Tag Archives: Editorial

Is Another Videogame Crash Around the Corner?

There has been a ton of speculation going around that another videogame crash like the one from the early 80s could happen again because of the oversaturation of the market.  There are others who say it’s impossible because the videogame market is simply too strong today.  While true the market is at an all-time high, people tend to forget their history.

The arcade industry went through two crashes and was never able to return to glory afterwards.  What caused the first crash was a combination of things, but mainly the oversaturation of the games available.  After all there are only so many different versions and clones of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong one can really enjoy.  The second crash occurred because of the strength of the home console market.  Why would gamers pay $0.25 a life when they could get an entire game for $60 that actually looked and played exactly the same on their home console as the arcade version did?  The age-old appeal of the arcades, where games were leagues better than they were at home in terms of audio visuals, was lost when the Dreamcast hit the market in 1999.  Players’ taste in games had already began to change thanks to the introduction of the Sony PlayStation in 1995, but the true nail in the coffin was the Dreamcast.

The first home console to offer better-than-arcade quality graphics.
The first home console to offer better-than-arcade quality graphics.

In terms of the home videogame collapse of the early 80s, that comes down to the same thing.  The Atari 2600 was the king of the old-school consoles, but the market became saturated with consoles from a wide variety of manufacturers including ColecoVision to Mattel’s IntelliVision, and many, many others.  Then there were the games, towards 1981 and into 1982 the market was being flooded with lackluster software, which combined with the wide assortment of consoles led to the infamous videogame crash of 1983.  To give some perspective, in 1983 the gaming industry hit a milestone of $3.2 billion in revenue, but by 1985 it had shrunk by almost 97 percent down to 100 million.  Thankfully Nintendo was able to bring the industry back with their Nintendo Entertainment System, but had the market not been so saturated it’s possible Atari could have kept their lead in the industry.

Just look at how many consoles were released in 1982 and '83.
Just look at how many consoles were released in 1982 and ’83.

Fast forward to today where the home console market is still thriving, but for how much longer?  Once again companies are looking to enter the home console market with flashy set-top boxes that promise to do everything, but everyone is forgetting their history, and you know what they say happens when you forget your history…you’re doomed to repeat it.

Amazon, Valve, Google, Samsung, and Apple are all expected to enter the home console market with set-top boxes within the next two years.  This is on top of a wide assortment of micro-consoles like the OUYA.  Then there are the big boys, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft whom already have ‘next-gen’ traditional consoles out in the marketplace.  Given the wide assortment of systems poised to enter the market in the near future, it really makes you wonder where things are heading.

Then there’s the software.  Development costs associated with creating a AAA title have ballooned to Hollywood levels.  Games costing a few hundred thousand dollars now cost tens of millions.  This stifles creativity because publishers want to ensure success so more often than not they will copy whatever fad happens to be in.  Case in point, look at how many first-person shooters are available, it’s staggering.  By putting the focus on making money instead of creating unique and innovative gameplay experiences, we could repeat exactly what happened in 1983, too many consoles to choose from, and a dearth of quality software.

The problem of old could very likely happen again, where consumers lose interest because of oversaturation.  One need only look at the mobile market to see just how saturated the market has become.  For every good game there are countless clones, and filler titles that fail to make any money.  Should the same thing happen in the home console market we could very well see the collapse of the entire videogame market as we know it today.

I can truly see something like this happening unless something dramatically changes in the next few years.  What do you think companies can do to ensure gaming doesn’t fall from grace?

A Look at How I got into Arcade Systems

Over the past month I’ve been actively looking at ways to diversify the content we provide on YouTube and here on the site.  To be perfectly honest, the vast majority of our views/hits come from our successful YouTube channel.  This is what led me to start thinking outside the box, about how we could potentially offer viewers something they don’t see every day, yet stay true to our mission statement of providing content that gamers care about and are actively interested in.  Virtually everyone now has access to capture devices like the Elgato Game Capture HD, and because of that reviews we publish, while entertaining, are being done by tons of other people and are therefore not as special as they once were.  That doesn’t mean we’re just going to stop releasing reviews, it simply means they’re not overly unique unless we get early access to the game, or we cover something not too many people have access too.

It was this concept of talking about games that not too many have either ever seen, or have access too that lead me to rediscover the Neo Geo.  Our SEGA Saturn and Dreamcast reviews have done exceptionally well over the years, so clearly there’s a large demand for retro reviews, or features where we discuss retro games.  The Neo Geo was the perfect console that fit all the needs I was looking for.  It would scratch that retro itch people have, it’s not easy to get into collecting for the system, and there are tons of exclusives that aren’t available anywhere else besides the original hardware.  So I figured it would be great to mix Neo Geo content in amongst the modern day reviews we cover like South Park: The Stick of Truth.  What would happen next was a huge surprise to me.

I started participating on the Neo-Geo message boards and noticed the community was unlike any other I had been part of before.  These people were not hardcore gamers, they were omega gamers.  Some of the people on these boards have hundreds of arcade cabinets on top of massive Neo Geo MVS/AES collections.  Naturally the more time I spent on these boards, the more I started to see incredible deals on MVS games.  Every single MVS game I currently own (13) were all purchased from members of the forum, and the experience has been nothing short of amazing.  After a few months of getting to know specific members, a question was raised, did I own an arcade cabinet myself.  The answer is no, primarily because I don’t have any space for a full cab in a three and a half apartment, but then I heard a magical term I had never heard before: “SuperGun”.

This video led me to discover a fantastic site call Jamma-Nation-X, which actually create custom made SuperGuns.  So what’s a SuperGun, it’s basically a box with a bunch of connectors that allow you to connect an arcade PCB or system directly to your TV using a regular console controller.  Think of it like as the middle man between the original arcade system and your TV and controllers.  You can also get SuperGuns created with different video encoders allowing for S-Video, Composite or Component outputs.  In my case I decided to get an RGB SuperGun, which ended up saving me almost $200.  You see, all arcade systems have a native RGB output, which is the absolute best picture quality you can get out of older games, but the catch is that not everyone has access to an RGB SCART converter.  Thankfully I purchased a SCART-to-HDMI upscaler a short time back for my Saturn reviews, and I’ve been using it ever since.

