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Friday at the Movies: Street Fighter

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Video games and movies, you would think the two would go hand-in-hand, but unfortunately given that the film medium is a passive experience and the gaming medium is an active experience, the hybrid of the two usually goes horribly (and laughably) wrong.  This segment will be our weekly realm to appreciate the more “classic” medium of film.  Of course, whenever possible I will review a “video game” movie.

It’s almost ironic to me that Jean-Claude Van Damme plays lead character Guile in this film because Mortal Kombat, direct competitor for the Street Fighter franchise, was originally supposed to be a Bloodsport video game.  Despite that, and the fact that Mortal Kombat was also made into a film, Street Fighter released to American theaters on Christmas Eve in 1994 up against Dumb & Dumber and The Santa Clause.  Director Steven E. de Souza was best known for penning action blockbusters like Die Hard and The Running Man as well as horribly written flops like Hudson HawkStreet Fighter marked his most known directorial title (he also wrote the screenplay), which probably explains why he isn’t known as a director.  In interviews de Souza explains that he did not want this movie to be a simple tournament full of fight scenes – side note: he stated that decision was due to the flop of Super Mario Bros. a year before and its apparent faithfulness to the game, which proves that Hollywood did not pay attention to video game details – and instead created an interesting international terrorist film.  To its credit, the overarching plot isn’t bad, albeit quite overcomplicated and tries way too hard to integrate as many people fromSuper Street Fighter II as it can, not to mention Guile’s horrible lines.  Despite being a worldwide commercial success (it made just under $100 million in combined worldwide theatrical release against its $35 million budget), the film was destroyed by critics and gamers alike for having slight nuances in both worlds but failing to implement either in a decent way.  In fact, if it weren’t for all the praise to Raul Julia’s performance as M. Bison the film would have nothing positive for critics at the time to talk about.

My biggest gripe is thatStreet Fighterbreaks a cardinal rule in storytelling: the script writes its own conflicts into the plot.  To be more specific, Guile is the catalyst for every bad thing that happens in the film and I often refer to this movie as, “Guile screws over everyone”.  Here are some examples (spoiler alert):

  • In the very beginning of the film, Bison has hostages he’s holding ransom for $20 billion, but doesn’t make any threats towards any of the hostages until Guile jumps in to mock and threaten him.  In addition, Guile decides to also call out to his buddy Charlie (Carlos Blanka) and tell him they’re coming.  This in turn is responsible for Bison choosing Charlie to turn into the beast as a message to Guile.
  • Guile gives away Cammy’s identity and eventually leads to her capture with Bison and subsequent lack of personal revenge, only to claim that revenge for himself.
  • The ransom is about to be paid and every hostage will be safe until Guile, now dishonorably discharged, decides to storm Bison’s compound instead.  While this may have potentially stopped Bison’s funding, he puts the hostages in a position to either be immediately executed (which probably would have happened in a real crisis) and definitely endangers their lives when he destroys the compound and has little to no regard for the location or safe extraction of these hostages.
  • When he sees Blanka has become a monster, he decides to shoot his best friend in the head rather than let him live on.  Dhalsim offers to stay with him and allow them both to die in the exploding compound.  So basically he causes Blanka to become a monster and then sentences him to death because of it, some friend.

Putting all those little plot holes and various other horrid decisions aside, it’s an entertaining movie.  My advice is to go into it with no expectations and just pretend it isn’t a video game movie.  No super moves were used, there’s almost no fighting (every time an opportunity comes up someone else interferes), and it takes over an hour for anyone to wear outfits from the game.  At the same time, Raul Julia has an absolute blast with the role – impressive considering he was in excruciating pain from stomach cancer at the time and would pass away before the film’s release – and many have said it was a fitting end to his life and career.  To be clear, not because he was in a cheesy video game movie, but rather because he had fun in his final days acting in a role he took solely because his kids begged him to.  I also find it interesting that Cammy is played by Kylie Minogue and that de Souza claimed her character was the hardest to cast because she has nearly no lines and can be written out of the entire movie with ease. 

