Hachi’s Games of 2016 (For Both Measures of that Phrase)

The Wait, This Happened? Award: Arslan: The Warriors of Legend

Welcome to vaguely-Middle Eastern Japan, where you may or may not kill things.

Welcome to”Whitest Arabians Ever” land, where you will kill many Japanese people.

Now, let’s be very clear here: Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is not a terrible game. It’s not even bad, really. It’s got great graphics, the story is presented in a stimulating way, and the gameplay is just about as Warriors as you can want, with the rush mechanic adding a level of scale no spin-off before it has managed.

So why did I barely remember that it was a thing? Why can I clearly remember the things I love from FOTN: Ken’s Rage or Pirate Warriors 2 or DW: Gundam 3, and yet can’t even remember the names of the main characters in this, ostensibly a far more effort-filled and tightly constructed product? I guess the short version would be that it all feels somehow…dull. The movesets for the characters are dull. The characters themselves, bound by the definition of a single season of the anime, are dull cardboard stereotypes. The music, while occasionally great and evoking the feel of epic battle, is mostly only “good” with very little that stayed in my memory.

You had better memorize these faces, cause you sure as shit ain't gonna remember their names.

You had better memorize these faces, cause you sure as shit ain’t gonna remember their names.

Perhaps its biggest sin is that it’s so light on identity and content, and not only in a gameplay sense. Most Warriors games present multiple storylines, or extra modes or multitudinous unlockable characters. Recently, we’ve been getting alternate story modes or additional fighting styles. But here, you get one decently-sized story mode, where you’ll play as most characters for a single mission if lucky, with many of them sharing weapons (although credit to different fighting styles with said weapons) and barely getting any character definition. I swear, late in the story several younger characters show up who are supposedly the sons of characters from earlier and I could not, for the life of me, tell you who the fuck anyone was talking about. And that combat, aside from the above mentioned Mardan Rush (and even that just involves moving a bunch of people at once and bullrushing shit), lacks a sense of combat identity or impact that makes the best Warriors games pop, ie the constant dashing and dodging of Gundam or the meaty fisticuffs and rhythmic combos of Ken’s Rage.

Again, this is NOT a bad game. If you really are jonesing for some Warriors action, you can probably find it at a worthwhile price by now. And truthfully, it’s almost admirable that they even brought it over here considering the complete non-presence of the Arslan series in the states at the time of this writing, so top marks for taking a chance. Play it for a long weekend, peruse some of the sparse post-game content and put it on your shelf forever more.

Music Choice: One of the few missions where the game really came to life. That song name kinda says it all about the game’s “personality”, though…

The I Wish I Was Good at Fighters Award BURNING Edition: The King of Fighters XIV

Fun Fact: skinny J-pop looking dudes have been being bred for combat for decades now.

Fun Fact: skinny J-pop looking dudes have been being bred for combat for decades now.

My relationship to the fighting game genre has always been a curious one. The series that I like, I end up REALLY liking. I can tell you everything about the mechanics and mythos of Soul Calibur or Tekken with minimal prompting. I can gush about my favorite Mortal Kombat memories, or rant about balancing in MVC3 with the best of them.

And yet…I’m not very good at them. I don’t know why, probably my naturally impaired fine motor skills, but my fingers just lack the precision required for the more knife-edge movements of high-level play. Oh, I’m not the worst player I know. I’m usually capable of finishing the single player modes on hard mode, and have at least a functioning grasp of the mechanics. But since I don’t have the time or skill to reach those upper tiers, my experience with a fighting game is usually more based around how “good” it feels to me, ephemeral as that may sound.

Which brings us to this year’s choice. I’m familiar with KOF, even though the last one I played was in the 90’s, but I’ve still managed to keep aware of the series as a whole. However, something about the trailers for this one caught my eye, particularly because I first saw them around the time I was playing Street Fighter V. Now, I enjoyed SFV, and I think it’s a well-designed game. But it had problems, particularly when it came to initial single player content, and I am an avid proponent of single player content in fighters since it gives you a way to connect to the characters on a more personal level. To connect as, well, characters. Learn about them outside of the attention-draining stress of a match against another human. And being devoid of those modes made the fire burn less hot for SFV, I suppose. Ironic, given that I’ve been playing the fighters of the streets since the SNES days and the last thing you think I’d need is more time to connect.