So with my SuperGun ordered, it was then time to find some arcade games so I started with the site that had been so good to me already, the Neo-Geo forums.  There I found some incredible deals from some super nice forum members.  I won’t tell you which systems or boards I have because that’s a surprise video I plan to do in the next few days.  Not only can I continue to do periodic reviews of retro releases, and continue with brand new reviews for modern console, but now I’ll also have the ability to talk about real arcade games, which is a dream come true.  I’ve always wanted to talk about some of my favorite arcade games as they were meant to be played, on actual arcade hardware.  Some of you will be amazed by some of these games because several I have, have never been released on any other platform outside the original arcade hardware.

So that’s my story.  If all goes according to plan you can expect to see a video on my arcade systems in the next few days, and then I’ll slowly start to put together reviews sometime after that.  The SuperGun hasn’t arrived yet, but once it does I’ll try and have at least one review up per week on a classic arcade game.  I also plan to look at individual arcade systems and give those an overview/review because many people have no clue how arcade systems even work or what they look like.  My hope is that people find this content original, and enjoy it because there aren’t many people out there who have access to these unique systems.

A Look ahead at 2014’s Indie Releases

Over the past year I’ve personally reviewed DUX 1.5, Sturmwind, Redux: Dark Matters, and most recently Neo XYX.  What is it with the indie scene that I find so interesting?  Well for starters, I absolutely love how indie developers are free to do as they wish.  There’s absolutely nothing holding them back.  If they want to add vulgar language, or ‘mature-themed’ content they’re free to do so.  I just love that.  I also love how the indie scene harkens back to the old days when people used to make games in their basement, and they did this for fun, with no other reason necessary.  The same is true for most of the modern day indie developers.  Do keep in mind I’m only referring to console indie developers here, because on PC it’s a whole other ballgame.  Sure they want to make a little money at the same time, but for the most part is this a labor of love.

This year alone we shall see some truly excellent indie releases.  There’s Pier Solar HD from Watermelon Games, which will be released on Steam, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and Dreamcast.  That’s right, Dreamcast!  Take one guess which version I’ve already got pre-ordered.  That’s right, the Dreamcast version, and the reason is because there’s something magical about opening up a brand new game for a system that died back in 2001.  Pier Solar HD is a reworking of the indie SEGA Genesis RPG of the same name, minus the HD of course.

Pier Solar HD isn’t the only new release.  There’s also Knight’s Chance for the Neo Geo MVS, which we will have the world exclusive for.  That’s right, we’ll be unboxing and reviewing this game before anyone else in the entire planet!  Not only is that very exciting for the site, but also for me as a hardcore gamer.  It’s actually the very first gambling compilation game ever released on the platform.  There are card games, coin games, and more.  It looks extremely fun, and I just love the art style.

Nightmare Busters is a brand new Super NES game that began shipping out December 2013, but I should get mine sometime this year.  It’s an action platformer that is bright and colorful, and is the first brand new release for the Super NES since 1998!  Can you believe that!?!

Hucast will also be releasing the excellent looking shmup Ghost Blade for the Dreamcast later this year.  Hucast are the fine folks that released DUX and Redux.  As we’ve come to expect from all Hucast-published games, you can expect fantastic gameplay and some lush VGA-compatible graphics.

I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting, but these are all highlights to be sure.  I’m very excited to get my hands on all of these games in the coming months, and hope more get announced soon.  Rumor has it NG:Dev Team, the makers of Neo XYX are hard at work on their next Neo Geo MVS release, and believe me when I say, I’ll be there day one for sure!  Which of these games are you looking forward to, or which ones have I missed that I should add to the list?  Let me know!

The Joy of Gaming Anticipation

In a little under 12 hours, as of writing this, the latest Pokémon will be released on the eShop on the 3DS. Naturally Steven has texted me about three dozen times reminding me of this fact, and commanding me to write an article about it. Since I don’t listen to him very well, I decided to write an article on what he’s experiencing right now, the joy of anticipation, that feeling we all get knowing our favorite series is getting a new game, or that a new console launch is right around the corner.

As I get older the anticipation and feeling of excitement has decreased quite significantly. I literally couldn’t sleep when Ocarina of Time was just a day away. I had dreams of how awesome it would be, and in the end the anticipation was well worth being excited over as Ocarina of Time was just awesome. When Skyward Sword was released though, I didn’t have that same level of excitement. It is most likely because the Wii just wasn’t that exciting of a console to me. Truth be told though, I haven’t been super excited about any videogame release in years.

PThere’s something magical about the feeling, that no one can deny. Right now Steven is looking for any excuse under the sun so he can lock himself away for the long weekend (it’s Thanksgiving in Canada) to play Pokémon X & Y, but he’s a grown man so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I’m sure you all have similar stories, even now, where that feeling comes over you and you want to drop everything so you can check out the latest entry in your favorite series.

Console launches are also special because of the mystery. Ever since I started COE I’ve lost a lot of the excitement around console launched mainly because of having the opportunity to play them so much earlier than their official release. This time around though things are different. I have yet to get my hands on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, and I don’t plan to until I have my own systems. So for the first time since the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox launch I’m actually beginning to get excited for these new machines, as well as I´m always exited to get new gaming accessories at Armchair Empire which in my opinion is one of the best ones. Of all the games hitting in November there’s one in particular that I’m starting to get old-school excited for and that is…

So what about all of you? What stories do you have about console or game launches you were extremely excited about? Are you like Steven, losing sleep over tonight’s Pokémon launch, or are you more interested in November when the next-generation will officially begin?