My regret is that there are almost no references to the video game at all, including the dodging of fight sequences, which is exactly why I watch these movies.  Fortunately the one nod in the film is so blatant and impactful that it almost completely excuses this: for the final shot all of the live actors stand in the winning pose of their character from the game.  Apparently a sequel was in the works and in the home video and DVD release of the movie there is a scene after the credits of Bison coming back to life, but I highly doubt given the events since 1994 that this will ever happen.  Still, it was an easy film to attack that in hindsight is far from the atrocious film adaptations of other games we’ve seen since then.

Written by spydersvenom

June 29, 2012 at 11:55 am

Podcast: Emulation – Breaking the Law

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This episode we have Derek from the Playground Podcast on to discuss the oh so controversial topic of video game emulation.  Instead of describing what it is, which can be found here, we instead discuss our memories, stories, and wonderful benefits of a topic that has been shadowed by piracy.

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Written by spydersvenom

June 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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Now & Then: American McGee’s Alice

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Now & Then is a series where we dissect the culture of a specific series or genre or compare an influential game from the past and how it holds up today.

Then

It’s a bit wierd that American McGee (yes, that’s his real name as far as I know) was given an opportunity to be a Creative Director on this ambitious project, even moreso as an early project with EA.  He began his career at idworking mostly in level design for many of the first person shooter series that I grew up playing: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake.  He was fired from id for reasons not known and eventually ended up at Electronic Arts, where after a few sound design and writing projects he was given a large budget and the role of Creative Director for Alice.  Why EA back then agreed to put his name as part of the title or allowed him to create such a vivid project (in the Quake III engine, for irony’s sake) is beyond me, but it was a solid and pivotal decision.  American McGee’s Alice is one of the darkest, most twisted games I’ve ever played and takes the story begun by Lewis Carroll more than a century prior and turns it on its head.  To be fair, Wonderland has never been a “normal” place, begot mostly of fantasy concepts and mind-altered states, but I never felt that violence, murder, and insanity were heavy themes.  While the gameplay wasn’t spectacular even at the time, the imagery and graphics impressed gamers enough to sell more than 1.5 million copies.

As you play through the game, the previous history of a shooter level designer is more than clear: Alice is a clunky character and each level has tons of wasted real estate that I found in many shooters of the time.  Interestingly enough, you don’t seem to notice or care as the sinister tale of Alice’s dead family in the hands of a house fire unfold and you travel deeper and deeper into her insanity.  Along the way you will be greeted by evil versions of characters you probably grew up reading about or enjoying in Disney’s animated take.  I also need to amend my “wasted real estate” description by stating that although no enemies or interaction happens in large parts of the level, they are definitely brought to life with plenty of detail.  Couple that with a handful of so-so boss battles and you’ve got a game.  American McGee’s Alice was the game every PC player had in the year 2000, but rarely did anyone beat it.  I don’t recall cheat codes being in the game, and thanks to some wacky platforming it wouldn’t really matter anyway, not to mention the crazy mazes and extended final levels as you approach the queen.  In fact, the final two areas are easily just as long as the rest of the game, so just when you think you’re at the Queen of Heart’s front gate, you’re only really halfway there.  Alice’s mix of a strong story, gorgeous graphics, and violent world continue to make it a well-remembered game for the time, even if you have to adjust for the nostalgia factor.

Now

A lot has changed since American McGee’s Alice premiered, although it doesn’t seem McGee has learned his lesson with the sequel – I almost wonder if he designs a few levels first and then tries to build a game around them.  Putting aside his newest release, Alice does not hold up all that well.  Like it or not, today’s gamers (even the ones who grew up with these titles) do not easily tolerate a limiting camera and the platforming delays and small ledges are aggravating.  Fortunately the game allows you to save whenever you want at the touch of a button, which means you can literally save before each jump or turning the next corner, and in truth you may actually have to do at times.  The down side to this is you become more focused on saving than you do with the actual game and it soon feels like you’re playing Mega Man 2 or Castlevania on an emulator – sure, you may beat the game, but you feel like you cheated to get there. 

