Monthly Archives: March 2013

Musou Missives Episode 4: Kaguya

The final stop on our first trip through the world of Orochi is with Kaguya. Unlike all the other characters we’ve spoken of in Musou Missives, Kaguya is listed as one of the “Other” characters in the series.  In Warriors Orochi 3, Other can refer to one of the following possible origins:  a character unaligned in Dynaster Warriors, a guest character from another TecmoKoei franchise, or an original character based on Chinese/Japanse folklore.  Kaguya is the last of these options, and originates from one of the oldest tales in Japanese folklore. She is a moon princess born from a bamboo stump. While there are many versions of this tale, likely due to several centuries of retelling, Sesame Street provides a simplified version here: http://youtu.be/s7v4kb9P-1g.

In terms of the Warriors Orochi 3, Kaguya serves as the main plot device. While she retains her fabled powers to control bamboo, she also has limited control of time and space. Though not quite a Time Lord, she can send people back in time to change events in history that affect the present and future.  However, her powers are limited to the memory of those traveling through time — in other words, she can’t just send someone back to save Lu Bu if they don’t know what happened to him. This creates tension in the story, and and makes the task of saving the future by changing the past a bit more tedious than it might initially sound. Due to the time manipulation that Orochi used to create this world in the first place, her powers may also have an unfortunate side-effect.

Kaguya comes from a very ancient Japanese folk-tale, so her design and personality are presumably based on that. She wears very traditional Japanese dress, and is very meek and soft spoken. Don’t let her demeanor fool you, however, as her sacred sakaki and mirrors can be devastating. So without further ado, we move to a greater analysis of the moon princess.

WO3-Kaguya

Character Class

Kaguya is the first Technique character introduced to the player in Warriors Orochi 3. Technique has meant a good number of things over the course of the Orochi series, and Orochi 3 gives it another meaning as well. In Orochi 3, Technique characters have two abilities, as follows: the ability to sidestep while guarding, and the ability to increase the damage dealt to opponents who are airborne or in a juggle state. While the former is a nice defensive option for Kaguya, I find that the later is the linchpin and guiding principle when it comes to Kaguya’s moveset.

Moveset
Again, I will be abbreviating her standard combos as I did with previous installments. That being said, however, Kaguya’s combo chains are similar to Hanbei Takenaka, who we discussed before — Kaguya lacks a charge 6 attack, but is able to extend all of her other combos further than the Dynasty Warriors. Unlike Hanbei, however, they all stick to a pretty consistent theme.

Getting right down to it, Kaguya’s charge attacks are all based around shining beams of light off her mirrors to do damage, and typically leave enemies in a juggle state for her to pick up in a follow-up combo. Her charge 1 and charge 2 attacks, are two of the more difficult chains to pull off due to not covering her from the sides or behind well, but tend to knock a few enemies in front of Kaguya upward. Kaguya’s charge 3 deals damage around her, and then lifts any enemies around her upward. Her charge 5 combo calls upon her birthright, and makes a small bamboo forest grow from underneath her opponents. Only her normal combo and charge 4 combos knock enemies away, and even then, her charge 4 combo still leaves them in a juggle state.

While we will be getting to this a bit later as well, the fact that so many of her combos leave enemies falling from the sky helps with pulling off switch combos as well, as Kaguya’s partners are more easily able to pick up falling enemies and continue the combo. This also makes her a delight to use with other technique characters, since they too deal extra damage to enemies they juggle. All of her combos are able to be switch canceled as well, making her very adaptable in most team setups.

Musou and Special Attack

Kaguya is blessed and cursed when it comes to her Musou and special attack attack respectively. Much like Hanbei, she goes into a Musou mode when pressing the Musou button. Holding the button however, is much more preferable as Kaguya will fire a long series of light beams from her mirrors. This creates a dangerous and often fatal juggle loop that brings even officers down in record time. She can also be rotated while this attack is going, allowing her to pick up additional targets mid-attack if need be. She can be rotated, but she otherwise remains stationary during the attack though; therefore, she won’t be able to pick up any enemies that manage to stay out of her range. Despite this, Kaguya’s Musou attack comes easily in the top ten of most devastating Musou attacks in the game. And in a game featuring over 120 characters, that’s saying a lot.

Comparatively, however, her special attack is lackluster. The attack summons lights all around Kaguya, and then they spin around her as she leaps upward. This puts Kaguya airborne for a possible aerial charge attack follow-up. It also lifts any opponents caught in the attack upward, which sets up nicely for a juggle. This would seem like a perfect opportunity to switch cancel into another character to continue a juggle, but this is one of the only moves Kaguya can’t switch cancel out of. Thus, her special attack, which is still a great addition to her repertoire, should be used sparingly in order to save meter for her Musou attack.

Weapon Fusion Recommendations

Kaguya is very specialized, so there are some particular weapon fusion abilities to keep in mind for Kaguya. The first is Flak, which increases damage to airborne enemies. Since Kaguya’s central theme is lifting enemies off the ground, this fits her style perfectly. While I’ve said in the past that Agility is an ability that nearly all the cast benefit from, Kaguya is the first I would almost say requires it. While certain chains, such as charge 3 and 4, come out fairly quickly, her other combos suffer from slow start up at times. Particularly while leveling her, Kaguya needs the extra speed that Agility grants.