The History of the King of Fighters – Part 3 (KOF ’94)

After the success SNK had with both the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series, they wanted to move on to something else. SNK had no plans to stop making new entries in either of those series, so they decided to do a crossover title that would attract fans of both series. The original idea wasn’t to make a fighting game at all, but rather a side scrolling beat ’em up. The prototype of the game was called Survivor, but that’s about all we know for certain. Apparently there was a location test version created that featured Robert Garcia and Terry Bogard as playable characters. Not much else is known about the prototype as development quickly switched gears. SNK really loved the idea of a cross-over game, but they weren’t entirely sure players would be interested in Survivor given how popular Capcom’s Final Fight was. In other words, they were a little worried this game would appear as another ‘me too’ type of game, much like what had happened with Fatal Fury. After what must have been some length internal discussions, it was decided that instead of a beat ’em up, the game would become a fighter, something they knew a lot about by this point in time.

KOF94Now that the development team had a clear direction, they wanted to expand the roster of playable characters beyond just Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. As a result the team dug a little deeper into the SNK vault and selected two extremely popular arcade hits from the pre-Neo Geo days, Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier and added some of those characters into the mix. Now they had a very diverse cast of characters, but it still didn’t feel original enough. Remember that in 1992/93 Street Fighter II was still the king of arcades, so they wanted to do something else to really separate it from the rest of the pack. For whatever reason it was decided the team mechanic from the beat ’em up prototype would be carried over to the fighting game. Thus the creation of a team-based fighter was born.

While in the process of creating the characters for each team, the development staff quickly realized they didn’t have enough diversity even with the additional characters from Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier. They knew they also had to add some fresh blood to the mix, and started creating all new original characters. What was supposed to be a quick dream match fighting game, turned into something much more. In the end there were a total of eight selectable teams, with three characters per team.

KOF 94_1Kyo Kusanagi was created to be the main protagonist of the series, however given the game’s inability to mix and match fighters from different teams, it was eventually decided that players would decide who the real ‘hero’ was. Kyo’s role would be greatly expanded in the next entry in the series, and from there on out.

In total, here’s a list of all the characters that made their way into the game from previous SNK games.

Terry Bogard – From Fatal Fury series
Andy Bogard – From Fatal Fury series
Joe Higashi – From Fatal Fury series
Mai Shiranui – From Fatal Fury series
Kim Kaphwan – From Fatal Fury series

Ryo Sakazaki – From Art of Fighting series
Robert Garcia – From Art of Fighting series
Takuma Sakazaki – From Art of Fighting series
King – From Art of Fighting series
Yuri Sakazaki – From Art of Fighting series

Ralf Jones – From Ikari Warriors series
Clark Still – From Ikari Warriors series

Athena Asamiya – From Athena and Psycho Soldier
Sie Kensou – From Psycho Soldier

Here’s a list of the brand new characters.

Heidern
Choi Bounge
Chang Koehan
Chin Gentsai
Heavy D!
Lucky Glauber
Brian Battler
Rugal Bernstein
Kyo Kusanagi
Benimaru Nikaido
Goro Daimon

KOF 94_3With the character roster complete, they had to decide on a name for the game, which likely came about very early on in development. After all they knew they were going to need some sort of tournament to bring all these characters together, and what better tournament than the one they’d already established in both Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. So it was decided, this was be called The King of Fighters ’94. SNK was also very smart to point out this new series would take place outside Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting canon. This way they wouldn’t have to explain why Art of Fighting characters were young, and how other characters managed to find their way to this game. It was supposed to be a dream match anyways, so they figured not too many people would care.

The development team did add a story though, a rather simple one at first. Rugal Bernstein is a powerful arms dealer and drug trafficker, who also happens to be one kick ass fighter. He’s gotten to the point where he’s untouchable and so decides to test his strength against the best in the world, so he holds a team-based tournament with the best of the best. He sends out his secretary to travel all over the world and invite groups of three fighters from each region to represent a certain nationality. This helps explain why each team is based on a country.

When it came time to the core gameplay, the developers originally wanted to balance out each individual fighter, but with a roster of 24 characters, they didn’t have the time nor money to do everything they wanted. In the end the Art of Fighting characters are slightly more powerful than the rest of the pack. This issue would be fixed in the following release, and one must commend the developers for managing to expand the move sets of many popular characters like Terry and Andy Bogard.

KOF 94_2Each character plays as you might expect, with standard, special, and super moves. The button layout mimicked Fatal Fury Special, meaning weak kick, and punch, and fierce kick and punch. Players could use combinations in order to dodge incoming attacks, block, etc. This was all standard fair by the time the game released in August 1994. KOF ’94 also borrowed gameplay improvements made by both series it was originally based on. As such there’s a power meter in the bottom of the screen which fills as players block, or take damage. There’s also a way to fill it yourself, although it leaves you open to attack and requires three buttons be pressed at the same time. When full, this meter strengthens the attacks of all your moves and also grants you the ability to pull off your character’s super move. It’s possible to taunt other players to decrease their meter. When health drops below 75% it’s also possible for players to execute their super move.

Instead of selecting individual characters to fight with, players selected one of the eight available teams. From there they would select which character on the team they wanted to start with. Matches were set up one-on-one, but the only way to win was to down all three members of the opponent’s team. In the event one player was defeated, the next team-member in line would jump in to fight, and the standing character would regain a bit of health. It was also possible to execute support attacks from those teammates who were waiting for their turn to fight.

KOF 94_4Overall KOF ’94 was extremely innovative for its time. Players loved that one credit could potentially last five ’rounds’. It was also the first of its kind, and ushered in an entirely new way for gamers to play a fighting game. The King of Fighters is directly responsible for helping usher in the tag team sub-genre, which would officially kick off with Kizuna Encounter and X-Men vs. Street Fighter in 1995/6. While not a tag fighter itself, it was clear where things were heading with this team-based fighter. KOF ’94 was also the originator of the crossover sub-genre, which would gain mainstream popularity with X-Men vs. Street Fighter a few years later.

History remembers KOF ’94 as one of the most innovative and best fighting games from the early to mid-nineties. It was one of the most fluid and graphically impressive games of its time. In 1994 EGM awarded the game Best Fighting Game of the Year, and Best Neo Geo Game of the Year. It was extremely well received by fans, and would lead to the creation of yearly King of Fighters games until SNK ceased production of the MVS hardware in 2004. The last official release being The King of Fighters 2003 which was released in December 2003.

