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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 4-14-10: Splinter Cell Conviction, Final Fight Double Impact Guy vs Poison vs Raptor

Posted by nfinit on April 13, 2010

I’m not going to lie.  My dream job of the moment (having graduated from astronaut to Ferrari test driver to Monica Bellucci’s leotard) is to make a living writing for a professional games magazine/website/whatever.  And it’s not to make money doing what I love doing, it’s not to meet industry luminaries, it’s not even for the free games– it’s because of the swag.  Well that and the ability to legally stalk Brad Shoemaker.  But mainly because of the swag.

Why do I bring this up?  Because this happened last week:

What’s that, you say?  Why it’s one of the several dozen Final Fight Double Impact press kits distributed to gaming sites all over our fine nation!
And what’s in it?

A re-elect Mike Haggar shirt, a can of Poison Hair Color spray (suitable for all three sexes!) and this pimp-ass motherfucker right here:
The Final Fight Remix soundtrack ON CASSETTE TAPE.
Fine, whatever.  I’ll just make my own Mike Haggar shirt on Cafe Press.  With hookers.  And booze.  More importantly, Final Fight Double Impact itself is released this week, and judging from this week’s brick-and-mortar game releases  Double Impact is by far the most important thing happening this week.  And not just because Final Fight and Magic Sword are fantastic games representing the creme de la creme of sixteen bit arcade action, but also because we’re finally going to see a definitive version of Final Fight , a title that’s seen a shocking lack of love from Capcom considering its historical impact to the company.  Previously the best possible home Final Fight to be had legally was found in Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1 back in 2005.  But that was a long while ago, and it has two things going against it that the Double Impact won’t suffer from–one, Double Impact is not beset by Backbone Entertainment’s foul taint, and secondly Double Impact will finally give Final Fight the sort of historical and critical attention the game absolutely deserves.

So, on to this weeks games and the flimsy theme tying all three together:  In honor of the best possible version of Final Fight we’ll likely ever see, I’ll explore each game and which previous home port of Final Fight they most closely resemble.

Grand Theft Auto:  Episodes from Liberty City
Publisher:   Rockstar Games
Developer:  Rockstar North
Platform:  Playstation 3
There’s this fascinating subplot running underneath Episodes From Liberty City where Microsoft spent an undisclosed amount of money to acquire exclusive Grand Theft Auto IV content for the Xbox 360– this content eventually, after many delays, transformed into The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony.  Then it was revealed that Microsoft only paid for exclusive timed content for GTA IV– Meaning that Microsoft managed to fund development for content that would eventually find its way to the PlayStation 3.
Okay, so that wasn’t entirely “fascinating”, but I think it’s neat and shows that Microsoft has no clue how important actual, honest-to-god “exclusive” content is to building a brand and why it’s becoming harder and harder to justify owning a 360 over a PlayStation 3 unless for some perverse reason you’re just really into playing games developed in England.
Anyway, if you happen to own a Playstation 3 and GTA IV– and quite a few of you do– it’s worth owning this pack for The Lost and the Damned alone, as it’s arguably better than GTA IV itself despite being only a third as long.  I mean, it’s basically Sons of Anarchy, the videogame.

Final Fight CD! (Sega CD)

While the PS3 version of Episodes is largely identical to the 360 disc, it’s still something of Sega’s version of Final Fight vs the SNES Final Fight in that Episodes from Liberty City PS3 doesn’t add much to the 360 version aside from delay, cost, and load times.
Not that that’s being entirely fair to the Sega CD version of Final Fight.  Final Fight CD was the first attempt at an arcade port to include 2player co-op and all three original player characters and all the original arcades stages– But it also added an enormous amount of sprite flicker, which depending on your point of view might make for a worse version of Final Fight vs the SNES if all you’re interested in is the single player game.  But at least Sega put Poison– poor, confused Poison— back into the game after Capcom briefly transformed her from a post-op transsexual into a full post-op transsexual by converting her to “Billy” in the SNES game.
The best part about Final Fight CD was that once it was released Sega fans such as myself could stop pretending that Sega’s Streets of Rage series was the superior franchise, much like Sony fans will soon be able to admit to liking Waggle.

Blood Bowl
Publisher:  South Peak Interactive
Developer:  Cyanide Games
Platform:  PSP
Anyone who may be enticed by the prospects of a portable version of Game Workshop’s improbable-yet-brilliant mashup of 40k meets American Football might want to step back a bit and quite literally judge this game by its cover.  Namely, this:
untitled-31.jpg picture by bigredcoat
Don’t recognize the name?  There’s  good reason, SouthPeak as done little to differentiate themselves based entirely on publishing quality games– if anything they’ve proven a remarkable ability to take a brilliant concept– say, Velvet Assassin, which could have been little more than Splinter Cell Starring Violette Szabo –and fuck it up entirely.
untitled-32.jpg picture by bigredcoat

But hey, Stealth is Hard.  Blood Bowl is simple– most of the game mechanics are already there, provided by the source material and proven over years of solid gameplay.  So maybe Blood Bowl doesn’t suck, I mean making a game that combine Final Fantasy Tactics with Mutant League has to be as easy to get right as God of War With Boobs, right?

untitled-33.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Okay to be perfectly fair SouthPeak doesn’t actually develop these games, they just have amazingly poor judgement as to what games publish.  Still, the SouthPeak logo on a box i of indicative of the quality of the game you’ll find within.  Blood Bowl itself is developed  By Cyanide Studios, and they have some experience with creating Blood Bowl games– In fact they once created a game so similar to Blood Bowl that the studio was sued by Games Workshop, somehow with this very game (or rather, series of games, it’s been out on the 360, DS and PC for nearly a year) the end result.  So surely a studio that has experience creating Blood Bowl-like games to the point that they were sued into making a Blood Bowl game ought to get Blood Bowl right, right?
untitled-35.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Scary part about this whole incredible mess?  Cyanide has somehow tricked George RR Martin into signing over the game development rights for A Song of Ice and Fire.  Weep for the future, my friends.



