Monthly Archives: May 2013

Big in Japan: Sengoku Basara (continued)

Welcome to part 2 of Big in Japan: Sengoku Basara.  If you missed part one, you can find it here.

When we last left our talk on Sengoku Basara, we compared and contrasted it to Koei’s Sengoku Muso series.  We also spoke of what made it distinctive and enticing to a Japanese audience.  However, we have yet to cover why the series is so unknown over here when the Sengoku/ Sangoku Muso series, or Samurai/ Dyanasty Warriors games, are known fairly well in the United States.

Much of this is because of strange move on Capcom of America’s part.  The first game in the series, Sengoku Basara, did release State-side, as a heavily modified title known as Devil Kings.  The name wasn’t the only change though, as just about every reference to the Sengoku period in Japan was removed from the game.

Devil_Kings

Among the changes made, a few characters were removed as playable characters, such as Matsu Maeda, and Yoshihiro Shimazu.  Characters that were not cut had their names changed from their traditional Japanese names, to a variety of generic ones.  Shingen Takeda became Red Minotaur.  Yukimura Sanada become Scorpio.  Ranmaru Mori became Hornet.  Nobunaga Oda became the titular Devil King.  The atmosphere of the game changed drastically as well, with the stages using more dark tones and themes to them.  The old combat system was changed to introduce ‘Priming” attacks, which would weaken enemies so that regular attacks would do more damage.  Lastly, the game’s difficulty was increased, making the North American Normal difficulty setting equivocal to the Japanese Hard Mode.

The reasons for the drastic changes are mostly unknown.  However, I can conjecture a few ideas based on the environment at the time of it’s release.  To start with, even though the Dynasty Warriors games were released in North America and known within the gaming community at large, they had little more than a cult following that actually sought out and purchased the games.  It was a smaller niche which a series like Dynasty Warriors filled fairly well — so well that even the Samurai Warriors series would struggle to gain attention.  This made the fairly small, saturated market of historically based beat ’em ups even more saturated.  Sengoku Basara would have an uphill climb to deter American gamers from their competitor’s games in such a limited field.  An idea might have been that changing the name and setting would aid in making it stand out.

Another possibility is that Dynasty Warriors series, while well received in Japan, was suffering some critical backlash from American reviewers.  Generally, critics complained about the Warriors games having easy, mindless gameplay, and critics showed little interest in the historical aspects of them whatsoever.  Capcom may have thought that increasing the difficulty, changing to a more fictitious theme, and changing the combat system to something more involved would improve Devil Kings’ critical reception overseas. Ironically, the differences had no effect in this regard, and in some cases actually hurt their scores overall.

However, the most likely culprit is one that seems a little insulting to the Western market — the idea that the Western audience simply wouldn’t get the Sengoku Basara series.  As I suggested in the previous installment, the series is something of a parody of the Sengoku Era in Japan.  Since Japanese teenagers and adults presumably would have passing knowledge of the time period, the parody is successful and humorous in Japan.  In contrast, the history of the Far East, and the Warring States period in particular, is not a topic very many average Americans would be familiar with; therefore, the joke would be effectively lost in the West.  For this reason, it does make some sense that Capcom wanted to try and release it without the historical references.  Unfortunately, much like the Warriors games, Sengoku Basara loses a great deal of it’s charm without the history behind it.

Nevertheless, Devil Kings did not do terribly well, and only garnered a cult following who eventually figured out all the historical references anyway.  As the series progressed in Japan, Capcom decided to not try releasing overseas again, until late 2010.

download

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes was apparently Capcom’s final attempt to bring the series State-side.  This time, however, they tried to correct some of the mistakes of the previous attempt.  The historical names and references remained intact this time, as did the difficulty and fighting engine.  The stages and characters were presented as they were in the Japanese version, and they released on the same platforms as their Eastern cousins — the Wii and PS3.  In addition, they hired relatively well-known and good voice actors for the characters in the game.  It seemed Capcom wanted to make this series work in the West this time.

