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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?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Street Fighter II: Yomigaeru Fujiwara-kyo - Toki wo Kaketa Fighter-tachi: Learning & History & Imitating Character Designs

A few months back I saw 1994's Street Fighter II Movie for the first time in years with some friends (via Discotek's outstanding Blu-Ray release), and I think it still holds up outstandingly well; definitely one of my all-time favorite movies (anime or otherwise). Obviously, said movie was a massive success around the world, but especially in Japan, so a follow-up was put into production. Said follow-up was 1995's Street Fighter II V, a 29-episode TV series that essentially told its own take on the SFII story, but still featured a ton of staff overlap with the movie. The venerable Gisaburo Sugii returned to direct, Group TAC did the animation once again, various producers & animators came back, & even two seiyuu (Kenji Haga [Ken] & Yoko Sasaki [Cammy]) reprised their roles. It even received two different English dubs, one by Animaze for the North American release, & another by ADV Films for the UK release; there is no release containing both dubs as of yet. Still, II V wasn't actually the first anime to follow the SFII Movie. Just shy of two weeks prior to II V's debut on Japanese television, another SFII anime saw release...

While Tokyo (formerly Edo) is the current capital of Japan, & before that was Kyoto, not as much is known about what is considered Japan's first "real" capital, Fujiwara-kyo (which is now Kashihara in Nara Prefecutre). Acting as capital of Imperial Japan from 694-710 (where it was actually recorded as Aramashi-kyo), it was decided to hold an exhibition in Japan from March 29 to May 21, 1995 to help celebrate the former capital & let the people understand more of what life was like back then. The festival was called Romantopia Fujiwara-kyo '95. To help out, Capcom (which was one of the partners for the event) teamed with Studio Pierrot to produce a 23-minute OVA that would be sold on VHS exclusively during Romantopia, and with the SFII Movie being such a hit at the time, said OVA would feature SFII characters. Since then it's only had a single other release, easily making it the most obscure anime entry in Capcom's biggest franchise. So let's see what Street Fighter II: Yomigaeru Fujiwara-kyo - Toki wo Kaketa Fighter-tachi/A Revived Fujiwara-kyo - The Fighters Who Ran Through Time is all about.

Ryu, Ken, & Chun-Li are meeting up with E. Honda so that he can show them his new sumo moves. Before any of them meet up, however, Honda comes across a giant, turtle-shaped rock that magically sends all four of them 1,300 years into the past. Ryu & Ken meet up first, realizing that they're in Imperial Japan's capital of Fujiwara-kyo, and while searching for Chun-Li & Honda they learn about what life was like back then.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Demo Disc Vol. 9: Precocious Pilot Programs

Pilots have been around pretty much since the concept of television as entertainment, for the most part. Only so many programs are given the green light right away, with the rest having to go through some sort of testing period, usually resulting in the production of pilots to act as proof-of-concepts. This isn't anything new for anime, either, & I've even reviewed a few pilots on the blog, like the ones for One Piece, Hunter X Hunter, Seikimatsu Leader Den Takeshi!, Dororo (via the TV series review), & Ring ni Kakero 1. That being said, pilots aren't exactly the easiest things to consistently review. Sure, some have enough to them for me to actually do a review of fair enough length, but others aren't that lucky; the HxH pilot review is proof of that. Therefore, this volume of Demo Disc will be all about anime pilots, but we're not starting with your everyday pilots that wound up resulting in more. Instead, we'll be looking at pilots that never went anywhere, similar to what happened with Takeshi! or Perfect Victory Daiteioh (see Vol. 1 for that one). Sometimes these unlucky dead ends wind up seeing official release at some point, but at least one of these in this volume was never meant for general public viewing, but is now, so let's try to see why these precocious little scamps didn't go anywhere.

Space Adventure Cobra (English Dub Pilot)
We're starting things off here with something a little different, as first on the plate is a pilot for an English dub that never went anywhere. While dubbing TV anime in an uncut fashion is the norm nowadays, it was next to unheard of back in the early 80s, but TMS felt that it had a true international hit in the form of the anime adaptation of Buichi Terasawa's Shonen Jump manga Cobra. Therefore, before TMS even opened its own American office in Los Angeles, an English dub of a single episode was produced, with the hopes of getting the entire show dubbed & aired on American television. Take into consideration that TMS wasn't planning on treating Cobra like a piece of children's programming, like how animation was essentially treated back in the 80s (remember, this is TV we're talking about), but rather wanted this dub to be for a general audience, if not primarily older audiences. Unfortunately, a market for animation aimed at older audiences (hell, a market for "anime" in general) just didn't exist in North America yet, so the pilot was never picked up by anyone. Luckily, TMS hasn't exactly kept this dub secret, & Right Stuf's first DVD set for the TV anime does include it as an extra on Disc 1. Therefore, how is this pilot, & does the dub hold up well for being more a proof-of-concept than anything substantial?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Obscusion B-Side: Street Fighter vs. The King of Fighters: Live & Let Die and Go for Broke, for This is Gonna be a Match to Remember!

Like any great rivalry, Capcom & SNK has had a very symbiotic relationship. After all, 1984's Vulgus, Capcom's first arcade game, was distributed in North America by SNK. Similarly, after co-creating Street Fighter in 1987, Takashi Nishiyama & Hiroshi Matsumoto left Capcom to join SNK, where they started that company's status as a legendary fighting game developer by creating Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, & The King of Fighters, among others. Finally, SNK's return to relevance recently was lead by Yasuyuki Oda, who directed KOF XIV & was previously worked with Capcom as battle designer for Street Fighter IV  (not to mention worked with the original SNK before that). That's why it only made sense when the companies teamed together to produced the Capcom vs. SNK & SNK vs. Capcom games from 1999-2003 (& 2006); it was seemingly destiny for the twain to meet. That being said, the first Capcom vs. SNK, outside of the (hidden) inclusion of Morrigan Aensland & Nakoruru, was literally just "Street Fighter vs. The King of Fighters"...

And that's how you do a segue!

What about Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, you ask?
There's a simple answer to that.............

Naturally, with the success of both Street Fighter II & The King of Fighters, live-action movie adaptations were made. First up was Street Fighter, which came out on December 23, 1994 and was written & directed by Steven E. de Souza. King of Fighters wouldn't see a film adaptation until August 31, 2010 & it was directed by Gordon Chan. Street Fighter is the much more well known of the two due to it being given a wide theatrical release internationally, plus a cartoon series sequel & two wildly different fighting game adaptations (one by Incredible Technologies & the other by Capcom). King of Fighters, on the other hand, received theatrical releases in Canada & Japan, but went straight-to-video elsewhere. Both are intensely ridiculed to this day, so why am I pitting them against each other?

Because it's April Fools' Day, & what better way to have fun on a (not actually a) holiday about playing jokes on people than to continue Capcom & SNK's absolute rivalry by having it's two live-action movies fight to the death, to determine which one stands tall in victory!

Round 1... Ready?... Fight!