Monday, January 30, 2012

Come, embrace the dahkness!: The Darkness II

I thought I'd take a look at some recent game trailers, using a somewhat generous definition of “recent” to mean anything for a game that hasn't actually been released yet. (So that Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailer from 2006 is still technically eligible.) So, without further ado, let's have a look at one of the story trailers for:

The Darkness II

Sequel to the 2007 first-person shooter, coming out in February. I'm surprised it took this long for this game to appear, considering that the first one was fairly successful and had an ending that stopped just short of having INSERT SEQUEL TAB A INTO AMBIGUOUS ENDING SLOT B INDICATED BELOW appear during the credits

This trailer is introduced and narrated by a rather agitated, unhealthy-looking guy whose delivery and general demeanor sort of strike me as what Quentin Tarantino would probably be like if he were hopped up on meth. He fills us in about the nature of the Darkness, the backstory of protagonist Jackie Estacado and his girlfriend Jenny's murder at the hands of the New York Mob, and other helpful info.



:20 It's explained that the game's eponymous evil metaphysical force is the primordial darkness that prevailed at the dawn of time. It didn't take kindly to the whole “stuff exists now” trend that the creation of the universe kicked off, and was even less happy about the arrival of life.

:40 Throughout history, the Darkness has wreaked havoc on the world by using human hosts. Each host foolishly imagined he could master the Darkness for his own ends, only to inevitably becomes its slave. Insert joke about marriage here.

1:32 I immediately began giggling like a schoolgirl as our narrator tells me said that the power of the Darkness makes Jackie “a god” “when the lights were out.” I guess I was na├»ve to have assumed that Jenny was into him for his sparkling personality.

1:50 Was the first game this violent? I realize that sounds like a ridiculous question to as ask about an M-rated game that prominently featured the protagonist's ability to rip people's hearts out of their chests and the like, but the move we see here where one of the Darkness' tentacles/mouths lifts a guy up, plunges into his stomach, and then erupts from his chest – having presumably torn its way through his torso en route- seemed more extreme than I recall.

1:55 The Darkness flings a broken-off car door at a guy with such force that it actually cuts him in half. That sort of thing is why most automobile manufacturers stopped building car bodies out of monomolecular-edged tungsten carbide plates in the late 70s.

General thoughts:

One complaint, not so much about this video specifically as for the story trailers I've seen for The Darkness II in general: Needed some Mike Patton. They're bringing him back as the voice of the Darkness, so I'm sort of surprised we never hear him. Maybe there's going to be some big reveal in the game where it turns out that the Darkness' sinister, demonic Norwegian-black-metal-singer-vomiting-up-his-own-lungs voice voice was really just a cunning disguise, or perhaps the result of a bout of laryngitis, and they didn't want to spoil the surprise when it's revealed that the Darkness actually sounds like Jeff Foxworthy or speaks with a heavy Boston accent or has started to refer to Jackie as “broheim,” or whatever. We'll see.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Episode 2 of The Definitive, Absolutely 100% Petty Complaining and Pointless Digression-Free Guide to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Revengeance

Greetings, and welcome to the second chapter of our look at the fighters of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3! Joining me once again is my esteemed colleague, screenwriter of the popular-by-indie-video-game-parody-standards films Press Start and Press Start 2, man behind the monthly internet series Press Start Adventures, and guy I know because I went to elementary school with his cousin, Kevin Folliard.

In the groundbreaking inaugural edition of this feature, we delved into pressing issues like the suffocating omnipresence of Akuma, Albert Wesker’s deep emotional issues and unfortunate musical tastes, horrible 1990s comic book crossovers that may or may not have actually existed, and what the hell the deal with Tron Bonne being in the game is. Join us as we delve once more into the characters of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, beginning with perhaps the most colorful and flamboyant character of them all:


Tron Bonne
Yes, I know this isn't Sentinel. Tron Bonne's power to insert herself into places where the presence of someone else would make more sense is so mighty it extends beyond the games themselves.
Kevin: I’ve noticed that many gamers tend to gravitate towards incredibly cheap, unbalanced characters and then consider them to be especially badass, awesome, or important. Case in point, a freaking Sentinel! A mindless drone at the bottom of the barrel of the Marvel Universe has become one of the poster children of this franchise.

John: Mindless drone or not, at least he’s still got more personality than Ryu. There, I said it. “Fighter in a fighting game who fights a lot because he’s really into fighting” is not a personality, Capcom, even by fighting game standards.

Kevin: Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is a game we’ll all remember fondly, but for literally a decade, gamers were playing Sentinel Vs. Sentinel and taking it waytoo seriously. As such the Sentinel and his rocket punches got a free pass onto the roster of MvC3.

John: Plus, unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 3, in the previous game you could have multiple palette-swapped iterations of the same character on your team, so a three-on-three all-Sentinel battle was entirely possible. The game, helpfully, actually was prepared with enough Sentinel palette swaps for this contingency, so you could have giant robots in a wide array of colors duking it out together. It was like watching a Mobile Suit Gundam spinoff series sponsored entirely by Skittles or a really violent, mechanized United Colors of Benetton ad.

