Friday, October 27, 2017

An Assassin’s Creed Retrospective, Part V: Pandemonium and a Pint in Jolly Old England

Today is Friday, October 27, 2017, and that means Assassin’s Creed Origins has been released worldwide! I hope you enjoy your new game while people in the storm ravaged areas of Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, and beyond search for missing pets/grandmas, struggle with crippling depression, and fight to put the pieces of their shattered lives back together. I wonder how many bottles of clean drinking water $65 could buy?

Also, if you preordered Origins, you get the bonus mission “Secrets of the First Pyramids.” Fun!

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Release Date: 10/2015. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC

Syndicate is basically Unity in England with the game set to “fun” in the options screen. Oh, and also a sweet grappling hook.

The game looks and plays much like its older, buggier brother, but introduces a pair of main characters that the player can switch between on the fly. Meet brother and sister duo Jacob and Evie Frye, who bring slightly different skills to the table. Jacob, who specializes in combat efficiency, is probably the most charismatic and likable murderous psychopath since Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed II. Evie, who specializes in stealth, is more of a generic by-the-book assassin we’ve come to expect at this point. There’s a few Odd Couple-style interactions between the pair, but their relationship is mostly played for drama.

While Jacob has the better personality, it soon becomes apparent that Evie’s skillset is more useful. That’s why it’s so infuriating that most important missions are exclusive to her asshat brother. I’d suggest that Jacob is favored by the game developers simply because he’s a man, but the Jack the Ripper DLC (see below) is almost exclusively Evie’s show. Chalk it up to making a more challenging game, I guess.

Anyway, the Frye twins spend the game building up their own gang, the Rooks, and trying to reestablish the waning assassin presence in London. It’s yet another situation in Assassin’s Creed where the storyline is neither memorable nor what you’d call “good,” but the Fryes are surrounded by a gaggle of excellent supporting characters to spice things up. From a pair of Chareses (Dickens and Darwin) to transgender businessman Ned Wynert and badass Indian prince Duleep Singh, it’s the endearing characters that keep cut scenes from dragging, not the lukewarm tale of… whatever’s going on in London. And mercifully, the present day interruptions are kept to a bare minimum this time around. Anything that lets me get back murdering random people on the streets because I don’t like their hat, or their horse is ugly, is much welcome.

Speaking of horses, buggies (no, not like Unity’s levitating townspeople) are a big part of Syndicate. It’s a fast way to get from point A to B, but it also leads to some of the dullest missions around. (Doesn’t every gamer want to drive slowly to protect their passengers?) Other highlights include recruiting gang members to do your brutalizing for you, the aforementioned grappling hook that makes climbing easier but only works when it feels like it, and shooting civilians off their rowboats on the Thames River and into a death’s icy, wet embrace.

In true AC fashion, here’s literally hundreds of things scattered around the industrial slums to collect and immediately forget about. It’s not good game design, but it appeals to the completionist in me, so it gets a pass. Other returning annoyances include paying real-world cash for in-game currency, missions where you slowly follow some rando around until the game remembers it’s an action title again, and load times that afford the player a convent break to stop and make themselves a grilled cheese.

Overall, Syndicate is the game Unity should have been. Industrial Revolution London is a lot of fun to explore, and there’s even a brief section focusing on World War I for variety. Strangely, Syndicate’s biggest problem is that there’s too much content on offer: the game was still giving me new missions after I earned the platinum trophy. Had the more tedious aspects had been lessened and some sleep inducing-missions cut, Syndicate could have been a classic. But even as it stands, the game stands head-and-shoulders over most of its AC brethren, stabbing its way nearly to the top of a long line of bestselling, iconic games and also AC Revelations.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper. Release Date: 12/2015. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC

Oh, I say, BRRR!

Set 20 years after the main events of Syndicate, the Jack the Ripper features a bite-sized chunk of Creedy goodness wrapped in a familiar package.

