StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (Review)

“Quite possibly the greatest RTS ever made.”

Twelve years ago, I tried a new Blizzard Entertainment game called StarCraft. The “Craft” suffix seemed to imply that it was Warcraft in space. Was it? Not really. It had all of the standard RTS features and the story telling was typical Blizzard fare, but it was definitely was not a space themed copy of its fantasy RTS cousin.

I didn’t care much for the new revered game. What most people called the best RTS ever made, I called a tedious and ugly borefest. I never felt entertained or immersed, nor did I ever get a sense of fulfillment out of the game. I wrote StarCraft off as a game that was obviously quite good since everyone else loved it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Now, here we are, in the year 2010. StarCraft II has finally been released and I purchased and downloaded the game on launch day. I went into the game not sure what to expect, but the opening movie certainly was a lot of fun to watch. You have to commend Blizzard, they’re definitely the best in their field when it comes to cutscenes and videos.

Before I share my thoughts on StarCraft II, which I’ll say I’m quite a fan of just to get that out of the way, I feel that I should touch upon what the story is behind the game for those who aren’t aware.

StarCraft is centered around three races. First is the standard human race, the Terrans. The second race is the Zerg, alien insectoids that assilimate, destroy, and more. To me, they’re sort of like a cross between the Borg from Star Trek and the Scourge from Warcraft, the latter clearly being inspired by the Zerg since they came later. The third and final race is the Protoss, an advanced civilization that wishes to preserve their way of life and maintain balance in a way. The Protoss are your standard enlightened race. Warhammer has the Eldar, Warcraft has the Night Elves, and StarCraft has the Protoss.

StarCraft II opens with the protagonist of the initial campaign, Jim Raynor, is working at overthrowing the corrupt Emperor Mengsk. Raynor was essentially an enforcer of the law in the original StarCraft, but now he is bit of a cross between rebel and revolutionary. With his group known as Raynor’s Raiders, Jim Raynor helps out planets that are being bullied by the Emperor and his Dominion Empire. Things take a turn for the worse however when the Zerg, who had not been seen for several years, makes a sudden appearance and begins attacking numerous planets. It’s up to Jim Raynor to deal with the Zerg threat while also working to do something with the Dominion.

The story that is told in the game’s Terran campaign is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in an RTS. Between missions, players are put into either Raynor’s favourite bar or his spaceship (depending on where you are in the game) and you are able to talk to NPCs, conduct research, check out various photographs and trophies, and even watch TV. It’s really neat and I found myself spending several minutes at a time enjoying Raynor’s ship before taking on new missions.

Completing missions rewards you with currency that you can spend on research or upgrades, or even mercenaries who you can call upon during missions.

Regarding the missions and how the game plays, there isn’t a lot of innovation here and most of what was in the original StarCraft is in here. If you know how to play the original, then you’ll have no problems jumping into StarCraft II and doing well immediately.

Even those who have never played the original game should have no problem, as this is just your typical RTS fare. Collect resources using units trained at your main base, and use your resources to train soldiers and provide them with upgrades. It’s nothing that we haven’t done before, so it’s difficult to get lost in this game. Several difficulty settings also allow you to play the game at a level you are comfortable with.

The graphics in StarCraft II range from slightly above average to simply amazing. Ingame mission graphics are usually just above the average mark for the most case, though I must admit that some units look pretty badass. The scenery usually isn’t much to look at, and I find it peculiar that wilderness maps are more interesting to look at than city/ruin maps. A few missions that take part in ruined cities feel really bland and you get the feeling that Blizzard didn’t put as much work into them as they did with the other maps. They’re still good and are fun to play on, but there is just something missing from them.

Where the graphics shine are in cinematics, cutscenes, and in between missions on Raynor’s ship. Cutscene models look very impressive. There are a few jaggies and unusual spots of texturing, but overall the models look great. The only problem I have with them is that most of the Terran characters do not seem to be able to convey many facial emotions well. Most of the characters have stiff faces that don’t change expression much, even when they are laughing or growling angrily. It’s a little odd to say the least, but it’s actually pretty easy to overlook.

Cinematics are an entirely different story. As expected from Blizzard, the cinematics are simply beautiful. Honestly, I can’t really say much more than this. They just look utterly fantastic. Faces move realistically and textures are very convincing. Animations of characters, guns, aliens, and anything else you name are very believable as well. The cinematics really are among the best out there, if not the best.

The sounds of StarCraft II are just as good. Background music during missions often possesses a sort of southern rock style that I find to be extremely catchy. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to hear Sweet Home Alabama playing in the cafeteria of Raynor’s ship, too. Music aside, the sound effects themselves are good for an RTS. Voice work is good, and amusing at times (medics make a funny Star Trek reference by saying, “Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”), and the sounds of gun fire, explosions, and alien growls are all very sufficient. There’s not much that I can fault about StarCraft II’s sound department. Blizzard did a fantastic job of making the game sound very great, and not even once did anything I hear annoy me.

Online play typically plays a large role in StarCraft II. Since the game only ships with one campaign at the moment, it’s not too surprising online play is the focus of StarCraft II. Online play is done through Blizzard’s service, which was recently updated to include all sorts of new social networking features. There is no more LAN support, which I still find a little peculiar.

Playing on involves joining ladder games, which can move you up or down in the overall rankings based on your performance and results. There is also a matchmaking system that matches players of similar abilities, so a newcomer to StarCraft II is unlikely to go up against the National StarCraft Champion of South Korea or whatever. Basically, if you suck then you’ll be matched against other people who suck, and if your playing abilities are godly then you will be matched against other deity-like players. It’s a good system, and I commend Blizzard on implementing it.

