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Fighter

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    SNK HEROINES: Tag Team Frenzy
    Developed By: SNK Corporation
    Published By: NIS America, Inc.
    Release Date: September 7, 2018
    Available On: PS4, Switch
    Genre: Fighting
    Number of Players: 1-4 local, or 2 online
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
    MSRP: $49.99

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game and the DLC to review!

    When I first saw that SNK was coming out with another fighting game and that NIS America was publishing it, I requested it without really researching what I was asking for - I know SNK has a great long history of wonderful fighting games, and I was looking forward to getting more familiar with their roster, outside of Samurai Shodown that I played a ton of as a teen and young adult. Well, I was in for a bit of a surprise.

    The cast is all female, which is fine, but clearly sex appeal was more important than making a game with a large roster and depth. (One of the characters, Terry Bogard, was a male in the games, and is gender-bent as a female here.) The fourteen characters (plus 2 DLC) isn't bad, but it's nothing special. I have played and enjoyed all-girl fighting game casts before, but the titillation on this one surprised me in how blatant it was. Some games play it mostly straight with a wink and a nod here and there - here, it's all out front. Or on the side, or the rear - wherever skin can be shown, it is. Each character has a default costume, and alternates that cost in-game credits to unlock. Everyone has at least one semi-skimpy costume, or at least one semi-modest one in some cases.

    Each character has three costumes, only one of which is unlocked by default. As you earn victories, you gain gold coins, which you can spend on costumes, accessories, and various other things like gallery items and soundtracks to listen to. It's a common mechanic, and works well enough. I played through the game with a couple of different character combinations, tried most of the others, and got through ten levels on survival mode, and got around 18,000 coins, which I could use to buy roughly half of the unlockable costumes and accessories, though the most expensive costumes are 3,000 each, and will take a while to grind for.

    This is a 2D side-by-side fighter, not unlike King of Fighters (or Street Fighter, to use an example from another developer). This one has you choose two girls, as each side can switch between them at the press of a button. You would normally play solo or with two players, but you can have up to four players, as each person can be one of the team members. When you are tagged in, you start fighting, and when you tag out, your partner does. For fighting, there are weak, strong, and special attack buttons, as well as block, throw, item, and Dream Finish.

    SNK HEROINES: Tag Team Frenzy
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique win condition; colorful, with smooth animation
    Weak Points: Not a lot of content; short; story mode does little to introduce you to the characters; basic features only
    Moral Warnings: All-female cast (including a male transplant) that wears ridiculous outfits; boob physics are common; main enemy is a pervert, who is collecting females for his 'fetishism explosion' in his 'occult mansion'; curse words like 'sh*t' and 'd*mn'; animated violence

    I'm sure you're thinking, 'Huh what? What are item and Dream Finish?' and that would be a reasonable question. They are unique, as I certainly haven't played a fighting game quite like this one in that way. Items pop up somewhat randomly in collection boxes around the level, and if you break them open, you get an item that you can activate with the appropriate button. It's kind of fun dropping a pan on their head, or setting a trap for them to trigger.

    The Dream Finish mechanic is more unique, and an interesting approach to finishing a battle. There are no rounds in this game - instead, you have the chance to recover when you are beaten to the point of stun. But it's best to avoid stun, as a good player will punish you for it pretty quickly. How it works is that if your opponent is stunned (and especially if the game shows 'Finish Chance' on the screen) you can activate your Dream Finish move, which, if it hits, you automatically win. Actually it's the only way to win - you win or lose based on who gets hit with a Dream Finish move.

    This means that you can recover at times, or the enemy can do the same. If your meter that allows you to activate the Dream move is not full yet, you can't use it. The nice thing is that often your tagged-out partner will have a full gauge, so if you can't pull it off, often they can. But if you miss, you will have to recharge, which can take what seems like forever if your opponent has their Dream Finish ready to go while you do not (if you even manage to survive that situation).

    It's an interesting mechanic, and games can end very, very quickly. Which is a plus and minus I suppose. Earning coins to unlock gallery items and such can be done fairly quickly as a result, which helps. Though I was able to breeze through the story mode, that last boss - the only "true" male, for what it's worth - took many more tries for me to finally get him. Of course, he's a pervert...

    The whole premise for the game is that the male enemy/boss, Kukri, has summoned all of the girls to his imagination-controlled mansion so that he can satisfy his fetishes. The scenes in between battles often include security cameras zooming in on inappropriate body parts or other lewd things. In order for him to get what he wants, he has trapped them, which usually happens when they lose a fight. It's not the best plot ever... or even the first time I've seen an all-girl fighting game use something similar.

    SNK HEROINES: Tag Team Frenzy
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 4/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The controls are great, and the battles do work well and feel lag-free. The mechanics are completely solid, as I would expect from a company with such fighting pedigree as SNK. The game modes are fairly bare-bones, with a pretty lame story mode, a survival mode where you keep fighting until you lose, and a versus and training mode. There are some tutorials and such, as well as online modes, though I was not able to find an opponent when I tried. Nothing groundbreaking, but nothing really important missing, either. I would have appreciated a better story mode that actually properly introduces you to the characters. As always, it's quite fun with a friend sitting next to you.

    There is obviously violence, as you beat each other up until your Dream Finish. There are a few cases of curse words, but they are relatively minor, including 'sh*t' and 'd*mn'. Obviously most of the issues are related to showing off the girls' many curves (including breast jiggle physics) and the pervy/creepy last boss guy.

