Welcome, to yet another entry dedicated to a Capcom fighting game. It seems like there's alot of them on my shelves lately, or maybe that's just my imagination, since Street Fighter Alpha Anthology was four titles on one disc? No matter - Capcom Fighting Evolution, for the good old Xbox is here. I've been playing it off and on for a few weeks now, and I feel like the time is right to finally write a thing or two about it.
Let's start with some weirdness - Even though it clearly reads "Capcom Fighting Evolution" on the box, as it does on the disc, once you boot the game, you'll see "Capcom Fighting Jam" on your screen. What's up with that, Capcom? Getting lost in your own web of title changing madness? To add some more to the confusion, I bought this game in Europe, but the box is marked "NTSC". This obviously indicates that publishers and manufacturers have no idea what they are doing and they couldn't care less. The interesting thing is, European PlayStation 2 version kept its original title, "Capcom Fighting Jam".
Weirdness aside, let us go directly to my first impressions. Anyone who knows how things work at Capcom pretty much knew what to expect from this title, and they got exactly that - and so did I. Capcom Fighting Evolution has "recycling" written all over it. It runs on Capcom vs SNK engine, and there is only one original sprite that was created expecially for this title. In other words, all Capcom artists had to do was to create new backgrounds and these aren't too hot either.
So what is this game all about? As the original name says, it's a jam, or a mix of characters from previous Capcom titles. We have some fighters from Darkstalkers / Vampire Savior, Red Earth / Warzard, Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter III, and last but not least, one original newcomer named Ingrid, who looks like a slightly revamped Karin sprite. She was originally to appear in Arika's 3D mix, Capcom Fighting All-Stars, but when this project died and Capcom decided to pick up the pieces, she ended up as a 2D Karin look-alike in Fighting Evolution, or Jam.
Capcom has proven to us that re-using sprites from the '90s can work, and their Capcom vs SNK series was extremely successful. Few complained about Morrigan looking like a bunch of pixels, and SNK characters not really blending in with the Capcom crowd, but solid gameplay came on top, and the CVS series is popular even today. It was clear that Capcom, despite being too lazy to draw new sprites, tried their best to create a polished product. One could say that Fighting Evolution has no excuse for not being a good title, but despite Capcom's experience in the recycling field, this new mash up job falls short of its predecessor.
The main issue is the obvious lack of balance. Darkstalkers characters are way too strong, some Red Earth charasters are just too slow ... the list goes on. Capcom knows that bringing together characters from completly different worlds requires major adjustments - why did they fail to make these adjustments is beyond me. It's possible that a good Darkstalkers player will kick your ass every single time, because for some reason Capcom thought it would be a good idea to make these characters so much stronger than the rest of the lineup.
The lack of balance isn't the only shortcoming of this title. I have mentioned the backgrounds - Being the only major job the artists had, they should be good, right? They're not. While Capcom vs SNK featured nicely rendered 3D bacgrounds, stages in Fighting Evolution are flat. Not only that, they're also a bit blurry and the colors lack saturation. I'm not sure what happend, but because of the undersaturated palette, the stages look lifeless and boring. This might not be visible on the screens in this entry, but I assure you, once you see the game with your own eyes, you'll know what I mean.
The soundtrack is just fine and nothing more. You won't catch yourself whistling Fighting Evolution tunes while shaving, but the music is not bad, and I'm pretty sure you won't have to turn it off. Capcom did however include some original tunes for all of the characters, coming directly from the games in which these characters have originally appeared. To unlock an original tune for a character you'll just have to complete the game once and that's about it. I'm not sure if there are any hidden features in this game, but judging from what I've seen so far, I doubt it.
So is that all? Well, not exactly. Capcom did try to add to the gameplay by implementing a tag team mechanic. You'll choose two characters before you start playing, instead of just one, but while this worked in Tekken Tag or in Dead or Alive, it doesn't really work here. Even on a higher difficulty setting, the computer will almost never switch, and while I'm aware that these games are meant to be played against other players, you should be able to practise befor you face a real opponent.
Despite all my whining and pointing out all these flaws, Capcom Fighting Evolution is a half decent game and if you can get it for cheap, go for it. The important question you have to ask yourself is: Am I an advanced player? If you are, you might end up dissapointed, instantly noticing the flaws a sunday fighting game enthusiast would simply overlook. If you enjoy fighting games, but you don't get obsessive about mastering advanced techniques, you might aswell give Fighting Evolution a chance.
