Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Samurai Spirits 2: Asura Zanmaden: Fair and Square... En Garde... VICTOLY!

When anime started becoming a notable niche in the late-90s & early 00s, it was popular for companies to license & release TV series, OVAs & movies based on video games; admittedly, it allowed for crossing over to more than just anime fans. Unfortunately, for every individual Street Fighter II Movie, Virtua Fighter, & Fatal Fury we got, we seemingly received at least two lackluster (if not simply outright terrible) adaptations alongside them. Stuff like Tekken, Panzer Dragoon, Battle Arena Toshinden, Art of Fighting, Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer, & Samurai Shodown almost became the faces of video game anime, with the end result being that we actually missed out on some really good examples that had just about as much cachet to them from a simple name recognition perspective. We never received Ninja Ryukenden, Far East of Eden: Ziria Oboro Hen, Salamander (okay, the UK got that one), or even Shinken Legend Tight Road (the game never got made, but it was based on one), and that also applies to successive entries to what we did get, especially if the later product was the better one. A very good example of that is Samurai Spirits 2: Asura Zanmaden/The Demon Slaying Asura Tale, a two-episode OVA from 1999.

SNK's Neo Geo arcade hardware was utilized from 1990 to 2004, making it the longest-running arcade hardware ever made, but it's not like SNK never tried to move away from it. In September of 1997, the Hyper Neo Geo 64 came out, and it was meant to be the successor to the Neo Geo, with 3D rendering capabilities & even a planned home version (similar to the MVS & AES). Unfortunately, the Hyper 64 just didn't succeed to even a fraction of what its predecessor achieved, and in 1999 was discontinued. Only seven games came out for the Hyper 64, four of which related to a major SNK franchise. The last two games, 1999's Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition & Buriki One, related to the shared Fatal Fury/Art of Fighting timeline, and before those were two Samurai Shodown games, which finally advanced the storyline past the second game. First was Samurai Shodown 64 in 1997, which introduced Shiki to the franchise, while the other was 1998's Samurai Shodown 64: Warrior's Rage, known as Samurai Spirits 2: Asura Zanmaden in Japan. Not to be confused with the similarly named Samurai Shodown: Warrior's Rage for the PS1 from the following year, this game would receive a prequel anime one year later, taking place across a couple of days before the events of the game. It's honestly not hard to surpass the 1994 TV special, so let's see how screwed over we were by not getting this OVA instead.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Samurai Shodown: The Motion Picture: Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa, Ma Ma Coo Sa... Shiro Tokisada Amakusa!

After pitting live-action adaptations of Capcom & SNK fighting games against each other & covering an obscure OVA based on Capcom's side of the equation, why not look at a couple of SNK anime adaptations? In fact, the former Shin Nihon Kikaku/New Japan Project was ahead of Capcom in the fighting anime game by a good few years. Instead of going theatrical, though, SNK instead went a different route by helping produce anime TV specials with Fuji TV. The first was Battle Fighters Garou Densetsu/Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf, which aired on December 23, 1992 & adapted the first Fatal Fury game on the Neo Geo from 1991. The following year saw two follow ups, July 31's Battle Fighters Garou Densetsu 2/Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle, which adapted 1992's Fatal Fury 2, & December 23's Battle Spirits Ryuko no Ken/Art of Fighting, which did the same for 1992's Art of Fighting. Though they were of varying quality (the Fatal Fury specials are generally liked, while AoF is considered absolute trash), the TV specials did well enough for SNK to go ahead & produce a fourth anime, this time a theatrical movie for Fatal Fury that told an original story & debuted on July 16, 1994. A few months later, SNK would produce one final TV special with Fuji TV, this time bringing another fighting game into the fold.

On July 7, 1993, SNK released Samurai Spirits into the arcade through the Neo Geo MVS. A fighting game that focused on methodical, weapons-based combat, it became an instant hit around the world under the name Samurai Shodown, so it was a no-brainer to have that be the next series to be made into an anime. So, on September 9, 1994, the anime TV special Samurai Spirits ~Haten Gouma no Sho/The Descending Demon that Split Heaven Chapter~ aired, & like its predecessors it would see release in North America. Whereas Viz (& later Discotek) released the three Fatal Fury anime & CPM would handle Art of Fighting, both with dual-audio DVD releases, it was ADV that brought over this final special, but only as a dub-only release under the misnomer Samurai Shodown: The Motion Picture; even the later DVD release was without the original Japanese audio, likely being a simple VHS transfer. This final special went on to achieve it's own bit of terrible notoriety, so let's see how SNK's TV special undertaking finished up.

In February of 1638 (Kan'ei 15) was the Shimabara Rebellion, in which the Christian followers of Japan rebelled against the Tokugawa shogunate over tax differences. Leading them was Amakusa Shiro Tokisada, one of the Holy Swordsmen of the benevolent god Anislazer. After being betrayed by some of his own men, though, Amakusa decided to welcome the Dark God Ambrosia into his soul, crushing the rebellion (& the repelling shogunate army) as well as killing his six fellow Holy Swordsmen who tried to stop him; Anisalzer saved the six from being taken by Ambrosia, though. For the next 100 years, Amakusa would control the Tokugawa shogunate in secret, but in 1738 (Genbun 3) the Holy Swordsmen gather in Edo to finally put an end to their former ally's rule, with the only missing piece being Haohmaru, who has no recollection of his past life at the moment & just lost his village & surrogate mother to Amakusa's Evil Army.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Obscusion B-List: Video Game Ports That Shouldn't Have Been Possible... But Actually Happened

For some people, the biggest appeal to be found in technology is in trying to make a product do something that it really isn't intended to do in the first place; some just want to put square blocks into circular holes & prove that it can be done. When it comes to video games, there are general limitations each & every console & handheld have when it comes to technical specifications, & this is especially true for older hardware of the 70s, 80s, & 90s. While one can certainly push a system's limits with original software, it's usually more impressive when someone (or some company) tries to port over a game from one piece of hardware to another, much weaker system. While one can find plenty of homebrew examples of such instances, as it's an excellent test of a programmer's skills, I want to celebrate six(-ish) examples where a system received an offical port that, honestly, shouldn't have been doable. Granted, I'm not guaranteeing high quality in this list, but the fact that these ports even happened & were released as official products deserves all the credit in the world.

The only real restriction is that I am not counting ports that relied on additional, external support, like the Sega Saturn games that required the RAM Cartridge; I want stuff made with just the core hardware. With that in mind, let's start things off with an example of what happens when a console stays viable for way, WAAAAAAAAY longer than it should have.

Atari released the Video Computer System back in 1977, with the name obviously meant to purposefully trick consumers into buying Atari's console instead of Fairchild's Video Entertainment System (later the Channel F). Eventually, though, the VCS would become known as the Atari 2600, and today it's considered one of the greatest consoles of all time. One of the coolest aspects of the 2600 is that Atari never really meant for it to house complicated games, yet many a designer & programmer found ways to push the system's capabilities, resulting in much more expansive games that what was initially intended. Games like Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns, Raiders of the Lost Ark, & the Swordquest series, among others, were far beyond the scope of what the designers of the 2600 had in mind. Still, those were all original titles... How about when you port over a game like Double Dragon to the Atari 2600?