Saturday, 26 February 2011

5 Alive

Recently, we've managed to set up a GainBoy Forum. Cool, right! On there, basically we discuss everything game related, as you'd expect, and have a jolly time. Local fighting game tournaments, tech help from experts and general nonsense chatter all go on in there, and it's growing. We're loving it, and it's where I got the idea for my latest post you're hopefully about to read.

The bodacious Hopkin Green Frog started THIS THREAD, in which numerous folk have been talking about their favourite games of all time. Naturally, this kind of thread is awesome, and so it's flourishing. I posted a list, and was told that I should of written some kind of story. Always up for a self-indulgent ramble, I thought I'd post mine...

Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)

This, right here, is the greatest game of all time. I don't think some people will agree, but most admit that it's up there in the list for everyone, and for gaming. It is completely perfect, in every sense. It invented the idea of the overworld system in gaming, perfecting the jumping mechanic Mario set up, and all kinds of shit we see in pretty much every game you've ever played.

Plus, it's just fucking brilliant. It's so vibrant, and genuinely thrilling. I remember that beautiful yellow box glistening in the Toys R Us plastic cases in Warrington, the first time I saw it. I remember playing it with my dad, and I remember him leaving it on overnight, because he worked nights and you could only save the world, and not completing specific levels. I remember seeing the little red light of the NES glistening as I was about to set off for school, and the entire school day I spent thinking about it.

Mario 3 is perfect, and it is the greatest game ever made.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (PS1/Dreamcast)

I never owned a PS1. But when this game came out, my cousin did, and I was in love. This is another game which is near perfect, expanding and crafting an experience set out by a predecessor into something that is magnificent. Everything about the game works. The physics are spot on. The level design is so good, that the replay factor of the levels is almost infinite. In a game where the 'line' the skater takes is vitally important, every single point and piece of terrain has been designed with inch-perfect precision. The game flows like no game before or since.

The amount of time I've spent on this is scandalous. I remember being round my cousin's house, playing Ventura skatepark and losing entire afternoon's on one level. Also, the soundtrack is the greatest gaming soundtrack of all time. Hip-Hop and Punk, done to a turn.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2/Xbox)

When I was at a school friends house at the tender age of 14 or 15, I first saw Grand Theft Auto 3. I'd played the first one, but it was nothing of note, apart from running over monks, which at about 11 was HILARIOUS. But when 3 came out, I couldn't mentally grasp what was in front of me. Where do I go? What level is this? How do I get game over? All these questions had instantly become irrelevant, leaving me with one: What do you want to do next?

But yet again, it's the process of the sequel taking what the designers have learnt, and going that extra mile. I think it's the process of developing the idea, mechanics and general basics to get the game off the ground that eats up the original game's budget. A sequel allows them to take all this good stuff for granted, and concentrate on making the game good. And the usually have more money to do it.

Vice City was astonishing. I remember getting in a lowrider, and driving into the Haitian district, and thinking this was one of the greatest atmosphere in any game I've encountered. The soundtrack, the neon lighting, and the hazy filters applied. It was a bold move for Rockstar to do something like this, and it paid off dividends. Who remembers that ridiculous 12-cd soundtrack box set? LOVE FIST.

Bioshock (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

I don't really have to say anything here. This game is a triumph. On every single, Art Deco level. I think this is one the first games I played that I felt was truly for adults. It's not about the guns or violence in a game, but the themes. This game doesn't treat you like a child, and well and truly fucks with you.

All the postmodern commentary about gaming decision and falsity of choice are absolutely superb, and are still kicking off whilst the discussion of the ideas of communism, and dictatorship versus state control. AND ANOTHER LAYER, where the debate rages throughout on the corruptibility of man and how much power is too much. This game is so densely layered, and so full of story and narrative, it breathes. It is alive in every sense.

You don't have to talk about the fantastic set design or gunplay, because everyone knows about it. Such a complex, beautifully constructed game, and one I feel really signifies the places videogames can go.

Fallout 3 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

Very similar to Bioshock, in that this is an adult game that I've played in the 'adult' section of my gaming life. As I've grown up, I'm part of a generation that has always had video games. Some of us are a bit more obsessed than others, but adults are now a major buying force for these 'toys', these pieces of entertainment once designed solely for children. And Fallout 3 knows this. And it knows exactly what it can get away with because of this.