Continuing the Assassin’s Creed tradition of underwhelming DLC, JtR takes place entirely in sections of the game we’ve already seen in Syndicate… or does it? In fact, there are several episodes in this ten mission arc that take place in entirely new locations. Of particular interest is Lady O’s mansion, which is an excellent playground for destruction. With underpowered enemies, no place for them to escape, and plenty of dark nooks in which to lurk, this mission starts feeling less like Assassin’s Creed and more like a movie in the Halloween series.

The creepy atmosphere is enhanced by a wicked (like the witch, not Boston) soundtrack, the cold, unforgiving landscape of London in wintertime, and Jack himself, who looks like a cross between Charles Dickens and Jason from Friday the 13th Part II, what with his burlap sack mask and penchant for stabbing.

The new fear-based combat system rounds out the spookiness by letting the player terrorize enemies. Unlike its parent game, the focus in Jack the Ripper isn’t to kill the bad guys, so much as it is to brutalize them physically and mentally. Sometimes, you feel more like Batman than Evie Frye. The difference is, Batman never left criminals to die pinned down to the middle of a busy road or scared them into shooting each other in face.

Some of the side missions are eye-meltingly boring, but on the whole, staking around London in Jack the Ripper is great fun. Too bad this one isn’t a standalone like Freedom Cry, or I’d have recommended it to people who don’t feel like plunging into Syndicate’s plethora of content but still want to take a short trip to Jolly Old England.

An Arbitrary ranking of all main Assassin’s Creed Games

All right, folks. You had to know this was coming. You can’t do a proper retrospective without a list of the author’s favorite and least favorite titles.

Only entries into the main 3D series will be considered for this list, so any handheld or 2D Creed games will not appear. Liberation is not an exception to this rule since we’ll be reviewing the HD version on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, not the PS Vita original.

Expansions and spinoffs such as The Tyranny of King Washington and Freedom Cry are considered part of their originator game and thus will not be ranked separately.

All games are ranked as they stand today, with all stability patches install. Basically, imagine a new copy of each game purchased and played on October 27, 2017 with all updates applied.

The higher up on the list within the tier, the better the game.

Now, without further ado:

LEGENDARY TIER – Great games worth playing for all gamers.
-          Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
-          Assassin’s Creed II

EXCELLENT TIER – Great games worth playing for fans of Assassin’s Creed and maybe other gamers too.
-          Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
-          Assassin’s Creed III
-          Assassin’s Creed Rogue

GOOD TIER – Fun games, but nothing special. Worth a play for AC fans, or if you get ‘em cheap.
-          Assassin’s Creed Unity
-          Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD
-          Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

MEH TIER – Not bad, but you’re not missing much if you skip it.
-          Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

AWFUL TIER – One of the worst games ever made.
-          Assassin’s Creed I

Brotherhood ranks so “low” because it’s basically just ACII again, but note that it’s still in a tier of recommended titles. Assassin’s Creed III is aided by its expansion, The Tyranny of King Washington, helping it to pull ahead of Rogue. Black Flag is unhindered by the shrug-worthy Freedom Cry expansion and the Jack the Ripper DLC made the choice between Syndicate and ACIII much easier.  


So there you have it, folks. Now you should be all ready for Origins! Or if you’re so inclined, take a look at the earlier entries in the Assassin’s Creed series in Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV of the retrospective. Happy stabbing! 

(And seriously, why not donate a few bucks to the Red Cross?)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

An Assassin’s Creed Retrospective, Part IV: Goodbye New York, Hello Glitches

Assassin’s Creed Origins, the latest entry in Ubisoft’s much milked beloved franchise, is set to hit the shelves on Friday, October 27. It puts players in the excessively lacey sandals of Bayek, one of the first assassins, as he roams around ancient Egypt, presumably hanging out with pre-embalmed mummies and building pyramids by stabbing them.

The release marks the 10th anniversary of the first Assassin’s Creed title, the fourth anniversary of when Ubisoft should probably have stopped making AC games, and the first anniversary of that time Russia assassinated a major American election just for the lulz.

