Wallet Abuse Weekly vs The Undertaker!

Wrestlemania is this week and it’s going to be awful.

The Miz-- the most interesting thing to happen to the WWE since the invention of collapsible announce tables-- is going to lose the WWE title belt in a match between John Cena and The Rock; there’s a 50% chance Randy Orton will forget that the character CM Punk is a fictional creation and will attempt to murder another human being on stage during live TV; and Jack Swagger-- the man who brought us The Swagger Soaring Eagle, the phrase “All American American American” and the glorious return of the wrestling singlet will play as an outside observer in a match between two announcers, one of whom is sixty one years old and was last month billed as a legit threat to The Miz’s title run.

But it’s the main event that angers and confounds me the most. As in the previous couple years, the main event revolves around The Undertaker and his undefeated streak at Wrestlemania, which currently stands at 18 wins over as many years. In these past two eventss legitimately been a good, interesting match, manly because over those they’ve both been against the same guy, Shawn Michaels. Shawn is athletic, capable of selling an opponent’s offense like no one before him, and is unparalleled in his ability to draw people into a match no matter how old or limited his opponent my be.

Unfortunately Shawn is also retired. His last Wrestlemania mach with the Undertaker was also his last match ever. This is something of a problem for the WWE as they’re utterly creatively bankrupt, they don’t trust anyone who’s been with the company for less than 10 years, and Pay-per-view sales are in the shitter. Whether these three events are related or not is an exercise best left to the observant reader, but it does mean that the WWE has quite simply run out of performers to throw against the Undertaker and the company’s one sell-able product-- The Streak. Rather than bring in someone new and interesting and can genuinely benefit from being on the biggest stage of the year, the WWE booked HHH to fight the Undertaker for The Streak, a man who has the benefits of 1: Being ancient and 2: producing children with the daughter of the owner.

It’s going to be awful. HHH can’t sell offense, he’s incapable of telling a story in the ring unless he’s dominating a match, and he’s at least as injured and limited as the Undertaker himself in this point of his career. This is what we’re expected to pay fifty dollars to see. Well not myself, as I’ll be watching it at someone else’s house, but you get the idea.

Not that the Undertaker Wrestlemania matches have always been feats of athletic grace or technical mastery. The Undertaker is actually an awful wrestler, his main abilities are looking scary and not being booked to lose. But it’s still disappointing to see one ancient stiff paired against another ancient stiff in the main event, and to put this year’s UT/HHH match in perspective I’ve decided to rank this some of this week’s games based on previous Undertaker Wrestlemania matchups.

3rd Birthday

Developer: HexaDrive (Hey kids! It’s the Lost Planet guy!)
Publisher: The Bad Part of Square Enix
Platform: The fucking PSP!

You remember Parasite Eve, right? Inventive little PS1 survival horror/RPG hybrid, with a strong female protagonist and competent storytelling?

Yeah, 3rd Birthday is nothing like that.

 

Which is probably fine seeing as Squeenix somehow lost the rights to name new games “Parasite Eve” anyway; it’s just odd that the company would choose to remind fans of a beloved series only to completely change all the gameplay and characterization aspects that made the original series great, and wait over a decade between games to do so. Now it’s a bog-standard 3rd Person Shooter, and where before Aya Brea was a tough, decisive female lead in a market full of oversexed fainthearted male fantasies the new Aya Brea is timid, vulnerable and her clothes gradually come off as you play through the game. Not to express health or her general condition or anything relating to the game itself, but just because ripped jeans are hawt.

Apparently whatever happened to Samus Aran between Super Metroid and Other M is catching.

Gameplay-wise 3rd Birthday is fine. Development was handled by HexaDrive, headed by Masakazu Matsushita, who had a hand in the first Lost Planet, Devil May Cry 3 and both Power Stone games. Insofar as being a videogame people in 2011 would want to play, the changes to 3rd Birthday since Parsite Eve 2 make sense. No one wants to play a game with tank controls anymore, and Resident Evil 4 sort of destroyed the credibility of any action-oriented Survival Horror games made before it. What makes no sense whatsoever is lobotomizing the one likeable aspect the Parasite Eve series has left, Aya Brea.

