A Couple of Mewtwo Videos For Ya

I decided to make a couple of videos showing some Mewtwo things in Smash 4. Tell me what you think!

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Pitfall Harry for Super Smash Bros.

smashbros-pitfallharrymoves-small

With the surprise announcement of Cloud Strife in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS & Wii U, as well as the upcoming mysterious December Smash Bros. special report, I felt inspired to start up a new line of Smash character what-ifs. You can see the previous ones I’ve made below.

King K. Rool (Donkey Kong Country)

Princess Daisy (Super Mario Land)

Geno (Super Mario RPG)

Great Puma (NES Pro Wrestling)

Thinking about how 3rd-party characters in Smash tend to be ones from influential or important games (Cloud), or representative of entire genres (Ryu), I decided to create a moveset and design for Pitfall Harry, the hero of the classic Atari 2600 game Pitfall. If you don’t know who Pitfall Harry is, that’s probably not surprising, as 1) the game is from 1982 and 2) even if you know the game Pitfall Harry doesn’t have much of a presence. After all, this is what he looked like:

4136802-image.num1308669893.of.world-lolo.com

Pitfall is significant in that, to my knowledge, it’s the first horizontal multi-screen platform game, and in terms of its implementation on the Atari it is a technical marvel, like creating boeuf bourguignon out of leather shoes and ketchup. Because of this, I think Pitfall Harry could reasonably have a place in a pantheon of gaming icons, however unlikely.

However, the first challenge that presented itself is the fact that Pitfall Harry has no consistent design. In addition to the fact that his original sprite (although amazing for its time) has no real identifiable features, Pitfall Harry across adaptations and sequels changes size, hair, clothes, musculature, personality, and more from one iteration to the next.

pitfallharries

Possible Costumes?

As mentioned on the image itself, I decided to prioritize Pitfall Harry’s movements, because they’re what’s iconic about him, while trying to keep his silhouette closer to the original sprite wherever possible. If he can for the most part capture the animations of the Atari 2600 sprite in Smash, then his identity should come through. This should also be reflected in the audio. When he jumps, he should make that distinct Atari noise (or a higher-quality version of it), and when he does his Jungle Swing Pitfall Harry should yell out like Tarzan.

As for the attacks themselves, I feel that Pitfall and Pitfall II are where most of the game franchise’s influence comes from, and so they should be prioritized. His Final Smash is his “deadliest enemy, the crocodiles,” his Balloon recovery move comes straight out of Pitfall II (and is super vulnerable so only useful as a last resort), his Tar Pit trap references both the treasure and hazard aspects of Pitfall, and the Jungle Swing is iconic. The main exception is the Slingshot neutral special, taken from Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure and other sequels. If his son can use it, I’m sure Harry can as well.

Gameplay-wise, I picture Pitfall Harry as being average in weight, average in ground speed, a little above average in air speed, and below average in racking damage and KO power. He’s not that much of a fighter (unlike Mario, jumping on enemies just kills Harry), so he would function primarily as a zoning and trapping character who controls space with his specials, but doesn’t have as much sheer recovery power as Smash 4 Villager. If anything, he’d be closer to Duck Hunt. However, his trapping game is not to be underestimated. Tar Pit works like a souped-up version of a burying attack, both getting the opponent stuck and dealing damage over time. It would also be unblockable, which somewhat makes up for his tether grab. The caveat is that it is very obvious where it is located, with the big glowing gold bar to indicate the trap, but this also means that the opponent best steer clear of the location. Essentially, Harry could cut off a portion of the stage, such as Smashville’s platform or Battlefield’s top platform, and manipulate the opponent to get hit by a Jungle Swing or a smash attack (which would mostly involve fists).

Overall, Harry would emphasize cunning and ingenuity. To succeed as Pitfall Harry requires a clear understanding of space control, as well as adapting to a somewhat unorthodox neutral game.

So, who do you think I’ll be showing next time? I’ll leave you with a hint. “Japan shut down.”

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New Requests and (Writing) Desires Fulfilled: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for May 2015

This month I’m happy to say that the Ogiue Maniax Patreon is currently at almost $100, thanks to my generous patrons both new and old. Even getting close to the three-digit mark is kind of like a dream, and I hope to continue to provide interesting content for my readers.