American Election 2016

Last time on Dragon Creed Z, the series’ first female assassin, Aveline, played deadly dress-up in New Orleans in AC: Liberation; Capt. Kenway went trollin’ for treasure in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, and slave turned assassin Adéwalé served up an afternoon’s worth of forgettable fun in Freedom Cry.

Today, we wrap things up in America with Assassin’s Creed Rogue before heading to France for the biggest and buggiest Assassin’s Creed game yet!

Assassin’s Creed Rogue. Release Date: 11/2014. Available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC

Rogue is what college kids eat at the end of the semester when they’ve got a sack of leftover take out, a lone package of shrimp ramen, an a half-eaten can of frosting from freshman year.

Using story and game assets shamelessly ripped from Assassin’s Creed 3 and 4, Rogue acts both as a farewell to the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era and a semi-sequel to Capt. Kenway’s questionable adventures on the high seas. Released the same day as Assassin’s Creed Unity, which was the series’ first outing on then-next generation consoles PS4 and Xbone, few expected this stopgap title to be anything more than a cash grab for starving AC fans stuck with last gen tech.

And in a way, they were right: Rogue offers up a scant six memory sequences in waters we’ve traveled before. Back are many of the characters from AC3, as well as Black Flag’s seafaring combat, albeit in a colder climate than its topical cousin. At first glance, Rogue is AC4 in a parka, but then a funny thing happened: Compared to Unity’s buggy release (see below), fans began heralding this side project as the better game.

It would seem that by lifting the burden of creating all new assets and focusing on a side story entrenched in established AC lore, programmers were free to come up with a fun game in short amount of time. Shay Cormac is a good lead, especially by Assassin’s Creed’s low standards, and his transformation from Assassin to Templar – a first for the series – is dark and fraught with personal turmoil. It’s almost interesting, until the stupid present day scenes disrupt the gameplay like always. At least we don’t have to hear from that twit Desmond Miles anymore.  (Spoiler: HE DEAD)

Rogue serves as a nice lead-in to Unity and a satisfying wrap-up to the “Americas” trilogy, but not much else. It was a cheap attempt to milk one last payday from the PS3 and Xbox 360 to be sure, but it hits the AC sweet spot just long enough to keep players from caring about the reused locations and déjà vu combat.  

Assassin’s Creed Unity. Release Date: 11/2014. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC

Despite a pretty good (if generic) Assassin’s Creed title at its core, Unity was never able to recover from its infamously botched launch.

By the time I played it, Unity had been patched like a pack-a-day smoker looking to quit by sundown – and it was STILL a ramshackle mess. I got stuck in walls, characters’ body parts would disappear but they’d keep walking around like everything was hunky-dory, NPCs would casually start hovering three feet above the ground showing me their invisible crotches – the list goes on and on. I can only imagine the injustices that early Unity adopters were accosted with. So bad was the blunder that Ubisoft claimed sales of the subsequent Assassin’s Creed game, Syndicate, had been throttled by Unity’s horrendous reception.

So here’s where I should talk about the storyline. But even though I played it long enough to get the platinum trophy, I can’t remember what the game’s protagonist, Arno, looks like, sounds like, or even what his motivations were. I’ve heard him described as a less charismatic version of Ezio, beloved star of Assassin’s Creed II, but that’s an insult to understatements. The best part about Arno is that his name sounds like Marno, which is very nearly Mario, as in Super Mario. Too bad Arno doesn’t eat mushrooms or jump on Goombas or have a shred of personality whatsoever.

The only thing I remember about Unity’s storyline, aside from the fact that the game is set in France and Arno wants to bone some chick, is that Arno’s dad was assassinated by Rogue protagonist Shay Cormic. Oh, and there was a stupid companion app that took hours to play and awarded the diligent with in-game garbage every so often. I guess that doesn’t have much to do with plot, unless Unity was really going for that classic “forgettable game” story everyone digs so much.

There was also a pay-to-win mechanic where players could buy in-game currency, “time-saver” maps, and other shit that that drains away all of the remaining challenge and charm from Unity’s single player experience. So if you just want to finish Unity quickly and have the least amount of fun possible, get 100 bucks worth of helix credits, buy a bunch of stab-proof armor, and waltz though Paris murdering whomever you please until you run out of story missions.  

