Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Super Classic Costume Pack out Today.

The second-to-last costume pack for SSF4 was released today. It contains new alternates for Blanka, Guile, Dhalsim, Fei Long and Gen. Personally, I really like Blanka's 2nd alt, it really changes the appearance of his model, and looks great in motion. I like Fei's too, it's a shoutout to Bruce Lee's Kato outfit. 

The pack is available for 320 Microsoft points, or $3.99. The next pack will be the complete collection pack, coming out on July 27th. Still, good timing on Capcom's part, as now all the costumes are available shortly before EVO.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Devastation 2010 SSF4 Results

Devastation 2010 concluded over the weekend, and while there were many other games, the SSF4 tourney was notable in that the Top 8 finalists were composed mostly of characters that normally do not see top 8 finishes in majors. 

We had Marn's Dudley win it all, beating Valle's Ryu! And there were some strong finishes by Juicebox Abel, Combofiend's Guy, Buktooth's Ibuki, floE's Juri and NinjaCW's Makoto! Plus Filipino Champ's Dhalsim and Mike Ross's Honda! Definitely not the usual top 8 roster. Anyway, for guys like me that like seeing non-top tier characters do well, this weekend was quite a breath of fresh air. 

The game is only a few months old at this point, and I know that one tournament does not a standard make, but I hope that this is a harbinger of things to come at EVO, you never know, Yeb beasted in vanilla with Gen, and we've seen Inthul's Fei Long do well in Super. 

Is this the year a Dan player wins EVO? Watch out! 

Monday, June 14, 2010

SSF4 Tourney Mode Patch Dropping Tomorrow

That's right, when you boot up SSF4 tomorrow, it's very likely that you will have to load a new patch. However, it will be the new Tournament Mode! Yup, an actual tourney mode not too dissimilar from the Championship mode from vanilla SF4. Oh, and there will be a few bug fixes as well, taking out unblockable Ultra setups and infinites. More info is here.

Oh, and don't forget that the Super Brawler costume pack goes on sale tomorrow as well. If you are a fan of Commando Abel, Inca Fuerte, Mecha Gief, Chinese Zombie Rufus and WTF is that outfit Honda, get in line and purchase your costume pack.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Transformers: War For Cybertron demo now available on XBL.

Yeah. Go get it. What is it? It's a demo for this. Go now. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Impromptu Manga Review: Kenji

Some time ago, I chanced upon an unknown (to me) martial arts manga called Kenji. I didn't think I would like it at first, given that the main character was basically a little boy, and that it looked like it was going to be targeted at young readers. The protagonist, Kenji Goh is introduced as a third-grader living in Tokyo, which I believe makes him 8 or 9 years old. The introductory arc is simple enough: he defends weak classmates from bullies, learns kung-fu from his spry grandfather (Kyotaro Goh), gets into trouble with his parents for fighting, etc.

 My interest level perked up when his grandfather starts explaining certain stances and techniques. For example, after an altercation with some thugs, his grandfather uses a body check called tieshankao. I recognized this move from Akira Yuki, in the Virtua Fighter series! Later on, more techniques are dissected and actual notable people from the history of martial arts are discussed. As the story progresses, I can't help but marvel at how well-researched the narrative is. Of course this is probably due to the author's (Ryuichi Matsuda)  past as a practicing martial artist. Soon, the structure of the story is changed by several events: Kenji's grandfather ends his visit to Kenji's home and returns to his country home; Kenji meets a young girl from a Yakuza family(!); and lastly, Kenji goes to live with his grandfather during summer vacation and begins to learn kung-fu in earnest. Particularly, he begins to seriously learn Bajiquan. During his training, more martial arts styles are introduced or mentioned, like Shotokan and Goju-ryu karate, Kalaripayattu and Xing Yi Quan,  His classmate Taichi also ends up training with Kenji and his grandfather over the summer holiday. 

After the summer holiday, Kyotaro visits Kenji in Tokyo for a final time, and tells him that he is leaving for China, to fulfill an old promise from his past. In the short interval before his departure, Kyotaro teaches Kenji some final Bajiquan lessons, imparting some "secrets" of Bajiquan to Kenji. 

After his grandfather leaves, the story skips forward in time about 5 years, and rejoins 

Kenji as a young teenager around 13-14 years of age. He is now in junior high, and he encounters Akira Kazama again, the young daughter of a Yakuza family mentioned earlier. Through her, he becomes embroiled in some gang warfare and his experiences lead him to resolve to learn new methods of fighting. For example, he attempts to learn how to fight multiple opponents. Through his search for answers he encounters even more schools of martial arts. In particular, he learns about Daito-ryu Aikijujitsu, and Taijiquan. 

A little later, Kenji is at a new school, and again runs afoul of some local toughs, but later becomes accepted by his peers there. The focus shifts to boxing for a short while, and Kenji is drafted by the school boxing club to fight in an inter-high tournament. Of course, this means it's time for yet more martial arts history lessons, this time dealing with Jack Dempsey and Floyd Patterson, the latter of which used a jumping punch that Kenji instinctively used to win his bout. 

A short time later, Akira takes Kenji to visit Inoue, an old acquaintance from Akira's former gang, who now has given up on gang life and works at a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama. While there, Inoue introduces Kenji to his boss and "master", Zhang Ren Zhong. Coincidentally, Zhang is also a Bajiquan practitioner, who learned the art from the same school in China as Kenji's grandfather. Of course Kenji asks Zhang to teach him Bajiquan, as he has had no further instruction in the art since his grandfather left. Zhang muses on the great coincidence of their meeting, and says that he believes that their encounter was a "Wish from the Sky". In other words, a destined meeting. He asks Kenji a few questions as a test, and accepts Kenji as a disciple when Kenji answers correctly.  