The game also comes with a powerful editor. If you have used the world editors for either StarCraft or Warcraft III, then you will know what to expect here – a very functional and powerful editor in which the sky is the limit. Expect the community to churn out some really creative and fun maps.

With more official singleplayer campaigns on the horizon, a powerful modding tool, and an online community that will remain very strong for many years to come, it’s easy to see why StarCraft II is a worthy investment. Diehard fans of the original will love the game to bits, and those like me who are simply fans of Blizzard games will also find something to enjoy here. This is probably the best RTS I have ever played, and for good reason. The gameplay is solid, the story telling is superb, and the online services are absolutely perfect.

StarCraft II, undoubtedly 2010’s game of the year. Don’t miss out on this game. Buy it or get a friend to let you try it. You won’t regret it.

Final Score



Alien Swarm (Review)

“Being outnumbered by murderous aliens has never been this much fun!”

Once I believe that nothing interesting can happen on the Source engine any longer, something comes along that blows me away. The latest game to do so is Alien Swarm, a top down shooter that plays much like some classic oldbies such as Machine Hunter, or the top down Contra titles.

The unique thing about Alien Swarm is that it combines fast paced top-down shooting with heavy team play that is very reliant on tactics. The icing on the cake is the game’s very prominent survival horror overtones. In Alien Swarm, you’re plunked down onto a planet that has been infested by deadly aliens. There are thousands of them and only two to four of you.

The survival horror aspect of the game comes from not knowing where the aliens are lurking, or what’s going to happen next. You never know when aliens will burst through objects or suddenly flank you. Fortunately, the game isn’t scary at all due to the fast paced shooting gameplay. You rarely have time to relax unless you literally kill every single alien in a specific section of a level and stay there. Of course, nobody would want to do that. In games like Alien Swarm, you are pressed hard to keep moving.

Alien Swarm is mostly online, and you can play with strangers or your Steam friends. There is an offline practice mode that runs through the game’s campaign, but killing aliens and completing levels will not grant you any experience points. Online play utilizies a leveling system where, whenever you clear a stage or get game over, you and your pals are taken to a screen where experience points are distributed based on the performance of each player in the level. If you kill tons of aliens and assist the team greatly, you’re bound to get a motherlode. When you acquire so many experience points and gain a level, you are rewarded with access to new weapons and accessories. The higher your level, the better the rewards.

Gameplay can be very unique based on what class you choose. There are four to choose from and they are Officer, Special Weapons, Medic, and Tech. Officers are fantastic front-line gunmen with all around decent stats. They aren’t particularly bad in any fields and are a welcome addition to any team. Special Weapons characters get access to high powered guns with vast amounts of ammunition. They are essentially mobile tanks, strong and extremely deadly when used appropriately. Medics are the essential healer class. They are able to deploy health regenerating beacons and can heal their squadmates with a gun that restores health. Bizarre concept, but it works well and you will find yourself falling in love with the medic on your team as they keep you alive. Finally there is the tech, a class that is able to hack doors and consoles. Techs can also use a prototype assault rifle with slight auto-aim properties, and they are able to set up sentry guns quickly. They also carry handy motion sensors.

It is imperative to form decent teams when playing online. Two people alone are probably best off going with a medic/tech team, while variety improves slightly on three player teams. I have never played a four player game except with AI bots in the offline practice mode, so I can’t judge it too well. All I am aware of is that four player teams offer lots of variety and tons of potential. Medics and techs are usually the only required classes, so make sure that you have them on your team when you play, especially on the higher difficulty settings.

The alien swarm is a lot of fun to plow through. Initially, you will only encounter one kind of alien that bears a slight resemblance to the antlions of Half-Life 2. Eventually, you will encounter larger and more dangerous aliens as well as poison spitters and small parasites that resemble facehuggers from the Aliens series. Parasites are exceptionally annoying as they can sneak up you quite well, and aren’t always easy to hit. Flamethrowers are typically the best way to dispatch them. Once you hit the third or fourth level, there’s a fantastic variety of aliens and it is difficult to predict what you will find around every new corner.

The sound in Alien Swarm is passable. Most of the player sounds are forgettable, including the guns they use and commands they shout out. An NPC who seems to be in charge of your mission also informs you what to do in each mission as well as providing updates on things that change in the levels. He sounds a little bit like Craig T. Nelson, which is really awkward, but what’s worse is that he sounds like a Craig T. Nelson who isn’t really sure of the role he’s playing and delivers a very fake sounding performance. The only sounds in Alien Swarm that are particularly nice are the growls and hisses that the aliens make. The poison spitters are especially cool sounding, as they let out these slow, raspy demonic growls that immediately identify them.

The graphics are quite nice for a Steam game. If the game was played in the first person view that most Steam games take advantage of, the graphics would probably not be as impressive, but from an overhead view they look quite good. The lighting is especially nice, and flashlight beams are very convincing and realistic looking. A lot of environmental effects such as smoke and steam are also pulled off well and are definite positive in Alien Swarm’s favour.

The game also comes with an SDK, allowing devoted modders to create brand new levels. Considering that the main game is only one campaign with about seven levels, it’s certainly a good thing that modding is a possibility.

