The X Button War of the Gems
by Todd Ciolek,
There were a few interesting things at the New York Comic Con, but most striking was the dedication of a Mega Man Legends 3 cadre. As you probably know, Capcom canned the 3DS game earlier this year. As you also probably know, this upset a great number of fans. While there's debate over whether or not the game lived up to the previous Legends titles (one playtester said it did, one anonymous Capcom employee said it didn't), there's a vociferous group of fans who want Legends 3 back on track. And they landed a booth at the New York Comic Con for the purpose of drumming up support for the game. They also had attendees draw Legends characters on a banner that they then presented to Community Manager Seth Killian at the Capcom booth.
There's a video of the presentation here, and in my opinion it highlights both the right and wrong ways to convey fan demand to a company. While the banner and the booth were good ideas, the whole flash-mob seems a touch obnoxious in their approach, considering how unlikely it is that anyone at the Capcom booth had a hand in canceling Legends 3. That was decided by Capcom's higher-ups, and they likely wouldn't be caught dead at a comic convention.
STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN GETS GEMS, MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3 GETS CARDS, FANS GET ANGRY
Capcom had unexpectedly controversial news regarding Street Fighter X Tekken: a gem-based system of power-ups that change character abilities. Before a match, players can select up to five gems from five different classes. Red gems affect attack power, yellow affects defense, green affects speed, blue affects the cross gauge, and purple affects assist moves from a partner. The gems vary in their specific uses: some boost one attribute, while others enable specific moves such as auto-blocking. Whatever the effect, gems don't activate until the player meets certain requirements during the match—and those requirements vary as well.
It sounds like a fun little extra, and it certainly sets Street Fighter X Tekken apart from either of the two franchises it draws upon. The problem? Gems are reportedly not a mere extra. They're an integral part of the game, and Street Fighter head honcho Yoshinori Ono strongly suggested that gems can't be turned off. And this will play hell with those folks who take their fighting games seriously in any way. The game will apparently include many, many different gems, and the varying five-jewel combinations complicate everything in ways that fighters usually aren't complicated. Gems will also be available in packs, and only pre-orders can get a special bonus set of gems.
Capcom hasn't yet said if the gems will be paid downloads or not, but many are are worried that this will become a fighter where players essentially pay to be better instead of learning the game. It's evidently intended to make the game more accessible to casual players, but I think it misses the point. If anything, casual players (the ones who've never touched a fighter before) are put off by Street Fighter's special moves and controller motions; the learning curve in terms of overall difficulty really isn't that bad.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 takes a similar route with its “Heroes vs Heralds” mode, in which players amass collections of cards featuring Capcom and Marvel characters (ranging from the Juggernaut and Mandarin to Cyberbots' Jin Saotome and Star Gladiator's June). Each card has a different effect on gameplay, and some of the more elaborate ones hide the players' life bars, grant immunity to projectiles, or enable Street Fighter III-style parrying. Capcom's promising over 100 cards in the game.
This has stirred up less fan ire, and for good reason: it's a bonus mode, available as a download not long after Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 ships next month. It breaks the game in all sorts of ways, but in no way does it influence the central Ultiimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 experience.
Aside from properly unveiling Iron Fist and Phoenix Wright, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also showed off some new stages, and one is the game's most clever backdrop yet. It recreates the famous (in comic-book circles, anyway) cover from X-Men's Days of Future Past storyline, where a poster classified numerous X-Men as “Slain” or “Apprehended.” The in-game poster, however, has characters from Marvel vs. Capcom 2 who didn't make it into the sequel. It's an amusing touch, even if it's depressing to think of the adorable cactus-man Amingo meeting his end in some dark future. Also note that one character's mugshot isn't covered. I suppose it'd be a bit cruel to cross off Mega Man after Capcom canned two of his games.
CODE OF PRINCESS BUILDS BRAWLER FROM ART, TOYS
Kinu Nishimura is perhaps best known for her work on Street Fighter, Cyberbots, and other Capcom games, but she's done plenty as an independent artist. She designed the cast of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, and Agatsuma Entertainment plans to make Code of Princess, a 3DS brawler based on one of Nishimura's drawings and the model it inspired.
Why did Nishimura's art spawn its own beat-'em-up? Well, heroine Solange Blanchefleur de Luxe (on the left up there) isn't wearing much in the armor department. I harp on this sort of thing quite frequently, but look at her; she's practically a parody of the whole idea of under-clad warrior women. Outfitted with only gauntlets and a massive sword, Solange hacks through levels with the help of three other playable characters: the spindly female thief Ali Vava (above right), the zombie-mage Lady Zozo (lower right), and the elven minstrel Allegro Nantabile Cantabile.