    The graphics are pretty good, though nothing earth-shattering. They are 3D rendered, despite taking place on a 2D plane. You can see your tag-team partner standing in the background, which is a nice touch. The sound effects do the job, and the music fits - though much of it is super-sweet girly J-pop that so many games seem to have these days. Not terrible, but unremarkable.

    I attempted to review the DLC characters, but after redeeming the codes on my phone, the game absolutely refused to recognize my DLC purchase. I rebooted the PlayStation, uninstalled and reinstalled the game, and a whole lot more in an attempt to get the game to recognize my two additional characters. My advice is, if you want the DLC characters, buy them right on the PlayStation, from within the game. Don't do what I did and add them to your account from another device like a phone or PC. The characters are both cameos; one is Thief Arthur from Square Enix's Million Arthur series, and the other is a gender-bent version of Skullomania from Street Fighter EX.

    SNK HEROINES: Tag Team Frenzy is a pretty good fighting game that has a bit too much 'fan service' for my tastes to be worth the asking price. I could see many having some fun with a title such as this at a good discount, provided the massive mammaries and crazy outfits don't keep you away first.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    SOULCALIBUR VI
    Developed By: Bandai Namco Studios
    Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
    Released: October 18, 2018
    Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Fighting
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen – Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Violence, In-Game Purchases, Users Interact
    Number of Players: 1-2
    Price: $59.99 with $29.99 season pass
    (Humble Store Link)

    In 2012, SOULCALIBUR V was released, the follow-up to a largely successful but undeniably flawed SOULCALIBUR IV. While its base gameplay was mostly improved, the game’s lack of budget and development time was obvious: a comparatively pitiful amount of single-player content and a roster on the small side was exacerbated by the removal of a number of fan-favorite characters, replaced by their mostly-unlikable children – or just flat-out gone. The series lay dormant until 2018, where Project Soul re-emerged with SOULCALIBUR VI; rather than try to salvage what V introduced, they backpedaled, going back to re-tell the first SOULCALIBUR with a few additions from the later games. Welcome to the stage of history, retold.

    The SOULCALIBUR series sets itself apart from other fighting games in three main ways: its weapon-focused combat, the “8-way run” system, and its three attack types. Being at least somewhat based on realistic fighting styles means there are very few projectile attacks, so it’s easy to see at a glance what distance each character is most dangerous at: Kilik, with his rod, would obviously prefer medium and long ranges, while the nunchaku-wielding Maxi needs to get up close. Movement is a big portion of the game as well, and stepping or running in the eight cardinal and intermediate directions is vital. Rather than having light and heavy punches and kicks, attacks are separated by function: one button controls horizontal attacks, one vertical, and one kicks. These are further separated into high, middle, and low attacks; highs can be blocked or ducked, mids hit ducking opponents (even if they’re blocking), and lows damage those blocking while standing.

    What this combines into is a sort of rock-paper-scissors dynamic. Horizontal attacks tend to be quick and catch people who try to move around you, but usually hit high and can be ducked. Vertical attacks are where the majority of the cast’s most powerful attacks come from, but can be sidestepped for an easy punish. Kicks are usually fast but weak, used for interruptions or quick damage. It’s a rather simple system to grasp, but hard to master; add in the lack of long drawn-out combos and quick rounds (most best-of-five matches last only a few minutes), and SOULCALIBUR VI becomes inviting to a button-mashing newcomer, but carries enough depth to please more serious and/or experienced players. Once you factor in throws, break attacks, guard impacts, feints, tech jumps and crouches, oki setups, guard crushes, Soul Charge, and so on, you get a fast-flowing, engaging experience that, at its best, gives you all the tools you need to succeed, assuming you know when to use them. The controls are quite simple, and even fully customizable on both keyboard and controller. Since some moves are tied to pressing multiple buttons at once, you can instead bind a button to it: rather than awkwardly hitting both X and B on an Xbox controller, for instance, you can make hitting the left bumper count as it instead.

    SOULCALIBUR VI
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty of single-player content; mechanics (mostly) flow together well; dual audio
    Weak Points: PC version has Denuvo, console versions have input lag; online modes are limited and poorly implemented; a few mechanics slow down the otherwise fast pace; absurdly anti-consumer business practices
    Moral Warnings: Weapon violence; some blood shown in a few story portraits; skimpy outfits and clothing damage; language (d**n, hell, b*****d, jack***, p*ssed, using (lowercase) God’s name in  vain); can choose to be (somewhat) evil in the RPG mode; alcohol use; the character creator can make facsimiles of genitalia and be shared online for all to see; the Greek pantheon is portrayed as real, with Hephaestus and Ares playing major roles; evil cults; wind worship; light magic use, mostly by non-player characters; a lot of talk of souls and stealing/consuming/empowering them; Voldo tracks people through their auras; undead and necromancy; demons and angels; some juvenile humor

    There are two mechanics that slow down the pace of the game, sometimes quite severely. The first is the Critical Edge, introduced in SOULCALIBUR V. It’s the bog-standard super attack – hit a button, burn a bar of meter, do a lot of damage. However, where they were rather snappy in V, they’re drawn-out and overly cinematic in VI. If you win a round with one, you also get a close-up of the victor as they make some comment. It’s all neat to see the first few times, but you’ll be sitting around looking at what’s essentially a mid-fight cutscene for 15-30 seconds every time. The second mechanic is new to VI: the Reversal Edge. By holding the vertical attack button and the guard button at the same time, your character will automatically dodge any blow (other than break attacks and unblockables), then unleash a vertical attack. If it connects, it shifts to a more literal rock-paper-scissors match where each contestant chooses an attack: verticals beat horizontals beat kicks beat verticals. If the same attack is chosen, a second round starts; if it happens again, the initiator of the clash wins. While it’s slow and easily beaten for the most part – either break the guard or sidestep the followup attack – it’s a timewaster in the same way a Critical Edge is – only Reversal Edge gains meter rather than uses it. If you’re up against someone who spams it, the fight can drag and suck the momentum out of the game.

