enfrdeitptrues

Fighter

  • Battle of Angels (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Battle of Angels
    Developed by: Cougar Interactive
    Published by: Cougar Interactive
    Release date: May 14, 2020
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Fighting
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Cougar Interactive for sending us a review code!

    Battle of Angels is the third game we’ve reviewed by Cougar Interactive. The Zoo Race was released in 2007 and Noah’s Adventures came out in 2004. Those games are family-friendly and suitable for people of all ages.

    Unlike the previous games, Battle of Angels has some mature references and violence that may not be good for younger audiences. In this game, you play as an angel who is tasked with cleaning up a city (presumably New York) that’s infested with crime. The city has violence, drugs, prostitution, gambling, as well as alcohol and tobacco use.

    Upon launching the game, you get to select the language and then can read the author’s spiritual journey, or jump right into the action. Once you enter the game mode, you’ll be taken to the graffiti-riddled streets where you have to wait for a dialogue bubble to appear. After you click on the dialogue bubble, you’ll be treated to a low-res story sequence to watch. The scenarios can be as serious as preventing a murder or rape or as light-hearted as making sure a birthday party goes well. No matter the scenario, the outcome is determined by whoever wins the boxing matching between a demon and the angel you play as.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Funny story sequences
    Weak Points: Dated visuals; awkward controls; no block/dodge ability; poor voice acting
    Moral Warnings: You’re tasked with cleaning up a city filled with murder, drugs, prostitution, gambling, drinking, and smoking; bloodless violence; references to rape; bodily humor

    At first, the angel will only have one fighting move available to them. As you clean up the city, more fighting moves and a shield will become available. Until that happens, you’ll be at a disadvantage. This game gets easier the longer you play it. At first, your rank is a Messenger. After about an hour, I worked my way to Arch Angel. Like many arcade games, your progress will be lost upon exiting.

    The instructions and on screen legend will show which keyboard keys work for the various moves. The arrow keys are a little awkward and moving diagonally is tricky. There are no blocking moves, and timing is key for executing your attacks successfully. Gamepads are supported and I recommend using one if possible.

    Visually, this game is pretty dated. Even still, the message is clear and the developer’s story about spiritual warfare is worth reading. Unfortunately, the story sequences are grainy and don’t look that good at a 4K resolution. There’s a decent amount of variety in NPCs, including a couple of former presidents. Some of them are rather odd looking when animated.

    Battle of Angels
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay: 14/20
    Graphics: 5/10
    Sound: 5/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls: 4/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence: 4/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual Content: 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 6/10
    This game displays the consequences of evil and/or messing with the occult. (+3 pts)
    The story in this game delivers a good moral lesson. (+3 pts)

    There’s a decent amount of background music and the game will show the title of the track playing on the bottom of the screen. If you like the soundtrack, it’s available for purchase on Steam. The voice acting is hit or miss with some good performances, while others were laughable.

    Most of the violence takes place in the boxing ring, but some of the cutscenes have violent situations where people are being held at gunpoint. If you lose, it’s presumed that the violent act happens (fades to black without showing anything) and God will scold you for messing up and you’re sent back to the city to take on another mission. Thankfully I won most of the fights so I have prevented a rape and dog with an unusually small head from getting run over. One of the story sequences had some farting humor.

    If you’re in the market for a beat em’ up Christian game, Battle of Angels is worth checking out. The asking price is $4.99 which is reasonable. I can’t deny that this game is rough around the edges, but I found it entertaining and more enjoyable when using a gamepad over a keyboard.

  • Chronicles of Gavri (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Chronicles of Gavri
    Developed by: Antediluvian
    Release date: January 1, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Fighter
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99

     

    Thank you Antediluvian for sending us this game to review!

    We’ve reviewed many types of Christian themed games ranging from Bible trivia ones to first person shooters.   Chronicles of Gavri is the first Christian themed beat ‘em up game that I’ve played.  The game doesn’t hide its Christian theme and starts off by retelling Genesis’ creation. From there a little more creative license is used for setting the backstory of the game.

    Gavri is a warrior of God who has been trained in the celestial combative arts in order to defeat the emperor’s army.  The emperor of Nod and his subjects are godless descendants of Cain while Gavri and his family are descendants of Seth.   The bloodlines are intermingling and debauchery is happening as a result.  It’s time to bring the fear of God back into people.   

    Chronicles of Gavri
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A Christian beat ‘em up game
    Weak Points: No menu system; no controller support; level objectives are not clear; graphics are low resolution; progress is not saved
    Moral Warnings: Violence and bloodshed

    Upon launching Chronicles of Gavri, Windows 10 tried to stop me by saying that this game could be potentially dangerous.  Be prepared to make an exception as this game is safe to play.   Another surprise was how small it appeared on my 2560x1440 resolution monitor.  I'm not sure what the exact resolution is, but the game is about 2" by 2".  So tiny!   Pressing the shift button or alt+enter will make the game run in full screen mode.  The art style is unique and I like it, however it’s low-res and pixilated when at full screen.     

    The attack moves are accomplished by utilizing the arrow and space bar keys in various combinations.  Sadly, there are no menu options whatsoever and there is no way to re-map the controls or use a gamepad.  To ensure your survival, it’s in your best interest to master both the offensive and defensive moves.  Gavri and the enemies are nicely detailed and their attack moves look good, but the sprite flipping when changing directions is very noticeable and often doesn’t register right away resulting in some free attacks from the enemy.    Whenever an attack succeeds, some blood sprays out from the victim.

    Chronicles of Gavri
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 58%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 85%
    Violence - 2.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Numerous soldiers will head your way and they are often wielding weapons, shields or even riding what appears to be velociraptors.  Once all of the enemies are defeated you’ll be sent to the next level/chapter.  There have been times where I made it to the end of the level and had to go back to the beginning to find a straggling soldier that somehow evaded a finishing blow.  On a different level I cleared out all of the enemies and was scratching my head wondering why I didn’t advance.  As it turns out I had to free some prisoners by attacking their cages.  This was not explained or made clear at the beginning of the level.

    Another mystery is Gavri’s health.  As Gavri and the enemies get hurt they start to turn red.  When they are a dark maroon color they are near death.  I prefer health bars to show how much life a unit has left in them.    

    If Gavri dies, he gets to retry from the beginning of the level.  Once the game is exited (by pressing the esc key), all game progress is lost!  Having an option of resuming from the previously played chapter would be nice.  

    In the end, Chronicles of Gavri has an interesting premise, but is too rough around the edges to enjoy at this time.  Hopefully the developer incorporates some of the feedback provided in this review.  There is a demo available to try out before parting with $9.99.  I highly recommend playing that first.

  • Coffee Crisis (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Coffee Crisis
    Developed By: Mega Cat Studios
    Published By: Mega Cat Studios
    Released: February 24, 2017 (Physical); May 4, 2018 (PC digital)
    Available On: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, macOS, SteamOS+Linux, Windows
    Genre: Beat ‘em up
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Violence, Blood
    Number of Players: 1-2 players offline
    Price: $5.99 (Digital), $39.99 (Genesis/Mega Drive cartridge)

    Thank you Mega Cat Studios for the review code.

    No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. This is not an old game that received a re-release for the computer platforms. A bunch of madmen did indeed create a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game in the year 2017 and release it to the public. Coffee Crisis is a rather interesting game. A game based on a real coffee shop; Black Forge Coffee House in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which came to be when two groups met each other during a fundraiser, and decided to create a retro game out of passion and love for the older days. If one has the material to create retro carts, may as well do something as crazy as this.

    Coffee Crisis stars two baristas based on real living people: Ashley and Nick. They work in a fictional version of the Black Forge Coffee House, when suddenly aliens attack, and they want four things: our metal bands, our cats, our coffee and “all of the WiFi.” For reasons unknown, it is up to our barista duo to save our world and the things we hold very dear with it. It’s a rather silly premise that isn’t taking itself seriously in the slightest.

    Coffee Crisis is a side scrolling co-op beat ‘em up where the goal is to eliminate all enemies on the screen and proceed forward. The controls are rather simple. You have your standard attack button, your grab button which can be used to grapple enemies or pick up weapons, your special attack button which does heavy damage and disperses the crowd at the cost of some health, and a jump button to either avoid damage or to execute a jumping attack. Enemies have a good amount of variety to them; there are short one-eyed aliens, standard grey aliens that shoot projectiles, the typical men in black, farm girls who use whips to attack, and much more. As standard of beat ‘em ups, the game uses a life system. Normally, you start off with three lives, and can gain more from earning 1000 points in a level, picking up extra lives, or partaking in a minigame at the end of a level (minigame participation requires an item pickup within the level). Power-ups are also littered throughout the stage which grant you various abilities such as invulnerability (which also means you can use your special attack with no cost), and higher damage output. The playable characters do not have any stat advantages over the other, but I personally found Nick to be the better combatant due to a vastly better special attack, and slightly longer range when using weapons.

    Coffee Crisis
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A nice amount of features to differentiate itself from the Genesis/Mega Drive counterpart; interesting use of mutators and cheats to make every experience feel different; really nails that retro feel
    Weak Points: Short; archaic; music choice doesn’t exactly fit most of the scenery or setting of the game
    Moral Warnings: Some enemies do shed blood when hit; some characters use the letter “F” a filler word for a certain swear; some enemy types include elderly people

    The graphics consist of 16-bit sprites which are used rather impressively and look very sharp and crisp. The characters have a nice amount of detail to them, and the sprite animations have a nice fluidity to them. The controls can be used by controller or keyboard, and both can be used simultaneously and seamlessly, which did help me in spots when my controller’s start button wasn’t working properly.

    As the PC version of Coffee Crisis is an enhanced remake of the Genesis/Mega Drive version, it does include extra things such as higher quality graphics, multiple controller support and mapping, achievements, an extra difficulty, a heavy metal based soundtrack, Twitch and Mixer integration, patches and updates, and one of the most notable features, mutators. The game runs rather well, at a solid 60 frames at all times. To set itself apart from most beat ‘em ups, Coffee Crisis enables the use of these mutators that activate at a “Finish Them” zone. These mutators can do various beneficial or harmful effects such as changing the look of the screen, giving you a helper to attack enemies, or even make enemies deal and withstand a lot more damage. One to five mutators can activate for each zone, and it’s typically random as to which one you will receive. The system is rather interesting and can lead to some amusing moments, as well as equally frustrating ones. Thankfully, if one wants a more standard experience, the mutators can be toggled off in the options menus.

    As Coffee Crisis is a retro game in itself, it also suffers from being a very archaic experience. As the game was made with the Genesis/Mega Drive in mind, it leaves itself restricted and limited in how much it can do. What I mean by this is that some commands do require precision, such as the grappling of certain enemies and that pressing button commands too quickly may lead to some actions not happening, which isn’t the fault of the controls as is the limitations of the system. For a person who has played all kinds of beat ‘em ups, it misses out on various improvements that more modern games of the genre were able to implement. As with most beat ‘em ups, it is also a short experience, lasting around 30 minutes to an hour for most players and thus doesn’t lend itself kindly to someone who only plays one game and moves on to the next one. As with the music, it consists mostly of heavy metal tracks but most of the music tends to clash with the setting and scenery of the game. The developers also left me rather disappointed in that there was no option to swap the music with the Genesis/Mega Drive soundfont. Maybe they’ll implement it in a later update.

    Coffee Crisis
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 8.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Morally, the game is a beat ‘em up so violence is a given. There are instances of pixelated blood shown in the game such as when the player character is wailing on enemies, but also at the beginning when a character is chosen. There is an image before starting the game that shows a pair of bloody hands holding a controller. There are also enemy types that consist of old men and old ladies and you can’t reason with them, except for smacking them into submission. The player characters at times use the letter “F” as a fill in for, well you know.

    Coffee Crisis ends up being a rather satisfactory beat ‘em up, and funny enough, an interesting representation of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania as it uses quite a bit of Pittsburgh/Pennsylvania jargon and slang. Its archaic feeling does hold it back in many ways, it’s far from the best one in the genre, and the aged premise may not appeal to a younger audience, but it was never aiming for them in the first place. I can recommend it to lovers of beat ‘em ups, lovers of couch co-op, and lovers of retro games. There is even a neat option of buying the region free Genesis/Mega Drive cartridge directly within the game and can even receive a discount on it depending on your score on the PC version (or you can simply buy the physical cart directly from Mega Cat Studio's website). The developers also seem to be preparing for a rather big update that includes extra levels and bosses, as there are some achievements I have yet to obtain, even with beating the game on all difficulty settings. With four difficulties, great usage of the mutator system, as well as streaming integration, and a cheap price, Coffee Crisis is a suitable bargain for the target audience of the older generation who grew up with the fourth generation of consoles.

    -Cinque Pierre

  • DEAD OR ALIVE 6 (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    DEAD OR ALIVE 6
    Developed By: Team Ninja/Koei Tecmo Games
    Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
    Release Date: March 1, 2019
    Available On: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Fighting
    Number of Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence
    MSRP: $59.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Koei Tecmo for sending us this game to review!