Sadly, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes still struggled in the West, but for different reasons.  If you’ll recall from last installment, the Sengoku Basara series breaks up the Warring States period as it progressed.  As such, the setting of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes —  the third installment in the series  — is near the end of the period when most of the fighting is actually over.  Since Devil Kings included none of the story of the original, and the sequel was never released in North America, Capcom was basically asking Americans to watch a movie after editing out the entirety of the first two acts. This meant that average gamers wouldn’t be paying attention to the characters or story, just the gameplay and action, giving them a rather shallow experience.

What’s more, Capcom still couldn’t leave well enough alone, and changed the opening theme of the game to a pop sounding song for no apparent reason.  Have a listen:

The final nail in the coffin for this one was simply the fact it was so unknown in the West as to be unknowable.  The game was similar enough to the Dynasty Warriors series that it was inevitably in it’s shadow.  It was also part of a genre that garnered mixed reviews at best in the West.  Also, the game was released with little fanfare or advertising, meaning those that may have been interested in it probably didn’t realize it even existed.

Shortly after it’s release, Capcom went on record saying they were not interested in releasing the Sengoku Basara games to the West again.  That doesn’t surprise me, since the two games they did try here didn’t do very well.  Capcom clearly isn’t blameless for this however.  The strange mutation they created in Devil Kings set the stage for the confusion that would follow with Samurai Heroes.  The games would have been hit or miss either way in a niche genre such as this, but the methods Capcom took with the series in their international releases effectively doomed them from the start.

This is why Sengoku Basara is and will only be “Big in Japan.”

Websites used for research on this article include: 

http://capcom.wikia.com/wiki/Devil_Kings#Differences_between_Sengoku_Basara_and_Devil_Kings

http://thesilentchief.com/2011/07/29/no-more-sengoku-basara-games-for-the-west/

MademoiselleIrma‘s TM Revolution: Naked Arms (ENG version) – Sengokue Basara Samurai Heroes opening

Super Smash Step-Brothers Last Call

Just a reminder, the next installment of Super Smash Step-Brothers will be coming June 11th before the E3 Nintendo Direct.  If you have any character you want me to review for that installment, be sure to post it in the comments below.

Thoughts and Predictions on Generation Eight

After Microsoft unveiled the final details of their new console, the Xbox One, we finally had all the main players on the field — Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. It’s only natural then to compare the upcoming systems and see what insights we have in this upcoming generation of consoles. I may be a little late to the party on this one, as some have decided debate the worth of the coming generation long before this, but may as well throw our two cents in anyway…

The Wii U

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Assessment: The Wii U is the gaming console gamers wanted… about 7 years ago.

The only new generation console on the market right now, the Wii U has a pretty long road ahead of it. In terms of hardware, the Wii U is a lightweight, with more juice under the hood than last generation consoles, but nothing quite in the same league of it’s upcoming two competitors. We’re already aware it lacks to the capability to handle the Frostbite 3 engine or the Unreal 4 engine, which games going forward will likely adopt, giving the Wii U fewer third parties to rely upon.

Aside from that, the Wii U is a somewhat confused system. While trying to paint itself as the hard-core gamer’s Wii, it hasn’t completely done away with the gimmicks of the previous generation. The ability to stream games to the new Wii U GamePad makes gaming more versatile. However, the inclusion of various social media aspects, and effectively making the new controller a miniature tablet, introduces new-age gimmickery again. It’s difficult to know where the Wii U will go, because it doesn’t really seem to know what it is itself yet.

The biggest issue the Wii U has at the moment though, is it’s potential shelf-life. Starting ahead of the competition gave Nintendo time to build a strong library of games to help it hold onto a fan-base when the competition arises. The Wii U, however, has been squandering that advantage. Most of the strong titles for the system have been re-releases of older titles, and the unique titles for it can be counted on one hand (Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, ZombiiU, Lego City Undercover). It’s eShop has some titles of interest as well, however, limited sharing of former Wii Shop purchases leads former Wii customers to unwanted frustration. In this case, the Wii U poses more of an inconvenience to it’s former users than a boon.  Nevertheless, the Wii U stands as the only “next-gen system” touting backward compatibility with it’s previous incarnation, which is one it’s few saving graces.

