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Recently I've been pondering on what to write about. Digging through my art book collection I discovered a handful of Udon books, all the Penny Arcade volumes including the 10th anniversary, and a couple of miscellaneous gems that I've picked up at trade shows. Thinking that you guys would get bored of me raving about Penny Arcade for the next few articles, I noticed that I have three books dedicated to Street Fighter's fighting high schooler Sakura Kasugano. So I'm making this month September Sakura starting with why I love this character so much.
Nowadays I'm known as the guy that loves Street Fighter. If anyone wants to throw down on Street Fighter in a 1km radius then you can expect to see me there, decked in broken tier apparel and rocking a mad catz tournament edition stick. But it wasn't always like that. When I was a wee lad I hated Street Fighter. Complicated moves, no story mode, and it was 2D! Tekken 1, 2 and 3 were at least 3D.
It wasn't until I started watching ScrewAttack before I got into the fighting game scene.
I loved how they were so passionate about the game and saw glimpses of the hype generated by fighting game fans. It was a world I wanted to be a part of. So I dusted off my PSX, loaded a copy of Street Fighter Alpha (or Zero) 3 and started my rigorous training of Hadoukens, Sonic Booms, and Yoga Flames. During that time I was in high school; balancing social life, sports, and education in-between late night Street Fighter games. The world was still a distant place and couldn't wait to get out there. In this case I was very similar to Sakura.
I felt that Sakura, although a weaker clone of Ryu was very similar to me at that stage of my life. She was a high schooler having trouble co-ordinating her school life with her street fighting hence the way she runs into frame before a fight. I found her to be very inspirational as a teenager undergoing the angsty phase. Happy, determined, had a strong role model, and wasn't afraid of bigger meaner street fighters like Birdie. Also, I used to have a massive crush on her too.
When we choose a fighter it can come down to superficial reasons. He looks cool, she looks sexy, or she is top tier so she's the best in this version of the game. But I have seen players grow attached to their fighters on a deeper level. They see a small part of themselves in the fighter, almost as a projection of themselves on the screen. It may be because of the way they fight, appear, or move but, somehow players have found a way to bond emotionally to the piece of animated binary code and that causes them to choose that character consistently. To me, that is what Sakura is. She was what I wanted to be like in high school which is why I chose to play as her over hyper masculine characters like Guile, Zangief or Akuma.
Flash forward several years and the high school cycle of school, activity, sleep has evolved into the hustle and bustle of work, cook/clean, sleep. I was naturally ecstatic to see Street Fighter IV include my favourite Street Fighter Sakura in the initial line up. Pulling off Haru Ichibans in HD was a delight to relive. It took me back to my salad days; like revisiting a childhood home and running through the gardens again.
Whether playing games or specifically, playing Sakura affected my personality growing up is debatable. She is definitely a character that feels awkward to play now because of the age difference and the amount of upskirts performed during the match. But, I still perceive her representing my youthful ambition; to take on the big ol' world with a smiling face and boundless passion.
I've always been a fan of fighting games but more so the graphics. Pixel perfect key frames, fluid animation, and a large influence from manga and anime made it just as fun to look at, as it was to play. I consider Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes the pinnacle of fighting game sprite work. Not only collecting one of the largest fighting game rosters to date but also turning western comic book heroes into video game sprites was absolutely darling. My latest purchase, Udon's Marvel vs. Capcom Official Complete Work was inspired by my passion for these games and their art.
Marvel vs. Capcom Official Complete Work (2012)
Author: Various/ Capcom
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Binding Reviewed: Softcover (192 pages)
If you're looking for interviews, tutorials, history lessons, or tips then look somewhere else. This book is pure eye candy. It avoids the cardinal sin of using double page spreads that plummet into the spine and excels at bringing each piece to life with vibrant color, action, and energy. Considering the subject matter, its rightfully so.
I'm not too sure why they included a portrait of Chun Li from the Alpha series...
The content of artwork dedicated for each game is skewed towards the latter releases with only a handful of pieces present for the 1993 Punisher game. Drawings by Capcom veterans Akiman and Gouda Cheese 'Bengus' bring a nostalgic flare to the book, while Udon artists and tribute piece contributors bring their own modern spin on the franchise. I personally would've liked to see more promotional or Capcom Secret File artwork in the book since this is a 'Complete Works' but the collection found here is substantial for a casual fan.
A highlight is the extras/ sketches section found at the back end of the book. Not only does it have character sketches dating back to X- Men: Children of Atom but also rough layouts of various moves and stances for each fighter with annotations describing what they were going for. I throughly enjoyed reading the translated text and doodles the animators jotted down as it gave a behind the scenes of one of my favourite games.
The book being reviewed is the consumer softback compared to the limited edition hardback binding. The softback is prone to creases on the spine if you stretch them too much, but that is due to Udon's switch to heavier paper making the artwork feel, and look a lot better. The book is a little thin compared to other Capcom collections but there are no re-used pictures found in this book either.
Marvel vs. Capcom Official Complete Works was disappointing as a fan of both Marvel and Udon. I felt that there wasn't enough for the price. It largely boiled down to character portraits seen in promo images and in game result screens. You can skip this book if you're acquainted to Udon's other Capcom artbooks but for the casual reader there is enough here to find a home on your coffee table.
Achievements are a way of making single player competitive. And they should never be out of the playerís control.