Back in the 90’s there were two prominent developers of fighting games coming out of Japan. In one corner we had the almighty Capcom, home of Ken, Ryu, and the rest of the Street Fight gang. And in the other corner was SNK. Although there library is extensive, with titles like Metal Slug and Fatal Fury, King of Fighters is likely the most recognized title. That is if you ignore them also being the masterminds behind the Neo Geo.
In recent years their focus has been on repackaging their glory days in numerous SNK Collections and keeping the King of Fighters series alive. But it seems they are ready for more. And they are coming in blades drawn. After more than a decade, Samurai Shodown is back.
Samuria Shodown is a weapons based 2D fighting game. It’s like the Soul Caliber of 2D fighters. Anyway, the franchise is being rebooted for the modern era. SNK is even choosing to develop the game using Unreal Engine 4. The unexpected reboot is set to take place between the events of the original game and Samurai Shodown V.
Promising 13 of the original playable characters joined by 3 new challengers, SNK is ready to reenter the world of competitive fighting. Samurai Shodown will release sometime in June 2019 on PS4 and Xbox One. And PC and Switch versions will be coming later this year. Does this release window sound a bit scary? Fear not as skeptics are welcome to try out the new entry sooner.
Anyone attending PAX East this upcoming weekend in Boston will be able to get their hands on the game. SNK will also be hosting a panel, “Samurai Shodown: Resurrecting a Legend,” on March 30 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. ET featuring producer Yasuyuki Oda, director Nobuyuki Kuroki, and original Samurai Shodown director Yasushi Adachi.
Are you excited for a brand new Samurai Shodown? I know I am.
Two game developers are influencing the action game market.
In the world of brawler style melee action games, there are many sorts of styles that can be adapted to make the players feel comfortable with the action. With the popularity of two major game developers, it’s pretty cut and dry that there are two methods of designing the playstyle. From Software and Platinum Games are those two developers, and both of their games have a signature style that their studios are notorious for employing. They both also make for great combat. Yet, by and large, they are polar opposites from one another. These prevailing gameplay styles can thus be broken down on a simplified scale from 0-10 with one developer on each side. Let’s talk about those styles for a bit.
Let’s start with From Software. They are notorious for the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne, and in case you’ve been living under a rock, they are quite popular. Indeed, Souls games are known for their difficulty, range of playstyle choices, and thoughtful combat practices. In older times, you could mash a button to attack enemies a la Warriors games until you win, but that discipline is a good way to get yourself killed over and over if you’re playing Souls. Nay, when playing a Souls game, one must exercise caution and patience when playing. If you try to run up to enemies and smack them about as much as you can, you will quickly run out of stamina and get the stuffing beat out of you.
Souls games have the ongoing memes attached to them. There’s “Git Gud,” which implies that if you find the difficulty too hard, tough shit, you just have to get better. This game will not accommodate an easier setting. And of course, the well known “Prepare to Die” also sticks with the games, as the challenge of the combat will find you dying many times as you figure out the best ways to fight. That’s how the games are. Every new enemy encounter is a new experience. You have to take things slow and learn your combatants’ patterns and flows in order to best them. You watch them and you adapt. Soon, you learn that different animations mean different attacks, and you learn how to anticipate them and act accordingly. You can only get by with perseverance, getting to know your enemy’s line of attacks. Once you have them figured out, as long as you stay diligent, you can hold your own. Or at least until a boss shows up.
Before we dive into bosses, let’s talk about the other end of the spectrum. We have Platinum Games, makes of some of the most purely awesome combat encounters. Platinum throws common sense and logic right out the fucking window in favor of a coolness factor. It doesn’t matter how impractical or absurd everything gets, you are there to wreak absolute havoc upon anyone who stands in your way. In stark contrast to the methodical nature of Souls, these games want you to absolutely wreck your opponents. Now, mashing buttons may be the key to these games, but it sure as hell isn’t brainless, instead it is a solid flow. You learn how to take visual cues from the fighting to know when to press dodge, when to fast attack, when to strong attack, and then you sting up that series of button stomping action right on into the latter half of the double digits. Keeping your combos going is key, and any moment you are spending on not attacking your opponents is basically wasted time.
Platinum’s repertoire is vast but often features key similarities. They have a lot of successful releases, like Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance- Lightning Bolt Action, Transformers Devastation, and new critically acclaimed Nier Automata. All of these feature combat based on stringing together tight-knit button combinations while being mindful of visual cues. As long as you’re smashing the dodge button, you’ll get out the way of being hit hard. Enemy attacks are far less telegraphed in these games, as a very short gleam appears on an enemy, giving you a fraction of a second to dodge, and then continue your full frontal assault. You don’t exercise any caution in these games. Instead, as soon as you see a single enemy, your first move will likely be to charge right on into them at full speed to destroy them before they can even sneeze.
