Monthly Archives: November 2012

Super Smash Brothers Wii U Predictions Part 1

 

 

So the WiiU is out now, so the next though on everyone’s mind is when the new Smash Brothers game will be released.  Therefore, today’s topic is Super Smash Brothers Wii-U, or Super Smash Brothers Universe, or Super Smash Brothers 4, whatever you care to call it so far. By now the word has spread among the masses that NamcoBandai is running the show for the next installment of Smash Brothers, and everyone is wondering what great changes this would bring to the series. The answer, of course, is slim to none.  NamcoBandai may put a different spin on some things, but at the end of the day, this is still Smash Brothers, and that’s something NamcoBandai will inevitably respect.

Considering the announcements are only going to get more revealing, and that I fully anticipate to be proven wrong at the outset of the first trailer, I am composing my predictions for the series, mostly just for fun, but also to show others how an appropriate prediction list is done. I also am pretty certain that I won’t be too far off on these either.

The Rules:

Most of what I say here takes inspiration from what characters were chosen in previous installments, as well as how their eligibility was determined. I came up with this list by delving into the mind of Sakurai and other Nintendo executives to come up with a scenario that would make sense in their minds. To summarize, this list is looking at Nintendo exclusive characters, and determine who made strong impressions or had an impact this console cycle (console cycle being defined as Wii + late DS + early 3DS era games).  For any third party characters, they had to have at least one game on a Nintendo platform to qualify.

 

Features:

To start with, I should mention one particular feature that I think will show up in this game too – alternate outfits. Super Smash Bros. Brawl did feature alternate costumes of sorts – Wario’s traditional outfit, starting a match as Zero-suit Samus, and starting as Shiek to name a few examples. However, alternate outfits have become more of a main stay in fighting games, which is why I think they will play a much larger role in the newest installment. All characters will get an alternate costume of some sort, which will also eliminate a number of characters from the roster. This also heavily influences some of my opinions on the roster, since with this system in place, a number of “clone characters” serve little to no purpose in the new installment.

 

Therefore, to kick this list off, I will begin with the more controversial part of the list –

 

Character Cuts:

 

Toon Link

First on the chopping block is Toon Link. Toon Link/Young Link are the characters most like their non-clone counterparts. Thus, I don’t think they’ll survive as anything other than an alternate costume. Having two versions of Link adds very little to the cast, and honestly the Toon version of Link hasn’t been as active since the Wii/ 3DS came out. In essence, this character is stepping out to allow more room for another, more unique Zelda character.

 

Pokemon Trainer

To clarify, I don’t think Pokemon Trainer was a bad character. He was an interesting experiment, and addition to the cast. I also think that another character like this is certainly a possibility. However, Pokemon Trainer, as he is presented in Brawl – with Charizard, Ivysaur, and Squirtle – will not be returning. With Jigglypuff and Pikachu in the roster, Pokemon Trainer’s other 3 pokemon bring the ratio of 1st generation Pokemon to later generations a whopping 6 to 1, which isn’t as appropriate for what I consider this console cycle’s fore-running series. Again, we may still see a Pokemon Trainer, but not the same team used in Brawl.

 

Lucas (or Ness)

Much like Link is to Toon Link, there is only a mild distinction between Lucas and Ness. PK Thunder and PK Love aside, there aren’t many good reasons to keep them as distinct characters, but plenty of reasons to the contrary. The hardest evidence is that fact that Lucas, despite his appearance, never came overseas. The Mother series, save for Earthbound, is still a Japan-only franchise, and a franchise that has not seen any sequels lately I might add. For these reasons, I think Lucas will likely be regulated to an alternate costume. However, I can still see them throwing a curve-ball and regulating Ness to an alternate outfit instead, which is why I list him as well. Either way, Mother/Earthbound will be down to one representative this outing.

 

Snake

Of the two third party representatives of the game, Snake is the least likely to return. Snake was let into Brawl, because Kojima specially asked, and because he had a rerelease of the first to Metal Gear Solid titles on the Gamecube. This console cycle, however, Snake has been almost exclusively Sony. I have entertained the idea of a character from Advance Wars taking his moveset and just removing the Metal Gear related idioms with something else, but that doesn’t seem very likely to me. We’ll likely be getting a completely different character, hailing from a different company.