    SOULCALIBUR has always had strong single-player content, and VI doesn’t disappoint. Along with the regular quick fight and arcade modes (the latter unfortunately more bare-bones than older SOULCALIBUR games, with no boss or character-specific endings), there are two story-driven modes: Soul Chronicle and Libra of Soul. Soul Chronicle contains the main story – Kilik, Xianghua, and Maxi questing to destroy Nightmare and the cursed sword Soul Edge – along with sub-stories fleshing out the entire cast. Each Chronicle is fully-voiced and done in a visual novel style, with detailed portraits of the cast against a background, interspersed with (rather easy) fights. Libra of Soul follows a player-created character, using the series’ renowned Create-a-Soul system, in an RPG-like experience, traversing a map of Europe, Africa, and Asia and fighting battles with various conditions – the stage may be slippery, opponents might do chip damage through your block, and so on. As you fight, you gain experience and weapons in random styles, steadily gaining strength while being pushed to explore each character’s fighting style – equipping a katana forces you to use Mitsurugi’s moveset, an axe Astaroth’s, and so on. Libra of Soul also has a few branching paths and two endings depending on your choices; while most of the mode remains the same no matter what, it does offer some replay value.

    As with most fighting games nowadays, online modes are where the longevity of the game lies, though in this case they are somewhat underdeveloped. Casual mode has you create or join a king-of-the-hill style room where you can set various battle options such as number of rounds and time limit, and allow you to awkwardly converse with the other people in the room with a list of predetermined phrases. Ranked mode keeps track of your wins with a point system, gaining and losing points as you win and lose; you start as a “sprout” before your first rank-up, then slowly rise from G5 up to S1 – five ranks per letter grade. Ranked mode is the fastest way to find a fight, but has some problems, mainly in the matchmaking system: even as a lowly G3 or so, you can (and usually will) be matched with someone in the C grades with ten times your point total, who proceeds to wipe the floor with you (and gain next to nothing by doing so). The developers have promised to patch it, but the problem persists at the time of writing. You also gain way more points than you lose, so higher grades aren’t necessarily a sign of skill, but rather of time commitment – though the two do tend to go hand-in-hand. The netcode is nothing special either, but does its job; it’ll obviously be different depending on your region and internet connection, but personally speaking, I’ve had more smooth battles than jittery ones.

    The game’s presentation is mostly unassuming, but with a few stand-out pieces. The hand-drawn portraits and backgrounds in Soul Chronicle are very well done, and the few in-engine cinematics are fantastically animated, but the art style and graphics themselves are nothing special. There are a lot of assets in all areas reused from previous games, from textures to animations. Early, pre-release versions of SOULCALIBUR VI had some rather extreme particle effects, but these have either been toned down or don’t distract from the action in the game proper. The music follows the SOULCALIBUR tradition of being somewhere between above-average and outstanding, and strikes a good balance between being nice to listen to and able to be tuned out when you’re in a match. The voice acting wavers at times, though it usually does its job, with a couple of praiseworthy performances – the newcomer Azwel’s voice is delightfully, overdramatically, scenery-chewingly amazing. There’s also the added bonus of dual audio; when you’re sick of Xianghua’s obnoxious screeching in English, you can change to her obnoxious Japanese screeching (that’s not a direct knock on the voice actresses; Xianghua’s just obnoxious).

    Perhaps the biggest flaws of the game, for better or worse, come from outside it. The PC version has Denuvo Anti-Tamper as DRM, with all the problems it brings – performance issues, file bloat, etc. – and was, as usual, cracked within a week or two of release, punishing only the paying customer once again. The console versions trade it for some input lag instead, around five frames or so, with random lag spikes as well. What’s worse, however, is the (now unfortunately fighting game standard) anti-consumer DLC practice. The fan-favorite character Tira was announced as the first DLC character before the full base game roster was revealed, and looked to be fully complete at the time, though Bandai Namco assured she was still in development. She was then included in the beta, even when two standard characters weren’t; the defense then changed to threatening the IP’s life if the game didn’t sell. Upon release, people reported seeing Tira pop up in arcade mode even without purchasing her, heavily suggesting that she was intended to be in the base game but was pulled to sell back to her fans. Create-a-Soul suffered a similar fate, with rather limited parts and many options from previous games missing – but there will be a few “CaS packs” going up for sale soon (to their credit, they will release some for free as well). There’s also the issue of selling a $30 season pass without revealing what’s in it aside from Tira (to save you the trouble: it’s Tira, the CaS packs, the guest character YoRHa No. 2 Type B from Nier: Automata, some music from the older games, Amy, and Cassandra). It’s extremely frustrating to have content gated off like this, but since upcoming fighting games make SOULCALIBUR VI’s issues look rather tame, it’s something we’ll have to live with barring a massive change in consumer mindset and spending.

