Tag Archives: Retrospective

2 Worlds Collide: Marvel vs. Capcom 20th Retrospective

Crossovers, when done right lead to epic fan service going beyond anyone’s outrageous dreams. As a result, when Marvel and Capcom unexpectedly announced that their hottest properties would duke it out in X-men vs Street Fighter back in 1996 the possibilities became endless. The fact of the matter that the X-men would fight alongside of Ryu, Cammy, and Akuma was unimaginable! But after the lukewarm reception of Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter, Capcom returned to the drawing boards moving onto the next logical step. Instead of limiting their options, Capcom decided to bring out the big guns. Offering more than expected, Capcom and Marvel brought together an innovating new roster of characters for one epic crossover, Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes.

Marvel vs Capcom, released on the CPS2 arcade board on January 23rd, 1998. The story loosely adapting from the Marvel Crossover The Onslaught Saga, fighters from both the Capcom and Marvel universe join forces to defeat Onslaught.

First, the controls are fantastic utilizing the previous 6-button control scheme typical of several Capcom fighting games. Next, several mechanics debuting in X-men vs Street Fighter including switching and dual hyper combos return as well. Additionally, considering the backlash received during MSH vs SF for removing several mechanics from the previous title (e.g. infinite combos) Capcom made the right choice by bringing them back. Notably, the assist mechanic returns finessed to have the player select from a variety of non-playable assist, including Unknown Soldier from Forgotten Worlds and Storm from the X-Men. There are 7 matches against computer that the player needs to finish before facing Onslaught.

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Morrigan using her Assist Character (Unknown Soldier) against Strider

Moving along, Marvel vs Capcom possibly introduces one of the greatest concepts for any crossover tag-team fighting game, variable cross. Basically, after the player has obtained 2 super bars, the player does a reverse quarter-circle then pressing both the heavy punch and kick button simultaneously. During this time, the player can control both their characters using this to their advantage, delivering heavy damage.

Personally, what makes an excellent fighting game is its cast of characters. Not to mention, the game could have the best presentation and mechanics, but if the fighters are uninspiring then it’s pointless. Several fighters returned from the previous entries, including Wolverine, Ryu, Chun-Li and Spiderman.

However, Capcom breaking free from the previously set limitations, featured characters beloved and obscured including Strider and Jin. However, on the Marvel side nearly everyone is a veteran of the series with the exception of War Machine and Venom. Ironically, War Machine is a sprite hack of Iron Man from Marvel Super Heroes with minor differences since the license resided with Acclaim Entertainment. Additionally, accessing hidden characters by inputting the right cheat code in the character selection screen is possible as in the previous entry.

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The cast of Marvel vs Capcom

Fundamentally, the graphics are the typical high quality 2D sprites with great animation that several CPS2 titles displayed. Additionally, despite recycling sprites from previous entries, they fit in well with the game’s aesthetic. Be that as it may, the sprites for the new entries are absolutely amazing! Additionally, the superb detail and attention placed towards each character makes them faithful to their source material, including Megaman and Strider’s death animation.

Furthermore, the backgrounds are fantastic having Easter eggs from both sides appearing throughout multiple stages. Notably, the Avengers HQ stage using scans from the actual comics! Additionally, the Megaman and Strider stage are equally as gorgeous.

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The music composed by Yuko Takehara and Masato Kouda is possibly the best soundtrack of the entire franchise. Starting from the attract mode song, it gets you amped to play the game! The new tracks stand out, especially the Variable Cross, Credits, themes for Strider, Venom, War Machine, and Jin are standouts. The remixes of veteran characters are undoubtedly the best in the series, especially for Hulk and Spiderman doing justice to their respective character. It’s the great music production Capcom maintained during this time which aged well. The influence of Drum & Bass in certain tracks is an additional plus as well.

Overall, Marvel vs Capcom has stood the test of time and remarked as a timeless classic. As a result, Capcom produced 3 sequels throughout the years.

Marvel vs Capcom continues to dominate in smaller fighting game tournaments and fightcade with countless videos all over the internet. It’s the game that introduced me into the world of Marvel, Capcom and fighting games over 13 years ago.

