The Evo Lineup Cometh Again

The first-ever Evo Japan delayed the announcement of the main Evo World Championship tournament series lineup by about two weeks. That didn’t stop it from being any less exciting, or in some cases, controversial.


Primed for the first weekend of August, Evo 2018 had its official lineup unveiled by the tandem of Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar and Mark “MarkMan” Julio back on February 6th. This year features a blend of the usual suspects and some new challengers, which includes:

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition
Tekken 7
Injustice 2
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
Dragon Ball FighterZ

The majority of this lineup has been featured at Evos past, so most of it will be familiar to many. Street Fighter has been one of the defining fixtures of the tournament series since its early days as Battle by the Bay, so there was no way it wouldn’t show up. Also, with the Arcade Edition update of Street Fighter V coming out at the beginning of this year, there’s no way it wasn’t going to be closing out Evo.

Injustice 2 made its way to the Evo roster just last year, so it’s still relatively recent. But a bevy of balance updates and all-new downloadable fighters, including the likes of Dark Horse Comics’ Hellboy and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, should shake up the metagame substantially. Of course, there’s a good chance we’ll see Dominique “SonicFox” McClean of Echo Fox somewhere in the finals again, but let’s not get into bold predictions just yet.

Guilty Gear Xrd and Tekken 7 have been a part of the main Evo lineup since 2015, and yearly updates to both have changed the experience each year. With a total roster rebalancing coming to Rev2 next month, and Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis Caelum coming to Tekken 7 at some point in the Spring following the game’s most recent addition, The King of Fighters’ Geese Howard, that shouldn’t change this year.

Finally on the returning titles, both Smash Bros. in the main lineup is still a polarizing point of contention, as I’ve made clear before. In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s initial year, I could understand having Melee on the main lineup. However, now that the game has proven to stand well-enough on its own in regards to entrants and viewership, that should no longer be the case. Just last year, the Smash Bros. U finals featured a thrilling grand final set between current champion Saleem “Salem” Young and recently-retired Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, a complete ten-game run where Young ultimately prevailed. Contrast that to Melee’s four-game grand final where Adam “Armada” Lindgren handily beat Joseph “Mang0” Marquez, and it paints a pretty clear picture as to which was more exciting.


The only two brand-new additions to Evo this year are Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. FighterZ making the cut doesn’t come across as a major shock, given Dragon Ball’s immense global popularity and the excitement surrounding the actual game going back to its initial E3 announcement. With how well recent FighterZ tournaments have gone, and more characters on the way in the coming months, it should make for an excellent watch.

That just leaves Cross Tag Battle as the only real surprise of the lineup, though I use the term “surprise” a bit loosely. While I’m overall glad it’s part of the main lineup, there’s something about its inclusion that hasn’t quite sat well with me. I mentioned back in my blog about the game’s controversial DLC plans that there was a sneaking suspicion of internal pressure to get the game out by Evo season. With this news, there could very well be a ring of truth to it. It’s not a bad thing, but if Evo was the reason for ASW’s release plans being what they are, it’s not exactly a good look, either. In short, it’s complicated.


One quick note: In addition to Street Fighter V: AE, traditionally the game to close out Evo, the other Sunday titles for this year include Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2, Dragon Ball FighterZTekken 7, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. While it’s a strong lineup, I’m torn on Melee’s inclusion.

I see what the Evo staff might be trying to do: The plan, provided both games find themselves on the main Evo lineup in the future, seems to be that Melee and Smash Bros. U will rotate Evo Sunday duties year to year. Still, I don’t see why the staff didn’t opt to ride the hot hand and give Smash Bros. U another go-round on Evo Sunday, given how phenomenal the game’s finals were last year. There’s more I could go into, but I’ll save that for a potential later entry.


By this point, you might be wondering: “Where’s Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite?”

For the first time since its introduction at Battle by the Bay 2000, the Marvel vs. Capcom series will not be on the main docket. Naturally, this has become the biggest story of the whole reveal show, yet there hasn’t been a concrete answer as to why. Cuellar said that player support for Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite “fizzled,” which is a rubbish statement when you consider the fact that entry numbers for the game have landed within the top five of every single major tournament it’s been in since launch.

