Player Two Start!: Gone in a Blur

Behold this ad for Blur, the badass racing video game that tried to make a name for itself by taking a thinly veiled swipe at the “lame” Super Mario Kart series by proclaiming “Race Like a Big Boy”, as if to say, “We’re the mature alternative to Mario Kart”, meant to appeal to the type that think being “edgy” and “X-TREME!!!” equal being mature. Basically, an insecure juvenile’s idea of maturity.


Fast-forward to now, where the Mario Kart titles continue to sell millions of copies, whereas most people have completely forgotten about Blur. The irony here is obvious: many people who viewed this spot said they’d rather play the cutesy, squeaky-clean parody game in this spot than the actual game it was advertising, plus the ad managed to tick off a lot of Mario Kart fans, not a good idea if you want them to try your game. (BTW, anybody who thinks that Mario Kart is “about making friends” has clearly never played the game; one well-placed blue tortoise shell or lightning bolt could cause a severe rift between players, if anything Mario Kart could end a friendship as easily as it could perpetuate one.)

The same fate befell game mascots Croc…

Croc 1



…And Ty the Tasmanian Tiger…

Ty Ad

…Both of whom attacked other, more popular game mascots in their ads, only to promptly vanish into obscurity.


“Man, I, like, y’know, never heard of those cats!”

What’s the lesson to be learned here? If you want your potential video game franchise to be long running and successful, then don’t attempt to slam other games in your ads. That only worked for Sonic the Hedgehog, and look at him now. Better yet, look at him 15 years ago.

If you try to put yourself over other games, you’ll end up harder to find than this guy:


“FTR, I’ve never played Blur either!”

Player Two Start!: Seeking a Friend for the Sports Hero Team

When SNK started their King of Fighters fighting game series in 1994, with the imaginatively titled King of Fighters ’94, it became a long-running and successful franchise, and it’s not hard to see why. In some ways KOF ’94 was SNK’s equivalent to Laff-A-Lympics: a mega crossover assembling a galaxy of favorite characters alongside new ones, from all around the globe. Most characters come from other SNK games, such as Team Italy, which is composed of the three player characters from the original Fatal Fury (Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard and Joe Higashi). The leading duo from Art of Fighting, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, are featured with their mentor and Ryo’s father, Takuma Sakazaki, who make up Team Mexico. Team Korea includes Kim Kaphwan from Fatal Fury 2 as the leader of two convicts he is trying to reform (Chang Koehan and Choi Bounge). Team England is a mix of female fighters from Fatal Fury 2 (Mai Shiranui) and the Art of Fighting series (Yuri Sakazaki and King).

The two heroes from Psycho Soldier (Athena Asamiya and Sie Kensou) form Team China along with their mentor, Chin Gentsai. Team Brazil composes of Ikari Warriors characters Ralf Jones and Clark Still, as well as their commanding officer, new character Heidern. The game also features two teams composed entirely of original characters: Team Japan, including badass flame harnessing Kyo Kusanagi, Benimaru Nikaido, a ladies’ man with giant hair who can generate lightning and hulking sumo Goro Daimon; and representing our country, Team USA, was…….


….A trio of jocks.



Yeah, the team representing the United States consisted of a baller, a boxer and a bruiser. I know, I know, but is it weird that I don’t hate these characters? Believe it or not, despite their campy nature, I actually kind of like the Sports Hero team, and wish they could’ve stuck around.

Yeah, I kind of like these guys, like Dan Hibiki from the Street Fighter series, Team USA has a certain doofy charm to them and I can’t bring myself to dislike them, and this is coming from someone who spent much of their time in gym class daydreaming and cracking jokes on the bench. Why? Allow me to explain…

Yes, the idea that the US should be represented by jocks is a tad stereotypical, but I don’t think there was any malice in their inspiration; in fact, I tend to think that SNK meant for the Sports Heroes to be complimentary. After all, not every fad or celebrity or piece o’ pop-culture transcends cultural boundaries (British kids’ favorite Mr. Bean failed to find an audience here in the States twice and an American institution, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, bombed hard in the United Kingdom, though the Brits loved Dallas and Fame for some reason), but just about every nation knows who MJ, Big Papi and Shaq are; star athletes are one of our biggest exports.