I always meant to pick up Prey, but for one reason or another, I never did - until now that is. I was considering getting the PC version, but ultimately I found a cheap copy for the 360 and bought it. I rather sit on a sofa in front of my TV, than sit in front of my computer screen on a chair that's not exactly back friendly.
Prey is one of those games that went through serious birthing pains, and being a title that started out at 3D Realms, that's not at all surprising. I don't know what the deal with 3D Realms is, but after they hit it big with Duke Nukem, it's been nothing but delays and unfinished projects from them. On multiple ocasions I have asked myself where the hell do they get all the money to be able to develop games and just scrap them at a pretty advanced stage. I guess this will forever remain a mystery.
The beginnings of Prey's development reach as far as the year 1995, when the initial idea was born and first actual work on the game started. 3D Realms was supposedly striving to build a game engine that would revolutionize the industry in the same manner as ID Software's subsequent ID Tech and Epic's Unreal engines had done before. The first real showcase of Prey took place during the E3 of 1998, and judging by what was shown back then, 3D Realms had great game and a monster engine at their hands, with all probability of a huge success. Too bad they screwed up, like they always do, and the game didn't come out until july of 2006.
3D Realms' screw-ups aside, how does the game, which had been in off and on development for over ten years, look and play today? Sadly, the game is not all it could have been, but don't get turned off just yet. Prey can and will surprise you with some creative solutions and gameplay gimmicks - "gimmick" not being a negative word in this particular case. So, what's this game all about? Like 90% of FPS titles out there, it's about pesky aliens and you, alone against all evil.
As a player, you'll take control of Tommy Tawodi - an indian with a bad case of "I don't give a shit", tired of living on a reservation. One evening, while Tommy is whining about how he hates his indian life, aliens invade out of the blue and snatch not only himself, his girlfriend and his grandfather, but also the whole bar everyone was in. Tommy doesn't give a damn about the bar, he hated it anyway, but he does care about his girlfriend Jen and so, in a stereotypical storyline kind of way, he decides to fight against the alien abductors.
There is nothing particularly exciting about the plot, even though indian themes are not all that common in games nowadays. The story barely justifies Tommy's struggle, and his attitude doesn't help the player to like him. You may wonder how is Tommy able to fight off a whole alien race if he's just a regular man. That's the thing - he's not. He is fully loaded with indian spiritual powers and he has an elderly, wise shaman guiding him every now and then. Oh, and he can't die. Here's where the creativity comes in: Whenever Tommy kicks the bucket, he's automatically transported to the spiritual realm, where by shooting lost souls with a bow, he is able to replenish his health and come back to life.
Despite the fact of posessing and actually using these awesome indian powers, explained to him by his grandfather Enisi, Tommy doesn't believe in them. While Enisi is trying his best of educating Tommy in the ancient ways of Cherokee, you'll hear Tommy making remarks like "Enough of your indian bullshit, grandpa!" or "I don't care about all of this indian shit!". That's one crazy indian, right? Either that, or ten years of game development wasn't enough to avoid paradoxes such as this one.
So, let's sum up some of the gameplay features. You can walk on walls on designated paths, you can leave your body and pass through forcefields to get to switches, etc. In many places in the game you'll be able to change gravity, or to be more specific, you'll be able to switch gravity to some or any of the walls within the room. If this wasn't enough, Prey is the first game to feature portals, as seen in Valve's famed production. The only difference here is that it is not possible for the player to create them. They will appear where the game wants them to appear and are often parts of various puzzles.
Prey runs on ID Tech 4 engine, and while the game look is entirely up to the designers, the title really does look like Doom 3 or Quake 4. Sometimes you'll go through levels which could be swapped between any of those games and you'd never be able to tell the difference. There are many original solutions design-wise, but generally prepare yourself for corridors and techno junk seen in aforementioned ID Software titles. This isn't bad by itself, since ID's games look great and it's never wrong to copy the best, but it's nice to see an original design every now and then.
The game is fun to play and Tommy's resurrectional abilities completly remove the fear of dying or screwing up. You will still try avoiding death, but when you do get slaughtered, it doesn't really cost you anything and you can get yourself back on your feet by shooting down a couple lost souls. This might make the game a bit easy, but the way I see it, games are supposed to entertain, and that's what Prey is trying to do. You don't have to remember saving your progress, which can be done at any time by the way, and you don't have to drag your ass back to the boss from a save point.