Full of twisted, darker-than-dark humour, this game is a masterpiece in Black Comedy. When you pickpocket a person in the Washington Wastelands, the suggestion is placed that you can put things back in their pockets. Live grenades is the example it gives. You can choose an in-game bonus that makes everything twice as bloody, with limbs falling off at 'an increased rate'. You're asked to blow up entire towns, help a talking tree commit euthanasia, and everything inbetween. A game that should take itself seriously, but revels in it's cheek.

I've never played a game I've felt so involved in the world with. Oblivion came close, but I felt IN Fallout. From feeling weary and anxious in the confusing subways, to the feeling of safety and comfort from reaching a settlement, this game feels like nothing I've ever played before.

For some reason I decided to do a top 5. I imagine if I did 10, I would spend the rest of the night arguing with myself over which would go in. Honourable mentions do go to the following though:

Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast)
Mario Kart: Double Dash (Gamecube)
Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
Gitaroo Man (PS2)
Pro Evolution Soccer (PS2)
Tetris (Gameboy)
Assassin's Creed 2 (Xbox 360)

And loads more, but these are those 'special' games that would definitely be fighting for a top 10 spot.

If you wanna join in the debate, and what you think the greatest games ever are, then come and join the forum, and get talking!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Fighting Games!! - Round 2

Firstly, a quick apology on taking so long to follow up my previous article.

(If you haven't done so already, it would be better off reading that first)

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In the last article I touched on how I was of the belief that 'Fighting Games' as a genre just didn't have what it takes in terms of depth and staying power, in comparison to other games I owned. I also know for a fact some people reading this will probably have nodded there head along with that statement in agreement, because it really takes something special to motivate you into playing Fighting Games for you to uncover the beauty within them.

Now. Even though I had yet to uncover the depth and endless replay value a good fighting game can provide...I was still arbitrarily buying them, in fact let me go over some of the ones off the top of my head I've bought over the years;
Street Fighter Alpha (series) [PS1], Tekken 1, 2, and 3 [PS1], Soul Blade [PS1], Street Fighter ex plus a [PS1], Clayfighter 63 1/3 [N64], Super Smash Bros [N64], Fighters Destiny [N64], Tekken 4 [PS2], Super Street Fighter II Turbo [GBA], Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks [PS2], Mortal Kombat Armageddon [Wii], Primal Rage [SNES], Bloody Roar [PS1], Virtua Fighter 3tb [Dreamcast], Hyper Street Fighter II [PS2], Smash Bros Melee [GameCube], Soul Calibur 2 [GameCube], Capcom vs SNK 2eo [GameCube] Dead or Alive 3 [XBOX], Smash Bros Brawl [Wii], (plus re-purchasing of some classic Snes fighting games on the virtual console), SSFIIT HD Remix [XBLA] Garou: Mark of the Wolves [XBLA], not to mention Street Fighter III as well as plenty of other great Capcom, and SNK fighting games on the Dreamcast...

When I heard of Street Fighter IV coming out, I was definitely excited to see what it would be like. For the most part Street Fighter IV was expected to mainly just be a visual improvement over the previous Street Fighter games, although personally I was excited to see an actual new entry in the Street Fighter series after a number of years of not having anything original released. Now, this time I hadn't really uncovered any of the true depth within fighting games, it just happened to be a big franchise that hadn't been fresh in a long time, and the nostalgia of the series led me to pre-order the limited edition, which I received a day earlier than it’s release date (internet shopping ftw).

When I finally popped it in, I was immediately loving it on a visual level. Straight away I dove into arcade mode with “Ken”, scraped through on “easy” by mashing out the special moves I knew from previous Street Fighter games, and was loving that it had a familiarfeel to it of the great Street Fighter games of the past in terms of controls.

I played about with other characters and used the internet to get move lists handy, so that I would at least know how to do each characters special attacks. Played some VS mode when I had friends round, partly to show them that the new Street Fighter game was cool, and partly to show off anything I had learnt from my time playing it.

ImageShack, share photos, pictures, free image hosting, free video hosting, image hosting, video hosting, photo image hosting site, video hosting site’s where my eyes on fighting games slowly started to become much more open. I occasionally dabbled in the online mode on Street Fighter IV, most of the time getting my ass handed to me by people that would just overwhelm me... similar to how the computer would do on one of the harder difficulties. For a while I just sat with the thought “they’re well good” and just leave it at that.