 

Sonic

Probably the most tentative character on this list, as his inclusion is really up in the air. If Sega is still doing okay by the time the game is well into development, or if Nintendo just up and buys them out, he has a good chance. His appearances with Mario in the Olympics games do nothing but cement that idea. However, if things go poorly, and Sega gets bought out by some other company his chances are rather slim. Sega has been nestling up to TecmoKoei lately (see Akira and Sarah in DOA), so a merger/buyout with them could lead to interesting possibilities.

 

Image

Now that the bad news is out of the way, let’s move on to what everyone wants to know. Note that I am fairly confident with the numbers in terms of character slots, though I’ll admit that some of my specific choices may be a tad off. I’ll explain further below. So now, the whose-who of Smash 4’s newcomers:

Character additions:

Toads from Super Mario Brothers Wii

I’m not going to make any friends with this one, but this is just the type of character(s) that come into this series. While they would not be the most popular characters to be sure, I can easily see them adopting a style similar to the Ice Climbers, but with their special moves playing off the “coopetitive” nature of the game they hail from. This is the type of characters that Sakurai and the Smash Brothers team eat up because the of the odd, quirky things you can do with it. The fact that they are hated by a good portion of the fanbase, I think just adds fuel to the fire for their inclusion as well. For these reasons, I’d say these guys are practically shoe-ins.

Midna from Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess

There aren’t a lot of recurring characters in the Zelda franchise, and the ones there are already exist as playable characters in Smash. While Midna has yet to show up in anything other than Twilight Princess, Link has only had a couple outings this cycle (and one was a remake). Midna represents one of the draws of the Zelda franchise that isn’t completely represented in the Smash games yet – interesting and engaging secondary or tertiary characters. Particularly in games that Zelda or Ganon don’t participate much, Link has to rely on, or fight against some interesting and dynamic characters. Midna is also rather unique to the series, being one of the few characters with a very deep arc and backstory to them, making her an excellent and deserved addition in my eyes.

Prince Fluff from Kirby’s Epic Yarn

The newest character addition to the Kirby franchise, and a playable character at that. Prince Fluff is the ruler of Patch Land, which Kirby visits in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Again this is a kind of character the Smash team looks for. Fluff would use his yarn powers to pull, push, and transform much as he and Kirby do in Patchland as his moveset, making for a fun and quirky character that is very different from other competitors. The other possibility is either the bandana’ed Waddle Dee from Return to Dreamland, or a Yarn version of Kirby. Prince Fluff’s selection makes sense, but I have a great fear that we might get Yarn Kirby instead.

Matthew (or Issaac, Felix) from Golden Sun

An assist trophy that should go full character, while some of the other Nintendo series have floundered, Golden Sun released two games since Brawl (one for the GBA and another for the DS). The series and characters are unique and interesting, and it’s one of the few Nintendo RPGs that has had a run this past console cycle aside from Pokemon. That should be reason enough to keep up the hope that Matthew (or either of his predecessors) makes it into the game – and is certainly reason enough for the series to get more spotlight.

Little Mac from Punch-Out

The third in my assist trophy trilogy, Little Mac seems like he was a great addition to the fighting game long ago, but his lack of recent activity hurt him somewhat. Mac saw a resurgence though, with a new Punch-Out title, likely helped by the success of Wii Sports’ boxing mode. Again, when choosing new and uprising franchises to the new game, this rags-to-riches story is one that belongs in the epitome of Smash history.

2 third party characters

As I stated above, it’s entirely possible that the other third party characters will likely get replaced. I almost hazard at a guess, but this is very difficult to say. Based on the fact that NamcoBandai will be spearheading this installment, they seem the likely contributors to this cause. Presuming we’re running on Sakurai’s old ruleset – that they must have originated in video games, and they had to be on a Nintendo system – the Tekken characters are actually not very likely to appear. This means however, Pac-Man is as easy as in, and characters like Nightmare or Mitsurugi certainly have a shot.