Kevin: I do give Capcom some credit. He’s not as obscenely godly a character as he once was, and he’s a fun oddball fighter in a decently balanced game. I look forward to playing as “Dark Sentinel,” a totally separate and even more overpowered addition to be featured in UMvC3: Arcade Edition!

John: Oh, I do hope Capcom doesn’t stop with “Ultimate” and brings back the tradition of releasing tweaked versions of the same game with ever-larger mounds of adjectives piled on them. Ten years from now, I want to be able to do a revamped version of this article to celebrate the release of Xtreme Maximally Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds: Super Transcendent Lorentz-Contracted Hyperspeed Special Platinum Edition when it comes out.
Finally pushed too far after years of ridicule and ostracism by his coworkers at Santa's workshop, Herbie the Misfit Elf turns to the dark side.


Kevin: While the Fantastic Four themselves remain ever the glaring omission from Capcom’s Marvel fighters, at least their powers made it into this game. While I’d rather have the courageous quartet themselves, Super-Skrull is pretty darned cool with his grabs, slams, pummels, and flames. I only wish I could understand what he’s saying. Prior to his Inferno special attack I’m absolutely convinced he exclaims “He Loves Me!” Perhaps on the Skrull world it is customary to burn those who love you to a nova crisp as a sign of dominance.

John: Super-Skrull clearly has a deep fear of intimacy, most likely as the result of self-esteem issues that cause him to feel unworthy of being loved and afraid that any close emotional relationship with another person will inevitably end in betrayal and abandonment, that drives him to repel people who try to get close to him. This is all too common, sadly, though Super-Skrull’s particular symptomology is somewhat atypical- most people suffering from fear of intimacy deal with it through avoidant or self-sabotaging behaviors intended to prevent the formation of close emotional ties with others, rather than by joining an interdimensional combat tournament and setting people on fire.
Frank West
Frank West during his award-winning reporting from the Siege of Sevastopol, 1854. He's covered wars, you know.

Frank West

Kevin: Photojournalist Frank West is the protagonist of the popular Dead Rising, in which he fends off hordes of zombies with shopping carts, baseball bats, and Serve-bot Helmets. He actually first appeared as a fighting game character inTatsunoko Vs. Capcom, where he uses his merchandise-inspired weaponry to fell the likes of everyone’s favorite anime characters Yatterman II and Gold Lightan.

John: I feel obliged to point out that, unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom managed to incorporate Zero into the roster- and Mega Man’s distaff counterpart Roll, for that matter- and still find space for Mega Man. They didn’t feel the need to shoehorn a fourth-string character like Tron Bonne into things, heedless of who might have to pay the price for their folly, and her absence didn’t make the sky fall.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Kevin: Frank was actually cut from the original MvC3 late in development, but he makes his Ultimate debut in the upgrade sequel. What this means is that now, not only can we deliver the final blow to the game’s boss, the omnipotent Galactus, with a steel pipe as Mike Haggar… we can now use Frank to crack him in his cosmic groin with a Louisville Slugger. Somewhere the Silver Surfer is shedding a glinting gray tear, running down his aloof visage. It never used to be this easy, eh Norrin?

John: Actually, what most people outside the sporting goods manufacturing industry don’t realize is that all Louisville Sluggers have been imbued with the Power Cosmic since 1905, when their inventor Bud Hillerich secretly agreed to become a Herald of Galactus as part of his company’s endorsement deal with Honus Wagner. The Hillerich & Bradsby company doesn’t really talk about it much in their promotional materials, though.
Frank West
With the undead in hot pursuit, Frank West must call upon his extensive running training at the Lupin the 3rd Track and Field Academy to make his escape.


Kevin: Dante, the red-coated protagonist from the Devil May Cry games has long been requested by Capcom fighter fans to make it into a crossover fighter. Fun fact: Dante has more special moves than any other character in any fighting game ever at a whopping forty-plus distinct special attacks! Those of us who have been playing the game are mostly familiar with Dante teleporting up over our heads, slamming us with his sword, levitating us into the air with gunfire and entering into a cycle of incredibly repetitive and obnoxious attacks that may or may not end with him performing his hypercombo twice in a row.

John: So he basically subjects you to the last century of the Chicago Cubs condensed into a few seconds, then.

Kevin: What many do not realize is that in spite of his show of bravado and arrogance, Dante is actually deeply insecure. Frequently seeking validation with that nagging question “I’m good, aren’t I?!? I’m good, aren’t I?!? I’m good, aren’t I?!?” It is thought that much of Dante’s insecurity derives from his being the only fighting game character to wear a “bro,” or “mansierre” if you will. But this is highly speculative.

John: Your lack of insight into the human heart continues to disappoint me, Kevin. Or half-human half-demon heart, or whatever.
The damage continues to mount as Dante's hypercombo enters its third hour.

Dante’s parents died when he was very young- his mother when he was 8, and his father even earlier. Clearly, he’s desperately reaching out for the love and approval that he was deprived of as a child. He had no strong adult male role model to provide him with encouragement and instill self-confidence as he grew up.