Eventually though (through more playing), I started to grow more aware. It started with some really close matches online against people on a similar skill level to me. I’d have some narrow defeats where I would actually ask myself...”what do I need to do to beat [insert character name]/ [insert specific move I was always getting hit by]?”, and through playing more and more, I would learn little tactics that seemed to have a high percentage of working for me, as well as getting an idea of what other people would do with different characters, a.k.a. getting match up experience!

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I primarily stuck with the character “Ken” for a while, although this was beneficial as through doing so I got fairly good with him. I was no longer simply mashing out move inputs hoping for the move to come out, I knew what I was doing with each button press. I was fully in control of my own actions. Fighting online meant I got to fight a variety of different people using different characters, and not only that but I’d see how different people I played online actually usedcharacters differently. For instance you could get “rush down” type players who will be in your face and be all out offensive, or you could get “turtles”, which are people who sit back, and look for opportunities to punish unsafe moves etc that you have thrown out, there are more types of player than that, but those are just 2 common examples.

Anyway, no longer was I mashing buttons, and hoping for the best.Each match was becoming a mind game. If I won, I felt great for it. If I lost, I would try to recap what I was doing that was getting punished. Clutch matches (when it’s really close) became on par with one of the most intense ‘edge of your seat’ moments I’d ever experienced as a gamer (and on a much more common basis than say...narrowly beating the final boss on Sonic 2 with no rings left).

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It was around this point, whilst I was getting more and more interested in getting better at Street Fighter IV that I came across “I Got Next”. It’s basically a documentary on the fighting game community of Street Fighter IV (as well as giving you an insight to the Fighting Game scene as a whole).

I Got Next is free to download via a legal torrent distributed on the official site, a longer and more updated DVD version of the film will be available in late 2011. >>Click here to go to the official site<<

This was a massive eye opener for me on just how intense and how serious fighting games where, and it made me even more hungry to get better and learn more. It was somewhere around this time that I dragged one of my local friends into Street Fighter IV too. I showed him “I Got Next” and it really pushed him into appreciating the depth to Fighting Games, and the drive to become a great player. This was somewhat a blessing to me too, as thanks to this I had someone local I could play on a regular basis, and if I improved, he improved, and vice versa.

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I’ve come a long way with fighting games over the past 24 months... To a point where Fighting Games have become like a sport to me. Thanks to a rise in internet streams over the past 2 years, I get access to watching some of the worlds greatest fighting game players going against each other in tournaments with money and respect as the motivation to win. I’ve found myself staying up late into the early hours (due to time zone difference) watching some of these streams as the intensity and hype is equal to that of a major sporting event. Plus at the same time...I can learn things from seeing how high level players use or abuse specific characters.

The infamous Street Fighter III Daigo vs Justin Wong "Parry Video"
From "EVO" 2004

Personally, my main game right now is Super Street Fighter IV. I have sunk more hours into SSFIV in the past year than I have any other game (and I'm an avid gamer, I've put 180 hours+ in Pokémon Heart Gold [released March 2010] and SSFIV easily beats that on time played). I've grown much more fond of a lot of the older fighting games I never really understood growing up either, through playing a game for a few hours as well as reading up on them, you can really see what makes a truly great fighting game (as well as what makes a truly awful one).

I also would really love to go to Las Vegas to attend "EVO" one year too. Evo is basically a big 3 day fighting game tournament held annually, where a lot of the worlds best players all meet to battle it out through a double-eliminator tournament bracket to prove there skills at a game.

Last year Daigo Umehara from Japan took 1st place in Super Street Fighter IV, along with roughly $20,000 in prize money for doing so.

Amazing EVO 2010 montage.

EVO 2010 on Vimeo.

If/ when I go, I’m not expecting to go over there and be a threat to the big name players I admire, I will definitely train hard building up to it when I do go though, and do my very best. Although just being at Evo itself will be an amazing experience, meeting some great people, getting some great photo’s as well as doing some Vegas holiday/ tourism stuff once the tournament is over, naturally.

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It’s safe to say that I will never look at fighting games as simple shallow time killers any more. Even the fighting games I suck at, I know that if I invested the time into them, I would see a return for it.

To try and break it down simply. You should try and think of fighting games in a similar way to how the mainstream FPS games are these days... In which although these FPS's have solo modes chucked in, the real meat is generally in the multi-player!