    The fighting game genre has long been synonymous with girls in skimpy outfits. From Cammy’s thong leotard in Super Street Fighter 2 to various well-endowed characters from Killer Instinct and the Soul series, there is a long history of these games depicting women in such ways. But perhaps no fighting game series became synonymous with large-breasted women and jiggle physics quite like Dead or Alive.

    In earlier installments, such physics were clearly over-the-top and ridiculous. When I was much younger, I remember seeing the game on display at my local arcade and thinking 'this is stupid, I'll never play this' and moving on to other fare on offer. It's not that I would never play games with exaggerated-looking girls, as I did play plenty of Killer Instinct, but the way they were depicted back then was frankly embarrassing. I didn't want to be seen playing a game like that (and who said shame can't be a good thing).

    Moving forward to 2019, fighting games have had a massive renaissance. Street Fighter V is a huge and popular game (along with the excellent 30th Anniversary Edition representing the classics), Mortal Kombat keeps releasing new versions, Tekken is back with its seventh installment, Killer Instinct has a great modern update, and SoulCalibur VI is a fantastic entry in that series as well, with smooth motion and amazing 3D graphics. The fighting game audience has also grown up as well, as those teenagers in the 1990s are now all grown up with kids of their own, and may not appreciate what Dead or Alive used to offer in the same way.

    So now, we have Koei Tecmo, the owners of the franchise, stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.  They want to keep their existing fans, who may prefer the depicted excesses of the female form as is, and also hope to draw in new fans who may not have that same appreciation.  Team Ninja has stated that they have eSports aspirations with the series, so having a more respectable presentation is important.

    DEAD OR ALIVE 6
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Mechanically interesting and excellent fighter; simple to play, difficult to master; excellent graphics and effects in-battle; lots of characters to choose from
    Weak Points: Season Pass DLC is priced higher than the game; some video and interface assets look pixelated/low quality on a 4K display; 3D movement doesn't seem to dodge attacks like I hoped it would
    Moral Warnings: Significant animated violence; some blood splatters, which can be disabled with an option; some females have breasts that jiggle (this seems to depend on the character/outfit); some optional outfits are quite ridiculous, with little left to the imagination (most default ones are fine); significant cleavage and underwear visible in many fights; some male characters are topless; one character is a tengu (a supernatural creature like a demon) and others have mystical powers; words 'd*mn', 'sh*t', and 'h*ll' used

    Does it succeed? Well, sort of. Some characters are indeed fairly modest, while others, like Honoka, Nyotengu, and Tina, far less so. All of the jiggle physics are more realistic now, with actual gravity controlling the movement. As such, it's not quite as bombastic as it used to be. But, there are still situations where Honoka jumps up and down in her intro segment, and as such, breasts are jiggled. Also, some characters (again, Honoka being an example) wear skirts that can be flipped up or seen under depending on the situation, so underwear is visible. There are also several females with skin tight clothes or other revealing outfits, with lots of exposed skin or cleavage. Optional outfits often leave little to the imagination.

    Thankfully, male characters, and conservatively dressed females, can be played as well. Some males are topless. Everyone has unlockable outfits, with some available through DLC purchases, though most can be unlocked through normal play. As you go, you earn points that can be used to unlocked different hairstyles, sunglasses, and other things in the customization menu. How quickly this can be done is still being tweaked by the developer, as a hotfix was posted just yesterday (as of this writing) tweaking how many points you earn for each task.

    Fighting itself is actually quite interesting and lots of fun. It is a mostly side-by-side fighter, with rotational movement, which is very similar to Tekken or SoulCalibur. Unlike some fighting games, the actions themselves, or the input combinations to perform various actions, are relatively simple. There are punch, kick, hold, throw, and special attack buttons. Most actions are a combination of those and directional inputs, though a few do include quarter-circle actions. In general though, this game is more about knowing how and when to respond to attacks, including a deep and complex counter system, rather than expecting players to perfect complex inputs in order to defeat their opponents with powerful moves. This makes it easy for newcomers to play, yet also deep enough to foster plenty of advanced play. You win by draining the health bar of your opponent for as many rounds as required for victory.

    There are several game modes available, with limited online play currently, as only ranked play is available now. (Unranked lobby play will be released in a patch in a few weeks.) Single or local modes include training, arcade, versus, survival, story mode, and a unique DOA Quest. Arcade and versus modes are just what you expect, and are very similar to pretty much every other fighting game, where you play one enemy after another until you beat them all (arcade) or play a single match of your choice against the computer or a local friend with another controller.

    Training mode is actually quite excellent, as each moveset is carefully walked through, with the game teaching you each and every combo and showing you what buttons you must press, as well as whether or not you succeed. If you want to be competitive online, be sure to spend some time here.

    DEAD OR ALIVE 6
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay  - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 73%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Story mode is where little cut scenes (that are rendered at much lower resolution than my 4K display supports) are shown in between matches that tell the story of the characters, and why they are fighting. Some are there purely to win the Dead or Alive 6 tournament, while others are trying to protect their friends, rescue them, perform some diabolical deed, or sometimes less serious motivations, like finding the ultimate alcoholic drink. (One of the characters practices a drunken fighting style.)

    DOA Quest is a really neat mode where you play matches with specific objectives to complete, and you are rewarded with points to unlock things. While you can get these points in other ways, this is by far the quickest and easiest. What I found really neat is that the aforementioned training mode is integrated perfectly into this one. Let's say a requirement for a stage is to pull off a certain combo. If you press the appropriate button, you can launch training mode and see the exact requirement spelled out for you, so you can practice before the match. I was really impressed with the thought that went into this mode. The game really trains you for more advanced combat by doing this, which is a huge plus.

    Though most appropriateness issues have already been covered, including female garb and an emphasis on alluring movements, drunkenness, and violence, there is a bit more. There is the occasional blood visible, which can be turned off via a setting. One of the characters is a tengu, which is basically a variation on demons. Several characters have ninja powers, including manipulating energy and teleporting. In this area, I would say it's not as bad as most fighting games, though. The words 'd*mn', 'sh*t', and 'h*ll' are also used.

    The graphics and sound are quite excellent, at least in battle. The cut scenes are of a mediocre quality at best, and the menu fonts look kind of low resolution on a 4K screen. (I just got this screen recently though, so it may be more common than I am used to.) The sound effects are great, but some of the voice acting is not the greatest. Nevertheless, in the stages, everything looks and plays fantastically.

    DEAD OR ALIVE 6 is my first entry in this series to really spend any reasonable time with. Despite the 'character flaws', I can clearly understand why it has endured all of these years after all. The fighting system is fast, fun, and easy to play while being difficult to master. For hardcore fighting game fans, it's easy to recommend. And yet, please be mindful of not only the appropriateness issues listed above, but the shockingly expensive season pass on offer (it costs more than the game does). In time, Koei Tecmo has promised that you will be able to buy characters and outfits individually. But for now, if you must have absolutely everything, be prepared to pay.

  • Dismantle: Construct Carnage (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Dismantle: Construct Carnage
    Developed by: Great Helm
    Published by: Great Helm
    Released: February 13, 2019
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of players: Up to 4
    Price: $11.99

    Thank you Great Helm for sending us this game to review!

    Dismantle: Construct Carnage is a fun 3D fighting game where you take crazy robots and make them fight. You can do battle against AI, or you can connect a few controllers and challenge your friends. With many maps and a lot of weapons, this game has a lot of content.

    When you play a round, you need to choose a construct to bring into battle, and also choose a ruleset. Then, you start fighting. The game modes you can play are deathmatch, survival, executioner, and timed match (timed matches cannot be played in team games). In deathmatch, you just need to get kills and do damage in order to win. In survival, all constructs die permenantly (other game modes make constructs respawn after dying). In executioner, you get kills only for making the final blow of an enemy. In timed matches, you have a limited amount of time to get as many kills and damage as possible.

    A cool thing about this game is that if you damage an enemy enough, their limbs will fall off. Once they do, you can pick them up and use them as a weapon. When they only have their head and torso left, they can self-destruct, dealing lots of damage but also making them lose their lives. Also, if they don’t self-destruct, you can knock their head off. If you do not have a torso, you are powerless and can only run (by this I mean roll around). Other people can pick you up and shake you around, instantly killing you.

    Dismantle: Construct Carnage
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun; multiplayer
    Weak Points: Unoriginal music; bugs and crashes
    Moral Warnings: Violence

    One thing I should note is that all of the game modes seem the same, even though it says they are different. There are some minor differences, but they all play very similarly. I would not be able to tell what mode I’m playing if I am not told what it is.

    There are a bunch of pre-made constructs, but you also can make your own by customizing an existing one. You can customize how it looks, how it fights, and what its special is going to be. You can choose if it’s tuned towards attack power, attack/movement speed, damage with special, or you can make it balanced in all of these categories. The abilities are Frenzy, Furious charge, Incinerate, and Energy Barrage. Frenzy increases your attack damage and speed. Furious charge makes you run in a straight line, wrecking everything in your path. Incinerate makes you breathe fire, dealing much damage. Energy Barrage releases a bunch of plasma that homes in on your targets and deals loads of damage.

    Dismantle: Construct Carnage
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 62%
    Gameplay: 13/20
    Graphics: 7/10
    Sound: 5/10
    Stability: 2/5
    Controls: 4/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence: 5.5/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    The graphics are fine, but the music is unoriginal. The controls are simple but they work. I have heard a few of the songs that play in this game play in other games. Another thing to note is that if you click anything while the game is starting up, it crashes.

    Morally, it is fine because there is no blood. There is oil that spills out as well as nuts and bolts, but other than that it is fine. The “gore” does not disappear, but it is not too bad anyways.

    Dismantle: Construct Carnage is pretty family-friendly, and since it has local multiplayer you can play with your friends/family if you want to. It is very entertaining, so if you want, you can pick it up. Even though it is fun, I think it might be a little over priced. But if it's on sale, you might wanna pick it up.

  • Double Dragon (PSN)

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    Game Info:

    Double Dragon
    Developed By: Technos Japan Corp.
    Published By: MonkeyPaw Games/Technos Japan Corp.
    Release Date: January 14, 2014/April 26, 1996
    Available On: PS3/PSP/PSVita via PSN, PS1 (Japan), Neo Geo
    Genre: 1 vs. 1 fighting game
    Number of Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    MSRP: $5.99

    Thank you MonkeyPaw Games for sending us this game to review!

    When I think of the name 'Double Dragon', it brings back many wonderful memories of my brother and I pounding the snot out of hordes of thugs, ninjas, and various other bad guys, as Billy and Jimmy Lee set out to save Marian from evil thugs (or take revenge for her death, as it were).  The Double Dragon series played a very important part in the evolution of all games fighting.  But this is not that game.

    This Double Dragon is a 1 vs. 1 fighting game, similar to Street Fighter or its many clones (of which this is one).  It is based on a critically disparaged movie of the same name.  In this Double Dragon, Marian is not in distress, but runs a street gang (?) and helps fight crime in the city.  She, along with Billy and Jimmy, are part of a cast of twelve characters, most of whom are unique to the movie.  Your goal is to beat every other character, and finally, the last bad guy, Koga Shuko.

    double dragon
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting variation on classic fighter game play; controls work well after getting used to them; this is the first time this version was released outside of Japan completely untouched from the original release
    Weak Points: Japanese text for menus and story scenes makes following the characters challenging; not as much variety as some competing fighting games; some moves remind fighting game veterans of other popular franchises; the built-in digital manual was not translated at all, nor is there any translation guide outside of their website
    Moral Warnings: Violence (punching and kicking bad guys); One character's fighting style is drunken boxing, and it becomes clear what it is as one of his moves involves spitting at his opponent; one female wears tight clothes while another shows cleavage, though both examples are very tame by fighting game standards

    Unfortunately, I had to glean most if not all of the plot elements above from the Internet (particularly, here ) because, being a direct Japanese import, all of the plot text is in Japanese.  There is enough English text in the main menu and during the character selection and fighting screens to allow us English speaking gamers to be able to play the game just fine, but the options menu, memory card menu, and all spoken character text is not.  Interestingly, the narrator (Jimmy Wins!) does speak English.  Thankfully, MonkeyPaw has taken the time to explain the controls and options on this page here.  I just wish that this information was in the digital manual that accompanies the game in the PSN release.

    Plot and menu issues aside, the game is remarkably playable for a Japanese import.  Once some of the control issues become clear via the previously mentioned URL, beneath all of that is a pretty fun fighting game.  There is a fair amount of depth in the fighting system.  Instead of punch and kick attack buttons, there are four attack buttons ranging from weak to very strong.  On the character selection screen, a box helpfully shows what the key combinations are for some of the special moves.  There is a counter system, where weak beats very strong, normal beats weak, strong beats normal, and very strong beats strong attacks.  Not only this, but there is a charge system that, once the meter is filled, allows you to perform very powerful attacks.  This certainly allowed me to win a few times where I deserved otherwise.

    There are three game modes: Overdrive Mode, Normal Mode, and Tiny 3D Mode.  Tiny 3D is mostly a gimmick, and I didn't find it worth playing.  It just makes the playing field look quasi-3D with multiple planes at various depths.  On a PS1 game this is probably not the best idea.  At first glance, it is very hard to tell Overdrive from Normal mode.  It was not until I read the MonkeyPaw Games web link above that I had a glimpse into the differences.  In summary, it has an improved attack priority system.  Other reports suggest it may play a little faster.  If so, I could not tell.