If you like games that involve survival horror, squad-based team play, or just fast paced shooting, then Alien Swarm is probably worth checking out. The best part of the game, though? It’s free. Hop on Steam and give it a download. Since it’s not putting a dent in your wallet, I fail to see how giving this pleasant game a go could ever be a bad thing.

Final Score


Street Fighter X Tekken Confirmed

I don’t even need to say anything. I’ll just let these two videos that I’ve uploaded do the talking!

Street Fighter X Tekken (the X is pronounced “Cross”) was announced today at Comic-Con by Yoshinori Ono and Katsuhiro Harada. Ono has stated that SFxT (I am laying claim to calling it that first, internet!!) won’t be available for a while yet, because Capcom wants gamers to enjoy Marvel vs Capcom 3 for a while. My prediction? August or September 2011.

It was also revealed that there will be a “Tekken X Street Fighter” as well. What’s the difference? Street Fighter X Tekken will run on modified Street Fighter 4 engine, while Tekken X Street Fighter will run on a modified Tekken engine. No word on the Namco developed game just yet. For now, enjoy what Capcom has shown us!

Return to July 2010 Articles

Looking Ahead: Tekken 7

If you stumbled upon this article hoping to find evidence of Tekken 7, or information on it, then I am sorry. Whatever Google search terms you used obviously misled you.

Tekken 7 has been given the green light and is being worked on right now. Of course, the game is probably in an extremely early and barely playable stage of development right now so there’s really nothing known about it yet. All we know is that Namco allowed the Tekken dev team to start work on the next game and that it will most likely be on the current crop of consoles.

So what is the point of this article? Simply put, it is my wish list for Tekken 7. I’ve been playing Tekken since the second installment of the series, so I’m quite a long time fan so I feel that I have some very legit complaints regarding Tekken’s direction, as well as some decent ideas. Let’s get the show on the road.

1. Jun Kazama

Call her whatever negative term you want, and even label her as bland or generic if it tickles your fancy. However, the fact will still stand that Jun Kazama was a very influential character in the Tekken story. Without her we wouldn’t have a potential counter to the Devil Gene, nor would we have had Jin Kazama introduced in Tekken 3. In Tekken 2, Jun demonstrated that she has some kind of supernatural power by being able to defeat/overpower Devil. She was also able to get through to Kazuya, which is something that just seems flat out impossible for any other character to accomplish.

Jun Kazama was labelled “missing” after Tekken 2. There is no confirmation that she is dead or alive, and Namco refuses to give any hints regarding her condition which makes it easy for just about anyone to believe that Jun is alive and that Namco is just being quiet about her, possibly because they want to utilize her for something in the future or because they simply forgot about her and are too ashamed to admit it.

Besides, even if she did die, I’m sure she could return. Kazuya Mishima, anyone? Remember that everyone’s favourite Devil Gene character completely missed Tekken 3 due to being dead. Several other Tekken 2 characters did as well, and they didn’t return until Tekken 5. Namco is slow to bring back a select few old characters. Jun could very well come back if Namco wants to include her in another game. Remember, she isn’t dead. She is merely missing.

Since her exclusion from Tekken 3, fans have been begging for her to return in each and every installment of Tekken. Even though Asuka Kazama (my main in Tekken 6, by the way) essentially replaced Jun when she was introduced in Tekken 5 and used Jun’s old fighting style, fans just became even more desperate for the Anti-Devil to make her reappearance in the series. It’s interesting to note that Asuka hasn’t done anything worthwhile yet since she was introduced in Tekken 5. Her ending in Tekken 5 did show that she has some sort of power similar to Jun’s, but she did crap all with it and wasn’t even aware of it herself. In Tekken 6, all she cared about was her lunch and beating up Lili, a character that Asuka shouldn’t even have anything to do with. Perhaps Asuka not knowing about her powers or accidentally utilizing them more often is intentional for reasons we’ve never thought of? Jun = Future mentor for Asuka?

Jun has appeared several times as an apparition or flashback and, despite not appearing in playable form since Tekken Tag (which did not even follow canon), she has been mentioned a few times. Other characters who have faded off the map, such as Kunimitsu, do not receive such treatment. Jun’s talents and her ability to overpower the Devil Gene still plays a large role in the Tekken storyline. It seems bizarre that the most gifted Kazama in the storyline hasn’t appeared for so long. Some fans speculate that Namco is holding her back because they are planning on using her for something big. I agree. Before I get into anything, I’m just going to move on from there. Obviously I have ideas for Jun in Tekken 7 since I have her on this list, but I’ll get into everything about her when I bring up what I’d like to see for the story.

2. Juggle Breakers

There is nothing impressive about being kept in the air for several seconds by your opponent. To those who do not play Tekken, that sentence probably sounded pretty ridiculous, and I will side with you guys. The juggles in Tekken are becoming too long. I don’t know anybody who enjoys watching their characters being kicked and punched up higher and higher for several seconds as their life bar drops below the halfway point. It takes the element of fair play out of the game. This is why I suggest introducing a way to get out of juggles.

Enter the juggle breaker. Say that a juggle is lasting a little too long and you’re starting to get rightfully ticked off about it. With a bit of quick timing, you could perhaps press QCB or QCF plus a certain button to perform a sort of “combo breaker in the air” and knock the opponent away from you. The result? Both fighters fall back in opposite directions and fair play is restored to the fight. Perhaps only one or two juggle breakers could be granted per round, and the timing of them would have to be very, very precise. If executed properly, juggle breakers could be very, very awesome. If executed poorly, I could see such a concept hurting the gameplay quite a bit.

