Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dr. Sadler's Ultimate Weapon (Group TAC/Capcom)
Street Fighter Alpha When: 1999
Why: Shigeyasu Yamauchi, Joe Romersa, Reiko Yoshida, & Kirk Thornton How: Kane Kosugi, Hidenari Ugaki, Reiko Kiuchi, Kazuya Ichij├┤

The story so far...
Having been approached by a young Brazilian boy claiming to be his long-lost younger brother; Ryu embarks on a journey of self-discovery with his oldest friend; Ken Masters; and new allies, including Interpol agent, Chun-Li.

Struggling to contain the tempting dark hadou energies that represent the evil side of his ki-harnessing martial art, Ryu opts to observe from the sidelines at the street fighting tournament that has lured Ken Masters from his home in the US, back to Japan.

It's whilst fighting the hulking Russian wrestler - Zangief - that Shun suffers over whelming odds and begins to tap into the powers of the dark hadou, forcing Ryu to step into the combative arena and face his own dark energy. Though he is able to resist whilst defeating Zangief, a new opponent presents himself instantly, pulling Ryu once more into his internal battle.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Cyborg 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Ryu 2 (Average)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Cyborg 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Ryu 3 (Explosives)

- The exact nature of the cyber-organic creature created and utilized by Dr. Sadler is unknown, but it's chief purpose is to antagonize the custom attacks of skilled ki fighters in an effort to absorb and gauge them.
To fullfil this role the cyborg was designed to be on the highest level of both resistance and physical strength. It's fighting arsenal includes focused energy beams, as well as simulated fireball attacks. Despite it's incredible size, the cyborg is deceptively fast and agile, which may suggest limited ki control.

Though controlled by Dr. Sadler, the cyborg exhibits limited degrees of independence in it's ability to strategize in combat. It appears capable of speach and emotion, although, this is typically replaced by an unemotive silent smile.

- Ryu is a Japanese fighter who was orphaned and raised by the master of the mysterious unnamed ansatsuken fighting style, Gouken. A life of training would develop Ryu into one of the greatest fighters in the world, utilizing Gouken's fighting techniques and mastery over the hadou ki energies.

Ryu is an incredibly well rounded fighter capable of harnessing his ki for trademark attacks such as; the Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku hurricane kick, Hadou-ken fireballs, the Sho-ryu ken dragon uppercut, along with an array of variations of each.

The Math: Sadler's Android Ranking: Ryu (#15)

What went down...
The metaphoric shadow of Akuma looms over him as Ryu probes the battered young boy who claims to be his younger brother. Before he is even able to digest the prospect that Akuma may have fathered them both, a new enemy descends through the dust, to resume the battle that Zangief lost. [Street Fighter Alpha]

The monstrous silver-haired fighter blocks Ryu's knee, but takes an airborne roundhouse kick to the side of the head. The move fails to phase him, allowing the giant to unleash a barrage of heavy swinging punches.

Ryu is nimble enough to dart around each fist and again launches a conversive response with his feet. Another roundhouse, followed by a leaping kick that finishes with a flip over the giant, again highlights his eerie strength.
Ryu gathers his energies for a devestating straight punch to the gut.

Though the punch fails to move the beast, it reveals his secret nature. A green scanning lense pops from the socket of his squinted eyes, recasting the Cyborg's dumb grin and hollow eyes as incidental, rather than any sign of true power.

The Cyborg launches his own offensive, firing off a crackling electric beam of green energy, which Ryu easily side-steps, leaving it to strike another piece of the already crumbling building they fight in.

Interpol agent, Chun-Li, having been but an unwitting spectator through the tournament and destruction, leaps onto the arena platform to join the fray.
She charges at the mechanical beast with her own energy attack, in the form of a kikou ken fireball. Alas, the Cyborg not only defends against the attack, but deflects it straight back to the source!

With Chun-Li skidding to a messy halt, the Cyborg allows itself to be distracted from Ryu, looming over the fallen fighter to deliver a devestating kick that sends her flying across the battlefield into a piece of crumbling wall.