    So, is this game worth the download?  If you are a fan of classic fighting games, particularly those of the Neo Geo style or vintage, I would say it's worth a look.  It's not a bad game by any means, and there are some unique fighting styles represented here.  For example, the drunken fighter Cheng Fu has an interesting playstyle.

    double dragon
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability/Polish - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    I was also surprised to find that the controls are more forgiving than some more mainstream fighting game entries from the PS1 era.  For example, I found Billy and Jimmy's Street Fighter-like attacks (Ryu's Dragon Punch, Hurricane Kick, and Fireball all have a similar move here with the same movements) far more forgiving on the gamepad than my attempts at executing Ken's similar moves in Street Fighter Alpha 3.  Also, my wife, who sat with me to help me get the perspective of a fresh set of eyes, really appreciated that the special move list is on the character selection screen, where they are nowhere to be found in Alpha 3.  Despite that, she found both quarter circle and charge style moves challenging to pull off.  It's been so long, I forgot how hard those moves can be to someone new.  

    Like all fighting games, there is violence here.  Your goal is to beat up the person you duel against.  There is no blood or gore.  There is no foul language (at least in English), and while the women are not dressed perfectly, with tight clothing on Marian and cleavage on Rebecca, it is really tame compared to most fighting games.  Cheng Fu does drink alcohol, and appears impaired on screen, with his swaying movements.

    Double Dragon is an interesting entry in the fighting game canon.  In a sense, it's easy to forget, given the many, many great fighting games it had to compete with from the same time period.  And it's hardly a good representation of what Double Dragon was all about.  But, it's not a bad game, and classic fighting game lovers may find something interesting here.

     

  • Double Dragon Neon (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Double Dragon Neon 
    Developed By: WayForward Technologies/Abstraction Games (PC)
    Published By: Midnight City
    Release Date: February 6, 2014/September 11, 2012
    Available On: PC/PS3/Xbox 360
    Version Reviewed: PC
    Genre: Beat 'em up
    Number of Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Partial Nudity 
    MSRP: $9.99

    Thank you Midnight City for sending us this game to review!

    Growing up as a gamer in the 80s, many thought that video games were an anti-social activity.  Sometimes that can be the case, but for my brother and I, the Double Dragon games on the NES (as well as a few other coop classics like Contra and Super-C) were anything but.  Even to this very day (literally, I was at his house today) we will occasionally fire up an old copy of Double Dragon 2 or 3 and take out thugs like the old days.  

    Double Dragon Neon is a modern day homage to those classic Double Dragons and the 1980s that spawned them.  Everything from the backgrounds and scenery, the level design, the enemies, and especially the music, pays tribute to one or more of those things.  

    For those not indoctrinated into the Double Dragon universe, this was a classic side scrolling 2D beat 'em up from the late 1980s/early 1990s.  The stars of the series are Billy and Jimmy Lee.  Billy's girlfriend, Marian, has a knack for getting captured, and it is the brothers' job to rescue her.  In Neon, the game immediately starts with a thug punching Marian in the gut and taking her away, which is an obvious homage to the very similar beginning to the original Double Dragon.  There are also several other levels with obvious nods to others (especially Double Dragon 2) as well.

    Double Dragon Neon
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun, colorful graphics; fantastic soundtrack; fun beat 'em up action; corny but fun sayings throughout the action
    Weak Points: Really challenging solo (if that's a con); classic hair grab move missing; a fair amount of bugs
    Moral Warnings: Lots of violence; suggestive themes include the 'sadistic seductress' who uses phrases like 'naughty naughty' and 'time for some discipline' (while wielding a whip); these (and other) women wear extremely exposing clothing; some lines sound like curses when they are not (what the butt!)

    While the classic games were simple two button affairs, Neon modernizes the formula somewhat.  There are strong and weak attack buttons, a jump button, a grab button, as well as run and dodge/roll buttons.  There is also a special attack button. There is also a light RPG system as well added on to make things a bit more modern, and encourage replays.

    Special moves are called Sosetsitsu.  These use magic points, but can really do a lot of damage, or get you out of a tight spot.  There are also Stances, which improve your attack, defense, hit points, and magic points.  Enemies often drop random tapes, and there are a few shops hidden in levels that sell them as well. The more tapes you have of a particular type, the more powerful that stance or special move.  At the start, you max out at ten tapes.  To increase beyond ten, you need to spend mythril at a tapesmith, which increases this limit by ten each time. You can obtain mythril by defeating any boss.

    By allowing character progression in this way, the game strongly encourages replay, and even grinding if you are stuck.  This is a good thing, as it takes only a few short hours to beat the game; it's possible for someone to rush through it in one hour or so.  But the replay value is very good.  Upon beating the game at a difficulty, additional ones are unlocked.  Later difficulties are nearly impossible without upgrades, and they reward more drops as well, which rewards more challenging and skillful play.

    The combat, along with the RPG system, is done well enough that I find myself coming back for more often.  It really is fun to play.  It can be really satisfying to finally pound some of the more challenging bosses, or to put Abobo in his place one more time.  My biggest complaint is that most of the women wear pretty ridiculous outfits, with little more than a thong on their rears, and rather large bosoms.  Some also walk in highly suggestive ways, carrying whips, while saying things like 'naughty naughty!' and 'time for some discipline!'

    Double Dragon Neon
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 62%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Other than the clearly sexualized women, and the expected violence against everyone, there is less wrong than you might expect in many modern games.  D*mn and h*ll are used, but most other things you think you hear as curse words, are not. For example, First time I heard 'what the butt!' I thought it was far worse, until I heard it again and listened more closely.  You also get to pound in the skulls of some undead as well.

    There are a ton of silly puns in this game.  While using a baseball bat, you will often hear 'touchdown!' and 'hole in one!'.  Only occasionally will you hear an appropriate 'grand slam!'.  Other silliness includes knife wielders yelling 'stabular!' and whip users yelling 'kraken!' and 'whip it!'.  I really got a kick out of some of the bad guys.  One yells 'bang! bang! bang!' while shooting a gun, and another narrates some pretty silly stuff like 'don't worry, I have a replacement plan!' while you proceed to smash his big screen TVs to bits.  I admit that cheesy humor appeals to me, and this game comes through plenty.

    The music is also great, with plenty of hair band flair.  None of the lyrics are inappropriate, which is a huge plus.  They are also fun to listen to.  Some of them are pretty ridiculous, like the mini song Training Wheels.  The soundtrack is free, even in high quality FLAC (audiophiles like me everywhere, rejoice!) here

    The graphics are also neat, using a very colorful cell-shaded look.  I always prefer my games to have lots of color vs. the brown fests that infected games a few years ago, and I am glad that this one comes through.  Attack moves are convincing, and it rarely feels like the game cheats – if you die, it's because you messed up, and you can clearly see that.

    Double Dragon Neon

    This game also looks great at really high resolutions.  I run my monitor at 2560x1440, and when it's working, it really works great.  Unfortunately, the largest area of bugs that I found in this game related to setting the video mode. It offers three different modes: windowed, borderless window, and fullscreen. Fullscreen offers the 2560x1440 resolution option, but the game is running at 1920x1080, and it is clearly the case based on my monitor's OSD (On-screen display).  I was able to get it to run at the proper resolution when changing it to borderless window, and it looks great, but once I exit the game and restart it, it loses that setting and looks very blocky and low resolution.  Running it in a window at an odd setting did work, but the game was very clearly stretched in 4:3 modes.

    Another problem I ran into was that the game would crash sometimes (but not all) when changing video modes.  Sometimes it was just resolution, but other times it was between fullscreen and windowed modes, for example.  I really hope they fix these things, as I had no crashing issues whatsoever during my normal playthroughs otherwise.

    A brand new feature for the Steam release, which is not available on other platforms, is online multiplayer, called bro-op.  There is also local multiplayer with the second player using either the keyboard or another Xbox 360 gamepad (highly recommended).  Hot-plugging the controller in during gameplay proved to work perfectly as well.  To it's core, Double Dragon has always been about the bros working together, and this game pulls that off just fine.  The only thing that surprised me a bit is that the second player gets their own save and equipment.  This totally makes sense for online play, but for local, it is very possible for one player to have an end game tape selection, with the other starting off fresh.  This can make the game drastically easier or harder for the other player depending of the level chosen.  The one time I played online it actually went really well, but I have read about people in the forums having a ton of lag problems.  YMMV online, as always.

    Double Dragon Neon is a really fun, 1980's honoring look back at the Double Dragon franchise, with some modern twists thrown in which I really enjoyed.  As a long time fan, I thought that, despite the lack of the iconic hair grab, it really does a very good job bringing back what made Double Dragon fun all those years ago. It's too bad that they had to bring back (in modern high resolution) some of the artistic choices for the women's outfits, but beyond that, it is an enjoyable romp that I would recommend to any fans of the genre.

  • Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PS4)

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    Game Info:

    Dragon Ball Xenoverse
    Developed by: Dimps
    Published by: Bandai Namco Games
    Release date: February 24, 2015
    Available on: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Fighting
    Number of Players: Single-Player, local and online multiplayer, up to six players
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence, language and suggestive themes
    Price: $47.50 on LeapTrade

    Thank you Bandai Namco Games for sending us this game to review!

    Dragon Ball has been around since 1984 and has had several iterations since then.  While having a separate story line, Xenoverse uses the characters from Dragon Ball Z.  The Dragon Ball series is far from dead as Dragon Ball Super has recently been announced and will be released in Japan this July.  Dragon Ball Xenoverse takes place in a new city called Toki-Toki and offers players a unique story for their custom created character.  The universal time stream has been altered and Trunks has summoned a mighty warrior from Shenron the dragon.  You're the chosen one, now help Trunks save the world!

    There are lots of options available when it comes to creating your character.  The available races include Majin which offers high defense, but slow stamina recovery.  Saiyan warriors are known for their strength, especially when their health gets low.  Earthlings are a well balanced race that has their Ki refill automatically.  Namekians start off with a lot of health that regenerates along with their stamina, but their attacks are weak.  The Frieza race is fast, but has a weakened attack.  They also have the ability to paralyze with their Ki blasts.

    Once your race is set you can customize their color, height, and voice.  Different outfits are available for purchase to make characters even more unique.  By having the day one edition of the game, I had a nice set of golden armor from the get go.  Besides accessory shops, you can buy and create your own items.

    Before you can play online matches and ranked battles, you have to learn the ropes in the single player story, parallel (side) quests, and offline battles.   As you encounter prestigious characters in the story mode,  they will show up in Toki-Toki and offer to train you if you can prove yourself to be a worthy apprentice (AKA defeat them in battle).  You can only train under one mentor at a time. By having a mentor you can learn new skills.  Alternatively, you can buy skills in town if you have money to spare.

    Dragon Ball Xenoverse
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Active online community; great visuals  
    Weak Points: Repetitive fighting sequences; may show some spoilers if you haven't seen the whole series yet
    Moral Warnings: Violence is a given; there is no blood but appendages do get severed off; language including d*mn and b*stard; revealing outfits

    You earn money and experience by completing side quests.  As your character levels up you can adjust your stats including health, stamina, Ki, and your attacks.  For the side quests you can experiment and fight with preset characters of different races.  Maybe next time I'll go with a Saiyan instead of a Namekian fighter.

    The quests are ranked by stars and the lower the number of stars the easier it should be.  I don't agree with their rating system since I have had my butt handed to me a number of times on Raditz's side quest while I was able to complete all other one star quests no problem.  

    Some battles you fight alone and others let you team up with one or two more players or AI fighters.  The AI is pretty challenging and finding a human online to humiliate me didn't take very long.  There are so many online players that it's hard to get into a match before it fills up.  

    I didn't want to get too far into the story mode quests for fear of spoiling the series for myself.  I've watched enough Dragon Ball Z Kai to see Goku transform into a Super Saiyan.  Even with limiting my story mode options, I had plenty to do with the parallel quests, online, and local battles.  

    Sadly, the story and parallel battles are rather repetitive.  You basically go in to fight one or a few enemies, more show up, and you have to chase them to other maps and defeat them there.  Even more will appear and after they are defeated, the level is then completed.  The only thing that changes is the difficulty.

    Dragon Ball Xenoverse
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 72%
    Violence - 4.5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Fans of Dragon Ball and fighting games will still enjoy this game though.  Even with the customization options, the controls take some getting used to. The powerful moves use a trigger and arrow/button presses.  If you have time to search around with your scouter (tracking device), you'll often find handy materials hidden in the levels. Be sure to take yourself out of scouting mode when you're getting attacked as you won't be able to fight back at all.

    The powerful attacks look amazing as does the rest of the game visually.  The maps are accurately recreated from the show and are incredibly detailed.  The characters are all cel-shaded and look amazing as well.  Some of the cut-scenes are 3D rendered while others are animated.  If you like recording yourself play, you cannot record during cut-scenes.  