However, tournament turnouts only tell half the story. The other half, to be blunt, is the fact that Infinite tanked. While many agree that the gameplay lives up to the series’ pedigree, they also mention that everything else does not. Between dull visuals, a roster with a handful of issues (leaning too heavily on the previous entry and banking on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success being chief among them), sparse single-player content, and questionable PR management in the months leading up to the game, the game has not been all that well-received, and is likely the reason why Infinite will be regulated to a side tournament at best.

While it’s not unreasonable to think that Marvel told Capcom to not lobby for the game in the main lineup as Julio suggested, I think there’s another possibility to consider. Perhaps Capcom realizes that they dropped the ball on Infinite, and are working behind the scenes to do something to improve it. Wishful thinking, to be sure, but I like to keep all possibilities on the table.


All things considered, I’m willing to say that this year’s Evo lineup is looking to be one of the stronger ones, even without the presence of Marvel vs. Capcom on the main roster. Granted, I do think it’s a bit heavy on the anime fighters, with three as opposed to two like they tend to carry. Otherwise, Evo 2018 should be an interesting experience. All that’s left to do now is count down the months and get ready for the next battle.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

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Something About a GOAT

In life, there are three certainties: Death, taxes, and Fox Sports 1 stooge Rob Parker doling out asinine hot takes on the New England Patriots.

Between Parker and ESPN’s Max Kellerman, it’s hard to say which of the two is more obnoxious when it comes to Patriot-related viewpoints. Kellerman seems like an easy choice, since he seems to refuse to let go of his “cliff” argument, even if it seems like that argument has backfired on him. But to his credit, at least he doesn’t seem willing to say he’s no longer the GOAT (greatest of all time) of NFL quarterbacks.


On the February 6th edition of Fox Sports 1’s Undisputed with Joy Taylor, Skip Bayless & Shannon Sharpe, Parker made two points that have drawn the ire of many, especially those in New England.

First, he said that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the same man who has won five of eight Super Bowls in his career, deserves 100% of the blame for the team’s loss in Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles. The reason for this is that Brady had two chances to give the Patriots either the lead, or at least a tie, in the game’s last minutes, and both were squandered.

To Parker’s credit (provided there’s some to spare in the first place), he’s not necessarily wrong. For that matter, neither is Sharpe, who only put 75% of the blame on the Patriots legend, a take that’s slightly easier to stomach. While Brady had a monster game, with 505 passing yards and three touchdowns without any interceptions, there were moments that he wasn’t entirely up to scratch. Namely, the moments where he failed to successfully catch a pass from receiver Danny Amendola, lost the ball on a strip-sack by the Eagles’ Brandon Graham, and failed to get the offense down the field fast enough to score in the closing seconds.

However, while Brady deserves at least SOME of the blame, his shortcomings are only one part of the larger picture. Let’s look at those last two blunders a little closer, shall we?


First of all, on the matter of the strip-sack, some of the blame goes to the Patriots’ offensive line. They had done a decent-enough job of holding back the Eagles’ hellacious pass-rush up until that point, so the fact that they let Graham slip through and get to Brady is a strike against them. Brady could’ve thrown the ball a bit sooner, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the offensive line caved in at the worst moment.

As for Brady not having enough time to get the offense down the field to score a possible touchdown and two-point conversion, part of the blame in that instance falls to the special teams unit. While it was mostly a non-factor outside of a handful of field goal attempts, this is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Following what would ultimately be the Eagles’ clinching field goal, Patriots running back Dion Lewis fielded the ensuing kickoff, and then flipped the ball to fellow running back Rex Burkhead in hopes of, I assume, pulling off something akin to the Tennessee Titans’ Music City Miracle, bleeding a few seconds off the clock in the process. It ultimately didn’t work, but what makes this instance worse is that had Lewis simply called for a fair catch rather than try and generate some trickery, Brady would’ve had a little more time to try and get the offense down the field fast enough to try and tie the game up.


