The King has seen his better days

As a very passionate fan of Neo-Geo and SNK fighting game franchises, what more can I say to get my point across except that the King of Fighters XII, the super-hyped, HD-gilded entry of SNK’s legendary fighting series, is very, very disappointing.

From the moment eyes were granted glimpses of KOF XII, expectations have been high. For the first time in the series history, The King of Fighters was going high definition — super-detailed sprites and gorgeously animated backgrounds had both die-hard series fans and newcomers alike salivating at each new screenshot released. It comes with utter shock then, that in this resurgence of quality fighting games, what could have been (what should have been) the shot in the arm that KOF needed to regain a bit of the fighting-game spotlight, has turned out to be not only the most bare-bones 2D fighting game entry in recent years (across any console), but has managed to defy almost every fan-adored convention that the series has ever known at the same time.

At its heart, KOF has always been a team-based, 3-on-3 fighter with plenty of unique characters, a plethora of special moves, and an endless amount of variety. The amalgamation of characters from other Neo-Geo franchises as well as the fresh new fighters found in every new yearly installment have combined to create what can be argued as the most competitive runner-up that the Street Fighter series has ever known. If you’ve ever even heard of KOF before, you’d understand why XII has left me scratching my head: there’s the smallest character roster in franchise history, a shortened special move list for every fighter, and nothing resembling any kind of teams.

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KOF 2002 Ultimate Match Roster

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KOF XII Roster. Nowhere close. Read more

Oh, Otakon.

It hit me last night, as I was watching the fireworks light up the 4th of July sky, that another summer has almost reached its halfway point without me even realizing it. They seem to go by faster every year, but this year’s seems especially fast. Maybe it’s because this summer is the first in my life that hasn’t included some type of multi-week summer break. Maybe it’s because the end of this summer marks the end of my unmarried life. Or maybe it’s because in less than two weeks, I’ll be revisiting Baltimore for quite possibly my favorite weekend of the entire year: Otakon.

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What started out as a summer diversion for myself and 3 of my 16 year old friends back in highschool has turned into nothing less than an annual tradition for my closest hometown pals. Every summer since 2001 we’ve descended onto Baltimore for an extended weekend of goofing off, trading stories, watching crazy movies and playing video games. While it may seem that I’m skirting around the idea that Otakon is the “convention of an OTAKU generation”, the anime lures that drew me in as a teenager have most definitely taken a back seat to the quality time I get to spend with my friends. Highlights usually include:

  • Making fun of cosplayers
  • Watching awfully-dubbed and usually ridiculous Asian cinema
  • Playing a host of video games with over-competitive fanboys
  • Being amazed at how badly people can smell
  • Buying all sorts of imported goodies from the gigantic dealer’s room

Overall, it’s always an amazing time. Read more

Not Yet a Chronic Abuser…

Crono AccordinoChrono Trigger. Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, you’re quite familiar with it. In fact, even if you haven’t played it, you’d know that to even describe it means to delve into the most glowing pool of praise that video game criticism, be it either professional or pure internet trolling, has ever seen.

To put it briefly, Chrono Trigger was one of the late, great SNES RPGs. It represents one of the strongest collaborations of Japanese game-design talent ever seen, and was released at the height of the install base of one of the most popular game consoles to ever grace either side of the pacific. Is it any wonder why, with all of that talent, (Hori, Toriyama, Mitsuda, Uematsu and Sakaguchi) we have what is regarded as one of the best, nostalgia-soaked RPGs ever made?

I don’t think so. Read more

Keeping the Faith (or at least trying to)

The New Year always brings about talk of change. Some may hate that concept, others welcome it, and still more believe that it means absolutely nothing. I personally wanted to make 2009 a year of amazing changes, so two weeks ago I sat down to write out a few goals for myself. Among the more common desires of “wanting to hit the gym more” and “seeing my loved ones more often” were a few more lofty. Chief among them: make strides to get a job that I’m really interested in. As you might have guessed, in my case, that means breaking into the game industry.

I just finished reading Chris Kohler (of wired.com’s GameLife blog)’s book, Power Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. In it, he details not only the importance of the Japanese video game industry, but gives a peek into the events that shaped his personal life, from his first gaming memories up through his one-on-one interview with Shigeru Miyamoto. In the end, he shares his realization that video games can be a bridge across the cultural divide, a door that, once opened, can lead to a deeply held sense of respect for another country. For me, Kohler’s story is both biographical and fictional – it represents everything that led me to the land of the rising sun as well as everything I still want to accomplish. It’s inspiring to say the least. Read more

Nintendon’t or Nintenwon’t?