Kenji spends the summer at Zhang's restaurant, learning Bajiquan, while he works in the restaurant kitchen and shares a room there with Inoue as well. The resumption of Kenji's training in Bajiquan begins an entirely new story arc, and sets the stage for his further growth as a martial artist. This is getting quite long, so I will take a short break. Next time I will finish the narrative review, and talk about several of the overall themes presented in Kenji.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Venue Change Impressions

With the continued growth of Wednesday Night Fights, there had been some talk of expanding the time slot to accommodate the increasing number of participants. When I first started hosting Fight Nights, space and time were not an issue, mainly because we rarely had more than 6-8 players at one time. However, as we've started attracting more and more players, we started to see averages of 12-16 players weekly. Unfortunately, due to the relatively small size of the venue, we could not comfortably have more than 4-5 setups going, and people were not getting to play as much as they'd like. Two hours is plenty when you have less than 10 people, but once the number hit over a dozen, it's not quite enough time.

       I attempted to negotiate more play time with the venue, and made some suggestions. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement, and I started looking for an alternate venue. I had noticed that Hastings, a retailer in my area, had an open space in its store that used to be a cafe. It had more room, tables and seating, and enough power outlets for use. I set up a meeting with the store manager, and was pleased to find out that he was excited about having Hastings as a venue for the Fight Nights.

 Well, this past Wednesday we had our first Fight Night at the new venue, and I am pleased to report that we had a great turnout. 22 players in total, with 7 setups going at once. Feedback after the session was consistently positive, with most players appreciating the extra space and additional time. Plus hey, there was a couch to chill in! Hopefully, we can maintain the growth of the event, and we plan to start holding tourneys and ranbats in the coming months. 

So here we are, starting fresh in a new place, with some new faces, and many familiar ones. I hope that things stay positive in the new place, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the scene grows after this change. In the meantime, we'll keep playing and leveling up. Many thanks to Lycan, Sev, Squabbler, eraser, Duckie, Cylus, pJan, FlyMike, Bishop, Krit, Wootsick, Bryce, Semosh, Sunstone, Gouken dude, Matt and everyone else who was there. If I don't know or misspelled your name, I apologize. And if you happened to be a participant in any of the Fight Nights, thank you. We couldn't have done it without you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rufus, a Study in Character Design

"FuriousJodo wrote: 

I'll never main her, but I am totally obsessed with her (Chun Li) as a character for some reason.

Hiryu02 wrote: 

I'm like this about Rufus, for some reason."

 With the release of Super, I notice that I've been playing Rufus more and more. I wasn't a big fan of his in vanilla, mainly because he was considered to be OP, given the amount of damage he was able to put out, especially in conjunction with his easy-to-combo Ultra. Now due to the across-the-board damage nerf the entire cast received in Super, Rufus went from doing ridiculously high damage to only doing somewhat-high damage. Personally, I'm thrilled. I feel that it makes playing him require more effort, and you actually have to land stuff more than twice in a round to win it. But that's a discussion for another time, I digress. 

Anyway, I'm really beginning to appreciate the design that went into his character. I will be honest, and tell you that I'm not a big fan of his default costume, but I really love his first alternate. I think it's mainly because I can't figure out what the hell he's supposed to be wearing in his default outfit. Some kind of riding suit or something? His alternate outfit has more cool touches, I think, even with the pigtails. For example, take the "Wu" kanji on the back. Wu is the Chinese symbol that stands for "martial", as in martial arts or a martial way. I feel that it strongly fits his personality, and his backstory, which describes that he taught himself Kung-Fu by watching martial arts movies and reading kung-fu books! He also supposedly traveled through China to see the different Kung-Fu styles, and reinforce what he had learned.

I also notice more and more little details, like the way he shakes his head, Bruce Lee-style, after landing a palm thrust. The way he holds his hands when he does a cr mk, or the little light-footed shuffle he does when Spectacle Romance is blocked. Or even just the way he lands from a back throw. Little things, I know, but they add so much. Rufus isn't a character that looks good in still images, one has to see him in motion to really grasp the fluidity of his movement.

I especially like the Snake Strike animation. He leaps, stabbing furiously with each limb, and yet manages to land like a ballerina from a triple axel. Again, now that I pay attention, I see the multiple styles blended in his own, as befits his self-taught martial way. Bajiquan, Tai Chi, Snake style, Baguazhang, and more.

Of course, his effusive, motor-mouthed personality is great too. Win quotes that are so long you can't read them before they go away. Or the hilarious gestures and movements in his Rival cutscenes. I used to hate the fat man, but now I have a strange new appreciation of his design. 

Now I'm aware that the Rufus we see today is very far from the original idea for his character. He was originally supposed to be a slender black guy with a shaved head, wearing the "pimp gi" outfit that is now Ken's first alternate costume. He was going to be called "King Cobra" and was going to use a blend of breakdancing and kung-fu as a fighting style. However, at some point during the development process, one of the art directors suggested making him fat, an idea that the main designer (Daigo Ikeno) liked. Eventually, the design changed so much it bore almost no similarity to the original work. I'll be honest, at first I was totally turned off by the character and the grotesqueness of his physique. But over time, I've come to appreciate the originality of the design. 

It took me the entire life-span of the first game to realize this, but Rufus is a damn good character. Belatedly, my hat's off to you, Capcom.