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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Full Circle- TEKKEN 7 Review


images
              Courtesy of Fighters Generation


By A’Gia Alston
Console Release Date: 6/2/2017 ( PS4, PS4 Pro, XBox One, Steam)
Availability: Digital, Hard-Copy
System: XBox One
Developer: Bandai Namco


2017 has been a jam-packed year for the Fight Game Community and we are only a week into the halfway point. Bandai Namco gave fans a succulent morsel last week with the console release of Tekken 7― barely a month before the annual Evolution Championship Series 2017. The latest installment in the Tekken series serves as “...the final chapter of the 20-year-long Mishima feud...” between Heihachi  Mishima and Kazuya Mishima. There are new editions to the character roster, story,  and signature gameplay style Tekken is known for. I had a chance to get my grubby little paws on this sure-to-be “Greatest Hit” so, let us dive in!

POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
KEEP SCROLLING AND YOU HAVE SIGNED THE WAIVER

Mechanics

Most reviewers tend to discuss graphics first, but I prefer the main course to dessert and appetizers. A game can look great, but pleasing aesthetics are meaningless if gameplay mechanics are cumbersome and laggy.

If you are reading this, we can safely presume you have an interest in fighting games. Beginners and professionals know just how intimidating learning a fight game can be. "The Tao of Git Gud" specifically addresses how practicing repetitive inputs until said directives  are second nature is imperative to “getting good”  at your game of choice. Nothing hinders a fight game more than delayed inputs.

Boy oh boy do I have a few gripes with Tekken 7 about this exact issue.

Emelie “Lili” Rochefort is one of my favorite characters in the series. If I had to explicitly state who I tend to main, it would be her. Bandai Namco has kept most of the roster’s input commands the same for at least three installments. I have been playing Lili since her debut in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, thus her move set is familiar to me. Tapping Up+LK+RK (Up, Left Kick button, Right Kick button simultaneously) in Dark Resurrection results in a front tuck somersault either onto an opponent’s head if they are close enough, our a low attack if the opponent is just within range. The same input applies in Tekken 6. I spent FOUR DAYS playing Tekken 7, inputting that command, and saw every move except that. On the fourth day, I swallowed my pride and hunted through the command list until I found the move.

lili-tekken7fr-cg-artwork.png
Courtesy of Fighters Generation

Guess what the input was? Up+LK+RK.
You can imagine my frustration. Unfortunately, this inconsistency applies to basic movements like side-stepping too. Double-tapping Up or Down usually yields a side step into the foreground or background. Well, in Tekken 7, you can tap Up or Down once for the same result― or at least that is what the command list and story tutorial would like for you to believe. Several times, an attempted side-step input made the character jump or left the character standing there doing nothing and open for a punish.

A fellow player, well-versed in the ways of Akuma, expressed frequent irritation as commands he knew by heart were not executed despite proper directional inputs.

Is this just a singular experience for XBox One players using a controller pad? I  do not know. A number of variables could be behind this:

-severe input delay in the software itself
-delayed input recognition by the hardware due to potentially low RAM
-faulty controllers or a controller with low battery
-signal between controller and the console is blocked

The culprit could be a combination of some of these or none at all. However,  thorough discussions with additional players on different console platforms mention a similar experience. Other members of the FGC mention that the PC release reacts with glorious response time. This leads me to infer that Tekken 7 has a noticeable input delay on XBox One and PS4. Whether or not developer and publisher Bandai Namco is aware of this and working on a patch has yet to be determined, but hopefully, we see a patch in the future to address the issue.

*UPDATE*: As of June 8, 2017, Patch 1.02 was released for PS4 to address online functionality  issues. A similar patch was announced last week for XBox One with a forecasted next week release, but the Tekken Team managed to get it out June 9th. The PC patch is still expected next week. You can review patch details here: http://eu.tekken.com/#!/en/news

If you can ignore the input delay, the game feels exciting to play while introducing fun mechanics in Story Mode; during one scene, the camera pans to a third-person over-the-shoulder view of Lars Alexanderson wielding an automatic weapon against Tekken Force troops. The player can continue shooting, choose to holster the gun for melee combat, and even draw it again in seamless fashion.