The light at the end of the tunnel for Nintendo is it’s upcoming 1st party titles. While we have only an inkling of the titles coming out (Pikmin 3, Legend of Zelda, and Smash Brothers), first-party titles are usually the saviors of Nintendo systems in most cases. This was true of the 3DS, as it turned around once the titles started rolling in, and it looks as though that will continue to be the case.The only problem is, will reinforcements come in time to save the Wii U?

Prediction: Nintendo’s future looks bleak, and Nintendo will need software to survive the next 18 months through their competitors’ respective launches. Afterward, the company will need to make a dramatic shift (much as it did with the original Wii) to stay relevant in the marketplace.

Playstation 4

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Assessment: The Playstation 4 is the console for developers, and wants to be the gamer’s default option otherwise.

The Playstation 4 is a stronger competitor right out the gate. Announced late February, the PS4 on the surface has about everything a gamer would want in a system and then some. Without going into a great amount of detail, the PS4’s hardware is built like a mid to high end computer allowing for more flexibility, and making it easier on developers to work with it. It also stands to be a significant upgrade from it’s precursor the PS3. Features include a Blu-Ray player, motion sensitive equipment a la the Move from last generation, and a controller with an added touchpad.

There are a few things that stand to harm the Playstation’s performance in the gaming market however — and many of them sound eerily familiar. PS4 will also include a number of social features, including but not limited to the share button. This button is designed to allow sharing videos of gaming sessions. However, there is no word as to how this will work, or how much control users will have over their shared content with this feature. Also, the PS4 will allow some games to be played using the Vita as a second screen, which while creative, makes me rather wary. Depending on the cost of the PS4 itself, consumers could be looking at a very expensive package if they want the PS4 to do everything it’s competitor, the Wii U, is doing.

The biggest hurdle for PS4, however, will still come from the games. Last generation PS3 had a slow start on this end. While Sony is adamant that this won’t be the case again, we have only seen Kill Zone, Infamous, and a few other projects coming exclusively to the system. Since the leap in fidelity from the PS3 to the PS4 is not nearly as significant as other generations (see PS2 to PS3, or PSX to PS2), it will be difficult to sell to consumers that games on other systems will be significantly better on the PS4 hardware. Add to this the fact that the system will not be backward compatible with the PS3, old PS3 players will reluctant to trade up this cycle.

Prediction: Sony is in the best position of all the main competitors, having versatility and aspects of both competitors, while not being immediately distasteful to the gaming community at large. I don’t think that this will be the best selling of the consoles overall, but it will likely be able to sell consistently.

Xbox One

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Assessment: This is the console publishers want.

Announced May 21st, the last of the Big Three is the Xbox One. Much like the Playstation 4, the Xbox One is built like a mid range PC, though with more custom built parts. This may be an attempt to emulate it’s old rival Apple, creating devices that cannot be easily emulated elsewhere. The sleek design of the device itself seems to support that idea as well.

The One borrows from the TVii idea the Wii U is supporting, as well as combining the social media emphasis Microsoft and Sony have already been toying with, to create, essentially, a super media center. The Kinect camera and voice recognition will allow hands free access to all content you could want access to in your living room, even allowing access to more than one at once. While the capability of doing this given it’s specs is questionable to some degree, it’s a ambitious and intriguing concept. As a piece of technology, the Xbox One is quite fascinating, and stands to become more so going forward.

It seems however, as a gaming console, it may be less so. Microsoft attempted to avoid the issues, but it turns out early rumors of anti-used game technology and internet requirements were not entirely untrue. The system will require installation of games, and will tie them to your account. While it’s unclear how this system will work yet, hassle and fees associated with used games and lack of internet connectivity are inevitable. The Xbox One also does not have any hardware backward compatibility, though they have not said whether they will feature old Xbox 360 titles as downloadable games for the new system or not.

Microsoft has said that there will be 15 new exclusive titles for the platform, but it remains to be seen if these will be worth signing an agreement against the second-hand gaming market.