Aside from Nishimura's art, there's not much else that stands out in Code of Princess. The small characters and generic enemies aren't particularly impressive, and Agatsuma has done little beyond some kid-level games. Still, the 3DS could use a decent traditional brawler, especially one with decent multiplayer.
Will Code of Princess emerge as the 3DS response to the PlayStation Vita's gorgeous Dragon's Crown? Probably not. But it might fill an oft-neglected niche when it ships in 2012.
SD GUNDAM CAPSULE FIGHTER HEADS TO NORTH AMERICA
Gundam games are thin on the ground on these shores, aside from the Dynasty Warriors Gundam titles. So some Gundam fans might notice when online gaming house OGPlanet adds to this small crop with a North American release of SD Gundam Capsule Fighter, a Korean-made online action game.
First released in 2007, SD Gundam Capsule Fighter revolves around large-scale matches with up to 12 Gundam toys—or at least video-game simulacra of those little Gundam figures you'd get out of vending machines. True to the nature of those machines, players can start off with a randomly generated Gundam mecha and build its levels, and stronger units get fewer lives in the game's battles. It's technically free to play, but you can always buy upgrades and such. OGPlanet's beta for the game starts soon.
INTERVIEW: CAPCOM'S SETH KILLIAN
If there's truly a fighting-game renaissance underway, Capcom's at the heart of it. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 arrives this November, and Street Fighter X Tekken hits in March of next year—all while Super Street Fighter IV chugs along. To find out just what's at the heart of these fighters, we caught up with Seth Killian, Capcom's Community Manager and a fighting-game enthusiast so dedicated that Street Fighter IV's boss was named after him.
Who are you hoping to attract with Street Fighter X Tekken, competitively speaking?
I think it's definitely open to fans of both games. I'm guessing we'll get more Street Fighter fans than Tekken people, but hopefully the Tekken guys will check it out as well. Beyond that, as far as casual versus hardcore goes, I'd say it's a little looser than Street Fighter so it's a little easier to get into, because of the presence of chain combos. But in all of the games, even in Marvel, the strategy gets thick pretty fast.
And the gems are part of the strategy?
Once we start to show the full scope of that, you'll see their possibilities. There are gems that will be helpful to new players. For things like the auto-block gem, I don't see any experienced players using it. But for inexperienced players, that would be a strong one. For more experienced players, stacking the gems creates a huge layer of depth, not only because your character is customized—maybe your Ken Masters is faster while mine hits harder. But also because the gems don't just power you up automatically. They all have activation conditions. So maybe the activation condition for mine is that I have to throw you twice. And now because of that, that allows me some insight into what you might be trying to do next. And that's what the strategy of Street Fighter revolves around.
Will the gems be sold as DLC or unlocked by other means?
The delivery method is still to be determined.
Is there any gem that you really think is more of a game-changer than any other?
There are some interesting gems in there, but it's really more about combinations than any particular gem that's a monster. So I prefer to play speed-up gems—in Magic parlance, I like “speed decks.” As for the gems that have specific powers…they're not my favorites.
You can't comment on any unrevealed fighters, of course, but what about the idea of completely new characters, much like Super Street Fighter IV introduced Juri and Hakan. Are never-before-seen characters out of the question for Street Fighter X Tekken?
Well, we have characters like Poison, who hasn't been playable in a Street Fighter game before. The objective here is not to expand the universes, but to crash them together.
On that note, Street Fighter and Final Fight draw from the same universe. Are there any other franchises that would be fair game for Street Fighter X Tekken? What about the Street Fighter EX games? Or Final Fight Streetwise?
Street Fighter EX lives in a weird legal limbo. Ono-san is a fan of the EX games. I'm not a fan. I think they're good games; I just don't love the characters. Streetwise wasn't my favorite Final Fight, I'll say that.
Does Capcom's US branch own the rights to Final Fight? Are there any plans to do anything more with Final Fight?
I believe it is currently owned by Capcom's U.S. branch, as is Street Fighter itself. We released Final Fight Double Impact last year, and that was pretty successful for us. We know there's interest in the universe, but...nothing right now.
Darkstalkers is still owned by the Japanese branch, right?
Darkstalkers as a series is, I believe, still owned by Capcom of Japan.
About Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, how do you see the cards in the Heroes and Heralds mode affecting the game?
Well, unlike Street Fighter X Tekken, Heroes and Heralds in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a completely separate mode. I'll tell you how they affect things: they make it completely lunatic. So the game is already a crazy game, and with those cards it goes completely mental. Some cards are restrained; you might get a double-jump or an air dash that you didn't have before. And then there are cards that raise the ante with teleporting, invisibility, parrying, and more.