I’ve been pretty down on it so far, but Unity wasn’t all bad. What I do like is the multiplayer. While pervious Creeds focused on a ho-hum player vs. player system, the co-op multiplayer found in Unity lives up to the game’s title. Up to four players can tackle exclusive missions, share treasure, and generally wreck the Templars’ Saturday nights. There was also a great looking sequence featuring hot air balloons zooming over Paris, and a “glitch” that sent players barreling forward in time to World War II for some variety.

In the end, Unity is a good looking, decently entertaining, and mostly forgettable title marred by poor quality standards. Let me put it to you like this: I was introduced to the Assassin’s Creed series when AC4 and Unity came with my Xbox One. I decided to play AC4 first, and thank God I did – if I had started with Unity, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.


Next time, the Assassin’s Creed series will stop for a pint in jolly old England before taking on the legendary Jack the Ripper.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Tekken 7 and the "Death" of Geese Howard

Evolution 2017, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, brought with it a lot of surprises - but not all of them involved major players getting sent home early, untimely technical issues, or come from behind victories on the main stage.

It was announced that Fatal Fury antagonist Geese Howard, famously kicked out of the top floor of a high-rise by all American pugilist Terry Bogard (twice), will be making his return to the ring by way of Tekken 7, Namco's newest entry in the long-running fighting franchise. Howard joins Street Fighter's Akuma as the second guest character to appear in the game since its release several months ago.

While most people are speculating on how dear ol' Geese is going to make the transition to the fake 3D world, all I can think about is this:

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Someplace like ‘Home’ – ‘Atom Universe’ the successor to Sony’s defunct social hub?

Today marks the second anniversary of the day Sony shutdown PlayStation Home, a virtual world experiment that all PlayStation 3 owners could enjoy for free. The sting of Home’s closure has long since subsided, but that doesn’t mean dedicated Homesters haven’t been on the lookout for a spiritual successor to everyone’s favorite social hub/LSD simulator.

Some have pointed to Atom Universe, available now for free on PS4, as that game. But I doubt it. Atom Universe embraces all the worst aspects of PlayStation Home in one appalling package.

Nothing I can come up with is funner than the fact that this guy's name is "SpackerJacker."

To be fair, Atom Universe is in open beta. Also to be fair, if PlayStation Home was some nerd’s awkward but charming party where someone spiked the punch, Atom Universe is a handful of sweaty townies masturbating in a dumpster behind a Long John Silvers, and someone pissed in the punch. And that person was a gas pump.

There’s not a whole lot of clothing options for the new Atom Universe player. Male avatars can wear leftover bodysuits from the first X-Men film in charming colors like black, dark black, midnight, and neon green. Female avatars default to some kind of space robot dominatrix, which looks like it would be a real turn-on for terminators and replicants alike.  

Players can enjoy one of two equally depressing game spaces: The Hub, wherein users ignore nearly unplayable, carnival-themed minigames as well as each other; and The Arcade, wherein players chose a single dance move, then walk away from their PS4 seemingly forever, their freakishly dressed avatars doomed to do the Hustle until the end of time.

In this photo, my overgrown leprechaun stares creepily at the rabbit woman's behind.

Atom Universe doesn’t have many players, so a lot of my favorite PlayStation Home pranks don’t apply. Running past crowds of people exclaiming “I slapped a baby” doesn’t work without the crowds, and sadly, the word “anus” is censored. What if I’m a doctor trying to discuss the latest in proctological advancements, the neon drenched world of Atom Universe as my backdrop? We’d be forced to say “anu5,” and that’s just disrespectful.

Atom Universe tries to tap into the same zany charm that was one of PlayStation Home’s biggest draws, but with so few players, clothing options, and locations, it falls flat on its face. It isn’t a total wash, but Atom Universe’s value lies almost entirely in its comparison to its predecessor. In this case, lightning simply cannot strike twice. PlayStation Home was a shared experience among PS3 players, a unique solution to the question of how to bring players together in a social gaming setting. It was special. But Atom Universe aspires to be nothing more than a PS Home clone.