    The voice acting is true to the series as much of the voice acting (if not all) is the same.  I'm not well versed enough in the series to comment on the background music.  While it is a bit repetitive, it is very fitting.

    Even though Dragon Ball Xenoverse looks like a cartoon, this game should not be played around young children.  Fighting is a given and while there is no blood, there are times when you'll have to chop limbs off your enemies.  There is some language including d*mn and b*stard. Last but not least, some of the female characters wear tight and revealing outfits.

    Appropriateness wise Dragon Ball Xenoverse is no worse than the animated series.  If you're a fan of the show and fighting games, Dragon Ball Xenoverse has much to offer.  If you're like me and don't play fighting games very often, prepare to get humiliated.  A LOT.  

     

  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (Wii)

     

     

     

    Wow. Is there any other introductory word I could possibly use for a game like this? DBZ: BT3 for the Wii is not an utterly new or fresh game, but it is solid to the core.

    The fighting system (usually the most important thing in a fighting game) is by no means deep like Virtua Fighter or Street Fighter, but its subtle nuances give you reason to do more than mash the A and B buttons. The fighting is very fast paced, and problems I had with the over-simplistic, and IR dependent, Wiimote/Nunchuck controls from BT2 are no longer present. Flight is more easily controlled, combos are much more diverse, and special attacks rely solely on motion sensing. There are a ton of characters (I think somewhere close to 200 when including all of the variations; a variation being the difference between Gohan, Super Saiyan Gohan, Super Saiyan Gohan 2, and so forth). There is also a simple, but functional, customization system. This gives players room to turn characters into hand-to-hand specialists, defensive specialists, or energy blast specialists.

    Graphics


    The graphics have not improved significantly since BT2, but they look more polished. Special attacks are devastatingly brutal in presentation. Character models look very much like their anime counterparts, and are animated likewise. On the whole, the graphics are very pleasant. Very little graphical slowdown takes place during offline gameplay in spite of how intense the gameplay is. For those of us with high definition displays, 16:9 widescreen is still not present, but 480p progressive scan is. With the majority of Wii games supporting widescreen gameplay, this is a disappointment, but progressive scan is an appreciated improvement over last year\'s game.

    Sound 

    The audio is good. There is a ton of voiceover work, particularly in the more cinematic (though reduced) story mode of the game. The music is... well... it\'s Dragon Ball Z. I can\'t say that I would listen to the music outside of the game, but it fits the game well.

    Multiplayer 

    In short, the game is a great deal of fun. It\'s addicting and entertaining in spite of its deceptively shallow exterior. What\'s more? There\'s online play in the Wii version of the game. The online play is laggy to the point of being nearly unplayable at the time of writing, but there is a chance that Atari will improve this. For the latest information, visit: http://fixbudokai.blogspot.com

    For the record, I wasn\'t a fan of DBZ prior to playing BT2. Even then I hadn\'t become a fan of the series, but I am finding myself watching it now. This is meant to be a testament to the game\'s appeal beyond its established fanbase. Of course, there is something to be said for "throwing a kamehameha" (energy beam attack, literally "turtle blast wave") with the Wiimote and Numchuck (I think I\'ll have to get a wireless Numchuck because of this game). The special move actions have been refined and improved. Even for this 21 year old college student, though I feel like an idiot when playing this game as such (you can\'t help but stand up and reenact the special attacks), it\'s thoroughly enjoyable.

    Appropriateness 

    The moral content is this game is fairly straightforward. The violence is very much over the top, but it\'s rare for death to occur (more of a knock-out). However, some deaths occur in the story line, along with revivals. These things are handled in a very fairy-tale like fashion, however, and shouldn\'t be a point of concern for most individuals. Beyond that, the supernatural is limited to an ambiguous energy used for special attacks and a character resembling a stereotypical devil. Othan than some skimpy outfits , there is nothing to speak of in regards to sexual content. On the positive side of things, family is important to many of the characters and determined self-sacrifice is very central to character actions.

    Final Thoughts 

    I highly recommend this game to anyone who might find appeal in it. Don\'t worry about knowing (or caring about) the license because the game is too fun to restrict to being a license cash-in. It\'s definitely worth a rental, but with the cost of rentals these days (and the amount of things to unlock and enjoy), your money would probably be better spent on buying the game outright. If online play is fixed, this game will be an amazing way to bide your time until Smash Brothers, and will be a great compliment to Brawl when it comes out.

    Final Ratings

    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 2/5 (Online is broken, but offline is perfectly stable, with a patch, this would be a 5/5)
    Controls/Interface - 5/5

    Violence - 6/10
    People killing people in self-defense (Ex. Medal of Honor) (-4 pts)

    Language - 10/10

    Sexual Content - 6.5/10

    Characters wear very revealing clothing such as bikinis or lingerie (-3.5 pts)

    Occult/Supernatural - 5.5


    Game takes place in an environment with minor occult references. (-3 pts)
    Fairy tale type magic is used in game by player. (-1.5 pts)

    Cultural/Ethical - 10/10

    Bonus
    This game promotes the importance of family values. (+3 pts)

     

    Final Score 81%

     

    {pgomakase}

  • Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden (3DS)

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    Game Info:

    Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden
    Developed by: Arc System Works
    Published by: Bandai Namco Games
    Release Date: October 20, 2015
    Available on: 3DS
    Genre: Fighting
    Number of players: 1-2 (Local multiplayer only; each player requires the game)
    ESRB Rating: Teen for cartoon violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Bandai Namco Games for sending us this game to review!

    It always amazes me how long Dragon Ball Z has endured.  The quest of Goku and friends who save the world over and over, while training to become more and more powerful, is a story that never seems to get old.  Or at least the enthusiasm hasn't died out, even after all these years.  To put things in perspective, the first Butoden game, Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden, was released for Super Famicom (the SNES in Japan) in 1993.  The last episode to air on TV was in 1996.  (Movies have been released since.)

    Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is a 2D fighting game where a party of up to three playable characters (or multiple assists in their place) does one on one battle against their opponents, while punching, kicking, or ki blasting them to their defeat.  If this sounds similar to other popular fighting games like Street Fighter, that's because it is.  However, as expected, there is plenty of the flair and whimsy that often accompanies Dragon Ball.

    Each fight lasts only one round, and is typically fairly short.  There are only three attack buttons, a dash/dodge button, and two triggers, which are for special attacks and charging (think Kaio-ken).  Most basic attacks aren't too different between the characters, but speed, special attacks, and combo results are often different (though many button combo presses themselves are similar).  The ultimate combo for each character uses similar button presses, though the timing and results are different.  Despite this, fights are entertaining, even if they get a bit repetitive after a while.

    Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of characters to choose from; writing is fun; fighting is fun
    Weak Points: Fighting can get a bit repetitive; currently no online mode
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence, in the form of beating up your opponents; word 'hell' used; 'ki' used to perform energy attacks; 'God' is used as a power level (and refers to other deities)

    The real bulk of the game is the various story modes.  There is the Z Story mode, which follows Goku through the main points of the Dragon Ball Z plot, as well as some 'what if' stories which unlock later.  Most of the game time is actually in the Adventure mode.  This is an alternative future where all of the Z team's enemies return, and you have to deal with them all again, as well as other threats. Each level also has an optional goal to achieve.  If you earn enough points in the fight and complete the objective, you can unlock lots of new assist characters, as well as earn money that you can spend in the shop.  These both can help you be a bit stronger in battle.  Assist characters can perform a strong attack when summoned via touchscreen in battle or otherwise help you out when activated.

    Between levels in Z Story, and upon selecting a mission in Adventure mode, there are story sequences where you get to see banter between various characters from the Dragon Ball Z universe.  Some of it is quite entertaining.  Of course Goku's wife never does appreciate him, despite saving the universe so many times, since he's really bad at getting and keeping a job.  And Goku keeps getting more and more powerful, because that's what Saiyans do.

    Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The core game isn't particularly long, as you can easily beat everything in under ten hours.  The length comes in for completionists who wish to unlock all of the assists, character bios, and more.  There is also a local two player battle mode, though currently no online mode.  Bandai Namco announced online DLC for Japan; let's hope it comes here, as every player requires their own cartridge to play against each other.  Suffice it to say I have not tested multiplayer.

    For a fighting game, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is fairly family friendly. Obviously there is cartoon violence, though no gore.  Language is relatively mild, as I only noted 'hell' being used.  'Ki' is present as an energy form, and 'God' is a power level (and can also refer to deities).  Goku can gain the 'Super Saiyan God' power level, and one enemy is the 'God of destruction'.  Despite this, I believe the ESRB rating of Teen is appropriate.

    Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is a simple and fun time waster that can easily be played in very short spurts.  For hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans, there is a lot to like, and a new story written by the series creator.  There are also lots of opportunities to collect assist characters, if you so desire.  The music is enjoyable, with lots of hair-band style hard rock to listen to.  The game is somewhat simple, but fun.  If you are a hardcore Dragon Ball Z fan, and really enjoy fighting games, this is a very good choice.  For just fighting game fans, it's a bit harder to recommend, though still solid.  If you don't like fighting games, I doubt this game will make you enjoy them.  It is safe for most audiences, as long as the existence of other human-like gods is not offensive to you.

     

  • Fatal Fury: First Contact (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Fatal Fury: First Contact
    Developed By: SNK
    Published By: SNK
    Released: December 23, 2020
    Available On: Nintendo Switch, and the classic Neo Geo Pocket version that this emulates
    Genre: Fighting
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Tobacco Reference
    Number of Players: 1-2 local
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you SNK for sending us this game to review!

    While my formative gaming years included the 1980s and 90s, and I most definitely played a lot of other Neo Geo games (with Samurai Shodown being my most played), I had occasionally but not consistently played some of their other fighting games, like King of Fighters. One of the things I love about reviewing games like this is it forces me to become at least somewhat familiar with other classic titles I never got around to playing, in this case Fatal Fury.

    Fatal Fury: First Contact was a Neo Geo Pocket Color (NGPC) 2D one-on-one fighting game that was released way back in 1999. Now, if you were like me and didn't realize what a Neo Geo Pocket Color was, you might have thought that it was just a smaller Neo Geo. But that is most certainly not the case! A Neo Geo Pocket Color was SNK's more or less direct competitor to Nintendo's Game Boy Color (GBC). Unlike the Game Boy, the Neo Geo Pocket did include more powerful hardware - a 16-bit CPU being the main improvement. But in other ways, it was fairly similar, with a small and low resolution screen, two face buttons, and a rather basic sound chip (while I'm not certain, based on what I'm hearing, the NGPC's sound chip might even be worse than the GBC). Given that SNK's main expertise has been fighting games, of course they would release their popular franchises like Fatal Fury on their new handheld.

    Fatal Fury: First Contact
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good emulation of a classic game; two-player mode is really neat; fighting mechanics are solid
    Weak Points: It emulates the Neo Geo Pocket Color, which had graphics, sound, and controls about on par with the Game Boy Color, while the much better looking and playing Neo Geo prequels are available for the same price
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence, as you beat up your opponents with various weapons, kicks, and magical attacks; use of tobacco according to the ESRB

    This game is part of SNK's new line of Neo Geo Pocket Color re-releases on Nintendo Switch. I recently reviewed The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, and this is the second title I got to check out. While my opinion of this game is largely similar to my opinion of the other one, this is still a unique title worth looking at for fans of Fatal Fury.

    Being an emulated title of a Neo Geo Pocket Color game, the graphics and sound are incredibly basic. Their most recent full Neo Geo title right before this one is 'Real Bout Fatal Fury 2', which is also available on Nintendo Switch, and I happen to have on PC from a long ago Humble Bundle. I put most of my thoughts in the video review below, where I compare them directly.

    Unlike the aforementioned The Last Blade NGPC game I reviewed, this game basically only includes two very simple game modes: one player, where you fight against one AI opponent after the other, like most other fighting games, and two player, where you play against another player simultaneously.  If playing docked, it shows that the software is emulating two Neo Geo Pocket Colors, then shows you player one's screen, and each player battles it out with their own controller like normal.  If you play on a handheld Switch, it does something neat - the game launches two screens, each pointing sideways towards the controls on each side.  What this means is that two players can play at the same time, holding one side of the Switch each!  Multiplayer should be possible even on a Switch Lite.

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

    Game Score - 60%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence – 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    From an appropriateness standpoint it's pretty clean; animated one-on-one violence, with no blood or anything, and the ESRB notes the presence of tobacco, which I could not find when I was playing it. The graphics and sound are... not great, but that is to be expected given the nature of the source. Animations are reasonably smooth, and combat feels decent enough.

    Mechanically, it's a pretty solid fighter, with the A and B buttons performing various attacks, like punch and kick. If you press for a moment longer, it performs a strong attack, which varies per character you play with. There is a built-in manual that includes character attacks, as it displays the entire original printed game manual on screen. All character moves are also listed in the manual, making it a great online reference. You can access it at any time by pressing the minus button. There are eleven characters to start with, along with two others who are unlockable. All but one are also present in Real Bout Fatal Fury 2, the title that this is based on.