If 3rd Birthday is a fundamentally good video game, if it’s removed almost entirely from the Parasite Eve series, and if the stated goal of 3rd Birthday was to create a new marketable franchise, why tie it to Parasite Eve at all? It seems like Squeenix is insecure in their ability to create new intellectual property, so everything they do has to be tied in to some decades-old franchise. Maybe this strategy make sense if there’s still a rabid fanbase clamoring for a new Parasite Eve game, but the last Parasite Eve was made for the Playstation 1, for chrissake. The scant few left with fond memories of Parasite Eve 1 and 2 are offended and alienated by the changes in both gameplay and characterization.
Maybe Squeenix isn’t so much in the video game business anymore as much as they are the nostalgia business. And that’s too bad, because the Square I remember from the Parasite Eve era-- the Square that brought us Tobal, Einhänder, Bushido Blade, Vagrant Story, Brave Fencer Musashi-- that was an amazing company. It was a company I liked being a fan of, and a company that didn’t have to rely on nostalgia. It’s a shame that company is dead.

IF THIS GAME WERE ACTUALLY A WRESTLEMANIA UNDERTAKER MATCH IT WOULD BE:

UNDERTAKER VS MARK HENRY (WRESTLEMANIA 22)

Just as Parasite Eve has taken an inexplicable turn from survival horror/RPG/female empowerment to 3rd person eyecandy, Mark Henry took an inexplicable turn from comedy wrestler “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry (most famous for impregnating seventy-year-old Mae Young with a rubber glove) to Mark Henry, Serious Threat To The Undertaker. Needless to say the change didn’t take and Henry was soon relegated back to the Raw B-crew, where he remains today as a guy best known for randomly coming out to murder Irish superstar Sheamus for no readily apparent reason.

Dynasty Warriors 7

Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

I could joke about this being the umpteenth Dynasty Warriors game, but you’ve heard all those jokes before and it’s not like I can even come up with a hard number; between Dynasty Warriors and Xtreme Legends and Warriors Orochi and Samurai Warriors the act of cataloging Dynasty Warriors games is the sort of Sisyphean effort best left to grad students and GameFAQs messageboards. I wanted to come in here and ask if after all these iterations of Dynasty Warriors of Koei had finally managed to produce a good video game, but metacritic reveals that thus far only two Dynasty Warriors 7 reviews exist-- Dynasty Warriors’ incessant Musou barrage has rendered the games journalism industry numb and insensible.

Koei’s Dynasty Warrior obsession has left the company incapable of producing non-Dynasty Warriors games even if it makes no sense whatsoever for the title to be a Musou game. Koei produces a Fist of The North Star game, it’s a Fist of the North Star Musou game. Koei tries to make a Gundam game, somehow your robot suit is mowing through entire squadrons of enemy armor in a single swipe of a beam sword. When the CEO of Koei makes breakfast he pours an entire carton of eggs onto a frying pan while screaming aloud the status of his combo meter. When the CEO of Koei makes love to his wife he demands that his mistress and all former girlfriends be in the room at the same time as he bounds between each in turn, screaming manically. When the CEO of Koei goes to a shareholders meeting he demands that the participants bound away violently when they’re bowed to and okay this joke has gone on long enough. Suffice to say this company has issues.

All that said, we’re probably lucky for Koei’s corporate-wide cognitive lock as when they’re not producing remakes to Dynasty Warriors 2 they make WinBack and Fatal Inertia.

IF THIS GAME WERE ACTUALLY A WRESTLEMANIA UNDERTAKER MATCH IT WOULD BE:

UNDERTAKER VS KANE (AGAIN) (WRESTLEMANIA XX)

Just as we’re somehow supposed to feign interest in the 800th Koei Musou game, WWE somehow expected fans to care about the 800th pairing of Kane/Undertaker. And it wasn’t even like this was a particularly interesting match-- at least previous fights between the twofeatured someone catching fire or being stuffed inside a casket (before the casket was also caught on fire) or the winner burying the other alive in an open grave:; this was just a bog-standard wrestling match between two guys who weren't particularly good at wrestling.

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

Developer: Falcom
Publisher: XSeed
Platforms: PlayStation Portable

Let’s see, can I bring myself to feign interest in a PSP port of a seven-year-old Windows Japanese RPG brought to us by the same company that keeps remaking Ys I & 2?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABSOLUTELY NOT

NASCAR 2011: The Game.

Developer: Eutechnyx Limited
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

I’ve always felt that my lack of interest in the current NASCAR product has been a failing on my part. I’m from North Carolina, some of my earliest memories are of sitting on a couch with my dad and my brothers cheering for Harry Gant and the Skoal Bandit on Sunday afternoons, and I grew up with the historic Hickory Motor Speedway in my backyard. Also I can say the term “historic Hickory Motor Speedway” with a straight face. Also I love cars, and I love me some dry-as-sheet-rock console racing sims in the vein of Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsports.

