Dark Souls on the Switch – it’s good*

Right after Elden Ring came out I had to take a trip and was away from my PC. I grabbed the Switch for my kids but remembered I had Dark Souls on it. The Switch, from many, many hours of whatever the fuck the kids play on there was messed up with a really bad drift-stick on one of the sticks that made DS nearly unplayable. Somewhere at some random Walmart in Indiana, I found a HORI Split Pad Pro and not only did that solve the drift-stick, it made Dark Souls a far better experience to play without the stock controllers. Very much recommended for everything unless you are worried about it fitting inside your little case (like if you have to shove it up your ass when you are sent to prison), otherwise the HORI sticks make everything play better.

Build

I was mulling over the build to use but when Pinwheel dropped the DAD mask (1/3rd chance), I knew what had to be done– Giant Dad with a fucking Chaos Zweihander. It’s a LOT of work to get all the pieces, and for new players of Dark Souls it is NOT worth it, just get the rest of the stuff and do a lightning Zweihander instead. Why? The Chaos Zwei scales off HUMANITY which means you have to run around with 5-10 humanity all the time. If you drop your souls and can’t get them back, you are farming fucking RATS in the depths for hours and hours to get what you need to hit hard enough to win.

Rings: Havel’s Ring, Wolf’s Ring

Armor: Giants + the Dad mask

Shield: Grass Crest

Weapon: Chaos Zwiehander, a bitch to create, and a bitch to use but hit’s so hard…

bastards!

Bosses

This is my second time all the way through the game so I was familiar with just about all the bosses I fought. Most of the bosses I thought were scary the first time were pushovers and some I thought were easy earlier were challenging.

Fatty Demon: Easy, but punishing later versions make me still hate this guy (like the Erdtrees)

Taurus Demon: Super easy.

Capra Demon: STILL a bitch to defeat, took me a lot of tries, not because of the Capra, but because of the dogs

Insideout Dragon : a tough fight, but the first real “boss” in the game so it better be. I lost a lot of souls during this battle for sure.

Bell Gargoyles: this was really easy, and I remember emotionally suffering in my initial playthrough.

Iron Giant: Not too bad but took me a lot of tries.

Queelag the topless: I used the summon because that one is so silly (a lady with a cleaver with a sack over her head) and she wasn’t too hard. Took me a few tries for sure and of course, that’s after Blighttown so you are always emotionally drained before fighting her, but at least there’s cleavage.

Ceaseless Discharge: this is a trick boss, so really doesn’t count. He’s easy if you know what to do and just a sad sack of fiery shit really.

Smough and Orenstein: Well… I summoned the Sunbro for help and followed the basics: Kill Orenstein first, don’t get hit by Smough and it worked out. This took me countless tries the first time through so I made sure I was good and ready for this battle, including walking in there with 10 Humanity so the Zwei was hitting hard. Big risk, big reward of the beautiful chest ahead.

Yeah, I look REAL good.

NITO: one of my favorite bosses in the end game because he’s pretty easy and also scary. Advice I got was to not go in the room to trigger the big skellingtons. Getting to NITO was terrible for me though…. ugh, Tomb of Giants was worse than Blightown this time.

SEATH: This one was tough, but I just stayed near his leg and kept circling and took him down. I had forgotten the whole prison thing so that was again a surprise!

FOUR KINGS: Super easy. I remember having a ton of trouble with these guys the first play through. Just hit them again and again.

hey I’m one of the good guys right? right? …

Demon Firesage: what an asshole. I kept getting the RNG on his AOE and it just killed me over and over and over. This boss I didn’t like too much because it felt ALMOST unfair.

Fire Centipeed: I lost 10 humanity the first time fighting this jerk, but summoned Sunbro again and we took her down.

BED OF CHAOS: this is my least favorite fight in Dark Souls. Just being constantly pushed off a cliff is not great fun. You can’t do anything but just suffer through this one and get it over with.

SIF: funny doggy. Not a tough fight. Maybe he’s the only good guy among all these bosses and you’re the bad guy.

Gwyn Lord of Cinder: For the final boss, he seems intimidating at first even for my second play through the game, but after playing Bloodborne where you MUST parry as part of normal play, this was a very easy fight that took only two tries! I just parried him over and over and had enough health to tank the shots I missed on… and the chaos zwei with 10 Humanity.