    And really, that's the main challenge with a game like this. Do you buy this quirky, low-tech title, or do you buy the Neo Geo arcade game that it's based on for the same price? In my opinion, if you have to pick one, go for Real Bout Fatal Fury 2. But if you're a collector, have already played tons of the arcade title, or are just looking for something a little different, or thing holding a Switch horizontally for two players is the coolest thing ever, then Fatal Fury: First Contact is definitely worth looking at.

  • Fight Crab (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Fight Crab
    Developed by: Nussoft
    Published by: Playism
    Release date: July 29, 2020
    Available on: Switch, Windows
    Genre: Fighting
    Number of players: Up to four players
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood and violence
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Playism for sending us a review code!

    There are a few movies that are so bad they’re good, the first that comes to mind for me is Kung Pow! Enter the Fist. People looking for a deeper motive other than absurdity would be disappointed. Fight Crab is one of those kind of games. With the premise of giant enemy crabs attacking each other with over fifty different types of weapons, do you really need an emotional back story?

    I highly recommend going through the tutorial levels so you learn the basic controls for fighting, blocking, using weapons, and so forth. Once you have a feel for things it’s time to pick a fight against the computer or challenge a fellow human locally or remotely. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for online matches to join, don’t get your hopes up as I wasn’t able to find any.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A unique fighting game with giant crabs
    Weak Points: Nobody to play against online
    Moral Warnings: Crabs fighting against each other with guns, swords, chainsaws, lightsabers, and more

    The campaign mode has many different backdrops including beach, city, dojo, restaurant, and a grocery store. The restaurant and grocery store level have a stage that gives you an instant win if you knock the opponent crab(s) off of it. The other way to win is to have them stay on their back for more than three seconds.

    The battles are pretty straight forward. As the crabs take damage they’ll have less of a chance to get up when knocked over. You’ll want to block attacks from and disarm your opponents. If you’re empty-handed you’ll want to grab nearby objects that are themed to the level you’re on. For example, in the city levels you can grab nearby cars and weaponize them.

    During battle you or the enemy may enter into a hyper mode and during that time, you’ll do more damage than normal. If you lose a battle, you’ll have the option to retry with the help of an AI crab. This comes in handy when you’re outnumbered! In the last area you can request the assistance of an air strike which is different.

    Fight Crab
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay: 17/20
    Graphics: 7/10
    Sound: 7/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls: 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence: 7/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

     

    When you win a battle, you’ll earn experience points which can be used to buy weapons and different crabs to fight with. Aside from crabs, you can also fight as a lobster or deer. Experience points can also be used to level up stats such as strength, resistance, endurance, dexterity, and agility.

    Along with the goofy controls and fighting mechanics, half of the fun in this game is using weapons. I bet you’re wondering what kind of weapons these giant uncoordinated crabs use. Through the wonders of videogames, these crabs can fight with knives, katanas, leeks, fish, cars, guns, chainsaws, lanterns, lightsabers, drills, nunchucks, and plenty of others.

    Since this is a fighting game, violence is a given. Though red flares appear when the crabs are stuck, it doesn’t splatter or behave like blood.

    If you enjoy fighting games and crustaceans, you can’t go wrong with this silly title. If you’re looking for a story and relatable characters you won’t find them here. Though this game normally sells for $19.99 I have seen it as low as $15.99 during a Steam sale.

  • Fight'N Rage (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Fight'N Rage
    Developed By: sebagamesdev
    Published By: sebagamesdev
    Released: September 26, 2019
    Available On: PS4, PC, Switch
    Genre: Beat'em up
    ESRB Rating: Teen (Violence, Blood, Sexual Themes, Language)
    Number of Players: Single-player, Co-op
    Price: $19.99

    First, thanks to sebagamesdev for the review key.

    Back in the halcyon days of the 90's arcade scene, the big games one saw there were Street Fighter and other fighters, and beat em' ups like Final Fight. We also had Sega rival to Final Fight, "Streets of Rage", which had its take on side-scroller games where you punch anything that punches back. Fight'N Rage is a loving shoutout to this genre of games where you play alone or co-op to punch a bunch of bad guys.

    Fight'N Rage takes place in a world dominated by beast-men who came to be after a post-apocalyptic disaster. They took to oppressing the regular humans, but some of them and some beast-men who oppose this racist attitude towards non-beast people refuse to lie down and accept this and aim to put a stop to the leaders of this effort to suppress humanity.

    The gameplay is a simple left to right progressing side-scroller where you kick, punch, and use whatever weapons you can find to take down all the bad people (both beast-men and their human collaborators) until you've completed all stages and beaten the game. Since beat-em-ups and fighting games share some DNA, you can do combos, perform finishing moves, and each character you play as has their attacks.

    Fight'N Rage
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good game mode variety; a fun throwback to 90s arcade games
    Weak Points: Bit on the hard side
    Moral Warnings: Considerable bit of melee-oriented violence; scanty attire for some female characters; mild if rare profanity on occasion in dialogue (d*mn or h*ll on rare occasion); some displays of bones and blood; racism is a prevalent story element

    The main campaign is a series of 8 stages, some with alternate routes, each with an end boss. The other game modes are for learning the game moves, an ersatz fighting game mode where you fight for a best out of three rounds with the characters of your choice, and a few other unlockable modes and extras like different costumes, easier game difficulty, and other little extras and secrets, which you can purchase with currency earned with game points or unlock throughout your playthrough.

    Graphically, it looks like a 16-bit game from the SNES or Genesis, and it even has a CRT monitor filter with TV scanlines as an option for that authentic retro feel. All the animations have a Western cartoon aesthetic to them, much like many beat'em ups of the '90s. The frames are very smooth, even 60 across the board for all aspects of the various game modes.

    Sound is pretty good, classic peppy pseudo-synth tunes like one would expect from an arcade cabinet sound hardware, and the sound effects are crisp. Controls aren't complicated, and while the start button is unintuitive (it's the plus key, which is not easy to reach if using a handheld Switch during heavy play), the game training mode otherwise provides a good way to learn the basic controls.

    Stability is amazing. This is a port job to a portable from its other versions like the PC version, and it plays just fine on the Switch. Initial load-up is a bit slow, but after that, it's very fast with no long load times at all. Overall, difficulty tends a bit towards the hard side, even on the easy setting, but this is perfectly in line with the quarter munching arcade games of old.

    Fight'N Rage
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 68%
    Violence - 2/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    Morally, we got some problems.

    Violence is a big part of playing the game, and while bodies disappear after what is presumably beating someone unconscious, doing enough hits past what's needed to deplete a life bar will result in an "explosion" of bones, implying a gruesome death by being beaten fatally. There is a scene where a hostage is killed no matter what you do, but this is not shown in explicit detail. There is also implied cannibalism in one level where you enter a kitchen and fight someone who is heavily hinted to have been using human corpses for food and some mild displays of blood.

    Language isn't too terrible, maybe a mild profanity or two at worst in a brief dialogue snippet or two (like d*mn), nothing worse than a daytime movie at any rate. Sexual content has the heroic female character in a skimpy outfit and some of the female enemies follow suit (in a throwback to the tradition of 90's beat'em ups that weren't censored for American release). No occult or supernatural influences abound, the beast-men are attributed to a post-apocalyptic event that gave rise to them via humans exposed to a mutagen that made them beast-like.

    Culturally and ethically, the backstory has references to slave trading of humans and clear prejudice is shown between humans and beast-men, though it's not depicted in a flattering light. When possible, you can save hostages and are usually rewarded with powerups for doing so.

    If you have fond nostalgia for 90's beat'em ups, this game is certain to bring back some nice memories, especially if you don't mind a bit of challenge. Morally, if the violence and potentially disturbing themes don't trouble you, any reasonably mature teenager or older would probably have fun with this title.

  • Gang Beasts (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Gang Beasts
    Developed By: Boneloaf
    Published By: Double Fine Productions
    Released: December 12, 2017
    Available On: PS4, Oculus Rift, Windows, Linux, and macOS
    Genre: Beat 'Em Up, Party
    ESRB: E10+ for Cartoon Violence
    Number of players: 1-8 offline, 2-8 online
    Price: $19.99

    A big thanks to Boneloaf for the review copy of this game and another thanks for the laughs.

    The stage is set: the incinerator. The characters? A chicken, a dinosaur, and a guy with a hamburger hat. Everyone mashes buttons, hoping to land a few good hits. Threats of extra crispy chicken nuggets are thrown while the dinosaur drags the unconscious chicken towards the fire. Too slow. The chicken regains control and an audible thump is heard as he reverses the situation with a solid punch. Looks like the mighty dinosaur goes extinct once again.

    Despite the dark name, Gang Beasts is a silly free-for-all brawl where the last player still in the arena wins. Each map has a different lose condition. Falling off the roof causes you to lose for the rooftop map, while drowning makes you lose on the Ferris wheel map. The characters wobble and flop as they walk, fight, and jump across the map, which is sure to cause a few laughs. If there is one thing this game is good for, it's laughs.

    Gang Beasts
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Laugh out loud funny
    Weak Points: Lack of single-player content
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    It's hard to take battles too seriously due to sometimes glitchy physics and loose controls. In addition, the game is almost unplayable alone. The only mode you can play solo is waves, which is a human team versus waves of AI controlled characters. The numbers on the keyboard summon different objects into the game, which can be fun or annoying depending on who has access to the keyboard. Spawning too many objects can create horrible lag, forcing everyone to quit the game and rejoin.

    Most pieces of the map can be moved or broken, which can produce interesting results. Traffic cones and boxes can be grabbed and tossed. Dumpsters can be rolled around and opened. Trains can be derailed. Elevator cables can be snapped, dropping your foes to their doom. If you can think of it, it can probably be done.

    There are a lot of unique characters to choose from, in addition to a character creation menu. All characters have the same controls, but the character's features mean different places you can grab and punch. Some actions require short button presses, while others require holding that same button. The length of time you hold can be the difference between punching or grabbing, jumping or sprinting, kicking or leaning backwards, and headbutting or leaning forwards. Left and right arms work independent of each other; this means you can grab a player with one hand and punch with the other.

    Gang Beasts
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Sounds in the game are limited to the song at Gang Beast's intro and some basic events, such as winning or knocking an opponent unconscious. Graphics and level design are simple, bland, and grey in some areas, while other parts have good coloring and interesting designs. Fire in the incinerator looks amazing, the beef vending machine and traffic cones look nice, while entire buildings can be basic in appearance. All of the levels offer something interesting, but once you understand the tricks, the winning strategy can be something simple like holding onto the blimp and ignoring everyone else.

    The game revolves around violence, but no blood or gore is involved. The characters are able to bend, stretch, and squish under large amounts of force, but they return back to their usual shape later. There is a poop head character and others characters designed to look like Rick and Morty. During Halloween, there was a character with the head separated from its body. Jokes are made about beef and there is a billboard that says "Drink Beef".

    Gang Beasts can be an enjoyable and funny experience, but it does have downsides. Slow control response, buggy physics, and simple levels plague this game. The worst part is the lack of content for single-player. While I love this game, I wouldn't recommend it unless you have some close friends or family you want to enjoy a few laughs with. I also recommend not playing this while people are trying to sleep.

    -Sorrel

  • Guilty Gear (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Guilty Gear
    Developed by: Arc System Works
    Published by: Arc System Works
    Release date: May 16, 2019
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows
    Genre: Fighting
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: T- Teen: Blood, Violence
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Arc System Works for sending us a copy of Guilty Gear for the Nintendo Switch!

    I remember the days in which I used to go to the arcade to have some simple, yet action-packed fun. There were those games that everybody flocks to including Galaga, Pac-Man, and yes even those games that had the little plastic handguns. There were also the fighting games, those fantastic brawlers that brought friends together and quarters on the machines. I remember them quite well because they were the first machines I went to when I entered into an arcade.

    Everybody remembers the big fighting titles in the arcade; including such legends as Nightstalkers and Street Fighter 2! Sure, I enjoyed those titles myself, but there was another game that I remember being especially fun during the late 90s, that was an obscure little title called Guilty Gear, which was originally released for the PlayStation in 1998. Thanks to modern porting technology, that incredibly fun, yet often forgotten, fighting masterpiece is now available to play on the Nintendo Switch. I got my chance to experience it firsthand, and here are some of my thoughts and observations.

    Guilty Gear
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast-paced fighting action; great soundtrack; has a practice mode
    Weak Points: Offers very little extra from other fighting games; harsh difficulty spike; “unfair” destruction mechanic
    Moral Warnings: Violence with some blood; Satanic and occult symbols; some use of magic

    It is hard to say what Guilty Gear is about, exactly. Through the ten different characters that you are able to choose from, a story can be deduced from the dialogue that comes after each battle. With the cryptic storyline hovering in the background, that does not seem to detract from the true allure of this game: the combat.

    At its core, Guilty Gear is a fighting game that is very much in line with what we know from the Street Fighter Alpha Series. The fluid pixel art and animation define the characters quite well. The fast-paced movements and ability to juggle opponents in the air simply add to the possibilities of what can be done in this game. In fact, this is both its biggest strength and greatest weakness.