Story

The Tekken franchise is almost twenty-five years old. I was in first grade, Saturday Morning cartoons still existed, and Tomb Raider would be released on Sega Saturn, Playstation, and MS-DOS the following year. We have literally watched Heihachi gray and his skin wrinkle. A lot has happened to characters in the franchise and story inconsistencies led many fans to question which plotlines are canon? For the uninformed, Heihachi and his son, Kazuya, have been bloodthirsty rivals since the former threw his fledgling into a volcano.

Yes, I know this is dark. Just stay with me.

Kazuya survives, and vows to reap vengeance against his father. He only survives due to the Devil Gene: a trait that grants incalculable power once awakened. The story centers around these two until the third installment in the franchise, when we learn that Kazuya has a son named Jin Kazama. Nowhere does the saying “Like Father, Like Son,” apply more, as he too carries the gene, but lacks control over its manifestation. Thus, the later numbered sequels orbit these three characters’ bitter family ties and dominance jockeying.
Tekken.full.998934.jpg

The latest installment claims to conclude the Mishima Saga explicitly.

The usual fighting game schtick is that each character has their own story where you play against particular computer opponents, tackle a final boss― think Azazel in Tekken 6― and unlock the character’s ending. Bandai Namco chose to drop this method, opting for a story implementation similar to Dead or Alive 5 and Injustice 2, while adding their own flair.

The Main Story mode covers the Mishima Saga via an unknown narrator. The narrator is a reporter with a vendetta against Jin and plenty of time to spare for detective work. His digging for clues and answers leads him to various encounters with characters from the Tekken 7 roster. Only these characters are playable in the Main Story mode as they push the plot forward. Players jump between CG cut scenes and actual fights fluidly. If a Jack-6 executed a swinging arm maneuver toward Heihachi during a CG shot, that attack still continues in your direction at the impending fight’s start. This keeps players on their toes and actually makes the cut-scenes worth watching. A player will be hesitant to skip the cut-scene if that is the only clue to the attack they must avoid.

My only issue with Main Story mode is that your character control is limited by the scenario. The mode acts as a tutorial for basic character combos, Rage Drives, Rage Arts, and other new game aspects. The problem is that a particular character’s full command list may not be available for input. For example, some episodes would not allow grabs or Rage Arts because they had not been introduced yet. This might make the game more accessible for new players, but an absolute pain for others that actually know how some characters work. If Akuma is wide open and charging an attack, I should not miss― also known as “whiff”― several grab attempts due to this mechanic. Yes, this is a gameplay concern, but it occurs in Story Mode and directly affects your progression.

Anyone questioning games as an art form should sit through Tekken 7’s Main Story mode. The final battles and scenes before the credits roll were powerful and moving.  The gravity of what you witness leaves you mouth agape, questioning where will Bandai Namco go from here and when?


Graphics

Ah, now for the part that is thrown in our faces with every game/console release: how does it look?

Overall, Tekken 7’s graphics make pristine use of the Unreal Engine 4. Character movements are not choppy or broken, the CG cut scenes to gameplay transitions are smooth, and you can see every little rage wrinkle on Heihachi’s face. Each strand of Lars’ Goku-esque, visual-kei hairstyle is clear and flowing. The big picture is inspiring, but the smaller picture leaves more to be desired. Face model quality appears to differ based on the character you play with. Lucky Chloe, Kazuya, Akuma, Heihachi, Jin...they look complete during their win animations. Their faces are emotive and fleshed out. Look at Lili or Lars’ win animations, and the characters’ faces look like paper mask print outs. Lili’s fingers are reminiscent of PS2 era classics. You know the rectangular fingers that are stuck together like Mattel’s Barbie hands.