Come at me CHIZZLE CHEST!

Final verdict

The Switch version of Dark Souls is excellent, plays great, performance is fantastic. It’s all there and right in the palm of your hand and really good if you get the Hori controllers. If they work well with DS, they will work well with Breath of the Wild and everything else.

2021 – Video Game of the Year: Virtua Fighter Ultimate Showdown

Why on earth would I pick the GOTY for 2021 to be a remake of a game that came out 10 years ago? Because this game is still the best fighting game there is and we played the shit out of it regular since it came out last summer.

Any time my kid’s friends are over and they feel like playing a fighter, they always select Virtua Fighter, and, until this summer, we had to lug out the XBOX360 in order to play it. What’s more, these kids couldn’t go home and play/practice the game so the only time they could play was at our house. No longer! With the release of VF Ultimate Showdown, modern consoles get this absolute gem ad infinitum.

When it first came out, I was skeptical– especially after the Warcraft 3 debacle by the now collapsed and sold Blizzard Activision, and I was confused why they didn’t just port it direct instead the overhauling of the graphics. As a test, I played the 360 one for a couple hours, then switched to the new one, then switched back and it’s just as responsive and plays exactly the same.

Graphics wise, it’s an update that definitely modernizes the characters and stages, but in some cases not for the better. First off, a lot of the male characters look great with the exception of Akira who does not look quite right at all to me. However, ALL of the female characters look much worse than their 2010 versions in the face region. I do not like the way Vanessa, Eilene or Pai look at all, Sarah is the only one that turned out sort of OK. I think they need to keep working on the faces for all the characters.

Bling wise, there’s a fraction of the character customization in the game compared to 2012’s version– no longer can I bust out Vanessa barefoot in a wedding dress or customize her to look just like Sarah so it’s hard to tell who the other person is actually fighting (haha!). There is a 10$ Yakuza costume pack that adds some new threads, but overall a minor disappointment.

That said, they created/recreated blocky Virtua Fighter 1 style character models for all the characters (including the new characters added from VF2 onward) and that’s fantastic, I can play with the VF2 version of my old main, Lion, but with his full moveset from VF5. Baller!

While the access to this game on modern consoles is the core reason why this was selected as GOTY, the second main reason is really critical– since this game sold so well SEGA is now thinking hard about a Virtua Fighter 6, which should be the end goal of all humans in the coming years.

Online play works great and I’ve had ZERO lag issues, my losses are my own fault and not like I yelled at the TV at the time, ping based. My online play is limited because I have access to local, albeit short and small bean, players.

Recent interest in the game has picked up, and while this new version is definitely not Virtua Fighter 6, I’ve just been super pumped to be able to play this online and locally since it’s release. It looks great, with the exception of some facialisms, and plays, as always, fan-fuckn-tastic. If you have never played a Virtua Fighter game, it is not hyperbole in the slightest when I say it is the best fighting game ever made. It’s three buttons, it’s easy for beginners to pick up and play (together) and have fun and shockingly deep for intermediate and expert players. Below is an example of me fighting against two 11 year old kids that switched off using the controller.

KOF XV is going to be REAL good

Ten days ago was the second Beta/Demo for King of Fighters 15, a now ancient and renowned series of fighting games that used to come out with a new version EVERY SINGLE YEAR from 1994 -2003. It made the switch (for real this time) to 3D with XIV and while that game was good, it didn’t look all that great and had some pretty wonky new characters. What’s more it didn’t FEEL like KOF to me, something was just off…

In contrast, KOF XV looks good and plays exceptionally good. The first demo was fun, but had a few issues (it being a network test beta after all). To give it the college try, I went back and played a few of the older King of Fighters during the same weekend as the demo to see how the feel of the games compared, and while I think KOF 13 (the last sprite-based version) is my favorite gameplay wise, 15 is a close second place.