Let’s talk about boss fights. When you encounter a boss in a Souls game, there’s a strong chance you were never prepared for it. They will also terrify the everliving hell out of you as they morph and grow before your very eyes and menace you to an extent where you’ve already accepted your fate and thus “prepared to die.” You learn how to fight bosses by dying. These giant, imposing bastards will pound you into the ground over and over until you finally get just the right amount of focus. Once you’re in the zone, you can carefully pay attention to all of their attacks and strike when it’s your turn. You know you’re in for a long fight in these, and learn that getting hasty is a mistake you can’t afford. When you see a boss in a souls game, you’d be lying if your first reaction isn’t “oh shit”.
Contrast this with the aggression that Platinum encourages, and you’re in for a completely different ride. When you encounter a boss in a Platinum game, the mentality isn’t fear. You internally say yourself, “Wow, I cannot wait to fuck that guy up!” and proceed to have at them, even if they are frequently 3-6 times your puny size. Here, you run in and you start beating on them no matter what and you keep the pressure going, never allowing your target to catch their breath. Instead of learning from dying, you simply learn what does and does not work as you fight. Are certain attacks not working? Try others. Are all of your attacks simply chiseling down the boss’s HP? Just keep at it and they’ll go down. You have to be fierce and vicious to win. Don’t think about your attacks, just act and react. Fight, fight and fight, and if the boss hits you hard you just gotta hit them back harder.
And so, the influence of these developers brightly shines through, even as I play more and more games that aren’t made by them. It’s popular for ‘games journalists’ to compare difficult melee games to Souls, but it’s not their fault. Games are starting to borrow elements from the style of this unfathomably popular new game series. Not all games though; while some tend to take a leaf from the Souls book, others lean in on the sharp and fast action of Platinum. I’d like to introduce a scale to rank games based on how similar their fighting styles are to the repertoire of these two developers’ groundbreaking series. It’s called the From Platinum scale, and it goes like this:
It’s 0-10. On the left-hand side, you have From Software occupying the space of 0. Not because it’s bad, think of it as more of a scale of speed and forgiveness. Souls are not forgiving, nor are they expedient, thus the zero. Only a game made by that developer can receive a 0, everything else can get a “1” at best. On the other side, it’s Platinum Games holding up the 10. I chose them for 10 because “platinum” is a precious metal, which implies high monetary value. Only games by that company can get a 10, the rest can only get a “9” at best. How does that factor into games that are recent or popular? Let’s have a look at a few games.
Dark Souls: 0
In case you skipped every paragraph and jumped right here, then listen. Once again, Dark Souls doesn’t get a zero because it’s bad. It gets a zero because the combat gives you ZERO hope. You will die, it is inevitable. No other game can get a zero.
Bloodborne isn’t quite as damning as the Souls games. It also has a faster and more active approach, so it gets a different rating.
Nier: Automata: 10
Nier Automata takes the cake for the most Platinum of Platinum games, being a title that not only has fast-paced combat but also makes you fight while making playing a bullet hell shooter.
Transformers Devastation: 9
The action is fast and furious, but not quite as insane as Platinum’s other titles. Still, it maintains the fury and finesse that makes them so special.
Batman Arkham Series: 5
It strikes the perfect balance between being aggressive to exercising caution. You face enemies head-on or through the shadows, but you must still keep moving, otherwise, you’re a sitting duck.
This game had a very slow and methodical combat system that some Souls veterans found to be not so challenging. The game lacks the depth that Souls has to offer, but if you encounter a boss you’re unprepared for, you’re gonna get wrecked until you either leave completely to level up or just face them and chip away at their health for 20 minutes.
Hyrule Warriors: 7
In Warriors games, you lay the smackdown on waves of enemies, often killing grunts in the higher double digits in single blows. Although you can mash buttons at the base enemies, you’ll encounter miniboss characters who require a nuanced but aggressive approach.
The Surge: 2
What if Dark Souls but sci-fi and shitty?
That is but a few examples. I fully expect to use the From Platinum™ scale of melee gaming for future releases. What do you think? Am I onto something, or full of shit? Tell me in the comments.
Undeniably one of the most popular and memorable anime/manga of all time, Dragon Ball Z makes its way once again to the video game space. This time is a bit different though. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 2.5D fighting game developed by Arc System Works and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Since its release on January 26, 2018, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Dragon Ball FighterZ has already garnered mass attention from both the casual and professional gaming communities. Can the fresh new coat of paint be enough to sway those who disliked the previous Dragon Ball Z games into paying for this one? Let’s find out.
The fast-paced action is made incredibly beautiful to appreciate because of the wonderful art style. In most instances, the game feels like an episode of the anime being controlled by the player. By keeping the combat locked to a 2-dimensional plane, a lot more attention was paid to the background scenery that of course has its own thing happening. There is almost nothing negative that can be said about the decision to use a more cell shaded look. It allows for the game to look stunning and fun while also keeping the cost of development very controlled. At any given point the vibrancy of the game design really pops the colors into your memory. With an art design like this, there really is no way for this game to not look amazing. Cutscenes in the storyline make the visual work a little less interesting. However, that is not due to graphics but more so due to poor cut scene design. There is no reason at all that can justify why there isn’t an Autoplay option, instead, gamers will have to get comfortable tapping the X button a whole lot.