It's awesome that online gaming is so commonplace these days, and that all the new fighting games include online modes in them, meaning you can always find real opponents to play with, as well as the internet speeds and netcode to keep up with fighting games online.
Although local offline multi-player is truly where it's at if you have the chance to experience that (hence the reason I've tried to round up local fighting game players where I live).

Seriously though, with fighting games...if you play people on a similar level to you, if you enjoy the game you're playing, and if you enjoy levelling up your skills at it, then you'll find yourself wrapped up in one of the most rewarding video game experiences you'll ever find.

Vanilla? I prefer mint choc chip.

So, it's been a while, huh? I haven't posted for some time, maybe it's because I've been busy, maybe it's just me being lazy, I'll leave you to guess.


I haven't even started and I digress. Let's outline what I'm about to talk about, the subject of modification. Before you get all "Microsoft ban you for that shiz", I'm referring to PC games primarily, and the ability to modify, improve upon and add content to games.

So, why did I decide to descend this article on you guys now? Because it interests me, and through my interest, I think perhaps I might inspire some others to try it out, and explore the vast world of content that other fans have created.

Let's start off with a fairly obvious example, Counter-Strike (CS). What started out as a team of a few guys making a mod for the Half-Life engine, with modern weapons and some nifty game modes, turned into a phenomenom, which in turn led to some of those guys getting paid some big bucks from Valve, who bought out the idea and have been working on it, refining it and making it their own ever since. Funny to think such a polished product, with achievements, worldwide leagues and tournaments started out with a couple guys in their spare time huh? Alright, CS is a bit of an exception, but it's a great success story for the modding community.

So what is there these days? Well, sticking with Valve products, there's a whole wealth of mods for the source engine, from cyberpunk team shooter, Dystopia (below), complete with it's tron-esque data hacking sections, to everyone's favourite sandbox playtime game, Garry's Mod, a single-player or co-op "tool" that alows you to go crazy with the source engine's various functions, building combine soldier catapults or ridiculous rube goldberg machines.

Dystopia, a world of cyberpunk badassery in the source engine.

Mods such as these are usually large projects, with separate communities of their own, dedicated websites and teams of people working on them, for a first step into modification, mods like this are a great way to get going, being easy to get hold of and install and with the dedicated community, it's easy to find help if something's going wrong.

So, what if you feel like going deeper? Good question, and one I'm happy to go into more detail about. The humble RPG (most prominently western RPGs) generally has a large community behind it, wether the game is online based or not. Mods come from the community, and by and large, the community continues long after the credits roll because of it. One major example is Bethesda's TES4:Oblivion, by no means a game lacking in content to begin with, but with the passion, dedication and tlc of it's community, it transforms into a world with next to no limits. When Bethesda released the Construction Set in the months after release, the community went mod crazy, and still is today. Anything ranging from custom weapons and armour, to entire gameplay and graphical overhauls, with new lands, quests and dungeons somewhere inbetween. After a few minutes browsing one of the most popular sites dedicated to modding TESNexus, it's apparent that there's something for anyone to improve their Oblivion experience in some way.

My Oblivion, with dual wielded swords, improved
graphical effects, custom armour and a custom character race.

Oblivion's mods are more focused on implementing functionality to the standard (or vanilla) game, which means installing and using these gets a little more complicated than hitting an install button. For the Bethesda games (Elder Scrolls, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas), the community has mod managers, and these exist for other games too (Dragon Age: Origins being one that instantly springs to mind). The mod manager is a way of organising your mods and keeping the process as user friendly as possible, but not all mods use it, and require direct installation, adding files to the game directory manually. An important note when manually installing mods, is to KEEP BACKUPS of any original files that may be overwritten. Not every mod might be to your taste, and you don't want to spend the rest of the day reinstalling the game to make it work again. So, from this view, we can see that this is a little more in depth, but by no means needs a degree in computer science. Thankfully, the support individual modders provide with their work is again, usually great, taking feedback, updating and patching their work and helping people getting them to work, so if you do run into trouble, there's always someone you can ask.

The last example of modification I want to give is though a little program called TexMod, which is a handy tool for replacing texture files in games, it allows you to boot up the game and browse through currently rendered textures, then save them as editable files. After you've edited them, you can then package them up with TexMod and fire up the game with what you've done. There's a wealth of games it's compatible with, including Mass Effect and popular online RPG Guild Wars.

A quick before & after shot of one of my characters in Guild Wars,
using TexMod to edit the texture file.