This lack of paternal validation as he came of age, combined with the effects of hegemonic mainstream gender narratives identifying manhood with aggression and violence- which, in the absence of personal experiences with protective or nurturing male figures in his own life, he is unable to imagine any alternative to- has left him with a deeply insecure sense of his own masculinity that he tries to compensate for by constantly seeking reassurance from others about his fighting prowess.


That band he’s got wrapped around his chest underneath his jacket is sort of weird-looking, though. I have no idea what the deal with that thing is. If I hadn’t already reached my Saturday Night Live reference quota in my comments about Albert Wesker last time and the sketch was less than three decades old, I’d be tempted to make some sort of joke about Dan Akroyd and his “elaborate network of trusses.”

Flames with the power to consume whole worlds rage as the power of the Dark Phoenix...DAMN IT! Forget it, I'm not finding and uploading ANOTHER damned JPEG file. I doubt anybody will even notice.

Kevin: The fiery Jean Grey is one of my all-time favorite superheroes, so I was stoked when I first heard she was going to make the cut of MVC3. My excitement has since cooled a bit as I learned that she essentially dies in three hits.

John: I figured they were just trying to be true to her characterization in the X-Men comics.

Kevin: Granted, this is a balancing technique to counter her ultra-powerful Dark Phoenix form which is activated when she gets K.O.ed at combo level 5. Unfortunately, it turns her into something of a gimmick. A back pocket character, who is never on point and tends to just sort of sit in reserve until you’re ready to send her off to slaughter. But nevertheless she can be quite a force to be reckoned with. Personally, I like to use her when I’m pissed off at the game’s aptly named “Very Hard” Mode. As sophisticated as the game’s AI is, it does not understand the term “Dodge this!” Even if Dark Phoenix says it forty-five times in a row as she pins poor souls in the corner with double fireballs until they’re dead.

John: This seems like as good a time as any to bring up one of my complaints with the game. Like many fighting games, characters have some word or phrase that they’ll shout when they unleash their projectile attack. The problem is that in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 many characters can do their projectile attacks in quite rapid succession, and in many situations it can be a good idea to do just that, in which case your character will call out his single stock phrase for that move every single time, endlessly. It get’s very repetitive after a while- if a projectile-focused character takes the field, the fight can end up sounding like a skipping CD or a really Urkel-heavy episode of Family Matters.

Forget the unimaginably advanced super-technology in Dr. Doom’s armor, or the literally godly might of Thor, or the power of the Dark Phoenix to incinerate entire worlds- the most astonishing superhuman power on display here is the sheer lung capacity some of these characters have.

Thus ends this episode. Join us again next time as we dig-still deeper into Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3! Will we somehow unravel the mystery of forgettable Lovecraft pastiche Shuma-Gorath’s repeated appearances in this series without resorting to lazy Japanese stereotypes about tentacles? Will anything be able to slake my thirst for vengeance against Tron Bonne? Will we finally overcome our insecurity in the face of Mike Haggar’s overwhelming masculinity and actually finish the entry for him that we previously implied would be included this this time? There’s only one way to find out!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy New Year, everybody!

Happy New Year, everybody!

All in all, I'm quite pleased with how things have turned out for Pointless Side Quest in 2011 and hope to increase my output in 2012. I hope you've enjoyed reading it, and will continue coming back here. I wanted to start this year off on a positive note by thanking some people who have helped this blog in one way or another. Some names have been truncated to protect the innocent:

My friends JT, Kevin, Dave, Peter, Lecester, Cheryl, and Catherine. Especially Lecester, since without him the idea for this blog would most likely never have even occurred to me.

Midnight and Toshi.

All of my other friends, who know who they are.

My family.

Dr. B and the other Kevin.

T and F.

Damon, Jay, and Elena at Boomtron, Dan, Corey, and Nick at Robot Geek, and Sam and Matt at Kuribo's Shoes.

People online who have helped me in one way or another: Jacob, Danny, Jim, Daran, TB, Jeremy, Alfonso, Keisha, the other Peter, and everybody else.

My beloved Unattainable Bar Chick, for her unfailing friendliness, kindness, waitressing and bartending professionalism, willingness to laugh at my stupid jokes, and Velma Dinkley/Lisa Loeb-esque hotness. You were always far nicer to me than you had to be, and were the brightest spot of my week whenever we spoke. I always knew that I would never tell you how I felt about you, but you made me wish I could have. Thank you, and best of luck with everything.

(Readers are encouraged to imagine a voice-over of me saying that while I stand in solemn, dignified silence and a single manly tear rolls down my face like at the end of Metal Gear Solid 3. The resulting mental image will be wildly inaccurate, but I endorse it as the official, canonical version nevertheless.)

And, of course, everyone who takes the time to read Pointless Side Quest or my writing on other sites. I tend to be pretty useless trying to express myself with spoken words when I'm face-to-face with people unless it's with folks I already know well, so being able to do so by writing online is very precious to me, and so is knowing that someone is actually reading it.

Thank you all. 2012 will be Pointless Side Quest's best year yet!

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