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Paul D Simpson's blog

6:44 AM on 08.07.2012

Fighting Through The Generations: Round One

Street Fighter: The Dawn of the World Warriors

The Beginning

Street fighter is one of my favourite franchises, it has had a huge influence in the fighting genre. It all began with Street Fighter’s debut in the arcades in 1987, you played as the main character/protagonist Ryu fighting around the world in a fighting tournament that takes place in 5 different locations with 10 different challengers to battle. The control scheme was fairly simple with 3 buttons for different kicks and punches and with these buttons you could also pull off special moves such as the trade mark moves “Hadouken”, “Shoryuken” and “Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku” these could be executed with a specific combination of commands for each move. Street Fighter also had the option for another player to enter the game as Ryu’s rival Ken Masters for 1 v 1 battles. Eventually Street Fighter made the transition to home consoles and PC in 1998, further down the line it was released in the Capcom classics collection released for the PS2 and Xbox. Although Street Fighter was the first of its kind, it was Street Fighter II: The World Warrior that came to be the most influential fighting game of all time, reinventing the genre.

A New Era is Upon Us!

4 years later in 1991, after a couple of failed attempts at a Street Fighter sequel came Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, the true sequel to Street Fighter and the most revolutionary and best-selling entry in the franchise. 2 years after its release, it made over $1.5 billion and had a huge impact in the games industry. Street Fighter II was the first of its kind to include a roster with a variety of unique characters each featuring their own fighting styles and a selection of different combos to pull off, each character also had approximately 3, unique, special moves adding a fantastic amount of depth to the gameplay for its time.

Street Fighter II was the first of its kind to offer a selection of characters in a 1 on 1 fighter and still had the option of having a player join in instantly for 1 v 1 competitive play, the arcade mode pitted you against seven CPU adversaries and four very challenging boss battles, one in particular that made my blood boil but kept me coming back for more. With a selection of different combos and a grapple/throwing mechanic the gameplay always managed to stay fresh, frantic and most of all fun!

As time went on, the popularity of Street Fighter soared to new levels and eventually enabled the franchise to develop many different updates to the game such as Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers etc. These upgrades included the ability to play as the four boss characters, faster gameplay, new characters, the option to change the character’s colours and even new types of super combos. These simple characteristics are another example of the many aspects of Street Fighter II that have influenced fighting games from many different franchises such as King of Fighters and now, nearly all fighting games have these options, whether they are unlocked as you complete the story/arcade versions of the game, or if they are already in place from the beginning. Capcom continued to release newer installments of Street Fighter II up until 2008, when Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix came out for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

Street Fighter II shook not only the fighting game industry, but the gaming world as a whole, and opened up many new, exciting windows for the future of fighting games, providing intuitive ideas and aspects that changed what it meant to be a fighting game. To this very day it remains Capcom’s best-selling game of all time, broadening the horizons for the franchise extensively. There was “Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie” and the live action adaptation of the film, “Street Fighter”, there were action figures, cartoons and a massive amount of merchandise. At one point, the game was being sold at seven times the original price due to low stock, the company simply couldn’t keep up with the vast amount of people who wanted to buy the game. Street Fighter II and its various installments won many awards such as Best Game of 1991 and 1992 in their Fifth and Sixth Annual Grand Prize, also coming first in the Best Action Game genre, and every single character was featured in the Best Characters category of 1991, also claiming first place for Best Album, Best VGM and Best Direction. Street Fighter II even won the Golden Joystick Award for Game of the Year in 1992.

I Dreamed A Dream

The legacy of Street Fighter II continued with the Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams, which was set between the first two Street Fighter games, allowing for plot holes left by the previous two games to be filled out and the backstories for each character went into more depth, significantly expanding on the Street Fighter story. This first installment introduced the idea of unlockable characters that could be later played to the franchise, starting with ten playable characters and including three mystery characters that the player could unlock as they completed the story. It also developed more in the area of Super Combos, increasing the combo bar into three levels, enabling super combos to be collected for an opportune moment in the match. Another new feature of Warriors’ Dreams was that of Alpha Counters, allowing for the player to block the opponent’s attack and in turn, deal their own counter attack. Chain Combos were also new, in which the player could use a combination of weak attacks such as weak kicks or jabs which resulted in a more powerful attack that dealt heavy damage to the opponent.

