn't put off entirely. I could handle the robot ninja, the desert nomad who shot lasers from his mask (hell, he was my new favorite), and even the token Native American shaman. But there was Stryker, a riot cop with a baton and grenades and an actual gun in a fighting game. From that point, there was no going back to Mortal Kombat. I just didn't care.

Mortal Kombat revamped Stryker's design into something less ridiculous over the years, but I still haven't gone back to the series. I'm not about to claim I'm too mature for it, considering what else I play. But there's a wall between me and Mortal Kombat, and I'm not sure Stryker is even a big part of it at this point. Perhaps I'll take a chance on the whole thing when this new Mortal Kombat, free of numbers in its title, arrives in April.

IN BRIEF: DISASTER REPORT SERIES HALTED, RESIDENT EVIL RETURNS TO RACCOON CITY, NANASHI NO GAME'S DEPRESSING FATE
Irem canceled their survival-action game Disaster Report 4 shortly after a very real earthquake hit Japan. The company went a step further this week and announced a stop to producing all Disaster Report games, including reprints or ports of the older titles. This presumably applies to English-language releases as well.

In other depressing news about canceled games, Square producer Takashi Tokita recently told Siliconera just why Nanashi no Game wasn't released outside of Japan. The DS title is two games cleverly combined into one, with players slogging through a cursed 8-Bit RPG while they discover its dark history by exploring a real-world setting. Unfortunately, Nanashi was turned down by a focus group due to the game's lack of shootable things. No, we're not joking. That was the reason.

Resident Evil's Raccoon City has one of the sillier names in the franchise, evoking images of an urban spread peopled by cartoon woodland creatures instead of flesh-craving zombies. But Capcom hasn't realized this, and so the next piece of the franchise will be Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, a third-person shooter that emphasizes team gameplay. In development at Vancouver's Slant 6 Games, the game shows the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3 from an Umbrella security operative's point of view, with established Resident Evil characters showing up from time to time. It's headed for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC this winter.

REVIEW FROM THE FUTURE: NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: SHINOBI RUMBLE

Developer: Eighting
Publisher: Tomy/Atlus
Platform: Nintendo DS
Players: 1-4
MSRP: $29.99

By means we are not at liberty to disclose, this column retrieved an academic study of Naruto Shippūden: Shinobi Rumble from the year 3197 A.D. We now present it unedited.

Any student of the American Age is familiar with the cult of Naruto. Some theorize that he was revered as a god of war, while other scholars have it that he was a trickster spirit. Whatever his religious implications, all archeological evidence suggests he was a popular figure of worship. If he did not define the era as indelibly as such prominent gods as Mickey Mouse and Lady Gaga, Nar>uto was a favored deity throughout America, Japan, and the rest of that still-uncivilized world. Much of the evidence for Naruto worshippers comes from preserved books, graven images, and somewhat degraded video games. The recent discovery of an undecayed relic called Naruto Shippūden: Shinobi Rumble sheds more light on the golden-haired god's followers.

Naruto Shippūden: Shinobi Rumble is a fighting game, not terribly far from the single-minded combat of Street Fighter II and BloodStorm. Archeologists tell us that these games were simulators of combat, popular entertainments whose champions were afforded considerable wealth and coitus by 21st-century society. Shinobi Rumble, however, is noticeably simpler than the layered Street Fighter, and it's closer in style to the loose four-player diversions of the Nintendo Empire's Super Smash Bros. Up to four members of the Naruto pantheon are dropped into side-view stages full of trees, ledges, and other platforms. These titans of battle energize themselves and attack each other, building up special meters to launch strikes all the more potent.

The Naruto gods and goddesses, all adherents of the ancient and very real art of “ninja,” have a number of options during battle. They're given jumping, attacking, guard-crushing, and blocking buttons, as well as “teleportation jutsu” that amounts to dashing moves. The DS, simulated with great accuracy by today's machines, simplifies the interface of the fighting by putting the special moves and the “chak-rush” button on the lower screen. “Chak-Rush,” once activated, gives characters a temporary burst of unlimited special attacks and immunity to knock-down blows or stun moves.

Shinobi Rumble may not have the extensive depths of the fighting games that tested the best and brightest of the era, but it offers decent options for a Naruto brawler confined to a small screen. Aside from the air-dashing, enemy-paralyzing moves available to characters, matches are enhanced by various items that randomly fall into the field of play. Some restore energy, some poison the player, and some reverse the controls. The game also allows players to customize the three special-move slots in the bottom screen, replacing character-specific moves with more general (yet useful) powers. This option isn't presented in the story mode, however.

In fact, the story mode is a curiously abbreviated affair. Naruto scholars place its frame of narrative around episode 138 of the Naruto animated canon, though there's little preamble for any newcomers to the storyline. It offers only curt explanation, though there's some novelty in playing Nar>uto in one mission and Sasuke, the AntiNaruto, in the next. Even so, Shinobi Rumble is short on tributes to Naruto deities, offering only Jiraiya, Karin, Pain, Sai, Fukasaku, Sasuke, Itachi, Konan, Shikamaru, Deidara, Jugo, Orochimaru, Suigetsu, and the trinity of Na>ruto, Sakura, and Kakashi. Perhaps, as some conjecture, Naruto had penetrated the culture of 21st-century civilization so thoroughly that his story was already known to any literate individual.

Or perhaps Shinobi Rumble was made for the Naruto adherent who was young or in search of a simple fighting game. Perhaps Naruto evangelists would distribute such games among the youth, in promotional attempts not unlike those practiced by the Church of Pokemon. Indeed, the game is best appreciated in communal form: the four-player matches are its best feature, and Eighting (a developer apparently involved with something called “Bloody Roar”) may well have built the game around this premise.

However, there exists a theory that Naruto was, in fact, not a deity worshiped by ancient people, but rather a character created in fiction and appreciated solely as entertainment. This theory also posits that games such as Shinobi Rumble are largely trivial results of Naruto's popularity, aimed at fans and no one else. This theory remains highly controversial.

NEXT THIS WEEK'S RELEASES

STRANIA
Developer: G. Rev
Publisher: G. Rev
Platform: XBox Live Arcade
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $10, or 800 Points because Microsoft is too good for real money.

Next week is barren when it comes to new games, leaving us time to cover something popping up this week: G.Rev's new shooter, Strania. And this works out just fine, since G. Rev is one of those talented shooter-developers long denied a foothold in the West. Their shooter Border Down remains an import, and their Senko no Ronde series flopped when it came here under the title of Wartech. In fact, G. Rev's most prominent contribution on these shores is their background work on two Treasure games, Ikaruga and Gradius V. Anyway, Strania is a 2-D shooter that stars a heavily armed mecha holding off the forces of a hostile artificial planet. Toting one weapon in each hand and a third in reserve, the robot can choose from a variety of lasers, homing missiles, reflective shots, and even some swords, with multi-directional firing similar to Senko no Ronde. The game's six levels are crammed with all sorts of familiar shooter sights, including missile-spewing battleships, laser turrets reminiscent of Ikaruga, and a red rival mecha to hound the player's heroic blue machine. Said rival is playable in an extra mode called Side Vower, which puts you on the other side of the interplanetary war. Side Vower's not ready yet, but the main Strania package arrives on XBox Live Arcade this March 30.


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