If the loading screen before a local match is long enough to smear peanut butter on one slice of bread, there is no reason some characters should be incomplete. It gives the impression that some of Tekken 7’s roster received special treatment. But hey, do not take my word for it. Check out this XBox One Arcade gameplay of Lili and tell me what you think.


This might seem like sweating the small stuff, but we live in an era where games traverse the line between real and imaginary daily. Playing favorites with character model quality could influence a player’s fighter choice.


“Prepare for the Next Battle?”

Yes, you damn well should! I give Bandai Namco a hard time about the input mechanics and graphics, but that is only because I appreciate the Tekken franchise and Bandai Namco’s work. I mean, I have been playing their games since long before the companies merged together. I remember a Soul Calibur without charges and guard impacts.  Delayed inputs did not discourage  playing multiple local multiplayer matches for three hours a sitting and having a genuinely fun time. Also, let it be known that Tekken’s official Twitter account, @TEKKEN , has been responsive and alert to fans inquiries since the official launch last week. I look forward to observing how the team handles the console release quirks and DLC, if any.

Tekken 7 for the XBox One has been an entertaining learning experience here at Twilight Horizon home base. Do you have any gripes or notable appreciation for the new installment? Leaving a comment below or share your feedback via @Xminess . As always,

Until Later Guys,

^_^

Big "thank you" to @Fighters_Gen and PixelEnemy at Zerochan for the high quality photos.

Want to join other fighters in the next battle along the Tekken World Tour? Go here www.tekkenworldtour.com for tour schedule information and details.

Source: Bandai Namco Entertainment. 8 June 2017. https://www.bandainamcoent.com/games/tekken-7





Thursday, May 4, 2017

the Tao of Git Gud Do

The Tao of Git Gud Do


No, that title is not poor syntax or a guest appearance from Yoda honoring today--although, May the Fourth also be with you.


In China, where most traditional martial arts have their roots, “Tao” roughly translates into “the way” or “path” in English. When Bruce Lee decided to name his fighting approach, he chose Jeet Kune Do: “the Way of the Intercepting Fist.” In this particular case, “Do” also means “way.”  


Following? Good. Then, let us discuss how martial arts and fight games lead us along the Path for a Way to “Git Gud.”


Humble Beginnings
Those in the Fight Game Community (FGC) are not strangers to the saying “Get Good.” Ever wonder what a “Normal” is? You are not alone. Maximilian Dood, a Youtuber and fight gamer, has a series explaining how to "Git Gud." My friend, and A State of Gaming director, Rondy “Mega” Wooten started "How to Marvel;" each episode highlights basics and useful knowledge from Capcom’s Ultimate Marvel versus Capcom 3 to improve a player’s skill set. Why? Because the fight game genre is a beautiful, but competitive mistress and regardless of your fighting franchise favorite, a player must practice and excel at his or her craft with diligence if they wish to advance in a simulated situation-- i.e against the computer-- or against a seasoned player.  


Martial arts are no different. In order to succeed in both, you start with the basics. Devoted martial artists spend several days a week in the dojo or on the mat practicing blocks, kicks, punches, take-downs, and throws from static and mobile positions. You practice these with strict repetition until the motions are natural, fluid, and stringing together a combo is as comfortable as tying your shoes without looking at your feet. The determined, new fight gamer logs hours into a game’s training mode doing the same thing-- attempting to master a character’s normals (usually punches and kicks), blocks, and throws until those simple button presses become basic combos flowing from practiced inputs.

Where some martial arts practitioners have kata (pre-set fighting forms) and patterns that you practice to further understand or develop a style, fight gamers have combo command tutorials that deepen your comprehension of a particular character’s range, hit-box, techniques, weaknesses, and strengths. Only when you have mastered the basics and your personal style of fighting can either fighter consider advanced techniques such as countering, timing, and distance.


So, what drives the fight gamer and the fighter to “git gud?”