The second game of the Alpha series was Street Fighter Alpha 2, incorporating a Custom Combo system instead of the Chain Combos, requiring small amounts of the combo bar in order to execute Custom Combos. Alpha 2 kept all thirteen original characters from the franchise, also adding five new characters to the roster. There were also new individual endings for each character, new themes, music and new stages.

The final installment of the Alpha Series was Street Fighter Alpha 3, which also made a few changes to the original Street Fighter and Street Fighter II, such as expanding the roster of characters to 28. It was also released on a variety of different consoles such as PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Windows, Dreamcast, Super NES and Game Boy Color etc.

EXtreme Makeover

In 1996, the Street Fighter EX Series came into play, co-produced by Capcom with a company called Arika. This series was a 3D spinoff from the original Street Fighter series, combining the well-known Street Fighter cast with characters created and owned by Arika. The first game, titled Street Fighter EX, was developed for the PlayStation-based hardware ZN-1, which made good use of the new 3D graphics of the game. However, only a year later an upgraded version was released, Street Fighter EX Plus, which was only slightly different from the previous version as the only difference to the first was the fact that a few more characters were added to the roster and an edition for the PlayStation was released a few months later, called Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha. The PlayStation version included additional features and even more characters.

The sequel was released in 1998 and this time was developed for the ZN-2 hardware, named Street Fighter EX2. Again there weren’t many differences to the game other than yet more characters and the fact that Custom Combos were reinstated. This sequel also received an upgrade of little difference titled Street Fighter EX2 Plus, also released only a year later and had a PlayStation edition developed.
The third and final installment to the EX Series was Street Fighter EX3, which had many changes and improvements to the game such as a mode that allowed the player to fight against three opponents at once and a Character Edit mode that included the option of buying special moves and combos with experience points, and adding them onto a character named Ace, designed specifically for the mode. Unlike the other installments of the EX Series, which were all designed for ZN hardware, Street Fighter EX3 was released directly to the PlayStation 2 in the year 2000.

Three is the Magic Number

The next chapter of the Street Fighter series was Street Fighter III: New Generation, which started out as your average coin-slot arcade game in 1997. This game was the sequel to Street Fighter II, however all characters except Ryu and Ken were removed from the character roster and replaced by nine other characters. The main character for this game was called Alex, who’s main goal was to defeat the character Gill, the final boss for the game. The other new characters included Dudley, Elena, Sean, Necro, Oro, Yun and Yang (counted as one) and Ibuki, who was intended to replace Chun-Li as the main heroine, similarities between these two characters are fairly obvious, such as the famous thunder thighs.

The gameplay of Street Fighter III: New Generation was similar to the previous games in the sense that the player faced seven CPU opponents throughout the duration of the story, ending with Gill. There were a few new features added to the gameplay such as Super Arts, which was similar to a Super Combo, being a powerful special move, however the player would choose a Super Art for the character they were playing in the menu after selecting the character. Like the Super Combo, Super Arts had a bar that had to be completely filled in order to execute a Super Art, which was filled as you performed special and normal attacks on the enemy. The length of the Super Art bar also varied in size and length depending on which Super Art the player chose. The main new feature to the game was Parrying, which allowed the player to block the opponent’s attacks without receiving any damage, including special moves. Parrying could be used by pressing down or towards an oncoming attack, although in order for a parry to work, the player had to act very quickly, using a parry in the split second before the opponent’s attack connected with the player’s character.