The storyline for Dragon Ball FighterZ plays out across three chapters: the Super Warriors Arc, the Super Villain Arc, and the Android 21 Arc, each of which follows the story from the perspectives of Goku, Frieza, and Android 18 respectively. Each chapter holds critical information regarding what is going on in this all too generic story. Clones of all the best fighters in the world are popping up all over the place and some weird radiation is making all the real fighters weak. The cause of frustration is obviously the Red Ribbon Army and more directly connected is Android 21. Where the plotline falls short is in moving beyond the elementary level explanation of what’s going on and why the player should care. A lot of opportunities seem to be left unexplored throughout the adventure, many of which could have added some necessary depth to the mission. The timeline suggests that Dragon Ball FighterZ takes place sometime between the “Future Trunks” and “Universe Survival” arcs of Dragon Ball Super, which could explain the difficulty in writing an overly in-depth story. Much of the same issues faced most of the Dragon Ball Z animated films. Is the story bad? No. Is it good? Debatable. Is it up to par with what should be expected from a Dragon Ball Z arc? Probably not.
Sound design is a critical component of any game to really make players feel completely immersed the world. It is even more important when dealing with a licensed property that has to live up to the expectations of devoted fans. Dragon Ball FighterZ does a great job of capturing the fundamental sounds like the noise for charging Ki, the sounds of rock shattering all around the battlefield, and of course the iconic battle screams. Where the audio really drops the ball is in every area that had to be created from scratch. Menu sounds are outright annoying and painful to withstand. There are way too many “beeps” that can be very distracting, so much so that playing on mute until fights began seemed like the only solution to the problem. The voice acting in English was almost completely spot on. Again, however, that incredible voice acting is interrupted by the awful mechanic used to progress the storyline. Overall the audio isn’t terrible, but it’s just a grey area in the complete package.
Welcome back to the iconic PlayStation 2 days of old. Dragon Ball FighterZ plays almost exactly like the original Budokai trilogy a lot of fans grew up on: three face buttons for varying attack strengths and one face button for energy blast. It’s a very entry level fighting mechanic that makes the game incredibly easy for newcomers to fighting games to enjoy. That does not take away that the combo system is just in-depth enough for serious fighting game aficionados to dive deep in to master the gameplay. The action is really fast paced so no matches ever drag on too long and the adoption of MVC style 3v3 makes things all the more interesting. Building up the dream team, whether it be a standard Z Warriors construct or maybe a little more villainy, allows for an additional layer of strategy to come into play during every match. The story mode gameplay mechanic is one of the most interesting aspects of the game and borrows heavily from the franchise’s past. Much like DBZ: Budokai 2 on the PS2, the story mode is played out as a board game in which the player’s avatar moves from space to space to challenge different fighters and make a clear path to fighting a boss battle. Each time the player moves there’s a possibility that other enemies on the board may become stronger. Also taking into account the movement limit, this adds an additional layer of unique strategy to break up the fighting a little bit.
The high paced action makes this an easy contender for most fun game of the year and it’s only February. Couple that with the nostalgia of being a true Dragon Ball Z fan and there are very few people in the world who wouldn’t find this game fun. The simple nature of the control scheme, as mentioned before, makes it a very exhilarating party game where newcomers and veterans can still enjoy every battle, win or lose. Although winning is way more fun of course. When playing alone, the story mode provides a unique navigation system that provides the player with plenty of control over how they would like to tackle every chapter. Ignoring the menu sound annoyance, which may not even affect everyone, there is nothing major to complain about for this game. Unless we take in to account the less than stellar delivery of an original story. Still, even the poor storyline does not take a major toll on how much fun this game actually is.
Licensed games are always a major risk. Licensed games for properties that already have a ridiculous amount of games on the market are an even bigger risk. Who knows which direction the DBZ franchise will go next, hopefully an open world Infamous/Batman style game, but for now Dragon Ball FighterZ is delivering on all fronts. It’s tugging on the roots of nostalgia, pushing into the competitive game scene, and introducing a new generation to some of the most iconic characters of our time. Dragon Ball FighterZ is an absolute must play for any fan of fighting games or the DBZ franchise itself.
Johnny the Slayer vs Wayne the Button Masher (Also Chet is Here)
Vega and Wayne (and also Kurt) were all too happy to get a copy of #Injustice2 and we are super enthused to give you our first ever Let’s Play vid, only we called it Let’s Fight. And fight we did indeed, check out Part 1 above and tell us what you think.
Vega starts off with a good rant about Batman’s overexposure. I mean, this is all of the DC Universe yet you have like 6 Arkham Asylum character and Jared Leto Joker. Wayne is determined to defeat Vega in the ultimate showdown. Kurt sucks at fighting games tho, let’s be honest. Welp, enjoy watching us play Injustice 2 some more.
Wanna see us do more big, multi-person Let’s Plays? A podcast perhaps? Comment below and tell us what you want to see or hear more of!