The Aliens Want to Know – Does Digital Downloading Games = Renting?

For years now PC gamers have had little choice but to download their games, and for many they’ve never thought twice about it. Console gamers usually act a little differently, and that’s mainly because they’re not used to downloading their games. They grew up buying, renting, or borrowing games from their friends. While it’s true PC gamers can claim the same; for many different reasons PC gamers are used to digitally downloading their games from services like Steam. The thing is though, when one downloads from Steam, what happens to the games they buy?

Valve, the company the runs Steam, will say that the games are yours forever, but read the fine print, Steam is essentially the world’s largest rental chain, that just so happens to have only one store. Whatever you buy from Steam isn’t technically yours. At some point in the future when the Martians invade and Steam’s servers disappear, those digital downloads you’ve purchased will stay on your hard drive. The question is, what happens when that drive is stolen by our intergalactic superiors? In all honesty, the games are gone for good, and that’s not taking into account the ones that require a check-in with Valve’s servers to ensure the games are authentic.

Listen to the man, he knows what's up.
Listen to the man, he knows what’s up.

This subject has always been one that has fascinated me because I own a large amount of retro controls, and I like preparing for the inevitable invasion. It’s nice to know that my NES, and Intellivision will be there to cuddle me when I’m placed in an incubation chamber awaiting my next probing. Sadly that won’t be true for many games moving forward. As much as I love the conveniences of digital downloads, I’m not oblivious to the fact that when I download something I’m essentially renting it for an extended period of time.

Let’s take Nintendo as an example, only because the 3DS was the first videogame platform outside of the PC where I actually downloaded a ‘large’ portion of games. I say large, but it’s more like six or seven. Whatever the case may be, what I’m getting at is this. What will happen when our new rulers arrive? When Nintendo no longer has an eShop for the 3DS up and running? Will my 3DS suddenly stop working, no, it won’t, meaning all the games I’ve downloaded to it will still work as well. Will I be able to download my games again in the event the aliens blast my 3DS XL? Sadly no, I won’t. So where does that leave me, and what does that mean about digital downloading in general?

Well it should be clear by now, but for some reason many folks don’t seem to get it. When you digitally download a game on a home console or on your PC, unless it doesn’t contain DRM and you’re able to make multiple copies of it, you don’t actually own anything at all. It’s just an illusion because one day, maybe soon, maybe many years from now, but one day that digital download will eventually be useless, unless the hardware it is downloaded to never breaks, seizes, or become obsolete. With the impending doom almost upon us though, that’s not exactly a guarantee.

Digital downloads may equal renting, but at least you don't have to have rooms like this...right?
Digital downloads may equal renting, but at least you don’t have to have rooms like this…right?

When you download a videogame, do you think about things like this? What would have happened to all the old Jaguar games had they been downloaded to the console all those years ago? That system bombed astronomically bad, so no one would be able to buy a used system and connect to their servers to download software. You’d basically have what was on the machine, if anything, and that would be it. Again, that’s assuming there was no server check-in required. What about systems like the PS2? Remember how faulty the original launch models were. Well what if that system had stored all the digital downloads on it, and it stopped working? With no PS2 servers still up and running, it would essentially be a useless platform.

So are we better off buying the physical format and lug around five thousand games every time we move? Is it better to have to wait in lines at midnight to get our hands on games when it’s minus fifty degrees out and pouring? Well when you look at it like that, maybe the alien invasion wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Don't piss them off!
Don’t piss them off!

The History of The King of Fighters – Part 1 (Fatal Fury)

Featuring 13 entries in the core series, The King of Fighters has been around in one form or another for almost 20 years. Dating all the way back to the arcade renaissance of the early nineties, KoF has had its ups and downs, but remains one of the most cherished fighting game franchises in history. Where did it all begin though? That is exactly what I aim to answer with this series.

The King of Fighters is a very unique series because it isn’t its own stand alone release. There’s a reason the first game in the series is called The King of Fighters ’94, and that’s because the tournament actually took place a few times before that game. On top of that, SNK had taken many gameplay elements from other fighting games and sort of created a dream match with the first KoF, but I’m getting ahead of myself. In order to really understand the roots of the series we need to go back in time to when fighting games first took of…

KoF 94

Rewind the clock to February 1991, when Capcom’s Street Fighter II had taken over the arcade scene. Not only was it single-handily responsible for saving the arcade business, but it helped usher in a genre that was largely ignored, the one-on-one fighter. SNK had been in development of their own fighting game before the launch of Street Fighter II. Their first ‘modern’ fighter was a game called Fatal Fury: The King of Fighters. Over in Japan the title was Garō Densetsu Shukumei no Tatakai, which is important to note for later on in the article. Interestingly Takashi Nishiyama, the original creator of Street Fighter (1987), was the lead creative director on Fatal Fury. The game was in development at the same time as Capcom’s SF II, although because it was released after (November 1991) it was largely considered a SF II clone upon its release.

FF1

Fatal Fury was quite a different beast when compared with Street Fighter II. For one thing Capcom’s fighter placed an emphasis on combos, whereas FF was more about the timing of special moves and on storytelling. Much like SF II, special moves in Fatal Fury require the player to move the joystick around in a certain sequence and press a series of buttons in order to execute. An interesting idea was to actually show players the special moves after each bonus round, instead of having the input command written somewhere on the game’s cabinet. This was most likely done because of the very nature of the MVS arcade cabinets, which allowed up to six different games be played on a single machine. As for the bonus rounds, after every two matches against the CPU players would take on an arm-wrestling mini-game, which required players to mash on the A button like crazy.

FF2

The core gameplay felt different too thanks to the inclusion of two distinct planes, a foreground plane and a back plane, or lines as they’re often called. Only the CPU-controlled characters could switch between planes on the fly, whereas players could only swap planes when the other character had already done so. Another interesting addition was that of the versus mode. Unlike in SF II, when another player would enter a quarter in the arcade machine, the person who was playing wouldn’t have their game cut short. Instead the new player would actually join the original player against the CPU for a nice 2-on-1 match. Afterwards the two players would battle. It was very unique, and some joked it was the only way to actually beat the single player game.