Not only that, the game is still freaking hard even if you do save with every move you make and cheat codes have definitely gone the way of the dodo, so regardless of whether you’re on PC or console, your online achievement provider will force you to beat it legit.  If somehow none of these things I’ve mentioned discouraged you, perhaps the various maze levels and the fact that you can wander around utterly lost for hours may do the trick.  There are plenty of walkthroughs for this game and although the 8 hour campaign may feel like a tiresome journey, realize that for $10 you’re getting a decent deal.  In addition, plenty of those gamers that never finished it as a child may want to go back and prove they can best the Queen once and for all, which was definitely my draw.  I also have to completement the music, which I never noticed before but I’m keenly aware of this time around.  Most of the music is made up of percussion-like sounds from children’s toys, which I recently found out was written and performed by Chris Vrenna, better known for being the former drummer of Trent Reznor’s band Nine Inc Nails.  It’s best to go into this game with an open mind and realize that by the time you want to quit, you’ll be just far enough along that you should proceed onward to the eventual end. 

There is a charm to Alice: Madness Returns and it does an excellent job of taking a dated concept into the contemporary gaming space, but you appreciate it even more when you play the original Alice and see where these concepts were born.  Sure, the big draws from more than 10 years ago have all gone from positive aspects to negative ones, but this title is far from unplayable.  It just stands to show that while you may remember American McGee’s Alice as this creative masterpiece from your teenage (or in my case college) years, perhaps you glossed over some of the finer points that deterred you before.  Keep in mind though, we rarely completed any of the games we played back then. 

Alice is available on Steam, XBLA, and PSN for $10 or free with new copies of Alice: Madness Returns. Please note that it requires you to own Alice: Madness Returns and is accessible through that game’s menu.

Written by spydersvenom

June 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Now & Then, PC/Mac, Reviews

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Friday at the Movies: The Wizard

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Video games and movies, you would think the two would go hand-in-hand, but unfortunately given that the film medium is a passive experience and the gaming medium is an active experience, the hybrid of the two usually goes horribly (and laughably) wrong.  This segment will be our weekly realm to appreciate the more “classic” medium of film (thanks to the large number of hits my Prometheus review received).  Of course, whenever possible I will review a “video game” movie.

This movie poster is exactly like the gaming magazines fo the time, busy as hell.

Oh, The Wizard, how I love you so despite what anyone tells me.  Sure, it’s nothing more than a big commercial for Super Mario Bros. 3 and a blatant ripoff of Rain Man, but that doesn’t change the fact that I love this movie to death.  Before the Internet, we gamers would soak up any and all forms of information on video games and due to the lack of content available to us (magazines cost money, you had to be registered for newsletters, and we couldn’t linger in the gaming area of Sears forever).  I had a subscription to Nintendo Power and I knew that SMB3 would eventually grace our shores, but Japan got the game a whopping year and a half before us!  As soon as they revealed that the game was going to be featured in the movie, it was an instant must see for my friends and I.  It’s pretty hilarious too, because in the movie the big reveal is that the finals for the Nintendo World Championship would feature this game and everyone goes crazy given that it’s a never before played game.  As an audience, we all knew the game would be in there and shredded through the first 90 minutes of exposition to get to that point.  When Jimmy played those legendary first few levels of SMB3, though, the entire pathetic journey was well worth it.  For fans of the film, how the hell does Haley know everything about this “unseen” game as Jimmy plays along, including what the flute does?

That’s not to say that the end is the only reason to watch The Wizard nowadays, heck no.  The reason to watch now is because it’s like a time capsule of the late 80s gaming world, where you get to see things you can’t possibly imagine in today’s gaming space.  Lets start with the movie’s lead, Fred Savage, whom few would recognize today but back in 1989 was a huge child star with the success of The Wonder Years.  I’m sure Christian Slater and Beau Bridges wish this film weren’t on their resumes and fellow child actress Jenny Lewis is even relevant today as the lead singer of the band Rilo Kiley, but in those days they were just people playing roles that no one cared about.  Also featured in the movie is a killer soundtrack that includes songs like Hangin’ Tough by the New Kids on the Block and a personal 80s favorite of mine, Send me an Angel by Real Life (which is featured heavily in the movie’s road trip montage sequence).  Now that I think of it, that scene is probably the only reason I like the song at all.  Kidding aside the biggest draw for me these days is seeing all the classic games and gaming conventions we had to deal with back then.