If playing Kaguya as a Musou heavy character, choosing Destruction and Osmosis is greatly beneficial. If playing her as a more combo heavy character, Might and Brawn are better options.

Of the four elemental abilities, I would not recommend Ice or Lightning, as both could potentially interrupt a juggle setup. Instead, I would prefer Fire for Kaguya for the periodic damage afterward, or possibly Wind to help against more defensive opponents.

Officer Ability and Team Recommendations

Kaguya has an ability we have seen on Musou Missives before in one of my recommended teams, but not as our primary character yet. Trinity is an ability that builds Triple Team attack gauge every 100 KO’s. The Team Triple Attack gauge builds faster the more hits in a combo, thus sometimes referred to as a combo guage. Once the guage is full, it allows the player to summon the entire team to the field for an attack. Time slows down as well, allowing them to combo any and every enemy on the field. At the end of the attack, the affected enemies are gathered together to deliver a final blow. The attack is frequently as devastating as a well placed Musou, and at times more so. However, since Trinity is the only ability that directly affects this meter, building a team around it requires looking into characters that can build meter or KOs very quickly, while still working well with Kaguya.

Jiang Wei and Zhong Hui
The team that tried to change the fate of China at the last moment teams up with the moon princess in this scenario. Building on my knowledge from the last installment, this team takes advantage of Jiang Wei’s Fellowship ability, by having a team that can easily swap into each other. To be fair, however, going from Jiang Wei to Kaguya to Zhong Hui is the most ideal scenario for this team, as Zhong Hui doesn’t really chain well from anything but his charge 5 and EX attack. Zhong Hui, however, has not only the Technique officer ability that increases the stats of the entire team in this case, but also can build Triple Team Attack meter incredibly fast with his multiple sword attacks. Zhong Hui’s attack chains are at times difficult to manage, so Jiang Wei’s simpler play style and Kaguya’s specialized style make this a good team to learn on, as well as a good team further into the game as well.

Ginchiyo Tachibana and Gracia
I discussed the major issue with Ginchiyo Tachibana’s swap attack in a previous episode, but while researching for this article, I finally found a team that works well with it. Both Gracia and Kaguya have good setups for Ginchiyo’s incoming attack, which can hit enemies while they are floating down from a lifting attack. Ginchiyo being a technique character as well, allows her to take advantage of Kaguya’s multitude of lifting attacks. Ginchiyo’s Impact ability in return grants the team quicker access to Musou — something Kaguya should be able to take advantage of. Gracia’s officer ability, Fortune, will not help much once the characters have been maxed out, or already have their best weapons, but her moveset chains into either Kaguya or Ginchiyo so well that it’s difficult to find a more suitable replacement; never mind the fact that Gracia is a reasonably powerful character in her own right as well.

Zhou Yu and Wei Yan
Probably the oddest combination yet, but works incredibly well under the right conditions. Zhou Yu has a number of good setups for Kaguya, including his powerful EX attack. His other attacks chain very well into Wei Yan, as do Kaguya’s attacks. Wei Yan’s dash, switch cancel attack, and charge 5 are the only moves that set up well for the rest of his team; however, these attacks do multiple hits on enemies that helps build Team Attack meter like crazy. This is one of the few teams that can perform an incredibly long if not infinite combo if all cancels are timed correctly.  Their officer abilities also make the team well balanced and easy to use.  Zhou Yu’s Focus increases their Musou gauge, thus allowing Kaguya to deal more damage from her Musou attack.  Wei Yan’s Vitality ability increases the team’s overall health, something the frail Zhou Yu and Kaguya can take advantage of.  Overall, this is probably the most well-balanced, and most devastating combination I’ve found for Kaguya thus far.

It’s difficult to believe, but Kaguya’s meek and simple attitude does not reflect the significance this character has.  She can setup nearly anyone for a good juggle combo, but a proper team arrangement makes those combos not just powerful, but fatal.  Choosing to use her as an officer killer using her Musou makes everything far easier.  Her only major flaw is the speed of her attacks and her below average defense, and both of these become moot when you see what this character can do in the right setup.

While Sima Zhao had plenty going for him, and Ma Chao and Hanbei Takenaka had their moments, Kaguya is a step above our main protagonists in the game.  Thus, our first trip through Orochi 3 ends with the highest tier character you can have to start off with.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Disagree with my assessment or have a suggestion?  Let me know in the comments below.

Musou Missives will be taking a break while we pursue other topics for a little while.  Let me know if you want to see more of this series, and what characters or topics you want to cover.  In the meantime, I’m not quite done talking about Smash Brothers yet…

A Rose by any Other Name… Can be Confusing: the Wii U

A Rose by any Other Name… Can be Confusing: the Wii U.

 

Thought about talking about this myself, but I could not have put Nintendo’s problems better myself.  Really good read.

5/5 Street Fighters We Need More/Less of

So, there hadn’t been much buzz about Street Fighter lately, until Capcom revealed another update to Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade edition was incoming.  

I can’t help but think that is somehow connected to a poll Capcom put out last month, asking for players to vote for their 5 favorite Street Fighter characters.  So, who made you’re top five?  Well, I won’t tell you mine, but I will note 5 of the characters I could stand to see more of, as well as five I could certainly do without.

So, let’s look at the 5 Street Fighters I’d like to see more of, and the 5 that I would like to see less of.