Prediction: In spite of my reservations, I can see this system being the greatest success of this generation, but not to gamers. The majority of the sales from this system will inevitably come from it’s draw as a media hub. Because it provides a unique experience, it’s major draw will be as a piece of technology as opposed to a gaming system, which will lead to strong sales.  This happened in Generations 6 and 7, it’ll happen again in 8.  This all comes with the caveat that it works as demonstrated and comes at a reasonable price point.

The Outliers

Assessment: Too much filling makes a pie a pudding.

Unlike previous generations, however, there are a number of new consoles coming into play that may turn the tide of this generation. Much like the beginning of the fifth generation, new ideas and new potential competitors are beginning to seep in.

The first is the variety of ‘Steam boxes’ coming to the market. These are consoles made by a variety of manufacturers, designed to use a connection to Valve’s Steam service for it’s library. While one has already been released, it’s $999 price point makes it less likely to attract a large following. Still, rumor states there is a more official one coming from Valve later this year or early next. With a large library of games already on Steam, a larger number still to come, and little worry for developers to build for unknown hardware requirements, the new Steam boxes are likely the next evolutionary step in console/pc gaming devices.

Another is the crowd-funded project, the Ouya. The physically smallest of the consoles mentioned, and likely the cheapest, the Ouya is an Android based media center with the ability to stream games from a central server. Much like a Steam box, this is a system that must always be online, but it’s so small and reasonably priced ($99), it would be hard for a gamer with cash to spend to pass it up. It’s also built around a store type feature similar to the iOS app store or Steam, making it easy on developers also. The major flaws are early reports of laggy controllers, and a lack of software for early adopters of the system. It’s official release is in June.

Lastly, while not much of a console itself, the variety of iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices have already started to hurt other handhelds such as the 3DS and Vita this past generation, and stand to continue to do so well into the next. Though still suffering from issues of proper recognition, the major game competitors are very clearly eyeing this market closely as the “console wars” continue.

Prediction: If the price of the PS4 or Xbox One is too ridiculous for the average consumer, the Ouya and iOS devices stand to gain more clout. Steam boxes will be reasonably successful as they still fit perfectly in a world where either the console market struggles or the PC gaming market does.

The results this coming generation are far from being determined. Eventually, it will all be about who can provide the best games, the best service, and the best experiences to the masses. With everything the gaming industry is setting out to do, and the new alternatives becoming available, there is no doubt, this is an unusual time to be a gamer.

Musou Missives: Orochi 3 Team Building Introduction

As a sort of an aside to the Musou Missives series, I’ve decided it’s worth noting what discoveries I have made so far regarding Team Building in the game after doing research for the series.

Before I get too in depth, however, there are a few things to cover first:

Not All Characters Are Created Equal

Due to having an incredibly large roster, with diverse weapons and abilities, it’s only natural that some are going to have far better abilities than others, or are better under certain conditions.  Add to that the fact that each character has an officer power that can enhance the party as a whole means that certain characters are going to perform better than others overall.  If you’re familiar with tiers in various fighting games, this is more or less the same concept.

To use the characters we’ve already discussed for an example: let’s look at Sima Zhao and Hanbei Takenaka.  Sima Zhao has a sword technique with decent range, the power armor ability to prevent combos from breaking, and powerful Musou based abilities.  Hanbei Takenaka has a short attack range, deals better damage during swap combos, only has a few useful charge attacks, and powerful musou based attacks.  Given the choice, Sima Zhao has more options, and so serves better on a team in most scenarios.

Now, in comparison to Sima Zhao, Kaguya has even more advantages though not in the same ways.  While Sima Zhao serves better dealing damage flat out, Kaguya has several attacks that setup juggle states, making her better to set up long swap combos.  This also helps build the team attack meter, which her power also helps build.  Even though Kaguya is generally weaker in damage and defense than Sima Zhao, she is much more useful to a team overall.

It’s an important thing to note when creating teams that certain characters will likely to better under a wider range of  conditions compared to others.