We meet Lucas Barton early into the film, sporting a lavish logo t-shirt with a splash of pink neon and some killer shades, who owns “all 97″ Nintendo games (yes, back then that was the North American library) as well as the “so bad” (“bad” meant “good” in the late 80s) power glove.  To be clear, the power glove doesn’t work at all like it’s described in the film (and we covered it and all the NES accessories here), but I forgive Universal for lying to me in a movie, it’s what film studios do.  You also notice that the only way the kids find out about tips, tricks, or even a Nintendo World Championship (which didn’t exist at the time and would later be implemented) is through gaming magazines in truck stops and restaurants.  Yep, that’s how it worked in those days and just like few revealed in the movie imply, it was such a busy cover you just skimmed the pages until you saw something you liked.  Later in the film they actually call the Nintendo help hotline, which actually existed, although I don’t think they were paying the $2.99/minute that we did at home.  There’s also a ton of games in the film including: Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, Rad Racer, OutRun (arcade ver), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the brutal original NES one), Zelda II: Adventure of Link, and of course, Super Mario Bros. 3.  Not only that, this is probably the only movie to keep everything authentic in terms of gaming – all smoke and mirrors regarding the power glove aside.  Normally in movies when you see someone playing a video game the game, sounds of the game, and even console and controller of a game are incorrect.  Re-watch Fear sometime and notice that in one scene the kids are playing Super Street Fighter II on SNES with the sounds of some early arcade game coming out and holding Playstation controllers, it’s hilarious.  In The Wizard, you actually see them play the true NES version of Double Dragon, complete with a section that had us all frustrated and the sounds from that moment in the game intact.  Shocker, they actually simply captured the game and used it.  Granted, it is a video game movie, so you have to wonder how hands on Nintendo was and also why they weren’t quite as hands on with the Super Mario Bros. movie.

Not only is the retro gaming a draw, but this film is loaded up with all the politically incorrect content of the 1980s.  Throughout this romp you will see scenes involving the benefits of running away, death of a parent, social insensitivity towards autism, benefits of hitchhiking, teenage drinking, kidnapping, teenage gambling, and for good measure they throw in a little child molestation humor.  I mean c’mon, who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned “he touched my breast!” joke in their video game movie for kids?  I guess in closing what I can say is that you absolutely have to see this movie once, if only for the time capsule nature of it. Unless you’ve never been on theKing Kongride at Universal, then you have to get your hands on this right away.

Written by spydersvenom

June 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Feature: Remembering the Virtual Boy

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If you’ve been reading this site for a while you may remember my lesson sets on home consoles known as the “Generation Gap Series” or my portable series known as “Gaming To-Go“.  In these two sets, only two consoles were unable to be categorized in either location: the 32x (which got its own feature as well) and the Virtual Boy.  Why?  Read on to find out.

By 1994, when Nintendo announced the Virtual Boy via press release, the Gameboy had lived a long and proud lifespan of 5 years.  Until recently, that was about how long each console would exist because technology would eventually become strong and cheap enough to make a new generation of consoles, so Gameboy was on its way out.  In January, 1995, when Nintendo revealed the device at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) it was met with plenty of positive responses.  It makes sense that the public had faith, the device was developed by Nintendo R&D 1 and led by Gunpei Yokoi, the father of both the Game & Watch handhelds and the Gameboy.  unfortunately marketing and explanation of the product is most likely to blame for the commercial flop that later released – Virtual Boy was neither intended to be a Gameboy replacement nor was it to be an inexpensive console.

Virtual Boy basically takes an updated graphics style of the Gameboy, converts the sepia tones to hues of red and black, and creates a 3D effect.  This is achieved through parallax, described as a displacement in the apparent position of an object by viewing it through two different lines of sight.  Basically the Virtual Boy would show the same object with altered backgrounds separately to each eye and the combined effect would trick your brain into a false sense of depth perception.  This explained how the Virtual Boy was able to create a 3D effect and also why it caused physical symptoms like a light-headed feeling after a long playtime or the inability for those with sight issues to properly see games on it.  As you can imagine, the necessity to see games in a darkened clear state and to create two individual images is why the system needed to have a continuous large power supply (ie: battery power wouldn’t be ideal) and the need for it to be set in a fixed position and location.  In order to achieve these two things you definitely couldn’t consider the unit portable.