Let’s See More of: Sean

Trained by Ken prior to Street Fighter 3, Sean was a different take on the Ryu/Ken archetype.  Having no fireball, save for one Super Art, Sean relies more on rush-down strategies than other characters of his kind.  Sean wasn’t a great character, but he was a refreshing take on what is otherwise a pretty tiresome concept in the Street Fighter universe.

It would be nice to see him show up more often, as he has been restricted mostly to cameo’s in any series outside of the Street Fighter 3 games.  He takes the bottom of the list though, since there are so many Ryu/Ken type characters out there already.

Let’s See Less of: DeeJay

DeeJay was never a character I understood well.  He’s a Jamaican musician that for some reason enters a fighting tournament… more than once.  Aside from being a stereotypical Jamaican, there was just very little I saw appealing about the character.  He fits the wacky world of Street Fighter well enough, but he doesn’t really have any characters that he interacts with, or gets along with.  His anime movie appearance made him a tad more interesting, and somewhat helpful, but that was a stretch from his in-game interpretations.  It’s not that I dislike DeeJay very much, I could just do without him.

Capcom has let DeeJay participate in 3 of the 5 major series in the franchise (Super Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and  Super Street Fighter 4), and I’m really not sure why.

Let’s See More of:  Urien

Urien was a very interesting addition to the cast in Street Fighter 3 Second Impact.  He was Gil’s brother, who was tasked with aiding in his plans, but secretly harbored his own ambitions as well.  Though he isn’t the only villainous character in the franchise trying to play for his own ends, he predates many of them (see C. Viper and Juri for examples).  His playstyle is also unique, allowing him to cover most angles of the screen at any particular point.  His trademark Aegis Reflector was also a unique Super Art that a player could build a variety of strategies around.

Urien did reappear in the free-to-play Street Fighter X Megaman, but has not made a fighting game return since Street Fighter 3 Third Strike.  However, Seth does use a couple of his moves in Street Fighter 4.

Let’s See Less of: Juri

Juri is a Korean girl that was a subject of some of SIN’s experiments. Unlike Cammy or the dolls (such as Juni or Juli), however, the experiments on Juri made her unstable.  This definitely makes Juri an interesting character.  Her Taekwondo moves also make her an interesting playstyle also that I actually kind of like.

Her personality and voice, however, are very grating.  Filling the quota for insanity in Super Street Fighter 4, Juri is constantly taunting opponents and chewing scenery.  Her English dub voice is enough to take a knife to your eardrums, but her Japanese voice is only an improvement in that you can’t understand what she’s saying.  If it weren’t for the few things I like about the character, this one would have scored much higher on the worst list.

Juri only appears in the Street Fighter 4 series, starting with Super Street Fighter 4, but she also appears in Street Fighter X Tekken, indicating she may be sticking around for awhile.

Let’s See More of:  Karin

A manga character who was included into Street Fighter Alpha 3, Karin is a Japanese student and rival of Sakura.  She uses a modified Chinese Kempo style, which resembles Fei Long’s style in many fashions, though still very different.  Though not the only character with rich parents (see Ken Masters), she is the only one that carries the “snooty rich kid” air about her — whether that’s to her benefit or detriment is a matter of opinion.  Still, she is the most unique character to come out of Street Fighter Alpha 3, and was among the strongest fighters in that game as well.

Karin has appeared in every version of Street Fighter Alpha 3, but has not made an appearance or cameo in any other Street Fighter game.  She was a playable character in Capcom Fighting Evolution, representing the Alpha era Street Fighter characters.

Let’s see Less of: Abel

Abel is an amnesiac who wanders around searching for his past.  It’s heavily hinted at that he is another SIN experiment, of the same line as Seth — and possibly Urien and Gil.  While Capcom did good with one amnesiac character before, having another seems redundant.  Abel is clearly painted to be a mirror image of Cammy (with a love for dogs instead of cats), but while Cammy’s history and story is interesting, Abel’s comes off as convoluted and unnecessary.  He clearly exists as some sort of bridge between Street Fighter 2 and 3, but I don’t think Capcom knows exactly how.  He’s French, which implies a connection with Remy from Street Fighter 3, but was also saved by some mysterious military officer, implying a connection to Charlie.  However, with nothing really resolved in the Super Street Fighter 4 storyline, this makes Abel little more than a walking pile of fan service.

Abel debuted and appeared in all versions of Street Fighter 4.  He also appears in Street Fighter X Tekken, which is actually the only version of him I can stand (mostly because this is the only version that can pronounce ‘Marseilles’ correctly).

Let’s See More of:  Charlie (Nash)

Charlie is a United States Air Force officer who was both friend and mentor to Street Fighter regular Guile.  In Street Fighter 2, Charlie was little more than a name, as it was revealed Guile’s goal in that games was to avenge Charlie’s death.  Charlie was made a playable character in the Alpha series, where we learn the how and why of his ultimate demise (if you play through Guile’s campaign anyway).  While Charlie’s playstyle isn’t dramatically different from Guile’s, Charlie does have a certain style and flair that is very distinctive from Guile.  He also has the Sonic Barrage, which sends multiple Sonic Booms at his opponent, an attack Guile never bothered to pick up.

Unlike most of the characters on this list though, Charlie has shown up in more than his fair share of games.  Appearing in X-men VS Street Fighter and Marvel VS Capcom 2.  Also, a character resembling Charlie, named Shadow, also appears in Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter and Marvel VS Capcom as an assist.  He is also the only other Street Fighter entrant in the shoot-em-up Cannon Spike (alongside Cammy).