On another note, Marvel vs Capcom appears in several different platforms throughout the years. Shortly after the arcade version debuted, Capcom ported it over to the Dreamcast early in the system’s lifespan in 1999 in all regions. This is arcade perfect with several incredible features including training mode, versus mode, survival mode and Cross Fever. Essentially, Cross Fever an ingenious mode that goes beyond anyone’s expectation, where 4 players can play simultaneously in possibly one of the greatest party games. Finally, the port is capable of being able to natively do 240p and 480p with the right connections making this one the definitive home version of the game.

Nevertheless, the slight inconsistencies may bother purist including the slightly arranged tracks in MIDI that are reminiscent of Capcom’s Sega Saturn ports. Additionally, the game only supports the Dreamcast’s D-pad which is not the most comfortable D-Pad in console history.

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The back cover to the US Dreamcast version, it incorrectly features a still from X-men vs Street Fighter

A PlayStation port appeared a few months later. Unfortunately, due to the Playstation’s limited RAM space several features and frames of animation were cut. Additionally, the port is now a 1 v 1 fighter with the option of choosing another fighter or special character as their assist character. Furthermore, replacing the Cross Fever is the Cross Over mode. Essentially, it’s a unique mode where tag team battles can occur, but the player only goes against the characters they choose. This version also included an art gallery mode where players can unlock concept art and ending animations.

Conclusively, an emulated version alongside Marvel Super Heroes appeared in the Marvel vs Capcom Origins collection for XBLA and PSN in 2012. This is not a port rather an emulated version that features online versus mode, training mode, challenge mode and visual settings to mimic the original arcade experience. Sadly, when Capcom’s contract with Marvel expired in 2013 the game was deleted from both servers.

The legacy Marvel vs Capcom left behind is legendary. Released in the beginning of the crossover fever, it was the logical step for both companies to take. In truth, crossovers occurred prior to Marvel vs Capcom. Nonetheless, they were first party crossovers (SNK’s King of Fighters), single guest character (Gon in Tekken 3) and one company owning several different licenses (Jump Manga games). As a result, Marvel vs Capcom shook the world as being the 1st of its kind, where two different companies agreed to duke it out.

As previously mentioned, Marvel vs Capcom maintains its presence in smaller local and national tournaments across the globe. Footage for such tournaments are all over YouTube and quite frankly, it varies from mildly interesting to most outrageous matches. For one thing, the game’s last presence in a major fighting game tournament was EVO 2012 possibly to advertise the Marvel vs Capcom Origins Collection. Also, the game presence in the fightcade where dozens of people all over compete against each other online with random encounters players like Maximilian and Justin Wong.

Consequently, the game sparked interest in the obscure characters added to their side of the roster, including Strider and Jin. For this reason, it was their appearance here that lead to western fans to gain interest in playing their original games (Cyberbots and Strider). Notably, it was the overwhelmingly favorable feedback on Strider leading Capcom to produce an official sequel basing his character design from this game.

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Strider’s appearance here lead to a true sequel for the original arcade classic

Furthermore, the favorable reception of this game inspired Capcom to pursue crossovers with other companies including their main competitor SNK, Japanese animation company Tatsunoko and Namco. Though, a few titles bear similarities to the Marvel vs Capcom series, others attempt to present elements from both sides of the spectrum (e.g.: Capcom vs SNK Series). On another note, it took Marvel’s rival, DC a decade to appear in a crossover fighting game alongside Midway’s Mortal Kombat.

On another note, there were several more games produced in the series, including Marvel vs Capcom 2, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and a slight reboot Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. Sadly, despite the success of the past 3 titles it seems that Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite has lost the passion that the previous entries invoked. The gameplay is there, but sadly since Marvel decided to appeal to their casual audiences removed any X-men and Fantastic Four characters in the latest title. Shame on Marvel, but with Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox, the situation can turn out different.

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Several sequels have been produced including Marvel vs Capcom 2 which often highly regarded in the community.

In the long run, Marvel vs Capcom is a timeless fighting game classic. Notably, games like Skullgirls, Killer Instinct (2013) and Dragon Ball FighterZ take inspiration from Marvel vs Capcom. Uniquely, it presented others that sometimes going beyond your wildest expectation can occur. Again, Marvel vs. Capcom today is among one of the best 2D fighting games produce and listed as one of the top CPS2 and Dreamcast titles. Consequently, impressing audiences left and right for the outrageous gameplay, leaving its mark in fighting game history.

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Skullgirls is one the few games that is heavily inspired by the mechanics of Marvel vs. Capcom
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Sign of the Dragon: Double Dragon Retrospective Review

In the case of this retrospective, the focus will be on the original arcade version due to the plethora of ports released in the years following.