No doubt motivated by both the woman's plight, and the safety of both he and his newfound little "brother", Ryu again waves his pledge to avoid combat, charging the attack that moments ago nearly swallowed him in darkness.

Despite Ryu's impressive powers, his hadou-ken joins Chun-Li's attack in failing to break the Cyborg's defensive capabilities, deflected harmlessly into the dirt.

The smiling Cyborg charges another electrical strike to respond in-kind, but this time the results differe grealty. Presumably fearing for his brother's readiness after the deflected attack, the young Shun leaps to his feet to absorb the impact of the attack.

Blood spatters from the boy's mouth as an ominous chuckle is prompted from the Cyborg's grinning visage. Shun tries to tell Ryu, "Big-- brother-- I'm not...", but before he can finish, slips into unconsciousness.

On reflection, this probably wasn't the panel to include while talking about TEMPTATION and Ryu's DARK DESIRES...The injury to the young boy effects Ryu's heroic heart greater than any of the Cyborg's punches or energy blasts. With the boy cradled in his arms, Ryu is swallowed by the abyss of his dark desires.

Wind swirls and a pink hue takes the fight space as the dark hadou begins to grip Ryu's soul. The energies burn the Cyborg's jacket from his cyber-organic body, prompting an unlikely moment of discourse, "I'll give you a taste of that, too."

Charging his hadou, Ryu slowly stalks his way toward his inhuman opponent, who continues to boast his claims of victory. The Cyborg fires off four fireball attacks that are all easily dodged by the slow moving Ryu, who continues to charge his dark hadou powers into his fists.

Ryu edges his way directly infront of the mechanical beast, burning with an intense energy. Despite his non-offensive stance, the Cyborg appears unable to launch any preemptive attack as it's swallowed up by the dark hadou.

Ryu's powers blast through the Cyborg's core, enveloping it in the blue glow of the hadou-ken. Only a dark shadow from within the blast indicates the Cyborg's gradual decay from machine, to melted slag.

The blast destroys the remaining upper levels of the abandoned urban tower, leaving it exposed to a helicopter that soon descends. While an exhausted Ryu is incapacitated totally by the horror of his actions, a concerned Chun-Li is seperated from the wound young Brazilian boy by the Copter's gunfire.

Despite the best efforts of Chun-Li's partner, Wallace; the victory is made hollow by Shun's abduction by an escaping Dr. Sadler. Thus, the remaining heroic powers are left to contemplate their next strategy, freed of the Cyborg menace - for now.

The hammer...
With a welcome assist from Chun-Li (and Shun), (and the dark hadou), Ryu! Those keenly following the track exploits of our Street Fighter Sundays, which approach the opportunity for one of the SF characters to enter our top five rankings, will note that this puts Ryu right on course.

It's amazing, with one more Sunday left in 2007, to reflect not just on the staggering number of Street Fighter entries we've no had, but all the entries still available to us. Though I'll probably take a break to recover from fatigue; the lead-up to Street Fighter IV, and the much talked-about feature film that now boasts Kristin Kreuk in the lead role of Chun-Li, pose a lot of incentive to return to the Street Fighter universe.

Still untouched is the entirety of manga series, including; Street Fighter Alpha, Hang in there Sakura [Sakura Ganbaru], Street Fighter III: Final Ryu, and Versus SNK: Chaos. Also lacking representation is much of UDON's first volume; Malibu's ill-fated licensing product, complete with Sagat's infamous scalping of Ken; the US cartoon series; and last, but not least, the legendary SFII animated movie.

Y'know, coupled with remaining entries from SFA, SFIIV, and SFII, you can almost imagine an entirely seperate blog! That might sound like a subtle hint for 2008, but trust me, it's just the post-Christmas ponderings of someone who should really be catching up on sleep at 2am in the morning [as opposed to polishing off late blog entries -- this now being the 29th, for those just joining us].

With so much to draw upon, it's become a little disheartening, when reading new materials regarding SFIV, to see so much attention toward gameplay. Granted, it's always going to be a major part of the Street Fighter series, but for the most part, very little seems destined to change in the basic mechanics of the SF series. Even in it's darkest hours, Street Fighter has remained, to the unfamiliar picking up a joypad, unmistakable.