It's 2009 and while Prey might not be the hottest title out there, if you're looking for a decent first person shooter, you might want to invest a couple of bucks in Tommy's for his girl and for finding his spiritual self. A sequel to Prey is already in the works, but it's supposed to be handled by 3D Realms and that might just mean it will never come out. But let's say it does come out and it's good - you don't want to get into the new game without completing the first one.
P.S. - Above is a link to the aforementioned E3 showcase video from 1998. As you can see, Valve and their Portal have nothing on 3D Realms, and it's a shame that this title was never finished. 3D Realms could have established themselves as a game engine supplier, focusing on constantly improving the technology, just like ID, Epic and Valve are doing today.
March is almost over and man, what a busy month it was. I bought a whole bunch of games, most of them seen on the picture above. The only one missing in this shot, that I haven't written anything about yet, is Guilty Gear X for the PS2. Now that's what I call a whole lot of games and a good month indeed. Do I have time to play all of these games? No. The SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 by itself is 16 titles on one disc!
I am trying my best to stick to the titles I've started playing but haven't finished, so I'm still battling on in Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King, trying hard to return King Trode and his daughter Medea to their normal selves. I guess it's time to revisit Monster Arena and show them what Team Slaughter goes for, now that I've gathered a bunch of tough, mean monsters. Last time the announcer mocked me and I can't let it pass.
After reaching past level 30 on all of my characters, I went after Dhoulmagus, the evil jester who was directly responsible for placing a curse over whole Trodain kingdom and the poor members of the royal family I'm now stuck with. In theory, the moment he is defeated, the curse should be lifted, but as you can tell by Yangus' humorous remark, grandad Trode still looks like a freak, and so the journey continues.
In other news, I see that some people will eat just about anything to get their proteins and a healthy dose of cuttlefish testosterone. I've noticed this discarted package, which once contained tasty cuttlefish balls - surely, left behind by a cuttlefish balls connaisseur - and I couldn't help but take a picture.
As you have probably already noticed, lately I've been buying alot of compilations of older titles and precious few fresh games. I still haven't bought Gears of War 2, Mad World, Resident Evil 5 and Street Fighter IV - I did buy a whole bunch of compilations though and the reason for that is simple: You get alot of games for your money and since they're arcade oldies, it's easy to play for a bit and move onto something else.
I've been planning on buying Street Fighter Alpha Anthology [or ストリートファイターZERO ファイターズ ジェネレーション in Japan] for a while. I do own all of these games, most of them for Sega Saturn, but I've been very pleased with the recent Capcom compilations, full of extras with perfect conversion quality, and I thought it would be convenient to have all these games on a single disc.
Street Fighter Alpha series had a slow start, with the first game not living up to expectations. It was, after all, a Capcom original, and those who were waiting for Street Fighter III to finally appear wanted something new, bigger and better. That wasn't exactly the case with the first Alpha game, but it sold well enough to spawn sequels, and that's where the fun begins.
The series took off when Street Fighter Alpha 2 appeared on CPS-II. Improvement over the first title was noticable - Capcom had fine tuned the fighting system, added more characters, worked on the design and turned the ugly duckling that was Alpha, into a beautiful production that any fighting game fan would like to lay his hands on.
By the time Capcom released Alpha 2, it was clear that they had another strong franchise on their hands and so, everyone waited for the third game. Instead of getting Alpha 3, we finally saw Street Fighter III: New Generation, that was released on Capcom's brand new, state of the art arcade board, CPS-III. All eyes were on Capcom's new hardware and many of us were already imagining what could be acomplished with this new technology.
First two Street Fighter III games were a moderate success and so Capcom went back to their Alpha to develop a third installment. Instead of using the brand new CPS-III, the game was written for CPS-II. This was an unexpected move on Capcom's part, but they have managed to squeeze out every last drop of processing power contained in their now dated hardware.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 was a huge success and it is safe to say that while first two games did ok, it was Alpha 3 that put the series on a pedestal. It turned out that Capcom needed three tries to make a promising game perfect. The exact same thing happend with Street Fighter III, where it was 3rd Strike that made all the difference.
The story of Alpha series takes place before Street Fighter II, so it's a prequel. Some characters were brought in from the first Street Fighter game, some came all the way from Final Fight series. It worked. The minute I saw Alpha 2 at an arcade, I was hooked for good. The speed was there, the game looked sharp and the anime-esque art seemed so fresh, I couldn't help but throw in one coin after another into the machine.