During the mid-80’s, video games began to ripen with several developers experimenting and  understanding the essentials in delivering a successful title. From Sega’s Outrun, Taito’s Darius, and Konami’s Salamander, these had been risky games, yet returning with financial and critical success. Additionally, inspiring others to improve and expand upon these titles. Namely, there was one small company establishing this within the Beat em’ up genre, Technos Japan, a company formed by members of Data East (Burger Time, Crude Buster, and Magical Drop series).

After the completion of Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun in Japan), demand for a follow-up began. Rather than create a direct sequel, series producer Yoshihisa Kishimoto inspired by his love for the films Mad Max, Enter the Dragon, and the anime/manga series Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star) decided to produce a co-op beat em’ up with a more cinematic approach, Double Dragon.

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Double Dragon, developed by Technos Japan and published by Taito was released on Arcades in Summer of 1987. The game follows 2 brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee on a quest to save Billy’s girlfriend Marian from the Black Warriors. The Lee Brothers traverse through 4 levels fighting their way among the toughest of the Black Warriors members, including Williams, Linda, Willy, and Abobo. Personally, the enemies seem inspired by The Warriors though it might be myself thinking this comparison. Likewise, there’s an Easter egg from another game appearing in the first level, the car used in Road Blaster, another title Kishmoto worked on. However, there is a twist in the end of the

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The Black Warriors taken from the Famicom manual

 

game when playing with a friend…

Graphically, there is a fantastic display of colors used to display the detailed sprites. Notably, the backgrounds throughout the game. Particularly, no two backgrounds are the same in comparison to other games. I applaud the efforts Tecnhos placed inside the game.  The rich colorful graphics are a testament to why Double Dragon stands above the rest.

However, I met the gameplay with mixed results. Notably, serving as a technological and spiritual successor to Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun), Double Dragon inherited the former’s button layout, 4-way joystick and simplicity. Furthermore, there are hidden attacks initiated when combining the jump button with either kick or punch button. Additionally, the Lee Brothers move at a quick pace, giving players a rapid advantage in deciding attack moves. Nonetheless, the AI is cruel and merciless. Equally, there is a significant amount of slowdown present throughout the game resulting from the multiple 8-bit microprocessors inside the hardware.

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Alex from the Kunio-Kun Series which serves as the spiritual predecessor to DD.

Despite the mixed gameplay, the unfavorable portion of the game stems from the music. To begin with, I agree that the music is memorable, yet during the playthrough I felt as though there was something off about the composition and unbearable for my ears at moments. Yet, there is an arranged soundtrack, which in my opinion is a superior arrangement, with its 80s production, which I grew loving after listening to the tracks repeatedly.


Overall, Double Dragon launched the Golden Age of Beat em’ ups influencing such classics such as Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight.  Improving on Renegade, Double Dragon’s enduring legacy is the game’s ability to cooperatively play together.

Additionally, various sequels and spin-offs were released varying with quality from the great Double Dragon II and the ill-fated Double Dragon V.

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“various sequels and spin-offs were released varying with quality from the great Double Dragon II..”

Recently, a sequel, Double Dragon IV (Based of the NES chronology), which I found personally to be an insult to the Double Dragon fanbase despite several original members including Kishmoto working on the title. The game serves as a disgraceful example of companies cashing in on people’s nostalgia.

But in the end, even with the multiple issues I may have with the franchise, there is no denying its legacy as a classic. All in all, Double Dragon resides as the one of the greatest beat em’ ups created.

 

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“…influencing such classics such as Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight. “

Sources

https://www.polygon.com/2012/10/12/3495124/the-man-who-created-double-dragon

 

Magical Sound Shower: Outrun Retrospective

Cars, one of man’s greatest creation. Some prefer something affordable, accommodate families, or show off stating, “Hey, I received a  load of money or just borrowed an unconsidered amount to buy this and now acquired massive debt.” Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed of owning a luxurious sports car? But have to push that dream aside simply because being an adult means you have a great amount of responsibility in your shoulders.

Can you imagine it, The dream car, your best friend in the passenger seat, and not a single worry in the world? Driving around the world from the comfort of your car. The American pastime seemingly long forgotten.

