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The X Button
Shadow Run

by Todd Ciolek,

Well, I'm back from a week's vacation, and it's time to judge that Street Fighter poetry contest. I received far fewer entries for it than I did for the last contest I ran, but that's what happens when you give away a Street Fighter IV Snuggie and Anime X-Plode Volume 1 instead of a decent video game.

After some deliberation, I chose Greg Wicker's “An Ode to Ken and Ryu Players.” Much like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, his literary work takes on a social ill that's plagued us all since 1991.

You know them when you see them,
They'll turtle you all night.
Jump to the left and start that spam
Of down, down-forward, right.

You think you'll hit a jump kick,
You think you've timed it right,
But all of a sudden you're dizzied
From his down, down-forward, right.

In the Street Fighter world there's tons
Of characters to fight
But for this guy, there's nothing else
But down, down-forward, right.

So finally you give it up
And mirror him out of spite
And every match ends up a draw
Just down, down-forward, right.

Of course, this wasn't the only great verse I received. More of those later.


The words “Mega Man Online” stuck out in Capcom's press materials last month, prompting all sorts of speculation about just what sort of game it might be. Instead of making an online RPG out of the Mega Man ideal, Capcom announced a side-scrolling PC action-RPG set in the world of Mega Man X. Series mainstays X and Zero will show up, though it's unlikely that players will get to control them. Instead, they'll get to design their own X series characters and, I hope, give them names like “Antimatter Lobster” and “Railgun Millipede.”

Unsurprisingly, the whole project wasn't Capcom's idea; it was started by NeoWiz, a Korean developer heavily invested in online games. This puts Mega Man Online up for release in Korea, China, Taiwan as well as Japan (where it'll be known as Rockman Online, yes). No North American release is scheduled yet, though "Mega Man Universe" is already trademarked by Capcom. I think the company is clearly worried that it can't reach the same heights as the last major Mega Man game for PCs.

The game industry is sometimes painted as a profitable, burgeoning wonderland, and we imagine it's just like that for the people who publish hits like God of War or Gears of War or War of the Warring War Wars. For the humbler game company, however, things ain't so great. AQ Interactive, for one, is in trouble. The publisher recently announced that they've shuttered all internal game development, leaving the company's finances in doubt. Granted, most of AQ Interactive's games were far off the radar, and I doubt anyone will miss another Vampire Rain. Then again, AQ was also behind the KORG DS-10 music-maker for the DS, and that's a real loss.

Meanwhile, Marvelous Entertainment adopted a sequels-only policy when it comes to future games. Facing limited sales and the recent demise of partner developer Cing, Marvelous is sticking to follow-ups to existing properties and, one would assume, games based on popular licenses like UFC and Ikki Tousen. What does this mean? It means that Harvest Moon isn't in any danger, as it's one of the biggest cash cows for Marvelous. On the other hand, Marvelous probably won't back any more original titles like Steal Princess or Little King's Story (above), the latter of which was co-developed with Cing.

This doesn't necessarily harm developers who worked with Marvelous, but the company might not push anything like Matrix's Avalon Code or Vanillaware's Muramasa anytime soon. It's also likely to affect XSEED Games and Rising Star Games, as Marvelous frequently partnered with both. Of particular interest to anime fans is the ongoing Fate/Extra RPG, a Fate/Stay Night-inspired PSP game created by Type-Moon, Imageepoch, and Marvelous. It's probably safe from cancellation, but one never knows.

I'll level with you: ever since I left Anime Insider two years ago, I haven't kept up with new Japanese cartoons unless they actually interest me. So, going in, all I knew about K-On! was this: it's popular with Japan's anime geeks and it features high-school girls playing in a band while doing mundanely adorable things. Both activities figure into the upcoming K-On! After School Live, a Sega-backed rhythm game for the PSP.

It's a conventional music-making game in the style of Sega's recent Hatsune Miku: Project Diva, with button-pressing gauges flitting across the screen as the player's viewpoint whirls from one schoolgirl band member to another (all of whom look a bit crude in the first round of screenshots). Perhaps most interesting is the game's five-player ad-hoc mode, where each participant plays a different instrument. I imagine many desperate fans will hold public PSP jam sessions when the game comes out in Japan this fall, and anyone who wants it in North America had best be prepared to import.

Lastly, there's good news for anyone who fumed over Sega's wishy-washy approach to announcing Yakuza 3 for North America, or anyone who fretted over the game's possibly low sales. Sega just announced Yakuza 4 for the PlayStation 3 in Europe and the U.S. It won't hit until 2011, but it's nice to see Sega on the ball.