So, why should he make a comeback?  Well, mostly because Capcom can’t seem to help but tease over and over that Charlie somehow survived.  This was implied slightly from Remy having a similar fighting style to Charlie and Guile in Street Fighter 3, and Abel reveals that he was helped and trained by a US military officer after he escaped SIN in Street Fighter 4.  Capcom just needs to get on with it and put Charlie back in the main series again instead of taunting everyone with it.

Let’s See Less of:  C. Viper

Viper is a character I have wanted to like.  She was the series first female villain, and one that presumably can match even Ryu in a fight (albeit with technological help).  She’s a mother and a fighter, who treats her job with SIN and the CIA as little more than a job.  She’s probably the most complex character in the Street Fighter universe.

However, there is such a thing as too much complexity.  The character presumably wears so many hats, but none of them seem to affect the character while wearing other hats.  When working for SIN, she’s obedient and ruthless; when working for the CIA she’s straight forward and determined; when interacting with her child, she’s attentive and caring.  None of these overlap at any point, and you don’t get the feeling this character is stressed in any fashion, which a real-life woman would be at least to some degree.  It’s like she’s a female empowerment package that went overboard.

C.Viper is the first Street Figher 4 character to cross into another series, appearing in Marvel VS Capcom 3.  She was left out of Street Fighter X Tekken’s cast however, which makes me think Capcom is not thrilled with the character much anymore either.

Let’s See More of:  Ingrid

A character that has been lost to the annals of Capcom fighting history.  Her premier game was the never released Capcom Fighting All-Stars.  Her first retail appearance was the poorly received Capcom Fighting Evolution, and only entered into the Street Fighter series afterward in the PSP version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 (referred to as Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX).  Admittedly, I know very little about Ingrid herself.  She’s apparently a god-like figure in the Street Fighter universe, though why she decides to fight a bunch of mortals is never really explained.  Having not played as her I can’t really speak for her fighting style either.

This is the primary reason, however, we need to see more of her, since she’s a character not many have seen or even heard of.  Her design and backstory make for what sounds like a very unique and interesting change of pace for the Street Fighter universe, and I would love to see more.

Let’s See Less of:  Evil Ryu

Evil Ryu is an evil version of Ryu — who knew?  So, it’s Ryu if he gave into the power of the Satsui No Hadou that threatens to tear him apart.  That’s the biggest problem I have with the character — if Ryu gave in.  At no point in the series does he fully lose control, Street Fighter 4 being the closest he gets to this.  Therefore, Evil Ryu doesn’t technically exist, and therefore isn’t really a character in the series.  Even if he had given in, he’d still just be Ryu with a new found thirst for man-flesh.

Even in comparing him to other Ryu/Ken characters, he doesn’t provide much that Ryu or Akuma don’t already provide — essentially being Ryu with Akuma’s signature Shun Goku Satsu attack.  There’s really no reason Evil Ryu needs to be a separate character.  An alternate costume will service just as well.

Evil Ryu has appeared in Street Fighter Alpha 2, 3, and Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade edition, as well as the Capcom VS SNK games, and that’s much more that he really should have.

Agree?  Disagree?  Have Street Fighter characters you miss or can’t stand?  Let me know in the comments below!

I’ve jabber-jawed long enough.  Next post will be the long awaited part 4 of Musou Missives!

iOS and the Gaming Industry

Having acquired an iPad for a project recently, and being an avid gamer, I naturally tried to find some good games for it.  I know many a gamer would be ready to take away my gamer tag for daring to even consider reducing myself to playing iOS games, but when it’s all you have for awhile, you make do.

One of the games I managed to find and try out was Infinity Blade, which I was very impressed by.  The game makes good use of the touch controls, creating an engaging and addictive experience.  Playing this made me begin to wonder why iOS is still loathed as a gaming platform.  However, after further inspection, I’ve started to realize why:  the iOS/smartphone platform embodies all the major issues gamers have with the industry as a whole.  So, naturally, we should list them off.

So then,

The 4 Things iOS does that the Gaming Industry Has Problems with:

1) Online Requirements

Now I haven’t tested this with Infinity Blade, but my solitaire game does work without an internet connection, so this isn’t true with every game.  However, many of the games available require a connection to the internet.  For an avid gamer this means either a really good 4G signal or (more likely) a wireless network connection. Neither of these are hard to come by often, but there are places where neither of these are available.  And on a device that is designed to be mobile, this can be a little disappointing.

Now, the big difference here, and one of the only defensible points really, is that a device that holds between 5 and 40 GB of data is not likely going to be able to hold all the information needed to run some of these games.  There isn’t as much worry about piracy, since the games are downloaded directly from the store anyway.

Nevertheless, these games do use their internet connection to either, a) advertise other material, or b) implement a half-hearted multiplayer aspect.  The former are most common among the free-to-play market, and the later from paid games.  In either case, however, there are games that require a connection to a server somewhere (Dino Dominion being foremost on my mind), which renders them unplayable in areas where connection is scarce.

2) Prevalence of Microtransactions

Mostly due to the games being relatively cheap by comparison, so many games have some kind of micro-transaction gimmick to convince you to spend money.  As Extra-Credits states in their episode on the topic, micro-transactions can be done properly, but can also be done poorly.  My wife has found several games that she thought she would like, until she hit the point in the game where spending money was required to progress, or required to progress within the next year or so.  On the flip side, games like DragonVale manage to find a balance where money never feels required, but it can save you a little hassle every now and again.