Luckily, there’s a game that helps remedy this certain itch! 30 years ago, Sega made this dream into a reality. A game that not only inspired people to take a glimpse into the sweet life while raising the standards of driving games. Whether consumers wanted to pass some breezes, splash some waves, or enjoy the magical sound of rain showers. There’s only one way to remove this bothersome itch, Outrun.16032101

Released in 1986 by Sega by the extraordinary talent that is Yu Suzuki and Sega AM2. Previously responsible for Hang-On and Space Harrier a year before. The 3rd game in Super Scaler series, Outrun revolutionized the racing genre since it’s début back in 1986.

History

Inspired by the film The Cannonball Run, where individuals compete in a cross-country race across the US. Planning to unofficially adapt the film into a game,Suzuki met some unfortunate setbacks as someone ruined  the fun and mentioned that the scenery in the USA was dull, which is a clearly deceptive on their part. As a result, focusing his attention to the scenery of Europe. Driving across Europe and recording the scenery during his drive. Thus, serving as inspiration for the world of Outrun. “I started out from Frankfurt, where I hired a rent a car, and I installed a video camera on the car. Driving around Monaco and Monte Carlo, along the mountain roads of Switzerland, stopping in hotels in Milan, Venice, and Rome, collecting data for a fortnight.” Suzuki, a sports car fan, caught glimpse of something over at Monaco, a Ferrari Testarossa. The latest model of the luxury Italian automobiles from Ferrari.

Astonished by this discovery, Yu Suzuki returned to Japan to test the vehicle out himself. According to certain sources, members of AM2 squeezed to a privately owned Testarossa to record and take notes programming every bit of data into the game.

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Ferrari Testarossa

One of Outrun’s attractions was the game’s fantastic soundtrack. Composed by the legend Hiroshi Kawaguchi, the game offered players with 3 different radio stations which was unheard at the time. “Passing Breeze”, the fusion influenced song that’s the overall mood inspires a laid back ride across the world. “Splash Wave”, the popular rock influenced song for those who enjoy extreme speed and a sense of adventure! Finally, “Magical Sound Shower”, the Latin based song for those who want something a little refreshing while driving around.

 

 

 

In addition, Yu Suzuki emphasizes that Outrun is not a racing game, rather a driving game where players simulate experiencing driving a sports car across luscious tracks. Likewise, it’s understandable to refer to it as such. The objective is to drive across 5 different stages before the clock runs out. Yet, the challenge derives from the player’s driving abilities. At the end of each level, the player can turn left or right at the fork. The left side being easier to complete and the latter poses a grander challenge. There are 5 endings to the game depending on where the player travels too. Punishing players that drive recklessly with a quick game over.

Coinciding with other arcade titles, Outrun’s captivation relies on simplistic gameplay. Yet, mastering will take time and money (well back then).  Hence, requiring a sheer amount of memorization in order to finish the stages as quickly as possible. Making sure players avoid other drivers along the road and efficiently turning to avoid hitting obstacles.

Alongside other Super Scaler titles, Outrun offered multiple cabinets to differentiate the player’s experience. From the deluxe cabinet based off a Testarossa, moving alongside the player turns. But good luck finding a working one these days! Next, the standard cabinet offers a Ferrari without wheels, and the upright cabinet features a mere steering wheel and shift stick which is possibly what’s left of the working cabinets. I won’t lie, I simply love the time and effort Sega put into designing their cabinets. Further indicating  that Sega genuinely cared about the player’s experience making sure they’d return for more.

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Deluxe Cabinet

Home Versions

After all, the game’s success caused Sega to release many home versions. Depending on what the consumer owned, they were either blessed or received some poor excuse of a port. Starting off with some honorable mentions before moving into the highly regarded translations.

First off is the Master System port, a suitable place to start for those looking for an excellent racing game on the Master System. The roads in the game are choppy due to the weaker hardware in comparison to the System 16. Additionally, offering players with an FM-based soundtrack requiring modifications to the Master System.

Next, the PC Engine port is an impressive port considering being on a non-Sega system. Also quite possibly the best 8-bit port out there (16-bit/8-bit who cares it’s personal preference on what the PC engine was) having the full features of the arcade faithfully ported over. One minor issue I have is a humming noise from the engine while driving undoubtedly irritating, but thankfully turning it off remedies this complaint.

