Yeah, it’s been about a month since my last post. I’ve been extremely busy working on some projects which I’ll be talking about at a later date.
Anyway, Xbox didn’t really ruin wrestling forever, but they did ruin my favorite wrestling video game franchise, Fire Pro-Wrestling, by bastardizing it with their stupid avatars. We all know how much I hate these avatar games and generally I don’t even have a passing interest in them, so it’s ok. I go my way, they go theirs and we’re both content to leave each other alone. But now they have some real nerve invading my personal space.
I was first introduced to the series with Fire Pro-Wrestling S: 6 Man Scramble, for Sega Saturn. I knew then that no other wrestling game would ever compare. The editing features at the time put everything else to shame. Not just wrestling games, but everything. There had never been a game before (to my knowledge) with the depth of creation that Fire Pro-Wrestling offered. Graphics were never a part of it. The graphics weren’t necessarily bad, but they weren’t anything spectacular either, but it totally didn’t matter. When you can craft every little detail about your character – their entire move set, taunts, individual body part sizes so you can have absurdly large Popeye forearms and tiny legs, the sound effects he yells out when doing a move, it becomes a tough act to follow. You can make your own federations, your own rings, they even have a variety of options for refs.
Fire Pro-Wrestling Returns was the latest console iteration of the franchise, released on the PS2 and albeit a rather convoluted editing system, it was the most well flushed out that the series has to offer. Though it still had one major hurdle; it’s PS2 limitations, that meant that there was no real online multiplayer support. That’s what this game always needed. With the ability to create all sorts of bizarre and bombastic wrestlers, you would of course want to show them off in online matches. XBLA finally gives us that opportunity, BUT THEY RUINED THE GAME!
Excitement was my initial emotion when I saw Fire Pro-Wrestling available for download, followed immediately by despair. Why avatars? Fine, they didn’t want to use sprites. I get it, it’s an outdated medium for on-screen characters; 3D models are the way to go. But did they have to use those goofy avatars? The game acts like an even sillier version of WWE All-Stars. It’s way too over the top. Not that Fire Pro-Wrestling was ever a serious affair, but at least it had dignity god dammit! In the new one, the characters awkward gait belies the grace and dexterity that a true athlete has at their disposal. They walk around like dandy fops and have ridiculous moves that launch people 30 feet above the ring, acting as an over-embellished insult to real wrestling. Look, I’m no fool. I’m sure many of you are thinking that wrestling is already fake and ridiculous and over the top, so what’s the big deal? I’m a wrestling fan, and this is a very serious matter. Yes, we all know wrestling is fake, but there are still certain parameters you should follow to maintain at least some credibility. This new XBLA Fire Pro-Wrestling says bullocks to that.
Gah! I hate this all because the game is actually really good. I’m stuck in a terrible internal conflict rivaling that of Jessie Spano’s decision to date the short guy in that one episode. Some new elements have been added which almost made me want to overlook that the game is a joke. Creating your wrestler can be even more fun than before. Maybe not more fun, but more rewarding. After creating your wrestler in previous games, that was pretty much it as far as that wrestler’s tale goes. You’re free to do whatever you want while you’re creating them, but that immediate gratification leaves little rewards in the long haul. Your wrestler has more of a career-oriented, rpg style, approach to his creation. Participating in matches will gain you EXP and unlock more moves, which makes your wrestler feel more personal as you’re along with them the whole way as they rise to power.
I wanted so much to like this game. And I tried, I really did. Even now, I kind of want to play it, but it hurts so much when I turn it on. It’s like the 4th Indiana Jones movie…
There’s no question that when attempting to kill a ninja, you must send dozens of untrained and unskilled fighters against him. However when doing so, you must take into account the Inverse Ninja Law, in which there is a perfect inverse 1:1 correlation of number of enemies to quality level. See chart A-1.
Note that the enemy quality can never reach a full 100%. That’s because they may be able to take out the hero ninjas sidekicks and friends, but would never take out the ninja himself/herself in a fair fight. Even as a young child I was aware of the Inverse Ninja Law and it was present in one of my favorite arcade games of the 80s, Ninja Warriors. What I didn’t notice as a child however, was how racist the game is.