Up until this point, Yokoi had a very clear vision of how the gaming market could achieve wide success, especially on a portable, with a few simple rules: keep it cheap, keep it small, and keep the games simple.  Look at the Gameboy – it cost $90 and came packed with Tetris, the only game you really needed, it had plenty of battery life out of two AAs, and it was made from cheap components.  No one cared that the technology wasn’t cutting edge, it was an easy sell.  This mentality has actually remained consistent with most of Nintendo’s handheld consoles to date (save the recent 3DS).  Virtual Boy did not follow any of these rules.  The dual LED display with a high refresh rate was new and expensive technology, the reason for the red display is purely because red LEDs were the cheapest.  It needed tons of power; 6 AA batteries that would only last for a few hours to be exact, and thus made the power adaptor a necessity.  It wasn’t portable – the mammoth needed ideal conditions on a flat surface to put its stand on and even had a controller that plugged in (which makes it not even a portable)!  It was expensive: $180 at retail to be specific.  And finally it was mismarketed: most people thought it was supposed to be a portable due to its namesake and the fact that the SNES was relatively new, so no one from a consumer to a retailer knew how to categorize it.

So when people ask, “Why did the Virtual Boy fail?” you can easily answer their question.  The console premiered in Japan in mid 1995 and released in North America around six months later, it never even came to European/PAL territories and was discontinued in 1996.  During that short period of time only 22 games released in Japan and 14 of them made the localized trip over here.  It only managed to sell 770,000 units worldwide, which accounts for its rarity (not to mention the games) and the even more rare find is a console with all necessary components to run it properly.  No matter how low the price dropped, I think the cheapest I saw it was $100, that pile of Virtual Boys would always remain untouched at the local Toys R Us.  Out of those games Red Alarm, Mario Tennis, and Space Invaders are the only games even worth playing and aside from Mario Tennis they carry a heavy price tag.  Even in its death, the Virtual Boy is a disappointing and expensive piece of history.

Collector’s Tips and Modern Commentary

Okay vintage game collectors, here’s the list: Virtual Boy unit, power cord, stand, and controller.  Those are the four components you’re looking for when purchasing this console nowadays, because without all of these components you’re looking at an expensive accessory purchase or some homemade rigs to get this thing working properly.  You can fetch the console (complete) itself usually for around $50-$100, but be sure to save up at least twice that amount if you want to get any decent games.  Aside from Mario Tennismost other titles will run you $25-$50 apiece, some big dogs going for more than $100 (like Space Invaders).  Also be sure to pack some motion sickness meds, because after an hour with this big red menace you’ll be seeing a water effect in your vision (at least I do).  Fortunately for the less masochistic and broke population, a cheap pair of paper 3D glasses (you know, the red/blue kind) and a PC can get you emulating this console on the cheap.  Please note that like all emulators there’s a decent chunk of legal fine print (explained in our emulation article here), but I know for a fact no developer makes any money off Virtual Boy at all.

Now to briefly pose a thought for you: is the 3DS the same as the Virtual Boy?  Clearly not.  While the two share some similarities and the argument can be made it still violates some of the classic portable Nintendo console rules, the 3DS still has everything it needs to be a portable, and successful, console.  Today we can clearly see that the software has picked up the sales of the hardware and the 3DS has already outlived the Virtual Boy.  Still, it is unfortunate this clunky lackluster console even came into fruition, if only because it drove Gunpei Yokoi from Nintendo forever.  I wonder what portable we’d be playing today if he had stayed around.

Written by spydersvenom

June 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Features

Now & Then: Mortal Kombat II (Midway)

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Midway must have known it had a hit on its hands with the original Mortal Kombat because no time was wasted creating the sequel.  While most of us anticipated the home release of the first title, Mortal Kombat II (MKII) snuck into arcades and blew our minds.  This game literally had it all – more characters, more fatalities/finishing moves, and more violence.  For most MK series fans, myself included, this is considered to be the best and it’s one of the highest grossing video games of all time. 

