Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Marvel vs Capcom 3, February 2011 edition

So, Capcom's new fighting game Marvel vs Capcom 3 has been out for a week or so, and I forgot to mention about the last two characters that were included in the game. Hsien-Ko is a character from the Darkstalkers series, and you may remember Sentinel from Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

Sentinel seems just as in-your-face as ever, even for being a rather large, slow character. He has a wide variety of beam attacks and long-range punches to make up for his slow movement speed, and one of his super moves is a large ball of electricity easily as big as Chun-Li's 'Kioushou' move and pushes opponents into the corner from mid-screen. In the X-Men comics, the Sentinels were sent out to crush all the mutants, whether they were X-Men or not. In Marvel vs Capcom 3, Sentinel is out to crush everybody like he did in MvC2.

Hsien-Ko is a nice change, since she is unlike the majority of Capcom fighting game characters in that she has a move that reflects projectile-type special moves. My older son reminded me that Karas in Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom can reflect projectiles also. It is a little odd, with her being a jiāngshī, or "Hopping Corpse" and with her sister taking the form of a piece of paper on her hat. Her inclusion in the game has less to do with zombies being the 'in' thing right now and more to do with her being a popular and unusual fighting game character.

The final boss of the game is Galactus, world-eating enemy of the Fantastic Four, but no members of the FF are directly in the game for reasons unknown to me. Super Skrull has all the moves of the Fantastic Four, but that's about all you get. Capcom apparently tried to build a Silver Surfer character, as he is a friend of the FF and usually warns people about Galactus eating their planet for lunch, but they weren't able to make it work with the surfboard and didn't want him to look like Iceman.  Maybe we'll see them in the endings.

So, I have already seen a great deal of complaining posted on the internet regarding this game.

Couldn't they have come up with something better since Marvel vs Capcom 2?
No. This game wasn't even in the works until after other developer licensing agreements expired in 2008, and Capcom got them back again so it could republish MvC2 as a downloadable game. Capcom wasn't even ready to officially announce MvC3's existence until 2010. Just because fans had been whining about it for years, didn't mean anybody with any authority had been working on it.

Why doesn't this have more game modes? Can't they change it up more like Smash Bros., Mortal Kombat, or Tekken and have more game modes?

Let's take this one in three parts. Believe it or not, despite the great number of game modes available, any group of Smash Bros. Brawl players that I've come across tend to have items turned off if they're playing "seriously", because they don't want random item drops to ruin their skill. Correspondingly, they will likely have a favorite stage that they tend to play on to nullify any perceived undue advantage some character might have. So, despite the numerous modes available, I've seen very few of them used.

Mortal Kombat has had an adventure mode crammed into several of the versions (although the first one in Mortal Kombat:Deadly Alliance was just an overgrown training mode), and a simple Kart racer, and a rudimentary puzzle game. Come to think of it, they even managed to make a battle chess game in Mortal Kombat:Deception. Compared to Mortal Kombat:Shaolin Monks, where the adventure mode was the entire game, you might think that the Mortal Kombat fighting games suffered from having some of the staff work on the extra modes.

Tekken's extra game modes have been the best ones, but still aren't quite as good as the fighting game itself. Tekken Force Mode in Tekken 3 was mandatory to unlock one of the characters. I have no explanation for Tekken 3's Tekken Ball mode other than to say that it's volleyball for crazy people. Tekken Bowl, a bowling game on the Tekken Tag Team disc was fun, and it was too rudimentary a game to be sold on its own disc so I find it better that it was included with Tag instead of being a bargain bin title. I almost think that it was some sort of a tech demo for their developers working on the PlayStation 2 for the first time. Tekken Tag Team also included a training mode with enough hand-holding for new players, which seemed like a good choice with new people coming on board for the PlayStation 2. Tekken 4's Tekken Force mode made a lot of improvements from Tekken 3, and still managed to use the characters in mostly the same way as they do in the regular part of the game. However, for all of the improvements with Tekken 4's Tekken Force mode, they abandoned all of that for a Jin-only side quest for Tekken 5. Thank goodness that they included the arcade versions of Tekken 1, 2, and 3, and StarBlade in Tekken 5 - well, I'm not really that excited. Tekken 3 is adequate, but Tekken 1 and 2's visuals don't hold up well against the modern games. StarBlade's visuals are even lower fidelity than Tekken 1, but since it's a space shooter, it suits it well and so the gameplay isn't dragged down by old-school visuals.

So, with all that being said - it does still beg the question of why they couldn't have at least included the same modes that were available in Super Street Fighter 4. I don't know if a bevy of complaints will get them to release a patch, but I seriously doubt it.

Why is there a simplified control scheme? I want my six buttons back!
I think I covered this before, but Marvel vs Capcom 2 already had a simplified control scheme. (Medium attacks were removed to make room for two Partner buttons.) The new one allows for three attack strengths more easily to accommodate fireball traps and attack range variability. It worked well in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, and once you got used to it, it was more reliable than Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (for me, anyway).