In Ninja Warriors, you play as the blue, male ninja codenamed “Ninja” and the red, female ninja codenamed “Kunoichi”. Hundreds of black guys, armed with nothing but a knife, are sent to their deaths in a futile attempt to defeat you. At best, they are simply there to get in the way to give the white guys, who are always armed with guns, a chance of landing a shot. Considering this game is supposed to take place in a distopian America in 1993, this may have been an American Military preliminary test run for “Operation: Get Behind the Darkies”.
Got a video to help better illustrate my point. You only need to watch it for about 10 seconds to get the idea.
A Ninja themed set of 3 quickies available from the Indie Xbox Live Arcade.
Ninja Stole My Bike
Ugh. This game is such trash. I won’t go into much detail about the gameplay, because there really isn’t much. Take an impossible game and make it more boring and then you have Ninja Stole My Bike. They took a genre of game where all you really do is press one button and found a way to make it less interesting. There are two redeeming qualities to this game however. For starters, it only costs 80 MSP, which is most likely more than what it cost to make the game. The other, which is probably already obvious to fans of YTMND.com, is the games namesake. Basically, your playing the cut scene from Punch-Out!! But instead of an up and coming boxer chasing a fat black man on a bike, you’re a pizza delivery boy chasing a ninja. So aside from the little chuckle I got from the connection to an overtly racist internet meme, this game is only worth it for those who have a major crush on these types of games and have played every other one in existence.
Has that annoying chibi style of art, but that’s really the only negative thing I have to say about this game. It’s honestly pretty good for what it is. It’s a weird hybrid of a side-scrolling action platformer and stealth game, with a little bit of impossible game thrown in. Think if Solid Snake was storming Dr. Wily’s castle. The game has a much quicker pace than any Metal Gear though; you won’t be sitting there for more then a few seconds waiting for an enemy to turn away. You’re given two basic instructions at the onset of the game: Don’t be seen, and don’t murder anyone. The don’t be seen part was a given, I was expecting that considering the title and all. But the second part – no killing?! You’re a ninja and ninjas use swords and a swords sole purpose is to kill. Instead your sword is relegated to a glorified door slasher. The music’s not so bad either. I set my standards low for indie games, so I won’t say it’s good, but it’s catchy and goes with the pace of the game pretty well. This one’s also only 80 MSP and you could do much worse with a dollar.
Akane the Kunoichi
Kunoichi = female ninja
Definitely the most visually appealing of the three games reviewed. The 16-bit art style took me right back to the days of the SNES, with bright and vibrant sprite animations and backgrounds. This is a straight up action platformer. Akane performs as you would expect a ninja to – doing wall jumps, throwing projectiles at enemy ninjas, and harnessing her potent ninja magic. Although, the whole stealth aspect of being a ninja is thrown at the window. It kind of reminded me of Shinobi, but far more colorful, like if Nintendo had made Shinobi instead of Sega. The only real complaint I have is the noise she makes EVERY TIME you jump. I could really do without that, or at least some variety in effects. That aside, it was a pretty solid game. Controlled well, aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, and a halfway decent soundtrack. I’m not a particularly big fan of platformers, so for that to be my only gripe shows that there was a good degree of effort put into developing this title. At only 80 MSP, it’s definitely worth the dollar.
Since this is my top pick of the three, it deserves a video.
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By the way, if you’re still wondering about where Ninja Stole My Bike go its inspiration, GO HERE. But I warn you, it IS racist.
Added just last week to the arcade is Crimson Alliance. As usual, every Wednesday I check to see the new demos that are up and when I went to download the demo for this game, the magic word “FREE” was there instead of the MS point cost. Clearly I immediately downloaded it thinking it was a promo they had going on or something. Turns out this free game is just really a demo in disguise anyway. More like an elaborate trick. The game is indeed free, but you have to buy the character classes otherwise you have limited gameplay. These micro transactions have gone too far. I hate having to pay for premium content, only getting parts of a game at a time. That aside, it does look like a pretty decent game, but I refuse to buy it because I hate being lied to.