Developer: tri-Crescendo/Mistwalker
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Platform: DS
Players: 1-4
MSRP: $29.99

It's hard to create a new RPG franchise in this day and age, when Japanese fans already have constant streams of Dragon Quests, Final Fantasies, Disgaeas, and Tales of I Don't Know Whats. Yet Mistwalker's Blue Dragon persevered after debuting on the Xbox 360 in 2006, perhaps because of its affable, kid-friendly tone and Akira Toriyama character art, or perhaps because of all the money sunk into its toy line, manga offshoots, anime series, and advertising. Whatever the reason, Blue Dragon survives through DS sequels, and the latest, Awakened Shadow, does its best to keep the series interesting. Sometimes it succeeds.

In a field of RPGs that rarely carry over storylines, it's refreshing to see Blue Dragon directly continue its tale of shadow-magic and world-saving heroes in a third game. True, that story is the stuff of standard-issue boys' manga: there's a headstrong kid named Shu, a healer girl named Kluke, a pirate woman named Zola, the self-doubting King Jibral, and a filthy-minded cat-bat creature named Marumaro. In Awakened Shadow, however, the lead is a player-created boy or girl who awakens in a mysterious underground lab, setting in motion events that rob those above of their convenient shadow-magic.

Thankfully, the player's chosen avatar doesn't go it alone. While this action-RPG gives you direct control of your character, Shu and the rest of the returning Blue Dragon characters follow you, with up to two of them joining in for treks through dungeons and castles. Hardly the incoherent morass that was Blue Dragon Plus, the previous DS-based game in the series, Awakened Shadow is the work of tri-Crescendo, a tri-Ace offshoot developer with a knack for action-oriented battles. Your main character can slash, roll, defend, and build up shadow attacks by holding down a button. It's a fluid, comfortable battle system, and the game doesn't bother with long fights or random encounters. All enemies are readily visible, and clashes with them are over in a hurry. In a novel tough, your game doesn't automatically end if your lead character dies; the remaining two party members will fight on while you recover. Only when everyone's down will a game-over kick in.

Awakened Shadow aims for more than dungeon exploration, though. Its storyline is broken up into side attractions early on. Subquests re-introduce old characters, and doors pop up all over Jibral castle, each opening on a nasty boss battle. And while there's a plot to push forward and a world to gradually explore in a robotic airship, there's also a multiplayer mode to distract you. Players can join up online to take down monsters in what is in no way an imitation of Dragon Quest IX.

At first, the game's lead character is disappointing. The initial customizing is quite limited, and your chosen hero or heroine has just enough lines to establish himself or herself as a bland cipher. It picks up, though: more customization options arise, along with new weapons, costumes, and even hairstyles. As in Monster Hunter, dressing up and showing off a character becomes a major part of the game. There's also a crafting system that invites you to combine different items, but it's hard to think of a modern RPG that doesn't have that sort of thing.

Awakened Shadow dispenses with the small sprite characters of Blue Dragon Plus, instead building primitive 3-D versions of the cartoon cast of the original Blue Dragon. It's a decent look for a DS game, comparable to Square's remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV, though the colorful monster designs often outdo the rather average Toriyama-style human characters. Nobuo Uematsu's Blue Dragon soundtrack also returns, and it's once again reminiscent of his early-'90s Final Fantasy work.

There is, however, one overriding problem with Awakened Shadow: it's very much a kid-oriented game. The same could be said for the first Blue Dragon as well as Plus, and Awakened Shadow continues on this path, as it doesn't present too many challenges beyond basic dodge-and-strike maneuvers and RPG level-grinding. The storyline is also basic, and only devoted fans of Blue Dragon will find themselves invested in, say, a subquest that expands Zola and King Jibral's relationship.

Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow is a a safe bet for newcomers interested in a decent action-RPG with multiplayer ambitions, even though older players will find the story and overall tone of things far too faithful to the juvenile tracks set down by previous Blue Dragon games. Awakened Shadow is still all-too-familiar ground for the series, but it makes that routine territory fun to explore.


Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: DS
Players: 1
MSRP: $29.99

History set things right for River City Ransom. The original NES game was thrown to the wolves back in the NES era, or at least thrown out to be crushed by Double Dragon (which was, in a cruel twist, also the creation of River City developer Technos Japan). Mild justice has been done: Double Dragon was tainted by a live-action movie, an awful cartoon, and a number of mediocre spin-offs. River City, meanwhile, is a cult favorite, and the Japanese series that spawned it, Kunio-kun, soldiers on even after the death of Technos itself. The soccer side of the Kunio-Kun franchise is often dwarfed by River City Ransom, but those sports-oriented titles have nearly as long of a history. In fact, the first Kunio-Kun soccer game came to the North American NES as the slightly revised Nintendo World Cup. While Soccer Hooligans is a 3-D title from a different developer, it's very faithful to the violent Kunio-Kun spirit, with squared-faced players racing around a soccer field and making shocked, googly-eyed grimaces when they're pummeled. There are a dozen teams to control, a process that involves earnest pep talks and power-ups as much as it does general soccer-field strategy. And it's strangely refreshing to see a game acknowledge soccer hooliganism, even though North Americans, as with most things soccer, might not care much.
Get Excited If: You were secretly proud of figuring out that River City Ransom and Nintendo World Cup were related back in the NES epoch.