There Are No Bad Teams

This seems to contradict my earlier point, but with some exception, there are ways to make just about any team in the game work.  Since this is a single player game, it becomes more about what the player wants to deal with, rather than what teams are better than others overall.

That being said, some teams are much more difficult to use than others. The default team of Ma Chao, Sima Zhao, and Hanbei Takanaka is not a team I’m very fond of, for instance.  The team is fairly balanced and you can go through the game without need of anyone else.  However, a player has to be conscious of how to utilize things like Hanbei’s Fellowship ability, for example, to use the team to it’s greatest benefit.

In the end, it comes down mostly to playstyle   I find Fellowship based teams to be difficult for me to use much of the time, but there may be others who don’t.  In other words, there is no bad team, but there may be plenty of bad teams for you.

If Both Statements Are True…

The question then is, how do you decide what team to use?  The answer is to find characters you like as a starting point.  As you progress, you’ll find that certain ones probably don’t match your playstyle or contribute to the playstyle of other characters on your team.  It’s best to start with characters you like, rather than characters who are simply more powerful.

My Recommendations Lists

If all that I said is correct than why do I put recommended teams at the end of all my posts, and what do these teams mean?  The teams I recommend typically have some or all of these qualities:

1) Highlight said character’s officer ability in some way

2) Have movesets that compliment each other well, as to avoid jarring transitions

3) Have an easy to understand specialization or are versatile in most scenarios

4) Are interesting or fun to play together

Now that those things are clear, we’ll look at some fundamentals of what to look for in a team next time.

Big in Japan: Sengoku Basara

Welcome to a short series I like to call Big in Japan. Here I will be highlighting certain games and titles that are remarkably successful and well known in Japan, but tend not to get much of a following in the West. I’ll be discussing the work itself, as well as reasons why it failed to garner popularity here in the States and other parts of the world.

To start off, we’ll be revisiting the beat ’em up genre as we look at the Warriors series’ top competitor in the East — Sengoku Basara.

To start with, we need to go back in time to the middle-age of the Playstation 2, back in the early 2000’s. The Shin Sangoku Muso (a.k.a. Dynasty Warriors) series was on it’s 3rd installment, and doing rather well for itself. The Warriors franchise proved to be a promising and growing franchise. It was successful enough that Koei decided to make a new, similar series, called Sengoku Muso (and yes I confuse Sangoku and Sengoku quite often). Sengoku Muso would put players in control of Japan’s mightiest warriors and generals as they fought for power in the turbulent Warring States (or Sengoku) period. However, the Warring States period was already the primary setting for another Playstation juggernaut series at the time.

Onimusha was an action game based around the Warring States era in which the games’ heroes have to fight off the demonic powers of Nobunaga. Capcom had this series in it’s repertoire already, and had the claim to the Warring States era Japan setting. However, Onimusha’s popularity was beginning to wane. Capcom tried to branch it out with a tactical strategy game (Onimusha Tactics) and a one-on-one fighter (Onimusha Blade Warriors). Neither accumulating much in terms of sales or critical reception. The well for Onimusha was getting dry — so dry the next title would involve time travel. Capcom wasn’t so easily defeated however.

Sengoku Basara is Capcom’s long awaited answer to Koei’s Sengoku Muso (Samurai Warriors). The series takes the basic premise of the Muso games, and dials it up to 11. At the time, the Muso series was known for taking historical events and reinterpreting them, sometimes to unintentional hilarious effect. The Muso games were known for having characters remain a certain age throughout the game, even though the games usually spanned more than a single lifetime. They were also known for being obtuse in regards to stage goals and character leveling. Sengoku Basara would resolve most of these issues, while creating their own spin on the concept.

mitsuhide sw vs sb

While all the characters in Sengoku Muso and Sengoku Basara are based on historical characters, you may notice some of their interpretations are significantly different. Mitsuhide Akechii in Sengoku Muso is a brave, knightly warrior who turns on his Lord due to deep moral issues he had with Nobunaga’s practices. Sengoku Basara turns this interpretation on it’s ear, by interpreting Mitsuhide as a raving psychopath whose betrayal is not a moral quandary, just an inevitability. Hideyoshi Hattori, known for being ratlike in appearance and demeanor, appears in the Sengoku Basara series as a towering behemoth that prefers to beat his opponents to a pulp with his fists. Kenshin Uesugi is portrayed as a tall, bulky, intimidating warrior in the Muso series. Kenshin in Sengoku Basara is a small, soft spoken bishonen. Both Kenshins are still cold and calculating on the battlefield, but the physical differences are still vast.