A home version for the game was released in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast, called Street Fighter III: Double Impact, which featured a Training, Option, Arcade and Versus Mode and the option to play as the final boss, Gill. This home version was a compilation of Street Fighter III: New Generation and the later upgrade Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact, which made a few adjustments to the gameplay such as EX Specials, which were slightly more powerful add-ons to regular special moves, although they required two attack buttons to be pressed rather than one and also requiring a portion of the Special Arts bar in order to be used. Some of the original cast of the Street Fighter franchise returned with this upgrade, such as Akuma, along with two new characters, Hugo and Urien. Yun and Yang were also given separate moves and combos, rather than having an identical set.

Another change to the gameplay that was released with Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact was that the player fought against eight CPU characters instead of seven, the final boss being specific to each character. That final boss would also converse with the character before the match, establishing the story. A mini game was also added to the game, taking place after the third match, and consisted of the player having the opportunity to practice their parrying skills by having basketballs thrown towards their character by the character Sean. It was possible to unlock battling against Akuma as the final boss rather than the character-specific final boss, and depending on how well the player fought against Akuma, another battle would ensue between the player’s character and Shin Akuma, a more powerful version of Akuma.

The last installment of Street Fighter III was released in 1999, two years after the first two games and brought a fair amount of improvement to the series. Street Fighter III 3rd Strike: Fight For The Future brought back the classic character Chun-Li, also adding another four characters, Makoto, Q, Remy and Twelve. These additions brought the character roster to 20 characters, quite extensive compared to the original 10. New themes, stages, voice actors and endings were developed for all the returning characters from the previous Street Fighter III games in order to extend the storyline that was left unfinished by the other two games.

The amount of opponents in single player mode was extended to ten characters, and another mini game was added, a remake of the Street Fighter II’s “Crush the Car”. Parries were re-named to Guard Parries, and the character turned red when executing the move, leading to its secondary name of Red Parry. The commands were changed for aerial parries, throws, holds and leap attacks and 3rd Strike also introduced a Judgement System that graded the player depending on their performance in battle such as defense and techniques.

A home version for the game was released in 2000, which contained all the modes of Double Impact such as Training and Versus Mode, as well as an additional mode called System Direction, which allowed the player to change certain settings of the game. For the final round of each match, a remix of each character’s theme was composed in order to create a more dramatic effect. A PlayStation 2 version was released in 2004 and an Xbox version was released in 2008, however the online capabilities for the Xbox version ceased functioning in 2010 due to the development of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition, which was released to Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network in 2011.

Fighting Reborn

At the start of this current console, generation fighting game releases were far and few between with a handful of mediocre releases that left a lot to be desired. But there was hope when Capcom announced Street Fighter IV for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and later in the year on the PC. Street Fighter IV boasted flashy 3D character models while still keeping the 2D gameplay that first made Street Fighter so popular, a drawn art style with particularly thick outlines and a great online mode that has since been improved on. The gameplay stayed true to Street Fighter II, not changing the formula too much and adding in some new features such as the Focus Attack, which was performed when holding down both medium attack buttons and when executing has an ink brush-like effect. The Focus Attack is simply put, a counter-attack mechanism that enabled you to turn an opponent’s attack upon themselves though if you took too much damage from the opponent while using the Focus Attack it would be cancelled out. Another new feature was the Ultra Combo which was essentially the opposite of super combos in the sense that, rather than attacking the opponent to charge up the bar, you had to take damage from the enemy instead. The Ultra Combo could be pulled off with a simple combination that would result in a cinematic and rather painful looking showcase of flashy moves.
In terms of the character roster they stuck with most of the cast of Street Fighter II offering 25 playable characters, 8 of which were unlockable and 2 (Gouken and Seth) were not playable in the arcade version. Capcom added five new characters to the game called Abel, El Fuerte, C. Viper, Rufus, Gouken and Seth.

It took a while for Street Fighter IV to make it past the proposal stage but eventually with the popularity of the release of Street Fighter Turbo on Xbox Live and sheer fan demand Street Fighter IV was finally in development, a sequel fans had waited 8 long years for. There was not a great deal in the way of a story mode in arcade each character has an anime opening and an anime ending that gave little detail to the story of each character, though there was a story of sorts it was nothing engrossing or substantial compared to games released later in this generation.

