I'm growing older all the time. It's getting to the point where it's embarrassing.
I think Dark Souls is a work of art that belongs in a museum. The Royal Ontario Museum disagrees, but I think I'm starting to wear them down.
When I was in grade 5 I went to school as Robin for Halloween. The costume was basically a pair of green lady tights and a tunic that had to be Velcroed at the crotch like a baby's onesie. My self esteem never fully recovered.
I believe Alan Wake was criminally under-appreciated. It's unclear if this notion stems from a legitimate love of the game, or my loyalty to any piece of media that is going to include tracks from Nick Cave, Poe, and Depeche Mode.
Some of my stuff has been front-paged. I'm super proud!
Injustice Gods Among Us got my attention as soon as it was announced. A DC franchise fighting game based on the surprisingly good Mortal Kombat 9 engine? Yup, count me in.
The roster is already looking good. Batman and the other big hitters are all there like they should be. Harley Quinn is there, making the Joker's eventual appearance a shoe-in (like there was any real doubt about it). More interesting through is the promise of the massive Solomon Grundy, a hulking beast of a character and kind of a deep cut from the DC Universe. If they are willing to pick a guy like that, it shows excellent promise for the rest of the cast.
I was so excited when I heard new characters were being announced at SDCC. "Who could they be? Will they be any of my favourites? Oh man, it's, it's...."
Nightwing and Cyborg?
Oh no. No no no. Out of the entire vast DCU, they picked out two jerkwads from the dork ages? Former Teen Titans, is that what the public is clamouring for? Cyborg always seemed like a leftover from the Rob Liefeld design school of metal and guns to me (although sadly he predates that) and Nightwing? Goddamn. I'll never understand the fandom he has.
We can do better than the likes of those two. We can find better characters than a walking kitchen appliance and ageing heartthrob with a baton fixation. And more importantly we can find better fighters.
Injustice represents a great opportunity for Nether Realms to experiment for MK10. They have a licence that guarantees a certain return no matter how the game turns out – whether if it's a tournament-ready blockbuster or written off as a casual button-masher, the presence of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman on the cover is going to move units. Now is the time to get a little risky and try new things.
It's an idea the developers have already expressed. One of the chief complaints about the MK series has always been how similar each character plays to one another, that the only meaningful distinction between one ninja dude and the next is their special moves. It's a rep they tried to shake in MK9 to debatable success; adding in unique normal moves (regular button presses) and attempting to differentiate the cast in more meaningful ways. Their trying to tackle the issue more aggressively in Injustice by adding in large characters like Grundy who play differently from the normal sized cast, and including stage obstacles that are manipulated differently between power and gadget characters.
It's a great start, but I think they should go crazy with this title. Try out characters, fighting styles, and moves that would be too risky to put in a MK game proper. This is a comic book world after all, so lets use some imagination!
I've tried to come up with a few characters that I think would lend both a interesting personality and dynamic to the cast, as well as a unique variation on the gameplay.
Nether Realms Studios is doing the whole dark and gritty thing for Injustice, and I get that. These are the people behind Mortal Kombat after all, it only makes sense for them to stick with the type of character designs they know (leather, studs, corsets, all the makings of a BDSM weekend).
But c'mon, they can put in one silly character for dudes like me that enjoy playing the clown.
Plastic Man is a living cartoon. Able to stretch, contort, and warp his body into any imaginable form, he's an invulnerable, immortal, power house of a hero.
And he's crazy.
Flippant, irresponsible, and semi-4th wall-aware long before Deadpool was doing it, the only reason Plastic Man isn't one of the most powerful figures in the DCU is because he's too much of a goofball to bother. It is a rare character who can go toe-to-toe with Superman and still crack jokes while eating a megaton punch.
Too much grimdark in a game can be off putting, especially with a licence like DC. I understand Nether Realms wants to put their stamp on it, but I'm not sure how crazy people are going to be watching beloved heroes like Superman mercilessly pound the crap out of each other. Plastic Man would inject a much needed shot of levity into the mix.
As far as fighting style goes, the sky is the limit. Street Fighter mainstay Dhalsim would be an obvious inspiration. With his long stretchy limbs, Plastic Man could poke and pester his rivals with long range normals from across the screen. The MK series has never had a character like that and it would be a good opportunity for them to branch out and little and prove that Injustice is more than MK9 with some DC skins slapped on it.
But why stop there? Plastic Man is a character that thrives on imagination! Let him turn into a ball and bounce across the stage! Let him change the angle of his jump or stay in the air by flapping giant ear-wings or turning his head into an umbrella! Have him reflect projectiles by catching them in his elasticized stomach and slingshot-ing them back! This is a fun character and his play style should reflect the variety of his power-set. A guy like Plastic Man could really break the mould, let the devs go crazy, and spice up the gameplay.
That's what Darkseid brings to the table.
Darkseid is the baddest of the bad. Despot ruler of a hell planet and god-killing omnicidal maniac, Darkseid is one of the biggest threats in the DCU. I can't think of anyone scarier for the heroes to get in the ring with. And the game needs that.