That wraps up part 1. Who else will show up in the game? Who else will be cast to the wayside following Brawl? Find out in part 2.

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Musou Missives Episode 1: Ma Chao

Welcome to Musou Missives, where I will take an in depth look at a character from the game Warriors Orochi 3 and give them an analysis of their strengths and weakness.  The goal is to give a thorough understanding of the character and how one can expect them to perform at high level difficulty play, as well as provide thoughts on synergy with other characters in the game.

To start with we will be discussing one of the first available characters in the game — Ma Chao.

Ma Chao hails from the Three Kingdoms era of China, and has been featured in every Dynasty Warriors game since Dynasty Warriors 2, and naturally the entirety of the Orochi series. Often compared to Lu Bu for his ferocity, Ma Chao’s historical claim to fame was his leadership in an assault against Cao Cao’s capital. However, they were eventually defeated at Tong Gate. In his later years, Ma Chao would join the forces of Shu under Liu Bei and become one of the Five Tiger Generals of Shu.

In the history of Orochi, not much has changed for Ma Chao. It seems he has maintained both his fiery disposition and leadership capabilities, by being able to band together a small force under the chaos created by Orochi. Remaining too, are his hatred of Cao Cao and thirst for vengeance, things he may need to learn to overcome once the Hydra presents itself.

Ma Chao is one of the three “heroes” of this game, and one of three characters you can play as at the start. Naturally, you would expect Ma Chao to be a fairly balanced character given this position, and that’s true for the most part. So, without further ado, let’s see what makes Ma Chao the Splendid so splendid.

Normals and Charge attacks

To begin, I want to clarify a piece of terminology I will be using to save us some time when discussing combo chains in Musou Missives.  Since a combo chain is made up of only two basic moves — normal and charge — I will be referring to the chains based on where they end.  For instance, a normal combo is just normal attack times 6 (or X,X,X,X,X, and X).  A charge 2 combo is a two attack combo ending in charge (X,Y).  A charge 5 is a five attack combo that ends with a charge attack (X,X,X,X,Y).  I find this simplifies talking about these combo chains by eliminating having to explain the entire chain every time.

Now, without futher ado, We will take a look at Ma Chao’s combos and moveset.  Like most Dynasty characters in this installment, Ma Chao’s moveset is derived from a weapon moveset in Dynasty Warriors 7 – in particular the spear moveset. It has been modified however to include a couple different attacks.

Starting from the top, Ma Chao’s normal attacks hit primarily in a cone in front of him. This means that the further from Ma Chao and closer to the tip of his spear, the more enemies get caught in the attack. However, it means that enemies directly to either side or behind Ma Chao tend to get away unscathed.

To combat this, Ma Chao can use some of his charge attacks, but even those have limited use in that regard. Ma Chao’s regular charge attack seems like a decent area-of-effect attack, as he swings around on his planted spear,giving those near him the boot. The hit and attack blocks on this attack seem bit off, however,  as it’s very easy to get hit out of. Even pulling it off successfully leaves Ma Chao vulnerable afterward unless timed properly for a switch combo.

The other area-of-effect attack is Ma Chao’s charge 5 attack, which summons a wind gust about him, knocking everyone around him upward. Unfortunately, the range on this attack is extremely limited, at least compared to his other attacks, so while it may get people out of Ma Chao’s grill, it doesn’t clear the room very effectively.

This leaves his charge 6 which is the only really good AoE that he has. Ma Chao swings his spear about him, knocking away anyone in range. It has a bit of start-up, but the only real problem with this one is that it is too deep in his combo tree to spam at all. It’s best used as more of a preventative measure than trying to pull it off when you’re already wadding in minions.