Also, shit like this happens.

Also, this is what a regular match looks like. Why wouldn’t my attention be drawn?

Anyway, along comes King of Fighters XIV, positively overflowing with personality and charm. A huge and diverse, and a bit intimidating, cast of fighters, all with their own quirks and play styles. A visual identity that admittedly sacrifices a bit of graphical fidelity, but makes up for it with very expressive faces and character models. And a pretty bomb-ass soundtrack to tie it all up. And suddenly, I found myself falling in love with a series and setting that has been on the far back burner of my fandoms for literal decades.

Of course, all the personality in the world means dick if the game doesn’t play right, and yeah, there is a slight bit of skill ceiling involved here. This is an old workhorse of a series, and it plays as such, sometimes groaning under the weight of evolution and packed to the gills and beyond with systems and subsystems and cancels and frame counting and all that good stuff that makes my head spin.

But you know what? Even for a luddite like me, the simple joys of being able to pick from a literal legion of pugilists who run the gamut from “buff monster men” to “kawaii anime girl psychopath” or “tyrannical kung fu master/corporate CEO” and get some quick, fun fighting in WITHOUT feeling like I’m God’s punishment for professional players more than make up for any misgivings I may have about my own limited skillset. In short, while masters will find tons to sink their teeth into with the game, it works for the little people as well. And that’s something that needs to be celebrated as it feels somewhat rare in the modern fighting game landscape.

Music Choice: This was playing during the exact match when I realized “Oh shit, I’m having actual fun.” And even without the personal attachment, it’s pretty bitching, with that rocking-guitar that screams “90’s Fist-Based Disagreements are Awesome!” Bonus points for those who actually know what Ikari Warriors is.

4 thoughts on “Hachi’s Games of 2016 (For Both Measures of that Phrase)

  1. James

    It’s funny you mention Tokyo Mirage Sessions, a few weeks ago I started a run with Tony and Erick. I might not remember a single character’s name except Barry, cuz he rocks, but it’s really fun and the dungeons feel more like Nocturne or DDS than SMTIV or Persona.

    As much as I love IV, every dungeon felt like little more than a new maze to figure out, maybe with a switch added or strategically placed barriers to make it a little more complicated, and all I remember of Persona level design was finding the exit to the next floor. #FE only has like 8 chapters so let’s say 8 – 10 dungeons? A small amount but the size and scope of them make up for it. The combat and skill getting systems are also great.

    If you can stomach the idol scene, random jpop singing and mostly forgettable characters, pretty much everything else is amazing.

    1. Hachi76 Post author

      Like I said, I’ll get around to it eventually, but BOY does that first impression hurt it A lot.
      We need to discuss Apocalypse in detail, particularly those greater lore implications and everything about Dagda.

  2. Steven T.

    I seriously need to get Apocalypse soon. I held off since there’s wasn’t a mind blowing special edition like vanilla SMT IV (dumb reason I know), plus the price was kinda steep for me at the time. I think the price is approachable now. So if Yakuza 5 doesn’t steal all of my attention, I’ll probably get it around Feb or March.

    Also regarding Persona X Fire Emblem (as an outsider looking it, it looks like they took more from Persona than SMT), I’ve heard some who patched their game to restore the content back to the original Japanese say that the story was a little bit better. Not a mindblowing difference overall, but it doesn’t have that feeling of being sanitized by NOA.

    1. Hachi76 Post author

      I encourage it with every fiber of my being The way that all the small improvements add up to make a truly better game would be worth admission alone. add in everything I said above, and it’s a no-brainer.
      I kinda get you, tho. Special editions are a great panacea, especially the first-edition special. One of the reasons I picked up the first run Yakuza 0, funnily enough. Well that and it’s supposed to be fucking rad.


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