While only one poem could emerge as a winner in this contest, I received a number of great entries. Here's Franz Bachmeier's “Of Cheese, Spam, and Cowardice.”

It is never about the lost quarter,
or the hosting of a new ranked fight.
It's about dealing with cheese, spam and cowardice,
the epic struggle between wrong and right.

Street Fighter should be honored and revered
with practice of the counter, parry, combo and ultra.
For shame to the players who repeatedly
Tiger Shot, Sonic Boom, Kikoken, and fire of Yoga!

Any time this tragedy occurs,
with fury we recall the obscenities that have been blurt:
When an unskilled player wins
hiding behind his Hadoken skirt!

I had to Google this entry from “Rednal” to make sure that it wasn't an actual Street Fighter song.

Can you feel the BEAT
Of all the Fighters on this STREET
Like a Hadouken to the FACE
This is far more than a RACE
This ain't no PokeMON
With just a love tap and you're GONE
You've got to crush them ALL
Know what I mean, kid?
This is serious business.

Can you feel the BEAT
Of all the Fighters on this STREET
The girls in Arcana HEART
Throw their punches like a FART
You ain't no pansy SKIRT
So you've got to give the HURT
You're the Boss of this here ROAD
And it better stay that way, dig?
Unless you're Dan, I mean.

Can you feel the BEAT
Of all the Fighters on this STREET
With the sweat all dripping DOWN
For they've just destroyed the TOWN
And their muscles bulging BIG
With more hair than Sagat's WIG
Far above the SesaME
Because if it weren't, I'd die laughing.
For real, kid.

Can you feel the BEAT
Of all the Fighters on this STREET
The ones who gave their BEST
When you laid them down to REST
You're finally the KING
You can lift your voice and SING...

So stop playing Easy Mode already.

Considering how often it's mentioned in the gaming press, I'm surprised I didn't get more entries about the following subject. Here's what Nemy Aimable thought of it.

Oh, Chun Li, with your wicked thighs,
Many a fighter did not realize,
With just one gaze of their eyes,
They soon met with their early demise.

“Justin” did not beat around the bush. No sir.

Flash Kick to the face
Take my Sonic Hurricane!
Take my sonic boom

“Supermarioman” wrote about Dhalsim, who I could never play right. But I forgive him.

Press start button, he is there
The man who fights without hair
Saffron shorts, nothing else
He'll knock you down and take the belt

Ben Jonas has read things he'd probably like to forget.

Is a guy
Is a guy
Is a guy
So please
No more Guy x Cody fanfics

While D.H. Hung prefaced this entry with “I cannot really take credit for this,” I think someone should, because it's awesome.

Fiber up your butt!
Fiber up your butt!

Caroline Dougherty went with a haiku.

Out This FALL, Super
Street Fighter 4 Turbo Strike
Ultra Revival!!

Finally, Justin Wisniewski blatantly ignored the one-entry-per-person rule, but I know that it's hard to stop when you get going with these.

Street Fighter Haikus
Even This Title is One
These are Fun to Write

Red warrior Ken
Fists become a blazing flame
Shoryuken beats all

Movie star Fei Long
You look a lot like Bruce Lee
Your Kung-Fu is Strong

Blue giant T.Hawk
Fights for his native people
No one seems to care

Street Fighter Four's Seth
The final boss of the game
Annoying bastard

The main hero Ryu
Learning to control Hado
"Shinku Hadoken!"

Lady with large thighs
Kicking combo queen Chun-Li
Cute victory dance

American Guile
Is tracking down M.Bison
Throw a "SONIC BOOM!"

British spy Cammy
Spiral Arrow hits from far
Strange uniform choice

True boss Akuma
Fell to his killing intent
“Shun Goku Satsu”

The king of taunts Dan
Your Gadouken makes me laugh
Saikyo-ryu for life!

Green monster Blanka
Like an eel you shock your foes
Mash button to win

Self taught Sakura
A Japanese School Girl
Ryu's biggest fan

Pacifist Dhalsim
Limbs stretch and bend with Yoga
One skinny fellow

Grappler Zangief
“Final Atomic Buster”
Russian Red Cyclone

Wrestler El Fuerte
High flying luchador moves
Also likes to cook

Sumo E.Honda
Can move fast for a big guy
Fights in a bath house

That's all for this contest, folks. Keep you eyes open for the next one, in which I'll give away a scratched Gin Blossoms CD and a desiccant packet I found in my clothes hamper.

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