Brady isn’t entirely faultless for the Patriots’ defeat. However, the the lion’s share of the blame goes to the defense, and for good reason. Every time the offense or special teams managed to close the gap, tie the game up, or even take the lead, the onus was then on the defense to prevent the Eagles’ offense from turning the tide back in their favor. But that obviously didn’t happen, as the defense…notably dreadful on third and fourth down…failed to make crucial stops when they were needed, allowing quarterback Nick Foles and company to trek across the field at-will and constantly put the Patriots’ offense on the back-foot. There’s also the matter of questionable coaching decisions on New England’s side, chief among them being the benching of former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. But that’s a whole other topic for another time.

So, to close out this part of my argument, here’s how I would parcel out the blame for the Patriots’ shortcomings:

Defense: 30%
Coaching: 25%
Offensive Line: 20%
Brady: 20%
Special Teams: 5%

Like I said, Brady does deserve at least some blame for the Patriots coming up short in their quest for a sixth Super Bowl title. But to say he deserves all of it when there’s more to it than what he didn’t do is a ridiculous statement.

Which, when you think about it, fits Rob Parker’s anti-Patriots M.O. like a glove.


With all of that out of the way, the next point of Parker’s is that the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl LII removes Brady from the argument for the GOAT, and returns San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana to the top of the list. His main argument is that Montana won all four of the Super Bowls he played in, throwing for 1,142 yards, 83 completions, and eleven touchdowns, while Brady has only won five of his eight Super Bowls, even though he’s thrown for 2,576 yards, 235 completions, and 18 touchdowns.

Believe it or not, this debate has been a point of contention even before Super Bowl LII had been decided. It’s hard to come to a consensus in this instance; keep in mind that Montana and Brady played in two different eras, and under different circumstances. Montana played in a salary cap-less era surrounded by starpower, and Brady plays in a generation WITH a salary cap, and arguably less high-profile talent to boot. Still, saying that Brady is no longer the GOAT because he’s lost three Super Bowls is a ridiculous argument when you consider the fact that he still has one more win than Montana, and many of the former’s stats dwarf the latter to boot.

One thing that Sharpe has brought up a few times on Undisputed is that sports have a “short menu consisting of wins and losses.” While a spotless record is certainly an incredible feat, losses should not count against arguments for the GOAT, and Brady has still won more than he’s lost in the Super Bowl. More than that, there are athletes that are still talked about as being the GOAT of their sports despite losing at the championship stage multiple times.

Such athletes include Derek Jeter, perhaps the most revered modern day New York Yankee. The former superstar shortstop was known for being the driving force of five of the Yankees’ numerous World Series championships, including the 1998-2000 three-peat period where he was named the 2000 World Series MVP. Conversely, he was also part of two Yankees teams that suffered from World Series losses. The first came at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, and the next to the Florida Marlins two years later.

Kobe Bryant has the same distinction as Jeter, oft-regarded as an all-time legend and leading five Los Angeles Lakers teams to NBA Finals Championships; three of them from 2000-2002, and two from 2009-2010. He was also voted Finals MVP for the last two. Also like Jeter, he was a part of two Lakers teams that lost in the NBA Finals. The losses came at the hands of the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics, both within four years of each other.

So, by Parker’s logic, if Brady is disqualified from GOAT status because he’s lost three Super Bowls, that means Jeter, Bryant, and athletes with similar credentials are also disqualified. If you’re going to disqualify one athlete from consideration as the GOAT because they lost in the big moment, you need to disqualify all of them on the same grounds.

And before it’s bought up, this does not factor in the Deflategate allegations leveled against Brady; contrary to popular opinion, it was never actually proven that he was involved to any sort of extent. Plus, if you’re going to hold Brady’s Deflategate allegations against him, you need to do the same for Bryant’s rape allegations, which are far worse in context; once again, what you apply to one you must apply to all.