    SOULCALIBUR VI
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 50%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    Other than the above moral quandary, there’s a laundry list of issues to take note of. Weapon violence is the obvious one, though there’s no blood and fighters are only ever knocked out; there is some blood in a few Soul Chronicle portraits, but it’s barely more than some red splotches here and there. In addition, there are some descriptions of gruesome, gory scenes in Libra of Soul, but they’re never shown. Strong language is rather frequent, with “d**n” and “hell” common, but “b*****d,” “p*ssed,” and “jack***” are occasionally uttered, and very rarely God’s name is used in vain, with the subtitles keeping it lowercase. There is some alcohol use shown, with one character portrayed as a drunkard; you can use some in Libra of Soul, but it acts like all the other pre-fight boosts. Most of the characters show a lot of skin, and clothing damage has the potential to leave fighters in their underwear; Ivy and Voldo are the worst offenders here, both of them in little more than bondage gear (which, thanks to Create-a-Soul, you can put on any other character, including the fifteen-year-old Talim). The in-depth nature of Create-a-Soul also lends itself to abuse, and for every neat helicopter or Magikarp made with it, there’s a giant facsimile of genitalia to be found – which can also show up in your game, thanks to Libra of Soul taking random characters shared online to populate certain missions. Also in Libra of Soul, the two branching paths involve being good or evil – to an extent. The “evil” side isn’t particularly evil, with the worst being some theft or mercy killing; a character in an event only on the “evil” side actually remarks that she “senses no evil in you.” Still, in order to unlock one character’s final Soul Chronicle chapter, you have to pick to “evil” option to aid him, though it’s portrayed as coercion on his part.

    There’s plenty of supernatural and occult content to find as well. The Greek pantheon is portrayed as real, with the gods Hephaestus and Ares at the forefront; the former even has multiple speaking roles. One of the main factions in the story is an evil cult that tortures and experiments on innocents, turning them into lizardmen. There’s an island of people that worship the wind, with the playable character Talim being a “priestess of the winds” and uses it in some attacks. Christianity, for better or worse, isn’t portrayed at all. Other types of magic, including necromancy, are shown, but used only by NPCs; the closest you get in-game are Geralt’s signs and Zasalamel’s time stop “curses,” though honorable mention goes to Ivy’s living weapon, created by binding a demon to a sword through alchemy. Souls, of course, play a huge role in the game, mostly being eaten or corrupted by Soul Edge. Voldo, being blind, is said to track people through the auras they leave behind. Skeletons, demons, and angels all show up, though semi-infrequently, and you can even create your own through Create-a-Soul. Finally, a few characters have attacks that are suggestive and/or juvenile; Ivy acts like a dominatrix, Voldo thrusts his pelvis a lot, Sophitia likes to stick her opponent’s head between her legs, Tira can suck life from her foe through a vampiric kiss, and a few characters have moves that target the nether regions – with a comical bell sound playing when they connect.

    SOULCALIBUR VI is undoubtedly a worthy addition to the franchise, and a return to form after its predecessor, even if it lacks some of the depth of the series’ heyday. With the content on offer for both newcomers and old timers, it should be a slam-dunk recommendation – if it wasn’t for the de facto endorsement of the anti-consumer practices. Even with all the moral issues in-game, the biggest is this: do you reward the hard-working Project Soul, who pumped out a solid game on a limited budget, even if it means buying into Bandai Namco’s schemes? The best compromise would be to wait for a sale if you plan on getting the season pass or the Denuvo-infested PC version. Transcending history and the world, a tale of developers and publishers, eternally retold.

    -Cadogan

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
    Developed by: Digital Eclipse
    Published by: Capcom
    Released: May 29, 2018
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: 2D Fighter
    ESRB rating: T for Teen (mild blood, mild language, suggestive themes, violence, alcohol use)
    Number of players: 1-8
    Price: $39.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    The original Street Fighter came out in 1987. The game didn't really stand out at the time, aside from its difficulty. The player could use one of two karate fighters to defeat a variety of other enemies in order to become champion. It was certainly nothing that really stood out from other one-on-one brawlers, and had been done before (including another classic I remember called Karateka).

    But then, Capcom released Street Fighter II in 1991. In this game, players could choose one of eight different characters! With different martial arts styles and moves! At the time, it was an original approach, but it ended up launching a legendary franchise – and a huge host of imitators. Now, 30 years after the original Street Fighter hit the arcades, the game has a massive cast of nearly 100 playable characters, a dizzying array of sequels and spinoffs, and even a (poorly-received) live action movie. White Wolf even released a tabletop roleplaying game based on Street Fighter (I own most of the books, but sadly, have found few people to play it). Thirty years of Street Fighter... and Capcom doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

    The 30th Anniversary collection compiles 12 games as they appeared in the arcades, including the original Street Fighter, the many iterations of Street Fighter II, the three different Street Fighter Alpha games, and Street Fighter III and its two immediate sequels. Some may argue that this actually is four games and its “upgrades,” but some of the character movesets and attacks vary significantly between the different chapters (for example, Dhalsim didn't originally have his teleportation ability).

    Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice collection of games; lots of fun details about the history of Street Fighter; smooth online gameplay; great music and graphics; summons plenty of nostalgia
    Weak Points: Difficult; “widescreen” format leaves much to be desired
    Moral Warnings: Violence; some skimpy clothing on both male and female models; some blood; minor language issues

    For those that haven't played, gameplay consists of two characters facing off within a colorful, animated arena. Each character has a selection of three different punches and three different kicks (usually). Combining different controller movements with button presses can release special moves, which may include fireballs, flaming uppercuts, deadly body slams, and more. Pulling away from your opponent can make your character block attacks. Players can use the keyboard for these actions, but as with most fighting games, a game controller will be found as much more useful. The winner of the match is determined by a best two-out-of-three format, where the loser is determined either by knockout, or if the timer runs out, whoever has the most life at the end of each round. Each character has their strengths, weaknesses and strategies, and for those who get drawn into the games, there's bound to be a character that fits any player's desired play style. Experimentation will lead to the discovery of favorites, and with a detailed story and world, Capcom has created an entire genre that is almost addictive to study and enjoy.

    The collection goes into further detail than just those presented in the games. Also included is a timeline of the games, concept art, a sprite viewer, details about all the fighters, and a music player. The individual games can be customized to different difficulty levels, screen formats, and even filters to make the screen look similar to the resolution found in the original arcades. This collection does a great job in replicating the original games, and I got a huge feeling of nostalgia while playing them. The 30th Anniversary Collection captures the originals perfectly. The one issue I do have is with the “widescreen” format. Instead of opening up the edges to allow you to see more of the background as you fight, the game stretches the characters and the background, which makes all the characters look slightly squished. The music, as usual for a Capcom game, is excellent. The voice acting seems odd at times, but it stays true to the original games; it's interesting to hear how many of the voices change over the years based on expanding technology and the hiring of new voice actors.

    Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Co-op is an option, and for those with two game controllers, any of the games can be played against each other. For those who desire to battle online, only four games can be chosen: Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting; Super Street Fighter II Turbo; Street Fighter Alpha 3; and Street Fighter III: Third Strike. It isn't difficult to find opponents online, and private rooms can even be set up. I battled against one of my fellow editors, the handsome and talented IBJamon. Despite some initial hiccups due to a poor Internet connection and my laptop battery running out, we were able to connect, and the game ran smoothly. He managed to beat me in more matches – I said I liked the Street Fighter games, not that I was very good at them. But along those lines, even if you can lower the difficulty ratings on the games, they still can pose a significant, sometimes frustrating, challenge. The arcade versions are designed to munch quarters, after all. I have read that the Nintendo Switch expands the co-op challenge a bit further by allowing up to eight people to participate in a bracket tournament; I haven't had a chance to explore this option, though.

    The games are largely clean. Certainly violence is a factor, since the game does consist of fighters beating each other up, but there is very little blood involved. Some of the losing portraits feature bloody, bruised and battered martial artists, though. Some characters – both male and female – wear tight-fitting or revealing clothing. There is some swearing, but not much. Some of the characters do seem to be a bit over-the-top in terms of sexuality, but not to the point of pornography, at least. One of the characters has the unfortunate name of Sodom; fortunately, that is the only thing he has in common with the Biblical city destroyed by God for its sins.

    Altogether for fans of Street Fighter, this collection is a must-have. For those who enjoy the history of video games, this should be added to their library immediately. And for those who enjoy retro-style games... well, you can guess what I recommend. This is a must-have title for multiple reasons.

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Street Fighter X Tekken
    Developed by: Capcom U.S.A., Inc.
    Published by: Capcom U.S.A., Inc.
    Released: May 11, 2012
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: 2D fighter
    ESRB rating: T for Teen (alcohol references, crude humor, language and suggestive themes)
    Number of players: 1-4
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    I remember playing Street Fighter II in the arcades. My first encounter with the game was in a bowling alley, where I put in my two quarters and gave Dhalsim a try. With his stretchy limbs and bizarre appearance, I quickly fell in love with the game. I spent countless hours playing different variations of Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha 2 on the Super Nintendo. I even shelled out money for the tabletop game published by White Wolf, but I seldom could find many people willing to play it.

    Years went by, and as it happened, I didn't have the machinery to continue with the franchise. Although I did play one of the Street Fighter III games at the local arcade a few times, they never ported the game to the Mac computers or the Nintendo platforms. Recent events have led me to use a Windows computer, so when the game Street Fighter X Tekken came up as part of a Humble Bundle, I leaped at the opportunity to get the game.

    Unfortunately, my efforts were initially thwarted. Trying to launch the game led to an error that caused the game to crash immediately. The game relies on Windows Live for the online portion, and with that service effectively defunct at the time of this writing, the game hangs up before it can even launch. From what I've read, this problem persists no matter which version of Windows you use, and Capcom has expressed no interest in trying to correct the error. After trying several solutions to no effect, I eventually found a patch made by a Steam user that removes the Windows Live components from the game. Street Fighter X Tekken could now launch, but I could not engage in any on-line multiplayer. Just as well – I had no interest in playing online anyway, so I viewed this as an acceptable loss.