One criticism placed on Fatal Fury was the minimal number of playable characters. In this groundbreaking fighter there were only three different characters to chose from, and while each had their own distinct fighting style, three characters was far from ideal considering Street Fighter II featured a roster of eight unique characters. Some fans also disliked that Fatal Fury only had three action buttons, one for punch, kick, and throw compared to SF II‘s six action buttons (light, medium, and fierce punch and kick buttons).

FF3

Gameplay differences aside, one of the major reasons players became interested in Fatal Fury was because of its excellent, yet simple storyline. It goes something like this. Ten years ago crime lord Geese Howard murdered a rival martial artist by the name of Jeff Bogard, who was part of the trial against Geese. Fast forward ten years and Jeff’s two sons Andy and Terry seek revenge. Geese decides to hold a street fighting tournament called the King of Fighters in order to prove he’s the strongest one there is in the fictitious American city of South Town. Andy, Terry, and their friend Joe Higashi enter the tournament and the rest is history. These details may be off a bit, as I’m writing this from memory, but the general storyline is something like that.

FF4

One cannot simply talk about the history of The King of Fighters without spoiling the main plot lines of several classic games, so if you’re interested in experiencing the story for yourself, there are no shortage of ways to play these gems. From Nintendo’s Virtual Console, to the Neo Geo X, and the PlayStation 3’s Neo Geo Station, pick your poison and enjoy. You’ve been warned.

After Fatal Fury, SNK got hard to work on two different fighters, The Art of Fighting, and a follow-up to Fatal Fury, appropriately enough called Fatal Fury 2. Both games took place in the same universe though, which was a really unique move on SNK’s part. First we’ll look at the follow-up to Fatal Fury, and I’ll tackle The Art of Fighting in the next installment in this series.

Fatal Fury 2 AES

Released to the arcades in December 1992 in Japan, Fatal Fury 2 improved on the original in every way possible. Players now had four action buttons (Light and Strong Punch and Kick), and a much-needed and appreciated dash back move (executed by tapping the joystick back twice). Gameplay was also tweaked so players could move between the two planes whenever they wanted, and the game was one of the first that I know of to introduce environmental damage. Some stages featured hazardous environments in the background plane so if the player did a Power Move their opponent would be shoved to the back plane, and perhaps a stampede would occur causing extra damage. There was also a stage with electrified fences if I recall correctly. Players could even perform special plane attack moves, which would allow them to continue to attack even if the player wasn’t on the same plane.

FF II11

Further enhancements were made to the fighting system allowing players to perform counter attacks after blocking an incoming attack, desperation special attacks once their health dropped below 25%, and even taunts. Mini-games were still present, but were now featured after every four battles instead of two.

For a game released only a year after the original, Fatal Fury 2 featured a wide assortment of improvements, but the biggest has to be the increased character roster. There were now eight playable characters including fan favorite Mai Shiranui. This marked her appearance in a videogame, and she would become SNK’s most popular female character across all their franchises.

FF II2

This time around the King of Fighters tournament is held by a mysterious nobleman who is hellbent on finding out who killed Geese Howard, and destroying them. The tournament is no longer just about one city, instead it’s a worldwide event, which explains the additional characters. Each character has his or her own reason for joining the tournament, and the story was greatly fleshed out as a result.

Fatal Fury 2 was a big success for the company, but they weren’t entirely satisfied with the way the final game turned out, so they released an updated version called Fatal Fury Special in September 1993. It introduced an entirely new combo system, which greatly increased the speed and movement of the game. The four non-playable boss characters were now playable, as well as three non-playable characters from the first Fatal Fury. That increased the roster to 15 playable characters, and a new hidden boss was added, Ryo Sakazaki from Art of Fighting fame. Many new moves were added as well, but for the most part the game was considered a much more refined or deluxe version of Fatal Fury 2, which is exactly what it was.

FF Special AESThat concludes the Fatal Fury portion of this tale, but the long winding road leading up to the first King of Fighters isn’t done yet, next up is a look at SNK’s other fighting series, The Art of Fighting. The Fatal Fury series would continue for many years up to 1999’s incredible Garou: Mark of the Wolves (called Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves on the SEGA Dreamcast), but the purpose of this series is to zero in on the beginnings of The King of Fighters so perhaps one day I shall return to discuss what happens next in the Fatal Fury series.

Steven and Jarrod’s Night on the Town

Sometimes you just want to let loose and have fun, and that’s exactly what Steven and I did this evening. We met up at our favorite discotheque and let the good times roll.

Dance1

Take a look at those eyes, you could tell crazy stuff was about to happen, and boy did it!

Dance2

Dance3

After we danced our butts off we decided to take a quick break from all the action. Dancing’s hard work you know!

Dance4

While we were sitting down relaxing a bit, we noticed that other party animal who was wreaking up the dance floor so we figured we couldn’t just let him dance alone.

Dance6

Dance5

Look at those moves! Once the clock struck 8:30 or so we decided that was enough. There’s only so much dancing you can do before your legs give out.

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This is how we ended the evening, just sitting down enjoying the beautiful moonlight.

Luida’s Bar – Taking Your Love of Games to a Whole Other Level

Ever wonder what it would be like to step into one of the inns from a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game? You know, as in actually walk up to the place and lay down some cash and rest for the evening. Well three years ago this very idea was pitched and a collaboration between Square-Enix and Karaoke Pasela formed Luida’s Bar, a real-life establishment in Roppongi, one of Tokyo’s major nightlife spots. For those unfamiliar, Luida (also known as Patty in North America), is a character in several of the Dragon Quest games that helps players form a party. She’s been featured in DQ III, V, VI, and most recently in Dragon Quest IX.