Parker’s animosity towards New England is unsurprising by this point, but it seems as though the level of stupidity and cluelessness in his hot takes has peaked. Blaming the Patriots’ loss 100% on Brady, saying his status as the GOAT is revoked and returned to Montana, and claiming that 5-3 is “basically .500,” is a slap in the face of common logic.

Make no mistake, he’s free to dislike Brady as he pleases, but takes like those are an extensive kind of ridiculous. Thankfully, even people outside the New England area are keenly aware of the man’s outrageous logic, and have called him out on it accordingly.

Then again, anyone would call out the BS of a man who asked Rod Marinelli if he wished his daughter married a better defensive coordinator.


In short:
Does Tom Brady deserve some of the blame for losing the Super Bowl? Yes.
Does losing a third Super Bowl disqualify him from being the GOAT? No.
Does Rob Parker sound absolutely stupid with this take? You bet.
Will that change any time soon? Don’t count on it.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

The Switch-List

The success of the Nintendo Switch has been mentioned many times over the course of this year, thanks in large part to a stellar Year One library of games. So, instead of focusing on that, let’s talk about five potential Switch titles I want to see.


What began with a smaller lineup headlined by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild way back in March has now grown to include just about anything you can think of. From Nintendo’s own brand names both old and new, to big-name third parties, and even smalltime indie developers, the Switch has something for everyone. Moreso, 2018 proves to be just as bountiful for the Switch, with games like Kirby Star Allies, a Yoshi’s Woolly World sequel, and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle primed for release.

Yet, while the Switch’s ever-growing library is a boon for many, the Big N especially, it can also get people wondering what else could make its mark there. Visions of franchises with games tailor-made for the hybrid’s capabilities are bound to tingle the nerve endings of many. There are bound to be plenty of wishlists for what people want to see in the Switch’s second year and beyond.

Present company included, of course.


For full disclosure, I’m going into this with very few “ground rules” to go off of, chief among them being that this is in no set order of most-wanted to least-wanted. Obviously, what I want to see needs to be plausible for Nintendo, meaning there needs to be realistic argument for a game’s chances at showing up on the system. That means nothing like ports of Horizon Zero Dawn or Cuphead will show up here, though those would certainly be sweet additions.

Also, I’ll be trying to shy away from what I like to call “gimmie picks,” or choices that are considered common among Nintendo enthusiasts, which means you won’t be seeing things like Animal Crossing or Super Smash Bros. on this list.

Other than all of that, just keep in mind that this is all personal opinion. With that out of the way, let’s get down to it.


Image result for Diddy Kong Racing
(Image courtesy of Nintendo Life)

Diddy Kong Racing
While a new Donkey Kong Country title following in the footsteps of Tropical Freeze is likely in the cards, I’d personally love to see Retro Studios revive another branch of the Country that hasn’t been touched for almost 20 years. Diddy Kong Racing was a kart racer ahead of its time when it launched on the Nintendo 64; in addition to a story mode, the game gave players three different vehicles to work with, and racetracks that took advantage of their capabilities. The framework for a DKR reboot is there, so it all comes down to Nintendo (and hopefully Retro Studios) ticking the right boxes. One thing they could do is make the gameplay more dynamic by introducing the ability to transform vehicles on the fly and adapt to changes in the course. Throw in a variety of environments and maybe a new soundtrack by original DKR composer David Wise, and we might have a challenger to Mario Kart’s throne on our hands.



(Image courtesy of Nintendo Life)

Kid Icarus
Once a prominent resident of Nintendo’s Island of Misfit Franchises, the Kid Icarus series found new life between a playable appearance by protagonist Pit in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the series’ first entry in over a quarter of a century four years later. Kid Icarus Uprising was released on the Nintendo 3DS to glowing reviews, with the only hang-up for most people being an awkward control scheme. Otherwise, the game’s gorgeous visuals, chaotic gameplay, whip-smart humor and excellent voicework made it a 3DS hallmark. While producer Masahiro Sakurai said that a sequel wasn’t likely, giving this game the high-def treatment would be the next best thing, alleviating the control issues many had before and introducing the series to people who may not have played it. Or, alternatively, Nintendo could hand the series’ reines over to a new director and try a new angle, such as a run-and-gun platformer similar to Gunstar Heroes or the aformentioned Cuphead.