3. Lose Tekken 6’s Fluff Features

The “bounce” feature in Tekken 6 was borderline ridiculous as many attacks would knock your character off the ground, which was practically a gift for your juggle-ready opponents. Tekken likes to defy gravity and logic an awful lot and I’m okay with that, but characters bouncing off the ground consistently and far too often is just way too silly for my liking. It gives your opponent the chance to perform free juggles as well, which can be a real pain in the ass. Bouncing should either be removed entirely, or it should be made a less prominent feature. Too many attacks force characters to bounce. Perhaps make only a few high risk moves per character perform bounces?

The “rage” effect should also go away. This sort of feature belongs in junk games like Smash Brothers. Any fighting game that has even a single shred of self-respect would never have a rage effect, so I’m still blown away that Namco would include it in Tekken. Not only can it screw up the results of certain fights, but it just makes no sense. Weakened opponents should not become twice as strong. That just defies all logic. We’re not watching an anime here where the main character powers up when he’s on the brink of death and tears apart his foe as well as the surrounding country side. Weak opponents shouldn’t be rewarded for being weaklings! They shouldn’t be punished either, since losing should be punishment enough. Just let the weaker player lose the match, Namco. There is no need to try to even the playing field at the last second.

Scenario Campaign should also NOT return. Tekken Force modes are interesting diversions, but when they become such a mandatory mode to play through, the fans will just end up not enjoying them at all. Scenario Campaign was nothing more than an overly long borefest. Having to replay stages just to save up money was ridiculous. I still cannot understand how Scenario Campaign was more profitable than the actual fighting game modes for the player to play through. I’d rather get rich beating up AI opponents, friends in versus mode, or strangers online. Make sure Scenario Campaign stays out of Tekken 7 please. Throw in some silly minigames instead, such as the volleyball game from Tekken 3, or follow Mortal Kombat’s example by ripping off successful games such as Mario Kart or Puzzle Fighter. The fact of the matter is simply that Tekken sucks as a beat ’em up. Please stop forcing this sort of game mode on us, Namco.

4. Customization Options

A lot of people want a character creator like the one we have in Soul Calibur IV, and you know what? I’m all for it! As long as there would be online lobbies where created characters were restricted, then it would be just fine and would make the “BUT IT WOULD MESS UP THE GAME’S BALANCE!!!” people slightly happy. An actual character creator would also prolong the longevity of the game with many people. A significant portion of gamers enjoy editors, modding, and so forth these days. Good customization is key to luring these gamers in, and a character creator is the way to do it.

However, what I want to see is the ability to customize characters to an even greater extent. Tekken 6 was said to have a revolutionary customization sytem, but it was essentially just Tekken 5’s customization system with an added hairstyle editor. Actually, Tekken 6’s customization system may have been worse overall since many pieces of clothing had fixed colours and were extremely expensive compared to the item prices in Tekken 5. At least in Tekken 5 you could change the colour of anything that you equipped. This was not the case in Tekken 6, which was slightly lame.

It was also odd how the second player could not use custom costumes in local versus/team match. What gives, Namco? Tekken 5 allowed it, so why doesn’t Tekken 6? Typically sequels are supposed to move the bar up, not down. I would like to see this problem rectified.

So for Tekken 7, it would be nice to see more customization options (cheaper items, more variety, colour options for all items), the ability for the second player to use custom costumes, and perhaps a character creation system with “no custom characters” lobbies for online play.

5. Tag Battle

It was almost ten years ago when we last had this feature. Considering the fact that Soul Calibur IV has a rough version of the tag feature, and that rivals Marvel vs Capcom and Mortal Kombat will have tag team combat in their next installments due out in 2011, it just seems that Tekken should really bring this feature back before it gets left behind. If everyone else is doing it, why isn’t Tekken? Especially since Tekken did it so well several years ago? The only tag team battles that I think are executed better are those in the Marvel vs Capcom series. Tekken Tag nailed tag team battles.

Check out Jin’s awesome IGN tattoo.

A tag feature would also be great for the game’s story mode. Kazuya could have his faithful bodyguard Bruce as his partner, while Paul could have Law, King would have Marduk, and so forth.

There’s not much else to say about this feature. I’m sure that the fans would be thrilled if Namco included it in Tekken 7. If they have any sense at all, they’ll add it in. After all, this is the most requested feature with each new game. Will Namco finally take the hint? Let’s hope.

6. Smaller Character Roster

I’m quite serious about this one. The character roster in Tekken is like a freak mutation that is out of control. It’s like Tetsuo in Akira. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and it seems like nobody can do anything about it except Kaneda. Wait, no, I meant Namco.

So what should Namco do? I propose killing off some characters and simply excluding a few others. Here is who I would like to see go.

Anna Williams – Let her sit out for a game. Nobody will miss her since we’ll still have Nina, the popular sister.

Armor King – Do we really need him? King is a beloved Tekken staple, but Armor King just feels like a cheap addition. Even if he is apparently essential to the storylines of both King and Marduk, I’d prefer to see the character sit out for a game or two.

Baek Doo San – Even though I love Baek and think he’s quite awesome, I believe that Namco should incorporate his best moves into Hwoarang and then have Baek retire from fighting. Let the mantle be passed on to Hwoarang, please.

Christie Monteiro – We don’t really need her. I don’t care if she’s sex appeal, get her out! She would be fantastic as a character in Eddy’s storyline and should be relegated to that sort of role. As a full blown selectable character, I just don’t like her. She’s just a female Eddy.