This past month, I’ve gotten around to making a number of posts I’ve been planning for a while, most notably my review of the fujoshi friendship manga Fujoshissu!, my first look at DLC character Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U, and my review of the anime about anime, SHIROBAKO. In the case Fujoshissu! I’d been anticipating writing the review of years.

This month’s special Patreon sponsors are:

Ko Ransom

Alex

Johnny Trovato

anonymous (not Capital A “Anonymous”)

One of my contributors wanted to remain anonymous, but because they fulfilled the “Decide My Fate” tier, I wanted to mention them as I am writing a special post this month. As always, if you’d like to request a topic for me to write, you can pledge $30 or more to my Patreon.  If you don’t want to or can’t contribute that much every month, you can always change the amount to something lower, or force a maximum limit on how much you give.

For this month, I’d like to ask what people want to see out of my rewards and goals. I understand that my goals and sponsor rewards aren’t exactly world-shattering, and while I’m certainly not willing to sell myself out, I’m curious as to what people would like to see. Perhaps Skype conversations once a week on any topic? Post requests with unique twists? Drawing requests? I’m not sure if I’d be able to do everything, but I’d like to at least offer more.

In terms of milestones, I’m open to suggestions. How would people feel about a tongue-in-cheek negative review of Genshiken and/or the character review of Ogiue?

New Mewtwo Voice Actor for Super Smash Bros.

Upon hearing Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U for the first time, I was convinced that they had brought back the original actor, Ichimura Masachika, from the film Mewtwo Strikes Back. However, it actually turns out to be someone doing an excellent imitation (with the help of a voice filter), and whose acting chops are impressive in their own right. While the new actor Fujiwara Keiji might not have the cred of being an established theater actor like Ichimura is (he’s most famous for playing the titular character in the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera), you might know him for some of the following roles:

Ladd Russo in Baccano!

Nohara Hiroshi in Crayon Shin-chan

Kuzuhara Kinnosuke (Biker Cop) in Durarara!!

Holland Novak in Eureka Seven

Maes Hughes in Full Metal Alchemist (both original and Brotherhood)

Ali-al Saachez in Mobile Suit Gundam 00

Hannes in Attack on Titan

Jake Martinez in Tiger & Bunny

I actually had my suspicions because Mewtwo makes certain sounds in the new Smash Bros. that I don’t recall from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but I chalked it up to my own faulty memory. It’s also a lot more difficult to hear because only the Japanese version has voiced victory quotes. It was the same in Melee, except you could change the language settings there to Japanese, which is how I and a lot of other people learned that Mewtwo had victory quotes in the first place.

Here are videos of the old and new voices for you to compare:

Old (ignore the skins; they’re from a mod)

New

And for fun, here’s a video of Ichimura Masachika as the Phantom of the Opera:

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

 

First Impressions for Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U

It’s been six months since Mewtwo was announced as a downloadable character for Smash 4, but it’s felt more like a lifetime. With the vague arrival date of “Spring 2015” and not a single image beyond a basic character model, information was scarce, and it left Mewtwo fans such as myself starving. Then came the April Nintendo Direct, which not only showed Mewtwo in action and gave an April 28th release date (April 15th for people who registered both games through Club Nintendo), but also revealed the return of Mother 3 hero Lucas as well as a worldwide poll asking who you want in Super Smash Bros. Suffice it to say, it’s been crazy.

(More on the poll in the future. Stay tuned!)

That brings us to today. As one of the many people who bought and registered both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions, I’ve had the privilege of getting early access to Mewtwo, and I’d like to give my impressions. This comes from the perspective  of someone who used the character avidly in Super Smash Bros. Melee (though not so much in a high-level competitive sense), as well as a long-time fan of Mewtwo as a character.

On an aesthetic level, Mewtwo looks so much better than it did in Melee, with body proportions closer to more recent depictions (taller, smaller head, etc.), as well as much more detailed animations. Though all of Mewtwo’s moves are more or less the same as they were back in the Gamecube era, they all have an extra bit of flair that really captures the essence of the character. When Mewtwo does a back throw, it effortlessly lifts the opponent through its telekinesis and, with its eyes closed as if it’s discarded a piece of trash, launches them. The voice, which I know was a bit of a concern for people, is actually just the same as its Melee voice, veteran theater actor Ichimura Masachika. Actually, it’s literally the Melee clips re-used, only that we don’t get the option of changing the game language to Japanese and hearing Mewtwo speak actual lines. I’m not totally against English dubs, but a part of me would have been a bit sad if this had been replaced.