Existing mods that use TexMod are limited, sadly, at least with the games I've used it for, so it falls to you to do it yourself, for the most part. This kind of modding is a first step into making your own mods, albeit quite simple, limited to changing textures in game. Nevertheless, it's rewarding seeing the results in game, the efforts of your work, as part of the game you're playing.

So what does it all mean, really?
For some, it's a way to extend the life of a beloved game, by creating extra content. For others, it's a way to get experience in working with different forms of game development, which, to a degree, it is. The best part of it all, is that by and large, people choose to share their work with others, for free.

As an afterthought, if all this interests you, one good place to start is the Mod Database, which is something of a library of mods both released and in development, take a look around, there's a lot.

Over to you, then. Maybe I've quirked someone's interest, maybe not. Talking about stuff we're passionate about is the Gainboy way, and this is certainly something that's eating up my time these days. If you've got some recommendations, let us know, I for one would love to check out your recommendations, so long as I don't have to spend any money, of course ;)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Hands On with Marvel vs Capcom 3

Last Saturday I got to spend a decent amount of time playing a near final version of Marvel vs Capcom 3, thanks to the "Capcom Fight Club" event in Manchester.

So, let me take ya for a literary ride on how the game felt.


The information provided comes from a guy with a big interest in fighting games, in fact no game comes nearly as close to Super Street Fighter IV on my XBOX 360 in terms of the time I've played games on the console...and considering my 360 gets a lot of use, that's saying something. So hopefully I can give you a better insight into the game than someone who doesn't 'get' the true joy fighting games can bring.


There is no better place to start this off with how the gameplay feels...

Saying that, there is also no better way to give you an impression of how the gameplay is than for me to compare it to other Fighting Games, specifically ones made by Capcom.

So with that I can straight away point towards 2008's "Tatsunoko vs Capcom" (2010 for the rest of world). It's less than a week until Marvel vs Capcom 3 is released, so if you want to get sort of familiar with MvC3 in advance, then I suggest you play a bit of Tatsunoko vs Capcom for the time being.

The similarities to Tatsunoko vs Capcom is a positive one though, as TvC is definitely an improved gaming experience over Marvel vs Capcom 2. I'm not trying to say Marvel 2 played bad, but Tatsunoko vs Capcom was a more sanded off product overall, Capcom had definitely gained a lot of experience with there vs. series of games by TvC. Where as in hindsight Marvel 2 needed a lot of rough edges shaved (especially in character balancing).

Thankfully we're now living in an age of downloadable patches, so even if exploits or problems occur with MvC3 (as players around the world throw everything at it) we will hopefully be able to see any major errors (such as dreaded infinite combo's) get fixed.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 does more than enough to set itself apart from Tatsunoko vs Capcom though, I'll give a few examples covering the more obvious, and the not so obvious.

First up, the controls.

  • Tatsunoko vs Capcom ~> 4 button game (Light, Med, Heavy, Assist).

  • Marvel vs Capcom 3 ~> 6 button game (Light, Med, Heavy, Aerial (Launcher), Assist 1, Assist 2).

Strategically you're still mostly trying to work some light attacks through to medium and to hard in regards to the average characters combo methods, however Marvel 3 is a lot more Aerial focused than previous vs series games. Not only are you encouraged to take your combo's from the ground to the air, but you're encouraged to get your team involved if possible to keep those air combo's alive!

I can't even begin to go into the advanced details of the possibilities MvC3 brings, mainly because the game still isn't out, and there is soo much yet to be fully explored! However just going off the brief streams I've seen already, as well as the information gathered and posted on the likes of and other Fighting Game Community hot spots, it seems MvC3 does a lot in terms of allowing for some very creative and unique set ups. So once you find that team of 3 you like, and you start putting in the hours of training and matches to see how your team can flow together, you'll be "wow'd" by all the unique options there are. Heck! I myself and many of the local "serious" Super Street Fighter IV players still manage to find new little things that we didn't know worked to this day during casual sessions, and that's after nearly a year of heavy play on a game that [in comparison to Marvel vs Capcom 3] is quite linear. So I think it makes sense to presume that MvC3 will be making jaws drop and we'll be seeing new things for a long long time.