Have you seen Superman in this thing? Floating above the ground, smug as hell, tossing around cars and power bombing his opponents from orbit? We need a villain who can match up to that kind of power, and Darkseid is the quasi-deity for the job.
I'm picturing him standing feet above the rest of the normal cast. A "big" character, but not big in the same way as Solomon Grundy, who fills up the screen with his hunched massive body. For Darkseid, I'm picturing a wall. Ramrod straight posture, arms folded behind his back, menacing heavy footfalls when he advances.
Mortal Kombat has relatively few grappler characters, so I think this is an area they could diversify in. I'm picturing a bit of Jax and Hulk in the design, dashing forward punches and slow but long reaching kicks with super-armor on them to let him soak a hit while getting in close. And once he does? That's when the grabs come into play. I want to see Darkseid casually slamming the bodies of DC's finest around like ragdolls.
Mortal scum are beneath him, and it should show in the way he fights. High damage attacks that really rub it in with dismissive brutality and boot stampings. A guy like Darkseid is far too arrogant to consider a douchebag like Nightwing a threat (and really who could blame him), his animations and vocal samplings should reflect a certain level of disdain and disbelief that these costumed nutjobs would have the gall to step to him.
Of course Darkseid isn't just a bruiser, he has a suite of Omega powers to consider as well. Everything from telepathy, shrinking, and of course his infamous Omega Beams. I would probably constrain these to large super moves. It would be a little much if he was spewing lasers from across the screen and doing grappler style up close damage. But used in a canned animation sequence like we've seen from the Flash and Superman, he could have some very impressive finishers.
OK, so it's practically a given that Green Lantern will be in the game. But which one?
Hal Jordan is the best known classic GL, and the recent beneficiary of a major motion picture, so he's the likely candidate, but I've always preferred John Stewart of JLU fame. Maybe it's because I don't have a huge history in GL comics, or maybe John is just that much of a badass. I always enjoyed his dialogue and the sensibility he brought to the Leauge, a professional soldier amidst the spandex-set. In any case I think he would be a surprising and fun choice over the standard.
But you know who would be more fun? Sinestro. The preening, conniving, Yellow Lantern villain that's plagued the galaxy and earth for years now. I'm not expecting Sinestro to take GL's spot on the roster anytime soon, but I think he would make an excellent DLC alternative costume choice.
A lot of gamers hate DLC, especially for fighters. And who can blame them when you look at things like Street Fighter X Tekken's on disc debacle, or the disproportionately expensive extra characters in BlazBlue, or frankly decadent costume costs in SFIV? When a game costs $50 for thirty odd characters, multiple stages, sound tracks, and all the engine work, it seems unbelievable to charge another $5 for one freaking character or a few different shirts to stuff your favourite fighter in.
But the reality of the market is that companies need to make more back on a title than just the initial sale will cover. To Nether Realm's credit, MK9 has had the best model of DLC support for a fighter yet with it's season pass system providing multiple new characters, costumes, and extras for a reasonable-ish cost over a year. But maybe we can do better.
- Now that's my idea of a mirror match
New characters are always the highlight of a DLC pack, but also expensive to make. I understand that DLC is supposed to make money for the company not cost it, that's why they mostly push costumes and such. But why not meet in the middle? GL and Sinestro are both power ring fighters, both average human size, they function essentially the same. Why not release Sinestro as a quasi-character; a costume swap for GL, but with added voice support and new intro/victory cinematics? Turn the ring effects yellow, give him a new voice actor with appropriate dialogue, and let him loose.
I know I would feel more comfortable paying for an expanded roster and variety than simply a different pattern of green and black leotard, even if it is a bit of a shuck. Not to mention it would spice up mirror matches, no more trying to remember what shade of dude you are. If Injustice is going to be a test bed for new ideas lets see some experimentation, I bet I wouldn't be the only one who would prefer this kind of DLC.
It's always a problem when you bring a bunch of different characters of varying power levels together in a game like this. Why would a mega power like Superman ever worry about the Joker spraying him with acid from his boutonniere? The typical solution to such a problem is to just shrug and say "it's magic"
And nobody is more magical than Zatanna.
I don't actually know if they are going to go the same route as DC vs MK and blame every inconsistency on magic, and I don't care. Zatanna should be in the game no matter what. She's an underused character that's just dripping in charm and personality. In a game world dominated by planet shaking titans and brooding mental patients, it's a refreshing change to have a character that embraces mystery and whimsy while still being able to keep up with the big dogs.
The female characters in MK games have always tended towards fan service of one type or another – military goddess with murder thighs, skimpily dressed ninja girls clasped in chains, four-armed and leopard spotted (hey, some people have different tastes). As much as I would love to see the guys at Nether Realms express a little more taste and variety, I don't see them reinventing the wheel anytime soon. At least Zatanna could fit with their design goals without being as obviously trampy. Decked out in her stage magician costume with top hat and tuxedo vest, Zatanna's sexy, but not in the "runaway truckstop girl" way Harley seems to be rocking. She's also a bit more fun than the Stockholm syndrome stripper or the super-aggro Wonder Woman.