    Anyone who plays fighting games on a regular basis will tell you that quick reflexes are the key to beating one's opponent. This is no exception for Guilty Gear. There is no easy mode for someone to lean against when the game gets difficult, and it will get difficult, very very quickly. The core game allows players to go through 11 different levels, each one presenting players with new challenges. After about the third level, the difficulty spikes to where button mashing will no longer do the trick. It is at that point where one must learn how to use each character, as well as master their moves if they want to succeed in this game.

    This is where the training mode comes in. I found this mode to be quite helpful as I tried all 10 characters to see which one fit best with my style. In the end, I chose the poster boy for the Guilty Gear series, Sol Badguy. He is quick and powerful, and his special moves are easy to perform. It takes a while the master the complexity of the various special moves, but it is more than worth it when you take on the computer.

    Guilty Gear
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    I know that Guilty Gear is a remake of an original arcade game, but I can't help but notice how the game has aged. It is not as if the graphics are inferior, on the contrary, they are actually quite impressive for that day. No, this is about the old style of special moves that this game has adopted. Just pausing the game and looking at the command menu gave me anxiety. Many of these moves are nearly impossible to perform to perfection. I also noticed that using the analog for the diagonal commands is very hit-and-miss. With as difficult as this game can get, missing a special move at the wrong time can result in a quick defeat.

    Speaking of quick defeats, Guilty Gear is notorious for another mechanic that causes a lot of frustration for players who do not know how to use it. This is the infamous destruction maneuver, which results in the immediate loss of the player who is unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of it. As much time as I spent playing Guilty Gear, I was never able to figure out how to use the destruction moves, but the computer used them against me quite often. It was very frustrating, especially when I was up by one round and was immediately destroyed the next round, thus resulting in me losing two rounds immediately. Some people might think this is a neat addition to the game, but I just find it annoying.

    Guilty Gear has always been considered to be an edgy fighting game. The reason for this is because of many rock and roll themes that are plastered throughout its content. Many of these themes revolve around demonic and satanic symbols including pentagrams and what looks to be ritual sacrifices. Though the blood splatters seem to be more like flashes of light than actual visceral violence, some of the hard-hitting moves may be a little too expressive for some players’ taste. Ultimately, it is the reoccurring occult and supernatural themes that may turn some of the more discerning players off towards this game.

    Overall, I enjoyed my time playing the original Guilty Gear on the Nintendo Switch. Holding this legendary game in the palm of my hand was an endearing experience, even though its sharp difficulty spike made me limit my time on it. This game is probably best enjoyed with a friend since the CPU can be quite unforgiving. If you can make it past Justice, the last boss on the 11th level, then consider yourself a champion at Guilty Gear!

  • Hero Boy (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hero Boy
    Developed By: Crowned Daemon Studios
    Published By: Crowned Daemon Studios
    Released: October 31, 2016
    Available On: Linux, MacOS, Windows
    Genre: 2D beat ‘em up
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $4.99

    Thanks to Crowned Daemon Studios for the review key!

    Every horror story, it seems, needs its child character. For the most part, you get your Clementines or your Ellies: children mature beyond their years and with a strength of body and mind that borders on abnormal. What about the more normal children, the introverted kids who struggle with bullies? If Hero Boy is any indication, they can certainly carry a story as well.

    Hero Boy tells the story of Max, an eight year old with a penchant for drawing and daydreaming. He lives a rather normal eight-year-old life – getting mugged by bullies and scolded by teachers included – until the zombies stagger into town. His mother takes him on the road, where he balances a reality of horrors and danger with an imagination full of whimsy and heroism – and, as it turns out, horrors of its own.

    The obvious standout, and the game’s greatest strength, is in its art style: the game is presented as a story written and illustrated by Max, and his crayon drawings comprise the majority of the graphics. Each stage, be it a beach, a forest, or a circus tent, is comprised of colorful scribbles that are both charming and easily identifiable, usually on a background of lined paper. It also lends some great dissonance when Max’s nightmares start – like the tried and true “little girl creepily singing a nursery rhyme” trope, childish creativity and unknown horrors blend together to create an eerie, disturbing atmosphere.

    Hero Boy
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Inventive art style that adds to the game’s atmosphere; consistent game mechanics
    Weak Points: Low variety in enemy attacks; repetitive stages; technical issues, some game-breaking
    Moral Warnings: Blood; undead enemies; disturbing imagery; “hell” crops up a few times

    The gameplay within the world, however, is somewhat middling. To its credit, Hero Boy adds to the basic beat ‘em up genre by giving Max light, medium, and heavy attacks, each with a two- or three-hit combo with varying levels of damage, hitstun, and knockback. He also has a shoulder charge that sends enemies flying, and can throw rocks from afar for weak damage. As the game progresses, he gains a total of five special weapons, their usage dictated by an energy bar that fills by either defeating enemies or collecting cans of pop. While the heavy combo’s high damage, range, and knockback will be your go-to attack for the majority of the game, the others do have their uses. The same can’t be said of the special moves, as the drill – which lasts a while, lets you move around, and renders Max invincible – and the magic mace – which does low damage but refills Max’s health – are vastly superior to the exploding punch, mermaid cannon, and laser staff, which leave Max stationary and vulnerable.

    Despite the relative wealth of attacking options, the soul of most beat ‘em ups lies in enemy and location variety, which Hero Boy lacks. While there are plenty of enemy variations – pirates, zombies, goblins, robots, and so on – most of the attacks are simply a melee swing or a telegraphed ranged shot. They’re dressed up nicely – for instance, the ranged robots hover, and their melee attack consists of balancing on one hand to shoot fire from its propulsion – but there are rarely any differences beyond that. The levels themselves are entirely squares and rectangles of varying size, with no obstacles beyond some crates that drop health and energy when destroyed. There’s some mismatch between the story and in-game objectives as well: a cutscene will often end with Max’s mother telling him to run away, only for you to have to defeat all enemies to move on. There are a handful of boss battles with their own mechanics involved, which is a breath of fresh air when they appear, though none are particularly difficult.

    This lack of features wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the game didn’t fall into a rut of repeating itself. As written earlier, the art style and enemy variation make up for its rather shallow gameplay mechanics, but you’ll spend the vast majority of the game fighting gas-masked humans that become enraged and don’t flinch after one or two hits. They’re slow, rush at you in a straight line, and have a crowbar swing that is easily dodged by moving up or down slightly. Max has very few movement options other than a short dash that’s slower than just walking away, and his ranged option deals very little damage and keeps him firmly in place, so battles consist of baiting and punishing their one attack. With more than one on-screen, you’ll have to get them stuck on boxes or each other to have any chance at all. You’ll get real skilled at fighting them by the end of the game, at which point it becomes a chore more than anything.

    The technical issues don’t help – though the most common of them help entirely too much for the most part. The aforementioned gas-masked bandits tend to just wander off for no reason and stand around doing nothing, which is baffling but appreciated when there are six of them bearing down on you. Many of the maps have a spot, usually on the sides or the far bottom, which enemies are unable to enter, letting Max safely pelt them with rocks and completely remove any challenge. This even appears in every single survival mode stage, which completely defeats the purpose of the mode to begin with – though the “forest” survival stage is unplayable anyway due to one enemy always spawning above the map where Max can’t reach, and there aren’t enough enemies around to fill his special meter. Additionally, Steam achievements exist, but don't unlock.

    The most egregious problem lies in an endgame enemy that periodically transforms into any other monster in the game. If you defeat it as it’s transforming, it bugs out and remains on the map in an invisible, invincible state, and your only option is to purposefully die or, if all other enemies are gone, quit the level. Considering the game’s wonky, unreliable checkpoint system, prepare to trek through the previous gas-mask gauntlet stage two or three times for another shot at progression. Add these to a somewhat laggy and unresponsive menu – especially on a controller – and the fact that your mouse cursor remains on-screen in-game, it gives the impression that the game wasn’t too thoroughly bug-tested. To its credit, however, the actual gameplay runs very smoothly and without issue, holding its framerate even with a few dozen zombies shambling around.

    Hero Boy
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 71%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4.5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Hero Boy’s music is rather solid throughout – nothing that stands out, but it all fits the mood and tone of the levels and story points. The exception is, unfortunately, the song you’ll hear the most, as it plays during the gas-mask bandit encounters: a droning, repetitive track that consists mostly of the same note repeating over and over. The sound effects are generally stock and fit well enough, though they stack on top of each other and get rather loud if they play simultaneously. The buggy transforming enemies do have a death wail that contains crackly audio feedback at the end of it, however. The whole game is voice-acted, mostly by Max’s mother narrating the story, and it meshes well with the atmosphere and is of rather high quality throughout.

    Hero Boy does make an attempt to have some longevity, mainly through the survival mode, but you’ll have to train yourself to avoid the safe spot to make it worthwhile. There are three difficulty options, though they don’t appear to do anything – enemies seem to take and receive the same amount of damage on easy as they do on hard. After beating the story, extra options pop up to make the game easier (defeating enemies heals Max, increased knockback) or harder (less effective or removed items, increased enemy damage). There’s also a new game plus mode that gives you all special moves from the start, though the drill tends to get Max stuck in levels before it’s formally introduced. Finally, there’s a strange “welge mode” that makes all enemies whisper “I will kill you” when defeated and gets old very quickly, and a “pandering mode” that turns the zombies into references of various real and fictional people, including BroTeamPill and Vivian James.

    As a game set in a zombie apocalypse, the standard zombie-type moral issues apply, though drawn in crayon. Undead enemies are a given, with skeletons and ghouls also appearing, though these are purely in Max’s imagination. Defeated enemies in-game fly away or simply vanish, but in certain parts of the story, dead bodies with blood under and on them show up. Some of the scenes contain disturbing imagery, most notably the transforming ghouls and the bipedal elephant boss in the circus level that loses its trunk midway through the fight. Finally, though the language is mostly clear (save for the spelling; Max’s English skills are poor even for an eight-year-old), though the word “hell” does pop up in the background of the nightmare levels every so often.

    Overall, Hero Boy is a charming but flawed game. The presentation is great and the gameplay is smooth, but both game design and technical issues keep it from more lofty heights. If you’re interested in the art style and the horror aspect, it’s worth a look come sale time, but if the crayon drawings don’t do it for you, you’ll find better options elsewhere.

    -Cadogan

  • Infected Shelter (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Infected Shelter
    Developed By: Dark Blue Games
    Published By: Dark Blue Games
    Released: Nov 11, 2019
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Beat ‘em up, Rogue-lite
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Up to four players (remote play support)
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Dark Blue Games for sending us a review code!

    Stop me if you ever heard of this one: Zombies, procedural-generated rooms, permadeath, side-scrolling beat ‘em ups. I know I know, we’ve had a lot of the former three in the past decade. Infected Shelter isn’t exactly trying to be original or unique. However, sometimes sticking to what works helps out standing out from the crowd. A two-man project by Dark Blue Games, Infected Shelter treads familiar ground, yet adds popular themes of the 2010s to add a small twist to the rather ancient beat ‘em up genre.

    So these Mad Max looking dudes bust down the door of this biologist creating some sort of antiserum and kidnap her for whatever nefarious plans they have in store. Now it’s up to a wheelchair-bound man and his assistant, a young female electric guitarist, an amputee, and a fat man to save her. I must say, this is one eccentric cast! (Wouldn’t be out of place in an Adult Swim show.) The premise is simple enough but 99% of beat ‘em ups out there were never known or praised for their story. Maybe it should get an award for featuring a disabled cast?

    The general gameplay loop is like any beat ‘em up. The screen scrolls to the side on a 2D plane, you beat up a bunch of enemies, the next part opens up. You repeat this until the boss shows up. You beat the pants off them and now you go back to step one and do it all over again until the credits roll. But this is two decades into the 21st century! Slap in some rogue-lite elements and you got an excuse to try anything out. Unlike most beat ‘em ups, there is no life system. Death means death, you gotta start from the very beginning if you mess up. Like most rogue-lites, you collect a bunch of power-ups that only apply for the current run. As you vanquish your adversaries, you’ll collect blueprints that unlock many things such as weapons, equipment, passive abilities, and special skills that help out in combat for your next run. The weapons are pretty sweet as there are a dozen unique ones each with three other variants that can inflict many different debuffs to the enemy.

    There are even survivors that you can find that will help you out at the beginning of a new run, such as letting you choose from a list of skills, weapons, items, and so on before you go on. During specific areas, shops and hidden paths can be found where stats and animal helpers can be found or bought with the currency found in your small adventure.

    Infected Shelter
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Tight, responsive controls; solid beat ‘em up mechanics
    Weak Points: Unbalanced difficulty; rogue-lite mechanics do not add much to the experience
    Moral Warnings: Very, very violent; pentagram symbol; undead/supernatural creatures; slightly sexualized clothing; crude/toilet humor; alcoholism

    Dark Blue Games recommends that a controller works best with the experience. Although keyboard and mouse controls are fine, the default controls are strange—like, who uses the mouse for side-scrolling ‘beat em ups? They can be remapped so if your only choice is what your computer came with, I suggest rearranging the controls to your liking. As for how the characters control—it is responsive and functional. Every press is accurate and not once did I have a moment where I felt that certain things were the fault of the game instead of me simply not reacting to it fast enough. There are light attacks, heavy attacks, blocking, and dodging. Certain combinations of light and heavy attacks let you either throw enemies or knock them into the are continuing with an air combo. Each character controls the same and has similar combos, but what sets them apart mostly are their stats and special randomized traits that they can start with. Some characters have better health values, while others have better damage output on their skills.