In terms of gameplay, the first thing I want to say is that it actually took me less time to figure out how Mewtwo is supposed to function as a character than it did for me to learn Mega Man, who has been my primary character (the spotlight will now be shared between Blue Bomber and Genetic Pokemon). Once you get a sense of Mewtwo’s attributes, including its attacks, its speed, and its weaknesses, its game plan becomes clear. Mewtwo is a glass cannon, with an overwhelmingly powerful offense contrasted by being one of the lightest characters in the game who’s also one of the largest targets out there.

Especially coming from the perspective of a Mega Man player, Mewtwo’s attacks flow together incredibly well. A lot of its attacks, namely down tilt, up tilt, Side Special (Confusion), and Down Special (Disable) are designed to set opponents up for juggles or follow-ups. There aren’t very many reliable combos from Mewtwo, but a lot of the character is about forcing 50/50 guessing situations that favor you in terms of reward, and you can do things like Confusion -> down tilt, dash attack, forward air, second jump into up air. If you’re not someone who plays and found that a bit confusing, just know that Mega Man by comparison is lucky to get more than 3 hits on an opponent while juggling.

Another feature of Mewtwo’s is that it’s actually much faster on the ground now compared to Melee, and both the range and power of its attacks have been increased. Dash attack in particularly is affected positively by this new-found speed and range, as it’s easy to catch someone landing with it, pop them up in the air, and start a juggle. Mewtwo also now sports some of the most tremendous and reliable kill power in the game. Shadow Ball has more kill power than Samus’s Charge Shot and can be spammed more reliably than Lucario’s Aura Sphere. Up Smash comes out quickly and is absurdly strong, KOing many opponents off the top at about 90%. Forward Smash and Down Smash are slow but powerful, and their weak points can be mitigated through setups such as Confusion and Disable. In particular, if you Disable someone at about 80% and charge a smash attack, they’re almost assuredly going to get taken out.

Mewtwo also eats shields for breakfast, and it’s kind of frightening to see just how effective it is at whittling them down. Many characters have attacks that can either destroy shields or do massive damage to them, but none are quite as reliable and effective as Mewtwo’s Shadow Ball. Its only real weakness is that it takes a while to charge, but once you have it at full power, it has positive effects whether it hits or is blocked, and its erratic trajectory can make it difficult to avoid through dodging. Even if it doesn’t hit anything, Mewtwo can act quickly out of the move allowing follow-ups, and for those characters that love to reflect projectiles, Mewtwo now has a properly-working Confusion that can send it right back for a game of Ocarina of Time-esque volleyball.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Mewtwo without some strong throws, and it sports some of the best around. All of them do significant amounts of damage, somewhere between 9-11%. Back throw is a decent kill move, and up throw is the strongest in its class. With a good amount of rage (in Smash 4, characters become stronger as they take more damage), up throw can KO most opponents between 120-140%. While that might not seem too impressive, and it’s actually weaker when compared to Melee, it’s important to remember that, unlike many other killing throws (which are mostly back throws), Mewtwo’s is reliable at pretty much any point on the stage, instead of requiring you to be closer to one side or the other.

That’s Mewtwo on offense. Mewtwo on defense is another matter, as it is actually one of the lightest characters in the game, even easier to KO than Mr. Game & Watch. Combined with its large frame, it takes attacks easily, and doesn’t have many moves that can keep it from being juggled. Somewhat similar to Mega Man, Mewtwo’s main game plan is to drift towards the edges to avoid follow-ups, and thankfully a combination of excellent air speed, huge jumps, and the best teleport in the game means that it can often escape. However, because Mewtwo is so frail, it sometimes doesn’t matter, as a stiff breeze can send it reeling. In other words, the basic principle of Mewtwo is to deal a crazy amount of damage before the opponent gets the chance to touch you, otherwise you’re probably in trouble. In this way, Mewtwo somewhat resembles Akuma from Street Fighter, another character known for having high damage and low health.