Okay yes so I’m cheating and there’s no way Final Fight for the ZX Spectrum should have been attempted.  But I hold that Blood Bowl the videogame should also not been attempted.  So there.
(Actually the Speccy version of Final Fight might be surprisingly decent– Retro Gamer seemed to like it, but I’m not sure if they’ve ever seen a Spectrum game they’ve not been in love with.)
Splinter Cell:  Conviction
Publisher:  Ubisoft
Developer:  Ubisoft Montreal
Platform:  Xbox 360
I have a certain amount of trepidation regarding Conviction.  Sure I loved the first Splinter Cell game, and I believe Chaos Theory was one of the finest games ever crafted, but for whatever reason I hated Double Agent and Pandora Tomorrow.  Complicating matters is Conviction’s troubling development history;  good things usually don’t come of a game that’s been withdrawn and delayed as many times as Conviction.
Luckily for you good readers I have recently renounced my status as a second-class Xbox 360 owner and now subscribe to Live Gold, and a demo for Conviction is available on the service.

What I encountered was (mostly) encouraging.  Conviction has perhaps the best GUI I’ve ever encountered in a videogame.  No longer are relevant plot points relegated to text descriptions buried in the options menu, these plot points are plastered into the game itself.  As the story progresses videos of targets, plot developments, characters and locations are displayed seamlessly onto the nearest available flat surface.  It’s like Bioshock’s audio entries in that the moment you see this stuff in action you know full well every game from this point out is going to copy this feature, and you’re going to welcome this new development.
Continuing this theme, you are no longer left guessing if the spot you want to duck behind will provide useful cover– Now when you are actively searching for cover all spots where you will be hidden from view are clearly marked– you don’t even have to risk manually creeping your way from hidey-hole to hidey-hole, a tap of the X button scoots you directly to that spot without risk of disturbing enemy patrols.  On the rare occasions where you absolutely need to interact with the enemy a handy prompt will pop up showing you when you are ready to break your foe’s neck, smash his head into a urinal, or wear him  as a meat-and-bone filled bulletproof vest.
I also fear that due to this streamlining Conviction may become something less of a stealth game and something more of an interactive toy in which you play around with the environment to trigger amusingly violent animations.  But it’s possible that many games are like this– including previous Splinter Cell games– and Conviction’s highly adaptive GUI just makes this more apparent.  But it sure felt like there was a lot of hand holding going on in the demo– which is probably the point, as it’s a demo and all, but there were parts where the next step was too obvious, or where there was simply to choice but to dispatch enemy guards, and it felt like any deviation from point a to point b to point c was immediately and severely punished.

But there’s an inherent problem to all this polish– Splinter Cell remains a very clumsy game.  It sort of has to be, it’s a stealth game and stealth games are even at their best can become an awkward, janky mess.  There’s just too many possible interactions for this game to operate as smoothly as Modern Warfare or Bad Company.
All of which feels like there was some sort of strain in the development team between those wanting to keep Conviction true to Splinter Cell and those who desired to open Splinter Cell to the mainstream audience.  And not to be Hardcore Video Games Guy, but I have to think that Splinter Cell is among the worst series possible to expect the mainstream to embrace– there’s just no way to get your average Modern Warfare gamer on board with the idea that the “move” analog stick shouldn’t be pressed into a breakneck sprint at all times.  Ubisoft already has access to a bevy of successful, mainstream-friendly Tom Clancy properties– Trying to turn Splinter Cell into the third person single-player equivalent of Rainbow Six is just going to damage one of the few standout hardcore 360 titles Ubisoft has left.

Also, people looking forward to Conviction’s promise of a grim, sophisticated tale of personal vengeance along the lines of Taken should be forewarned– less than 5 minutes into the demo  the game’s story took a 24-style turn to a grandiose conspiracy revolving around an EMP device and hints as to a sinister plan underway at the White House.
All this said, there’s not a whole lot of games left that do what Splinter Cell Conviction does.  We haven’t seen a new Thief game in roughly forever, Metal Gear Solid is less about stealth these days and more about Hideo Kojima’s insane action movie plots, and Assassin’s Creed isn’t so much a stealth game as it is about parkour and swordfighting.  So Conviction might not only wind up the best stealth game of the year, but barring some sort of Street Fighter IV-like revival of the genre, may very well be the best stealth game of this console generation.


untitled-36.jpg picture by bigredcoat

This week’s best brick-and-mortar game deserves no less than the most amazing thing I’ve seen so far this week.  This is Final Fight Guy, but with random brawler dudes from other games showing up in place of the regular enemies.  No really, you have to play this fucking thing.
untitled-39.jpg picture by bigredcoat
The first boss is Ken freaking Masters!  When I reached him he performed a hurricane kick that killed me instantly so I’m unsure if the programmer actually coded anything past the first level, but that first level will change your religion.  Keep in mind that I played this on Chrome and there’s at least an even chance that visiting this site will infect your PC with an NSA-grade virus that replaces all your icons with donkey porn, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to see Guy commanding one of the Golden Axe dinosaurs.
MONSTER HUNTER TRI makes a valiant effort to return the Wii to some sort of relevancy in North America shortly before Capcom inevitably takes the series to the PS360 and makes some actual money.
SHERLOCK HOMES VS JACK THE RIPPER means that I”m talking about Dreamcatcher games again!

It’s probably worth noting that Harvest Moon games anger an confuse me before we start talking about HARVEST MOON:  HERO OF LEAF VALLEY!


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