    As for the enemies, there are zombies, military personnel, robots, and mutants. All the enemies have different attack patterns. Some are so slow that even a blind man can dodge them, and others are so fast that they’ll hit you nearly as fast as the signs for the attack show. Some enemies even spawn with weapons. Enemies are fun to fight as there are typically a lot of them on screen at any given time and they put up resistance too. They won’t let you wail on them all you want and if hit with too many consecutive light attacks, they’ll retaliate with "super armor", leaving them unable to be stunned by attacks for a short period of time. Some enemies can even pick up the items that you used and found if you leave them on the ground for too long.

    A tier above them are the elite enemies that have purple health bars. They’re tougher and way more durable. They’re also less fun to fight as when they’re below 25% health, they have these desperation moves that they use in a high frequency, deal lots of damage, and leave little time for retaliation. Most times they fell to cheesy tactics I’ve discovered while playing. Above even the elite enemies are bosses. Four in total, where the first three are randomized and the final boss is always the same. Depending on the order, the three bosses may even have more (or less) moves to use. I do wish there were more bosses to fight as the same three bosses all the time can get rather old.

    The best way to describe how Infected Shelter looks is Happy Wheels, but with a bit more polish. What I mean by that is that Infected Shelter has a cartoon aesthetic. The color pallet is bright and cheery and the character design can range from rather standard features or exaggerated body parts. That kind of art style never did anything for me but there is an effort put into some of the animations. I guess the aesthetics work with the rather over-the-top setting and goofy characters while they traverse a forest, a ruined city, a snowy mountain, and the wastelands. Sometimes, with too many effects going on at once, it can be hard to tell what’s going on. As for music, as far as I've heard, there are only three pieces: a main menu and credits theme, and two other themes that play through the whole game. The two themes with the guitar riff sound nice at first, but when you realize this is all you’re going to be hearing, they both get old very quickly. Sound effects (especially explosions) are also notably loud compared to every other sound so it's recommended to turn down the SFX in the options menu.

    Infected Shelter
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay 15/20
    Graphics 6/10
    Sound 5/10
    Stability 5/5
    Controls 5/5

    Morality Score - 64%
    Violence 1/10
    Language 10/10
    Sexual Content 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 7.5/10

    After playing a few dozen runs and winning most of them, I realize that the rogue-lite elements don’t actually do all that much for this kind of experience. There is a lot to unlock and unlocking things isn’t tedious as every run to completion you’re guaranteed a couple dozen or more blueprints for more items. There is replay value to be found thanks to the rogue-lite elements, but if they were simply removed (with some small tweaks), I don’t believe the game would be any better or worse without them. I also came to conclude that Infected Shelter is pretty unbalanced in its abilities and weapons. Some unlockable passive abilities and weapons are so absurdly powerful that there is no reason not to pick them up. For example, one of the passive abilities I unlocked lets me grab one relic for free at the beginning of any playthrough. Once you unlock the relic that grants you double the money, you’re just always going to pick that one. And with the other passive ability that lets you choose what trait you start with, you can simply avoid any of the traits that have no downsides to it. When it comes to weapons, there was one that I unlocked that let me stun lock the final boss to death.

    Now it’s about time I get around to morality. The most notable thing about Infected Shelter is the violence. You ever punch someone so hard they explode into giblets? Yeah, it’s that violent and it soaks in it. Decapitations, bone-breaking bludgeons, making swiss cheese out of enemies with your guns, immolation by Molotovs and flamethrowers. It’s not just for the heck of it either. There are some gameplay elements that revolve around the violence so there is an excuse for all of the carnage. Other notable things are one item called the “Devil’s Agreement” which is shown as a paper with a pentagram on it. The item grants you a second chance, but you lose 66 of your max HP. There are also items and skills that let you summon skeleton warriors, Some female characters can potentially have outfits that show off more leg than necessary and midriff. Toilet and crude humor are abundant as well, with many jokes being based on poops and farts. One of the bosses even uses pooping and farting as a way to attack, and one enemy pukes on your character. A few consumables happen to be wine and your character can get drunk off of them.

    Infected Shelter manages to be a pretty standard and enjoyable beat ‘em up. Long gone are the days of trying to beat high scores so Dark Blue Games uses generated levels and permanent progression elements to supplement the replay factor. A run will take anywhere between an hour or an hour and a half, which is standard for many beat ‘em ups. Unlocking everything will probably take 12 hours or more depending on multiple factors. Although, if you weren’t sold on the beat ‘em up genre prior, this experience will do nothing to pull you in. If the extreme amounts of violence and implied occult doesn’t bother you, Infected Shelter is a good time either solo or with like-minded friends.

  • Injustice: Gods Among Us (PS4)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Injustice: Gods Among Us
    Developer: NetherRealm Studios
    Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Released: April 16th, 2013 (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii U); October 7th, 2013 (Ultimate Edition PS3/PS4/PS Vita/Xbox 360/PC)
    Available On: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
    Number of Players: Up to 2 
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence)
    Price: $18.80
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Warning: Minor spoilers.

    In Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman was terrified by the idea that Superman could turn against humanity. The realization of Superman’s humanity, specifically that the two had mothers who shared the same name, shook Batman to his core. This is not the first story to tackle the threat of a rogue Superman. The Tower of Babel story arc in the Justice League comics also addressed Batman’s fears of superheroes going rogue. In it, Batman’s contingency plans are stolen and used against his fellow Justice League members. In Injustice: Gods Among Us, however, the Justice League does go rogue and there is little Batman or anyone can do to stop them. An interesting idea, but is the story worth experiencing? Is there a solid game underneath this clash of comic book titans?

    Injustice: Gods Among Us was developed by NetherRealm Studios, the team behind the Mortal Kombat franchise. Despite this pedigree, the game doesn’t have gruesome Fatalities or provocative attire. There are however, a number of similarities between Injustice and NetherRealm Studios’ previous game. Like Mortal Kombat, Injustice has a strong single player component due to the game’s focus on story. Regardless of whether or not the story (written in part by actual comic book writers) impresses players, DC Comics went the extra mile by publishing a short series of comics leading up to the events  portrayed in the game. The additional material helps draw in comic book readers, as well as better explain how the Justice League went from superheroes to villains. From a marketing standpoint, the use of a different medium is a stroke of genius, helping to broaden the game’s target audience beyond just fighting game fans.

    The events of Injustice are set in an alternate universe which differs somewhat from the mainstream DC comic universe. For example, in this alternate universe, Lex Luthor and Superman have never been adversaries. The setting helps provide justification for the game’s events. Under the control of Joker, Superman not only wipes out most of Metropolis, but he also kills Lois Lane and their unborn child. This moment of powerlessness becomes the basis for the reign of tyranny which follows. Superman brutally kills Joker, then, with the assistance of most of the Justice League, installs a world government, ruling through force. Batman’s resistance has been nearly defeated and he’s running out of options. In a desperate attempt to turn the tide, Batman pulls the Justice League from the mainstream DC comic universe over to this alternate universe to fight by his side. Alternate universes have been a DC comic book staple for decades. One of the most notable examples is ‘Crisis on Earth-Three’, in which the Justice League faces off against the Crime Syndicate, a group of evil superpowered doppelgangers. The plot is surprisingly good for a video game, providing players with a better understanding of the comic book characters. For example, when Superman from the mainstream universe argues with the High Councillor Superman over the ruthless actions he has taken since Lois’ death; it provides a unique look at the character and the struggles he faces as a result of his incredible power. Comic book fans that are looking for a good story will not be disappointed.

    Injustice: Gods Among Us
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A solid fighting game with a large roster of DC superheroes and villains, with a good story written by professional comic writers.
    Weak Points: Though a step above Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, the rigid fighting system feels a bit dated compared to other two-dimensional fighters. Online play has improved since Mortal Kombat, but it is still far inferior to other fighting games.
    Moral Warnings: Strong language; sexually suggestive dialogue; and brutal violence.

    Graphics are solid on all platforms, even on the Playstation Vita. Characters and backgrounds are well-rendered and true to the source material, however, character costumes have been given an added flair by NetherRealm Studios. Having spent considerable time with both the Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 versions, I see little difference between the two. There are, however, bizarre slowdowns during cinematic sequences on the Playstation 4 version. NetherRealm Studios could have done a better job optimizing these sequences when porting the game over from the last generation consoles. In terms of audio, the background music is up to par and the voice acting exceeds expectations. NetherRealm Studios brought in a number of celebrities to voice Injustice’s cast, including Troy Baker, Adam Baldwin, Kevin Conroy, George Newbern and Tara Strong, who have voiced these characters previously. This extra effort will be appreciated by fans of the DC animated television shows and recent video games like the Arkham series.

    Gameplay in Injustice is a step above NetherRealm Studios’ previous game, Mortal Kombat, but still feels somewhat dated. Though an improvement over Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe's dated combat system, but falls short in comparison to other two-dimensional fighter games like Ultra Street Fighter IV and King of Fighters XIII. Each character has a handful of set combo strings made up of light, medium and hard attacks, along with special moves. Players also have a super gauge which can be used to enhance special moves, disrupt an opponent’s attack, or execute a super move. This system will be familiar to anyone who has played a modern two-dimensional fighting game. The difference is that it is much harder to end combo strings with a special or super move in this game than it is in others. Recovery time on certain normal attacks cannot be cancelled, and that extra second delay means Batman won’t throw his Batarang. Because of this rigidity with the combo system, players will need to spend more time practising to figure out which attacks allow for a super or special follow up. Injustice also adds character traits, abilities unique to a specific character like a special attack or buff, as well as the ability to wager their stored super energy for a chance at additional health while on their second life bar. While character traits are a nice addition to a familiar system, the wager ability is more of a gimmick. Losing players who aren’t certain to win a wager won’t activate the attack, and players with the advantage would rather use their gauge more effectively. I doubt we will see the wager system in Injustice 2. Aside from an array of attacks and abilities, stages are interactive, giving calculating players an edge in combat. Though not game changing, this interactivity is a welcome addition.

    Injustice: Gods Among Us
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 7.5/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    As stated previously, like Mortal Kombat, Injustice has a strong single player component due to its story focus. This is where the game really shines. The Story mode is broken up into several chapters, each focusing on one particular character during the story's events. Completing Story mode will take players roughly six hours to finish, maybe longer depending on their skill at fighting games. Battle mode is the game’s arcade mode, allowing players to take a character of their choosing and play through one of many different arcade ladders. Completion of a ladder unlocks a character specific ending which can be viewed again at any time in the game’s Archive. There is also the S.T.A.R. Labs mode which is much like Mortal Kombat’s Challenge Tower, filled with character specific challenges which vary from fun to frustrating. There are additional characters available as downloadable content (included in the Ultimate Edition), along with corresponding S.T.A.R. Labs missions. There is more than enough single player content to make it worth the purchase, despite the poor quality of the game’s multiplayer. Couch multiplayer is solid, but online play is, to be blunt, weak. NetherRealm Studios’ netcode appears to have been improved since Mortal Kombat, but online play is inferior to other fighting games. Mortal Kombat X, NetherRealm Studios’ latest game, fares no better, despite promises to improve online play. Matches are hampered by lag, even when both players are in the same geographical region and have strong connections. If you really want to play a fighting game online, Ultra Street Fighter IV and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round are much better. One can only hope NetherRealm Studios figure out how to improve their online play by the time Injustice 2 is released.

    Considering that neither Zauriel nor Blue Devil is part of Injustice’s cast, there is no mention of Christ or Christianity. This should not come as a surprise as comics tend to be geared towards secular audiences. Though religion doesn’t play a part in Injustice, there are mentions of Greek Mythology (Wonder Woman and Ares), as well as magic (Shazam and Zatanna), and alternate dimension demons (Raven’s father Trigon, as well as guest character Scorpion from Mortal Kombat). Magic and superpowers are staples of DC comics, so parents shouldn’t expect that to change in Injustice. What is troubling, however, is how shockingly violent the game is, even for a fighting game. For example, High Councilor Superman’s tyrannical reign begins with the brutal murder of the Joker, and by the end of the game, he kills two more characters before being stopped by Superman, who is recruited by alternate universe Batman. There is also a few moments of sexual innuendo and minor swearing. Injustice is a far cry from its gore-filled cousin, Mortal Kombat, but parents should be aware that this isn’t a family fun game with the Super Friends.

    As a long-time fan of DC comics and fighting games, I thoroughly enjoyed Injustice: Gods Among Us. There is a reason why it received “Best Fighting Game” awards from IGN, GameTrailers, Game Informer and the VGX in 2013. Injustice offers more mature gamers a solid fighting game, despite its rigid combo system, with a great story written by professional comic writers. It’s a shame that all of this is hampered by poor online multiplayer. Parents concerned about the dark nature of the game’s story, as well as the graphic displays of violence, may want to do a bit of research before deciding whether to pick up or pass on this game. Injustice is nowhere near as violent as Mortal Kombat, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it for younger gamers.