Street Fighter IV has a handful of different gameplay modes including, Challenge, Training, Arcade, Versus and Trials, there was also competitive online multiplayer which included a quick match-making system, ranked matches and a championship mode which arrived as a free update for the game which allowed tournament play and featured a replay system.
Two years after Street Fighter IV saw the release of the follow-up, Super Street Fighter IV, featuring a handful of new characters including Juri and 10 new online modes. The arcade edition of Super Street Fighter IV came out a few months later featuring 4 new characters and made the overly powered characters more balanced.

Street Fighter IV was a huge success and saw many different iterations released for different platforms including iOS and the Nintendo 3DS and still continues to do well with a very large fan base.

In A Nutshell

The Street Fighter franchise is one of the most widely known fighting game series in the industry, it has blossomed into a great franchise and has evolved with the times and has stuck with the classic formula, still managing to remain interesting, it is difficult to find a fan of fighting games who is unfamiliar with Street Fighter. Over the years it has had its good games and bad games but is still going strong and is loved by many.   read

5:58 AM on 07.27.2012

Fighting Through The Generations: Intro

Fighting games have been around since the late 1970s, and nowadays there is an immense variety of this specific genre. Even if all fighting games share the same principles and goals of beating the living daylights out of your opponent, there has been an endless amount of combinations (combos) and gameplay mechanics that has kept the genre fresh, interesting and exciting. I was six years old when I first got into gaming, my very first console was the Sega Megadrive II, one Christmas my folks bought me Street Fighter II and ever since I have been hooked to the genre. I am going to go through some of the features I find most attractive about fighting games in this article, such as the gameplay mechanics, the wacky array of characters and the general history of fighting games.

First of all I will start with the gameplay mechanics, the basic premise of fighting game mechanics is to have two people in an arena and the first player to deplete the oppositions health wins, but what is brilliant is how developers have made it more varied with so many new and creative ideas that makes them different from the rest. Games such as King of Fighters and Marvel vs. Capcom will have you using teams of three to battle against each other, whereas others use only one-on-one battles. I found Marvel vs. Capcom to offer more in the way of team based combos, though I find this mechanic to work fantastically with both franchises. Another example would be the Arcana Heart franchise which has you choose a main character then an Arcana which will grant your character different abilities, some of these include the Arcana of Fire, Arcana of Love, Arcana of Light etc. Any of the characters can use these Arcanas, but upon selection of the character, the game will automatically take you to that character's default Arcana. By using these methods of selecting different Arcanas, you are able to learn the skills and abilities that each Arcana bestows upon the character and eventually you are able to use these abilities to tip the odds in your favour. Every game in this genre uses combinations of different moves that you can use to create elaborate attacks in order to defeat your opponent. With extensive gameplay, you can use different combos to create a strategic series of moves that can deal an alarming amount of damage to your opponent when executed properly. Combos appear as flashy attacks with different characteristics specific to the character you are playing, and each character has their own set of combos with individual methods to execute them. The most brutal combos are super combos, included in most fighting games, examples of which being BlazBlue and the Arcana Heart series, which are mostly used to finish off your opponent in a spectacular, cinematic defeat that sometimes even changes the background to suit that particular super combo. Super combos usually involve animation that is more detailed than the general gameplay, showing the character executing the super combo as the centre of the stage, this makes the entire gaming experience more enthralling, enjoyable and extremely satisfying as your victory is exaggerated to breaking point.

Having a roster of interesting characters is crucial to the game, as boring characters can spoil the entire experience of the game, making the gameplay drab and repetitive. It is important for the characters in fighting games to be creative and stand out. As this genre has aged, the rosters of characters have expanded and grown even more creative, with each character being as unique as the next. In 1976, Sega released the very first fighting game called Heavyweight Champ, which was an arcade game featuring boxing. The graphics were very simplistic, consisting of two pixelated black and white characters with a plain black background. This game was basically a graphic version of the old school table top game the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, using the same methodical fighting tactic of beating your opponent by deducting their health, which was represented by the first ever health bar, which hung above the characters heads and was significantly smaller than health bars today. The characters had very little to none human resemblance, with a generic design that only slightly varied per character, also lacking any sorts of moves other than punching the opposing character.