Regardless, though, the gaming industry seems to think that this is the future of the market — nickel and dimeing customers on little things for games they already presumably own.  The app store is flooded with games that take the whole idea way too far, so it’s only natural that gamers rather not bother with them.

3) Franchise Name Recognition

Speaking of not bothering, don’t even attempt to “browse” the app store for games.  There are ways to bring up the most popular and highest reviewed games (which are not reliable but we’ll get to that), and you can sort by Free and Paid.  That’s about it though.  If you don’t really know what you’re looking for, and don’t have a title to search by, it’s like looking at a haystack and wondering if there’s a needle inside.  I had to deffer to top 10 and 25 lists on other sites to get an idea of what I wanted to download.

This means that games that are recognizable franchises suddenly become far more marketable.  Batman, Marvel, and Final Fantasy all have some kind of iOS app available to download.  Whether they’re really worth downloading I couldn’t tell you, but they all exist.  So, new IPs and indie titles like Double Fine’s “Middle Manager of Justice” become difficult to track down unless you know to search for it (you’re welcome by the way).

The industry as whole seems to be keeping to this idea, as Jim Sterling observes in his PS4 show.  Recognizable names and franchises, like Dead Space, Tomb Raider, KillZone, Legend of Zelda, and SimCity, all get hit up for new installments and additions, instead of taking a chance on creating something new in the game space.  All the investment tends to go toward these big titles as well, but that brings me to my last conclusion.

4) Lack of Quality Control

What’s worst about the app store is the overarching lack of quality in the titles being sold as games on the platform that hurts it overall.  Good games like Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade are the exception, not the rule in this case.  The amount of slag you have to sort to get to something worthwhile is ridiculous.  However, this is prevalent in the gaming world at large now as well.

Big name games like SimCity, and Diablo releasing and being effectively DOA once the game is installed shows a lack of testing, preparation, and concern for it’s consumers.  These were full priced titles that these companies not only hoped but expected to shell out by the millions, yet they could not give them a proper launch.  How much quality control do you think, then, would go into games that are 5% of the cost?  For some, about as much as you’d expect.

This is exasperated by two things: the reliance on a search feature (as stated before), and the lack of reliable reviews.  I say the lack of reliable reviews because, there are games out there that will actively reward players for reviewing the game.  This means that games like Dino Dominion and Kingdoms of Camelot are full of single sentence reviews with 4 or more stars, that fail to address any major flaws in the game.

While this has not pervaded into the gaming industry at large for the most part, there is potential evidence that such bias (either intentional or not) does exist within gaming journalism as well.

The conclusion I reached is that these are the reasons the core gaming community is turned off by iOS as a game platform.  iOS brings to the table everything a gamer knows to be wrong in the industry and asks them to take a heaping helping of it.  It’s what corporations see as the big seller, and so far have bent over backwards to imitate it.

That isn’t to say there is no merit to any of the games I play on the iPad, but I can see how some gamers can’t stand to look at what gaming is, has, and will become.

4 Worries about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

I’m not sure how this one slipped under my radar, but Activision announced that they will be spear-heading the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles return to the living room a couple weeks ago. The first trailer for the first game out of a total of three they are producing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, can be seen here:

Much like the Meagan Fox announcement, I held my tongue as long as I could on this, but there are a number of things that bother me about the upcoming game. I know it’s difficult to judge from such a short trailer, but here are my biggest concerns for the game based on what we have so far:

1) No Obvious Ties.

There does not appear to be any direct ties to any previous or current turtle media.  I base this on the fact that the Turtles do not appear to be styled similarly to the current television show counterparts, or any other recent Turtles releases.  The darker tone implied in the trailer could be pulling from the 2003 cartoon, movies, or original comics; however, with a cartoon currently running, and a new movie on the horizon, pulling from the original comics as the source material is really the only other reasonable conclusion.

Having no significant ties to other material isn’t a bad thing necessarily.  It’s entirely possible that the developers have their own stories they want to tell, and decided a separate universe from other media was necessary to tell it.  I’m all for that.  I’m disinclined to think that’s the case, however, considering other evidence.

2) It’s a Downloadable Title.

Now, to be fair, Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires was technically a downloadable title too, but that was downloadable for various political reasons I won’t get into here.  Since Activision is using a new IP (or rather new for them), and are an American company releasing in America, thus know the rules regarding retail releases, means it likely was never intended as a full retail release.

Now, they could still put out a good product, and the downloadable title could just be a way to test the waters with their IP, much like Capcom has been doing over the past year.  Even considering that, however, I’m not sure much care would be taken in a “testing the waters” phase, or knowing the project is downloadable from the word ‘go’.  All that really means, is they want put something (read: anything) out there with the Turtles’ name on it and see if it makes money.  This is backed up by my third observation.

3) Short Trailer

The trailer isn’t even a minute long.  Again, it could mean nothing — it’s a teaser, and teasers are there to do just that.  I will gladly take back this assessment if we get a longer trailer later, but trailers that last less than a minute with only half of it being what appears to be gameplay footage worry me.  It means they don’t want you to see what the game looks like, how it plays, or what it sounds like.