Obviously, I have alot of fond memories of the Alpha series, and as a seasoned player, what do I think of Capcom's compilation? I think they did pretty good. All the games are here, and you can even switch between different hardware revisions of each title. The only thing that bugs me is why the hell they call it Alpha and not Zero, like Japanese do?
This is a minor issue, I know, but I always liked Zero better and I can never get used to the Alpha. Besides, it's only logical to call the series Zero, since it's a prequel, taking place even before the first game. Capcom always used numbers in the titles, and zero was a number, last time I checked, while alpha is not.
So, once we boot the disc, we can start Street Fighter Alpha, Alpha 2, Alpha 2 Gold, Alpha 3 and Super Gem Fighter, a CPS-II super deformed take on the Street Fighter series - really enjoyable too, with a potential for a good party game for people who don't really like beat 'em up's.
There are several other things that can be unlocked or uncovered, like Alpha 3 Upper, which can be accessed by pressing and holding the select button, while starting Alpha 3. This gives us the full character roster seen in console versions of Alpha 3. Sadly, World Tour mode didn't make it, but this compilation consists of arcade titles and World Tour was a console exclusive.
If you don't own the Alpha games, here's your chance to buy them all at once for a reasonable price. The PAL version supports 60Hz refresh rate and progressive scan, Alpha 3 Upper is unlockable, so if you're one of those who, except for the ISM's, likes to fight in Mazi mode, you're covered. I will complain about Super Puzzle Fighter not being included. This game belongs here and Capcom knows it. Also, I'm missing the professional feel of Capcom Classics Collection. I really would like to see separate artwork section for each game, a separate music player that shows BGM titles and things like that. Not to mention some nice video tutorials. Still, all in all Alpha Anthology is worth your money. Get it.
Two separate packages from one bookstore? Looks like someone couldn't be bothered to check that both orders were placed by the same customer on the same day. Oh well, as long as I got what I paid for, I'm happy.
I got two books this time, one of them being "Skissbok" [sketchbook] by Marcus Nyblom, and the other - seen on the pictures - "Jamen Förlåt Då" by Anneli Furmark. After tearing through Numret 73304-23-4153-6-96-8, I wanted something with actual text in it and that's where Anneli's work comes in.
"Jamen Förlåt Då" is a Swedish title that could be loosely translated to "I'm sorry", but it's an "I'm sorry" with a dose of attitude, as if you were apologizing while being annoyed and telling someone to piss off at the same time. This book is a compilation of eleven stories both written and illustrated by Anneli Furmark. All of these slices of life are unrelated and you get a feeling that the person who wrote them probably isn't the most cheerful human being on this planet.
I'm a sucker for moody stories. They don't have to try to scare me but I like stories in which real life is reflected. Nothing is bright and colorful and there are no definite happy endings. Anneli's stories fit this description perfectly. Reading them is like peeking into someone's life to observe even the most trivial events. The book has a very personal feel to it, as if it was letting you in on a secret.
Anneli Furmark was born and grew up in Luleå, which is located in northern Sweden, in the Norrbotten [Northbottom in english] province. Her origin certainly comes through in all of the stories. It's usually cold and dark, and in some ways really calm. Northern parts of Sweden are not densly populated and they have that small, closed community feel to them - along with mostly undisturbed nature.
The art in "Jamen Förlåt Då" is something else. The book has a very distinct, European feel, and once you familiarize yourself with Anneli Furmark's style, it's impossible to mix up her works with anyone elses. The comic is mostly black and white, with only one story [Inland] using very limited colours. Anneli's drawings are a huge contrast to her paintings, which are usually very detailed and photorealistic.
Unfortunately, as far as I know, "Jamen Förlåt Då" was published only in Sweden and it's not likely to be translated to english. It's not a book for every taste and there's absolutely no continuity between the stories, so options for marketing of this title are extremely limited. It's a shame if you ask me. I've grown tired of generic superhero comics and even more generic manga, and reading comics like this one is pure pleasure to me.
This book reminds me alot of an underground Japanese manga magazine, Garo [ガロ]. The magazine went bankrupt in 2002, but the years I spent reading it introduced many remarkable artists to me - all of which I valued for their moody stories. It's been ages since I felt this moody sadness while reading a comic book and for that reason I love "Jamen Förlåt Då".