Devil Jin – Don’t like this character. I feel that Devil Jin should only be a plot device and not a selectable character. Add his better moves to Jin and be done with it.

Ganryu – He’s not particularly popular and just seems to be there to increase the roster size these days. Tekken would be better off without him, I think.

Heihachi Mishima – Surprised? So am I. However, when Heihachi’s voice actor passed away, I feel that Heihachi himself did as well. Nobody can replace him, and it would just feel wrong to reuse old voice clips of a deceased voice actor in such a way. Heihachi should be injured or killed off.

Kuma/Panda – The bears aren’t really even that popular. I don’t even think they serve any sort of purpose in the storyline at all now. Just take them out.

Mokujin – Lame gimmick character. Random select works just fine. We don’t need a random select disguised as a wood man filling up a character slot.

Roger Jr. – Same as the bears. I never even see people play as this pointless character. Take the kangaroo(s) out.

Wang Jinrei – He’s an old man and he’s also extremely unpopular. Usually the unpopular characters are removed, but Namco thinks that it’s a fun idea to have them cling to each new game like dead weight. Characters like Wang only bring down the quality of the roster. We don’t need pointless fluff characters like this.

After these characters are removed, I would only want to see perhaps one character return (Jun Kazama) and about two new characters join the fray. Think small, Namco. Don’t let Tekken’s roster become out of control. It’s already pretty close.

Here’s my ideal roster for Tekken 7.

Now for the final matter..

7. The Story

Tekken 5 had a weak story with the whole Jinpachi thing going on. Tekken 6 does not really make things any better by having Jin make completely ridiculous and unintelligent decisions, and just generally making Tekken 6 a gigantic Mishima clusterfuck with Heihachi, Jin, Kazuya, and Lars playing central roles. Thankfully adopted boy Lee wasn’t extremely central to the story, even though he’s my favourite character in the Tekken universe.

When Tekken 6 ended, Raven’s organization found the unconscious body of Jin Kazama in the desert sands. We still have no idea who Raven works for. Since he was introduced in Tekken 5, all we’ve known is that he is working for some shadowy organization that can potentially stand up to the Mishima Zaibatsu. So, who does Raven work for? And who heads this mysterious organization? I have a theory, and it goes back to the start of the article. The leader of Raven’s organization is…

Jun Kazama. Complete with a new and improved “serious” look. Just pretend that there are age marks around her eyes.

Anyone who knows who the picture was originally of gets a shiny nickel.

Should she lose her trademark white wardrobe? If she returns with the role I predict, then I would assume so. She could still be the “darling sweetheart” that she always was, but just with more direction and purpose now. She would have people behind her, helping her. She would be the opposite of Kazuya at G-Corporation.

It all makes sense. Raven is being ordered to stick his nose directly into Kazama/Mishima affairs. Somebody outside of the G-Corporation and Mishima Zaibatsu obviously knows what is going on. It would make little to no sense for it to be a group of people never mentioned ever before in the Tekken games. There has to be some kind of connection between Raven’s group and the Kazamas and Mishimas, and I believe that the connection is Jun.

In my opinion, Jun vanishing off the map in order to privately find a way to put an end to the Devil Gene without interference from the Mishimas makes sense. Jin may have been left to fend on his own because Jun believed in him and felt that he would be able to overcome his problems. Jin is clearly struggling with some aspects of his Devil Gene, and perhaps being taken in by Raven will allow Jun to do something about that while putting her plan into motion to�deal the Mishima family.

In Tekken 7, I feel that Jun’s shadow organization will reveal itself, and I feel that it will be the only “good” faction of the Tekken universe. As the story progresses, Jun will somehow make Jin come to terms with himself and what is inside of him. Since the Devil Gene has gone from being an actual demon to nothing more than some sort of supernatural birth defect of the Mishima bloodline, it would make sense for Jun, the ultimate counter of the Devil Gene, to be able to sort Jin out. I can see Jin perhaps lashing out once or twice, perhaps going berserk briefly for some reason or another as he refuses to accept Jun’s words. When all would be said and done, I believe that Jin would emerge as the protagonist that he was in Tekken 3. His Devil Form would become a minor plot device similar to Kazuya’s Devil Form. Instead of shifting into his Devil Form, Jin could perhaps learn to control it’s powers in his normal form. Of course this wouldn’t show itself too much in the actual ingame fighting system, but throughout the storyline it could manifest itself as immense strength or perhaps psychic powers.

G-Corporation (or just Kazuya) could oppose what happens to Jin for one reason or another that I cannot think of immediately. Perhaps they would want to take advantage of this and somehow harness Jun’s powers or something along those lines. Maybe Kazuya would see his son and ex-love working together as a severe threat to his plans for world domination and would then assert his Devil powers as the true force to be reckoned with – making everything we’ve seen from Jin since Tekken 4 resemble child’s play.

The Mishima Zaibatsu would serve a purpose of some sort, obviously hosting a tournament. I’d like to see Heihachi sit out for reasons I already mentioned, so perhaps Lars could have the Zaibatsu now? Or Kazuya could hold dual ownership over G-Corporation and the Zaibatsu? Leading both factions combined with the might of his Devil Form could make him an amazing antagonist for Tekken 7. It would be thrilling to have Kazuya as the central bad guy once again, wouldn’t it?