The toughest thing to do for one of these fighting game companies is to move from 2d to 3d, which only a few series have done successfully (Street Fighter with SFIV, Guilty Gear with Xrd and Strive). A lot of both soul and gameplay can be lost in translation which can be seen in the Street Fighter EX and early attempts at King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown. While most of those are OK games, they really could not hold a candle to their 2d versions when they were released. Nowadays, with the crazy good looking 2d games that Arc System works are putting out, we don’t even think about the struggle it was to get games to look as good as their 2d sprite-based counterparts. SNK has struggled like any other company and I would say nothing looked particularly great in 3D until Samurai Showdown 2019.

Gameplay wise, 3D games that mimicked 2D fighters tended to be slower than their 2D counterparts and rarely felt all that great. Meanwhile full bore 3D fighters worth bothering with (Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Tobal, etc.) were fun straight out of the gate and didn’t have ‘better’ versions to compare them to in the first place. Newer 2d games using polygons instead of sprites have certainly solved this issue and here we are with a good looking and extremely playable KOF!

Here’s some babbling about the game from the demo:

Character wise, I stuck with the old standbys, and I really don’t think most of the new characters are all that great (and there were a ton of lame ones added to KOF 14 that didn’t make it to 15 so far), with the exception of Meitenkun, the sleepy kid who falls asleep during his own supermoves. INSTANT MAIN.

Virtua Fighter 5 turned 10 last month

Wow. 10 years. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface yet with this fighter and I have played it a lot. I still ALWAYS have my Xbox 360 connected to a TV in the house for this game alone (and a few others). Granted, right when this came out I had my second kid crawling around, so there hasn’t been much time for serious fighting game play or practice.

I first played Virtua Fighter 2 in the arcade at the University of Florida (and later at the arcade in Madison, WI) and waited EAGERLY for it to come out on consoles. I could never get anyone to really play it with me a ton, and in the later 90’s we had TOBAL 2 which eclipsed everything. While I followed the series, I didn’t get into it again until VF4, which is amazing. The Kumite mode in that game really pushed it over the edge, where you go to different arcades and compete in different tournaments and the AI of the players follows the styles of various real people!

To put it in the most basic terms: VF5 is the greatest fighting game ever made.

  • It’s very easy for new people to pick up (it only has three buttons!!!) and at the same time it is by far the deepest fighter I’ve ever played. Please see this essay on closed and open stances if you disagree.
  • It’s not combo heavy. Like King of Fighters / Samurai Shodown, it’s got combos, but they are difficult to pull off and don’t dominate play.
  • Every character is like a new world of gameplay. The difference in playing even Brad Burns vs Jacky, which in many other games would be almost palette swaps, is like the depth of the ocean. Let alone exceedingly different characters like Aoi and Wolf.
  • It’s not a defensive, footsy game. Tekken and Street Fighter are footsy games. They are good games, but the footsy is really an annoying part of the game to me, especially in Tekken where you can full screen combo off a low kick.
  • There are no tiers. Certainly there are character tiers at high level play, but you, my friend, will never notice them. If you get good with a character, you will be able to fight vs every other character. The last tournament I watched had a Jeffry (low tier) vs Akira (highest tier) IN THE FINAL.
  • It has not been eclipsed by any other 3D fighting game. DOA and Tekken, while of course more popular at this time, are SHADOWS compared to Sega’s masterpiece. I like DOA 5 and 6, I think they are way more fun than Tekken, but I did the TASTE TEST with my kids and some neighbor kids and VF won out 100%. The only game that came close, for me (and notable others) was, of course, Tobal 2.
  • It’s fast and it’s high damage. Rounds can last awhile or be over quick. This isn’t due to people being caught in endless combos like the Anime fighters, but due to general high damage of all the characters. Again, like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown.
  • Creative play. The core thing about Tobal and VF compared to a lot of fighters is their ability for players to play a single character in many different ways. Watch a mirror match up in VF and you won’t see the same play-styles or even the same moves. It’s insane and very different from a lot of the 2D fighters where you have your bread and butter comboes that you see constantly (and supermoves)
  • NO meters, no super moves. Only one character has a meter-equivalent and that’s Shun, who gets drunk. All a character’s moves are available to use at all times otherwise. VF proves you don’t need that shit (though it is fun in 2d fighters) to have the best fighting game ever.
  • Counter Picking – this is a big thing in King of Fighters and Street Fighter. Ryu beats Ken, Ken beats down everyone else. This is also a big part of Tekken. This has no part in VF, again, because VF effectively has no tiers.
  • It has only three buttons

People still play, there are tournaments going on even now. This is from just the other day.