It's hard to read, but someone ran by and said "I gotta find hoes." 

Sometimes a clone can be just as good as the game that inspired it. Saint’s Row is every bit as fun as Grand Theft Auto, Streets of Rage stands tall with Final Fight, and Silent Hill 1 scares up some Resident Evil inspired greatness.

But there’s only one PlayStation Home. And that’s okay. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Case of the phantom victory: A Tekken Revolution epilogue

It's always the Tekken with you! Enough with the Tekken already! Oy vey!

Yeah, I thought I was done with Tekken Revolution too. That is, until I opened the media gallery on my cellphone yesterday and found this:

That’s a screenshot from a video I took at about 4:12 a.m. on March 21, 2017. When TR kept running after the advertised 3 a.m. shutdown time, I was left recording aimlessly, trying to capture the exact moment the game went offline for good. Since I’ve only got a few gigs to work with on my old-ass phone, I deleted most of the dud footage as needed.

Anyway, I opened my gallery and there that video was, like the cat that came back the very next day or the stolen clown nose from that episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark.

I know what you’re thinking. “So what’s the big deal? You forgot to delete a video. This is the worst creepypasta I’ve ever inexplicably copied and emailed to my former rabbi.” Not so fast, dear reader. Take a look at the WINS counter. What do you see?

That’s right, 401.

If you read my last article, you know that I spent the entire final day of Tekken Revolution fighting my way to exactly 400 wins. A little secret: I tried a few times to get to 401, but got ripped in half by better, more awake players.

So where did the last victory come from?

After 3 a.m., I joined random battle lobbies trying to catch interesting footage while I fell asleep on the couch. Maybe in my bleary eyed, up-all-night state, I entered a fight somehow. You could be getting your ass handed to you in Tekken Revolution, but if you lost the connection to you opponent, you'd win!

It's a pretty solid, if unspectacular, explanation. But none of the surviving footage backs that theory up. I have a video that ended at 3:44 a.m. and this one, as I mentioned, which began at 4:12 a.m. So at some point in-between, I acquired this phantom win.

What happened in those 28 minutes, I’ll never know. But I think there’s a reasonable explanation: You ever hear of missing time? It’s a common experience among those who have been abducted by extraterrestrials… 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

PART 2: The (Tekken) Revolution will no longer be televised

Tekken Revolution, Namco’s free to play fighting game based on the popular Tekken Tag Tournament 2, hit the PlayStation 3 in June of 2013. Close to four years later, on March 21, 2017,  the servers were finally shut down.

These are the final moments of Tekken Revolution.

Welcome to the second part of my Tekken Revolution retrospective. In Part 1, an earlier version of myself faced the perils of young adulthood in a spectacularly ineffective manner, substituting common sense for a bottle of vodka and hours upon hours of Tekken Revolution. Fast forward to now, the final day that TR’s servers are up and running.

I’d make a comment about how much better I am at being an adult, but I’m currently staying up until 3 a.m. on a work night to play a video game.

The Road to 400

Nobody likes coins, not even Abe Lincoln. You want a dollar, not a jangly pocket full of copper. I’d rather not remember my Tekken Revolution career as a sack of change bound for a lonely Coinstar machine in some Midwestern Walmart, so I’d like to accumulate 400 wins. My starting point was 339 on March 17. Now that I'm at 380 with a day left and precious few premium tickets, can I do it? Let’s find out.

March 20, 2017 – 8 a.m. (19 hours left) WINS: 380

I get three premium tickets for signing in today, courtesy of the good people at Namco. It’s nice to see a developer still supporting players of a game that hasn’t made them a dime since January 19, when all paid content was yanked from the PlayStation Store.

Two out of the five matches end with me losing the connection to the other player, something that’s been plaguing the game since I picked it back up last week. There’s no shortage of opponents at least.

