Monthly Archives: December 2012

Top 10 Video Game Opening Sequences

 

 

In the world of video games, the one thing we either love or loathe is intro and opening sequences. A bad one just makes us want to hit the start button to get right to playing. A horrible one means we can’t hit that start button fast enough. A good one though will not only make us not mash start until things start happening, but actually will get us into the right mood, the right mindset for the game experience we’re about to partake. These are the good ones, and the ones we carry with us as we continue to play, and maybe even after we’ve put the controller down.

 

So important is it to make a solid opening sequence, that’s it’s only right to countdown the top ten openings in the gaming world, or at least the ones I’m aware of. This is my personal list composed of the top ten openings of games that I have played over the years. It may not be my forever and ever list, but it is my list up to this point.

 

My criteria for this list can be described with a few honorable mentions. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars has a pretty good opening — introducing the characters and gives you a good idea of what is going on in the game in terms of visuals and effects. It ended up not making the top 10, because it tends to drag and at nearly 5 minutes long, it unfortunately will get skipped more often than not.

 

Another honorable mention is Killer Instinct Gold. Killer Instinct Gold has a great soundtrack, it’s opening track being the greatest among them. It also gets you pumped and ready to face down a bunch of opponents. However, Killer Instinct Gold cuts to character data and gameplay demos too early into the song, and doesn’t allow you to get your fill of the opening theme in one go.

 

The last honorable mention here is Street Fighter X Tekken. This opening does have strengths Super Mario RPG and Killer Instinct Gold had. The music is good and gets you pumped to get into the action. It introduces many of the characters and settings. It also shows some pretty awesome visuals; however, it suffers from the problem of feeling very disjointed. The music doesn’t really go well with what is on screen – which is not surprising as all the footage is taken from various trailers. In addtion, the song also has little to do with the game itself, which is another point against it that knocked it from the list.

 

So, the openings on this list have to fulfill the following criteria. They must to get you into the proper mindset to play, whatever that may be. They must introduce something about the game – for example, characters, setting, etc. They must keep your attention, but not overstay their welcome. So, without futher ado…

 

 

The Top 10 Video Game Opening Sequences

 

 

10) Turtles in Time arcade

 

An indulgent choice on my part, but it serves a great promo for an arcade. Being that this released in the 90’s when arcade cabinets were starting to go the way of the dodo, it needed some pizazz to attract customers to come over and play it. The opening borrows from the Ninja Turtles first movie promo, with the name scrolling in big letters. It shows images of the turtles doing things you expect them to be doing in a big arcade beat-em-up – fighting foot soldiers and munching on pizza. “Pizza Power” plays as the title theme for the arcade machine, which was an interesting cross-promotion for the concert series they did as well. Overall, it just screams commercialism, but it’s so well well crafted for such a short intro, it deserves some respect.

 

9) Donkey Kong Country

 

Anyone who played the game, knows this one by heart. It was the first time many of use remember seeing the Rare icon, and it’s played with just as much fanfare as the title. The intro proper has Cranky Kong (the original Donkey Kong according to lore) and the classic scaffolding being shoved aside by the new, hip Donkey Kong and his jungle set. It illustrates Rare’s goal to bring a new and fresh take on Donkey Kong, and it inevitably changed the series forever. It doesn’t really tell much about the game otherwise, but for most part it didn’t really need to.

 

8) Gitarooman

 

A gem that went over-looked at it’s release. Coming from the makers of the Dynasty Warriors series, this was by far one of the most challenging rhythm games during the Playstation 2 life span. It had some awesome music, and the title song “Soft Machine” is no exception. The opening shows us a little of what the game is about, introducing the characters, music, and some of the themes of the game as well. If you play the game, and go back to watch the opening, there is just so much more that you pick up on.

 

This one would have made it much higher on the list, if not for a couple of snags. One is that it does go on bit longer than most of those in the top five. Also, “Soft Machine” while a good song, is nowhere near the best song on the game’s soundtrack. I’d likely skip this to jump into one of my favorite stages from the game than watch the opening all the way through.

