Exogularity; F-47 Ishkur

To celebrate Muv-Luv Alternative hitting Steam, let’s talk about the future of Tactical Surface Fighters. Namely, the 8th Generation Tactical Surface Fighter F-47 Ishkur.

Needless to say, this be spoiler country.

 Ishkur is the Sumerian name for Hadad, the god of rain and thunderstorms of spring. A fitting name for mankind’s latest weapons against extraterrestrial threats: the BETA and their Silicon creators pose. While the previous generation of TSFs were defined in their G-Generators and system made possible through them; a decade of operation time without replenishment, TSF sized particle cannons and advanced Rutherford fields that could withhold Fortress-Laser Class’ barrage for fifteen minutes. Tactical Surface Fighter development became stagnant after the introduction of the 7th Generation due to mankind-wide civil wars. With the global unification of 2043, a project to face the creators of BETA was launched a year later, with a need for the 8th Generation following in suit. Three years later, the F-47 would meet with abilities such mission would demand.

The 8th Generation is redefines the role of a TSF to the point that it’s no longer “Surface;” Space is its main field of operation, but the F-47 has been designed to function from Zero-G to 3-G environments. Movement is attained by manipulating gravity, and as F-47’s main role is to function as an envoy to the space fleet aiming to contact the Siliconians, it boasts an impressive long-range particle cannon as its main weapon. Furthermore, the F-47 is able to engage in limited ranged warps and contains regenerating life-support systems, giving the unit ability for independent interstellar travel.

The name Ishkur represents this aspect of F-47 being able to rain down storm and thunder on whomever the pilot chooses to strike.

This rough design shows where we’re going. One thing that I didn’t include in the above description of the unit, is that Ishkur would be able to purge its damaged sections to continue to fight unhindered, at least according to Ishi Sho.

While the F-47 Ishkur sounds overpowered, the mook it is from, exogularity 01, hints that BETA tactics have evolved as well. Despite this, it does carry more traditional weaponry.

We can already see from these roughs that the two familiar weapons seem to be a mainstay still. The Assault Gun boasts rather functional design, probably to give emphasize how it has to function in variety of environments an interstellar mission might have. The Close Combat Sword we have here seems to have taken the handle idea from BWS-8 Flugelberte as it is arching to the wrong direction, but I’ll let that pass, as we’re talking about a giant robot and not a human hand. The lowest one is 8th Generation multi-purpose additional armour, a shield of sorts, though it is rather small for that function alone. It is missing from Strike Frontier render of the unit, and may have been dropped from the design for now.

As the F-47 is a completely new design, not based on any existing aircraft, its Jump Units are based solely on Tactical Surface Fighters’ own design language.

If you look too long at these, you may end up seeing a skull of sorts. That may just be me.

To summarise all this, F-47 Ishkur is what Tactical Surface Fighter line would naturally evolve into when materials, sudden surge in advanced technology and necessity for interstellar warfare all come together. It was Yoshimune Koki himself who jokingly said that it’s not longer “Surface” and that TSFs have now entered the realm of Super Robots, but he isn’t half wrong. Perhaps calling F-47 Ishkur Tactical Space Fighter would be more appropriate, even when it could function on Earth-like bodies. Tactical Multi-Environmental Fighter doesn’t have the same ring to it. I’m not ready to agree that this mecha fits in the Super Robot category straight away. It certainly is a compact and hi-performance mecha all things considered, but in a world where technology is being combined with extraterrestrial material that allows bending dimensional barriers through the sheer power of love, I’m reminded of Third Clarke’s Law; Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The design itself is combination of two things; the designer Ishi Sho’s own taste and view how the TSF line is to evolve, and cues from Mamoru Nagano’s Mortar Hedds from Five Star Stories. However, I would also argue that there is an influence from Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s illustration works, namely Linebarrels of Iron. Furthermore, some elements, like the shoulder armours, do remind of Gundam AGE‘s Vagan designs, thought this is probably just my eyes tricking me. F-47 Ishkur is probably the first properly modern design in the franchise, as even the 4th TSF Generation still has visible vestiges of the early 2000’s mecha design. If I can be frank about my own view for a moment, Ishkur’s design does please the eye and probably does good to the franchise in that it is far removed from any real life fighter jet.

