Category Archives: Video Games

Four Current Examples of Static Characters

Static characters are surprisingly a lot harder to find because they are easy to overlook. They don’t personally undergo any real journey other than the events of the plot – instead they tend to serve as a tool for the dynamic characters of a story to react to or receive guidance from. Here are four examples of static characters. I tried to avoid literary figures like Atticus Finch, so that students have room to talk about those once they understand the concept. I instead focused on making sure that these characters were prominent in pop culture to ensure that students would be able to see the concept at work with characters they already know.

If you’re looking for examples of dynamic characters, I wrote an article about that here.

Son Goku

songoku

I started the last one with a Dragon Ball character, so it’s time to start with one here. If that one worked with your audience, then this one will work for those same people.

I was tempted to start with Frieza, a villain, but I decided it would actually be a more effective example if I used a hero. Villains are easy. The idea is that they don’t change, so you don’t have to feel bad when the hero destroys them. A static hero, however… how do you explain that?

Static heroes were especially popular back in the day because it allowed an audience to pick up a series easily – what you see is what you get, and you can count on them to be that way because they’ll always be that way. What happens then is that the audience begins to see how the characters around him develop. Son Goku is no exception. It is his refusal to change that makes Vegeta’s transformation so stark in contrast.

The Benevolent Fighter

Son Goku starts the series Dragon Ball as a young boy. It is revealed when he is an adult that he is a Saiyan, an alien race subjugated by the evil Lord Frieza, and that he was sent to the Earth as a baby (named Kakarot) to destroy all life there to make the planet fit for sale to the highest bidder. However, a head injury as an infant causes Kakarot to become sweet and kind, a trait that stays with him into adulthood. Raised by an old martial artist named Son Gohan as a grandson (named Son Goku), the baby retains the strength and love of fighting possessed by his race, but his nature is converted by his head injury and perhaps most notably by his adoptive grandfather’s influence into that of a generous, loving hero.

Goku retains this nature as an adult, an immensely strong fighter who wouldn’t hurt a fly. However, for such a comedic, dopey, likable guy, he sure does have a huge body count. Goku’s love of fighting often gets him into trouble and interferes with his common sense, much to the chagrin of his comrades. His rival, Vegeta, is constantly developing as a character as a result of repeated attempts to surpass Goku. In fact, most of Goku’s friends were formerly dastardly villains that are won over by his constant, consistent optimism and unrivaled work ethic.  In this way, Goku – like most static characters – serves as a device for all of the other characters to change and develop around him.

Steve Rogers/Captain America

cap

This hero is definitely well-known, both in the comic world AND in popular culture as a result of cinematic success. (Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War).

A Patriot Lost in Time

ultimates
Waking in the 21st Century and not believing Fury is a general because he’s black.

Steve Rogers just wants to fight for his country, and he gets the chance to do so when he is recruited and made the only successful test subject for the Super Soldier Program. Frozen in ice while saving the world, Rogers unexpectedly finds himself in the 21st Century, with most of his friends old or dead. With augmented athletic abilities, and a strong sense of hope and optimism, he is regarded somewhat as the flagship member of the Avengers – and most of the time, the group’s leader.

Captain America’s moral compass is one that never wavers. You never wonder if you should or shouldn’t be cheering for Cap, even when he does things against the system. I found this especially true during Civil War: “Oh, Captain America is doing something weird? Well, he must be right, so let’s wait and see.” While he certainly changes physically, Captain America as we know it hardly ever changes.

If you’re about to quote the comics at me, shut up. Comics explore every single idea out there because otherwise they run out of story. Any prolific series is going to have an evil version, a cynical version, an elderly version, a child version, a werewolf version, a zombie version… The point is when you say “Captain America,” there will always be a very specific picture in your head. He is and always will be. He arguably has more of a “boy scout” rep than Superman does!

The Batmanbatrobin

He’s Batman. Unless we’re referring to the Adam West goon, Batman is a pretty static hero – especially once the 90’s animated series was underway, as its popularity validated what the comics had begun doing in making his character dark and brooding.

A Force of Nature

Bruce Wayne will sometimes change, but his role as The Batman seldom does. Batman is smart, crafty, and has a ridiculous work ethic. His status as a static character does not mean that he is without flaws. He has definite trust issues that often lead to very explosive incidents with those involved – particularly the time when it was revealed that he had secret files recording the weaknesses of every Justice League member and how to exploit them in case any one of them went rogue.

