The X Button Capsule Corps
by Todd Ciolek,
For me, there's no game-to-movie project more curious than the 2010 Wonder Boy film. If the movie's IMDB page is at all accurate, it began as a cinematic adaptation of Sega and Westone's narratively light Wonder Boy and Monster World games, with prolific hack Uwe Boll supposedly attached as director. Unfortunately, the filmmakers lost the rights and Boll backed out of helming the movie, leaving director Lucinda McNary and scriptwriter Robin Morningstar (who also plays Wonder Boy) to assemble a film loosely based on the games. Trailers looked dreadful in their fusion of live-action and GC, and few people were even aware the movie existed.
Five years after the Wonder Boy movie's supposed release, it's hard to find any trace of the film. Searches misdirect everywhere from the Wonder Boy games to Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys, but the actual trailers of this seemingly low-budget Wonder Boy film disappeared from YouTube and the Internet on the whole. Even the IMDB page offers little more than the basic information…and a quote that makes fun of the Wonder Boy in Monster World's rebranding as The Dynastic Hero. Someone on the project was clearly a fan. Disaster or not, that makes this obscure Wonder Boy film all the more intriguing.
PROJECT X ZONE 2 ADDS THE SATURN'S SPOKESMAN We often make requests of games mostly in jest. Disney and Square Enix never will include a Song of the South stage in a Kingdom Hearts title, but fans will suggest it. Konami won't revive the Rollgergames license, but you can bet some message-board goofball will demand exactly that. Capcom isn't going to put Linn Kurosawa in the next Street Fighter, but I still plan to ask for her every time the series comes up in this column, in casual conversation, or in the drive-thru at Arby's.
Project X Zone 2 is a lightning rod for weird pipe dreams. It's a strategy-RPG collision of characters from Capcom, Sega, Namco, and Bandai history, so that opens the door for all sorts of requests. And one of them was Segata Sanshiro, the imposing judo pitchman for the Sega Saturn's best ad campaign. As proof that the Saturn had it much better in Japan than North American, the esteemed Hiroshi Fujioka played Sanshiro in numerous Saturn ads that play out like bizarre short films. He tosses around clubgoers so they'd play Shining Force III. He dresses up like Santa to frighten little kids into a Saturn-heavy Christmas. He has his own theme song and his own game, an assortment of brief challenges called Segata Sanshiro Shinken Yugi. He even goes out in spectacular style, deflecting a missile launched at Sega and riding it into space. The Iron Giant had nothing on Segata Sanshiro.
While his ads never aired in the West, Sanshiro gained fans once his videos spread across the Internet (and in the pages of the underrated Tips & Tricks magazine). So the calls for Sanshiro to appear in Project X Zone 2 came from both sides of the Pacific. And that's what we're getting. Weekly Famitsu confirmed that Sanshiro's part of the cast. Other new additions come with Captain Commando, who starred in his eponymous brawler as well as other Capcom titles, and combat gymnast June Milliam from Star Gladiator. Tekken's Heihachi Mishima also returns from the first game, which isn't nearly as interesting as Sanshiro's inclusion. It pretty much swings the door even wider for characters. Baby Pac-Man? The pilots from Varth? The mysterious walking alligator from Casino Games for the Sega Master System? Maybe! But still not Linn Kurosawa, I'd bet.
ARSLAN WARRIORS HAS PAINT ATTACKS
I'm pleasantly surprised with The Heroic Legend of Arslan revival now enveloping us. I enjoyed the original 1990s series for its Persian-like fantasy atmosphere, and I would've enjoyed it even more if it hadn't ended on the brink of getting really interesting. I figured the odds of an Arslan comeback were as low as a relaunch of Kishin Corps or Eternal Filena, but now we have a new Arslan manga, a new Arslan TV series, and that ultimate achievement for an anime property: a Dynasty Warriors adaptation.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend operates on the same idea as Dynasty Warriors Gundam or One Piece Pirate Warriors, as it throws characters into combat against legions of enemies. Arslan and his comrades can equip skill cards to gain new abilities, and the playable cast offers a dozen of the heroes so far, plus antagonists like Lord Silvermask and Zandeh. As show in Tecmo Koei's latest video, the best attack comes from the tactician Narsus, who whips out an easel and paints in the thick of battle, bowling over enemy forces with his artistic abilities…or lack thereof. At least one character in the series implies that Narsus is not exactly Matisse.
True Art or not, this new Arslan looks to have some staying power. FUNimation has the new anime streaming, and Tecmo Koei has Arslan: The Warriors of Legend tracked for a North American release on the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation 4, and, in an exclusive for these shores, the Xbox One.
MONSTER HUNTER STORIES MORE EXCITING THAN THE TITLE
I don't mind Capcom's Monster Hunter series, but I admit it's lacking in personality compared to the apocalyptic anime styling of Gods Eater Burst or the grisly depths of Soul Sacrifice. Fortunately, Monster Hunter is so rampantly popular that Capcom isn't afraid of a spin-off. Of course, I also admit that Monster Hunter Stories, announced earlier this year, isn't exactly the detailed Monster Hunter RPG I'd prefer. It's more of a lighthearted romp to introduce even younger audiences to the Monster Hunter world of stalking dinosaurs and befriending kitten-folk.