Regardless of how good Mewtwo is as a character in the end, the collective effect of all of this is that Mewtwo feels more representative of the character’s original concept. In the original Pokemon games, Mewtwo is among the strongest in the game, with insanely high offensive stats and relatively good defensive stats. In an effort to promote game balance, the creators of Smash 4 clearly decided to make these aspects more extreme by giving it such terrible defenses, but I think this plays into Mewtwo’s character more than what it had in Melee, which generally amount to having a few decent moves wrapped up in a bunch of terrible qualities. Now, at least those terrible qualities are equally met with terrifying potential on offense. Destroy or be destroyed.

I do find it kind of interesting that the two characters I picked are the ones that are deceptive in terms of size to weight ratios. Mewtwo is very large and extremely light, while Mega Man is much heavier than he looks. It also means that their game plans are also somewhat opposite, as Mewtwo is a very unforgiving character while Mega Man can be afforded more mistakes. Whether they complement each other or succumb to the same issues, only time will tell.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

Up and at Them: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for March 2015

This past month I lost one Patreon sponsor while gaining another. While in business this might be called stagnation, I’m actually very grateful that so many of my patrons have decided to continue to stick with me. Of course I can’t hit it out of the park for everyone all the time, so I’m thankful for even one-time contributors.

Speaking of thanks, shoutouts to the following fine folks for being especially awesome patrons.

Ko Ransom

Alex

Johnny Trovato

There are also a few others, but they’ve chosen to remain anonymous, and I can appreciate that.

Last month’s most popular post was Smash Bros. vs Traditional Fighters and What Lies at the Core of Fighting Games, where I wrote about different philosophies concerning simplicity vs. complexity between different fighting game communities. Part of the reason it got so many hits is that I posted it to Reddit myself, but I do think it’s some of my better work. I know I’m more of an anime and manga blogger, but I do have interest in video games and other things as well, and I hope, even if you’re not quite into everything I enjoy, that I can at least make you think.

A few questions for my readers to end off:

1) What kinds of rewards do you think would be interesting for Patreon sponsors of Ogiue Maniax?

2) What do you think of review posts that cover more of the middle point of an anime as it’s airing, as opposed to ones that wait until the very end? They kind of serve two different functions, with the former being more “in-the-moment,” and the latter being more retrospective. I’m aware that some anime fans like to keep up with the new season as much as possible, while others prefer to wait and build up a back catalog, and I’m curious as to which type reads Ogiue Maniax more.

Smash Bros. vs Traditional Fighters and What Lies at the Core of Fighting Games

Fighting games at this point are decades-old. While it’s debatable what can be considered the very first fighting game, what is indisputable is which game is responsible for popularizing the genre: Street Fighter II. That game, as well as all of its upgrades, are the standard by which all other fighters are judged, and it’s had a profound effect on how people discuss fighting games in terms of gameplay and strategy. However, if Street Fighter II is the archetype, there are a number of deviations from it, and one that’s become increasingly popular in recent years has been the Super Smash Bros. series.

Whereas in the past these two communities, traditional fighters and Smash, remained fairly separate (and one even unfairly mocked the other for not being a “real” fighting game), over the past year with the release of the latest Smash Bros. games, this has begun to change. One curious outcome of this has been that, when it comes to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, a number of notable traditional fighting game community (FGC) members have taken to it, such as EVO Champion Infiltration and commentators Ultra David and James Chen, but it has also received negative attention from many players of Super Smash Bros. Melee, what is widely considered the most technical and mechanically difficult game in the franchise. The reason I believe this disparity exists is not only because of a difference in terms of the games themselves, but also a difference in how these respective communities have argued for what makes their games great.

The arguments made by many Melee supporters as to why it’s the superior game tend to revolve around the slew of difficult techniques that expand the range of possible moves available, as well as a heavier emphasis on free-form combos. The idea is that, while Melee is simple on the surface, being a game that was intentionally designed to be more accessible than the traditional fighting game, it in fact hides layers and layers of complexity. What might appear to be a game that is competitively limited due to its simplicity is in fact only the first step into a demanding realm of technical depth and discovery. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U lacks many “advanced techniques” and is slower-paced, and is therefore seen as an inferior game.