Batman also has a very firm policy against killing that never seems to change – despite fighting some of the most deranged villains in comic book history, and despite suffering equally devastating losses at the hands of these villains.

Much of the interest in the Batman series comes from watching the dynamic characters around him. (Batgirl. Robin/Nightwing. Two-Face. Red Hood. The list goes on.) All of them owe their engrossing storylines to their interactions with the force of nature that is Batman. The first Robin, particularly, goes from worshipping him to resenting him – eventually becoming Nightwing and forcing his surrogate father to recognize him as an equal. Batman stays the same – no matter how the villains or even his friends try to force change on him.

Geralt of Rivia

witcher_3_dlc.0.0

Whether you’ve played Witcher 3 lately (I haven’t yet) and just entered the series, or you’ve been a long-time fan, it’s pretty plain that Geralt is a static hero. This doesn’t mean he’s not a badass: His character design is top-notch and distinct, with white hair, scars… he has a sword and a silver sword – come one. One for monsters, one for people right?

Sure Geralt has revelations and crises of identity – but for the most part, if you are reading or playing the Witcher series, you know exactly who you’re dealing with and what he’s going to be like.

One trait he has is a stubborn adherence to his personal code. Geralt, like most Witchers apparently, has a very specific job description; he has to kill monsters. Of course, there are wildly varying impressions throughout the world of exactly how necessary or serious this job is – though as you might imagine, respect for this job is usually directly proportional to how close a monster is to messing up the lives of those whose respect is in question. This means that sometimes he’ll get a job offer asking him to deal with a striga (a terrifying monster whose description involves the words “dead monster baby” and a tiny coffin). No problem. But in other places where the monster problem is less than common, they’ll offer jobs that let you know they obviously don’t take his job seriously. King or not, he will refuse these people. Need him to kill a dragon? Dragons don’t count as monsters to him, so no. Not to mention that for the most part, he refuses to work for free.

Well, actually it’s no hold barred for the video game, right? Fetch-em quests galore!

Geralt, for the most part, is cynical, sarcastic, and dismissive of authority. He is also very loyal to those rare few that become his friends. He has shown himself to be sympathetic to the plight of even monsters, despite his overt commitment to kill those in his path for money. He is well-aware of the fact that he literally eliminates work for himself as he does his job. I’m not currently aware of how exactly he got his powers or why he wants to be human again, but I find Geralt’s static nature to be a nice anchor when transitioning from setting to setting in his stories. Most of my journey with The Witcher is “Okay, that’s the person available, okay that’s the problem… whoa, this is interesting… where’s Geralt? Oh, there he is, good, okay I know how this story is framed now.” The experience feels a lot like watching anything based on Sherlock Holmes. (I would have used him in this article, but he’s not current in my mind, despite the riveting BBC present-day adaptation.)

Hopefully, this article helps you talk about static characters when you need it. If you have better ideas for current static characters, let me know in the comments or social media!

If you’re a Witcher die-hard that wants to tell me how Geralt is actually super dynamic, then take a moment, Internet Warrior, to reflect on your life, and on how being static isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and then also know that I’m like two books in, so if he suddenly becomes a villain or something that’s gonna come out of left field for me.

Advertisements

Marvel Vs. Capcom: War For Excellence (Part 1: Marvel)

So one of my favorite things to think about and discuss was always what would be the roster of the consummate, never-going-to-happen, perfect Marvel Vs. Capcom game.  I’ve found mine, based on the games we’ve already received.  We’re getting deep here, let’s go!  I picked 11 people for each team.

marvel

1. Tony Stark

stark

This would not be the classic Iron Man that has been in every one of these games to date.  Rather, this version would be an unhelmeted Tony Stark, with the ability to summon drones, use his gauntlets, and his infinities would involve summoning different armors against different opponents. For example, if you’re fighting a bruiser, you’d want to use Veronica, whereas if you’re against someone fast and agile, you might use the Mark II armor… This would help change up some of the been-there-done-that aspect of this character.  Costume variants can include Rhodes as War Machine, or Norman Osborn as Iron Patriot.

2. Logan/Patch

logan

This version of Wolverine would be interesting because his days with the X-Men are over; this version of Wolverine is interesting and not necessarily based on the trained killer we’ve seen.  His ways are set, his hair is white, and his costumes are many.  His claws would be in by default with certain moves extending his bone claws with deadly precision; it’s as if you caught him in a bar brawl and he’s trying to hide his mutant nature.