March 20, 2017 – 7 p.m. (8 hours left) WINS: 383

Most people still playing at this point are pros, with hundreds of wins to their name and the skills to match. But also there’s this inexplicable trickle of n00bs. Can you imagine having downloaded Tekken Revolution years ago, and you just happen to sign in again on the last day?

Some uneventful fights are punctuated by a crazy, random occurrence. This is the third time it’s happened since Saturday. (See “Creature of the Night” heading below.)

March 20, 2017 – 8:30 p.m. (6.5 hours left) WINS 386

At 8 p.m., the “final campaign” ends – which means no more crazy experience and money boosts for the remaining few hours of the game’s life. Players had been enjoying 10x to 30x bonuses since January 31. I think it’s fitting that Revolution’s last gasps will be taken in the same pure, grindy fashion as its first breaths.

I get my last ever sign-in bonus. The game says I’m up to Day 81.

I decide to go for some arcade mode action and give my PvP tokens a chance to re-up. As I play, I’m reminded of the early days. Something I really liked about Tekken Revolution in the beginning was that feeling of “we’re all learning this together.” Now in the game’s twilight, I’m sensing something similar: We’re all going out together, on a high note, showing off the skills we’ve accumulated over these last four years.

Or maybe I’m a sentimental old man who likes reading into trivial things. Either way.

March 20, 2017 – 9:30 p.m. (5.5 hours left) WINS 386

I’m trying to make those premium tickets last for the next few hours, so I’ve switched to player matches. In the tradition of the olden days, I’ve named my lobby “BABY STABBIN’ DUDEZ.” I always wondered what kind of people would join a room with that name.

The answer is this guy.

It's tough to read, but it says "BABY STABBIN' DUDEZ" and that guy (top) wants in!

But after that, I drift from session to session. None of them really feels right. There are a few open ones, but it’s a far cry from the packed lobbies I remember.

I haven’t been able to win any of my last six matches. The big boys are here, they’re pissed, and they’re out for blood. Time to take a break and let my coins re-up.

March 20, 11:45 p.m. – (3.25 hours left) WINS: 392

I just won six matches in a row. I was using the same premium ticket and winning it back for what felt like forever. I’m still worried that I won’t be able to make it to 400 wins by 3 a.m., but I feel a lot less frustrated now.

March 21, 2017 – 12:45 a.m. (2.25 hours left) WINS: 395

I pick up two wins against a careless Bob player. But I’ve only got three tickets left, and only enough time to regenerate four PvP tokens. That’s seven chances for five wins. I’m not in love with those odds, but let’s see what we can do.

I guess we could, uh, always bet on Duke?

March 21, 2017 – 12:46 a.m. (2.245 hours left) WINS: 395


March 21, 2017 – 1:45 a.m. (1.25 hours left) WINS: 398

I get three more wins, but I’m out of premium tickets. I’ll have enough coins for three more matches, maxing out an hour from now. Two more wins and three chances. I guess I’ll play arcade mode to clear my head.

March 21, 2017 – 2 a.m. (1 hour left) WINS: 399

A pathetic Kazuya player gives up a win, putting me one away from my goal. There’s just enough time for me to regenerate two coins. Right now, I’m parked in a lounge, watching other players far better than me beat the hell out of each other. Not much else I can do. Sure wish I had bought some premium coins when I had the chance, but I suppose this way is more exciting.

March 21, 2017 – 2:24 a.m. (35 minutes left) WINS: 400

No more goals. There’s only me and the battle for the next half hour. I'm glad it went down like this.

March 21, 2017 – 2:59 a.m. (The end) WINS: 400

The end is nigh! Any minute now...

March 21, 2017 –  4:30 a.m. (1.5 hours after the game was supposed to shut down)

It's nice that dedicated Tekken players got a bit of a reprieve, but I have to go to bed.
The mind is willing, but the body is weak. This is as far as I can go. I'll check on this in the morning. I wanted to be there for the end, but I feel I've done my due diligence.

March 21, 2017 – 6 a.m. (3 hours after the game was supposed to shut down)


March 21, 2017 –  sometime between 6 and 7:30 a.m. 