Image result for Mario & Luigi Logo

(Image courtesy of the Mario & Luigi Wiki)

Mario & Luigi
The thought of a new Mario RPG on the Switch is sure to bring up discussion over how Nintendo should approach it, and there’s bound to be a number of people who want Paper Mario to go back to its turn-based roots. While that would be nice, I would personally be all for a new Mario & Luigi RPG. Reason being, not only are those games fun and exciting to play, but they’re also some of the funniest games in the Super Mario series. Of course, the only question from there would be what exactly Nintendo should do next; from its humble beginnings in Superstar Saga, the series has seen the brothers jump back and forth through time, explored the innards of their perennial nemesis Bowser, walk through dreamscapes, and even team up with Mario’s paper counterpart. There’s still plenty that hasn’t been introduced in the Mario & Luigi series as of yet, such as Rosalina from the Galaxy games or the cast of Donkey Kong Country, so it can’t be that difficult to find a new angle to play off of.


Image result for Panel de Pon

(Image courtesy of Nintendo Wiki)

Panel de Pon
Nintendo’s been willing to take a chance on new franchises like Splatoon and ARMS, and the payoff for both has been excellent. So why not take the same chances and try to not just revive an older franchise, but bring one to the west? Panel de Pon is a fairly obscure puzzle game that was given a Yoshi’s Island reskin and turned into Tetris Attack over in the States. It’s an interesting kind of puzzle game where you clear out stacks of blocks rather than guiding them to where they should go like in Tetris or Puyo Puyo.  A game like Panel de Pon would make for some healthy competition with the current king of Switch puzzlers, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and with how speedrun friendly games like Super Mario Odyssey have been, Nintendo could make this a perfect game for races. With an overhaul to the game’s cutesy artstyle and maybe a gameplay tweak here and there, Panel de Pon could be a hit in the west in Nintendo wants to take a gamble on it.


Image result for Star Fox

(Image courtesy of Engadget)

Star Fox
Much like Fire Emblem, Star Fox has the potential to be an essential part of Nintendo’s higher-tier IPs. The issue is that the Big N doesn’t seem to know what to do with it; the franchise has been in a constant state of flux, rebooting itself every few generations with a few games along the way. As annoying as it might sound to some, I do think that one more reboot of Star Fox on the Switch could be what the series needs. However, the big difference is that this time, Nintendo shouldn’t follow the blueprints laid out by the original SNES title; keep the essential elements of the series, certainly, and Nintendo could even pull from other games in the series like Star Fox 2, which has received overall decent marks thanks to its SNES Classic release. But in general, Nintendo should make it discernible enough for it to stand on its own.  Whether they ask Platinum Games to try again, or even call on another developer like Treasure Games, having a solid Star Fox game on the Switch could be the start of something beautiful.


Will Nintendo answer all of these wishes? Realistically, no, but it never hurts to dream. There are other third party games I’d like to see make it to the Switch, but this piece has gone on long enough, so I’ll wrap it here and perhaps make a Part 2 later on. But I leave you with something that’s been said multiple times before, but bears a reminder: Nintendo has been on a massive tear this year, and if they keep playing their cards right, regardless of what comes out, Year Two is going to be just as amazing.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Can’t Escape From Switching Fate

(Video courtesy of Arc System Works’ official YouTube page)

One of the most pleasant surprises to come out of last July’s Evo World Championships was the announcement of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Hot off the heels of Central Fiction’s Top 8 finals, Arc System Works revealed that BlazBlue would be stepping into the world of crossover fighters for the first time. It was revealed that the series would be teaming up with characters from two other Arc System Works properties, Persona 4 Arena and Under Night In-Birth.