    Playing the game felt like reuniting with old friends. All of my favorites are there – Ken, Dhalsim, Blanka, Elena – and there were so many other characters to try and learn about as well. I had never played Tekken, so half of the characters were brand new to me. But most of the moves were familiar, as they were identical from their earlier iterations. Ryu's fireball is performed the same way it was in the original Street Fighter II. Blanka can still electrocute those close to him simply by tapping rapidly on a punch button. All of the Street Fighter characters are nearly identical to their original playstyles, and this familiarity allows fans of the franchise to jump right in. I can presume that this is similar to the Tekken characters, but I admit that I don't have the frame of reference to confirm this.

    Street Fighter X Tekken
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots and LOTS of characters to choose from; great music; sharp controls
    Weak Points: Completely unplayable “out-of-the-box,” requiring fan-made patches to even run; graphic glitches; limited arenas; several bugs, including ones that caused the game to lock up my computer
    Moral Warnings: Characters pummel each other into unconsciousness; some characters (male and female) wear skimpy outfits; some language; one character is transgendered

    For those that are unfamiliar with the Street Fighter games, players choose two of several fighters to form a team, and then fight with a variety of punches, kicks and special maneuvers to defeat the opponent in a best of two out of three matchup. Movement is done with the control stick, and can punch or kick with three different levels of strength. The configuration can be a bit overwhelming with new players – especially with the huge array of special moves – but a bit of practice goes a long way.

    There are several choices in how to play. Tutorials are available, both for learning general moves and tactics, and for each specific character. There is the usual arcade mode, which includes a story. There is a “quick play” against a computer-controlled opponent. And, of course, there are several multiplayer options as well. The rounds can further be customized for the time of the match, the number of matches, and the difficulty of the A.I. Speaking of customization, you also can customize the various outfits of the characters with a huge array of colors and effects.

    The game has a tremendous selection when it comes to characters. If fully unlocked, there are more than 50 characters to choose from – the most of any fighting game I've encountered so far! In contrast, there are only 11 fighting stages to choose from, counting the training stage that doesn't come up in the story mode. Although the background animations of these stages are neat to see, the lack of variety becomes dull before too long. Of course, that's not the main attraction to the game, but it would have been nicer to see a wider selection of fighting arenas.

    The animation of the characters is smooth, but there is some noticeable clipping at times, especially with some of the costume selections. And while you can hear the characters voiced in English or Japanese, it is obvious that the characters' mouths were modeled speaking Japanese, leading to the game looking like a dubbed movie. I wish that it would have been possible to hear each of the characters speak in their native languages, but that might be asking too much. The music is great, which is pretty much the standard with most Capcom games.

    Street Fighter X Tekken
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 1/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 79%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The patch that I used disabled the ability to play online, but local multiplayer is still an option, and quite fun. However, my daughter and I ran into another problem. After a few rounds, the ability to choose costumes broke, so we couldn't see what costumes or colors our characters were actually wearing until the match began. Eventually, the game froze during the character selection process, and I actually had to restart my computer. The game also showed occasional slowdowns to gameplay, both in multiplayer and single player, but these occurrences were rare.

    There is an issue with downloadable content, too. Some of the characters have to be purchased separately, as well as costumes and items called “gems,” which can be used to help characters execute combos with a simple command, rather than a timed series of moves (which actually sounds almost like “pay to win” to me, but maybe I'm old school in that regard).

    There are some moral issues to consider. First of all, since this is a fighting game, there is plenty of violence, generally in the form of people beating each other up. Some of the fighters wear very revealing clothing, and with the ability to do custom colors, it is possible to make some of the characters appear completely nude, albeit with “Barbie doll” anatomy. There are language issues, with h*ll and d**n used repeatedly throughout, and I have read that the s- word appears in a few character's storylines, but I haven't run into these occurrences yet. Some of Vega's attacks look like they could spray blood from his opponents, but since he also uses roses in quite a few of his poses, they could be flower petals, too – it is hard to tell. There also is the presence of Poison, who not only dresses like a cross between a dominatrix and one of the Village People, but has the dubious distinction of being one of the first transgender characters in video game history. This doesn't get addressed in the course of the game, but extensive details can be found online. Finally, it is possible for players to play evil characters.

    Street Fighter X Tekken is a great game, but with some significant problems. The clipping issues and limited selection of arenas is disappointing. The necessity of using fan-made patches just to get the game to work is inexcusable; even if it is an older game, Capcom should either update it so it will work out of the box on current systems, or remove it from sale. In its day, the game was likely fantastic. But as technology has evolved, this game has not evolved with it. Street Fighter X Tekken is a fun chapter in the Street Fighter franchise, but it's better to move on to more modern entries at this point.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
    Developed By: Nintendo, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment, Sora Ltd.
    Published By: Nintendo
    Released: December 7, 2018
    Available On: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Fighting
    ESRB Rating: E10+ Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, Suggestive Themes
    Price: $59.90
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    The Super Smash Bros series has always been a celebration of all things gaming, but this latest incarnation has turned it up to eleven. If this truly is game director Masahiro Sakurai's swan song to Smash, then he will be remembered as a legend who went out on top. This is a game for all ages, all skill levels, and every one of us who has ever wondered what Kirby would look like if he ate a Piranha Plant.

    Super Smash Bros is a rare fusion of competitive fighting game and mad-cap party game. Despite the game's extensive single-player offerings, this is a game best played with friends, preferably in the same room, though the online features are much improved for this edition.