I love you Tekken Revolution, but it's about damn time.

Creature of the Night

Remember how I had about a quarter of the “blood seals” necessary to earn the one character exclusive to Tekken Revolution, the narcoleptic sexpot vampire Eliza?

Yeah, THIS narcoleptic sexpot vampire

There simply wasn’t enough time to unlock her legitimately. And yet, like a bolt of lightning from on high, the Tekken gods saw it fit to bestow Eliza upon me. Randomly, after losing a fight, a message appeared that I had earned 14,000-plus seals in one go. Normally I was lucky if I got 10 at a time.

Then, the next day, it happened again. This time I got 69,000-plus seals at once, which unlocked… a bikini. You know, like vampires wear. In the sunlight. Thanks, Namco.

On paper, a fighter who falls asleep in the middle of the game sounds like an awful idea. And that is because yes, it is. But in all my tinkering with Eliza over the last few days, I only ever found one move that legit put her to sleep, and the player has approximately one semester at a lackluster community college to wake her up before being countered.

Eliza has some cool juggling moves, a classic vampire bite for her throw, and an honest to goodness, Geese Howard style "Reppuken" fireball. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Tekken 7, once that game finally comes to consoles in June.

Also you could make her breasts bigger if you got enough blood seals, which if done without boosts of any kind, would take anywhere between 16,000 and 160,000 fights. I was randomly awarded a third time with 70,000 seals on TR’s final night, so I got this the easy way. Lucky me?

Anyway, here’s a video of Eliza in a battle bikini fighting lion-headed luchador, King, because why not.

No Regrets

I think one of the reasons Tekken Revolution has been so important to me lately is that I was finally able to fix things, like unlocking Eliza. But the period in my life I associate most with the game, living in that cheap apartment four years ago, not so much. I can’t hop in a time machine and tell my younger self to hang out more with my roommates because they were having a tough time too, or to eat a carrot instead of an entire pizza, or maybe we don’t take a drunken walk to Skeevymart at midnight to buy beer seven hours before I had to be awake for work.

I can’t retroactively make myself a better person, and now I can’t change anything about my experience with Tekken Revolution. But I’m glad I took the opportunity to pick it back up. It paid off, even if it was only for the blink of an eye.

Maybe in this case, it’s not the worst thing that I can’t whip out Tekken Revolution and give it a quick play when I’m feeling nostalgic. I moved out of the apartment in which I first played TR a long ago, after all. As we close the book on TR, maybe I can put my misgivings from the past on the shelf too.

Thanks for being there when I needed you, Tekken Revolution. Instead of morning your loss, I’ll look forward to new fights and better days.

This Revolution has come to an end.

Friday, March 17, 2017

PART 1: The death of a Revolution

A few days before Christmas of 2016, game developer Namco announced that their free to play fighter, Tekken Revolution, would be shutting down on March 20, 2017. I suppose that after a nearly four year run on now ailing last gen equipment, it only makes sense that they’d pull the plug.

I understand why this has to happen, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

During the days leading up to Tekken Revolution’s surprise release on June 11, 2013, I remember thinking that I was really hankering for a new Tekken game. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 wasn’t even two years old at that point and the time between Tekken games – at least in the post-PlayStation 1 era – can be measured in half decades. So you can imagine my utter glee when Namco announced in June 2013 that they’d be releasing a new Tekken game, for free, in just days.

Sure enough, Namco delivered a (nearly) full featured Tekken, as promised. Basically, the PlayStation 3 exclusive game was a stripped down Tekken Tag 2, ripping most assets directly from the older game but adding new, dubsteppy tunes.

Players were rewarded with experience points after each battle, and upon leveling up, they could upgrade their fighter’s power, endurance, and vigor. This was the most controversial aspect of the game, allowing some players to win simply because they were able to purchase more coins and thus, gain more experience points.

Though a lot of hardcore Tekken players bashed Revolution for its simplified gameplay and emphasis on attracting new and inexperienced players, it felt fresh to me. It distilled the Tekken formula to its core, forcing people out of their arcade mode comfort zone and into player vs. player via the unique token system.