This mecha, Ishkur, represents what will probably be the future of the franchise, if it has the chance to go that far. Things have certainly changed, with âge now more or less servicing as the brand and front for ixtl, Avex Pictures acquiring ixtl itself and both Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative being officially released in English. However, with both Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken being largely failures all around, the staff at âge/ixtl are in a position very few people would wish to be in. Whatever comes next has to strike true. Of course, with Avex Pictures now being the upper management, an adaptation of Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative itself isn’t far too far-fetched. However, it would have to be an adaptation that would aim to expand the audience, something the core fans probably would not prefer. It would be necessary for the health of the franchise and companies involved.

But for now, let’s enjoy what we have.

Listen, The wind is still, And far away in the night — See! The uplands fill With a running light.
Open the doors. It is warm; And where the sky was clear– Look! The head of a storm That marches here!
Come under the trembling hedge– Fast, although you fumble… There! Did you hear the edge of winter crumble
-Mark Van Doren, 1924
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Expanding Switch

With the recent Nintendo Direct, which I’ve just manage to watch thanks to life, we can say that its first year of games is pretty damn good. Very rarely does a console get this sort of first year. For example, the DS’ first year was abysmal before Nintendo turned the console around and made it the top selling console. Perhaps the only consoles that can compete with the Switch’s library as it is now compared to their first year are the NES and SNES. Famicom had pretty terrible first year, which the NES managed to avoid to some extent.

Switch’s success is tied to three or four different elements, depending how you want to count them. First is, without a doubt, that it is a hybrid console. Its portability without a doubt  is part of the Switch’s charm. Much like all previous handheld consoles that had extensive support, namely the Game Boy series and the DS, Switch is enjoying consumers carrying it around, though in somewhat limited extent due to its size. Sony could’ve taken few lessons from Nintendo how not to drop the ball with handhelds. Poor Vita, people had such high expectations for you. Being handheld is not really a reason for Switch’s success, but it is certainly part of it. Hardware, that is. Switch seems to be easy to develop for and allows more ‘portable’ games to be made that don’t require to be stupidly expensive Triple A. They have their own slot in the fray.

Nintendo bringing their old arcade games to the system is great. While some will scoff at them, and never remember that Nintendo started as an arcade game company before entering the home console market, these titles will have their audience. The more Nintendo brings their older titles that have not seen a release in years, the better. Just tie all of my past purchases to an account I can carry between consoles, so I don’t need to buy the same game again and again for new systems.

Of course, Nintendo releasing a Switch/ Super Mario Odyssey bundle will see more sales. The game, despite whatever personal issues I have with it, does look fun and may see good amount of sales. Now if Nintendo put the same effort and quality into a 2D Mario game, we’d be golden.

The second reason is that Nintendo’s own software has been of high quality. Breath of the Wild has gained loads of support from the consumers and generally has been accepted one of the better Zelda games. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, while certainly mainly just an upgraded edition of the Wii U game, it has made it rounds. The Battle Mode and included DLC really showed Nintendo that doing a complete release with some extra characters thrown in and tweaked gameplay pays the bills better than trying to what Capcom did with Street Fighter X Tekken. These games, especially Breath of the Wild, are keys to why Switch has been successful thus far. Hardware’s prowess doesn’t come from it being extremely good or able to push out incredible graphics, but something that can keep costs low and still be able to deliver easy environment to develop for. Develop games, that determine the success of the console.

This third reason could be counted with the second reason, but it really deserves its own slot, and that is third party titles, including all the smaller releases. While some of the titles are ports and some pretty low quality, but the fact that they are there makes the deal. Once you have the Big Titles in your library, you will want to look at the smaller and cheaper titles you might want to pick up. Indies (oh there’s that term again) will drop this sort of titles into the store from time to time. The more you have titles of at least decent quality, the better. Call it shovelware if you want, but all winning consoles had the most shovelware people could choose their favourites from.

The fourth reason is expansion. All consoles require their userbase being expanded at some point and it must be constant. Switch has been a success among Nintendo fans and general audience, but it still lacks certain appeal from its library. For example, Rocket League may be another port, and for a good reason gets dropped few notches because of it, but it offers something new not in other versions of the game. Same with Skyrim. The game may be six years old at this point, but there are still people who have not played it. It will also tap to the same core fantasy group that might find Breath of the Wild appealing, just with less Japanese feeling to it. Both Doom and Wolfenstein II both fall into a similar category with Skyrim in that they open doors to different interests the console currently offers. Back in the day, the media would say that the Switch is finally getting mature games to its library. It would have been preferable to have completely new entries to Switch in these franchises, but those can always follow if these are successful on the platform first and manage to solidify the userbase further.