“ProStars. It’s all about scorin’ international endorsements and filmin’ weird commercials overseas.”

(Don’t go spreading this around, but I also thought Gretzky’s high-tech hockey equipment was kind of cool, too. Stop looking at me!)

Having jocks represent Americans is a fairly typical trope in Japanese anime. Hey, at least the American team wasn’t a bunch of cowboys from Texas.

Sunset Riders

“Saddle up boys, we’re a headin’ fer Tokyo!”

Since this may be the first positive press that Team USA has ever gotten, let’s look at each Sports Hero individually, let’s us?


Heavy D! – the leader of the American Sports Team. Heavy D! was designed with the intent to create a unique type of pugilist. He was added to the series in spirit of other boxing characters popular at the time and gained his tall stature to separate himself from the rest of the cast. He was named after M.C. “Heavy D”, a former hip hop artist from the group Heavy D & the Boyz. The exclamation point (!) was added to his name to distinguish him from the Overweight Lover. Heavy D! was once a famous boxer, but was expelled from normal competition due to seriously injuring a fighter during battle. He, Lucky Glauber, and Brian Battler received an invitation to the KOF ’94 tournament, and formed the American Sports Team. His move set includes High-Speed Punches, a Tornado Punch, Energy Sparks, an Energy Geyser and a Cannon Punch. D! has a mild streak of brashness that borders on being outright cocky.

Lucky Glauber – a karate champion who is also a former professional basketball player who is asked by his friend, Heavy D!, to form a team with him in the King of Fighters tournament. Aside from his desire to help bolster his friend’s confidence, Lucky joins the tournament to test his fighting ability. His prototype design was based on the character Hakim (played by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in the martial arts film, Game of Death. His current design exists due to the plainness of the original though his karate stayed as a remnant to his tribute, although there is speculation that his design was also inspired by Dunk Dream (“Street Hoop” or “Street Slam” on Western shores), a sports game for the Neo-Geo, by Data East. Not suprisingly, Lucky incorporates his b-ball into his attacks. Specialties include Super Speed, an Energy Pillar (creating a pillar of energy with his ball) and Weapon of Fire (setting his basketball aflame with his ki without burning it). Even when fighting, Lucky is always seen smiling around. He is very cheerful towards everyone and likes to fight very much.

Brian Battler – an American footballer. Despite being named MVP of the year, he had a violent behavior and only found pleasure in tackling his opponents. He was asked by Heavy D! to fill in the missing spot to the three man team, to which he agreed. Brian is very brash and kind of a brute. His special attacks include releasing attacks infused with energy, covering his own body with energy and the ability to lift and throw anyone despite their weight. He was supposed to come from an earlier SNK game, Football Frenzy. Early designs of Brian depicted him in more traditional football player fashion, but his final design left him without a helmet and a more “casual” uniform. This was done to make him not look exactly like the character Johnny Maximum in the World Heroes series. Nothing against Mr. Battler, but I kind of wish they had put Johnny Maximum in the game.


The very idea of the “Demon Quarterback” mixing it up with the KOF combatants sounds awesome to me.

The Sports Hero Team’s stage is a slum….


And their signature music is called Slum No. 5 (wow, real imaginative). You’d think that being pro athletes, their stage would be some sort of sports arena…maybe the American Gladiators said no.


Team USA have appeared in 2 installments of the series: KOF ’94 and ’98 (which was a Dream Match). A running gag seems to exist with the USA Sports team, where they will receive invitations to that year’s KOF tournament, only to be beaten senseless and have their invitations stolen from them by another team. This happened to them in 1995, 1997, and 2000 (with Iori’s Team -1995-, the New Faces Team -1997-, and Vanessa, Ramon, and Seth -2000- being the respective culprits), and to Lucky Glauber in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum (with Shermie being the assailant). It is unknown who took Brian’s invitation for Neo Geo Battle Coliseum. To SNK and the other combatants I say: come on, lighten up. I know the Sports Heroes make good punching bags…


“They got knocked out GOOD! They got knocked out REAL good!”