    Something special happens when you get a group together for Smash. Along with Mario Kart and Mario Party, it is known as a truly potent gaming catalyst. Even players of drastically different skill levels will soon be laughing and gloating thanks to the game's balancing features and game-changing items. And with the Switch's peerless portability, it has never been easier to take Smash to the people.

    The crux of a game of Smash is simple to understand and the quick, action-packed matches are as fun to watch as they are to play. The goal is to knock the other players off of the stage (or off-screen) by punching, kicking, shooting, throwing, stomping, and of course, smashing them. The more damage a character takes, the easier they are to launch. Don't be surprised if a particularly beat-up character is sent flying into the stratosphere.

    Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A supremely polished fighter that represents the best of Nintendo; Captures a pure sense of fun; Endless replayability.
    Weak Points: There isn’t much of a story here outside of a fancy cutscene. 
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence aplenty; The fighter Bayonetta checks all of the boxes when it comes to moral warnings (she is a gun-toting, hypersexualized witch who fights the forces of both Heaven and Hell.)

    The controls are simple enough for anyone to pick up and play, but to master the game's roster (69 base characters plus the downloadable fighters, each with their own array of special moves) will take skill and dedication. Unlike other fighting games, where moves might be tied to an arcane sequence of several button presses and analog stick movements, attacks in Smash Bros require only a single button press. All basic attacks, your close range kicks and punches, are mapped to the A button, while your special moves are mapped to the B button. While pressing one of these two buttons, you can tilt the left analog stick to unleash different attack moves. It's a simple, smooth, and intuitive control scheme that doesn't lack for depth.

    While the real meat of the game is in the multiplayer Smash mode, with a slew of customizable rule sets and modifiers you can tinker with to your heart's content, the fun doesn't have to end when your friends go home. The online play mode runs much more smoothly than previous iterations, which were nigh unplayable. Features like online match preferences, customizable lobbies, and background matchmaking prevent online multiplayer from feeling like a headache.

    On the single player side, returning challenges like Classic Mode and minigames like Multi-man Smash are fun as always, but Ultimate also boasts the most compelling single-player experience in series history with the addition of Spirits.

    Spirits, like the trophies from past games, are collectable characters from the wide world of video games. However, the key difference is that Spirits can be used to provide power-ups and special bonuses to your fighters.

    Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 100%
    Gameplay - 20/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 69%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    In the World of Light mode, you travel an overworld map and take on Spirit challengers. If you defeat them, they're yours to keep. The harder the battle, the stronger the Spirit will be. Not only can you collect them, you can also level up your Spirits by taking them into battle, unlock new abilities or fighting styles, and even merge them into more powerful Spirits. I was surprised at just how comprehensive the Spirit system was, which only adds to the simple joy of recruiting your favorite obscure character.

    The Spirit Board mode offers a rotating cast of powerful Spirit challengers that you can take on to unlock rare spirits not found in the World of Light.

    Smash Bros is a game I've been playing since childhood, and it's unfortunate to see that it has lost a bit of its family friendliness. The violence involved is as silly and unrealistic as ever; no one is ever seriously hurt. However, characters like Snake bring realistic military hardware into the ring, as does Bayonetta, in addition to her blasphemous, occult, and over-sexualized stylings. It is unfortunate that there is no way to disable characters like these or prevent them from appearing. While most of the roster are friendly, cartoonish characters like Mario or Yoshi, the notable exceptions will stick out like a sore thumb.

    If ever there was a perfect game, this is it. Super Smash Bros: Ultimate succeeds in everything it set out to do, increasing the quantity of characters, stages, and modes without sacrificing quality. This is a polished, heavy-hitter that will be seen as one of the Nintendo Switch's crown jewels for years to come.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Terrorhythm
    Developed by: EvilCoGames
    Published by: EvilCoGames
    Release date: April 6, 2018
    Available on: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Rhythm, Fighter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you EvilCoGames for sending us this game to review!

    Terrorhythm takes place in a society that prohibits sound. As you blast your music in rebellion various security drones will attack you to restore the silence. Fighting them is easy enough with the press of a button, but can you do it to the beat of the background music?

    As of this preview there are eight levels that can be unlocked in the campaign or played in any order in the custom mode. The included songs are great, but if you really want to use your own music it’s possible in the custom mode. The attacks must be timed with the beats per minute of the music track, and the faster the beats per minute (BPM), the harder it gets. The campaign songs start at 130 BPM and go up from there. If you’re really good you can double the speed of the songs for a real challenge.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great music and you can fight to your own songs as well; fun and challenging gameplay; online leaderboards
    Weak Points: Pricey; not that many levels or game modes yet; Steam achievements are not tracking my weapon kills properly
    Moral Warnings: Violence; your character wears a demon mask

    For controls you can use a keyboard, gamepad, or even DDR pads if you have any laying around.  The up arrow will boost your attack which some enemies require while others are immune to it.  The down arrow will increase your attack radius.  The left and right arrows are used for attacking enemies in that direction.  

    There are four difficulty levels: relaxed, normal, hard, and terror. The relaxed mode lets you play through songs without taking any damage. If you want to compete on the leaderboards and increase your rank, you’ll need to play at a harder difficulty though. In the hard and terror difficulty levels the enemies are harder to hit and require more precision. In terror mode, you don’t start off with much health/signal and there are no opportunities to replenish it.