The only attack I can recommend when surrounded is going for Ma Chao’s EX attack, which is performed by hitting the charge button just as his charge 3 finishes. Ma Chao’s charge 3 stabs an opponent with the spear before finishing with a swipe to dizzy anyone in range. Mashing the charge attack button adds more attacks to the stab portion of the attack before the EX is performed. The added attack portion, however, leaves Ma Chao well in the open for an attack. Therefore, it’s important to time charge button presses so that you don’t get the added attacks, but still get the EX afterward to get out of a messy situation.  The EX attack has Ma Chao leaping forward, hitting all enemies in a certain range in front of him, and to either side as he moves forward. This helps Ma Chao move out of the situation quickly, and get back into a more advantageous position.

As far as his other charge attacks, I use his charge 2 and 3 for enemy officers for the most part. The charge 2 is a throw that ends in a shockwave that will knock away minions which is good for block-crazy officers at higher difficulties. As stated before, his charge 3 attack can be mashed for added damage as well.

His charge 4 is a projectile that comes out of the tip of a spear thrust. This has limited use, but good for oncoming enemy hordes. In fact, that description is pretty much Ma Chao’s basic moveset in a nutshell. Ma Chao performs well against approaching or retreating enemy forces. He performs fairly well against most enemy types and officers. His major flaw is a lack of options when surrounded.

Special and Musou attack

Ma Chao uses his second Musou from Dynasty Warriors 7. The move has Ma Chao swipe his spear upwards, trapping a particular opponent and then performing a two-footed charge kick, dealing damage to his target and damage to anyone around him as well. This move is what I refer to as a ‘Throw Musou,’ which were introduced in Dynasty Warriors 7. Throw attacks and throw musous are basically attacks that go off, but will not complete the animation (and usually not deal damage) unless it latches onto an enemy during the start up animation. Ma Chao’s musou has the properties most other throw musous with notable differences.

Let’s take Wang Yi’s Musou for an example on how most throw Musou attacks work. During and shortly after the musou flash showing her face, she has a short period of time where she can change her trajectory to pinpoint a particular target, or at least redirect herself to an area where she can grab a more important target. Most throw Musou’s have this attribute. Ma Chao’s does not. Instead, you must make sure before you hit the button to Musou attack that Ma Chao’s target is directly in front of him and within range of the attack. Being slight off center, or too far from Ma Chao will result in either grabbing the wrong target – which will still deal damage, just not as much – or completely ‘whiffing’ the attack – the attack not going off and leaving Ma Chao open to an attack from enemies. It’s a bit of a risk trying to pull off his Musou, and more often than not, I just prefer not to use it unless my options are low.

It would be a blessing then that all characters in Orochi 3 have a special attack which expends their musou meter as well, however, this too has limited use for Ma Chao. His special attack has him planting his spear into the ground and performing a thrust kick into a group of enemies – similar to his EX attack, but the range is much shorter. Damage from this is decent and moves Ma Chao forward. However, it has too much of a start up animation to combo into very well, and leaves Ma Chao with few follow-up options as the enemies are falling away from him afterward. It cost little of his Musou meter to perform, and does put him in a decent position for a tag-out to another teammate. If timed correctly, it can also be switch-canceled, one of it’s few saving graces.

Overall, Ma Chao doesn’t benefit much from his Musou based attacks, and will likely have a full bar and nothing to do with it more often than not.

Class

Ma Chao is classified as a Speed character, and being the first of the lot that you obtain, he’s fairly representative of the idea. He is more mobile and his attacks come out quicker than some characters in the cast, though he doesn’t necessarily deal more damage. As a speed character, he can air dash while jumping by hitting the ‘jump’ button a second time. He can also press ‘jump’ to cancel the animation of an attack during a combo.

This is what makes Ma Chao so much more versatile and balanced in spite of the flaws in his normal and charge combos and otherwise lackluster Musou usage. While other characters just have to deal with it, Ma Chao can interrupt his combo with a jump to get out of a bad situation at a moments notice.

Recommended Weapon Fusion Abilities

Of the many abilities that you can equip to weapons, there are a few stand-outs for Ma Chao once you take his strengths and weaknesses into account. Any of the elemental abilities are helpful, but Wind makes charge attacks unblockable, in turn making some of Ma Chao’s weaker charge attacks far more dangerous. He also can benefit from Ice, even though it’s not totally reliable, it can help build more combos.