The next notable fighting game that had any impact on the development of fighting games was another arcade game developed by Technos Japan Corporation called Karate Champ, which was the first fighting game to involve martial arts as the form of hand-to-hand combat used in the game. Both characters, like Heavyweight Champ, used characters that were very similar to each other, however it was colourful, the animation was far better and it had a colourful background of a dojo that added to the atmosphere of the game. This game employed the original martial arts rules of a single successful hit ending the round with the first to score two points being the winner (this concept of using two or three rounds to win a game is still used in fighting games today) and used joysticks to execute different moves, unlike the generic punching from Heavyweight Champ. This fighting game was the man inspiration for many future fighting games, laying down the foundation for the genre, such as Capcom’s Street Fighter.

Street Fighter II (released in 1991) re-invented the genre of fighting games, being both an extreme improvement on the first instalment and becoming increasingly popular in the 1990’s. It had such a huge impact on the world that by 1994, it had been played by at least 25 million people in America alone and remains to this day Capcom’s best-selling game. This game was the first example to use a combo system, having Light, Medium and Hard attacks to choose from and also included the option to perform special moves using a combination of these attacks, which were greatly improved with this instalment. Another notable characteristic of this game is the fact that it was the first to use multiple characters to choose from, rather than having only two, as had been the routine with all previous fighting games. Street Fighter II was most definitely a defining point in history for fighting games.

Many various companies tried in vain to create a fighting game that was on par with Street Fighter II, but the only company to succeed in this endeavour was Midway Games when they released Mortal Kombat in 1992. It included revolutionary character sprites using images of real people, this was achieved using motion capturing hardware. Mortal Kombat was also well known for its ridiculously extreme amounts of blood and gore, making it one of the most controversial games of its time. This game was also the first to employ the player’s skill rather than depending on the strength of the character, as each character in Mortal Kombat was near enough equal in strength and speed. The game also was the first to use a super finishing move, labelled a Fatality, in which the opposing character was killed in an exceptionally gruesome fashion, as the games went on, more variations of the Fatality were produced, such as Brutalities, Animalities, Babalities, Friendships etc. Mortal Kombat introduced aerial combos to fighting games, in which you could throw your opponent into the air and then follow that up with a series of combos while the enemy is in the air and cannot defend themselves, a concept that has spread to many other games.

After the original jump start created by Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat fighting games thrived up until the year 2000, when there was a steady decline in the popularity of fighting games as other genres of games grabbed the attention of games away from the fighting genre. It was around this time where international tournaments were introduced and crossover games started to flourish such as SNK vs. Capcom. 2001 saw the release of Guilty Gear X and a year later Guilty Gear XX two critically acclaimed 2D with a unique anime art style, the release of games was much slower than in the 1990s and the decline continued up until the Street Fighter IV, the BlazBlue series and sequels and HD remakes of many other beloved franchises such as King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs. Capcom etc.   read

2:37 AM on 07.25.2012

Next-Gen: A Full Console Package!

One thing i noticed at the start of this console generation especially for the Xbox 360 consumers was this, you would spend over £200 but then still need to buy peripherals such as the wireless adapter or the HD DVD drive which did not last very long at all. If we are going to spend this kind of money and more on a console this time round i think they should offer a full package off the bat with everything you need to get online and enjoy the experience in its entirety without splashing extra cash to use features that should be available straight out of the box.

Further into this generation we saw an array of different peripherals that would have been nice to see in the box, some of these were eventually sold with newer releases of the consoles such as Wii motion plus, and the Xbox 360 slim with it's built in wireless capabilities.

of course it's good business practice to have a variety of different console packages for the consumer to choose from as some of us may not have £300 to blow on a console straight away, but releasing a newer more "complete" version of a console further in left a sour taste in my mouth, some of these features that were eventually included on the Xbox 360 slim was the previously mentioned built in WiFi and a HDMI socket that was included on the Xbox 360 Elite shortly after the release of the 360.