Other interpretations are not as overt. Nobunaga is still so powerful and vile that nobody dares mess with him, but in Basara he seems to revel in it. Yukimura is still the great young hero of the age, but his dedication to his lord makes him practically a zealot in Basara. These are similar interpretations, but still rather extreme, making the men at their core almost indistinguishable to the outsider looking in.

The differences between the interpretations has much to do with the end goal of Sengoku Basara versus Sengoku Muso. Sengoku Muso is intended to represent the heroes in the story at least somewhat accurately in terms of how Japanese culture perceives them. This makes the Muso series more dramatic and takes itself very seriously. For instance, if this were the American Revolution Muso, George Washington would be a strong upstanding, yet reserved general. Sengoku Basara, at least to my understanding, is intended as a parody of the historic events. American Revolution Basara would interpret George Washington as a burly brute who carries an axe around so he can chop down every cherry tree he sees on the battlefield. The characters aren’t historical representations; they are caricatures. This is all in Capcom’s plan to tune in to the ridiculousness of the scenario and characters to the extreme, even if it seems a bit irreverent to do so.

In spite of the parody aspects of the game, Sengoku Basara approached the character’s aging and changing much more accurately than Sengoku Muso; this was done by choosing not to cover the entirety of the Warring States era in one go. The series breaks up the era into three major parts, resulting in each of it’s installments taking place after each other, resulting in changes to the cast and political landscape. For instance, you witness Ieyasu Tokugawa start as a young leader, and grow into a powerful warlord from the first installment to the last. Also, while you still see Yukimura Sanada being portrayed about the same age throughout, his attitude changes after the death of Shingen Takeda — showing the series’ character development.

sengoku-basara-battle-heroes

This also means, that instead of the roster becoming progressively larger by simply adding characters, it was also removing characters that died, such as the aforementioned Shigen Takeda, or have little significance during this time span, such as Kenshin Uesugi. It also allowed Capcom to build more balanced and varied playable cast, without having to rely on clone or mirror characters (though they still existed to some degree). The tight cast also contributed to the series’ arcade-like feel; something the gameplay reinforced.

The game was produced by Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who is also credited for the Devil May Cry series, and the gameplay shows that connection to a certain degree. In place of the complex battles and scripted events and morale systems that bog down the Sengoku Muso series, the focus of Sengoku Basara stayed solely on the player. Battles between armies were set up as a gauntlet to traverse. Each stage had a theme and an ultimate goal that needed to be achieved, which was usually told to you at the outset of the stage, or when the objective changed. Most stages ended with a fight to the death with the army’s leader, but what you had to do to get to that point was usually more than barreling through a load of enemies like in Sengoku Muso.

That’s not to say, defeating tons of enemies is not in the game, it’s actually a crucial aspect of it. Sengoku Basara encourages the player to not only kill tons of enemies, but find new and ingenious ways to do it via the combo system. Players are rewarded with gold for defeating enemies, officers, and finding hidden chests. The gold from enemies is multiplied depending on the length of the combo and how many enemies are in the combo. Keeping a long combo going is ideal to building up gold, which is exchanged for character experience at the end of a stage.