Switch’s library is being expanded with these ports, like with L.A. Noir‘s updated one. While these are ports of past titles, they have an audience that will check them out, and another part will return to them if they’ve gotten rid of the previous version.

With this sort of tactic, the Switch has seen, and will see, a healthy game library from where both high-end and low-end product consumers will find something to enjoy. The problem of course with this is that it needs to be maintained. The Wii lost its steam halfway through due to Nintendo essentially dropping the support (Wii Music essentially killed the console), and looking at how Nintendo has released software on their previous systems, we can see that their main support is pretty much lost few years into a console, before things gear up for the development of its successor, with third party following in suit. As useless it is to hope that this time around that support wouldn’t vanish just like that, I highly doubt that’ll happen. While a console doesn’t have an expiration date other than when the developer drops their support, this five to six years cycle has become a standard of sorts. This is why we can be glad to see the Switch being expanded like this during its first year of existence, as that should lead into second and third year of further support and expansion.

 

Skill is glorified, universally

Dean Takahashi’s Cuphead play and the feedback it got seemed to have shaken some of the gaming media, as there has been a slew of posts popping here and there defending the lacklustre game play. Gotta defend your own tribe, I guess. Maybe the most snicker worthy text goes to Dante Douglas’ Videogame Culture needs to Stop Fetishizing Skill. Douglas, like so many others, has a sort of romantic view on the Third and Fourth Generation of games, where they were hard as hell. Much like nowadays, there were number of games that were difficult, which were eclipsed by the number of games that weren’t. Mega Man and Super Mario games, for example, were easy enough for five years old kids to play through.

Douglas’ main argument in his text is that you don’t need to be good at a game in order to criticise it. We can give him this just fine, to an extent. Games as a medium require execution and certain level of skill in order to be able consume them. People can play Street Fighter II at the easiest level just fine and experience what the game has to offer just fine, nobody expects them to go and win an EVO tournament. However, if you’re unable to play the game to even beat one opponent, then you’re far from being able to see what the game has to offer. Perhaps this is a bad example, but the would be the same across the board; consumption of video games require some skill and ability to learn the rules. Douglas vilifies the consumer groups who put weight on experience than observation by claiming skill has been fetishized. If Let’s Plays and other forms of watching someone else playing a game, then gaming media has no reason to exist anymore. All game journalists end up being obsolete under this mindset, and they’d turn into tech journos at best doing interviews and reports on game development and advertisements.

Wait, no scratch that. All those could be delivered by these streamers directly from the developers in joint attempt to close the gap between developers and consumers. All the reports on game development can be done that way too, or game companies could those directly via their PR staff. A video game journalist is a specialised job in that they’re required to practice journalism as well as be able to objectively view the level of excellence a product has through its consumption. At least with new media’s streamers and Let’s Plays we know where the producer stands. With game journalists we have to guess whether or not they’ve been paid up, whether or not there’s an agenda behind this or if there is an agreed stand across different companies how to handle a story.

However, you still require that mechanical interaction in order to, and I hate to use this term, experience the game yourself. We can’t experience what others do just yet, the technology doesn’t exist to create psychic links between human minds. You can not assert other’s actions as your own as an outsider. We tend to do that anyway, humans are emphatic beings in that sense. Yet, you can’t tell what sort of book your neighbour is reading just by watching him read.

His take on games evolving from just being puzzle boxes to stories is inaccurate. Games have always been about stories the player is a part of. It is unfortunately common to see people forgetting that video and computer games are part of game and play culture, all of which have stories as part of their structure. Playing GTA is essentially a play of Police and Robber, where the player plays the part of the Robber in an a more elaborate virtual environment, but the core is still the same. The Police this time around just happens to be an AI and the play is more controlled and directed than what kids would have. There is no real other way to experience the play than take part in it yourself. Certainly you can watch someone else play the part for you and have an onlooker experience. That, however, never replaces the experience of play itself.

Douglas’ argument that skill needs to be dropped from games in order for something better to happen for the industry and sub-culture is very much in the woods. While we can always discuss what a game is (a thing that we don’t really need to discuss any further, the question has evolved into what isn’t a game [Visual novels aren’t]), that is beside this whole discussion and an unnecessary addition to the mix. Game journalists need to step up and deliver what is expected of them by their consumers, the people who ultimately are responsible of them being employed. Attacking your customers is one of the worst tactics you could make.