One could argue that the game is still in early development, but I certainly hope not.  If it plans to come out this summer (or as some sites say September), the team only has a few months to finish work and prepare it to go live.  That also leaves very little time to build up another trailer for it too.

4) The Developer

Red Fly is the developer on this title, and I’m not exactly enthused by their pedigree.  In addition to them having worked on another cash-grab, licensed title Thor:God of Thunder, they also worked on GhostBusters: The Video Game.  While opinions on that were mixed for the most part, I am particularly concerned regarding co-op and their development.  Online co-op has been confirmed in Activision’s statements, but we have yet to know anything about local co-op.  If Red Fly’s previous installments are any indication, there may not be any.

If this is true, it will be a shame, since many of the strongest entries in the Turtles’ collection of games have featured the ability to play with someone sitting next to you.  Foregoing that for online play only is somewhat mind-boggling.

If it’s still a beat ’em up entry as it looks to be, I’ll probably buy it, if only to do a follow-up on this.  However, my expectations are still fairly low.  I really want to see the Turtles in a great new beat ’em up title, but I’m concerned about the strange decisions being made about their franchise, and the companies at the helm of their games right now.

Articles used for this post are as follows:

IGN’s announcement trailer

http://m.co-optimus.com/review/219/page/1/Ghostbuster_The_Video_Game_Co-Op_Review.html

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/03/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-out-of-the-shadows-brings-turtle-power-back-to-video-games/

Top 5 Games I Can’t Play

For those who may like to know, on top of being a blogger, I’m also a father.  Over the course of last year, my wife and I had to reevaluate our gaming habits, and give up some of the games that we knew we weren’t going to get around to playing, or would not feel comfortable playing, at least not with a little one in the house.

Somethings you just can’t help, though, so there are still games in the house that aren’t totally child friendly that we simply keep locked away until after the baby has gone to bed.  These are more or less restricted to after the baby is asleep, if we play them at all.  My gaming isn’t completely hurt by this however, so I will be listing what I play instead to contrast, and maybe help someone who also has this struggle also.

So, then, this is my list of 5 Games I Can’t Play, and what games I play in their stead.

Guild Wars 2

Originally bought to help us scratch the MMO itch after being off WoW for over a year, Guild Wars 2 has great environments, interesting character classes and an awesome take on the party system.  The graphics, actions, and dialog in this game isn’t terribly offensive, and I wouldn’t have much problem letting the tike try it out.  The problem is the format really.  Guild Wars 2, like most MMO’s, is a time sink.  Getting levels or gear takes little else other than time, but time is a precious commodity right now.  Add to that, a particularly tough fight will inevitably be when my daughter will decide to get into the desk drawer full of pointy things.  Guild Wars 2 is still installed on the computer, but I haven’t booted it up since shortly after purchase.

— I play instead:  Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3

Fighting games, though intense, take far less of an attention span.  Since rounds last 99 seconds or less, I can hop in, go a few rounds, and hop out when the family needs me.  It is true that I will likely never be a fighting game guru anytime soon at this rate, but it is refreshing to just get in and go.  The only caveat is that I have to turn the voices to Japanese, so the little one doesn’t hear Wesker saying the ‘d-word’.

Batman Arkham City 

This is a game I really wanted to play to 100% completion.  I still got to the end, so I still feel like I accomplished something.  The combat system feels great, and navigating the city and finding enemies and other puzzles organically is exhilarating.  Unfortunately, the dark atmosphere and character designs are definitely potential nightmare fuel for a little girl.  While this one will probably come out once the kids are old enough to handle scary movies, it has to get shelved for a little while.

— I play instead: Super Smash Brothers Brawl

For the satisfaction of beating people down with your fists with none of the mess, there’s nothing better than Smash Brothers.  This game has simple controls, much like Arkham City, but has a great deal of depth.  Matches by default are only a couple of minutes, and even a stock 3 match doesn’t take very long.  More whimsy and a similar fun-factor makes this a win for me.

Mass Effect (series)

We still have the entirety of the Mass Effect series stored away for a rainy day.  The action in the second and third installments really gets me going, and the subtle changes to the story in how you play makes me want to play through over and over to see the different ways things can play out.  For an M-rated title, Mass Effect is actually pretty tame for the most part too.  Still, with the sexual undertones, subtle blood splatters, and occasional coarse language, it’s safer to keep it hidden away than risk pulling it back out.

— I play instead: Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires

dynastywar530

While the Dynasty Warriors’ approach to women may be questionable at times, there is nothing downright offensive in the games.  Empires is mostly turn based, which requires little active attention.  Actual fighting sections last 10 minutes at a time (and most of the time less than that), giving plenty of time to set down the controller to change a diaper or two.  The only downside is it’s additive and difficult to put down.  This more actively covers for Mass Effect, as you get the adrenaline of defeating hordes of enemies, and the enjoyment of romancing your favorite Chinese hero/heroine (for a more matrimonial reward).

Castle Crashers

This may seem like an odd choice, if not because I can’t actually put this on a shelf.  This downloadable title actually seems like it should be just right; after all, the characters and enemies are colorful, they tell a simple story and individual stages are not that big of a distraction.  Where’s the issue?  Well, while the game’s humor is certainly childish, that doesn’t make it ‘child-friendly.’  The game is constantly making poo, fart, and other potty-humor jokes, but in addition does feature some blood and gore.  While this falls well under the ‘fantasy violence’ category, there’s enough of it to keep it from getting played, and may have to be deleted when my daughter is old enough to navigate the menus.