…But let them actually compete once in a while. I’d like to see these guys in action again. The sports gimmick is silly, yes, and pro athletes aren’t exactly known for their mad martial arts skills….


(Well, not all of them, anyway)

but hey….


They’re still no dumber than the Hoop Squad!


Player Two Start!: Favorite Fighting Game Stages

Fighting games are awesome, even a clueless gamer like myself can attest to that. However, as an artistic geek, one of my favorite elements of fighting games are the stages the bouts take place in. Often so much care and detail goes into the stages, arenas and kick-ass background music of fighting games that I find myself paying more attention to them than the fights themselves, usually resulting in me getting my butt handed to me. Today’s Player two Start pays tribute to some of my personal favorite fighting game stages and their music. Once again, these won’t be in any particular order, so I won’t be numbering them. Also again, these are just my personal favorite fighting game stages; others will have their own picks, and I welcome any feedback. Now, let’s do this!



While I like this stage, this one is a particular favorite of my twin brother Jason (aka our very own Goldstar); those who know him personally can attest that this stage is so him! This is easily one of the most eye-catching stages in all of SF2; I personally dig the twin bikini babes in red and blue. The music’s cool too.



While Fei Long is basically another “I wanna be like Bruce Lee!” fighting game character, his stage immediately caught my eye when I first spotted a SSF2 arcade machine in some chintzy little shopping center somewhere in Columbia, MD. It’s really breathtaking, I like the music and as added surprise, at the end of the bout(s), the exotic bird and dragons start cheering their approval. That blew me away, because up to that point I thought they were just statues. So mythical birds and dragons are real in the Street Fighter universe? Rockin’!



Our younger brother Chaz (aka CJP from the Otaku Gamer Spot) is fond of this stage, as am I. I’m not sure if the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) can really be seen in the skies of the United Kingdom, but the stage is cool anyway.



The character of Caffeine Nicotine (get it?) immediately got my attention when I first read about SS2 in Electronic Gaming Monthly (there I go, dating myself again). I thought they couldn’t be serious, adding this little old man character who looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly, to a fighting game; I figured he must be a joke character or something, but Nicotine quickly became a favorite of mine as he combines 2 things I’ve always liked: deceptively powerful characters and mystics. His stage is at the floor of temple steps shrouded in mist (nice touch), and his music is pure Asian goodness–it sounds like something out of Noh theater (which theater? Noh theater! Insert your own “Who’s on First?” routine here).




One of my favorite Samurai Shodown charcters has always been Galford. He’s an American in a Japanese setting, and I sort of fancy myself an Eastern/Western hybrid, a weirdo in 2 cultures) and he’s flashy and showy but a heck of a nice guy and devoted to justice–again similar to me, though I’m considerably more snarky and lazier. I like Galford’s harbor based stages with the rowdy seagoing types watching the fray (I always felt particularly bad when Galford would get wasted by a fatality move and you had to see his dog Poppy bow his head and face losing his master–what?! I have a sensitive side!), and his music rocks hard. Galford also has two of my all-time favorite win quotes:

“Forgive me. I possess power you can only dream of.” and

“Maybe I should get back to basics and stop the flash…naah.”

Here’s the music for Galford’s stage, Tuna. (No kidding, that’s really what it’s called.)



You probably figured this was going to make the list. No surprise there, it’s awesome. Ken tossing a birthday bash for his lady Eliza aboard his own massive luxury yacht with a ton o’ Capcom characters in attendance as his guests–how can anyone resist? FTR, here are the other characters who cameo in this stage:

  • Pure from Capcom World 2
  • Felicia from Darkstalkers (in the pool)
  • Morrigan from Darkstalkers
  • Lord Raptor (Zabel Zarock) from Darkstalkers (in human form strumming on his guitar)
  • Lei-Lei & Ling-Ling (aka Hsien-Ko and Mei Ling) from Night Warriors
  • Unknown Soldiers 1 and 2 from Forgotten Worlds
  • Michelle Heart from Legendary Wings
  • Linn Kurosawa from Aliens VS Predator (climbing out of the pool)
  • Biff and Ortega from Saturday Night Slam Masters
  • Strider Hiryu
  • Captain Commando
  • Ginzu from Captain Commando
  • Kenzou Sujimoto, Capcom staff member (as a butler)



Not much explanation needed here. It’s a 50’s style diner at night. Cool tunes and bouncing cars. Grab a burger and a chocolate malt and enjoy the brawl.