Below: Some of Wolverine's high damage combos as shown in the "Bradygames Strategy Guide". That should shut up those whom believe Fighting games are determined by button mashing and luck ¬_¬

It's not just the new combo and team interaction possibilities in Marvel vs Capcom 3 that set it apart from TvC though. Marvel vs Capcom 3 is also a faster game than Tatsunoko vs Capcom. I don't think it's quite as fast as MvC2 was, but it's still a very frantic game. The first time I got to play a game was on an arcade cab that was missing a configured "Assist 2 button", I was trying inputs to get some moves out (not really knowing what the characters I'd picked where capable of), and had my 3 character teams' ass handed to me in just over 1 minute by a guy who'd spent the morning cramming valuable time in. Importantly though, you can get an idea of the pace of the game from the video below, as well as get a basic idea of how n00b mistakes can and will go punished by those whom know how.

You can also see in the video above (as well as from the other trailers you've probably seen by now) that MvC3 is also a visually impressive game too. The videos can only do so much justice's even better in person. The cel shaded art style works very well, not just at delivering a game that will still look great in 10 years time (unlike Marvel 2), but the cel shaded art style is pretty much the perfect fit for bringing comic book characters off the printed page and into video games. Another thing I should mention is that no matter how much was going on at screen at a time, the game always ran at a consistently smooth frame rate too (which is more than I can say for SSFIITHD Remix :|).

Some of the stages you fight in have some cool fine details too, in fact some that you'll only catch when you're watching a replay or a friends match. Although some stages were a bit on the bland side, or that didn't press enough nostalgia buttons to make them that memorable, although at the Capcom Fight Club there was no stage select option, and I'm pretty sure it was only a limited number of stages in rotation in the 'near-final' build of the game that was on show, so hopefully in the final game the 'good' will out number the 'meh' in terms of the background scenery.

Another area of improvement in Marvel vs Capcom 3 over previous games is the differences in the character selection. It's usually common to have a few "copy and paste" type characters in a game like this, or to have too many characters that require pretty much the exact same sort of play style. Whilst playing this game last Saturday I experimented with around 24 of the 30 characters we had to choose from, and I can certainly say there are some big contrasts in terms of play styles. Super Street Fighter IV did a nice job of having a nice range of characters that play different (apart from the 6 shoto's).

[Below: 30 character's we had available to us last Saturday. 36 will be in the final game, with more available in time as DLC]

It'd be too ambitious of me to say Marvel vs Capcom 3 does a better job at making all characters feel unique, as some of my play time with certain characters resulted in nothing more than eating big combo's with them, but I think it's safe to say it is at least on par with SSFIV in having enough different character types amongst selection for you to eventually find characters that 'fit' with the way you like to play the game.

To elaborate a bit more on what I mean about the differences, you have characters like "Haggar" and "Hulk" whom are grapplers, they're generally slow in speed, useless from afar, but if they manage to get close and in your face, they'll deal heavy amounts of damage, then you have characters like "Ryu" and "Deadpool" whom are somewhere in the middle in terms of speed, but seem to be like the all-around types in terms of having options to deal with a variety of opponents. Characters such as "X23" and "Jill Valentine" are unbelievably fast, and at the other end of the speed scale there is "Arthur" and "Modok" whom are slow, but rely heavily on fighting people from afar (playing keep away). As well as numerous high execution characters in the middle of the foray for those who go to bed at night dreaming of combo chains.

Hopefully those whom are familiar with previous "vs. Capcom" players overall can sort of get the impression from my comparisons and observations above of what to expect when they finally play the game.

For those that are reading this out of curiousity, or those whom have never really given fighting games a proper chance and want to board the MvC3 hype train, then you'll be happy to know Capcom included a "simple mode" in this game. It's basically an option to overly simplify the inputs required to do some of your characters special moves. I didn't try out this mode myself, but the mode does seem to do a nice job of making the unskilled players put together some basic flashy moves (as opposed to just random punching air and trying to break the controller). Simple mode doesn't give you the range of moves or the creativity you'd have if you put the time into learning the game properly, nor will Simple mode make it so that you can hang with those whom have banked 50 hours+ into the game. It will allow 2 people with no fighting game experience playing the game to have fun easily pulling off some of there characters trademark moves though, which makes for a more entertaining experience for that type of player.


Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a fresh experience and a lot of fun to play (unless you're one of those "all fighting games look alike" prejudiced types). It also makes fantastic use of the 2 licenses with many subtle references, alternate costumes, background cameo's, story crossovers, and more...

It will no doubt prove to be the next big multi-player sensation in the fighting game community, with tournaments already popping up all around the world. Not forgetting that the online multi-player is meant to be one of the best Capcom have produced yet, as well as hinting at being more rewarding than the already fun SSFIVs online experience.