Brawn and Might can help Ma Chao’s normal and charge attack power respectively. Slay and Courage is also good to increase damage to officers. Destruction and Frenzy really don’t help Ma Chao much, as these only improve the damage to his otherwise poor Musou options.

Some other good options are Absorption, when paired with his Team ability Stamina is quite potent. Reach, Celerity, and Cavalier are good but dependent on playstyle. While Ma Chao’s attacks start out pretty fast, most any character benefits from Agility as well.

Recommended Teams

Ma Chao’s team skill is Stamina, which is interesting ability to build around. While technically a defensive skill, granting health restoration every 100 KO’s, it’s an ability that relies on there being some kind of offense. Much like a vampire, you can’t suck blood until you bite, so Ma Chao works very well as an addition to an otherwise offense and damage heavy team. There are other strategies to this build however, which I will get into below.

Ma Chao, Sima Zhao, Hanbei Takenaka – This team is the first one you are given, and after having played with it awhile, it serves as a good introductory team, as each covers each other’s weaknesses well. Bringing out Hanbei Takenaka to knock away surrounding hordes, or bringing Sima Zhao to cover all angles and blow enemies away with his Musou attack, which balances well with Ma Chao’s otherwise straight forward approach. While this team is not very creative, it was made as a default team for a reason.

Ma Chao, Pang De, and Ma Dai – Another team recommended in one of Ma Chao’s early stages, it serves him pretty well. Pang De has the reach and area-of-effect range that Ma Chao lacks, and as a power character can simply charge through archers without flinching. Ma Dai is a tricky character to learn, but good use of his brush can make a battlefield dangerous for just about any enemy type or officer. Ma Dai’s Trinity ability also helps to build your combo gauge so you can use your team triple attack move often.

Ma Chao, Sima Yi, and Mitsunari Ishida – This is a different take on the Stamina power by pairing it with Sima Yi’s Recovery power, making this a healing team. Since the premise of this team is being able not only to recover after dealing damage to foes, but allows you to recover while any character is inactive as well. Sima Yi and Ma Chao work surprisingly well together, with Sima Yi’s EX, charge 4, and Musou covering any and all area-of-effect needs. Mitsunari’s moveset is not as strong, however, and needs the other two for good long switch combos, and a chance to use his area-of-effect special attack.

Ma Chao, Wang Yi, and Zhou Tai – A modified version of a team I use already, Ma Chao actually works really well in combination with Wang Yi, who carries a lot of rush-down attacks and area-of-effect attacks in her arsenal. Zhou Tai serves as good backup against enemy officers or against Ogre type officers like Gyuki.

Ma Chao, while having some glaring flaws, is balanced out by having some strong EX, normals, and charge attacks and the ability to cancel out of a bad situation. He’s a character that, I admit, I wasn’t all that excited about, but came to enjoy through the course of this article.

Next time, I explore new territory as one of the leaders of the newest faction from Dynasty Warriors 7.

If you have any suggestions for future installments, or opinions on the format of this series let me know in the comments.

*I do not own Warriors Orochi or any other Tecmo-Koei product in this article, only the pleasure of playing with them.

Warriors Pick the President

While having trouble sleeping and the presidential race on my mind, I decided it was time to let Obama and Romney duke it out in one last arena — Warriors Orochi 3.

The setup was simple, choose characters that match the candidates and their support structures.  Each will then compete in a single randomly selected stage. Each team gets a point for each 100 KO’s they have at the end, and a point for each mission completed at the end of the stage.  Most points wins.  This was done in a series of three rounds.

The randomly selected stage was the “Battle of Xu Chang – Redux” which was oddly appropriate for a match up of potential world leaders.  The battle involves breaking into Xu Chang castle, and then avoiding detection while rescuing Nene, Xing Cai, and Oichi.  Then the team must face the wrath of Dong Zhuo and any officers that were not alerted during the rescue.  Finally, the stage culminates in chasing down and capturing Shuten Doji.  The stage gives them a wide array of tasks, well suited to a test of presidential proportions.