Watch in high level play in VF that the players keep their characters right near each other at all times. Look at ANY other fighting game and there’s a lot of long/medium play and when characters get close in it usually means someone is instantly full screen comboe’d. This is because the players are testing their Yomi vs what the other players will do with the whole guard, attack, throw rock paper scissors.

Platforms. VF5 has not been officially ported to the PS4 or XBONE. You can play it on PS Now (yuck) or buy it on the XBONE as a backwards compatible game. I believe most competitive play is on the PS3 still. So like Tobal 2 (the subject of another post) this is a game you have to work at getting to play.

So get your PS3, Xbox 360 or Yakuza on the PS4 and play some Virtua Fighter!

Great article by Virtua Kazama

Superhero BEATINGS

We had a tournament with all 22 characters from My Hero One’s Justice last weekend. We only had three players, so we had to switch off and play different characters and even sometimes play each other’s mains when two of a player’s characters got into the same bracket.

We seeded them based on this tier ranking, which I now feel is pretty out of date and maybe is only for what my kids would call ‘try hard’ players and not for dirty, dirty casuls like us, actually, reading other stuff online, it’s just out of date, by a LOT.

A S S

A brief description of the game: MHOJ is an arena fighter like Naruto Ultimate Storm, and some of the DBZ games but with strange hyper-Japanese superheroes rather than ninja or… uhhh whatever the DBZ guys are. Basically, you can run all over the fighting area, which is usually inside a big cube or rectangle that looks like a city street or a park or a classroom (!). There are standard attacks, counter attacks and unblockables (most are grabs, but many are something else). Counter attacks give you super armor (like Hulk in MVC2) so you cannot be hit out of your attack animation, but you still take damage. All characters have two ‘quirk’ attacks that are specials unique to just them and are part of the normal move set (as in, you can constantly do them). All characters also have a meter that increases during the matches like most other fighters of any type. When full the characters can pull off Ultra attacks which go into a cinematic if it connects. Usually I hate these cinematic moves due to one of Budokan 3 on the PS2, which constantly had these super looonnnggg cinematic attacks where you could get up and take a piss during. Luckily, the MHOJ’s Ultras are short (for the most part) and rarely occur as meter takes a long time to build up.

You also get to pick two team mates from the roster that you can call to help you either break or extend combos a bit like KOF 2013 and again like MVC2. I thought it was a 3v3 fighter at first, and was like huh.. I can’t play as all these guys? But with play, I really enjoy the team assists.

There is normal movement on the map which seems to make the game slow as shit, but the game has dashing which makes you pretty vulnerable but speeds the game up crazy. Basic cancelling is typically done with the dash button mid combo, leading obviously to some crazy combos like every other game with a specific move for a cancel rather than cancelling normals into supers and stuff like that (which you can also do).

Because it’s a superhero game, you can knock people across the maps, and even knock them into the walls so they get stuck and you get a free attack (which usually leads into the truly huge combos). The game is remorseless about characters with ranged attacks–firing off constant fireballs is not a punishable offense and can be done with the press of a single button. The first time you play against one of the ranged characters (like Todoroki or Dabi), you will be like WTF sort of game is this?! as they seem uber over-powered. Most of the ranged/zone characters are weak close in, so there is some balance. However, a few are good at range and close up, which makes it very difficult to win against them at any time.

Even as n00bs with very few matches under our belts, the tournament was quite a bit of fun and there were some intense match ups, and some matches that people just sloughed off in apathy around the characters. Since he’s brutal at range and close up, everyone expected Shoto Todoroki to dominate, and he was logically placed at the highest seed. Yet, in a chilling upset in the semi finals, he was taken down –not by my well-practiced Momo (practiced for a couple hours that is) –but by a button mashing MUSCULAR who went on to win the final vs All Might.