All that's left to say now is...Roll on February 18th!

[p.s. If you happen to be reading this from Preston, or even just the North West of England, take a look at "Street Fighter Preston". It's a group set up to try and round up Fighting Game players from the region. Allowing for some great local players to level up there skills by playing each other online and offline].

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Great TV returns....we are saved at last.

Evening campers, the good Dr is back. After seeing the excellent post about the sublime 'Mad Men' by my good fellow Brapscallion, the creative juices are now flowing. I'm absolutely smitten by the current run of TV shows airing stateside, and i want to give you wonderful people an insight into what's happening at the moment and the episodes to look out for in these excellent programmes.
After an almost torturous season break the big hitters are all back and each one is knocking it out of the ballpark. All the shows are currently hitting their highest ratings so far this season and if we take a look at some of winners of this year's Golden Globes you can start to see the pedigree of comic talent that's on display here.

1. The Office

135 episodes in, 25 Golden Globe wins & 89 nominations later this show has REALLY come into it's own. 5 years have passed since its premiere, 5 years since the inevitable 'it's not as good as the Gervais version.' The 'American' Office has evolved into an altogether different beast. This may be Steve Carell's last season but i can guarantee he's gonna go out with a bang. Will Michael finally end up with Holly and who will fill his shoes as the new manager of Dunder-Mifflin-Sabre (Scranton.)
This past week old school-hardcore office fans were rewarded with a meeting of the Jedi masters of awkward conversation, the long awaited 'David Brent meets Michael Scott' scene. This 3 minute blink and you'll miss it cameo was short and sweet, but it was a nice hand off and Gervais looked completely in place in the American version. Speaking of cameo's my wife would kill me if didn't mention Deadwood's own Timothy Olyphant, suited and booted playing rival salesman Danny Cordray in a rib-tickling two episode arc.
I will be genuinely gutted and may shed a tear or two when Carrell leaves before the end of the season, but we do have 1 major factor in the Office to hold on to. A 5 episode arc which features non other than Mr Will Ferrell. Boy Howdy...all good things come to those who wait.

2. 30 Rock

Tiny fey's comedy monster keeps on rolling, with 45 Golden Globe wins & 111 nominations under its belt since first airing in 2006 it's NOT for stopping. Having had several celebrity cameos in its past seasons the one that leaves the mark is Matt Damon, playing Liz Lemon's male equivalent and love interest Carol. Now Carol the pilot hasn't been in it too much so far but there's still time for a reunion of epic nerdiness and social awkwardness. This season has also seen the introduction of Liz and Jack's new parent company 'Kabletown' along with its VERY friendly boss Hank Cooper. The last episode in particular saw Jack really struggle with his bosses new 'hands-on' approach as a desperate Jack steals Kenneth's creative ideas and passes them off as his own. The highlight of the show so far sees Jack trying to put together a benefit for a disaster that hasn't happened yet codenamed 'Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning'
Perfect !

3. Parks and Recreation

This is new to alot of people in this wee country of ours as its not yet aired on Comedy Central over here. It's a real shame too, as the premiere of the 3rd season has landed and its a CORKER. The series follows the ambitions of perennially upbeat mid-level bureaucrat Leslie Knope, on her quest to better the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. As deputy director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, her sense of enthusiasm is rarely shared by her unmotivated colleagues. By the creators of the US Office, its fly on the wall docu-style is a tried and tested formula but works well in this little town mockumentary. Season highlights so far have included the Ron Swanson Pyramid of greatness, Rob Lowe's government admin Chris Traeger's fight with his perfect body and its bout of first illness in 40 years and of course the playboy life with Tom Haverford played by Aziz Ansari. The show is really picking up speed now and has found it's feet after the launch of its 3rd season since 2009, the P + R's crew are currently hitting their highest ratings for the show so far and have won 5 Emmys to date. I heartily recommended the purchase of this superb creation. Seasons 1 and 2 are available now.