I mean, I should love NASCAR. And I should love Nascar: 2011 The Game, right? Well, this is the part where I go on my NASCAR rant. If you don’t care about the state of NASCAR in 2011 move along to the part where I make fun of Nintendogs, because this is going to go on for a while and possibly run into the Shift 2 entry. I apologize.

PART ONE: JIMMIE FREAKING JOHNSON WON’T DIE

Okay. Jimmie Johnson. I’m willing to admit that Jimmie Johnson is probably a fine human being, a loving father and a good husband. He probably even gives to charity. Heck, he’s from California so maybe he’s even a Democrat, too. That’s all well and good. I have no problem with Jimmie Johnson as a human being. But the fact is that there are children who are currently in kindergarten who have lived their entire lives with Jimmie Johnson as NASCAR champ. The last time Jimmie Johnson wasn’t champ, the Xbox 360 didn’t exist. House and Congress have changed hands three times since someone name other than “Jimmie Johnson” was NASCAR champ.

Okay yes, this happens in other sports. Michael Jordan won six NBA championship rings, and probably would have won those and several more in a row had he not fled to Birmingham in the middle of that run. The Atlanta Braves won so many NL East pennants that Turner Broadcasting stopped sending camera crews to the stadium and just played the previous year’s playoff games in reverse order to save money. Fedor Emelianenko went so long between defeats that at some point he apparently began fighting and then devouring grizzly bears.

But I don’t think anyone has dispirited his entire sport in quite the way Jimmie Johnson has NASCAR.

If you listen carefully you can hear empty Stolichnaya bottles rattling around in Tony Stewart’s car. Jeff Gordon has taken to huddling before a mirror between races, rocking back in forth as he takes solace in the only thing that’s not fled him, his stunningly good looks and vast, immeasurable wealth. Denny Hamlin, runner up in last year’s NASCAR points race, realized the futility of the effort before him and spent the last three races of the season driving reverse around the track, knowing full well that the only way to stop Jimmie would be to ram into him head on.

PART 2: THE CAR IS HIDEOUS

 

At some point the people in charge of NASCAR decided competition between car manufacturers was an awful, terrible thing and forced every single team, every single owner, every single racer to adopt the exact same car.

 

It looks like someone bolted plywood onto a 1975 Buick LeSabre and is about as much fun to watch. NASCAR did this in the name of “safety” and then promptly changed the rules to allow drivers to continually ram into one another to gain position like a demented, un-fun wholly linear version of destruction derby. No one who has fond childhood memories of arguing with their friends about the relative merits of the Ford Thunderbird vs the Chevy Lumina-- which is to say the vast majority of people old enough to still be watching NASCAR today-- likes this change.

Sure, the whole “stock” part of “stock car racing” is a farce once you get into the realm of NASCAR, but it’s always been that way, no one really minded that the Chevy Lumina driven around by Dale EArnhart bore little resemblance to the car Chevy actually sold, but that wasn’t the point. NASCAR fans had brand loyalty. Now there’s just racing team loyalty, and who really cares about the relative merits of Joe Gibbs the retired football coach vs Richard Childress the retired race car driver?

PART THREE: THERE’S TWICE AS MANY CALIFORNIA RACE TRACKS AS NORTH CAROLINA RACE TRACKS

I mean c’mon, really? Also somehow while removing small-town tracks and moving stuff into the West and North NASCAR managed to lengthen the season to the point where the drivers get less time off between seasons than a Wisconsin school teacher gets medical leave, which is somewhere around 3.8 hours on average.

What’s worse, all these new tracks added are basically the exact same layout-- some variation of the d-shaped superspeedway oval. NASCAR is taking away unique, fun short track races like Rockingham and killing entire towns in the process. Yeah, it’s a business, and it’s hard to argue against being able to sell a hundred thousand tickets out in some godforsaken stretch of Texas wasteland, but it’s sort of hard to care about these tracks, or their communities.

IN CONCLUSION: YOU CAN’T SPELL “BANAL” WITHOUT “BRIAN FRANCE IS A SHORTSIGHTED IDIOT WHO HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE TO BE BORN INTO WEALTH

If you’ve noticed a pattern here it’s that nothing has really changed or advanced in NASCAR in a long while. All the cars look the same, all the racetracks look the same, all the seasons look the same because they don’t end, and all the champions look exactly like Jimmie Johnson. I daresay that if you were to present a NASCAR fan with a 15 minute clip of a random NASCAR race from the past four years and remove commentary and racetrack branding from it and asked them to name what race that came from and when, they’d be hard pressed to give you an answer.