 

7) Dynasty Warriors 7

 

Given the other topics I’ve spoken of here, it’s no surprise that one of the Warriors games made it to the list. Dynasty Warriors 7 doesn’t do anything too out of the ordinary in terms of visuals – Zhao Yun beating up a bunch of guys is nothing new for him. However, it is full of nods for those who are familiar with the series.

 

To begin with, this is first game in the main series since Dynasty Warriors 2 to not use another version of Lu Bu’s theme as the opening track. Also, much like Dynasty Warriors 2’s opening, Zhao Yun is shown here picking up and carrying baby Liu Shan to safety. In addition, it also tries to incorporate new aspects of the game, like Zhao Yun switching weapons throughout the fight.

 

The last few seconds are what stick with you, as the main theme proper finally plays as Xiahou Dun and Zhao Yun clash on the bridge. This main theme will come up periodically in other songs as you play through the game, linking the opening to the rest of the game in a way none of the other games on this list do.

 

It’s major flaw is being a tad on the ridiculous side (though Dynasty Warriors 6 is far worse in this regard), and it definitely loses a lot of it’s weight for those new to the series. Still, it shows the game is firmly planting itself in the series’ past, while trying to expand to the future.

 

6) Megaman X4

 

Just about everyone would put Megaman 2’s opening on a list like this, and I probably would too, but I don’t really have that much of a history with Megaman 2. No, my Megaman was Megaman X. So, my Megaman opening is Megaman X4.

 

The first anime-style opening I’d seen in a game at the time, it was also an anomaly when CGI was becoming so popular in American culture. The game was full of fun and interesting characters, and many of them were first introduced to you in this short opening video. The music was also an awesome rock-n-roll theme that suited the series namesake (Rockman).

 

When I was playing this regularly, I could not get enough of this opening. Even though I don’t think it has aged very well today, I still get goosebumps watching it, and makes me want to jump in and blow things up.

 

5) BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger

 

This one is a bit of an anomally on this list. When I first set out making this list, I didn’t really think of this one until very late, and it started fairly low on the list. After listening to the theme and watching and rewatching it, it has managed to claw it’s way into the top five.

 

The factors that turned me off about it was the song, which I’m still not very fond of. However, when I thought on my judging criteria, I realized that this opening fulfilled most of them very well. The visuals flow with the sound well. It introduces pretty much the entire cast, as well as gives you a glimpse of their stages, which you fight them in. It then shifts into gear, with the various characters fighting it out as the song picks up. It does everything very well, but still doesn’t quite hit the mark needed to pull it ahead of the other four on this list.

 

4) Devil Kings

 

If you want to get pumped, Devil Kings is the opening to do it. It’s loud. It’s bright. It’s fast. The music alone gets me in the mood to pull out the game and bust a few heads. It starts up slow, giving you a text scroll describing the land being in chaos, and then it throws you into the hyper-charged fury of Azure Dragon and Scorpio tearing up a battlefield. It doesn’t just show these two, though, as it introduces a good portion of the cast, before ending on the ultimate goal – the Devil King himself.

 

The opening is still a bit long, but unlike most longer openings, it never makes you feel like it, as it’s always introducing something new. This was my benchmark for what an opening should be like. Thankfully, I remembered three that managed to surpass it.

 

3) Mischief Makers

 

This one is interesting, as I had to embed the 60fps version of this opening to get it to load the way I remembered. That’s right, an emulator just doesn’t cut it for Mischief Maker’s opening. The opening is fairly short, but it says so much in that amount of time. It shows you the heroine, Marina Lightyears, and her relationship with the lecherous Professor Theo. It introduces the villains, as well as the various grunts. It even shows you the main mechanic of the game – grabbing and throwing things. For such a short and sweet little intro, it packs everything neatly into it’s little package. The music is light-hearted, yet exciting, fitting with the tone of the rest of the game as well. There is so much this little game had to offer, I couldn’t help but recognize it.