Earlier this year Luida’s Bar celebrated its third year in business, and I thought it would be neat to introduce our North American and European readers to what this place is all about. Think of it like a small resto-bar (seats around 25 people) that serves dishes inspired by the videogame series its named after. You can order Slime meat-cakes, there are Drakee alcoholic beverages and so much more. The staff cosplays, which is excellent, and the menu has all its prices in gold (1G = 1 Yen). Here’s a brief look at some of the goods, and the restaurant itself.

DQ literally decorates the walls of the resto-bar.
DQ literally decorates the walls of the resto-bar.
Welcome to DQ heaven.
Welcome to DQ heaven.
Classy, and awesome all at once.
Classy, and awesome all at once.

space

Now that's a menu.
Now that’s a menu.
Time to reach level 5!
Time to reach level 5!
Yes even the directions have a DQ flare to them.
Yes even the directions have a DQ flare to them.

Pretty incredible, wouldn’t you say? I know more than a few COE members would be up for checking out Luida’s Bar if one existed on our side of the ocean. I know I would be all over this place if I was ever in the area. It just goes to show how popular Dragon Quest is in Japan. Over here we’d have to have Cid’s Bar or something because unfortunately Dragon Quest just wouldn’t cut it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, and whether or not you’d be interested in seeing other establishments that were based on games come to life.

Nintendo Goes Bananas Part II

A while ago I made the following video…

Today I would like to follow it up with another video/article discussing a couple of very important issues relating to Nintendo. So let’s begin with the video. Here it is in all its glory.

What the video mentions is exactly what this article will look at in further detail. Last week it was revealed that Nintendo would not allow the fine folks who setup the EVO Fighting Game Championships to stream matches of Super Smash Bros. Melee. It goes deeper than that though. EVO organizer and co-founder Joey Cuellar said the following in a recent interview:

“They were not only trying to shut down the stream, they were trying to shut down the event, the smash portion of the event. It’s their IP, they can do what they want and they didn’t present us with any options to keep it open.”

We all know that Nintendo switched their stance on this almost immediately after the story went public, but I’ve got to ask a very simple question. What the hell was Nintendo thinking? Are they that blind to what EVO is and represents? The most ironic part of all is that the Smash portion of the EVO live-streams was the most successful the event has ever had with over 130,000 people live-streaming at one point. I believe it’s time we all stop protecting Nintendo and take a cold hard look at what the company is doing and why it’s time we give them a serious wake-up call.

Nintendo, we are not going to put up with your crap anymore! It’s time you learned we’re your biggest supporters and you NEED US! Take one look at the trailer Capcom put together for their just-announced Ultra Street Fighter IV.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s called fan service. Nintendo should have embraced eSports years ago. Imagine where Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, and Pokémon would be if Nintendo had officially sanctioned world championship events every year. I’m talking the full monty here, where they would stream the events on all their platforms, they would fly the top players to an arena where people could watch in person, etc. It boggles my mind that they don’t see the potential, even after events like EVO and the Pokémon championships. So I’ve got to ask, have they gone bananas?

The aforementioned Ultra Street Fighter IV isn’t coming out on the Wii U, and to be perfectly honest I understand why. The Wii U is about to crash and burn, and if things don’t drastically change in the coming months I don’t even want to know what will happen. Basically everything has come down to one game, if Super Mario 3D World can’t turn the sinking ship around, nothing will. Did I mention the game isn’t even online? Yeah, I know it’s pretty incredible since it’s getting released at the tail end of 2013, but hey, it’s Nintendo!

By embracing these community events Nintendo could change their fortunes almost overnight. It would show a renewed focus on community, something that Nintendo so desperately needs right now. While Miiverse is excellent, it’s just not enough. The problem is that it’s clear Nintendo has no idea what it’s doing right now. The corporate management is completely out of touch with the modern gamer. The very fact that Nintendo went after the EVO guys proves this. That’s nothing but free publicity. Then there’s the whole YouTube debacle where they were preventing people from making money off their “Let’s Play” videos, even on games decades old. Are you kidding me?!?! That’s completely and utterly unacceptable. At this point all the competition needs to do in order to completely crush Nintendo is sit by and let them keep doing their thing.

It’s time Nintendo wake up and realize games have changes, and so have the gamers that play them. We want to be connected to one another, we want to watch eSports, and we want to make videos about games we love. You should be embracing us, not throwing us to the curb! Ultimately Nintendo has to answer to their shareholders and if their financial situation continues to worsen you can bet changes will be made. The question is, will they be for the better?

So what say you about this subject?

Isn’t it Time the Erdrick Trilogy Return to North America?

Dragon Quest fans have had it rough over the years. First we were never properly introduced to the Dragon Quest series because the trademark belonged to the makers of Dungeons and Dragons so the series had to be named Dragon Warrior. Next, it took far too long for the translations to hit North America and as such the games started to look extremely dated next to games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and the like. Finally we missed out on Dragon Quest V for the Super NES, even after the translation work was all but finished (or extremely close to being finished), when Enix left North America back in November 1995 due to poor sales of the Dragon Warrior series. That’s what I call rough!

North Americans were SO close to seeing this back when it was new, but alas it wasn't meant to be.
North Americans were SO close to seeing this back when it was new, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

Thankfully things turned around when Enix returned in 1999. Their first game was Dragon Warrior Monsters for the Game Boy Color. That was a great time for fans of the series because the company quickly announced that Dragon Warrior VII (PS1) would be making its way to North America shortly after the debut in Japan. In reality it took a year to arrive, but at least it was released. From 1999 to DW VII’s North American release in late 2001, fans were treated to Torneko: The Last Hope (PS1), Dragon Warrior I&II (GBC), Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 (GBC), and Dragon Warrior III (GBC).

While it was awesome to have the Erdrick trilogy on the GBC, it was far from ideal. Sure these remakes had tons of improvements over the originals, from expanded and fleshed out storylines, to additional classes in DW III, the biggest improvements made were to the core gameplay. Now players could talk to people, open doors, and do other super simple actions with the press of a button instead of always going into the menu system. Another major improvement was made to the core combat system. In the original games if players had two people attack the same Slime, for example, and the first team-member killed the Slime, the second member lost his turn. These remakes adjusted that so the second member would automatically attack the next enemy on-screen. We take small improvements like this for-granted, but go back and play the original games and you’ll see how cumbersome and archaic they feel.