In addition to Douglas’ ending his text in a very dishonest way of claiming They’re just games, there is praise to be given to a journalist or a reviewer who goes his way out to completely consume a product in order to wager all of its merits first hand. A Let’s Play shows you the visual side of things, yet you wouldn’t be able to describe the action of it. This is where game play can’t be directly compared to books or movies, as advancement requires, demands even, a genuine action on the players’ part. Not everybody is able to do so, and there’s nothing wrong in that. However, if you’re a journalist who would rather consume puzzle games rather than fast-paced actions games, it’d be better to stick to your repertoire in order to produce quality pieces.

Skill may not be fetishized, but it certainly is glorified within game cultures. This is nothing out of ordinary, as any hobby or sub-culture that contains a definitive action positively glorifies a finely executed action. Dean Takahashi’s struggle to beat the Training level and the first proper level of Cuphead would be like watching a reviewer struggling to build a plastic model of a tank and never managing to glue anything together. You can’t review a model properly unless you’re able to build it, and if your skills aren’t up to the task to execute the action to the end, you’re left on second guessing through someone else’s actions.

Why is skill glorified then? Perhaps one of the prominent reasons would be that skill in a given game isn’t exactly just that. A well executed game play doesn’t just look good, but also shows knowledge of a given game and genre as a whole. Being able to beat Super Mario Bros. doesn’t meant you’re a skilled player. Beating Super Mario Bros. without dying once, using no Level Warps or using any items however does show one’s skill. A reviewer isn’t expected to a tournament level player like Daigo to be able to consume Street Fighter III Third Strike, that is to say they’re not expected to pull of Moment #37 , but they are expected to throw Hadoukens successfully. Speaking of SFIII, if you’re interested in hearing what are the consequences of reducing skill gap within competitive games, Core-A Gaming has a good video on it.

That comparison isn’t exactly fair. Competitive gaming has always required more effort to gain probable skill in it than non-competitive, through self-imposed challenges and restrictions to “compete” against something is as old gaming itself. However, competitive gaming Journey, the player’s evolution from low-tier challenger to a skilled player, does give enough leeway to compare it to single-player games’ challenges, where beating the game and its challenges is part of the fun. This has been the backbone of majority of electronic games in its short history, where the player is expected to learn to rules and functions and develop enough ability to play the game head-to-head. This certainly is skill build-up, but it’s not skill as Douglas refers in his text.

Rather than forcing a square peg down a round hole by arguing game culture should drop difficulty and the required skill that it brings with it, it would be better if the game developers could produce games to expand the market and create new games to cater low-end game players, who for whatever reasons can’t muster the execution to challenge the higher-end products. This isn’t said in a negative tone, but in a fashion where we must face reality of different games suit different people. It’s like with food; a foodie with tomato allergy can’t consume foods with tomato, and simply observing someone else consume the food won’t cut it. You need someone who can in order for him to consume the food and be able to tell you about it.

Review of the Month; Mayflash GameCube controller adapter

Mayflash is a Chinese producer of console and PC gaming goods. For at least decade and a half they’ve been producing adapters and dance mats, as well as the odd dongle for your WiFi needs. They have offered alternatives to officially licensed product pretty much all of their existence, and it’s not rare for them to offer adapters that would otherwise be too obscure for any other company to produce. It would seem that their philosophy has always been It has to work and be cheap, design be damned. I can’t really fault this philosophy, even if a designer’s heart bleeds because of it.

If you want to cut the chase with the review, I can condense it in one sentence; it looks cheap, but the insides are good quality and it works. However, if you want something more, let’s look at what’s on the outside first.

The dimensions of the box itself is 128 x 71 x 23 mm, with a . It is, all things considered, surprisingly small. However, it is also very light and prone slide every which way. All this makes a very portable piece of equipment, but it does feel a bit cheap due to this. The plastic used is rather standard and its matte finish makes it feel a pretty standard piece of tech. Despite this, due to the text and lightness the adapter does feel rather cheap. The lack of any sort of striking design, or moving the text to the bottom and leaving the top completely vacant, does add to the cheapness factor.

The controller ports have been marked with with dots, like in GameCube itself. However, they’re a bit too small to see, and you can see my haphazard attempt at painting them in the middle of the night didn’t exactly product the results. It would’ve been preferable to have the slots marked with paint, or have concave dots made on the plastic that the user could have painted himself. I can’t really say they do their job well enough, they’re just there. Better than nothing, but again Mayflash’s idea of skimping on the surface raises its head.