 

2) Soul Calibur 2

 

This opening does everything I expected, and just a little more. It shows off nearly the entire roster, while giving you some idea who they are. It shows a number of different fight locales. The music not only matches the opening, but shifts to match the tone of what’s on screen. The movie also never feels as long as it actually is either. Why does this get so much higher on the list then?

 

Simple, it gives you the plot as well. Unlike Devil Kings or BlazBlue, this opening takes the time to even show you what everyone is fighting over – the pieces of Soul Edge that the characters are finding throughout the opening. It’s the first, and possibly only fighting game opening that explains it’s story without a single word spoken or sung.

 

So what can top an opening that says so much with an opening movie? Prepare yourself, because I’m about to blow your mind.

 

 

1) Fallout 3

 

What? But it’s just a title screen and music playing behind it. How is that a good opening? While Fallout 3’s opening isn’t going to appeal to anyone looking to get psyched for the next big battle, that’s not what Fallout is about. Fallout puts you into a 1950’s nightmare of a radioactive wasteland and asks you to survive. Everything you need to know about the setting of the game is told with only a few short screen crawls and few short foreboding notes. The start screen has a character in a gas mask staring you down, effectively asking you if you think you’re ready for this. It sets the mood and tone of the game, allowing you to immerse yourself in the experience, and it barely has to try. For doing so much, with practically nothing, it earns the top spot on this list.

 

So with that, I turn it to you. What are your favorite game openings? Anything on this list you would have ranked higher? Let me know in the comments below.

 

*Note: I do not own any of the franchises, trademarks or titles of these games, and do not intend to make money off of them.  I also did not produce the youtube content on this page, but hope to add to their viewership.

Musou Missives Episode 2: Sima Zhao

 

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.

Today we will be looking at the reluctant leader of Jin – Sima Zhao.

dw7-sima-zhao

A recent addition to the Dynasty Warriors franchise, Sima Zhao is the son of Sima Yi who became the Duke of Wei following his brother’s untimely death. Sima Zhao made his mistakes, but became the leader of the campaign that ultimately ended the Three Kingdoms era and ushered in the Qin dynasty. In the series he is portrayed as a bit lazy, who would rather chill out and have fun than fight. However, he still proves to be a strong leader when pushed to action. His Dynasty Warriors 7 incarnation goes with a surfer look to him, which seems appropriate.

Warriors Orochi keeps most of this personification intact, if not making him a bit more of a tragic figure. While his attitude toward fighting remains pretty laid-back, by the entrance to the game Sima Zhao has learned the pain of losing his father, brother, and wife all to the power of the Hydra and demons. With the help of Kaguya he now has the opportunity to prevent his own mistakes and save his family. However, saving them will ultimately pit him against his own brother in order to change the future.

The second “hero” of the game, Sima Zhao is another character that you start with, and as such is a fairly easy character to get into, but is tad more complicated when it comes to building teams around. Therefore, he requires a closer look before we find the perfect groove for the Duke of Wei.

Normals and Charge attacks

As I did in the previous installment, 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.

With that out of the way, we should begin with Sima Zhao’s combos and moveset. His moves are derived from the Sword weapon move set from Dynasty Warriors 7. In fact, other than his special attack, his attacks play the same as they did in that game.

Much as you would expect, Sima Zhao’s sword style lacks in forward range compared to Ma Chao and other characters. However, he tends to swing his sword wide, which helps him cover more area in front of him than others. This allows him to hit a larger number of enemies when they are close up, but making it difficult to hit charging or retreating hoards with just his normal attacks.

Naturally, this is where some of his charge attacks try to make up for this short fall. His charge 3 is the earliest attack in his combo string that allows for any kind of forward movement. Sima Zhao will throw out a combination of slashes while stepping forward. Tapping the charge attack button will continue to add attacks, and move him slightly forward. This doesn’t make a lot of headway, however, and is actually better for getting more hits on an officer or causing a guard break.