But to the surprise of many, ASW pulled out one last surprise that day: Rooster Teeth’s animated web series RWBY would be making its fighting game debut here, which meant Cross Tag Battle would be an unprecedented four-way crossover. On an afternoon full of tournament upsets and surprise reveals, this game stood as one of the best of the latter.


Following its July unveiling, ASW has been slowly snowballing momentum with new info. Three more characters were announced in September, and a playable demo was at New York Comic-Con earlier this month.

(Video courtesy of Arc System Works’ official YouTube page)

The real juicy news, however, came the week after Comic-Con. At Rooster Teeth’s inaugural RTX London event, Arc System Works revealed the systems the game would be featured on when it launches next year. These include Sony’s Playstation 4, Steam, and most-notably, the Nintendo Switch.

So. Show of hands: Who saw that coming?

Nintendo has already been having a monster year with the success of the Switch. 2017 has seen an embarrassment of great titles for the system, and there are even more on the way between the rest of this year and all of 2018. This now includes Cross Tag Battle, a title that most would’ve expected to not show up on a Nintendo console.

(Then again, nobody was counting on DOOM and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to show up on the Switch, either, and yet both are on their way to the Switch.)


What does this mean in the long run? A few observations:

  • Cross Tag Battle gives the Switch another high-profile fighting game franchise for its portfolio in the form of BlazBlue. There’s already a decent array of fighting games for the Switch that include the likes of Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers and Nintendo’s own ARMS, as well as smaller upcoming fighters like Blade Strangers. But Arc System Works is considered by many to be one of the best non-Capcom fighting game developers in the industry. They’re responsible for three of Cross Tag Battle’s four franchises, as well as the upcoming Dragon Ball FighterZ (which could also see a Switch release if the demand is there), and their legendary Guilty Gear series. That’s a helluva feather in Nintendo’s cap.
  • Similar to the previous point, this reaffirms the notion that third parties are willing to work with Nintendo again. A nagging issue during the Wii U’s lifespan was the sparse third-party support, which forced Nintendo to rely on its own franchises and smaller indie developers to fill out the system’s library. Now, developers and publishers like Bethesda, Square-Enix, and Arc System Works are willing to bring the big guns to the Switch’s library. This could even attract developers and publishers that Nintendo didn’t mention last year when the Switch was first shown off.
  • Finally, while I might be reading too far into things, I believe that Cross Tag Battle on the Switch could open the door for future communications between Nintendo and Rooster Teeth Games. Obviously, it doesn’t mean we’ll see a Red vs. Blue Switch title or Team RWBY being in the mix for the next Super Smash Bros. entry, but if all goes well, Rooster Teeth may be keen to call on Nintendo for future game developments. In addition to Rooster Teeth web series properties like RWBY, Camp Camp, or next year’s Gen:Lock, original titles in the vein of Super Rad Raygun and BattleSloths 2025: The Great Pizza Wars could also find homes on the Switch. It’s all just conjecture, of course, but if Rooster Teeth Games and Nintendo strike an alliance, it could make for some interesting stuff in the future.

Nintendo, for the most part, has been hitting all the right notes this year. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and ARMS have been home runs, and Super Mario Odyssey is primed to put an exclamation mark on the Switch’s first year in the open. But what’s more, the fact that they managed to get a massive crossover fighting game like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle on the Switch is a testament to how they’ve turned their fortunes around from the Wii U days. The only question that remains is where Nintendo could go from here.

Nobody truly knows the answer at this point, but I’d say the future’s looking pretty bright.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Expectation vs. Reality: First Impressions of Icons

One of the things I pride myself on when it comes to this blog is that I’m honest. You’ll never hear me sugarcoat anything; I will always tell it like it is however I want to say it, regardless of what the consequences may be.

So, with that said, let me start off by saying that Icons: Combat Arena isn’t looking too hot right now.