4. Community

Also one of current favourites (and another one ignored by the U.K) the show is based around a smarmy lawyer whose education is deemed void by the bar, and is forced to attend a local community college with an extremely eclectic staff and student body. The series heavily uses pop culture references often parodying film and television cliches and tropes. The best of this season's community comes when its 'specials' air, the Christmas, Halloween and most recently the Dungeons and Dragons episode. These HAVE to be seen to be believed, 'Abed's uncontrollable Christmas' is a stop motion animated episode top to bottom, while 'Epidemiology' sees the college run amok as a Zombie virus spreads thick and fast. The previous season saw an episode called 'Modern Warfare' air and received the shows highest ratings ever; its one to watch as, well how can i explain it, Call of Duty meets 28 days later meets unconventional uses of paint balling. Its a classic. The latest show 'Advanced Dungeons and Dragon's' stands comfortably alongside these other brilliant programmes, its a must see.
Oh it also has Chevy Chase in it as the study groups resident old man Pierce Hawthorne a bigoted moist-towelette tycoon who has been married seven times. Like the other shows in this list this is classically warm in that American way. These are great TV shows, very funny to watch but all share a common theme, a fantastic core of friendly family/group type characters that gel and stick with you. A must for the best programmes.

Other shows that warrant a mention since the season break are - Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother. These haven't aired much so far this year and have had several breaks in their run. This year we'll no doubt see the second Seasons of the mighty 'Boardwalk Empire' and 'The Walking Dead' air in Q4. But that's another post for another day.
I really hope you guys get the time to invest in these shows; I'll be honest I'm quite picky and fickle when it comes to TV, but these have nailed it since day 1.

Look after yourselves, and each other (wink)
Dr Lucian Sanchez

Sunday, 6 February 2011

This is Madness...

I'm always late to the party when it comes to Television. I'm not a tastemaker, or even an early adopter. I wait until enough people I know shout about it enough times, and I grab the entire series and either feel disappointed, or obsess over it. I don't watch many TV series either, so for something to grab my attention enough, it has to be pretty special.

Mad Men is probably one of the best things I've ever seen.

You've heard at least one person recommend it and try and explain it to you, so I'm not going to try. If you haven't already, I urge you to pick it up. It's just incredible. I'm up to about episode 8 of the first series, and I'm really savouring every minute.

Of course the 60's setting is fantastic, and the outfits and midday drinking all add to it, but what's stood out for me is the writing. Not since Deadwood have I been so excited about a show's themes and characters, and the way those characters develop.

I was talking to HopkinGreenFrog (Fellow GainBoy Dude) at a party last night, and we were discussing it. He said to me that "Mad Men is great, because when you think about it, it's a really good Soap Opera. It's not a drama, it's about the characters, and the way they develop, rather than the situation." And I couldn't agree more. It could be any office, the set up isn't particularly special. It's the characters that make it what it is: Unmissable.

I don't want to spoil, or to talk about every character and plot line, because that would quite frankly take all night, and I have a Superbowl to watch. But let's look at Pete Campbell, the young newly married Junior Executive. One of my favourite characters. So far, Pete has shown the writer's true strength.

This guy is deeply troubled. Just married, he's trying to do right by his wife, whilst trying to comply with a world which wants him to do just the opposite. Shades of Norman Bates creep in when he monologues about hunting animals, hinting at a deeper level of unrest, bubbling under an expensive suit. Pete then shifts gears into straight-up devious, playing the women in his life against themselves, to his own gain. All the while, he's constantly being put in his place by older males, as he desperately covets their Alpha Male status.

And you can see all this happening. You can see him happy. You can see that he genuinely feels a need for being a good husband and bucking the trends of his peers. But then, just as he almost reaches this state of awareness, he's cast back down, by the very people he's trying to do right by. In most TV shows I watch, characters don't have anything approaching this level of complexity. In those that do, none of them carry it off with such aplomb. All these subtle nuances are so well written, that they're plain as day. The writers don't have to smack you around the head with clumsy dialogue. The direction and the few words spoken speak volumes.

The themes and issues the Pete character explores shows us a new generation of male, and the slight shift in attitudes towards sexism that's occurring. In Donald Draper's world, he can sleep with whoever he wants, and they'll wait for him. Even if he gets his come-uppence, and I'm sure he will, he still runs his own show. And revels in it. Pete doesn't get this. Pete's playing field is a little more even. His wife tells him what to do. He gets put in his place regularly. This sort-of push-and-pull struggle Pete endures makes him such an unsettling and fascinating character to watch. Absolutely mesmerising. Like a firework you lit that didn't go off, you are both scared and excited by the uncertainty and ferocity lurking within.

Believe me, I could of written a massive diatribe for pretty much every character in the show. I continue to be blown away by it, and engrossed by one of the finest Television Shows I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Go watch it.