This is another aspect that is improved upon in Sengoku Basara. Character growth in the Muso series was misleading. Characters would increase in power through leveling up; once they were maxed out, however, they could only be improved by collecting permanent upgrades to various stats scattered across the levels. In addition to this, you had to find various levels of weapons and items — many of which were a chore to hunt down. Sengoku Basara simplifies this, as characters’ only method to improve is through gaining experience to level up, and through equipment upgrades. Basara also allows new special attacks called Super Arts to be learned as characters level, giving incentive to continue building characters. At later levels, characters know more Super Arts than they have reasonable button combinations, allowing you to choose what Super Arts to bring into battle. This takes away a little of the grinding from the series and replaces it with a little customization. A fair trade in my opinion.

The changes to the cast, adjustments to the storytelling, and stylized gameplay made the Sengoku Basara series far more frantic, energized, and engaging than it’s major competitor. For the rest of the PS2’s life span and into the following generation, Sengoku Basara would keep pace and even surpass Sengoku Muso in some areas. The series would spawn two anime seasons, though their quality is suspect, and even a one-on-one fighting game developed by Arc System Works. This was not just a spark that was forgotten in Japan, this was a full-fledged franchise there.

So, why haven’t more people heard of it in the West? We’ll get into that in Part 2. Stay tuned.

Onimusha information researched from www.pixilbit.com/feature/963/onimusha.

Sengoku Basara information taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sengoku_Basara and personal play.

 

Of DC and DLC

A few days ago before I shut down for the night, I saw an article showing an image of Batgirl for Injustice on Xbox Live.  I didn’t think much about it, and went to bed.  The next morning, I hear from Maximilian that all four characters were revealed. Some research determined that these were pulled from data-mined files on the disk, so the likelihood of these characters is pretty strong at this point.

This has caused a pretty heavy storm of rage on the internet.  Every comic book fan had some opinion on the cast of Injustice before, and now that the presumed “full” cast has been revealed, even more are surfacing.

Given my penchant for analyzing characters in a fighting game, I figured who better to talk about the four newcomers to Injustice than myself.  So then, a brief explanation of the incorporation of the last 4 characters on the roster.

Lobo

I’ll admit, the first words out of my mouth when I was told Lobo was announced was “Who?”  Apparently, I’m not alone either.  I was going to chalk him up to an oddball inclusion decision like Killer Frost, until I did a little Wikapedia diving.

Lobo does have a following, thought mostly in comic book and DC Comics circles though.  An alien bounty hunter, Lobo was conceived as a parody of the Punisher and Wolverine, but managed to come into his own afterward.  He’s rude, crude, and has a lust for vengence, lending him perfect for a fighting game.

Knowing this, it makes sense why Lobo would lead the wave of DLC additions.  He’s a character mostly popular in circle that pay attention to the more B-list heroes, meaning he doesn’t have a strong draw on his own.  Therefore, releasing him close to the initial launch of the game while it’s still fresh, gives him a better chance at selling in large amounts.  Comic fans who haven’t put the game down yet will scoop him up, and non-comic book fans that like the game are more likely to buy him anyway.

Moving forward, however, the strategy has to change, however, since the next three characters will have to me a significant draw on their own.

Batgirl

Ask anyone to list off female characters in DC Comics, you’ll probably get Wonder Woman, Harlequinn, Poison Ivy, Catwoman.  Chances are though Batgirl will be very high on that list for most of the general public.  That’s not on accident.  While there are plenty of other super heroines to choose from — such as Powergirl, Huntress, and Batwoman — Batgirl is more well known to the masses at large, and thus an easy choice for inclusion in Injustice.

This is one of the characters getting the most amount of heat right now for two reasons: a) there are too many Batman characters in Injustice already, and b) she is perceived to have abilities too similar to Batman.

For the first argument, I agree that the Batman franchise makes up a goodly portion of the cast.  In a cast of 24, 6 are Batman characters, which equals a fourth of the cast.  It’s pretty easy to argue that the Batman franchise doesn’t need anymore representation.  However, with all four DLC characters in tow, there will be a total of 28 characters in the cast, and adding Batgirl boosts the Batman characters to 7.  Some quick math, and it seems Batgirl’s inclusion isn’t growing their representation as much as it just maintains it.