MK Meets its Match

The original Mortal Kombatwas an impressive fighter, especially for one that was developed with digitized actors in only 10 months, but creator Ed Boon wanted to do more.  “[MKII] had everything we wanted to put in the original MK but didn’t have time for,” he said in an interview with EGM2 (issue 5, Nov. 1994).  It does seem like there’s some truth to his claim, especially with the introduction of more stage fatalities, a second fatality for each character, and even joke finishers “friendships” and “babalities”.  I’m not so sure the roster was an initial idea, nor was the background concepts of Outworld, but I can definitely see the Midway team wanting to break away from the perceived reality of the original.  Not only was MKII the definitive version of the original concept, but it continues to be the template for which all other titles in the series are based on.  

In the second installment, Liu Kang has won the tournament and Shang Tsung returns to his home dimension of Outworld, defeated.  He begs his ruler, Shao Kahn, for another tournament, this time in Outworld.  Kahn agrees and gives Tsung back some of his youth while Raiden gathers a new batch of fighters.  As a result the cast of 12 characters is made up of half Earth realm fighters and half Outworld fighters.  In addition, all backgrounds take place in the demonic realm of Outworld, giving a slight cartoon feel to the previous game.  While the game was in development it was decided that the motion capture sprites would be replaced by chroma key implementation (an effect that allows multiple layers into a moving object).  This technique resulted in more muscular and shiny looking sprites, which helped to remove the reality feel of the first.  Finally with extremely violent fatalities and joke finishers the game gave a distinct “not too serious” impression on what originated as a very dark theme.

All of the original fighters were planned to be in the sequel, but memory limits claimed the deletion of Sonya and Kano and in their place Reptile and Mileena were added.  For those that wonder why the same number of characters can take up less memory, these are all palette swaps with already existing characters and thus require much less space to implement.  This also explains why secret characters Jade (a green palette swap with Kitana), Smoke (a gray palette swap of the various ninjas), and Noob Saibot (a shadowed black version of the ninja template) all originate with other characters.  Extreme attention to detail was taken and this is clear with the inclusion of Kano and Sonya in the background of the Kahn’s Arena stage as well as plenty of secrets held within the game.  We’ve already mentioned them, but each character this time around two fatalities, a stage fatality (used on the Tower for spikes above and the Pit II for cement below), a friendship that gifted the opponent in some way, and a babality that would turn the opponent into a crying baby.  The Acid Pool level also had a way to uppercut enemies into it, however this move was specific to that level as opposed to stage fatalities that were specific moves for each character.  Rumors of “animalities” sprang up with Liu Kang’s second fatality dawning a large dragon that bit the opponent in half, which may have later led to the inclusion of these finishers in Mortal Kombat 3.  Each secret fighter had a specific way to fight them and they all posed difficult threats just as Reptile was in the original – side note: Noob Saibot’s name derives from taking creators Boon and Tobias backwards.

I still remember the day this first came out and in an instant dethroned the original Mortal Kombat as an arcade gem.  No one touched the Mortal Kombat cabinet if MKII was there, even if it meant waiting in a long line.  This also started the collecting and passing around of moves and fatalities – with the Internet not mainstream we actually had pieces of paper that we would bring with us to collect everyone’s moves – and was a true testament to word of mouth.  While we all still picked up the original for playing at home, Midway had found a way to get us to the arcades just as often as before.  As expected, when the game came to home consoles a year later, there wasn’t a video game system owner that didn’t want it and this time around Nintendo wouldn’t make the same mistake.