In addition, his charge 3 leads into his EX attack. His EX, much like Ma Chao’s Musou, is a throw. Sima Zhao will do a short hop up and, if it connects, he will then use the enemy he caught as a surf board, dealing damage to the enemy as well as any enemies he passes by. He also zooms off pretty fast, so while you can direct him toward other enemies, it can be awkward to control at times. This could be seen as a way to catch an opponent off in the distance; however, this move requires an enemy to start the surfing mode. Again, this is better used against enemy officers rather than as a forward momentum attack.

Keeping to theme, Sima Zhao’s charge 2 is an officer killing technique, or a quick escape move as well. In this move, Sima Zhao knocks his opponent into the air then follows them up and spikes them back down to the ground. This doesn’t really combo well though, unless you use his jumping charge attack while he is still in the air afterward.

For attacking enemies in front, only his charge 5 and charge 4 get the job done to any degree. His charge 5 allows Sima Zhao to stab the ground in front of him. This creates a small burst in front of where the sword was stabbed. This covers a bit more area ahead of him than his other strikes, and sends the opponents upward, setting up for good juggle combos. His charge 4, however, is the most useful, as it does a horizontal slash in front of him, that sends out a projectile in the form of the slash. This travels a fair distance, allowing Sima Zhao to knock far more enemies to the ground than he could otherwise.

One may note that I have not mentioned Sima Zhao having any good area-of-effect attacks, and that’s because his moveset does not have very many at all. Besides his charge 6, which hits enemies behind Sima Zhao as well as in front, he really doesn’t have any area-of-effect skills. However, I don’t really consider this to his disadvantage, for reasons I will explain shortly.

Class

Sima Zhao is your first Power class of character. Characters under this category are usually characters that aren’t terribly fast but can pack a pretty good punch, though there are particular exceptions.

Power characters are blessed with the special ability of ‘Super Armor.’ This doesn’t prevent incoming damage as the name may suggest, but instead prevents the power character from stumbling after taking a hit from an enemy (enemy musous, and throws are naturally exceptions to this). In other words, it doesn’t matter if a minion is stabbing Sima Zhao in the back in the middle of a combo, his combo will continue as it was. On the other hand, Ma Chao who is a Speed class character will tend to get his combos interrupted by such an attack.

This is a great design choice, and compensates for Sima Zhao’s lack of area-of-effect skills by basically making it so he doesn’t need them as much as other members of the cast.

Despite this, Sima Zhao seems like he does not fit with the connotation of being a Power character, until you see his special and musou attacks.

Musou and Special Attack

Sima Zhao’s musou and special attack first appear very similar. For his special attack, Sima Zhao performs a roundhouse kick, and then uses his free-hand to fire off an energy blast from his finger. Similarly, his musou attack summons a giant orb of energy in front of him, which he then kicks forward toward his opponents. Stylistically, they seem a perfect extension of each other, even if the rest of his arsenal is devoid of such attacks.

However, there are some pretty vast differences between them. Sima Zhao’s musou attack, naturally, drains nearly all the bar to unleash it. It has a pretty long start up, but it slows time, and thus enemy movement at the start as well, so this isn’t a terrible disadvantage. The giant orb that Sima Zhao summons however, tends to fly forward from his kick, as opposed to following the terrain – thus an orb, not a boulder. This means that Sima Zhao has to be wary to use this on an incline. The damage is, of course, powerful and knocks away a large number of enemies from a good distance. The downtime after the attack, however, allows for little follow-up afterward.

His Special attack, naturally, uses less of his musou bar, though still a fair amount of it, preventing it from being “spammed” more than a couple times. The attack only hits enemies in a small area in front of him, though does good damage. It’s biggest advantage, however, is the ability to cancel most of Sima Zhao’s regular moves and some of his charge attacks into this move, as well as being able to switch cancel out of it’s downtime, something that cannot be done with his Musou. This makes his special attack far more versatile in most scenarios, and my preferred option for using up his Musou bar.