Around a year after the release of the Xbox 360 came the PlayStation 3, though it was considerably more expensive on release aside from a headset it offered a near full package straight out of the box with built in WiFi and the controller was rechargeable, came with a USB cable to charge the controller and the ps3 also offers a free online service, though the extra money it cost for Xbox live was worth it as PlayStation network was lacking some key features that made Xbox Live such an enjoyable experience.

So overall i have enjoyed the consoles this generation though i am hoping that next time we will get a complete console package with everything needed to jump straight into the experience for a reasonable price.   read

5:07 AM on 07.24.2012

Manchester Comic Con 2012

Last weekend I attended Manchester Comic Con so I thought I would shed some light on the event and the various goings on. Compared to Manchester Comic Con 2010, this year the show was much improved, seemed to have a bigger turn out, a lot more to see and be excited about than the previous one.
I will start with the various different cosplays, ranging from the obvious Naruto and Bleach cosplays to surprisingly Lollipop Chainsaw (not that I'm complaining). It was good to see so much effort put into the cosplays some recognisable, some not so much. Even though it was clear some people may have been strapped for cash when it came to cosplay, it was clear that they had made the effort to create good cosplays with what they had.

The venue itself had a lot of characteristics that made the whole experience more enjoyable, last time the organisers tried to appeal to a bigger, more general crowd, which as fun as it was, made it seem a little confusing with the extensive multitude of activities. This year it was much more specific and organised, with various stalls packed with imported goods, manga, paintings, accessories and just about anything you could think of. There was also Robot Wars, a Nintendo platform, various celebrities such as Warwick Davies and Vic Mignogna, a stage from which freebees were passed out and last but not least, the opportunity to play Darksiders II and Tales of Graces F before its release date.

I will begin with my hands on of the Darksiders II demo, due for release on the 21st of August in Europe and the 14th August in the US. This time round you play as Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Right off the bat I noticed that this character was a lot more agile than War from the previous game, this made the game more fast-paced with an array of aerial combinations which when used seemed to have a fluid transition from ground-based attacks and air-based attacks, making the combat more stylish and exciting. I also enjoyed the visuals in Darksiders II, the area I was playing through being an icy, frost-covered land with a meticulous attention to detail, riding through these icy waste lands on Death’s horse was wonderfully atmospheric, the platforming was responsive though this does however bring me to my first bad experience with Darksiders II, which is a problem a lot of brawlers seem to struggle with. The camera was a little clunky, I would find myself mid-battle with some ice creatures then suddenly be taken away from the action by the camera angle sticking to a nearby wall. But overall it did not take away from the experience and I thoroughly enjoyed what I played of Darksiders II.

Next I played Tales of Graces F for the PlayStation 3 which is a port of the Nintendo Wii’s Tales of Graces. From what I played the game still has a lot of visual charm sporting the Tales franchises cartoon-style graphics, the gameplay is as you would expect if you are a veteran of the series, straying away from the more traditional JRPG combat mechanic of turn based in favour of offering you direct control of a character which you can customize through the menus. I enjoyed playing this game and had a lot of fun with the time I spent with it, when it is released I will most certainly be picking up a copy.

I also had the chance to take a quick look at the new Nintendo 3DS XL, toyed around with a new msi netbook and got the chance to dabble with the kid Icarus card game which used the camera features of the 3DS XL. I found the card game to be a bit of a nuisance due to the fact that the camera seemed to be irresponsive, the controls were complex and for the most part both the Nintendo representative and I struggled to get a multiplayer game going.
Manchester Comic Con was a fun and entertaining experience I enjoyed immensely, it was a huge improvement of the last expo as there was something there for everyone without it being it so diverse that there was too much. I hope that Manchester Comic Con 2014 will be just as good and I look forward to it.   read

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