For the second, I also agree that Batgirl and Batman have similarities.  However, my understanding is that Batgirl wasn’t trained by Batman or anyone directly affiliated with him.  She was raised by Commissioner Gordon (her father), and is also considered the most intelligent and tech-savy of Bat family — as evidenced as her tenure as the Oracle.  In contrast, Nightwing was raised and trained by Batman, but he has his own separate fighting style; therefore, how much different would Batgirl’s be having neither of these?  While their tools may be similar, the way they use them will most likely be very different.

In addition, since there have been a number of renditions of Batgirl over the years, she lends herself to more sell-able skins later on as well.

General Zod

Not a standard DC villian, Zod is a Kryptonian renegade who severs as a foil to Superman.  He’s a DC character that is most note-worthy for his appearance in the movie ‘Superman II,’ than any of the comics.

He is however, the villain (or one of the villians) of the upcoming ‘Man of Steel’ film.  This is pretty much the only explanation of his inclusion, but it’s a pretty strong one- two punch marketing-wise.  The game releases a character that is featured in the film, thus promoting the film; and the film featuring a character who is downloadable for the game.

Besides that, Superman’s supporting cast generally does feature other Kryptonians, such as Supergirl or Powergirl.  Having a Kryptonian villian serves as a good Superamn representaion anyway.  Regardless, however, Zod’s worth or lack of worth as a character is a moot point.  Even if he is the worst addition from the Superman comics, the marketing strategy makes the risk worth all the reward.

Scorpion

If I were to hate on any of these choices, this would be it.  The number one argument against Scorpion’s inclusion is the most obvious — he’s not a DC Comics character.

Scorpion, for those who are unaware, is one of the flagship characters from the Mortal Kombat series, which comprised Netherrealms Studios last couple of projects.  Scorpion is a ninja seeking out vengeance for the genocide of his clan, which is a backstory that is pretty far off left field for a tie into Injustice.

There are pretty much two things I can argue with Scorpion however: he will not be a lazy port as some may suspect, and he will be coming last among these DLC characters.

First, Scorpion cannot, and indeed will not be just a lazy port of the character from MK 9.  In order for Injustice to keep their ‘T’ rating, they can’t take the violent fatality moves or any of his more gory attacks with him.  This leaves his more basic attacks and traditional specials to work with.  Also, Injustice is a very different game than Mortal Kombat 9 was.  The button layout alone is very different, as is movement and blocking, so Scorpion will have to be adapted to this new format in some way.

Secondly, and most importantly, Scorpion will be coming last in the series of DLC.  By the point he is intended to release, most of the hype from the game will have waned considerably.  Any characters that launch long after a game’s release have to be considerable draws on their own.  Scorpion, while not quite a household name, is much more well known among gamers than any of the other DLC characters, and probably most of the regular cast.  It’s also worth considering the amount of hype guest and cross-over characters have gotten in previous fighting games — such as Link in Soul Calibur 2, Kratos in Mortal Kombat 9, or Akuma in X-Men: Children of the Atom.

Scorpion is a really odd choice for a game featuring DC Comics characters, but since it’s a fighting game, it’s not so terrible.

But of course, the tragedy here is that the huge gallery of DC Comics characters will be passed over in getting the video game treatment, and will still be restricted to the realm of comic books.  However, every comic book fan has to start somehwere; I suspect many will start here.

Did your favorite character get passed up?  Are you purchasing any of the DLC, or will you pass on these options?  Let us know in the comments.

Super Smash Step-Brothers Taking Requests

For those who missed the announcement in the last Super Smash Step-Brothers, I am taking requests for the next character to be featured in the series.  Leave a comment on any of the current articles, such as Geno or Knuckles, or post a comment here requesting the character you think deserves the recognition of SSS-B.

The only rules are it has to be a video game character, and I reserve the right to choose from those suggested.  In other words, this is Nintendo style; I’ll hear the suggestions but popularity may or may not play any factor in the final choice.  Oh, and it cannot be a character featured on my predictions list, you can find those filed under Smash Brothers, on the other articles page, or go here and here.

So, let’s hear it!  Who do you want to see in Super Smash Step-Brothers?