Here are the winners and the runners up:

  1. Muscular
  2. All Might
  3. Todoroki
  4. Jiro

Semi finals (in no particular order)

  • Momo
  • Deku Shoot Style
  • Shigenaki
  • Kaminari Deki

In the final 8, we have three hardcore zone characters (read as ‘fucking annoying’) with Todoroki, Jiro and Deki and all the rest are either close-in combo characters or weird AoE types (Momo and Shigenaki). It was very annoying to go up against Dabi, Endevour and Ihasa the wind dude, but in the end, all the zone characters had their tickets punched by the large fists of Muscular and All Might.

All that said, I really, really like the fighting engine in this game and I’m very surprised by this. My first ‘arena’ fighter was Ehrgiez and the last one I really liked was Urban Reign by Namco. I played a couple of the Dragonballs games but the characters are just not my cup of tea at all. What I like most is that the dash cancels (and therefore combos) are easy to figure out and timing is relatively easy (we play on Manual mode). With the support characters, there’s just a ton of shit going on in the game yet it’s all very tactical, despite the fact that a few of the characters can beat you down with the press of a couple buttons if you don’t know what you are doing. All of the 22 characters feel very different from each other and some have radically different quirks including one that can become the other character they are fighting during the match, and one that can use his powers so much that he stuns himself and leaves himself open for a massive beating.

MHOJ is also surprisingly good since Superhero fighting games usually suck. You have Marvel vs Capcom 2, which is incredible, but since then: what is there? Many tries, but not much that’s good. The new Marvel vs Capcom games are lackluster at best, especially without the Xmen: I mean, why bother? Injustice is a SNOOZE fest, especially for a superhero game. MVC2 pulled it off because it was completely insane and the Marvel universe does not have a Superman/Supreme/Saitama/Marvelman (Miracleman) to defy the canon by placing them in a fighter where they would normally destroy all foes easily. When I see Superman standing there punching batman in a 2-d fighter, it just seems very stupid. Granted, these types of games are very difficult to make in the first place. You have crazy ass powers, some of which only tangentially work in a fight, and certainly any characters that can fly or really jump high are ridiculous to try to model. MVC2 pulled it off, and MHOJ has also.

While we wait for the Kill la Kill game, and the One-Punch Man game has just been announced, there are more ‘super’ arena fighters right around the corner. Meanwhile, My Hero One’s Justice is excellent fun, even for plebian filth casuls. With it’s stupid name and severely unbalanced roster, so far, MHOJ seems like the best super hero fighting game that I’ve played outside of MVC2.

Arc System works creating Kill la Kill arena Fighter!

“Fear is freedom! Subjugation is liberation! Contradiction is truth! Those are the facts of this world. And you will all surrender to them, you pigs in human clothing!

ITEM! Arc System Works (Guilty Gear, DBZ, Blazblue) has released a teaser trailer for their new game, which is Kill la Kill!

If you have never seen t he show, it is about… an orphan girl who goes to a new school to find information on her father’s murderer. She carries around a very large half-scissor and gets into a lot of fights. The show is what I would call a HYPER Japanese anime, with shockingly fast pacing, tons of barely comprehensible cultural references and quite a bit of near-nudity. Closest I can describe it is a modern version of Those Obnoxious Aliens. If you want a short single-episode intro to the series, I HIGHLY recommend Episode 4: “Dawn of a Miserable Morning” which is both totally insane and more of a ‘single serving’ story that only has a bit to do with the overall plot of the show (which is also insane).

Anyway, this is something to watch! Arc System Works has made many of the best 2D fighters ever, and this should not disappoint.

Firepro Wrestling World coming to steam!

One of my favorite games for the Sega Saturn was Fire Pro Six Man Scramble.  I bought six controllers for the console just to force people that came to the kung fu house (usually not to play video games, but to get loaded and go out and have a place to crash within walking distance of various drinking and dance establishments) to play it over and over.  Firepro was made by a video game school in Japan originally and has continued on from there.

While 2D and cartoonish, the game is extremely technical to play with vary harsh timing on the grabs and throws.  In addition to the wrestling, you can not only create wrestlers, leagues, tournaments and stuff but you can program wrestlers AI as well. The depth of the customization is simply madness. This has screamed to be a PC game for a LOOONG time now, and here it is (in early access).

Also, this version has EIGHT-man battle royales, so dude, yeah.