I have been pleasantly surprised to see that now that the game is out, people are not complaining about the graphical style. I would be surprised at a $5 costume pack that comes out March 1st and only covers six of the characters, but since it's Capcom I'm not so surprised. That does seem to be the way they handle DLC. My sincere hope is that the game sells well enough that they decide to make a Wii version and decide to include the DLC characters. What? It could happen.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 was released February 15, 2011 for Playstation 3 and XBox 360 by Capcom and is ESRB rated "T".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A clear case of fatigue.

The long time music game series Guitar Hero is getting the ax. Should I have said 'axe'? I guess it's no surprise. It's the same reason that we're not buying Tony Hawk Skateboarding games like it was 2001. It's game fatigue.

Colored dots come streaming down a screen, and you play the dots as notes in time with the music that your are listening to via a guitar-like plastic controller, and it's basically the same from Guitar Hero 1 on. From Guitar Hero 1 to Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, not counting DJ Hero or handheld releases, that was 12 games in the span of almost five years - from November 2005 to September 2010. What makes that even more ridiculous is that Guitar Hero (2005) and Guitar Hero II (2006) were the only releases of their respective years, which means the last ten games were crammed into the last three years of that. By comparison, the last ten Mario games stretch all the way back to 1988 - although that's only Mario platforming games and doesn't count all the sports titles, Super Smash Brothers, or Mario Party games.

Of course, it's no coincidence that Activision took over the series from the original developer in 2007. Harmonix had been purchased by MTV Networks/Viacom right after Activision acquired RedOctane. RedOctane was the other half of the original Guitar Hero/Guitar Hero 2 dream team, the half involved with the plastic guitar controllers. Harmonix went right to work on a conceptually identical competing game, Rock Band which added drums, bass, and vocals to the existing guitar paradigm. Guitar Hero was quick to add the other instruments in an effort to keep up.

In an eerie parallel to the previous Tony Hawk situation, Activision brought in developer Neversoft to work on Guitar Hero once they took it over . Also, similar to the Tony Hawk scenario, they dedicated themselves to cranking out sequel after sequel. I'm not sure about Tony Hawk in this respect, but a real problem with Guitar Hero is that playing it against an opponent doesn't do anything for its replay value. Once you really learn the song in Guitar Hero, that's pretty much it. The competitive aspect shoehorned into Guitar Hero 3's so-called 'guitar battles' helped put me off of Guitar Hero for good. Well, some of you would say - but Guitar Hero is so much fun at parties when there's a group playing! That's correct - but that's cooperative, not competitive. So probably there are a bunch of agreed-on songs that everybody likes, and you play those, and that's about it. If you do it again, the experience is largely the same. Even in a platform game, it's harder to replicate the experience exactly and additional playthroughs may yield some new area you didn't find the first time, and it's not like there would be a hidden alternate ending of a song if you changed one chord at a certain point to something that wasn't on the screen. Well, there could be, but since a musician thought of it instead of a game designer, it can't be in the game. There aren't new special moves to learn, or an added-in character in the new version that forces everyone to re-learn all their strategies, or a game-changing new weapon to try. If you want a new song, that might be something genuinely new, but it's a lot of work for something that only a few will purchase as a download, and many will resent as a standalone release.

At a certain point, I would guess that fans of the music game genre were starting to wonder if they should run down to their local Guitar Center and pick up some guitar stands. If you had the original PlayStation 2 Guitar Hero guitars, they didn't work on PlayStation 3, so you might have been better off buying new guitars with the sequels. If you switched to Rock Band at some point, you had to buy new guitars for that, also. Then, the newest Guitar Hero games included super Expert Plus modes for even more plastic button pushing, and Rock Band fights back with MIDI-compatible instruments with more realism and little 25-key keytar. Did I mention that there were drumsets? Do you even have enough room to set up a fake plastic drumset where your game console is without moving a couch or a bed? I wonder how many people opted to set up their Guitar Hero rig in a garage so that they could get the full garage band experience. Also, did these new little faux-garage bands take advantage of the newer features of the Guitar Hero games? Are these the sort of people that would get extra mileage out of the game by creating their own music? At a certain point, playing Guitar Hero makes me just want to practice real guitar more instead of playing to the canned tracks - perhaps they could have garnered my favor with a substantial version of "21st Century Schizoid Man" in Guitar Hero 3 instead of waiting until Guitar Hero 5.

At a certain point, I think the audience was sick of paying over and over again for ostensibly the same experience every time. There's a sweet spot - games like Perfect Dark (that Rare made right after GoldenEye) and Super Mario Galaxy 2 have it - where all the things that you wished that you could have put in the first game end up in the second game. It was the same experience, but better, richer. Once you get past that sweet spot, it seems like some publishers just crack the whip on the developers for frequent sequels to get the short-term cash in lieu of building a long-term brand.

So, dear readers - what game genre or brand will get ruined next?