And the cards don't cost extra?
No, it's all free DLC that'll be out post-launch.
You've said you're a big fan of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Who do you miss most from that game?
Well, I played Cable a lot, and he was pretty cheap, so I miss him a little bit. But Amingo and Ruby Heart were always the most insane characters in that game to me, so I'm a little sad. It's easy for me to understand why they didn't make the cut, but at the same time I'm sad that we don't have the dancing cactus anymore.
So the cards are a way to put in characters who weren't included in the main roster?
That's exactly what we've done. There are a lot of characters from the Capcom and Marvel universes, including some personal favorites from myself and the rest of the team that slipped in there. They weren't able to become playable characters, but we did at least create some new art for them with Capcom and Marvel artists. And hopefully, some of the cards' abilities match up with the characters that they're representing.
What favorites of yours are on the cards?
I was hoping to see Multiple Man make the final cut. Even though he's not that cool of a Marvel character, I thought he'd be a lot of fun to design as a fighting-game character. So he's a card.
And what's your favorite power-up card?
Parrying is pretty high for me. The other one I like is making the life bars disappear, because I'm very good at knowing how much damage everything does in the game. Because we tweak it all the time. So that's a big advantage for me over opponents who have no idea what's happening with their life bars.
You're always getting requests for the rosters in both games. What's the most obscure character that someone's suggested?
We had somewhat serious discussions about Beta Ray Bill, the horse-faced guy who borrowed Thor's hammer for a while. But we already have characters like M.O.D.O.K. and Dormammu and Shuma-Gorath, and they're pretty obscure.
And from the Capcom side?
Rouge from Power Stone, given her relative popularity, gets a lot of requests, so that's interesting. There's some love for the Power Stone characters on the cards, but not in the game.
Here's mine: Linn Kurosawa from Alien vs. Predator.
Yeah, Linn Kurosawa is great. I don't know if we own the rights to her because we don't own the rights to Alien vs. Predator, though it's one of my favorite side-scrolling beat-'em-ups.
When it comes to those more obscure Capcom beat-'em-ups, like Battle Circuit and others from the 1990s, are there any plans to bring them to Xbox Live like you did with Final Fight?
The problem is that a lot of those projects are collaborations with other companies, so they're in legal spots. Battle Circuit is completely owned by us. I haven't heard any plans about it, but we like the back catalog, and if there's a fan base that wants to see the games again, we're usually pretty good about obliging.
THIS WEEK'S RELEASES
DRAGON BALL Z ULTIMATE TENKAICHI |
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi was originally known as Dragon Ball Game Project Age 2011, and I think it should've kept the name just to see if anyone noticed. Ultimate Tenkaichi is your annual Dragon Ball Z fighter, once again recreating the consistently popular series with flashy mid-air battles and some impressive cartoonish cell-shaded graphics. The lineup runs over 40 characters, and that's not counting the various forms of Goku, Frieza, Vegeta, and other mainstays. The game's story mode also includes a few towering bosses, and a new “impact break” system allows for players to destroy the scenery around them. Not that Dragon Ball Z was really about detailed scenery, which would've drained the show's budget for grunting and grimacing facial expressions.
Ultimate Tenkaichi presents a free-roaming mode where players can create their own characters and fly around a simulacrum of Dragon Ball Z's world, brawling with series regulars along the way. The options allow for customized appearances and move sets, though the character generator is apparently capable of crafting only male protagonists. This will surely disappoint those fans whose painstakingly imagined “original” Dragon Ball Z characters are women, but perhaps Spike will throw that feature into next year's Dragon Ball Z slugfest.
KIRBY'S RETURN TO DREAM LAND |
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Nintendo of America may ignore Wii games like Xenoblade Chronicles and Pandora's Tower, but they certainly aren't neglecting Kirby. The pink blob is one of Nintendo's own, and he gets two side-scrolling games: the DS title Mass Attack and this Wii offering, which has flitted in out of development since 2005. The title refers to the original Kirby's Dream Land released on the Game Boy in 1992, but Kirby has expanded his repertoire greatly since then. As in his most recent games, he's able to gulp down enemies and either spit them out as projectiles or gain various powers from digesting them. The vaguely unsettling proportions of that idea are brushed aside as Kirby and his comrades help a stranded alien reassemble a starship.
While it's still Kirby's show, Return to Dream Land features a four-player mode that dumps King Dedede, Meta Knight, and Waddle Dee into the side-scrolling stages, where they can help Kirby—often by letting him inhale and spit them at enemies. Kirby's also able to use temporarily overpowered attacks by consuming specific enemies. Failing that, he can swallow multiple enemies and create particularly damaging projectiles in the unholy cauldron of his innards. But he looks so darned cute doing it.