Kazuya could even kill off the voice actor-less Heihachi in the Tekken 7 intro, just to firmly establish himself as the true force to be reckoned with in the game. The little duel between the two in Tekken 5 was more humourous than anything, so an actual bloody battle between the two (with Heihachi being the only one losing blood) would be quite a shocker for the fans and also get their adrenaline pumping. Kazuya killing off his own father once and for all would be nothing short of epic. A fitting end to old man Heihachi. Perhaps after being crippled severely and begging for mercy, Kazuya could shift to his Devil Form and end poppy’s life with one vicious attack?

Much like G-Corporation and the Mishima Zaibatsu have selectable characters in their ranks, I feel that Jun’s organization would be no different. Who would be a part of it? Well..

Jin Kazama, Jun Kazama, and Raven would be obvious. Asuka�would be highly probable due to being related to Jin and Jun, and she possesses the same powers as Jun. Asuka could be educated/informed about her unique abilities by Jun. Hwoarang could perhaps put his rivalry with Jin aside and help them for the greater good. Alisa and Lars could be possibilities, though I would believe that they’d be more likely to be with the Mishima Zaibatsu or Lee’s organization, whatever that may be. Yoshimitsu is another good possibility. If Yoshimitsu were to ally himself with Jun Kazama, this could open the doors for Kunimitsu to appear and ally with G-Corporation. There’s a neat thought. Since every Tekken game seems to shove certain characters into the role of bodyguards for Kazama and Mishima characters, Kunimitsu could perhaps take on the role of Kazuya’s bodyguard. Yoshimitsu would be a very fitting bodyguard for Jun, considering the fact that they are both good-aligned and noble characters.

So, that’s my take on Tekken 7’s story. Jun Kazama is the leader of Raven’s mystery faction. Jin is restored by Jun (though this would take some time, perhaps for most of Tekken 7’s storyline). Kazuya would want to crush the immense threat of Jin+Jun, exposing the frighteningly powerful Devil Form that he has hidden from the eyes of Tekken players for far too long.

Jun Kazama returns and her powers, along with Jin’s redemption, play a central role in the story. Kunimitsu potentially returns and allies herself with whatever faction opposes the one Yoshimitsu is with. Devil Kazuya as the game’s final boss. Sparks could fly as G-Corporation, the Mishima Zaibatsu, and the organizations led by Jun and Lee possibly butt heads. This would be the perfect way to get the Tekken back on track after the Jinpachi and Azazel mess that we’ve had to put up with for the past few years.

Let’s cross our fingers for something great!

Return to July 2010 Articles

Top 5 Final Fantasy Villains

Final Fantasy is without a doubt the best RPG series of all time. You can say what you want about it, but the simple fact remains that this series is untouchable. While the more recent games in the series haven’t felt the same at all which many blame the numerous gameplay changes for, I think that it has more to do with the stories. You see, once the Playstation 2 took off and Final Fantasy X was released, it just seemed like the villains in the series were never the same again and, with each new game, the villains seem to receive less and less attention. In Final Fantasy XIII you don’t even see the face of the final villain until you’re about thirty hours into the game, which is just bizarre. When things like that happens, it makes the villains easy to forget.

Because of the forgettable nature of Final Fantasy villains including and after the tenth numbered installment, my list of the top five best Final Fantasy villains will only focus on the first nine games. So then, we have five out of a possible nine villains. Care to guess who they may be? Read on and find out.

Even though Zeromus was the true final boss of Final Fantasy IV, he really didn’t show his face until the very end of the game. For the majority of the game, we had to combat Golbez. As a villain, Golbez didn’t do a whole lot of bad things and didn’t torture many people unless you count the fall of Mist Village, which Golbez had a hand in behind the scenes. The reason why he just narrowly scrapes into my top 5 is because he is the brother of Final Fantasy IV’s protagonist, Cecil. So throughout the game, Golbez captures his brother’s lover, brainwashes his best friend, and also tries to kill him. Even if you’re being controlled by a greater evil, that’s still a pretty dick way to treat your own brother. In the end, Golbez helps the party combat Zeromus thus attaining redemption. Despite the fact that he ended up as a good guy after breaking free of Zeromus’ control, it’s still pretty hard to forgive him. He’s a lot like the Orcs in Warcraft. They weren’t really evil and invasive warmongers that decided to slay the human civilization just for fun. They did it because they drank the blood of a demon that corrupted them. Golbez is kind of like that, although unlike the Orcs, he stopped doing bad things after regaining control over himself. Sorry Orcs, but you guys are just assholes.
Insane/Mad Personality: Minimum
Mass Genocide/Slaughter: Minimum
Vendetta Against Party: Very High
Motivation: Controlled By Zeromus for entire game.
Redemption: Regains control of himself at the end. Fights (and loses) against Zeromus.

Final Fantasy V isn’t very fresh in my mind anymore, but I still remember the evil deeds of Exdeath fairly well. A lot of people are obsessed with Sephiroth and claim that he is the first villain of the Final Fantasy series to kill off a main character. Have these people never played Final Fantasy V or what? Exdeath beat Sephiroth by four or five years by killing off one of the most important characters in all of Final Fantasy V, and that’s Galuf. He played the role of Warrior of Dawn and King of Bal. That’s a pretty impressive resume, and the fact that he was an awesome party member only made his death that much harder to digest. Heck, Galuf even adventured with Bartz longer than Aeris did with Cloud! Late in Final Fantasy V when Exdeath is back at seemingly full power, he destroys various locations on two worlds and then merges them together. Many populated places are lost as a result, making Exdeath a pretty nasty mass murderer. Very few Final Fantasy villains have killed thousands of people with their own hands during the main storyline, and Exdeath is one. He makes this list for killing off Galuf and potentially destroying several kingdoms too. What a jerk.
Insane/Mad Personality: Medium
Mass Genocide/Slaughter: Off The Chart
Vendetta Against Party: Medium-High
Motivation: To gain the power of “The Void” and destroy and erase anything he pleases.
Redemption: Nil