Recommended Weapon Fusion Abilities

Naturally, Sima Zhao, being so well rounded, is receptive to a variety of weapon fusion builds. Using a combination of Might, Blast, and Courage would empower some of Sima Zhao’s more powerful charge attacks and make him better as an officer killer. He can benefit from elemental abilities like Wind and Ice as well. Agility will speed his attacks up, making him better at building combos.

The best options for Sima Zhao, however, are using Destruction, Frenzy, and Osmosis. Destruction will increase the damage of his Musou attack, Frenzy his special attack, and Osmosis will drain Musou from enemies as he attacks. Including these will increase Sima Zhao’s power incredibly, especially when considering his team ability.

Recommended Teams

Sima Zhao’s team ability is Impact, which grants musou points back for every 100 KO’s, much like Ma Chao’s Stamina skill we discussed earlier. This makes it seem like he should work perfectly fine on teams designed for Ma Chao. However, while Ma Chao’s ability could be seen and used on a team in place of increasing health or health recovery, Sima Zhao’s requires a team that not only can provide good offense, but also can benefit from having more available Musou. This makes it a quandry to find characters that have great specials or musous as well.

Taishi Ci and Liu Shan – This is the first team to fill that concept. Taishi Ci, who is effectively a Power character version of Ma Chao, takes advantage of the extra Musou by being able to use his power special attack to knock away opponents far more often than he would otherwise. His powerful maces can swap into many of Sima Zhao’s attacks flawlessly as well. Liu Shan doesn’t provide much in terms of power to this team. However, he provides the ability Thrift, which further reduces the musou cost of their special and musou attacks, getting even more out of Sima Zhao’s recovery. In addition, Liu Shan becomes dangerous in a pinch, as his special will make him invulnerable for a period of time – making him great for taking down that last pesky enemy officer.

Wang Yuanji and Keiji Maeda – This team takes a different strategy by letting Sima Zhao’s wife, Yuanji, recover his and Keiji’s musou with Regeneration while she’s out. Also, since her throwing daggers build combo meter much faster than most other weapons in the game, she’ll also be benefitting Keiji’s team power Trinity. Keiji’s Trinity power will grant the team more Triple Team Attack gauge as they continue to down enemies with Sima Zhao and Keiji’s powerful special attacks. The goal of this team, is to continue building and unleashing powerful Musou and Team attacks so that no one can touch them. But the best is yet to come.

Sakon Shima and Pang De – I found this team to be pretty ridiculous, and the fact that it’s made from characters you obtain in the main story fairly early makes it even more so. Sakon Shima’s team ability is Focus, which increases the team’s Musou gauge, going well with Sima Zhao’s Impact. Pang De provides Potence which increases their overall attack power. This sounds fine, but this time it’s not just the combination of their powers, but of their specials that makes them devastating.

Sakon Shima and Pang De both have special abilities that summon an effect, as opposed to just adding an attack. Pang De will summon a bombardment, that makes explosions pop around him dealing damage to foes and knocking them upward, while he continues to trounce enemies with whatever combos you so desire. Sakon Shima’s is the same, except summoning a machine gun to fire repeatedly directly in front of him. While neither of these are very useful against officers, they allow Sakon Shima and Pang De to wade through minions like it was nothing. Meanwhile, Sima Zhao is constantly building their meter back up, and can be swapped in to handle the officers himself.

Such a team is really the trick to Sima Zhao. His attacks seem basic. His abilities are easy to use. His style is unassuming. He seems like a pretty basic and straight forward character, and was already one that I liked. It’s not until you get him with the right team do you see how incredibly devastating he can really be.

This is the beauty of Orochi 3 and the reason I enjoy doing this series. You never fully understand the characters in Orochi until you see how a well built team enhances them. For that reason, I am looking forward to the next installment involving a character I have little knowledge of, and who is also a newcomer to the series.

Until next time, let me know what you think of the series so far, and how the format is working out in the comments below.

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