In fact, Monster Hunter Stories tones down the hunting aspect and opts for a Pokemon-grade approach. Players control a boy or girl from Rider Village, a comfy little habitat where humans command beasts and live alongside friendly Felynes and Melynxes. The hero or heroine explores the world with the help of a Felyne pal (who looks a lot like Puar from Dragon Ball, if you don't mind my saying so), and various monsters join up along the way, some of them hatched out of eggs so that the player might raise and indoctrinate them from infancy. Battles run on menus and a rock-paper-scissors damage system, and the protagonist frequently rides his or her creature allies for special attacks. There's no word on an English release yet, but Monster Hunter remains pretty important to Capcom over here.
REVIEW: CAPSULE FORCE
Publisher: Iron Galaxy Studios
Platform: PlayStation 4, Linux, Mac, PC (Steam)
Capsule Force is enamored with a specific stretch of the 1980s. From its perky soundtrack to its pastel-haired heroes, it looks back to an age when series like The Dirty Pair and Zillion and untold masses of mecha shows and aimless OVAs swarmed around a burgeoning nerd culture, and countless video games imitated them. Beneath that, however, Capsule Force is a hardy specimen of the side-scrolling multiplayer action family.
You'll see a prologue about stolen galaxies, bounty hunters, and interstellar warfare before the title, but Capsule Force requires no narrative. It's a contest where four anime commandos, armed with Mega Man arm cannons and coded into blue and pink teams, fight to grab the opposing side's pet capsule in two-versus-two matches.
The ensuing squabbles become rapid, frenetic blurs of four characters bouncing and blasting all around, but there's a lot beneath that. Characters can jump, dash in the air or on the ground, and activate a shield that bounces back projectiles. For firepower, the bounty hunters have lasers that fire either in short bursts or charged-up beams. The techniques all work together: charging up a laser lets a character float in mid-air, dashing provides temporary protection from damage, and it's possible to reach new heights by double-jumping and firing just right. Stages also use trams, and they're wars in themselves as each side tries to control their direction.
Solo players can take on thirty missions with a slightly different focus. The levels offer some different goals, from a shoot-the-targets task to a simple race to stage's end, and the characters don't diverge in their specialties. It's not a bad introduction to the game's mechanics, as the individual challenges slowly bring in enemy turrets and more abstract foes. Unfortunately, the missions unlock tier by tier, and the lower-level stages aren't very interesting.
Capsule Force may reach back to a time of limited pixel graphics and economic hubris, and it takes after Sega Quartet in particular. Yet it's accomplished and modern in its recreation. The sprites resemble prettier versions of old MSX or PC-88 games, and the soundtrack is all crisp beeping extravagance. The characters are just as charming and basic, reminding us that the sexist costumes of Dirty Pair cartoons and Valis games and less memorable anime OVAs seem quaint and curiously nostalgic in this age. True, the backgrounds are a little empty and there's rarely anything complex to see, but Capsule Force isn't about fascinating sights.
Capsule Force is really about the multiplayer clashes, and that brings out its biggest problem. The game presents only local modes, so you're limited to enjoying it your living room, office, or sweat-clouded convention party room. That doesn't condemn Capsule Force by default, but it's very restrictive for a game that emphasizes team battles over all else.
A good party game already lies within Capsule Force, even if you can't share it beyond your console or computer's reach. There's potential for a good single-player action-puzzle procession as well, but it's a side attraction, an extended tutorial minus the annoying didactic pop-ups. Perhaps Capsule Force can put up online play and a more attractive multi-copy offer, and more players can share its engaging, simple fusion of anime throwbacks and present-day shine.
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
SENRAN KAGURA 2: DEEP CRIMSON
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 15
Best Girl: I dunno. Homura, I guess?
Gee, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson. Do you really want to call this a “Double D Edition” on account of the included two-disc soundtrack? People will think you're one of those games, lascivious and haughty and unsympathetic to women!
Yes, Senran Kagura continues its celebration of ninja heroines who rarely practice their elaborate arts without jiggling all over. From its inception on the 3DS, the series emphasized three-dimensional breasts just as much as the characters to whom they were attached, with similar attention paid to certain other parts of their bodies. This is a game about busty ninja girls losing their clothes in battle, trying on progressively more revealing outfits for the player's perusal, and crossing their arms in the most suggestive fashion. It's a game for which producer Kenichiro Tanaka, in response to well-braced accusations of sexism, professes that he merely wants “to wrap the world with happy boobs.”
But isn't Senran Kagura a game as well? Yes, it is. Deep Crimson returns to the more contained brawler stages of the original title, though it's not as cloistered. While the levels aren't as wide open as those of the Shinovi Versus sequel, players can still move and fight in three dimensions. Its storyline accordingly picks up right after the original, so most of the characters introduced in Shinovi Versus aren't playable here. Instead, the roster covers the Hanzo school, the Hebijo school, and a few new faces: the enigmatic kid Kagura, her bodyguard Naraku, and the ineffectual swordsman Murasame, who is the previously seen but never before playable brother of Hanzo student Ikaruga. Gameplay unfolds with efficient combos and elaborately animated special attacks, and players now swap between two chosen ninja in the midst of battle, with the occasional team-up attack. It's true that Senran Kagura has moments of endearing silliness, such as Daidoji's magical-delinquent transformation or Naraku's wrecking-ball legwear, but this is not a game about innocent enjoyment.
The Disgaea Triple Play Collection comes to the PlayStation 3 with Disgaea 3, Disgaea 4, and Disgaea D2 packed into one $39.99 volume. These are, of course, the PS3 versions instead of the more enhanced Vita ports of the third and fourth Disgaeas, but…well, not everyone owns a Vita. The truth hurts.
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