I wrote a few months ago about Wavedash Games’ first big project, a platform fighter tailor-made for the competitive Super Smash Bros. scene. Well, they finally showed off the game to the public at Evo over the weekend, gameplay and all, and its initial reception has been…rather tepid. In general, people have commented on things like its presentation and gameplay, deriding them as, to put it mildly, subpar and generic. In an Evo weekend that was chock full of surprises, this was one of the few duds to come out of it.

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that this is coming from someone who has experience with Melee, both from playing the game casually and spectating competitive matches. If any of this seems foreign to you, I apologize and recommend researching the competitive Melee scene to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about. With that out of the way, let’s talk about Icons’ troubles.


We’ll start with the game’s presentation. In fairness, the look, sound and speed of the game as it stands is forgivable, albeit still hard to take in. It’s explicitly-stated to be in pre-alpha, so of course it’s going to be slower and rough around the edges. Given a little more time and TLC, it’ll hopefully look smoother, sound better, and play faster when it exits beta. So, for the moment, I’ll let them pass on presentation and game speed.

For gameplay, I will say that the Gust Shield (a mechanic similar to pushblocking in traditional fighting games) is a cool idea for a platform fighter, but other than that, it looks like Super Smash Bros. Melee all over again. I do want to see if there are more new ideas and concepts mixed in. As of now, gameplay barely squeaks by.


Where this game truly falters is the gameplay of its characters. Ashani, Kidd, Raymer, Xana, and a new sword-swinging character named Zhurong were all shown off in motion for the first time. Aside from Raymer, whose projectile zoning seems unique enough, you’d swear this game was a Chinese Super Smash Bros. Melee bootleg with all the similarities to Melee‘s beloved cast. Granted, that seems to be what a lot of people are saying, but it’s true.

Zhurong and Kidd are the biggest offenders here. The former has normal moves that are evocative to Fire Emblem’s Marth, right down to the ability to perform the “Ken Combo,” a short aerial sequence that spells certain doom for anyone caught by the blade.

Meanwhile, Kidd is a dead-ringer for Star Fox characters Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi. This includes a laser pistol and a reflector for offensive and defensive purposes, often referred to as a “Shine.” The only things that are remotely unique are some of his horn attacks, but that’s about it.

To round out the rest of the knockoffs, Ashani moves and strikes much like F-Zero’s Captain Falcon, and even though she’s a rare true grappler in the platform fighter genre, Xana borrows a few tricks from the big bad of The Legend of Zelda, Ganondorf. It all adds up to a roster that looks fine visually, but feels painfully uninspired when it comes to the playstyles they convey.


Now, I understand the desire to retain the spirit of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee. Even if most major Melee tournaments consist of some combination of the same five people, the mental and physical dexterity that’s shown off in competitive matches are in a league of their own. However, I believe that creativity is an important component in the development of any sort of medium, and as such, it should not be sacrificed in the name of preserving legacy. The last thing a team of creators should do when developing a spiritual successor is forgo creativity and bank on nostalgia being the lone driving force of a project; doing so hurts your bottom line more than helps it. Not to say that Wavedash Games is deliberately doing this, but with the nods to competitive Melee lore…don’t try and tell me Kidd isn’t a send-up to some of Melee‘s competitive gods…it almost feels like that’s what’s going on here.

(Video courtesy of Dan Fornace’s YouTube channel)

There are many instances where old and new concepts were successfully synthesized. In fact, let’s talk about another platform fighter that does this, and more importantly, does it well: Dan Fornace’s Rivals of Aether. Some of the game’s playable cast borrows from popular Melee gameplay archetypes, but uses classic natural elements like water and fire (as well as their respective offshoot elements like ice and smoke) to put creative spins on them.

One example of this concept in action is Wrastor, an avian wind-based battler who, much like Falco, prefers the air. On a base level, Wrastor’s moveset borrows from the likes of Falco and Captain Falcon, but what really sets him apart is his side special. It creates a slipstream that increases his aerial mobility, as well as his ability to perform air combos, making him a terror to face in the sky. And that’s before getting into the fact that he’s the only character in the game that can perform chargeable strong moves while in the air.