The Salt and Sacrifice are Real
I do not care if you are a patron saint: everyone has a competitive spirit within. Nowhere is this more evident than the martial arts and fight game communities. Some of you may remember from before that I practice martial arts. A Martial Perspective briefly discusses my background and what spawned my desire to be a professional fighter. Simply put: I want to put myself to the ultimate test of my skills. You can practice against the hardest Wing Chun wooden dummy or makiwara.. SNK boss God Rugal’s input reading bullshit might push you to madness, and Alpha-152’s 16-hit terror fuels fire, but these opponents pale in comparison to a one-on-one battle with a living, breathing, possibly trash-talking person facing you.


This is why one strives to, as Max’s Scrublord persona says, “get good, or die trying.”


When I play Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore, (DOA2), I exploit Ayane’s weakness whenever the computer pits me against her. Ayane is agile and quick, but whenever her back faces her opponent, she is vulnerable to throws. The computer A.I. in this particular franchise entry has a tendency to linger there as if she will be safe. So, I double-tap forward and input any grab I feel like tossing out at that time. I can do this due to practice, but also because the computer is predictable. A human player, however is not. A human may decide to high-diagonal-back+kick me--a somersault kick Ayane can execute-- if I dash in for a throw. He or she can choose to down-kick for a low sweep that would interrupt, a.k.a. “punish” my step-in.


Enter a Dead or Alive tournament and you may face more than one player that mains Ayane. Just as martial artists from the same school or style do not fight exactly the same, neither shall your fight gamers. Did I mention some fight gamers in a tournament can main the same character you do?


If two high level martial artists from the same style spar or fight, the winner is not determined by fight record, but by their ability to adapt and focus. The best fight gamers, those that “git gud,” know when to execute a command, how to bait their opponent, and are adaptable.


Then, we have sacrifice. A loss on arcade cabinets of old against another player meant several quarter tributes to the fight game gods in order to play again. Centuries ago, a martial arts loss in a duel could mean death. The stakes are not necessarily as high now, but they are stakes nevertheless. The Evolution Tournament Series, an annual fight game genre event held each year, awards prize money and accolades. Many martial arts events do the same. Honor and money are on the line.


Discovering Yourself
Pride is deafening-- in martial arts and fighting games. A participant in either discipline can never allow his or her pride to dictate the mind. Umehara Daigo, a legend in the FGC, mentions that he has “...never thought ‘Oh this person is weak, so I can half-ass it.’” But, as I mentioned before, these are competitive environments. Egos inflate and on the Path to Git Gud, the reason and motivation to continue getting good tends to fall under the piles of praise and glory. The old adage says: “the greatest opponent is one’s self.”


In the path to “git gud,” one realizes that the path never truly ends. I believe that even a martial arts master will never perfect a technique or truly understand it. One day, the artist sees a block, the next day a strike, the third day a joint lock, another day a parry, and the discoveries continues until suddenly, you are at a block again, but the block has evolved. Striving to “git gud” did not alter the technique, but rather morphed the practitioner’s school of thought and interpretations.


Surprise, surprise, the persistent fighting game player shares parallel experiences. Chun Li’s Lightning Kick in UMvC3 is no longer just a normal attack. It also serves, as a dear friend displayed, as an evasive air maneuver when dodging a full-bar, X-factor Dark Phoenix regenerating health like an asshole.
Wherever the Path takes you, keep your mind open to learn from others.


Until Later Guys,


^_^


Umehara Daigo interview “Mind of a Beast”:

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Beast, The Beauty, and The Wardrobe: Childhood Relived

The Beast, The Beauty, and the Wardrobe

by A'Gia Alston
Twitter: +Xminess 

In March 1989, yours truly joined the Spring baby ranks. Mom knew from my appetite, lungs, and disdain for heat that she had someone special. By two years old, I could walk, talk somewhat, and I swore I could read. Something else happened in 1991 outside of my bookworm pride blossoming, Disney released Beauty and the Beast

I have seen several Disney movies in my 28 years, but this one always had a place in my heart. I had the VHS, two different Belle collectible dolls-- Christmas and Ball-- and a Beast doll that allowed you to transform him into the Prince by removing the mask, tail, and paws. In my late middle school years, I would reenact "Be Our Guest" for my baby cousins and they were awed-- a one woman Broadway show for about five minutes. The live action remake worried and excited me, but I had to see it.