Even I’m not sure why I like this stage so much. It’s not very showy or flashy; it’s just the underside of a bridge somewhere in Japan, where a small group of kids have gathered to watch the fight, run around, goof on each other and well, just be kids. Sometimes understatement is the best statement. The music’s decent as well, kind of J-Pop, and strangely fitting to the stage.



Anyone who regularly follows this site knows that I like me some Asgard. I just love the idea that there’s this magical dimension of myth, might, advanced space technology and mysticism with a Rainbow Bridge, Pegasi and giant flying fire chickens just hanging a stone’s throw away from Earth.


And the place really lights up at night, literally!

I’m going to cheat a little with the music for this one. No characters in MvC3 have their own personalized stages, and I like Thor’s personal theme more than the designated theme for Asgard itself, so I’ll be going with the former instead of the latter.

-And there you have it. Some of my favorite fighting game stages and background tunes.


Whut, mate? No love fer my stage? I’ve got got me stage in a public loo! That’s classy!

Player Two Start!: A Salute to Sunset Riders

On this installment of Player Two Start, I’ll be paying tribute to a much liked but mostly forgotten title; Konami’s Sunset Riders.

Sunset Riders

Sunset Riders is a side-scrolling run-and-gun style shoot-’em-up released by Konami as a coin-operated video game in 1991. The game is set during the American Old West, where the player takes control of a bounty hunter who is seeking the rewards offered for various criminals. The coin-op version was released in two variants: a 2-player version and a 4-player version. Home versions of Sunset Riders were released for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) in 1992 and for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993.

My first exposure to this game was when I saw it my local bowling alley. I watched 2 people go through the game. One reason why this game interested me was that there weren’t many games video games focusing on American Wild West Cowboys.

“Yippee-Yi-Yo-Cow-Yea! And other bad cattle puns!”

Yeah, I know these guys had a video game too, but Sunset Riders came first and I’ve never actually played the Moo Mesa game.

The game, which is set in a fanciful version of the American Old West, revolves around four bounty hunters named Steve, Billy, Bob, and Cormano who are out to claim rewards given for eliminating the most wanted outlaws in the West. At the beginning of each stage the player is shown a wanted poster, showing the criminal, the reward for stopping them, and the line “Wanted dead or alive”.

Sunset Riders Select Screen

The criminals had names like Simon Greedwell, Hawkeye Hank Hatfield, El Greco and Paco Loco. One thing that I especially liked about this game was the soundtrack. Enjoy these Western jams:

All right! Pass me a beer (root, that is)!

Two years after the arcade game came out, I bought the home version for the Super NES. We rented the Sega Genesis version once…only once. Neither the SNES nor the Genesis version of Sunset Riders were 100% translations of the arcade game, but the SNES version was the better of the 2. Out of the four main characters from the arcade game, only Billy and Cormano are featured. The two characters in the Genesis version were given surnames that they originally didn’t have in the arcade version (Billy Cool and Cormano Wild). The controls are identical to the arcade version aside from the addition of two shooting buttons instead of just one: one button allows the player to walk and shoot at the same time, while the other shoot button keeps the character still when pressed down, allowing the player to change their aim only. Only four of the eight bosses from the arcade version are featured, and each of the four chapters are divided into two stages. Each boss dialogue is worded in a text bubble instead of voiced. The power-up icons have also been replaced as well. Unlike the other versions, the player can cause a dynamite stick to explode by shooting it. To access the bonus stages, the player must collect a Star-shaped item located in either stage of each chapter. The bonus stages also differ from the ones in the arcade version: the player chases after a moving wagon on a horseback, while the woman in the wagon tosses bonus coins and extra lives at the player’s path. The best thing about the Genesis version was that it had a code where you could give yourself 99 continues.