Aside from having one of the most badass themes in the entire series, Kuja was sort of a homage to everything we loved from the classic Final Fantasy titles, which was also one of the major themes of Final Fantasy IX itself. Kuja’s development and pure evilness was pretty well on par with the greats from the 16 bit era. Let me go over what Kuja does in chronological order just to give an indication of how much of an asshole he is. First he assists Queen Brahne of Alexandria in killing off the entire kingdom of Burmecia, destroying Cleyra where Burmecian refugees fled to, and then forcing an imperial occupation on Lindblum. Kuja allowed Brahne to conquer an entire continent, which resulted in thousands of deaths and the destruction of an entire kingdom. He later kills the man who created him, Garland. Before dying, Garland tells Kuja that he is not immortal and never will be. This freaks Kuja out, which then causes him to destroy his home world of Terra. Yes, Kuja destroys an entire world. Like Golbez, Kuja clears his name by saving the party at the end of the game by teleporting them away from the final boss, Necron, after he is defeated. Unfortunately it is too late for Kuja to be saved as the Iifa Tree devours him and it’s game over for the game’s central antagonist. A fitting end to perhaps the most destructive and violent central villain in the history of the Final Fantasy series.
Insane/Mad Personality: Medium-High
Mass Genocide/Slaughter: Off The Chart
Vendetta Against Party: High
Motivation: Throws a hissy fit after realizing he isn’t immortal, wants to destroy all life.
Redemption: Teleports Zidane and friends to safety after defeating Necron.

You cannot have a top 5 Final Fantasy villains list without including Sepiroth. A lot of people put him at the top of the list, but I have never given the white haired albino the luxury of being put on a pedestal like that. Sephiroth does do several horrible things in Final Fantasy VII, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of lives lost in the game are not caused directly by him. Most deaths are caused by indirect factors that are a result of Sephiroth’s actions. He did do two very horrific things though. First off, he burned Cloud’s hometown to the ground. As if this isn’t enough to make Cloud hate Sephiroth, he then goes and kills the girl that Cloud has developing feelings for. Killing Aeris was quite a shocker. Even though Exdeath had killed off a party member several years before Sephiroth, the technique of ending the life of a primary character was still underused at the time. Seeing Sephiroth descend upon Aeris and stabbing her through her midsection while grinning fiendishly was definitely one of the most unsettling things I have ever seen in a video game. The burning of Nibelheim and killing Aeris are the two things Sephiroth will be remembered for because, quite frankly, aside from that he really didn’t do a whole lot besides slaughter Shinra executives at the start of the game. Despite sitting around on his ass for most of the game, Sephiroth made a lasting impression on many gamers and has become one of the most recognizable figures in the video game world.
Insane/Mad Personality: Medium
Mass Genocide/Slaughter: Low
Vendetta Against Party: Very High
Motivation: Missed his dear old mum. Sort of. Also served as her puppet to reawaken her. Jenova’s plan backfired and little Sephy prevailed. Oops.
Redemption: Nil

Had the mainstream RPG boom happened a few years prior to Final Fantasy VII, it is my firm belief that everyone would be praising Kefka rather than Sephiroth. This insane clown did every single evil thing in the book and then some. Kefka caused more grief for the main characters and more mass slaughters than any other villain in the entire Final Fantasy series. So what does the man in clown makeup do besides make a lot of funny jokes and laugh? Well, at the beginning of the game we are made aware that he brainwashed the main character of the game, Terra, and intentionally set her upon the Empire’s own soldiers just to see her obliterate them. He later sets fire to the kingdom of Figaro and attempts to destroy it, but this plan is foiled. Not long after, he sets his sights on another kindgom called Doma. Kefka poisons the water supply of Doma, killing everyone including the king. The only two survivors are Cyan, a playable character, and a lone castle sentry. Kefka later starts killing Espers and absorbing their powers so that he can simply grow stronger. Emperor Gestahl believes that he is keeping Kefka in line, but is later betrayed by Kefka when he fatally stabs the Emperor and pushes him off of the edge of the Floating Continent. Kefka then disturbs the statues of the Warring Triad. This resulted in the world shifting into ruin as well as Kefka quite literally obtaining the powers of a god. He would then sit at the top of his tower in the dying and ruined world, blasting cities and kingdoms with gigantic death beams and destroying anybody or anything that defied him. After the party climbs to the top of the tower and defeats the godly Kefka, he simply dies. He does not seek redemption and he is not sorry for his actions. Kefka, the most destructive, evil, and insane villain in the entire series, merely perishes as any villain should. When he is defeated, his tower collapses, magic is seemingly erased from the world, and the process that forced the world into ruin is reversed. Kefka’s defeat quite literally restored the world and brought life back to it. Let’s see any other villain’s death top that!
Insane/Mad Personality: Off The Chart
Mass Genocide/Slaughter: Off The Chart
Vendetta Against Party: Low
Motivation: He simply craved power and wanted to be all-powerful.
Redemption: Nil

Return to July 2010 Articles

Mortal Kombat Unchained (Review)

“The ideal package for anyone craving a Mortal Kombat experience on the go.”