Following is the Genesis/Mega Drive version, which for the time was a regarded port. This version offers a new music track exclusive to this version “Step on the Beat”. There are some major issues in this port, including the decision to use a dark color palette, making it seem like the developers did not understand the Genesis/Mega Drive’s architecture or were instead careless enough not to improve this. Besides this also based off the Japanese version, ironically though, the PC engine port features the Overseas layout. How exactly did that happen? Thankfully the color issue improved thanks to Pyron, releasing a patch making the colors brighter hence, bringing this closer to the arcade original. Releasing this to a plethora of platforms, including the Sega Smash Pack for PC, Wii Virtual Console, and Steam.

Moreover,moving into the 128-bit generation, there is a satisfying version included in Shenmue 2, Yu Suzuki Game Works, and Outrun 2. At first glance, setting itself off as an excellent translation of the game.Unfortunately, this is not the case as the audio is off due to issues with the emulation. Even more, the Ferrari logo changed into a generic logo due to legal reasons. Other than that, I think this version of the game plays fine. However, if you happen to come across this version go ahead and give this a try if the sound and the minor graphical changes does not bother you.

Finally, the ports released on the Saturn and 3DS among the best, if not, the definitive options to experience Outrun at home or on the go. Beginning with the Saturn version developed by Rutubo Games under the SEGA Ages collection is the definitive home version. Not only is this arcade perfect, the developers went out of their way to make this a fulfilling experience featuring the option to choose between the Japanese and Overseas layout, a wonderfully arranged soundtrack, and smooth 60 fps mode. Yes, 60 frames per second! Enabling this is pure eye candy. However, the U.S version does not include the arranged soundtrack  being packed along with Space Harrier and After Burner II into a single disc.

All things considered, the Saturn port is stunning, at the same time the 3DS version is on par if not, surpassing the Saturn version. Developed by M2 under the 3D Sega Ages collection. Obviously, M2 were not intending to release a cheap port as member regarded this as “the climax of the series”. M2 included a great amount of time and quality into reintroducing Sega’s classics for a new and returning fans alike. Giving players a multitude of options to experience the game in different formats including: 16:9 widescreen, original 4:3, or emulating the deluxe cabinet, rotating screen, noise, and etc. Additionally, the game has a garage mode where players can customize their vehicle to their liking and choosing from the Japanese or Overseas layout like the Saturn port. Returning from the Saturn version is the ability to choose between the original 30 fps or 60 fps. Finally, a highly regarded addition to this version are two NEW songs. “Cruising Line” composed by  Manabu Namiki (Battle Garegga, Castlevania Rebirth, and DoDonpachi Daioujou) is my favorite of the new tracks feeling like a follow-up to Passing Breeze and feeling like a scrapped idea from the original release. “Camino a Mi Amor” the other track having Latin influenced setting  also sounding reminiscent of other mid-80’s Sega arcade titles including Turbo Outrun, Shinobi, and Thunder Blade. Unfortunately for purists, the Ferrari Testarossa is no longer there since Sega no longer has the license to use Ferrari vehicles at this time.

Equally as important is an unofficial version for the PC, Cannonball, a modest homage to the movie inspiring the game’s conception is essentially an emulator that fixes the bugs from the arcade ROM. Enabling certain features like faster frame rate, scanlines, and Japanese/overseas layout. Though the sound emulation is a little off, a fine choice for those craving to experience Outrun on the PC. By the way, did I mention this is free?

Aftermath

All in All, 30 years later, Outrun is one of the utmost influential racing games of all time. There’s something about its simple yet diverse mechanics. Profound than nearly a majority of the competition at the time. Letting the mind wander off and play pretend. Becoming one of Sega’s more well-known IPs, receiving many spin-offs and sequels throughout the past 30 years, some in particular including Outrunners, Turbo Outrun¸ and Outrun 2. Yet there hasn’t been a new entry in the series in well over a decade. Indeed, a punishable crime for neglecting fans of such an incredible IP! To Yu Suzuki and the wonderful folks over at SEGA AM2, thank you for creating such a wonderful game that has inspired countless memories over the past 30 years.

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Outrun 2, the official sequel released nearly 20 years after the original.

Sources:
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/05/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-1/
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/06/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-2/
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/09/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-3/
http://blogs.sega.com/2015/03/10/sega-3d-classics-3d-out-run-part-4/

http://www.nowgamer.com/the-making-of-outrun/
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-03-22-out-ran-meeting-yu-suzuki
http://segaretro.org/OutRun
http://www.retrocollect.com/News/cannonball-an-enhanced-engine-for-the-classic-arcade-racer-outrun.html