- Her fearsome "Bunnyality" had to be taken out due to ESRB pressure
Zatanna's powers are rooted in the mystic and arcane with a dash of Vegas showmanship thrown in. I think this is a great basis to make a fighting game character out of. Teleportation and incapacitating effects have always been big in the MK games and this is a character that is completely at home with those abilities and can put her own magical spin on them.
Some of the most interesting mechanics in MK came from moves that created a screen hazard, Sub-Zero's ice clone, Quan Chi's floor traps, and Sektor's bombs. I think a character like Zatanna, versed in mystic runes and bindings could have a field day with similar moves. Combine that with some interesting mobility, low health, and odd normal moves and you could have a uniquely annoying high-risk/reward character. Pestering the opponent with hazards and setting up those Rube Goldberg combos we love to watch (and only wish we could perform), but always at risk of having that glass jaw shattered in an instant.
Gorilla Grodd/Ultra Humanite
I want to fight an ape. There, I said it.
Gorilla Grodd seems like a perfect fit for this game. Originally a super whacky Silver Age comic ape, Grodd has been retconned and rewritten into a blood thirsty tyrant – he'd fit right in with what Nether Realms is going for.
He's also a good candidate for an alternate costume/character swap. The Ultra Humanite has changed forms a few times, but to me he'll always be like his DCAU incarnation - an albino ape that talks like Fraiser with a huge brain shaped cranium.
Physically Grodd and Ultra Humanite are very similar characters, super intelligent apes and all that, so there is no need to change any movesets or anything. But they have very distinct personalities. Grodd's become so angry and feral in recent years, while the DCAU Ultra Humanite had this lovely foppish charm to him. A stuck-up nerd trying to listen to opera while a prison brawl breaks out. If we have to have DLC costumes and that kind of extended support, I would rather have the chance to play as a different personality than just Grodd with purple fur or body paint.
- Why do all the super intelligent apes end up in jail? Fucking social bias man, that's why.
If Nether Realms really wants to make Injustice pop and bring in new types of characters, they need to do better than adding in a few big guys. Imagine fighting an ape – intimidatingly big, yet frighteningly fast. Long primate arms clawing at you from half a screen away. Obviously I'm picturing a bit of Blanka-inspired feralness in there, a lot of weird normals that come out totally different than most characters.
It would also be a great opportunity for them to mix in their lauded "stage interaction" gameplay in a way that's deeper than kicking a dude into the wall. Remember old school SF2 Vega who had extra mobility in his home stage climbing on the fence? Grodd is a monkey, the kings of swing. Get him swinging from the rafters or hoping onto debris, show us how to use terrain in a 2D fighter. Make him perform markedly differently depending on the stage selected or his position in a stage and see if it works out or not. All this terrain stuff seems like a gamble already, they might as well make a character that really tests the limits of it and see if anyone ever uses him (or just screw him over by constantly picking the training stage).
And yes, this is all my elaborate excuse to have an Gorilla City stage in this game. The only thing I want to do more than fight an ape is have a audience of apes cheering me on as I do it.
Every fighting game needs a cheap-ass end boss that utterly dominates the rest of the cast (at least in the hands of the CPU). But a game like Injustice needs something that will fit a narrative structure too, an antagonist that makes sense for both heroes and villains to be up against. Amazo can fit both roles easily.
Nevermind the dorky name, Amazo is one of the heaviest hitters in the DCU. An android with the ability to absorbs and replicate any meta-human power it encounters, Amazo can take the strengths and moves of the entire cast, or even duplicate a character wholesale. In this way he is very much in line with his boss predecessors like Shang Tsung and Seth of SFIV, a character with all the options open to him. Nothing is quite as frustrating as a character that beats you at your own game, and IMO frustrating is what a fighting game boss character should strive for.
I would love to see Amazo busting out all the best moves of the rest of the cast. Superman's flight, Flash's speed combos, Plastic Man's extending limbs. He can rip a page right out of Shang Tsung's book and have moves that leech his opponents vitality or attack power. There is a lot of variety to be had there.
I don't know what kind of story Nether Realms is cooking up for Injustice, but as far as threats that are equally imposing to both heroes and villains, Amazo isn't a bad choice. He's usually depicted as merciless android with little concern for Asimov's Three Rules of Robotics, or overtly evil in the chaotic "lets burn everything to the ground" sense. Even badguys have a vested interest in staying alive.
I won't deny that Amazo is another deep cut, a character that might not ring with familiarity to the casual comic audience. But to me that's a good thing. One of the more interesting aspects of these mash up fighting games is exposing a wider audience to lesser known characters. Before UMvC3 came out, Rocket Racoon was virtually unknown in the mainstream, now we're hearing rumours about a possible Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
- Plastic Man knows all the big money is in the extended merchandising rights.
My list of weirdos and simians might not be even close to what we see in Injustice, and that's fine. This wish list might be my personal character choices, but what I'm more concerned about is the ideas. I want Injustice to be fun and different. It's my sincere hope that they take risks with the design, step outside of the MK mould and deliver something special.
Except for the apes. I really want apes in it. Are you listening Nether Realms?