Homekoming

As was the case with the previous game, Probe would be responsible for the Sega ports including Genesis, Game Gear, and now 32x.  Since the Genesis was expected to be the lead platform and the largest performer – remember that although the SNES version was technically a closer port, many gamers had opted to get a Genesis for the original and would then get the sequel on that console as well.  This time around there was no blood code to unlock and tons of secrets were included in the game with everything from one button fatalities to the infamous “Fergality” (you could enable the “Oooh Nasty!” cheat and play as Raiden on the Armory and make Probe CEO Fergus McGovern appear).  This version was faster performing than even the arcade version due to its strong processor and visual limitations, but the game did look rough around the edges.  In addition several things like backgrounds, winning animations, and sound effects were cut or changed from the arcade version.  For most gamers, though, this didn’t seem to matter as the game’s fighting mechanics were spot on and the six button controller closed the gap that some users of the first game complained about.
Probe’s 32x port was supposed to significantly improve the sound and visuals, creating a more complete version of the game, but after playing it I have to say it’s pretty much the Genesis version.  A few sound effects are included and all the winning stance animations are now intact, but hardly worth it for the advertised improvements.

The SNES version did look and sound extremely close to the arcade counterpart, especially given that all the blood had returned to the game after lackluster sales of the original (in Japan the blood was changed to green and fatalities were performed in black and white).  Not only that, but Nintendo was so scared of consumer backlash for the violence that the game had not only a large “M” rating in accordance to the ESRB, it also had a large warning label from Nintendo warning of the extreme violence.  Although there were some bugs in the original release (you couldn’t face Noob Saibot, for example), they were fixed and updated by the second release window and I never heard any of my SNES friends complaining.  For those of us in the Mortal Kombat gaming scene, this was the version to grab. Mortal Kombat IIon the SNES also broke the mold on how violent games on the console would be moving forward.

With Probe on board for both portable iterations and Nintendo laxing its rules on violence, there was a degree of brutality in each version.  The roster was stripped by four fighters, obviously the palette swapped characters all making it into the game, and each character had one fatality and oddly enough a babality.  Both the Gameboy and Game Gear versions were identical save for the addition of color, blood, and a few extras in the Game Gear version.  Some of the fatalities in both versions were altered slightly to re-use animiations for the sake of storage space.  For what they are, both games are an achievement on their respective consoles.

Interestingly enough, this game was also re-released on PC, Sega Playstation, and Sega Saturn a couple years later.  While we did not get the Playstation version, most of the disc-based versions of this game were plagued with sound issues because Probe didn’t make the tracks into redbook audio (or CD tracks) and instead included synthesized data on the disc.  Furthermore the game would completely freeze up with the MK dragon in the center as it loaded each character’s morph with Shang Tsung – the Sega Saturn version allowed you to pre-load a few characters before the match and it would also allow palette-swapped characters even if not selected, thus granting the player at least half the roster when selecting Shang Tsung.  Aside from those minor hiccups, these ports are extremely close to arcade faithful. 

You can also find this game on various other platforms like the Midway Treasures Collection Vol. 2 on Xbox, PS2, and PSP, as well as an unlockable for completing the PS2 title Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.  For a brief period of time a completely arcade faitful port was released on the PS3 as a downloadable PSN title, complete with online play, but it was removed once licensing with Midway expired.  Now you can find the game in the download title Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection on XBLA and PSN, which includes the first three games all enhanced with online play.

Kontroversy

This game was one of the first to be banned in Germany (we covered many banned games around the globe here), and Jax’s arm rip became one of the official bloodiest moments in gaming history by IGN as well as one of the goriest games of all times in an issue of EGM (1995 buyer’s guide).  Another interesting controversy surrounded something that wasn’t even in the game: the rumored “nudality” or “sexality” that many spoke of as being an unlockable feature in the game.  Now I can scoff that off as proposterous, but back in the arcade days when we were discovering different secrets left and right, it sure seemed possible.

Written by spydersvenom

June 19, 2012 at 11:16 am

Podcast: The Final Countdown Pt. 1

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Fred Rojas from Gaming History 101 and the B-Team podcast is joined by Josh “Colm” from the T4 show and Rob “Trees” from EZ Mode Unlocked to discuss the games in G4′s recent top 100 games of all times.  We start by discussing some of our issues with the games in the list and then hit the ground running talking about our personal experiences with many of the great games on the countdown.  Due to time constraints this first part covers games 100-60 with more to come in future weeks.  Check it out!