    -Christopher Lancop

     

  • King of Fighters XIV (PS4)

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    Game Info:

    King of Fighters XIV
    Developer: SNK
    Publisher: Atlus 
    Released: August 23rd, 2016
    Available On: Playstation 4
    Number of Players: Up to 2 offline, Up to 12 online (Free Match lobby)
    Genre: Fighting
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence)
    Price: $59.99 
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Before beginning this review, I would like to thank Atlus for giving Christ Centered Gamer a review code. Their generosity made this game review possible.

    King of Fighters XIV is the latest game is a long running franchise which began as a SNK showcase, bringing in characters from the company’s other games like Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, as well as adding new ones. The series has grown to become SNK’s flagship game, spawning thirteen sequels and numerous spin-offs. After a five year absence, King of Fighters has returned on the Playstation 4. Did SNK deliver a champion fighting game or does it get knocked out by the competition?

    King of Fighters XIV’s story is standard fair for the series; skilled fighters are sent an invitation to the ‘King of Fighters Tournament’. This year’s host is a mysterious billionaire named Antonov, who not only purchased the rights to the ‘King of Fighters’ tournament, but proclaims himself to be the “first champion.” Despite his frightening appearance, Antonov is not a bad guy, an interesting change considering that previous tournament hosts included villains like Geese Howard and Rugal Bernstein. Each character has their reasons for entering the tournament, ranging from testing their might against other skilled fighters to carry out personal vendettas. Much of this background is revealed in pre-match banter between characters who know each other and each team’s story ending. Following the match with Antonov, the tournament is interrupted by a being called Verse, who serves as the game’s final boss. Very little is revealed about Verse, except that he harbours the souls of fighters lost in previous tournaments. He is more of a plot device than an actual character, acting as a way for SNK to potentially bring back fighters from previous games. For example, Orochi, the final boss in King of Fighters ‘97, makes a cameo appearance in one of the team’s endings. What role Verse will play in future games is uncertain, but I’m interested to see where this newest King of Fighters storyline goes.

    Graphically, King of Fighters XIV isn’t impressive. Character models and backgrounds are more than adequate, but lack the detail found in other fighter games like Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X. To be blunt, the game looks like it could have been released for the Playstation 3. That isn’t to say KoF is visually unattractive. The character models give the game an anime-like feel. This is not just a happy accident, but a decision made by SNK after the negative reaction to the first teaser trailer.  Although character animations are fluid, and visual effects and impressive, they don’t compare to other games on the Playstation 4. Despite this, KoF's audio is solid. There is a variety of different stage music ranging from Chinese-styled electronic to country rock, each designed for specific locations. There is also special rivals music, which are remixed versions of memorable tunes from previous games that play when certain characters fight each other. Players can listen to their favourite music, as well as the audio for the game’s characters, in Gallery mode. The only fault I can find here is that, with the exception of the announcers, all the game’s audio is done in Japanese. Considering how poor the English audio was in the King of Fighters: Maximum Impact games, this isn’t a major misstep, however, it would have been nice to have the option to choose between the two languages like players are able to do in Street Fighter V.

    King of Fighters XIV
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A solid fighting game with a large roster of characters and a deep combat system.
    Weak Points: Character models look dated and there are some issues with online multiplayer.
    Moral Warnings: There are minor swears; some female characters have revealing attire and there is breast jiggle.

     In terms of gameplay, King of Fighters XIV offers a surprisingly deep experience. Though individual characters lack the depth of those found in games like Street Fighter V, the roster size makes up for it. There are sixteen unique pre-set teams, and players have the ability to make their own teams out of the fifty characters available (forty-eight unlocked from the start plus two boss characters who are playable after finishing Story mode). Each character has a handful of normal and special attacks, two super moves, and one CLIMAX super move. Though not much different than other two-dimensional fighters, the game’s combat system is a step above its competition. KoF offers an incredible amount of freedom when performing combo attacks, allowing players to combo normal attacks into special, then into supers and even a CLIMAX super. Activating MAX mode (which consumes one super gauge bar) allows for even more combo opportunities. With practice, players will be able to pull off combos that do over sixty percent damage to their opponent. Since the game’s combat system doesn’t lock players into specific combo strings, it encourages experimentation, which in turn increases the game’s replayability. There is a great fun in discovering a combo that other players have missed and using it against them.

    Unlike Street Fighter V, King of Fighters XIV doesn’t lack single player content. Story mode is the core of the single player experience, allowing players to choose from either a pre-set team or create one of their own and play through the game’s story. Mission mode offers the players additional challenges like Trial, Time Attack, and Survival. Though not groundbreaking, Mission mode does add a much needed change of pace after completing Story mode with every pre-set team. Versus mode, though traditionally a two-player mode, allows for single matches against a computer controlled opponent.  Tutorial mode teaches players about KoF’s combat system, starting off with basic movements and attacks and working up to more advanced techniques like the CLIMAX cancel. There is also a Practice mode where players can practice what they learned in Tutorial, as well as learning each character’s moves. Again, considering how deep KoF’s combat system is, much of the player’s time will be spent in Practice mode perfecting combos.

    Online multiplayer is at this point in an odd state. Some matches are perfect, while others have a noticeable input lag, bizarre slowdowns or a weird glitch that turns combat into a slow motion brawl. SNK has promised to address these stability issues, so hopefully fans of online fighting games won’t have to wait too long before its running perfectly. Aside from the play itself, the Online mode is filled with a variety of activities for players. There’s Ranked Match, Free Match, and even Online Training for players who want to practice combos with their online friends. Aside from this, players can check their online stats and even watch streamed matches. Considering the amount of online content available, it is important that SNK address the stability issues quickly. Finally, no matter what mode players choose to play, they will unlock Gallery content. This includes movies, music, and character artwork from previous games. This added incentive will keep completionists glued to King of Fighters XIV for hours.

    King of Fighters XIV
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 7.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    King of Fighters XIV has a Saturday morning cartoon feel to it due to the lighthearted nature of the story. There are, however, a few things some people might take issue with. The background story for the title characters of the franchise borrows heavily from Japanese mythology. The main characters, Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami, are the heirs of two rival clans who have mastered pyrokinesis (the ability to create and control fire) to combat the demonic Yamata no Orochi. The Yagami clan made a pack with the demon for power, turning their fire purple and cursing their members with a short lifespan. Iori’s teammates, Vice and Mature, were former members of the Hakkesshu, a cult dedicated to the Orochi, and have demonic powers themselves. The background story sounds darker than it actually is, but it may concern some parents and players. There are, however, more to be concerned about than just character background stories.

    Not only do a few female characters have revealing attire, but there is a fair bit of breast jiggle during combat. For example, Mai Shiranui of the Women Fighters Team has long been considered SNK’s sex symbol and is the most prevalent example of both. Other female characters like Angel from Mexico Team are overly flirtatious. There is also alcohol consumed in team ending sequences, as well as in battle by background characters and one fighter, Chin Gentsai, a member of Psycho Soldiers Team and a master of Drunken Fist. Aside from this, the tournament organiser Antonov is fond of cigars. There are also minor swears, but they are too few and far between to be of any worry.  In all my hours with the game, I only encountered a handful of minors swears. In one instance, during an ending sequence, one character calls another a “dick.” As stated previously, most of the game’s dialogue is done in Japanese with a handful of characters speaking in broken English.

    Despite its faults, King of Fighters XIV is a solid two-dimensional fighting game. For those disappointed with Street Fighter V’s lack of content or repulsed by Mortal Kombat X’s gore, this is game that should be considered. While not the most visually attractive fighting game available, the game’s large roster of characters and surprisingly deep combat system more than make up for its graphical shortcomings. While there are stability issues with online multiplayer, SNK is promising to fix it. Even with the online multiplayer short comings, there is more than enough content here for fighting game fans. SNK have given players one of the best fighting games I myself have played since King of Fighters ’99 Dream Match for the Sega Dreamcast. This is one that I believe that is worth the full purchase price.

    -Christopher Lancop

     

  • Kirby Fighters 2 (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Kirby Fighters 2
    Developed By: HAL Laboratory
    Published By: Nintendo
    Released: September 23, 2020
    Available On: Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Fighting
    ESRB Rating: Rated E for Mild Fantasy Violence
    Number of Players: 1-4 offline and online
    Price: $19.99 digital

    Kirby Fighters Deluxe was a fun game to tide me over back when Smash 4 was on the verge of release, and now Kirby Fighters 2 has been released six years after the 3DS remake. While it’s still a simple fighting game at heart, there is much to love for casual fighting game fans as well as Kirby diehards.

    Kirby Fighters 2 includes a cast of over 20 characters; most of them are Kirby with different abilities, but there are also partners that you can unlock as well (Bandana Dee, Gooey, Magalor, Meta Knight, and King DeDeDe). Each character functions differently on the battlefield. Sword, for instance, is a swordfighter that can charge his attack in order to send foes flying but is more suited for close combat. On the other hand, you have characters like Beam and Bomb, who are better at zoning (attacking via long-range attacks) opponents. In each battle, you will fight using your abilities; unique abilities and moves usually utilize the B button, though some characters have air-based moves and moves based on dashing into others. You can also use Kirby's inhale attack to eat opponents and spit them out (no copying abilities other than yours, though!), and dodge and defend too. The goal is to reduce your opponent's health to zero, either through moves, items, or stage hazards.


    There’s a ton of variety in terms of characters, and you’ll need to get accustomed to each moveset in order to succeed in the different types of modes. That said, some characters only have a few moves (like Beam, who only has a couple of attacks. His charged shot, however, can wipe the floor quite easily), whereas the partner characters have a bevy of techniques to exploit. It’s not a technical fighter by any means, but there are times when it feels simpler than Smash Bros. It feels more of a party fighter than Smash at times, with items and hazards constantly popping in and causing havoc for everyone involved. The graphics and sound design are on par with Kirby Star Allies, and the game looks sharp and runs well. It’s not a game that needs to be taken seriously, and for those looking for a simplistic game that anyone can play, Kirby Fighters 2 is right up your alley.

    Kirby Fighters 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple battle mechanics; great story mode and unlockables
    Weak Points: Limited customization options online; some limited movesets
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; non-romantic kissing mechanic featuring cast of mostly male characters

    For a $20 game, the included Story mode is the highlight of Kirby Fighters 2 and worth the entry fee alone. There are five chapters included in this mode which focus on King DeDeDe and Meta Knight teaming up in order to defeat Kirby. He’ll have to traverse an increasingly tall tower (up to 50 floors in the final chapter), and needs to defeat a gauntlet of foes in order to get to the next chapter. While you only have to clear five battles for the first chapter, you’ll have to keep climbing up in order to succeed. Later chapters function like a roguelike, where players will have to pick up items that will help them progress (such as an item that reduces hazard damage or one that will allow you to guard automatically). Dying too many times in the final chapter will make you start over, which makes for a fun experience for those looking for a challenge. Thankfully, you can save in the middle of your run, which means it’s a great mode even if you want to pick up and play for a few minutes.

    In terms of other modes, there’s a single-handed mode where you will play by yourself and fight enemies continuously (much like the single-player campaign mode in Kirby Fighters Deluxe), as well as free battle mode for online and local multiplayer. While the local multiplayer mode is a nice touch (you can have up to four players duking it out on one console), the online multiplayer options are limited, as public online is automatically a 2v2 battle rather than a 4-player free-for-all. I consider these modes to be icing on the story mode cake, however, and there’s more than enough here in the $20 package.

    Kirby Fighters 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay – 17/20
    Graphics – 9/10
    Sound – 8/10
    Stability – 5/5
    Controls – 4/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence – 8/10
    Language – 10/10
    Sexual Content – 9/10
    Occult/Supernatural – 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical – 10/10

    By playing the game on any mode, you can increase your fighter’s rank, which will unlock more characters, stages, and items to use in story mode. It’s recommended to play through story mode before delving into any multiplayer options, as only three Kirby abilities, Bandana Dee, and a handful of stages are playable from the start. Luckily, there’s a ton of unlockables which gives a wonderful sense of progression in the game, and increases replay value quite a bit.

    Much like most of the franchise, Kirby Fighters 2 is a safe game for the whole family. There’s instances of cartoon violence, as characters can get smushed, thrown across the screen, and hit with attacks. However, there is no blood and characters are no worse for wear after the animation finishes. Fallen characters can turn into ghosts and if they attack a foe, can be revived. Additionally, the Face-to-Face mechanic returns where partners can share health recovery and other items by smooching; this is pronounced by the “SMOOCH” text bubble and does look a bit like a kiss. While the species of Kirby is considered gender neutral in Japan, the other partners are explicitly male; however, this is portrayed as non-romantic and acts as a recovery move.

    Kirby Fighters 2 is a beefed-up sequel to the small 3DS minigame introduced in Kirby Triple Deluxe and is a wonderful time for those looking for more Kirby in their lives. It’s a safe game for all ages, which means you can bring it out between rounds of other party games on the Switch.

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About Us:

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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