As said, the adapter slides on surfaces, but I’ve added few rubber pads to make it sit in place. Surprisingly, this little addition makes it feel a bit more quality product, but in the end is a useless addition. The box itself is held together with Phillips head screws, which is great. Not only it probably cut some costs off, but also allows the consumer to open it up, fix if anything’s broken or otherwise has a need for modifications or such. I’m somewhat surprised that Mayflash didn’t opt to use their logo on the top of the adapter, as their logo would’ve made a nice looking splash. However, I recognize that having nearly brandless piece of tech opens much easier avenues of surface modifications, some of which I’ll probably take advantage at a later date. Case modding is fun, after all.

While the controller ports themselves are the same as in the original GameCube, the inside that does the job is what matters more. I must say, this isn’t what I expected. While some bits here and there seem like they could’ve seen just a tad better soldering, all the components are of good quality and the tracing is nothing to scoff at. Compared to what sort of botch-job 8bit Music Power offered, this looks nothing short of great. It may not be as sturdy as Hori’s Famicom Mini Commander, but having a modern electronic device build as sturdily as they were in the 80’s is rather rare. This is really where Mayflash’s competence has come through most often. While the cases are pretty terrible, and I’ve had few of them just come apart due to shoddy design, the PCBs and function of the devices have always been between decent and top-notch.

The use for the adapter is, of course, emulation. Very few player would prefer using a GameCube controller elsewhere. Dolphin, currently the choice for GameCube and Wii emulation, offer native support to GameCube adapters and Mayflash is one of the best, if not the best, alternative option to the official Nintendo adapter. Hell, I’ll go for broke and recommend it over the official adapter anyway just because Mayflash’s adapter’s price is half of Nintendo’s and readily available from your local Internet seller. It also does allow change between Wii U and PC mode, which helps quite a lot of you’re aiming to use GameCube controllers for other games. I wouldn’t blame you, the controller is still pretty comfortable all things considered.

Of course, it functions just fine with Wii U, there are no problems here.

Just to reiterate, the box itself, and its terrible packaging design, are nothing to look at. However, what’s inside the box and how it functions is terrific. Just remember to go to Mayflash’s own site and download the latest drives, as Mayflash is a manufacturer that aim to tweak their stuff from time to time.

The Archetype maker

Before going into Mega Man’s 30th anniversary, let’s make this week a thematic one for Street Fighter. Let’s talk about the design now that I alluded to that possible topic last time.

To cut the chase, this will be a very truncated version what should be a series of posts concentrating on each of the original characters in Street Fighter II. Yes, we’re ignoring the original game, because it’s just background noise at this point. Unless Capcom decides to remake it, which they should have already done. Also note that I’m going to use Japanese naming scheme.

The core of Street Fighter II‘s character designs is that they come from the culture around. It’s not self-referential or tries to shove other games into itself. There was nothing to reference yet, outside Capcom’s use of Yasichi and few other smaller items, like Henry from Side Arms Hyper Dyne. All the characters also have certain spot in the roster both in terms of gameplay and design.

While the planet beneath there came out of nowhere, it really drives in the idea of a World Warrior

Ryu’s design at its core is a Japanese martial artist, specifically Masutatsu Oyama. While originally a South Korean, Oyama has been one of the most influential martial artists in Japanese culture for developing his one-hit kill techniques that could kill a bull. Not only are Ryu’s and Oyama’s training style similar, but his Hurricane Kick, or Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku, was inspired by Oyama’s match against a Muy Thai fighter in 1954, where Oyama defeated this Black Cobra with an elbow strike, followed by a swift aerial triple kick. Yoshiji Soeno, Oyama’s most senio pupil, would later repeat this aerial marvel against another Muy Thai fighter in 1974 in hopes to rise against Reiba, who also went under the title The Dark Lord of Muy Thai. The name was attached to him not only due to his presence in the ring, but also due to his dealings with the local mafia, who killed him before he had a chance to fight Soeno.

Street Fighter‘s core is in Oyama’s challenge to fight against skillful martial artists in the world to test himself and his skills. The bout between Kyokushin Karate and Muy Thai kickboxing was not to be underestimated and spread around the scene in stories and legends. You never really knew any of this, but your brains did because of popular culture you consume.

Sagat is an amalgamation of these Muy Thai fighters, though due to how much has been lost to time its hard to say how much in terms of visual flavour. His trunks are style for certain are direct visual cues at least. Understanding how Ryu and Sagat are essentially the core martial art theme in Street Fighter gives them more depth both in terms of characters and design. This sort of approach is what makes Street Fighter II unique, even among Street Fighter games.