Blessed be the Enchantress that I did. WARNING: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD

I appreciated Beauty and the Beast (1991) because Belle was not your usual female protagonist-- or woman in general for that matter. I could not identify this reasoning as a child, but I felt it. Her character is defined by her choice to go against all society's norms for her time. She rarely wears make up, loves books, had an exemplary intellect, wanted adventure, and did not need a companion to make herself feel better. The older I got, the more I could empathize with her character because I felt like an outsider growing up too.

The 2017 remake made me laugh, cry, sing, and once again remember why I truly adore her character. Watching her assist her father, Maurice, reminded me of finishing my mother's sentences as a child. When she decided to design the first horse-powered washing machine, I could recall building camcorders out of Kleenex boxes, paper towel rolls, and saran wrap. Despite all the bestiality jokes we noticed later, Belle was a true, strong-spirited individual and I applaud Emma being cast for the role; Hermoine Granger already showed us she could tame beasts and teach others the benefit of education and ingenuity.

Childhood Redesigned


Childhood 26 years later looks like this


Disney deserves a standing ovation for this. Everyone is hemming and hawing about what they perceive as a same-sex scene, a country outright said they would only allow the theatrical release if said scene were removed, and I am sitting here cackling like Witch Hazel (yes, that Witch Hazel) as Disney basically flips the bird to stereotypes, society's expectations, and, in a way, Walt Disney himself! As I explained to a friend via social media, Beauty and the Beast (2017) has a brown-skinned librarian in, what we can safely presume is late 17th century France, interracial couples, same-sex romantic implications akin to the end of Avatar: the Legend of Korra, and a woman telling a man "No" in, again, 17TH CENTURY FRANCE.

The animation giant also did something that few remakes ever attempt to do: address plot holes and risk making changes. I will not go in depth here to preserve the sanctity of excitement, but if you watch the original as often as I did, you should have had questions about Belle's background and the Prince (because "[he] is not a Beast"). The remake fills in these gaps and reminds us why sometimes our memories of the past can mean more to us than the reality of our past.

If you do not watch the remake for any other reason, go for the ending-- not the ending you already know, but the climax leading up to it. The last computer graphic animation that made me cry like this was Tidus dying in Final Fantasy X. 

Young or old, the Beauty and the Beast remake introduced several generations to a "...tale as old as time..." and demonstrates that who we love is just as much our choice as who we are.

Until Later Guys,

^_^

For your listening pleasure: "Beauty and the Beast" song by Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion

Wondering how I assessed the era? Brush up on gun history & Gaston's Blunderbuss: 

PBS Gun Timeline
History of the Blunderbuss

Friday, January 13, 2017

Nintendo Switch: Snap to the Future





Nintendo Switch: Snap to the Future


January 13, 2017
A’Gia Alston
for A State of Gaming


Holy puns on the run Batman. This morning’s Nintendo Switch Presentation crawled slower than mini Toad hit by a storm cloud mid-race. There were more snaps than a bowl of Rice Krispies and a box of Slim Jims combined. I tuned in around 11:45pm EST and almost turned it off ten minutes in. Yes, the stage presence and presenting process was indeed that horrendous. But, I stuck it out for you lovelies so that you did not have to. So, let’s recap the Nintendo Switch Presentation:


1. $299.99 suggested retail price


The Switch *SNAP*  tiptoes along the $300 line mark when it launches March 3rd, 2017. The hybrid console/handheld will have two Joy-Cons (one left, one right), one AC Adapter (they learned), one docking station, and an HDMI cable. The Nintendo Switch website includes a breakdown of additional peripherals and their prices. Customers can choose between the standard black and grey console, or the black console with red and blue Joy-Con controllers. Based on the presentation, the Pro Controller will be sold separately and customers have to pay for a data plan. Social media overflowed as fans lamented concern over the additional data charge. $299.99 is not the $499.99 Sony aficionados spent on the Playstation 3 back in 2007, but for a system that may not have many launch titles to play on day 1, people are worried.
Nintendo-Switch-Joy-Con-Neon-Colors.jpg


2) Launch Date: March 3, 2017


Prepare to trade in your systems and games at local retailers for credit because you only have a month and a half to get your funds together. On one hand, Nintendo’s ability to launch Switch with such speed-- when it was just announced and revealed last year-- is admirable. However, the downside is that interested buyers do not have a lot of time to grind for launch day. Tack on the holiday season just ending, and I feel Switch sales day 1 will suffer slightly. The other potential issue affecting the Nintendo Switch launch day is…


3) Day 1 Title Line-Up





...or lack thereof. Maybe I missed the memo in the Nintendo Switch Presentation this morning, but the murmur of playable titles accompanying the launch March 3rd could barely be described as a list. Super Mario Odyssey looks stunning, but it is forecasted for a Holiday 2017 release. Ultra Street Fighter II: the Final Challengers-- a game announcement that set my heart a-flutter with pitter patter-- has a new tabletop mode, two new characters, and configurable graphics settings, but no release date. Note: Ono-san and other members of the CAPCOM team are playing this Live on Nintendo Treehouse as I type and I stopped to watch it.
Courtesy of Harrison at Capcom-Unity


Arms, Splatoon 2, and Xenoblade 2, to name a few others, have release dates after launch. As of 1AM EST, only Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2 Switch are blatantly confirmed as available day 1 titles. This is no small feat and my Twitter feed blew up as fans rejoiced for Legend of Zelda, but that was literally the highlight of the whole show. If anyone watching the presentation decided to dip out ten minutes in like I almost did, they would have been left with a lackluster impression.


4) Legend of Zelda


Get hype and stay hyped folks. Breath of the Wild will be released March 3, 2017 for Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Wii U. There are three purchasing options: a) buy the game alone for $59.99, b) purchase the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Special Edition, or c) go big for the grand Pubah Master Edition. Both editions are Nintendo Switch exclusive collections. Ready for the bad news? Neither edition comes with the actual system. Why is this a problem? Because…


5) No Bundles


The Nintendo Switch is small and affordable, given the technological advancements it manages to embody. However, gamers have grown accustom to bundle possibilities when systems launch. The Switch will not even come packaged with 1-2 Switch to at least get you started.


6) Third Party and Indie Love


Electronic Arts, Bethesda brings Skyrim, Suda 51 and Grasshopper are hinting at Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes...the Nintendo Switch Presentation may have been campy, but the third party support is there and if the Nintendo Treehouse Live feed is anything to go by, Indie developers will feel right at home.
... V: Skyrim</i> Review


Takeways


Innovation and fun have always been Nintendo’s modus operandi and I do believe the Switch will be a rewarding experience. The revealed games are fresh and the promotion team made sound decisions showcasing various genres. The dry humor, awkward transitions-- someone messed up Suda 51’s introduction and content display-- and forced enthusiasm made the presentation cumbersome. It felt like a product suggestion a team delivers to their boss hoping it will get green-lighted as opposed to a persuasive, explosive marketing hook. It kept your attention for all the wrong reasons.


If you can ignore the stage presence, Nintendo Switch has promise. The launch day line up will not make it a day 1 purchase for me, but I look forward to bringing it home.


Share your thoughts with the A State of Gaming team via Facebook and Twitter. You can yell at me about how cool Mario’s new hat is, the Fight Game Community’s USFII hype levels, or anything else that popped up via Twitter @Xminess

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