Perhaps this reasoning is a product of the way in which the FGC would dismiss Smash Bros. as a whole as “kiddie games,” but, whatever the case, this is the rhetoric that has been built up from Melee, that simplicity makes way for complexity, and that complexity equals depth. In the documentary The Smash BrothersMelee commentator Prog likens the difficulty of Melee to Starcraft, a game that is also known for its mechanical difficulty that leads to a wider range of options for a player, with the idea that this leads to a kind of expressive freedom (though it should also be noted that the documentary’s director, Samox, chose to include that in the first place).

EG|PPMD—recent champion of Apex 2015, the largest Melee tournament ever—shares this sentiment:

EG|PPMD: Melee allows me to express myself on a very profound level. I am not just playing the character, I am my character. I am not just playing against my opponent, I am communicating with that person deeply and getting to know them on a very personal level and conversing on that level with the game as a medium.

Said differently, the depth and speed of the game allow me to really bring myself out. Competition is also incredibly fun! I would be really surprised if another game gave me this feeling, but that would be awesome if it did happen.

In contrast, the most prominent arguments as to why traditional fighting games are great take the opposite angle. Traditional fighting games are known for being difficult to learn on the surface, due to specialized inputs (quarter-circle forward + punch makes Ryu throw a hadouken, while just hitting the “special move” button for Mario makes him throw a fireball) and complex combos, but the prevailing philosophies are of the mind that the ideal core of fighting games, what makes them really worthwhile and competitive, is a foundation of simplicity and elegance, and that this is what leads to depth.

While the above video is super corny, it reflects the lessons taught by great players such as Tomo Ohira, who is featured in that video and is often argued to be the first king of Street Fighter II in its earliest days. For another example, take the fighting game player turned game designer David Sirlin, who argues that what makes fighting games games truly interesting is the level of mental interactions that come from “yomi,” or reading the mind of the opponent. Others such as Ultra David have argued that yomi isn’t as important as developing and executing a strategy, but the emphasis is still on the idea that technical complexity should ideally make way for something more basic and fundamental. This is what drives Divekick, a stripped-down fighting game that attempts to get to the core of fighters by limiting players to two buttons and emphasizing spacing and reads.

Although what I’ve shown above are not universally held beliefs by either community, I wanted more to show that they exist and are prominent parts of each community’s identity when it comes to their games. I also don’t want to give the impression that the communities believe that complexity vs. simplicity and their relationship with depth is black and white in either direction, nor that the games necessarily reflect the philosophies described above 100%. Rather, it’s more about how people visualize depth, and why the idea of depth becomes so subjective.

As for why all of this matters, there are two points to consider as to why traditional FGC members might praise Super Smash Bros. for Wii U whereas Melee enthusiasts might look down upon it. First, much like Divekick, the Super Smash Bros. games with their simplified commands have already removed a surface layer of complexity, and to many experienced fighting game players this is seen as a positive. Complexity hides an elegance of simplicity and what makes fighting games truly beautiful. These players want to introduce this beauty to as many people as possible, and Smash Bros. allows this.

Second, while previous games in the Super Smash Bros. franchise were developed by its director Sakurai Masahiro with a team that was more experienced in other genres, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was developed with the help of Namco, which is known for fighting games such as Tekken and Soul Calibur. Although there haven’t been any specific statements made on this matter, I believe that the development team, rather than viewing Melee as their template, looked more to conventional fighting games for ways to add competitive depth to Super Smash Bros. and that the mechanics of the new game reflect this. In discussions with Dave Cabrera, a friend and someone much more knowledgeable about fighting games than I am, he had a similar impression. Ultra David and James Chen also state how they find Melee to be a more momentum-based game similar to the also-unconventional Marvel vs. Capcom series while Smash Wii U is more positional, similar to Street Fighter games.

The result is a clash of perspectives. On the one hand, the Melee community, which has developed its conception for what makes a good competitive game based on Melee and the idea of hidden complexity, sees Super Smash Bros. for Wii U as lacking many of the elements that made Melee great, and that it is therefore a lesser experience. On the other hand, the fighting game community, which bases its standards for fighting games on Street Fighter II and the idea of hidden simplicity, has in this new Super Smash Bros. something that exemplifies that concept while also catering more to their tastes. Whatever the reasoning, it’s clear that there are two different philosophies at work driving discussion.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.