The SNES version was better (here, all 4 of the main characters were included and playable), but it wasn’t a perfect translation either. a few changes were made for the home version:

  • The barfly that kisses the player character in Stage 1 as well as the saloon dancers from Stage 4 are dressed more conservatively compared to the arcade version.
  • Hunter dogs, which were present in first segment of the final chapter in the Genesis version, were removed.
  • The characters’ dialogue is printed as on screen captions as the characters speak their lines.
  • the Native American enemy characters from Stage 6 were removed and replaced with regular outlaws, leaving only Chief Scalpem (who is renamed Chief Wigwam and re-voiced in the SNES game) as the stage boss.
  • The dynamite tossing female bandits were replaced with male bandits in the SNES port as well.
  • In Stage 1 in the arcade version, when the bounty hunters come out of the saloon, they’re shown taking a swig, but in the SNES version, they just pose. Come on, guys! It’s a saloon! We all know what went on in saloons. Guys weren’t playing marbles in there!
  • While most voice clips are carried over from the arcade, some voice lines are either re-worded or replaced with other less offensive lines for censorship purposes. For example, one of the later end level bosses, El Greco, in the arcade version says to the protagonists “Die, Gringo!” just before the gun fight starts, and then “Adios, amigo!” after he’s defeated. However, in the SNES version, El Greco just says “Adios, amigo!” twice. Another example, in the Smith Brothers saloon in the arcade, one Smith Brother says “We’re gonna blow you away!” and then the other one says “Yeah! Yeah!”, but in the SNES version, only the first brother speaks. Also, after the Brothers are defeated, the first one of them to die says “Holy smoke!”, while the second one before dying says “That was a bang!”, but in the SNES version, the “Holy smoke!” line is taken out. Goodness knows that we can’t show a character using the word “Holy” in a game about bounty hunters and outlaws shooting each other to death.
The PC Police strikes again!

The PC Police strikes again!

One of the great mysteries of the universe is: why did this game never get a sequel, update or a follow-up game? Aero the Acrobat got a sequel. Joe & Mac got a sequel. Chuck Rock got a sequel. Gex got a sequel. Bug got a sequel. Toe Jam & Earl got a sequel. Bubsy got 3 sequels!  If Bubsy and Toe Jam and Earl can get new titles, then why on Earth has no one ever attempted to revive Sunset Riders? Just about everything comes back nostalgically, so perhaps one day someone will decide that it’s time to bring Sunset Riders into the 21st century. Just about everything else from the 1990s is getting revived.

Well, maybe not these guys.

Well, maybe not these guys.

…but until then, let’s offer a salute to Sunset Riders. Maybe I’ll play this game again…if I can ever recover my old NES from whatever forgotten limbo it’s currently floating around in.


Player Two Start!: Favorite Pokemon Types

As you can probably tell, I’m in kind of a Pokemon groove this month, so in today’s Player Two Start I’ll be geeking out over my favorite Pokemon types, and my favorite Pokemon therein. NOTE: these are just my personal favorites; opinions can and will vary. Also, I won’t be getting super-duper technical with the game specs, since I’m light years from being an expert in that field. Finally, these won’t be in any particular order, so I won’t be numbering them. That said, let’s begin:

Y’know, it’s weird: I have a West Coast mindset, I love warm weather and summer and I hate the cold and winter, yet I love me some Ice Pokemon; I’ve always liked ice powers in general for some reason. I like to think of them as a rockin’ Cold Stone Creamery cone on a summer’s day.

Favorite Ice Pokemon: DELIBIRD

I was this close to picking Cloyster since it can fire a freakin’ ice beam, but I gotta give props to Delibird. He’s a penguin Pokemon who can fly, that’s already notable, and also he looks like an avian Santa Claus and gives out Presents as one of his attacks. Who doesn’t love to get gifts?

Another reason I like Ice Pokemon is because of the Elite Four trainer who specializes in Ice Pokemon, Lorelei.

Lorelei’s got an amazing set of….training skills. What did you think I was going to say?

“Plus she’s got some tig ol’ bitties, know whut I’m sayin’?”

“Cool, man!”


I’ve got my Third Eye on you!

I’ve also always been into psychic powers, so naturally I gravitated towards Psychic Pokemon immediately. I love messing with peoples’ minds…with my mind.