It’s said Thai fighters are not interested in fighting the Japanese anymore due to them lacking the same drive as they used to. There is not contest anymore.

However, things need to be more fantastic, and the low, semi-realistic take Street Fighter used to have is all but gone. Despite having roots in anime too (Hadouken is supposedly inspired by Uchuu Senkan Yamato and its Wave Motion Gun), none of its fantasy elements were too exaggerated.

The rest of the cast follows similar suit. Mike Bison is modeled after Mike Tyson, who at the time was the boxer around. Even now his name resonates among boxing enthusiasts. He has weight in popular culture due to his career, and probably will stay there for a good time, until someone stands up to take his place.

Ken, while being just a pallet swap of Ryu, was based on Joe Lewis. Lewis isn’t a small time name either, as he has won large number tournaments and was voted twice at the greatest fighter in karate history. He was a strong fighter, but what set him apart was his explosive speed. Ken’s kicks were probably inspired Lewis’ left side kick.

E. Honda and Zangief are both easily recognisable from their looks. Whereas Zangief is your archetypical show wrestler, E. Honda an archetypical sumo wrestler. Zangief carries the name of one Victor Zangiev, a Russian amateur wrestler who was known for his spinning throws, The Carousel. After winning two titles in Soviet Russia, he entered the New Japan Pro Wrestling scene 1989, from which he probably was just directly adapted into Street Fighter. Capcom’s staff is filled with pop-culture hogging fans, as it should be evident whoever has played their games. E. Honda is probably based on a well-known sumo wrestler, but my knowledge on sumo history is lacking. Only as of late I’ve begun to appreciate the sport. However, seeing he is still a very unique character in the whole of the roster, E. Honda stands out on his own and counters Zangief in the heavy weight department.

Guile’s sources, while clear, are rather interesting. Combine with 1980’s American Action movies Schwarzenegger offered with a cyborg Nazi Rudolf von Stroheim from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and you get Guile. Stroheim’s influence comes in with Guile’s neat, flat cut, while the rest comes from Arnold’s physique and the American soldier image. Guile is a strong character, very limited in some sense, yet extremely explosive when used properly. Even without the JoJo reference, Guile’s appearance is very much to the point and shows one of the ways how Capcom’s staff didn’t stick just with Japanese popular culture. Well, Sagat and Mike Tyson already told you this, but the point still stands.

This playing with existing ideas and giving them form plays out in Dhalsim and Blanka as well. While neither has a strong real-world point of comparison per se, they both embody the idea of something that has spread across the world. Dhalsim as the Indian mystic who can contort his body into the most odd shapes and breathe fire isn’t exactly a stereotype. It’s more a mystical character and a perception the rest of the world has of some of India’s holier people. The skulls around his neck are a point of interest too, as you wouldn’t expect any other character carrying them around. Blanka is probably the strangest of the bunch due to him being a wild child, and is a good example of Japanese culture electrifying a something to an extreme degree. A green beast-man itself is nothing new, and out of all the more human kind of characters he stands out.

Balrog, the Spanish ninja, stands out for a different reason. The only globally accepted warrior-type characters Europe has are knights and Vikings. The rest don’t even scratch the surface. Nobody even knows Finland has an old martial arts of its own that is based on bear’s movements. Thus, Balrog fills the place of the exotic. A very lean, masked assassin with a claw might not be anything new, but putting flamenco into the mix allowed them to create something that reminds an archetype, but isn’t one. It could also be that Balrog gained his design cues from Japanese pop-culture, with him sharing similar history with JoJo‘s Dio and tends to hold a rose between his lips, a thing Japanese tend to repeat with certain kind of beautiful male characters.

Vega is Yasunori Kato of The Tale of the Imperial Capital. This in itself doesn’t matter much. the West only has passing familiarity with the character and story through the anime Doomed Megalopolis. What matters more is that the influence from Kato comes into play in his military uniform design. With a glance the player can see that Vega is something serious; while all other characters are martial artists, Vega is a military leader. Vega’s uniform however isn’t anything exceptional in itself, as it is more or less a suit from the Imperial Japan’s army. Vega is also the only character who still has a introduction before the fight, where he throws his cape away. That alone makes Vega seem a threat. These few simple things hammer in Vega’s influence.