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Written by spydersvenom

June 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Blog, podcast

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Friday at the Movies: Prometheus Review

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So technically this has nothing to do with video games, and in the past I tried to avoid off topic articles, but then I realized I own and maintain this site and can therefore do whatever I want.  As a result, here’s a movie review!

Not another prequel.  That’s all I could think when I first heard of Prometheus, which started life as a prequel to the movie/series Alien.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Alien and the series that followed, but prequels always exploit countless plot holes, look so much better than the originals that supposedly happened after said prequel, and origin stories such as this are doomed to disappoint.  Fortunately, this isn’t as much a prequel as it is a separate story that crosses paths with the Alien series and holds its own when considered a standalone film.  I need to be very clear when I say this because it seems few who went to the movie this weekend seem to understand it: this is not intended to be a prequel to Alien nor is it part of the Alien series despite having many obvious connections.  In fact, this was a great sci-fi romp that is recommended for most film fans other than those seeking an Alien film.

On the surface the plot entails a pair of scientists who think they have discovered the organic creators of human life, including what planet they can be found.  With the help of a rich company’s sponsorship, then embark on a mission to discover these beings.  What they discover is far more than they bargained for and for some reason no one imagined the dangers that obviously await our travelers. I can appreciate the simple but far from unique setup for a movie of this type, but it’s not really a thriller as much as it is a social commentary on the responsibility of creation.  In short, it’s more Blade Runner than Alien.

As the plot progresses we are faced with a slew of questions and unexplained events that – sorry to say – don’t necessarily get answered.  Those that prefer complete thoughts will undoubtedly be frustrated with this type of storytelling and I can personally say its somewhat irresponsible of the writers to present information that is either hidden for a potential sequel or merely arbitrary.  On the other hand this is nothing new for Ridley Scott or the films he creates, so in a way we should have seen it coming.  Unlike Scott’s other films, however, the movie suffers little pacing issues and maintains progressive actions during its surprising more than two hour length – normally Scott fills us with suspense or exposition for more than an hour only to give us an intense close.  Also the film ends with what almost appears to be an incomplete thought, like someone beginning a sentence only to get side tracked and complete a different story.  This accounts for the obvious Alien connection that held responsibility for the genesis of this project and further proves that the lines between the concepts were not clearly drawn.  I felt the connections to that series were unnecessary and held Prometheus back from realizing its true theme – although I must admit that if everyone from critics to crew had been mums on the Alien connection it would have been an interesting discovery when first watching the film.

Don’t let these hang-ups hold you back too much, though, because Prometheus is solid sci-fi storytelling at its roots and the plot holds deeper concepts and meanings.  A fine example deals with the juxtaposition of an android David (Michael Fasbender) getting treated horribly by its creators who are seeking their own creators in search of some sort of validation.  No such treatment should be expected based on the example we see, but humans nonetheless feel that they matter because of some odd sense of self worth.  Concepts such as these are why I love seeing films by Ridley Scott – and yes, I’m aware he doesn’t write many of his films, but the projects are still hand selected, I assure you.  Additionally the art direction holds surprising variety for a planet that is basically a shell of a world and the cinematography is perfect for capturing exactly what we need with the action sequences.  Fassbender and Theron tend to steal the show from the other players as leads, which I assumed would be scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green).  It’s too bad because I loved Marshall-Green inThe O.C. and was really hoping his performance here would net him future projects, but I didn’t see anything dynamic.  Rapace on the other hand delivered a solid performance, but the script never really gave her a chance to demonstrate true reliance – there is one scene of strong independence, but it is immediately replaced by her being yet again the weakest link.

I hate to sound like the filmmakers when I say this, but curb your expectations and go into Prometheus with an open mind and a desire for science fiction – if you do this the film should not disappoint.  If you are looking for some epic beginning or closure to the overall arc of the Alien series you are doomed to hate the resolution, mostly because the focus of the film shifted to no longer telling that story.  Still, the movie is set up to tell at least a few additional tales so who knows, this may be the start of another successful franchise.  As for the Alien series, isn’t it best we let that sleeping dog lie?

Written by spydersvenom

June 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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