Need For Speed Shift 2: Unleashed

Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

You people aren’t actually going to buy Shift 2, right? It’s somewhere in the middle of being a less fun version of Project Gotham Racer and a more absurd version of Forza 3.

Instead, here’s why you shouldn’t buy NASCAR 2011 The Game, either: There’s basically one (hideous) car, there’s 3 different track layouts, and if you attempt to win the Sprint Cup your entire hard drive will be erased and your avatar replaced with Jimmie Johnson’s character model. Also I’ve yet to see a compelling argument why anyone in their right mind would want to play a stock car video game that isn’t named “Daytona USA”.

 

Nintendogs and Cats: French Bulldog/Toy Poodle/Golden Retriever


Developer: Nintendog EAD Group #1
Publisher: Nintendog
Platforms: Nintendog 3DS

FACT: NINTENDOGS AND CATS TOY POODLE IS THE ONLY VERSION WITH CORGIS

 

FACT: ALL OTHER VERSIONS ARE INFERIOR.

Pilotwings Resort

Developer: Monster Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

I’ve always felt that the Pilotwings series were the sort of games that were well regarded not so much because they’re very good video games, but rather they’re there when the system is launched and are used to show off their consoles graphical capabilities, sort of like how the Ridge Racer series would be viewed if anyone still cared about it. Then again I also have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to play a game where they’re flying around in 3d but somehow not shooting aliens in the face with lasers. It just seems like a tragic waste of an opportunity.

Steel Diver

Developer: Nintendo EAD Group #5
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

So over the past couple weeks Nintendo has set up a 3DS demo station in the Vanderbilt hall at Grand Central Station. Intrigued by the possibility that I could receive permanent eye damage from using a 3DS and thus sue Nintendo for millions of dollars, I was led to a kiosk by an unassuming young lady whom I did not at the time believe had reason to wish harm upon me. Eschewing the rows full of Super Street Fighter IV 3D machines she placed me before Steel Diver, a game that looks like Irem’s classic 2d shmup In The Hunt, but plays like a Serbian war crime.

I left bare moments later, shaken to my core, weeping bitterly. I do not know what I did to that young lady or why she hated me so. As I fled Grand Central Station a homeless man clad in clothes so shabby they could only have been scavenged from other, dead homeless people, looked into my eyes and took pity on me, handing me his Dixie cup full of quarters and discarded cuff links. I was unable to leave my apartment for the next three days, huddled as I was underneath my shower and occasionally dousing myself in Ajax cleaning detergent.

While I cannot undo the events of that day or the wreck my life has since become, I can at least hope to warn anyone who is reading this away from Steel Diver.

IF THIS GAME WERE ACTUALLY A WRESTLEMANIA UNDERTAKER MATCH IT WOULD BE:

GIANT GONZALES (WRESTLEMANIA IX)

Not only should Vince McMahon have been brought before The Hague for the travesty that was Wrestlemania IX, this match didn’t even really feature a winner, or anything resembling a “match”. Giant Gonzales just sort of stumbled around in his insane muscle suit in a mocking mimicry of a professional wrestler before eventually being disqualified, presumably by California state police.

Super Street Fighter IV 3D

Developer: Dimps
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: 3DS

So get this: SSFIV 3D, despite being at best the highlight of one of the most lackluster system launches in recent memory, has more features and a more robust net code than Capcom’s big budget get-the-comics-fans-out-for-videogames-crossover Marvel vs Capcom 3. In fact, provided you can get past the awkward terror that is playing Street Fighter on an SNES pad, SSFIV 3D may be the definitive version of Street Fighter IV, at least until Arcade Edition comes out. In fact, if Arcade Edition screws up as badly as rumored-- with severely nerfed characters save for the four new guys coincidentally only found in Arcade Edition-- SSFIV 3D may be the last version of Street Fighter IV anyone wants to buy.