At the time of this writing, the new Mortal Kombat on the 360 and PS3 is approximately a year away. In the meantime, MK fans will surely need something to spend their time on, right? While Mortal Kombat vs DC may be a good choice, there are those who do not have a 360 or PS3. This is where the PSP comes in.

Unchained is essentially Mortal Kombat Deception on the go. While this game even predates Mortal Kombat Armageddon, remember that Unchained is the only MK title on the PSP. So despite being a few years old, is it worth your money even today? In short, maybe.

As I mentioned, Unchained is just Mortal Kombat Deception, only with a few bells and whistles. Before I talk about what is new in Unchained, I’ll talk about what is carried over from Deception.

First off is the core fighting system. It has not been altered or downgraded at all for the PSP, so fans should be happy knowing that they are getting the full Mortal Kombat experience. Characters look fairly good and aren’t far off from what we saw on the Gamecube, PS2, and XBox several years ago. This is quite impressive considering that the game features thirty characters on top of the various game modes present.

Konquest mode, which was a boring and slightly unpleasant experience in Deception, is even worse in Unchained. I commend Midway for packing the full Konquest mode into a little PSP fighter, but it’s clear that they had to downgrade the mode quite a bit. The visuals are nothing short of ugly as they resemble graphics from the early 32 bit era. Collision detection is very suspicious as well, as I found myself trying to reach coins and treasure chests only to hit invisible walls where there shouldn’t be any. I would then find out that the invisible walls belonged to nearby trees or support columns that were barely even on the screen. Konquest mode also features a camera that is essentially impossible to work with. You use the L and R buttons to rotate the camera, which you will have to do almost consistently as the camera obscures your character or gets stuck on random objects littering the environment. The camera actually got itself stuck on a tree when I was playing. It was bizarre to have myself running down a straight path only to then have the camera jerk far to the right. I couldn’t see what I was doing, and it wasn’t even pointing anywhere near my character. Fortunately rotating the character restored the camera angle, but this still shouldn’t have happened in the first place and is slightly inexcusable.

The actual fighting mechanics are exactly the same as they were in the console version. Unfortunately, it is a little harder to execute many moves and combos properly on the PSP, and I frequently found myself blocking or switching fighting styles accidentally. You see, the L button switches your fighting style and the R button blocks. My fingers have a habit of venturing towards the top of the PSP and resting there, so it should be quite obvious what happened whenever I would be fighting. I would frequently try to execute a combo only to have my finger accidentally press the L button and switch my fighting style, ruining whatever I was trying to execute.

The controls are also just as clunky as ever, which seems to be a Mortal Kombat tradition. Armageddon seemed to improve the core gameplay of the 3D games tremendously, but unfortunately Unchained doesn’t have anything to do with Armageddon. Deception’s gameplay was certainly an improvement over Deadly Alliance, but playing this game today, after enjoying BlazBlue, Street Fighter 4 and Tekken 6, I cannot help but cringe at the unresponsive controls and sluggish movements of the characters. If you adapt to how Unchained plays then you will certainly be able to do well, but just getting to the point where you want to succeed in this game may be the difficult part.

Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat remain fully intact and are fun little diversions to sink your teeth into. Despite being a blatant rip-off of Puzzle Fighter, I quite enjoy Puzzle Kombat and it is perhaps my favourite part of the game. Chess Kombat is fun to play once or twice, but it loses it’s appeal pretty quickly.

The currency system and Krypt are still fully intact. Unfortunately I cannot stand the currency system in this game, as there are several different kinds of coins that you can obtain. Armageddon had one universal coin that you could use to unlock everything. Deception/Unchained instead decided to use five or six different coloured coins (onyx, sapphire, platinum, etc.) which you randomly obtained by fighting and playing Konquest mode. In the Krypt, you unlock things by spending a certain number of coins on whatever coffin you wish to open. Considering the fact that there are hundreds of coffins which all require different coins, things get a little ridiculous. Since all characters are unlocked from the start, there really isn’t a lot to look forward to in the Krypt, and unlocking things just becomes a boring chore very quickly.

So, what’s new in Unchained? There are a few additional characters and a new game mode. In terms of characters, Goro and Shao Kahn join the cast from the Gamecube port of Deception, while Blaze, Frost, Jax, and Kitana return from Deadly Alliance. This is the only version of Deception to feature the four from Deadly Alliance, so it’s quite a nice game to have. Pretending that Armageddon never existed, it’s fun to see fights between Frost and Sub-Zero, or Kitana and Mileena. I’m a little bummed out that Johnny Cage and Sonya weren’t able to return from Deadly Alliance, but I am just completely puzzled by the fact that Midway decided to omit Quan Chi and Shang Tsung from Unchained.

The new game mode happens to be one that Mortal Kombat should have had since the beginning, and it is Endurance Mode. This is essentially a survival mode in which you fight an endless wave of AI fighters. I have always enjoyed survival modes, especially in Tekken, because it’s fun to see how far I can get before an opponent finally defeats me.

So aside from a few new characters and a survival mode, there is nothing else new in Unchained. Konquest mode on the other hand has been butchered significantly, downgrading the visuals to an almost uncomfortable level and screwing the camera system up so badly that it hinders your gameplay experience. However, the core fighting system is still intact and is certainly enjoyable if you are a devoted Mortal Kombat fan. If you’ve ever wanted Mortal Kombat on the go and need something to slug away at until the promising Mortal Kombat 9 arrives next year, look no further than Mortal Kombat Unchained.

Final Score