To be blunt, Rivals of Aether’s roster has more of a unique personality and creative ambition to it than Icons does at the moment. It strikes that fine balance between nostalgia and creativity, retaining the competitive aspects of Melee while blazing new trails at the same time. And it’s only going to get better with more new characters on the way, including the guest duo of Ori and Sein from the runaway hit Ori and the Blind Forest.

Meanwhile, Icons is being compared to a Chinese bootleg game. The platform fighter revolution we’ve been waiting for, am I right?


I wanted to see Wavedash Games do something unique with this game, and so far they’ve failed with regards to their characters’ gameplay. They may have said in a recent AMA that there’s more to these characters than what the trailer shows off, and I want to believe that. However, that just begs the question of why they didn’t show any of those unique character qualities off in the first place. Yes, it’s not feasible to show off every single difference these characters have, but showing at least one or two would’ve given people enough confidence that this wasn’t going to be another me-too Smash Bros. clone. First impressions mean everything in the long run, and the first glimpse of Icons, to me and several other people, did not give a good first impression.

And what’s worse is that this has less to do with the graphics, sound design and game speed, and more to do with how the characters play. If all you show off are one-to-one copies of Marth’s normal attacks or Fox’s Blaster and Reflector, you’re not instilling much faith in people who expect to see platform fighters taken to another level. As harsh as I may seem here, it’s only because I want to see these guys redefine what platform fighters are capable of.

Then again, there’s still time before they officially launch the game to show off more and tweak what they have. I’m willing to give Wavedash Games the benefit of the doubt for now, as Icons still has some promise to it. But until they show off more of their roster’s unique qualities, that first impression is going to stick.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Quick Hits: In Defense of the Jimquisition

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been out on Nintendo’s Wii U and their brand-new Switch for a few weeks, and has so far been the toast of the town. Rave reviews have pinned it as one of the greatest games in the series since Ocarina of Time, with its wide-open world being a recurring positive element among reviewers; the general consensus seems to be that the game is deserving of perfect scores all around.

Then there are those moments where the game gets a score that’s less than perfect, and this is where the fanimals are particularly rabid.


Jim Sterling, a longtime video game journalist and host of The Jimquisition, reviewed Breath of the Wild more than a week ago at the time this writing went up, and gave the game an overall score of 7/10, which constitutes a “Good” game by his standards. While he praised most of what the game has to offer, he stated that his overall enjoyment was gimped by elements such as weapon durability, stamina, and rain popping up at inconvenient times and making mountainous terrain difficult to navigate safely. Naturally, hardcore Zelda fans have jumped down his throat about this.


Now, to be clear, I have not played Breath of the Wild as of this writing. I’m still waiting on getting a Nintendo Switch due to personal reasons, and those same reasons have kept me from getting the game on the Wii U. My only “experience” with the game has come from watching other people play it.

That being said, I don’t see why Sterling should be taken to task just because he gave Breath of the Wild a less-than-perfect verdict.

Yes, Breath of the Wild makes a lot of bold changes to the classic Zelda formula. Not all of them are going to sit well with people, and that’s exactly what’s going on here. It’s fine if you don’t have an issue with weapon durability, but that doesn’t mean Sterling should be admonished for thinking that the mechanic is a problem.

Besides, it’s not like he outright hated the game. In fact, if you read Sterling’s review for yourself, you’ll see that in addition to his problems with the game, he praised several elements as well, including the difficulty, the “lived-in” feel of this incarnation of Hyrule, and all the little details strewn throughout. Just because someone enjoys something doesn’t mean it’s automatically deserving of a perfect score; heck, as Sterling himself demonstrated, you can enjoy something while also pointing out any flaws it may have. I’m sure I’ll disagree with his opinions if…and when…I eventually get to play Breath of the Wild for myself, but at the same time I’ll be willing to respect them for what they are: Opinions.


In short: Yes, Jim Sterling gave The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a 7/10. No, he did not commit a cardinal sin by not giving it a 10/10. Carry on.


‘Til we meet again,
Tom