It's probably naive, after examining even contents from contemporary outlets like Ken Siu-Chong's work for UDON, to expect a more thorough examination of characters and their motivations and plot. It's this area, despite visually and conceptually brilliant characters, that has probably eluded Street Fighter from it's very beginnings, but in that respect, I thought it might have been the first to change.

Street Fighter IV goes up against genre mainstays like longstanding Midway rival, Mortal Kombat; and more recent contenders like Namco's, Tekken. Both share much in common with their founding father, but surpassed their predecessor in an era of 3D graphics, and character development that saw each telling their stories in unique ways.

Tekken, much like SF, struggles to expand it's story beyond it's chief protagonists, but compensates with a layer of self-relevant characterization that is very thin, but particularly enjoyable in high quality CG FMV.
Vivid characters remain key to Tekken's intrigue, and to further solidify it's qualities as inheretor to Street Fighter's throne; characterized fighting styles make even palette swapped character a unique experience to enjoy.

On the other side of the fence, Mortal Kombat has made shakey attempts to improve upon their fighter's individuality. Though not entirely freed of their past, the MK team developed motion capture based fighting techniques for their in-game dial ins. Intially styles exhibited great diversity in Deadly Alliance, but soon became more uniform exchanges in high kicks, high punches, and so on; stripping individuality from the fighter's moves to recall earlier MK outings.

The newest MK games have prospered mostly in their creativity, finally wrenching the colour coded palette swaps of games past, to tailor logic and individuality into it's cast of characters. Though stubborn fans have ensured the lingering presence of the ninja masked swaps, for the most part even characters like Sub-Zero and Scorpion have enjoyed divergence and originality in their new looks.

Likewise, as the appearances of characters has developed, the story surrounding them has gone deeper than ever before. The realm spanning battles of it's martial arts characters saw the development of one of the most involving storylines in video game history, full of character-based agenda, and universal influences of circumstance and convenience.

So; while Street Fighter IV is almost assured of it's place in history as a solid entry into the beat 'em up genre, what of the story? Popular belief currently suggests a return to Street Fighter II, with nothing specific to suggest any kind of elaborative qualities to the story. Then again, there really isn't much of any tangible information to go on right now, without picking apart translated quotes.

Some phrases suggest the incorporation of returning faces from subsequent installments of the series, with one quote said to be indicative of an effort to balance up the sexes. This could mean any number of things, such as; the inclusion of iconic fan-favourite, Sakura; in an SFII revamp, the inclusion of Bison's army of dolls, represented by Juni and Juli; baseless fleshing out with relevant cult characters like R. Mika; or maybe an insurgence of newbies.

Though inclined to be critical, I suppose it's only fair to reserve some hope, with plenty of information yet to come before the game's release in 2008.
Likewise, though not typical of what one would expect, you have to imagine that Kristin Kreuk's involvement with the feature film represents not only a step forward for her career, but a step forward for the movie's status.

While neither Chinese, nor particularly known for her exploits as an action star [I'm not sure a few spin kicks against Michael Rosenbaum counts, fanboy...], I tend to think there's at least a glimmer of hope for a solid story.
Again, I'm unfamiliar with any specific details, although the film is said to be part of a Capcom initiative to revive the series with film, television, and games.

Even with the bad taste of Generations lingering, I say, it's just great to see some effort going into it. And as reluctant as I am to play that card, anything's better than April "Ming-Na" O'Neal.

The Fight: 6 The Film: 5.5

You'd never know it reading through, but one of the delightful things about these reviews is that our accounts focus on the linear events pertinent to each fight. This means while you get a very good taste of the film/comic in question, there's plenty for you to discover upon further investigation, and fewer examples could be truer than Street Fighter Alpha.
Purchasing the film from Amazon not only gives you an opportunity to fill in the many conceptual/story gaps (ie; the unmentioned presence of Ken Masters and Sakura), but also presents the high quality art in it's fullest form, beyond the select few caps used to lure you in.

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