Favorite Psychic Pokemon: MEWTWO

I. Am. A Pokemon Badass.

Again, this was a close one; I almost picked Mew, since Mewtwo was cloned from Mew, but while Mew is cute and legendary all one with the cosmos and stuff, Mewtwo wasted an entire science lab when he first emerged into the world. That’s gotta be worth a few thousand badass points.

Coming in at a close second: GOTHORITA

In addition to being able to manipulate people with her psychic powers, she’s a humanoid Pokemon who looks like a Goth chick. Take it from someone who’s spent his fair share of time people-watching at the mall, Goth girls are hot.

“Everything sucks. Wanna talk about it?”


I absolutely LOVE that Dragons are a Pokemon type. I’ve always loved dragons. Dragons are awesome. Who wouldn’t want to have a dragon at your beckoned call? Scientists, take a break from cloning dinosaurs and create us a dragon or 2.

Favorite Dragon Pokemon: DRAGONITE

He’s big. He’s bright orange. He’s legendary. He’s a Dragon/Flying hybrid. He can fire an energy beam from his mouth. He rocks.

As with Ice types, another reason why I like Dragon Pokemon is because of a trainer who specializes in them, Iris.

Aside from possessing awesome hair, this little lady gets coolness points for showing us that you’re never too young, too small or too cute to…



Fairy Tails, plus fairy heads, limbs, brains and internal organs.

I was delighted when the Fairy type was created. I never thought Jigglypuff, Clefairy and Snubull worked as Normal types anyway.I love how there’s a Pokemon type dedicated to cuteness, dreams, magic and the awesomeness of pink.

“Yeah, I like Fairy Pokemon. They’re cute and whimsical. They fill my mind with images of rainbows, glitter and elven glades. Wanna make something of it, punk?!?”

Favorite Fairy Pokemon: SYLVEON

Eevee’s Fairy Evolution. It’s a peace-loving Pokemon that wraps its ribbonlike feelers around the arm of its beloved Trainer and walks with him or her and sends a soothing aura from its ribbonlike feelers to calm fights, charming its’ opponents so they won’t want to fight anymore.

“Yeah, we’re dreamy and lovely, but don’t start thinkin’ we Fairy types are wimps! I’ll chomp ya, man, I’ll chomp ya!”


Industrial Strength, baby.

On the flip side, another new type I’m a fan of is Steel, my favorite metal (other than Heavy). Steel Pokemon are just badass.

Favorite Steel Pokemon: SCIZOR and STEELIX (tie)

The former is a Steel/Bug type with huge pincers waiting to crush you (plus he looks like a cross between a mantis, a crab and a Corvette)…

…While the latter is the only thing cooler than a giant rock serpent, a giant STEEL serpent.

“I’m a Man of Steel…type Pokemon! Yeah, it was bad joke, but I can shoot beams of fiery death from my eyeballs. Gonna heckle me??”


The Order of the Fist

Come get some!!

I’m normally more into powers and finesse than brute force, but the whole “kick, punch, it’s all in the mind” bit does have a certain primal elegance to it.

Favorite Fighting Pokemon: HITMONLEE

He has no mouth, yet he wants to kick your ass. I think it’s kind of cool how Hitmonlee only uses kicks (as opposed to Hitmonchan, who only uses punches); reminds me of Sanji from One Piece, one of my favorite Straw Hat Pirates. How Hitmonlee eats, however,is anyone’s guess.

“Hey, you. Wanna rassle?”


Organic beings who can harness electricity are awesome sauce. You can win battles and keep your stuff charged.

Favorite Electric Pokemon: PIKACHU


Yeah, picking the obvious fan favorite as your favorite is kind of lame (it’s like choosing Michaelangelo as your favorite Ninja Turtle or Pinkie Pie as your favorite Pony), but I like cute creatures who kick ass. never underestimate the power of a small, yellow, electric rodent who can send shockwaves through his cheeks.

“These Pokemon will put a shock to your system! There, I said it!”

So there you have it, my favorite Pokemon types. One thing’s for sure, with this kind of power at your disposal, being a Pokemon trainer takes a whole lot of….

Well, you know.