— I play instead: Scott Pilgrim VS the World

One of the only movie licensed games I can actually stand, Scott Pilgrim VS the World is the perfect beat ’em replacement for Castle Crashers.  There’s plenty of leveling and exploring that can and needs to be done.  The manga-styled characters range from cool to adorable, and boss fights range from awesome to awesomer.  The game-play hits that mark of old-school coin-op machines that feels challenging without complete frustration.  While I will likely not be putting on the movie anytime soon, the game is perfectly fine for curious little eyes to stare at for awhile.

Fallout 3

I don’t like that this keeps getting into my top lists; however, I can’t help it!  It’s still in the house!  Fallout 3 is not only the first first-person shooter that I felt strongly about, but is the first that really drew me in like no other game had up to that point.  Those who know of this game know the charges against it — the setting is way over a child’s comprehension, and the violence in the series is fairly high as well.  Needless to say, my daughter may never know this game was in the house until close to her adulthood.

–I play instead: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

The only thing that can satiate the violence of Fallout is the tale of a pink puff-ball returning with his friends to consume, devour, and otherwise decimate the inhabitants of Dreamland.  Honestly, however, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland is easily the best 2-D platformer on the Wii (take that Mario), and presents a colorful and whimsical atmosphere that I hope will encourage my child’s healthy imagination.  What’s more, the game is so co-op friendly that I really can’t wait til we can play this one together.  I’ll gladly trade the immersion of Fallout, for the hope of future play-dates any day.

So that’s my list.  It was refreshing to talk about gaming and parenting in one go.  Let me know in the comments below what challenges you have as a gamer, as a parent, as both, or in general.  Be sure to like, and let me know what you would like to see as this channel progresses.

April O’ Neil Transition Theatre

Halfway through my work day, I looked at articles coming through my Reader and realized it is International Women’s Day. I had an idea I was going to sit on until Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolled out in October, but today seems appropriate anyway. This is getting a bit off of my usual topics, but my tag line mentions Turtles, so it’s about time we had some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle topics up in here.

So then, welcome to Transition Theater, where I will be discussing April O’ Neil, as she has developed and grown throughout the Ninja Turtles franchise and her role in pop-culture today.

April O’Neil circa 1984

April O’ Neil started in the second issue of the Ninja Turtles comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, not as a reporter, but a programmer and assistant to Baxter Stockman. When April discovered Stockman’s goal of using his mouser robots to rob banks, he turned them against her. She escaped to the sewers only to be rescued by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

As the comic progressed, April served as the Turtles primary contact with the human world, though this meant that she was usually conveniently left out of any extraterrestrial encounters. She also spends sometime away from the Turtles during the City at War saga, as does her compatriot Casey Jones.

This rendition of April, at least from what I’ve been able to read, is a girl a little ahead of her time. This being the mid-eighties, strong feminine figures were hard to come by, and a female programmer, at the time an engineering field, was rare. It seems that once April was rescued, Eastman and Laird didn’t exactly know what to do with her, so she mostly played a supporting role in the story-arcs she was involved in.

To their credit, however, she does not play the damsel in distress terribly often, her opening role being an exception. She also is not tied to the Turtles or even Casey in a romantic sense. There is some sexual tension between Casey and April, but these are not resolved within the pages of the first run of the series, only left within an amiable situation between them to leave to the reader’s conclusion. The only major flaw is that her character stays pretty static and one dimensional throughout and does not experience much in the way of growth overall.

April O’Neil circa 1987

This leads us to the next iteration of April O’ Neil: the cartoon series and Archie comics. This is the April O’Neil most of us are familiar with, and is quite a departure from the April from the original comics.

This April is a news reporter who runs afoul of a crime syndicate headed, unknowingly to her, by the Shredder. She is saved by the Ninja Turtles in similar fashion to the comics and befriends them, unwittingly volunteering to become their liaison and advocate on the surface.

Unlike the April O’Neil of the Mirage Comics, this April was much more significant to the series. Having access to the latest scoops gave the Turtles quicker access and response time to the Shredder’s underhanded schemes. She even had a handful of side characters (Verne, Vernon, and Irma) for her to interact with, and which later added to the madness as the series progressed.

April’s personality was far more fleshed out here as well, being headstrong reporter always on the go and ready to get the next big story. This served as both her strongest asset and her biggest flaw, as her drive to get the best shot or biggest story, usually landed her in a mess the Turtles would have to get her out of.

This suggests that she is, of course, the prototypical damsel in distress — in fact, the Turtles Forever full-length feature supports that notion. However, filing her away as such misses the entire point. April’s capture is usually due to her own stubbornness, not her weakness of being a woman. Yes, she struggles fighting against the villains of the show, but there is never a time she resigns herself to her fate. She is smart and resourceful. She frequently uses her feminine whiles against her adversaries, if only to get out her communicator and tell the Turtles what’s going on.

While the cartoon started to use April less as the setting became more dramatic, the Archie series expounded on this idea, allowing her to dabble in ninjitsu training herself, as well as move onward in her career as an independent news caster.

This April O’ Neil is the April many fans know and love, not just because she was hot, but because she was a strong and distinct character that many cartoons of the day were missing.