Each player started with two arcade tokens and five PvP tokens, and as they burned though them, the tokens would slowly regenerate. If you ran out, no problem: just watch other people fight it out for a while until you regenerate some tokens, or spend a few bucks to get some premium coins. Reportedly, this mechanic was supposed to emulate an arcade-style, “I got next!” atmosphere. I’m not sure how well it succeeded in that, but it sure was fun. I know I ponied up at least $20 over the years, hungry for “just one more match.”

Tekken Revolution came at a time when I sorely needed it. In early 2013, I had left home for the first time since college, trading my parent’s rent free house for a single room in a shady neighborhood, the other bedroom occupied by my cousin-turned-roommate and his wife-to-be. The first week I lived there, the cops towed my car because, they claimed, the snowplow couldn’t get past it, despite there being no snow the night before. My ex-fiancé had left only a few months ago, and my new girlfriend lived three or four hours away by train. And by day, I suffered through a new job that kept me hours late most days, doing the work of two people with the patience of three.

Despite unopened copies of great retail games sitting on my shelf, I’d come home after work lock myself in my room with Tekken Revolution and a half pint of vodka. When the tokens ran out, I’d watch other people fight in battle/chat rooms I created with titles like “Sell You Children” and “Baby Stabbin’ Dudes.” And when the liquor ran out, sometimes I’d stumble down the street to the local saloon for a nightcap or three. One time on the way to the bar, I watched a kid, maybe 16 years old, get wailed on by at least four other teenagers. He wasn’t hurt too bad, but he seriously had no idea why they were hitting him. I went inside the adjacent convenience store (we called it “Skeevymart”) and bought him a cold ice tea to hold on his injuries, but when I came back out, he and his assailants had disappeared into the night.

Now it’s four years later, and the crumby apartment in the shady town is lightyears in the past. I married that girlfriend of mine, and now instead of spending my weekends going back and forth on the Long Island Rail Road, I spend them on the couch watching my ten month old son. And when I do get a chance to play video games, it’s not vodka I’m swigging, but diet cola. In a companywide reorganization about two years ago, my director title was lost in the shuffle. But my paygrade is the same and my responsibilities are much more reasonable.

And yet, hearing that Tekken Revolution theme song thrusts me into that small, poorly ventilated bedroom, and jumping online with my powered up Kazuya brings back the little bit of happiness I felt during a difficult time. I remember the sights and smells of that low rent neighborhood, and the summer sun setting to the sounds of victory and defeat on the small screen. I remember that kid who kept asking why he was being beaten, and the voice of a girl behind me yelling, “You KNOW why!” I remember the guilt of ignoring my roommates, the burn of the vodka in my throat, and the numb joy of just me and the game.

I guess four years isn’t a lot of time in the scheme of things, but I regret that I never got all the characters or had a chance to power up most of the ones I did. I regret that I never unlocked Eliza the narcoleptic vampire, earning about a quarter of the 20,000 “blood seals” required to get her. And I regret that after this weekend, I’ll never irk out another tough victory in a tense Revolution match, the way I did so many nights back in the day, before passing out with the television on and the controller haphazardly tossed next to me on the bed.

Like Namco’s other free to play fighting game, Soulcalibur: Lost Swords, Tekken Revolution is another causality in the ageing world of the PlayStation 3. Last year I bought copies of Resistance 1 and 2 because they were only a buck each at GameStop, and found them to be fun. But out of the box, the online components to both games (and Resistance 3 as well) had already been shut down. That’s dozens of trophy opportunities, game modes, and hours of playtime gone forever.

I guess it’s just in my nature to morn lost games like Tekken Revolution, the ones most people moved on from years ago, the ones I can’t just pluck off my shelf when I’m feeling nostalgic. Reader(s) of this blog might remember my multipart series on the curiosity that was PlayStation Home. And like PlayStation Home, I hope to be there when Tekken Revolution breathes its last.

I owe that much to my old friend.