    I preferred playing on the normal difficulty level and appreciated the health and weapon drops from enemies. There’s a fair amount of weapon variety including discs, scythes, and katanas. There are fifty-seven Steam achievements and some of them are based off of weapon kills. Despite killing numerous foes with weapons, I haven’t been getting credit for it. The other Steam achievements seem to be working fine though.

    Terrorhythm
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The online leaderboards are a nice touch and I won’t be threatening too many people with my mediocre performance. I like how you get placed on the leaderboards even if you don’t finish the song before dying.

    I really enjoy the soundtrack for this game and hope that it becomes available for purchase soon. There’s a DLC placeholder for it on the Steam store page, but it’s not available yet. The price is not yet revealed either.

    The 2D art style is colorful and unique. I’m not a huge fan of the demon mask the main character is wearing, but there’s no option to customize or change it.

    So far, this game is fun, but there’s some room for improvement when it comes to optimization and variety. I look forward to watching the progress of this title and can’t wait for the finished product. If you enjoy rhythm and fighting games you should add Terrorhythm to your wish list and pick it up when it goes on sale.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
    Developed By: Team Shanghai Alice/Mediascape Co., Ltd./CUBETYPE
    Published By: NIS America
    Release Date: October 10, 2017
    Available On: PS4 (PS VR included), PS Vita, Switch, Windows (Japan only, maybe coming to Steam someday?)
    Genre: 3D Shoot ‘em up Fighter
    Number of Players: 1-2, online or split screen
    ESRB Rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes
    MSRP: $29.99

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

    The Touhou universe is based on a long and storied series of shoot ‘em ups out of Japan since the 1990s. Team Shanghai Alice created the series, and has a rather unique way of serving their fans – by allowing them to create fan-created works derived from the main works, with the full blessing of the creator. There are some limitations, but he’s pretty open with it. As a result, it has become the “most prolific fan-made shooter series" according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is a spinoff game in the arena battle style. There is some visual novel-esque conversation, and then the inevitable friendly spat that leads to violence. This violence takes the form of a one-on-one 3D arena battle, where you and your opponent shoot at each other, or run up and melee with them, until their life meter depletes. Like most fighters, it’s a best out of three contest.

    Each character has three attack buttons, a jump button, a dash button, and a guard button.  The attacks also have variations where you press the dash button, or even both the dash and guard buttons.  If you get close enough to your enemy, then the attacks automatically become melee, which can be helpful – or also hurtful, as it’s not always what you intended.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent character selection and variety; good move variation between characters; more complex than it first appears
    Weak Points: Not a lot to it; Japanese voices only
    Weak Points: Not a lot to it; Japanese voices only
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence, as you beat up your friends for fun; a few conversations seem sexually suggestive, though it ends up innocent; one girl called another cute; Meiling is mercilessly called China and other stereotypes related to that; magic use, by the player and enemies; one character constantly shows off hexagrams

    Each attack, as well as dash, has a regeneration meter where too much usage can require a delay before using it again – or in the case of dash, an even more dangerous forced rest where you can’t move or fight back. Managing your stamina is an important part of any fight.

    Another important meter is the charge meter. When your opponent attacks, often they will be balls of energy or something, and these attacks can usually be avoided – but sometimes you can also shoot them out of the sky. When this happens, you earn energy for your charge meter. Once this maxes out, you can activate your spell – which is a very powerful attack that can drastically turn the tide in battle. Most fights take a few minutes, because individually, attacks take off a tiny chunk of health; spells take off half of the bar or even more depending on the character.

    There are nine characters (and one paid DLC character) to choose from. Each of them, from Reimu to Cirno to Patchouli all play very differently, with some like Meiling being fantastic melee characters, with others like Patchouli being amazing at ranged attacks. I find it kind of tacky that the tenth character is sitting there with a lock over her icon (and requiring a $2.99 purchase from the eShop) but it is what it is. The characters definitely have their own personalities through the combat and dialog, and it was mildly interesting to read. Each character’s story mode can be beaten in ten to twenty minutes, so it’s a pretty short game overall.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Other than the story mode, there is arcade mode, which is an endless arena where you fight one character after another, trying to get the highest victory count. There is also the very similar score attack mode, which is an endless mode where you keep fighting one enemy after another, accumulating points until you finally die. Both give you a small amount of health back in between bouts, but not to full (unless you were close to full anyway). You can also play one-off fights against the computer, or human players either split-screen or online. I could not find players online when I checked.

    Morally, there is violence, as expected. There is no blood or gore, and no one actually dies. There is plenty of magic use. One of the characters is a fairy, another a vampire, with yet another a youkai (some kind of demon spirit). The main character is a shrine maiden, which is a common religious figure in Japan. All of them are very cute looking anime girls, and look rather young. Meiling is Chinese, and is constantly made fun of, by calling her names like ‘China’, and is lazy and sleeps while on duty as a guard. One of the girls called another cute, and there are a couple of lines that could be interpreted as being sexual in nature – but it is revealed later that nothing like that is actually going on. One mention of the word ‘boob’ is used, as a character is being pressed against them.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is... okay. That’s really the best way I can explain it. If you are a Touhou fan, or are looking for fighting games off the beaten path, then you could find some fun here if you take the time to figure out the not initially obvious fighting mechanics. The first time I played it, I thought this game was going to be completely terrible; by the time I figured everything out, I had determined it’s not terrible. Just not particularly great. It’s probably a fun diversion if the price is right on deep discount.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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