Lastly, we have Chun-Li. Her design harkens back to a time when Japan had a boom for Chinese culture, hence such titles as Ranma½ and Gekisatsu! Uchuuken came to be. Her design takes the usual Chinese qipao and dons her hair into buns. Both of these are very traditional take on Chinese clothing, though her choice of military boots and wrist bands with spikes give a more lethal impression. Those wrist bands and Blanka are pretty much the only thing in the design department that hasn’t aged all that well, but have become iconic in the game scene. Chun-Li uses some open hand techniques that were inspired by Chinese kung-fu, but her very core point was her legs. Her design makes a clear colour difference between her qipao and lower body, and this comes clear through Hyakuretsukyaku, or Lighting Kicks. Certainly, she was designed with certain liking in mind, but this doesn’t demerit her at all; it gives her far more control in terms of visuals and how she controls the fight through speed from her legs as opposed to punches or projectiles.

That’s where come to an end. Street Fighter II didn’t just write the book how make a V.S. Fighter, but also what character styling to use. Almost all fighting games that followed used the same base formulae of character set-up and design to some extent. The simpler designs like Ryu and Sagat carry a long history before they were put into sprites, and often the reality is more fantastic than what we see on the screen.

Thirty years of Street Fighter

It’s not hard to see why Street Fighter matters to Capcom. While the first game was a bust all things considered, a mere curiosity that would set things into stone and where better entries in the franchise could be launched from, Street Fighter II was without a doubt their most widespread hit. A hit that didn’t just change what a V.S. fighting game was, but also the culture around it at a global scale. The original Super NES release of the game was Capcom’s best-selling title until Resident Evil 5 to boot. Without a doubt one of the cornerstone’s in Capcom’s arsenal of games.

You may scoff at my notion of Street Fighter II being a global phenomena, but that what it was. People in their thirties or older who spent any time in the arcades or had a Super NES probably spent some time with the game with their friends. Anecdote be damned, but I can testify knowing people from the US, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Germany, Scotland, Britain, France, Portugal, Hong Kong and Russia who played Street Fighter II in the mid-1990’s and to this day were able to throw a fireball or two without much reminder how to play the game. Or in the case of the guy from Britain, pick up Dhalsim and beat the crap out of anyone who challenged him.

Street Fighter’s characters and their nationalities used to be relatable and for those who didn’t care, there were characters that were interesting, colourful and full of wonder. They weren’t fantastic per se, but that was part of the charm. These characters that were able to dish out projectiles made of life energy or spinning sound waves ultimately had rather mundane design and look to them, but something that would stand the test of time. The original cast of Street Fighter II do not age, as their design is very much rooted to reality with enough push of that fantastic element to give them a slight edge. Some later Street Fighter characters would meet a lesser fate when it came to their design, and for good reasons. However, this isn’t really a post about the design philosophy of Street Fighter, though there would be enough material for this for sure.

A big hit, said to have re-written rules of a whole genre to the point of the franchise being considered de-facto title and large cultural impact across the world. No wonder Capcom wants to celebrate all the major Street Fighter anniversary with the second game.

And there lies to rub. Five years ago, when Street Fighter was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and even before that, when the 20th hit the corner, I’ve argued that Capcom should go back beyond and remake the original Street Fighter game. Instead, Capcom decided to release a celebratory 30th Anniversary Edition of the original Street Fighter II for the SNES. Nobody should be surprised that it has already sold out, because collectors are crazy like that. I’d rather pick up boxed copy for less, if I needed another copy of the game on my shelf. Furthermore, it’s a sort of middle finger to European players, as the game only runs in NTSC region machines. Let’s not forget the warning towards the bottom of the screen warns you that the cartridge may damage your system, cause it to overheat and catch fire. That’s not exactly what I’d look for in a game.

But I digress. Street Fighter would use a remake and serve as a very soft retelling of the origin of the franchise as well as put the emphasize back to Ryu’s and Sagat’s rivalry, and have a legit moment where Murderous Intent Ryu appears for a moment in the canon. None of that really matters. What matters that Street Fighter is really a terrible game to play. None of its home computer or console ports ever improved on it.

The joke is that the franchise began with its second title, and as much a joke that is, it’s pretty applicable. We could ignore the original Street Fighter and lost absolutely nothing. Yet something always nags behind me skull, reminding me that all the sequels in the franchise had few iterations to them in the arcades or otherwise. Even with Street Fighter V, the updates and added characters have made it a different game from what it was originally. The mode of updating just changed from separate releases to updating the game itself.