3.  Reed Richards

mrfantastic

With his super-genius brain and extreme flexibility, Mr. Fantastic’s powers would look insane at MvC speeds!  There’s also potential for some funny specials and taunts with this guy.  I would prefer if they grab him when he’s older, as young Reed lacks that confidence and wisdom.

4. Kitty Pryde

kitty

How brave does Capcom wanna get with player variability?  Imagine Kitty Pryde as a player, and instead of a block button, she has her phase mode, which maybe uses her meter or something.

5.  Blade

Blade_The_Vampire_Hunter_Vol_6_3_Textless

The Daywalker himself, with gadgets and martial arts galore.  Costumes can include his movie costume, that time he stood in for Ronin, etc.  Blade is a Marvel character that should have definitely been considered before Ghost Rider of all people.  Bonus points if they can get Wesley Snipes to do the voice.  His Infinities can come from the anime:

“Blade’s sword-style revolves mainly around his mastery of Yagu Shinkage-ryu, a kenjutsu art that can unleash powerful shockwaves or transparent wind blades from his sword swings, allowing him to blast or slice respectively his opponents from a distance. The Yagu Shinkage-ryu also has three principle Yagyu techniques. The first technique, “The First Blade: Residual Moon”, draws a small circle with the tip of his sword, producing a perfectly tangible after-image of himself for diversions. The second technique “The Second Blade: Phantom Moon”, involves a high-speed spin, allowing Blade to launch an omni-directional slash in rapid succession with such intensity, it sets his strike ablaze. The final technique, “The Third Blade: Chaotic Moon”, launches several shadow blades around the opponent, hiding the user’s attack path with little chance of being noticed.” – Wikipedia

6. Storm (Head of the X-Men)

storm

That’s right, I’m specifically calling out Mohawk Storm.  This version of Storm defeated Cyclops for the mantle of leader.  She uses her close-combat skills rather than her later strategy of “float everywhere,” only using her crazy powers to bust out the big guns; I’m thinking combined gameplay styles of Thor and Cammy.

7. Deadpool

deadpool-forms-heart-1024x576

I was against this until it happened, now I simply can’t do without.  Just leave him the way he is in MvC3 but with a decently hilarious Story Mode plot.  Let Ryan Reynolds do the voice this time though.  (Yes, the budget needs to be huge for this hypothetical game.)  Give him lots of hilarious costumes, including the girl Deadpool one.

8. Agent Venom

agentvenom

Read this and tell me this isn’t a fresh version of Venom for the game… I’m thinking a fighting style half Cable/Punisher, half Venom Symbiote grossness.

Flash Thompson willingly leaves his place as a P.E. instructor to rejoin the Army and fight in the Iraq War out of patriotic zeal, inspired by the selfless life of his lifelong idol Spider-Man…

Flash’s platoon is ambushed, and Flash suffers several bullet wounds in both legs but continues on in an attempt to save his superior officer from danger. He willingly endangers himself, reasoning that Spider-Man had often committed the same sacrifices for everyone else, and glad to have had the opportunity to imitate him. His actions further damage his legs. This results in the need for them to be amputated below the knees. Flash’s sacrifice is enough to earn him a recommendation for the Medal of Honor.  He returns to New York, only to shock Peter with the loss of his legs. He reveals to Peter that Spider-Man was his inspiration in Iraq. – Wikipedia

Flash is then offered the Venom Symbiote, which would allow the use of his legs again and give him the symbiote’s incredible abilities.  He becomes Agent Venom.

9. Spider-Man (Miles Morales)

miles

Yep, let’s a put a Spider-Man who’s NOT Peter in the games, with a new moveset!  Peter/Ben Reilly/May Parker/Miguel O’Hara etc can be costume variants.  Let the new one be Childish Gambino’s Marvel voice-acting debut!  It would be cool to see Spider-Man’s Venom Strike and his Camouflage.