Oh Nintendo. Every time I think I understand you a little bit more, you do something crazy that leads me to believe I don’t know you at all. Your stock is the second highest in Japan (after Toyota, which is absolutely crazy), your former executive officer, Hiroshi Yamauchi, is the richest man in Japan (trust me, there’s a lot of loaded peeps in Nihon), and your console is still flying off of shelves a full year and a half after its launch, all across the world. You’re right – you deserve to be happy, in fact, you deserve to laugh in the faces of all the nay-sayers, because you’ve ensured your place in this little industry of ours for a good few years.

In fact, if there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about you, it’s that you do things your own way. Some may call you a little slow on the uptake, ya know, because you only innovate when you have to (there’s too many examples from the N64 and GC eras here to even mention), but we stick by your side because we know your touch is often the closest thing to magic we’ve ever laid our thumbs on. I mean come on – who else can take a fat Italian plumber and make him a loveable mascot? Develop largely the same games year after year and sell millions of copies each time? Or produce a completely underpowered system, throw on a new hook, and capture an entirely new demographic of gamer? That’s right, only you. Read more

As the Gears turn…

As you might have guessed from the title above, (or if you’ve been listening to the Podcast), I’ve recently invited the 360 exclusive and all around “shit-yeah”-a-thon that is Gears of War into my tray. After letting Megaman ZX Advent rock(man) my world, I was in the mood for something rich in gratification with a dash of co-op, and none of the frustration-aftertaste that is instant death. (Thank you Capcom and your incessant obsession with spike-pits.) Looks like I got just what I wanted.

Besides the stellar graphics and obscenely violent gameplay that Gears fans around the world have been raving about, to me, the most impressive feature the game has to offer is the refreshingly coherent co-op mode. Although I tend to play a large amount of predominantly single-player titles, I hail from the school of gaming that teaches that any experience that can be shared with a friend, always should be. (Which explains why, back in the day, the Capcom “vs.” series, like X-men vs. Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom, were some of my favorites. I’d pick a character, a friend would pick the second one, and we’d literally tag-team our way to victory, hopping back and forth from the controls at the arcade machine as we “tagged” each other’s characters in-game.) Read more

Life’s about balance.

At least, that’s what they say.

Recently, I’m finding that every day that goes by finds another game added to my ever-growing list of “must plays.” Between catching up on my backlog of purchased-yet-untouched games, being a collection whore about games that I really care about (Smash Bros anyone?) and the onslaught of amazing releases that seems like will never come to an end (Why, when I get out of school, do summers suddenly get so sweet??), I feel incredibly overwhelmed with the amount of games being stuffed into my backlog.

Oh, and it doesn’t help that I do this podcast thing where everyone talks about all of the amazing games they’re playing. Doesn’t help one bit.

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Probably the only game that will ever truly bring me balance.

>:0 BOOOO!!!!!! (ok ok, sorry, sorry) Read more

六年間。(Six years)

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They’re heeeeeeeere.

It’s been six years.

Six years of duking it out with friends, six years of arguing about cheap characters, six years of practicing to become better, and six years of playing the same damn game with that goofy smile on my face.
You know a game is magic when you can’t stop playing it…for six years.

Once a console generation, Nintendo decides to grace us with the next iteration of what can only be described as the zaniest game I’ve ever come to love in my entire life. The new Smash Brothers is here, finally. Read more

Sorry for the delay!

Hey everyone. I just wanted to pop on here and say sorry for the blog delay this week! It’s been kind of busy, and I’ve got guests coming this weekend, so look for something towards the beginning of next week!

Oh, and my brawl code is 4811-6614-4574, for anyone who wants to add me! See ya soon!

Calm before the storm.

It’s been a very busy week.

3 out of 4 nights have involved overtime and I haven’t taken lunch in about 3 days. I was so exhausted tonight, that I missed a monthly night out with my fraternity brothers. I also haven’t played a game in days. If it were any other week, I think I’d be at the end of my rope.

But not this week. Oh no, not this week.

You see, I’m currently trying to complete a project at work – one that should have been finished weeks ago, but thanks to certain circumstances (you’ll have to private message me for them), it’s getting crammed into this week. I’ve seriously been working like a dog trying to get it finished by friday. Because Monday, I’m not showing up for work.

Monday is all mine.

That’s right, I’m making my own mini-vacation, and it officially starts at 5:00 tomorrow.

Of course, the main event is Saturday at midnight.

So you’ll have to excuse me for the short blog entry this week – every ounce of energy I have that’s not being consumed by work is being stored for this weekend. And trust me – I’m going to need it.

Remember to send me your friend codes.

I’ll see ya on the other side.

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