I’m not sure if I like the idea of having the special moves assigned to the touchscreen, but you can play without that option just fine, and at any rate it serves to open up the Street Fighter idea to people who can’t actually grasp the idea of “hcf +3p”, something Capcom was seemingly uninterested in doing with Marvel 3 despite the Marvel/X-Men crossover titles being casual-friendly games that absolutely must sell to a larger audience. SSFIV 3D is a startlingly progressive game from Capcom and it leaves me bitterly disappointed over what Marvel 3 could have been had Capcom not realized they could fix the game by selling it to you again 9-12 months later.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters

Developer: Tiburon Games
Publisher: Electronic ARts
Platforms: Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Golf video games confuse me as golf itself isn’t particularly difficult a sport. John Daly has manged to piss away millions of dollars being moderately good at golf and he chain smokes Camels between holes. You just wander around outside at your own pace and make occasional stabs at figuring out parabolic trajectories using a lump of steel on the end of a thin stick. It’s the perfect sport for geeks who need to get fresh air but aren’t up to the whole “physical activity” bit. If you’re not up for the strenuous act of walking between holes the course owner will even let you borrow a tiny electric car to drive around in.

What I’m saying is, Golf isn’t the sort of sport like football where only the barest percentile of the entire human race are blessed with the athletic gifts to take part in it. Football as a videogame makes sense. Golf as a video game, as near as I can suss out, largely involves meters and timing and plays like a demented version of Rock Band where you’re surrounded on all sides by people rich enough and white enough to afford entrance into Augusta National.

Speaking of which, the star for this year’s EA golf offering isn’t the suddenly mediocre Tiger Woods as it is the pageantry of The Masters, held at Augusta National. This year’s big hook is that you play through the ranks as a scrub amateur before eventually working your way toward the privilege of earning a shot at the Green Jacket. It is as yet unclear if female players will be allowed to undergo gender reassignment surgery before attempting to set foot in Augusta.

IF THIS GAME WERE ACTUALLY A WRESTLEMANIA UNDERTAKER MATCH IT WOULD BE:

Undertaker vs HHH (WRESTLEMANIA X-7)

WWE keeps referring to this year’s HHH/UT pairing as a historic event and has demanded that no one bring up the fact that these guys fought in a rather underrated match a decade ago at one of the best Wrestlemanias of all time. Similarly, EA would like you to forget that Tiger Woods exists so they can stop paying him money to put his increasingly damaged brand on the cover of their video games.

WWE All-Stars

Developer: Toy Headquarters San Diego
Publisher: Toy Headquarters
Platforms: Everything!

The normal first reaction upon being greeted with a non-Aki wrestling game is to recoil in disdain, sort of like the first moment you realize you’ve stepped foot in dog doo. There’s good reason for that, Yuke’s Smackdown vs Raw series has become a dry, repetitive, by-the-numbers affair littered with the same gameplay concepts that have been in place since the first Smackdown vs Raw disappointed fans back in 2004. The Smackdown vs Raw series had become this rather bizarre and hard to enjoy simulation of a sport that doesn’t actually exist, with an odd reliance on backstage interaction and interacting in promotional interviews and attempting to reconcile the real-world physics involved in highly implausible techniques such as a chokeslam.

THQ San Diego’s WWE All-Stars ditches all the baggage of Yuke’s Smackdown vs Raw series and delivers what fans of wrestling love about the real-world product-- fun, dumb entertainment that’s impossible to believe and highly enjoyable because of that. Everything is stylized, everything is extravagant, and no one simply falls over to deliver a leg drop when they can jump ten feet up to deliver a leg drop instead, complete with particle effects and extraneous slow-mo.

Not that WWE All-Stars is perfect gameplay fun. The act of grappling is still awkward and somewhat arbitrary, but there’s probably no easy way around that in a video game, and far better developers than THQ San Diego have tried to wrestle with this problem to no avail. But striking is satisfying, running off ropes to deliver concussion-inducing clotheslines is satisfying, and delivering missile dropkicks is satisfying. The whole thing plays sort of like if Street Fighter 4 was 3d and everyone was a somewhat more athletic version of Zangief.

If I had one main gripe about this game it’s that the roster, despite being able to draw from WWE’s stable of past WCW and ECW performers, is decidely 80’s WWE heavy. I can sort of understand why Ric Flair and Sting aren’t in this game seeing as they’re currently appearing on TNA television, but I’d still liked to have seen the NWO represented outside of an alternate costume for Hulk Hogan. Perhaps if All-Stars sells enough for a sequel we can see an expanded roster featuring The Rock n Roll Express, the Road Warriors and the Four Horsemen-- and who knows, TNA could go out of business in time to finally see a fit, hale, non-decrepit Ric Flair fight Hulk Hogan in all his Hulkamania glory.

NEXT WEEK~!

PATAPON 3 is here to remind you that Patapon still exists!

HEAVY FIRE: AFGHANISTAN is probably awful and an embarrassment to America’s armed forces!