So with that let’s meet the candidates:

Barack Obama– represented by Zhuge Liang

To play the president, I picked a character who shares his personality traits and flaws in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the brilliant strategist Zhuge Liang.  Zhuge Liang was an excellent strategist, well educated, well versed, and ruled the Kingdom of Shu as Prime Minister well until his death due to illness.  He was extremely intelligent, but came off a bit pompous at times.  He also wasn’t very good at planning for the future.  Rather than obey his passing lord’s dying wish of taking the throne of Shu for himself, he remained in the position of Prime Minister while an addle-minded Liu Shan took the throne, and would eventually surround himself with corruption that would bring the entire kingdom to it’s knees.  Also, while in the Warriors series Jiang Wei is always painted as Zhuge’s prodigy, in the book Zhuge did little to prepare Jiang Wei for the hard times ahead, giving him his book of strategies, and that’s about it.

Mitt Romney — represented by Yuan Shao

Yuan Shao was a bold leader in the early days of the Three Kingdoms era.  It was under his banner that the feuding Later Han leaders banded under to stop Dong Zhuo who had made a mockery of their government.  He showed plenty of ambition in the following years, and was not lacking in strength.  Yuan Shao, and his sons that followed him, however, all suffered from a pretty big flaw — pride.  Particularly, the Yuans had a great amount of pride in their lineage and only hired and promoted those who were from well-to-do families.  They were so mired in nepotism and dated politics that a leader like Cao Cao (who made thieves and thugs into strategists and bodyguards) was able to over power Yuan Shao’s forces rather easily.

So without further ado, on with the show:

Round 1:

We gave the President the honor of starting the first round, choosing his team of Zhuge Liang, Yue Ying (Zhuge’s wife), and Wei Yan (a prominent officer of his day).  They did incredibly well, scoring well over 700 kills, which would have completed the missions for that stage.  However, they failed to capture Shuten Doji, which meant the stage ended in defeat.  Since all the missions require the stage to be a victory, the president lost the points for any missions, and only got the score for KO’s, which would be 7.

Governor Romney’s team consisted of Yuan Shao, Zhang He (prominent officer), and Zhen Ji (fiancee to one of his sons before Cao Pi came and stole her later on).  This team did manage to capture Suten Doji and complete all the missions with over 600 KOs, which gave Romeny the lead of 11 points.

Round 2:

Round 2 we mixed it up a bit with characters that represented the range of people within their party.  Governor Romney was given the lead on this one with two Samurai companions.  Yoshimoto Imagawa represents the republicans in the past year that have shown to be out-of-touch or just ignorant of how the world around them is changing.  Nobunaga Oda was chosen to represent the republicans who seem ruthless and unfeeling, yet are driven to move them forward.  This team did well, until they had to face the onslaught of Dong Zhuo, and were slaughtered.  Having ended prematurely, Romney gained only 3 points from the 300 KOs before his team’s unfortunate demise.

Mr. President went next with a new team as well.  His first addition was Ranmaru Mori, who is well known for being a cross-dresser, representative of Democrats who want to force upon us these new ideas of sexuality and family.  My second choice was Masamune Date for his strength of character but lack of reverence for religion and spirituality, but he admittedly was much higher level than any other the characters used in this competition so far, so instead I replaced him with Sasaki Kojiro to even the field a bit.  This time the President cleared the stage with 500 KOs, but alerted the gaurds during the rescue phase, and only managed to complete 1 of the 6 other missions.Therefore, he only recouped 6 points.

Round 3:

Round three used the best teams of the previous rounds (i.e. the ones that actually got through the stage).  Mr. President went first with Sasaki Kojiro and Ranmaru Mori, and did the same as before.  They completed the stage with over 500 KOs, but only completed 2 missions, and so only got 7 points.

Governor Romney went back to the effective team of Zhang He and Zhen Ji, and completed the stage with 600 KOs and all missions completed, adding another 12 points.
Verdict:

Romney/Yuan 26 – Obama/Zhuge 20

So it looks like the world of Warriors Orochi 3 has chosen Yuan Shao… er… Governor Romney as the next President of the United States.

Good Luck to both real candidates.  Go vote!  And God Bless!