Very few people even knew what this was when it was released, let alone give it a chance to succeed.
Very few people even knew what this was when it was released, let alone give it a chance to succeed.

The biggest problem with the Game Boy Color remakes is that they look extremely dated today. Thanks to the small screen real-estate, Enix had to make everything super tiny in order to fit what they needed to. Enemies don’t look anywhere near as detailed and smooth as they should. Also playing Game Boy games isn’t as easy as it once was. You have to go and pickup a Game Boy Advance SP (best GB ever created!), or a Game Boy Player for the GameCube. Most people would likely just emulate the games and be done with it. Even the original NES games are extremely hard to find, and ultra expensive. They have yet to appear on the Virtual Console for either the Wii or the Wii U, making them true collector’s items.

So what’s the big deal you might say, only that Dragon Quest/Warrior III is widely regarded as the best game in the entire series. While I don’t agree with that statement myself, the game has sold over six million units in Japan since it was released. That number includes the two remakes. Two remakes you say?! That’s right, the purpose of this article is basically to enlighten those that may not know, but there is indeed another, far superior remake to the Game Boy Color version, the ones released on the Super Famicom. See, there’s a reason why I mentioned Enix leaving North America in 1995 ;)

Dragon Quest I.II was released in 1993 for the Super Famicom, with Dragon Quest III hitting in 1996. These are the ultimate remakes, and have never been released outside Japan. While there are fan-translations available for any DS emulator for PC, it would be absolutely awesome to have Square-Enix finally release them in an official capacity. Today, DQ fans can easily purchase DQ IV, V, VI, and IX on the DS, and with any luck we’ll be able to purchase the DQ VII remake on the 3DS sometime next year. DQ VIII is also readily available for the PlayStation 2, and odds are looking good that DQ X will be released at some point on the PC. So with all these games available for fans to play, it seems a little odd to be missing the original trilogy, wouldn’t you say?

The pic says it all really.  The Super Famicom game looks even better blown up.
The pic says it all really. The Super Famicom game looks even better blown up.

Over in Japan the situation isn’t anything like it is in the rest of the world. Dragon Quest is their series. There’s really no equivalent in North America except maybe Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, but even then it’s not exactly the same. The Dragon Quest series is part of their pop culture like you couldn’t even begin to imagine. As such they get remakes every single console generation. I won’t bother listing all the remakes they’ve had that we missed out on, but they’re numerous. The original trilogy remakes were just released as part of an ultra cool 25th anniversary collection for the Wii back in 2011, that the rest of the world completely missed out on. I never bothered importing it because it required an import Wii to play, or one that cracked the region blocking. Here’s a teaser of this incredible collection.

While I knew this collection would never make its way outside Japan, I’m now wondering if Square-Enix has plans to remake the original trilogy using the DQ IV, V, and VI engine, or the newly crafted DQ VII engine for the 3DS. I know each game would be a huge success in Japan, and would increase the odds of a worldwide release. The first two parts would likely be included together if only because of how very short the original Dragon Quest is in relation to all the others. I think it’s about time the rest of the world gets to experience these excellent games in a newly minted restoration, or at the very least via the incredible Super Famicom remakes. What do you think?

Famicom Turns 30!

I can’t believe it has already been 30 years since the Family Computer was originally released in Japan. It retailed on July 15th, 1983 for ¥34,800. While the rest of the world was going through the great videogame crash, things were very different in Japan. A small Japanese card manufacturer and toy maker decided it was time to move from their Game & Watch portable arcade game series to something far more serious. The Family Computer would achieve new heights on the global scene when the hardware was reworked and released as the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES for short, in 1985. Today we’re going to talk a bit about Famicom though, which is what the Japanese people called the Family Computer for short. The name stuck, as the official successor to the Family Computer wasn’t the Super Family Computer, but actually the Super Famicom.

The system that started a revolution.
The system that started a revolution.

When the Famicom originally launched it had a meager three titles available, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. When all was said and done there would be hundreds of unique and groundbreaking games available for the system. The vast majority of classic franchises had their start on this incredible machine. It’s not just the individual franchises that people remember so fondly, but how this one platform introduced entirely new genres. In short, the Famicom was the introduction of the modern videogame industry. Before Famicom games were extremely simplistic, often single-screen arcade games. With the Famicom, that all changed. Suddenly videogames had scrolling screens, there were worlds to explore, and children no longer needed to imagine what a forest looked like. It wasn’t just some green screen, there were actually pixelated trees! With the release of the Famicom and all these incredible games the market flourished unlike anything the world was prepared for. This was the start of the Nintendo age of videogames.

While the Famicom may not have been the most powerful of all the 8-bit platforms, it was certainly the most successful. It is estimated to have sold between 60 and 70 million units, far outpacing its closest rival. No one knows for certain the exact sales as at this point in time no one was actually keeping count.

Now this was forward thinking!
Now this was forward thinking!

The Famicom would eventually get a sister system in the form of the Famicom Disk System (February 21st, 1986), which harnessed the power of the Famicom and paired it with a disk add-on. Memorable titles for the Disk System include the original Super Mario Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda, and many others. The Famicom would also see a remodel on December 1, 1993 in the form of the AV Famicom, which allowed the system to use a composite connection instead of the old RF connections the Famicom had.

AVFamicom
Bah who needs 1080p HD when you can have gorgeous 480p!

It’s funny as I sit here and look at my own Famicom. I think to myself how archaic it now appears. It had two controllers, both hardwired into the system, and the cables were extremely short. One of the controllers had a built in microphone, and bizarre things like that. At the end of the day though, it didn’t matter, these strange design choices led to one of the very best videogame machines of all time, and clearly the most influential and important. Our videogame market owes everything to this little red and white box.

Happy Birthday Famicom, you were one in a million!

So now that I’ve talked a little about the old girl, what are some of your fondest memories from the Famicom or the NES?