Return to the original Street Fighter could also allow the developers to flex themselves otherwise, if they choose to take notion of the progression the series has seen in its thirty years run. They could choose to treat it yet another new entry and do whatever they wished, like usual, or they could take into notice the lack of super moves and advanced functions and design the game with more to-the-core approach. Not necessarily simplifying the game design to the point of gimping it, but looking at what made Street Fighter  successful enough and then improve on that with the experience gained thus far. Granted, that game already exists and is called Street Fighter II, but the point still stands. With all the hubbub of fighting games being too hard to get into, and the furiously fanatic hobbyists being afraid anything with simpler mechanics that don’t require half a year of training ends up being terrible, there is a place for professional house like Capcom to create a game that stands between two extremes.

Maybe it’ll take another ten years before Capcom gives this a thought. Hopeful wishing at its best, as Capcom is infamous of just letting franchises and games fall into obscurity and be forgotten. Just like how Street Fighter as a franchise was put into ice for better part of a decade after Third Strike and EX 3. Nobody sheds a tear for the original Street Fighter, and it’ll stay as a minor curiosity with little interest towards it. Then again, perhaps that alone would create enough impact.

Not everyone is cut to be a game journalist

With Gamescom going on, VentureBeat had their Dean Takahashi go in and play some games. What we got out of this was a pathetic showcase of Cuphead. For some 25 minutes, Takahashi tries to beat the first level of the game, after taking some twenty jumps to clear the tutorial. It becomes clear after these first few minutes, that Takahashi is woefully unequipped to play the game, which affects the content on whatever piece he would be writing about it.

Games are action and action takes practice. While video games are for everybody, not everybody can play video games. Low-end games may be a sweet spot for many, just like a low-end stereo equipment is sufficient to loads of users. However, unlike with stereo equipment, moving from low-end to high-end isn’t about how much money and time you put into it with games. With games you have to excel and have execution. You can’t just wing it and call it a day. Unlike a stereo reviewer, a game reviewer has a necessity to be able to handle the whatever demands any tier of game requires.

To use a comparison, the minimum requirement for a book reviewer is that he is able to read the text. This produces poor reviews, as simply being able to read is not enough. You have to understand the text. This can produce some mediocre reviews. Understanding is not enough, as the reviewer should be able to analyse the structure, the intent, pacing and have proper understanding on the style of fiction and academics of writing. Merely being able to read does not produce results, there needs to be more behind it.

Dean Takahashi’s poor play with Cuphead may not represent anyone else but himself. He might become the most popular example nevertheless, followed by Polygon’s Doom gameplay video, where they spent most of the time shooting floors and walls rather than the enemies while showcasing extremely poor control of movement.

This isn’t a Git Gud jab either. No, this just might be. You should be able to do the required execution of an action, if you’re intending to comment on the environment where the action is done. For electronic games, it’s the gameplay. That’s not enough though. You also need to know the basics of writing a review, how to approach a game to understand its underlying structure and understand it.

You don’t need to be good at playing electronic games. You simply need to be able to do play them properly and as intended. These two examples of Takahashi and Polygon showcases that they are not cut for the job. The rest on the other is somewhat questionable. Certainly there are those who are able to play games properly, there’s no arguing that.

There is a large distrust towards the game journalists nowadays, thanks for the media attempting to kill the industry and attacking their own consumers. The articles that signed the death of the gamers were numerous and appeared at the same time; Gamasutra, Kotaku, Polygon, Buzzfeed, Ars Technica and numerous others wrote articles with the same content. If “the gamer” was dead, then so was the industry. While guilt by association should always be avoided, I can’t help but to notice how people have become more careful when assessing what the game media is saying about games, or the people consuming electronic games. Erik Kain of Forbes, however, had a different, a more positive take on the issue. However, as usual, it’s better for you to check these sources yourself rather than put your trust on someone on the Internet. Kain certainly did and pointed out that deceiving linking is not of good taste, despite the intentions behind it.

The fact that VentureBeat went and changed the video’s title after the comments began to pour in gives the whole thing a shameful atmosphere. Furthermore, when inquired about Takahashi performance, he tends to ask other people to do better than him all the while telling Cuphead‘s somewhere between Super Mario Bros. and Dark Souls. That is a huge as hell region, which tells absolutely nothing. It would be more accurate the describe as a mix of Gunstar Heroes and Mega Man, as those have served as some of the sources inspirations for Cuphead. Takahashi may be getting vitriol from the Internet and belittled for his lack of skills, but the core point still exists; how can a person report or create a proper assessment on a product he is unable to consume properly? Whatever the end piece would be, it would be a twisted and inaccurate representation of the product.