Also Shipping: House of the Dead Overkill: Extended Cut, a PS3 port of the zombie shooter that didn't quite get its due on the Wii. Compatible with the PlayStation Move, the Extended Cut plays up the original's trash-cinema style with two extra stages where the player controls strippers Varla Guns and Candy Stryper. And that sums up the game most ably.
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: Sony PSP
The whole Fate/Something franchise was born as a video game, albeit a text-driven game with limited interaction, and it always comes back home. Fate/Extra is an RPG in the tradition of the dungeon crawler, and it sets itself in a dimension apart from previous Fate/Noun continuities. This doesn't keep it from including familiar characters, though. Players create a male or female Master and join a futuristic high-school's recreation of the Holy Grail War, part of the long-term conflict of Fate/Whatever. They start by summoning Saber, Archer, or Caster and progress to other classes of Servant warriors (most of whom are connected to rather liberal interpretations of historical figures and legends). Other characters, including a new version of Rin Tohsaka, show up as the player navigates the depths of virtual-reality dungeons.
Fate/Extra's battles unfold as guessing games of a sort. Characters attack, defend, or “break” in their standoffs with enemies, and multiple strikes leave a foe particularly vulnerable. A lot of the work takes place outside of combat, as players can investigate the various Servants and their Masters, thus learning how to predict their moves and win the elaborate paper-rock-scissors games of the battle system. True to the original Fate/Stay Night game, Fate/Extra also has multiple paths to tread in its storyline. Relationships invariably unfold among the Servants and their Masters, and the game doesn't limit itself to predictably heterosexual routes. Aksys gives Fate/Extra an uncommonly elaborate release for a late-stage PSP game: there's the cheap downloadable option, a regular retail version for $29.99, and a special package where an additional ten dollars gets you an artbook and a soundtrack.
Platform: Xbox 360
Otomedius is basically Gradius for the modern anime era, which just so happens to be an era of turning decidedly nonsexual things like spaceships and military hardware into big-eyed anime women. So the fighters and bosses of Gradius and other Konami shooters are now hoverships piloted by frill-clad girls. Designed by Sgt. Frog creator Yoshizaki Mine, the heroines represent such series as Twinbee, Lifeforce, and the seldom-mentioned Xexex (which, come to think of it, traded heavily on the “moe” angle). Otomedius is built from 3-D visuals and 2-D gameplay, and the levels span the usual fare of the shooters of yesteryear, ranging from terrestrial cities to deep-space battles.
Despite the cutesy overhaul, Otomedius preserves a lot of the original Gradius. Players upgrade their weapons by either spending power-ups on low-level enhancements or hoarding them for better arms, and level bosses have conveniently glowing energy cores to shoot. Otomedius also has something most Konami shooter don't: a three-player mode. And with nine characters to control, there's a good variety in play mechanics, if not in the way the characters look. Yet for those who appreciate the details of Mine's illustrations, a special edition comes with an artbook, a soundtrack, and a pillowcase. A normal-sized pillowcase, it seems.
SONIC GENERATIONS |
Platform: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC
All right, you know the drill: Sonic fans want a game that returns the hedgehog to his glory days, when his games were speedy platformers with some cleverly arrayed levels. No scenes of Sonic kissing human princesses. No rap numbers about Knuckles and how he doesn't chuckle. No lame new concepts that just dilute what made Sonic fun. Well, Sonic Generations meets those fans halfway by introducing a classic Sonic who doesn't talk. However, Generations is also a tribute to Sonic's full 20-year history, so that classic Sonic races alongside his modern, conversing incarnation through a strange 20th birthday celebration. To that end, the game recreates many stages of past Sonic games, from the original's Green Hill Zone to Sonic Adventure's highway race. The Saturn era is conveniently skipped. Apparently no one had fond memories of Sonic R or Sonic 3D Blast.
The two different versions of Sonic vary mostly in gameplay: present-day Sonic has a homing attack and a boosting maneuver, while the silent Sonic of eras past has a spin dash. Most of Sonic's allies also show up, and they accompany him once they're rescued from level bosses. Those bosses run a similar gamut of old and new. Doctor “Eggman” Robotnik appears in a transforming machine, but players also face Silver and Shadow, both of whom hail from the disastrous 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog. Remember that game? The Sonic game so despised that Sega pulled it from the Xbox 360's Games on Demand service? Well, it was the last anniversary Sonic game. Generations will have a hard time being worse.
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