This brings us to the original trilogy of movies April O’ Neil. The first was Judith Hoag, who I prefer most of the two personally — mostly because she captured much of the essence of the character. Judith Hoag’s April was an ace reporter, much like the cartoon at the time. It was obvious the script and Hoag herself took this as their starting point. Hoag’s April is not only strong-willed but downright brazen in her attempts to seek and reveal the truth. Her pursuits over the police department’s reluctance to interfere with the Foot’s dealings — a clever stab at police in super-hero stories being worthless — result in her losing her job. This steels her convictions, however, as she devotes the rest of her screen time aiding the Turtles in blowing the cap off the Shredder’s evil schemes.

The changes to the character and the more realistic repercussions of her actions makes this the definitive April O’ Neil in my mind. Though not strong by any means, she is clever, resourceful, and focused. When the Chief of Police tries to give her the brush off, she just presses the issue further. She helps the Turtles escape from the burning build through a secret crawl space, and even when offered her job back she continues to make demands.

Even though her relationship with Casey is far more romantic in this one, April makes it clear that she wears the pants in this relationship, calling all the shots even to the final kiss scene. April may not be able to knock you down, but you don’t want to get on her bad side of an arguement. These are the qualities I think of when thinking of April O’ Neil, and these are qualities subsequent iterations will try to follow.

Paige Turco took over the role for the subsequent movies. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze, Turco certainly does well, but the character at this point has been sidelined for the most part to allow new blood Keno to do his thing. She does help the Turtles uncover the mystery behind the TCRI, but otherwise she gets very little to do in the movie.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 gives Turco’s April a lot more to do, for better and worse. Her attitude toward the daimyo was certainly the strongest Turco got to play the character, though taunting with empty threats is not exactly April’s style. For the most part, she’s simply reacting to the wacky hi-jinx of feudal japan and mutant turtles. The movie also tried to imply a sexual tension between Whit and April much like the chemistry Casey and April had in first film, but it falls flat on a number of levels, not least of which being that this is not resolved once she returns to Casey at the end of the movie.

While I don’t find Turco’s rendition of April offensive, it did little to expand the character, and the fact that she was given little to do in the films didn’t help.

April O’Neil circa 2003

April thankfully was not present in the Next Mutation series, so our next major rendition comes in the form of the 2003 series April O’ Neil.

I stated before that April O’Neil in the original comics was ahead of her time in some respects. Well, the 2003 April was just about on time. With the technological climate changing and women becoming more prominent in technical fields, April was able to come into her own more in this series. Her back-story remains mostly the same as the original comic. However, with writers being more familiar with technology, she became a more prominent member of the Turtles team. She is able to help the Turtles, particularly Donatello, with various technological endeavors, as well as being one of the Turtles major links to the outside world.

However, by rewinding April back to the days of the Mirage comics, it also meant that she was not the head-strong April of the 87 cartoon. This meant that she was not captive as often, since she was more careful to avoid such predicaments, but she also had little initiative of her own. She is given opportunities to be resourceful, but tends to be overshadowed by Donatello in that department. She does reopen her father’s antique shop, but it rarely comes into play much in the series.

The show inevitably covers this up by giving her a relationship with Casey, so that a good portion of her story-arc is spent following her man, not exactly a feminist’s ideal. It’s almost as though the series knew this and tried to over-compensate, with the next entry in the series.

April O’ Neil in TMNT (2007)

In TMNT as well as the short lived “Back to the Sewers” cartoon, the writers seemed to want to make up for 2003 April by making this April the “perfect” woman. In TMNT, April has a successful career in archaeology, an apartment, and has a live-in boyfriend who wants to marry her and potentially have kids. That’s not enough though. In order to make sure she is the perfectly perfect modern woman, she also trained with splinter to use a katana. She is so well-trained in fact, she can match Karai — a ninja who could use a katana before she could walk — blow for blow in the movie’s climax.

While this is certainly a stroke for female empowerment, it’s also a penalty, as April embodies the state femininity so well, as to make anything less seem inadequate in comparison. In essence, instead of the strong, yet flawed character seen in the 87 cartoon and first movie, we get the cult of True Womanhood’s version of April O’Neil. While impressive, she fails to be a character in her own right, as she is just too perfect, at least for my tastes.

This brings us to April today. April in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that started last year has shown some promise thus far. Being made younger eliminates her from being pigeon-holed into a particular role, while making her more easily relateable to the Turtles. The strange relationship with Donatello, her eagerness to learn ninjitsu, and gung-ho demeanor in the search for her father leave me sceptical how this incarnation will pan out.

In the meantime, Meagan Fox will be playing April O’ Neil in the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie, and I fear what this will mean for the character. Given the types of movies Micheal Bay has been known for, and the range of acting (or lack thereof) Meagan Fox is known for, I fear April O’Neil is about to be backpedaled into oblivion. As stated, the true essence of April has never been about the sex appeal, that was only a part of it. Her depth, resourcefulness, and fearlessness are what stuck with us throughout the years, and I’m afraid those characteristics are far beyond the scope of this upcoming movie.

So, here’s to you April O’ Neil! May your pizzas be cheesy, and your next transition be less so… Please, let it be less so.

Pictures taken from http://www.mikeystmnt.com/characters/profiles/april.htm, http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-creator-slams-megan-fox-202123158.html, and http://kidstvmovies.about.com/od/tmnt2007/ig/TMNT–2007–Photo-Gallery/April-O-Neil.htm