Shin Megami Tensei IV – Things I Don’t Care For

Every game can’t be perfect, and in face no game truly is. SMT IV is no different. There are a few things that most media outlets ignore, that I’d like to discuss. I’ve also done a video highlighting a few of these annoyances to act as a companion to this article. So let’s jump right into it.

To begin with, when you finally make your way far enough into the game you’re taken to what is effectively an overworld. From here you take the shape of a little circular icon that moves around a static backdrop. Enemies appear every now and then and will chase after you, but that’s not what’s annoying. No, the annoying part is that the map can be extremely difficult to navigate because it is hard to see. It’s entirely possible to get stuck for an hour simply because you couldn’t see the dark blue path next to the dark gray path, and that’s the only way to proceed to your next destination. Other times there will be microscopic gates that hinder your progression, and all you had to do was move around them, but because of the color scheme what should be super simple can become a chore.

By far the biggest annoyance is with some of the optional side-quests. Notice how I say optional, as you don’t need to do them if you don’t want to. That said, if you’re like me and you want some of the awesome rewards the side-quests offer, you’re going to try to complete everything. A lot of these quests will have you venture back to the earliest portions of the game in order to hunt down a specific demon, or to collect a certain number of item-drops from older enemies. In theory this shouldn’t be a problem because of how geared and leveled you are at this point in the game. The problem is there’s no aggro table in SMT IV. An aggro table essentially means that monsters are only interested in you if you’re equal or lower level than they are. They won’t bother to attack you if you’re over five levels higher than they are, as doing so is completely pointless. The player gets no experience, and the monsters will all be one-shotted so what’s the point. Without an aggro table though every single demon in the game will come running after you even if they have no chance of beating you. What this does is artificially extend the game’s length. What should take you five minutes takes over an hour. The end result is, a lot of these optional quests can become quests of patience more than anything else.

SMT IV 2
The attack might look cool, but if it doesn’t connect you don’t use it again. Simple as that.

Finally there’s the issue of A.I. Frequently this game will hand you your ass on a beautiful platter, but then at other times you’re left scratching your head. One common complaint people have with the Dragon Quest series is when they’re fighting an enemy and the creature at hand casts a spell even though they’ve run out of MP. Doing this once is fine, doing it four times in a boss fight is ridiculous. Something similar happens here too. While you’re battling a demon, it will cast an ice attack on your one character that’s completely immune to all frost damage, thereby forfeiting their turn and allowing you to counter. Doing this once is perfectly fine, but having that very same demon repeat said attack three more times is ludicrous.

So is the sky falling, is SMT IV doomed, I’d say by taking a quick glance at the game’s Metacritic that the answer is an overwhelming no. The rest of the game is extremely fun, and the demon collecting and fusion system is a blast, and clearly the most enjoyable part of the game. It’s just that sometimes people can get a little excited about one aspect and ignore the others, so I thought I’d do something a little different and highlight some key things that have been popping up that aren’t so hot. Expect the full review in the next few days.

Shin Megami Tensei IV – Demon Fusion (Includes Video Demonstration)

Two days ago Atlus was super cool and sent us a digital download code for their latest RPG Shin Megami Tensei IV for the Nintendo 3DS. I promised the game to Steven, but since he’s on vacation he said he was too busy to cover it. The nerve of some people! Anyways, I played for a few hours yesterday and plan to play pretty much all day today, and I wanted to begin my series of articles with a look at demon fusion. I’ve already posted a video on the combat system, but I’m going to do a more in-depth look at it tomorrow. So let’s kick things off with how demons work in general.

While you traverse the dungeons/combat areas you’re going to stumble upon hundreds of demons, over 400 to be exact. Demons take the shape of weird pixelated objects racing towards you while you explore the various dungeon areas. If they touch you, you get sucked into battle. From here your main character has the option of speaking to a demon and negotiating with them. The goal is to try and convince them to join your party. Sometimes it can be a real challenge, because some demons require you to be a certain level before joining, others simply want some of your blood, money, etc. If you’re too nice to most demons they’ll just take your goods and leave you, which sucks. Eventually they’ll join your party if you’re persistent enough, or simply by blind luck.

Demons have their own set of natural skills. These skills can be physical attacks, projectile-based attacks, magical attacks, or even buffs and debuffs. The only way to truly know all of your demon’s abilities is by leveling the demon. Eventually you will unlock all the skills that demon has. That’s not the end of things though. Instead the you can do what you did in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2, you can combine different demons together and harness the strengths of both demons into a new, more powerful demon. Unlike Joker 2 though, you don’t need to start from scratch, re-leveling the newly formed demon. Instead the new demon is almost always about as high level as the greater of the two demons you fused together.

Negotiate well or you might end up losing tons of money, and life for nothing.
Negotiate well or you might end up losing tons of money, and life for nothing.

While fusing you can actually select which abilities will be carried over, or allow the system to randomize them for you. I always customize my skills because you might want a certain elemental attack or a buff that would be missed if you just randomized the fusion. It’s extremely important to customize your demons and make sure you’re getting the best of both worlds. I typically like to create demons that have both offensive and defensive skills just in case one of my party members is one-shotted, I can easily switch up my tactics.

Speaking of being one-shotted, prepare to die, a lot. The beginning of the game is brutal. When you see the pixelated objects coming towards you, you have the option of striking your sword. If you miss and the enemy attacks you, they get the first attack. If you strike it, you get the first attack. You always want the first attack. In the beginning of the game it usually equals life of death. As the game progresses things balance out a lot more, and if you’re struggling you can always play on the easier difficulty setting, which makes enemy skills miss much more often, thereby keeping you alive longer. The rest of the game remains exactly the same.

When it comes time to fuse demons together, make sure their stats are improving or don't bother.

If you’re planning on checking out SMT IV, I highly recommend you delve as deep as you can into the demon fusion system as it is incredibly deep, and very rewarding. I also recommend you try each new demon in battle before you fuse them because sometimes the base demon is actually better than the new one you’re going to make. Trial and error plays a lot into the overall system, but that’s part of the fun.