He also has two abilities that the original Spider-Man did not have: the ability to camouflage himself, including his clothing, to match his surroundings, and an electrical “venom strike” that can paralyze almost anyone with just a touch, including the electrically powered Electro. The venom strike can be conducted through Miles’ gloves. It can be used against an opponent at a distance by conducting it through a material in which both Miles and his opponent are in contact, such as the webbing of the Earth-616’s Spider-Man. The venom strike is powerful enough to render unconscious a person as large as Hank Pym’s Giant Man. It was powerful enough to drive away Venom during Miles’ first encounter with the creature, but by their second encounter, Venom had developed such a tolerance to the strike that Miles had to be completely enveloped by the symbiote before the venom strike could separate the symbiote from its host. The effect of the venom strike manifests itself a few seconds after it is implemented, and is described by Bendis as being comparable to the feeling of being kicked in the testicles. – Wikipedia

10. Captain America (Sam Wilson)

sam_wilson_66335

The original Cap died, right?  That was a hard time for people.  Let’s use the opportunity create shock and awe.  Falcon picks up the mantle and becomes the first black Captain America.  Whoo! Freedom!

11. Maestro (Hulk)

maestrohulk

It’s a post-apocalyptic version of Hulk that is an evil, powerful, super-genius.  This story mode is fascinating before it’s even written!

Agree? Disagree?

Stay tuned for my post letting you see my choices for the Capcom side!

Top 5 Fighting Games of All Time

Fighting games; the genre that pits you and a friend against each other in a battle of physicality… with no physicality.  A catharsis for disagreement among brothers, and for the ever-so-stressful elements of life.

Something to clarify right now; I am an old school fighting gamer.  No, that doesn’t mean I think Street Fighter II is the greatest game ever.  What it means is that I am overwhelmingly against the online experience.  These games are meant to be played with your opponent right next to you, dangerously within reach.  Even my wife agrees with that.  As a fighting game enthusiast, I enjoyed immersive stories, fun, relatable, and varied character designs, and fun gameplay!

5. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Last Round (PS3/XBox 360)

DOA+Last+Round

This game series is well-known for being one of the most beautiful 3D fighters of all time, with the latest one being the best.  With a fun but difficult counter system, varying character designs, free movement and interactive levels, this hard-hitting title is great fun with another person.

That being said, the game has a free-to-play mode and tries to sell DLC to you like pans and pickaxes during the Gold Rush.  The single player experience is pretty abysmal as well.  This game is all about hitting hard and having a person to play with.

4. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (Dreamcast/PS3/XBox 360)

marvel-vs-capcom-2

A wonderful, fast-paced, frustrating cluster of Marvel and Capcom characters fighting each other and holding to a story that’s almost nowhere to be seen until the little slideshow endings.  If you have a Marvel or Capcom fan with you, bring him out and play until you can’t keep your eyes open.  This game was horribly imbalanced, with broken characters and cheat moves.  Nobody in my family cared.

3. Injustice: Gods Among Us (Ps3/PS4/Xbox 360/One/PC)

injustice_gods_among_us_6

This game is fun, fast-paced, and hard-hitting, with the caveat that it takes itself maybe a little bit too seriously.  The absence of a tag mode is almost unforgivable, but the copious amounts of costumes and such involved make this a fun game of escapism and beatdowns.  The block button from its Mortal Kombat predecessors is GONE, and the speed of gameplay definitely reflects that change.  This game also possesses a long story mode, and has plenty of replay value.

2. Rival Schools II: Project Justice (DC)

pj

I grew up playing the Japanese version of this game, so it took a while before we realized what we were playing; the most awesome fighting game Capcom has ever created.  This game is so fun that writing about it makes me want to play it.  If a remake came out on the PSN I’d snap it up.  I pray that Capcom makes a sequel, and I pray that they don’t ruin it.

This game was great because of the variety of co-op moves, the fun “high school” setting, and the really neat character designs.  Batsu, Burning Batsu, Wild Daigo, Nagare, Hideo, Hayate, Roy Bromwell, Boman… I was always really surprised that this wasn’t based on a successful anime.

The music is ridiculously catchy in this game as well:

1. Soul Calibur (DC)

soul calibur

This game came with the Dreamcast.  It was actually the reason we bought a Dreamcast.  It remained a family favorite.  Even my dad played this game with us.  I have owned Soulcalibur II, Soulcalibur IV, and Soulcalibur V, and the first one is still my favorite.  Highlights of this game include a massive art gallery, mission mode, weapon select, and great story.

Honorable Mentions:

Plasma Sword: Nightmare of Bilstein

plasma-sword-15

This is the game with Hayato.  Favorites from this game between my brother and me were Bilstein himself, Hayato, Shaker, Gamof, Rai-on, Byakko, and Zelkin.  Really fun character designs.  Also, each character has about 3 possible endings.

Last Blade II

last_blade_2_4

For when we were in a seriously old school mood.  Every fighter is like playing a different game in this one, kind of like the Guilty Gear or BlazeBlue series.

 

Dragon Ball Xenoverse – Review

The only Dragon Ball games I played before this were the SNES ones, Budokai 3 and Burst Limit.  With that in mind, I had passed on purchasing Dragon Ball XV simply because when I read the reviews people described the fighting as simple and boring and when I looked at gameplay it looked hard to keep track of; everyone looked like little flies whizzing around, occasionally colliding and sometimes shooting little beams at long range.  I didn’t have any sense of the large-scale exaggeration that is evoked with Dragon Ball Z.

However, fate intervened, and I found myself not only with a copy of the game for my birthday from my brother, but two systems to play it on, courtesy of my wife, so that I didn’t even have the “out of memory” excuse.

Graphics:

I love the environments in this game.  They’re huge!  I’m not saying you’ll never touch the edges of a stage but there’s definitely room for everybody.  I didn’t run into the framerate issues that other people complained about when playing on the PS3… Just the occasional slowdown with maximum players and all of them doing their Ultimate Attacks.

Player models looked perfect.  Of course more customization options would be grand but it’s not too hard to be unique through your playstyle.  Weirdly enough though I saw a lot of copies of established characters.  (Is everyone a 4 year old with a character named “SS4 GOGETA”?)

There’s huge pop-in with player-created characters, but what else is new?

Sound:

The overworld music is disco, but catchy.  The new cover of CHA LA HEAD CHA LA is nice to hear.  All of the sound effects are faithful to the original, all the dubs have the voices.  It’s satisfying to hear your character yell the name of the attack.  “FINAL FLASH!”  The occasional sound glitch happens with the in-game cutscenes (Frieza’s transformations seem to not make any noise until the very last moment, making all the debris flying around beforehand confusing.)  The in-battle music is… forgettable. Maybe I just need to turn it up?

The character interactions while you play eventually get repetitive, but I always found they helped me get into the scenario, which is really important with any RPG.  I like that all the characters react to some weird Saiyan intruding, and that they all underestimate me.  I like that if Nappa sees Vegeta go Super Saiyan, he freaks out a little bit.  I like that Goten keeps asking about that toy Trunks offered him as a consolation for losing the Strongest Under the Heavens Tournament.

I just sort of wish they’d remember me from battle to battle.  “Hey remember that dude that totally turned the tide of that battle with Majin Buu?  This guy kinda reminds me of him…”

Gameplay:

If you just go in mashing the melee buttons, you’re going to lose.  Strategy is exciting if you’re playing with a friend, but as a single player you’ll find the real leisure is when you start getting attacks you recognize from the show.  Galick Gun, Final Flash, Instant Transmission, Special Beam Cannon, Death Beam, these are all favorites of mine that made me giddy.  The first time my character yelled “FINAL FLASH!” and obliterated the opponent – such moments are iconic.

The first time you turn Super Saiyan you’ll burn it out in about 3 moves… but once you start beefing up your ki, Super Saiyan starts lasting a lot longer… then you get your energy charge attack (in which you power up with that iconic DBZ yelling… you almost expect the action to cut off so that the narrator can describe “the next exciting episode of Dragon Ball Z….”).

I found the AI to be frustrating.  Enemy AI is good, which is different from being cheap.  Ally AI on the other hand is a mixed bag.  This especially becomes annoying in the beginning when battles are long and grueling, with your power level enough to ensure your survival but certainly not enough to deal with someone else’s enemy for him.

STOP DYING KRILLEN OMG YOU –

I’m good.

The idea then, becomes to get enough power to either a) dispose of your own enemies quickly or b) be able to absorb damage from behind while you double team your weak ally’s enemy.  Vegeta’s AI in particular loves to attack me from behind while I’m working someone’s lifebar down.  Weird, because his build seems to focus on his Ki attacks…

Replay Value:

I don’t know about replay value… I can’t see myself grinding from the beginning just to try being a Namekian now that I can kill people with a single move.  Apparently there are all sorts of incentives to do so but it all sounds so tedious.

So if I’m going to do this mathemagically, I have to give Dragon Ball XV a solid 8.  Very fun first time around, awesome moments of creativity, beautiful graphics!  A 10 needs to be a game you can come back to and never be tired of.  I haven’t played a fighting game like that since the first Soul Calibur.