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March Madness: The Microsoft Bracket

March Madness: The Microsoft Bracket

You had to know the world’s largest, most popular software developer would walk into video games with its head held high. After all, they were already developing programs, and so a good video game would be a very natural transition. Thus, Microsoft created the Xbox, also known as the Big Green Machine. That’s green as in “money,” because Microsoft was already being run by the richest man in the world at the time, and upon the release of the Xbox, they started getting even more money. Money alone isn’t going to win this contest, though, and although plenty of classic games and popular characters have called the Xbox home, they really don’t have a whole lot to measure up to the three other developer brackets. Despite the collective weakness of The Microsoft Bracket, though, there may be a character or two which could make a run for the title.

1 – Master Chief
Who
Master. Chief. He’s a master and a chief. Master Chief Special Warfare Operator of the Navy, to be exact! The lead character of the Halo series is a Clint Eastwood prototype man of few words. Created as a part of a project called SPARTAN, Master Chief is a consummate professional super soldier who shows up, punches the clock, does the job, collects the check, and goes home. It’s just that his particular job is fighting against an alien alliance called The Covenant. Master Chief is another video game character who reached big-time icon status by being branded beyond video games – he’s been featured on 7-11 Slurpee cups and bottles of Mountain Dew. Time writer Les Grossman called him a symbol of the increasing legitimacy of video games as an art form. His reception is generally mixed, though; some see his silence as indicative as the strong, silent hero while other think it lazy character development. Halo is cited as the main reason for the success of the Xbox, and is regarded as Microsoft’s flagship series. 
Abilities
Becoming a super soldier, according to a Halo tie-in book, requires intense physical and psychological training, so there’s that. After eight years of that, Master Chief was then biologically and cybernetically augmented and enhanced. The project created better eyesight, better reflexes, more strength, and virtually unbreakable bones. He is outfitted in MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor, a sealed system capable of operating in toxic atmospheres or space as well as repelling radiation and energy shots. It better do that, for weighing half a ton. Master Chief can also use any gun given to him, both human and alien, even though he can only carry two at one time. 

2 – Marcus Fenix
Who
Marcus had a promising start to a military career when he abandoned his post to rescue his pop. (It didn’t work.) Since that’s a major no-no, he was court-martialed, sentenced to 40 years, and when we meet him at the beginning of the Gears of War series, he gets liberated by his best friend and goes on to lead Delta Squad against the Locust and Lambent forces. However, he’s also a very polarizing character among gamers for being a typical sharp-tongued, foul-mouth, trigger-happy space marine. The Gears of War series has nevertheless been extremely well-received. 
Abilities
And we’ve now officially entered the part of this here bracketology that I hate: The gruff space marine dominance. Fenix, like many other shooting characters, is a walking nuclear stockade. He has access to shotguns, sniper rifles, and assault weapons. There’s nothing especially different about his weapons that would make them stand out, although one of them does use a chainsaw as a bayonet. 

3 – Commander Shepard
Who
The star of the Mass Effect series works to stop a race of sentient machines called The Reapers. Shepard – I don’t want to assign a gender because the game allows players to use a male or a female Commander Shepard – has been an extremely well-received character. The Mass Effect series is widely praised for ringing in a new age of action storytelling, mixing an incredible storyline with decision-making and great action. The ending, though, has this habit of driving players absolutely nuts.
Abilities
Shepard can be specified in a lot of ways, including as a shock trooper with great durability and health; or as a nemesis, who can lift and warp; or a vanguard, a soldier with training in biotics and firearms. Depending on customization, Shepard can do a lot of things, and can be granted certain enhanced or supernatural powers. Which is a good thing, because Shepard’s array of guns probably won’t offer much of an edge over anything previously covered in this bracket. 

4 – Desmond Miles
Who
A member of the Assassin’s Order, Desmond was a descendent of many familial lines that had an allegiance to a band of assassins. Kinda like wanted, only Desmond wanted to pursue his own dreams, so he hitched his way to New York City, but was kidnapped there and forced to work. He’s the star of the Assassin’s Creed series. The Assassin’s Creed series has been called the standout series of the last console generation (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii). It’s popular, critically acclaimed, and like a growing number of video games, it spawned expansion stories in other forms of media, including films and novels.
Abilities
Like those above, Desmond is known as a rather serious and gruff dude, although given his background, that’s probably pretty understandable. Desmond is excellent with reconnaissance skills like eavesdropping and picking pockets, and has a developed extra-sensory ability called Eagle Vision which he picked up after reliving an ancestor’s memories for a week. He’s also a skilled free runner. Desmond is REALLY good with knives, especially when they’re hidden.

5 – The Prince
Who
The star of the Prince of Persia series is known simply as Prince. He’s the son of Sharaman and Mehri, and he’s out to fix a fuckup in which he unlocked the secret to the Dagger of Time. The Prince of Persia series had a bumpy ride at first; the original 1989 adventure was as much puzzle as adventure game and was famed for its tricky item use and jumping mysteries. It remained a cult classic even through a forgotten sequel in 1992 and an attempt at 3D in 1999. In 2003, though, he was reborn in a hit game called The Sands of Time and became a video game superstar. Four popular, acclaimed sequels followed in the next seven years, and Prince was even given the Hollywood treatment. The success of the series got it into the Guinness Book for six records, including Highest Rated Platformer on the Playstation 2 and Xbox.
Abilities
The Prince doesn’t quite have the array of athletic moves that Lara Croft does, but he’s close. Throughout all the revisions, Prince of Persia stayed a series based in platform jumping puzzles, so a lot of Prince’s abilities are different ways of getting him from place to place without the aid of anything to walk on. Prince is also adept with blades, some of which have magical qualities. The King’s Sword can break walls. The Djinn Sword was created by Djinn. And, oh yeah, the Prince can use the Dagger of Time and the Medallion of Time to alter time.

6 – Sam Stone
Who
Star of the Serious Sam games, Sam fights against the alien overlord Mental, who wants to destroy humanity. Serious Sam is a series of first-person shooters which received a lot of gamer and critical praise. The first game was in fact named Game of the Year in 2001, to go nicely with Surprise of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Technology.
Abilities
Sam is a living legend for Earth who is known for bravery and his ability to take tons of punishment. He can also use weapons aplenty. I know I shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good arsenal from an FPS, but Sam’s array of shotguns, machine guns, sniper guns, explosive guns, and a flamethrower and a chainsaw mean he’s another grizzled space marine without actually being a marine.

7 – Nightmare
Who
The former Siegfried Schtauffen is the main character in the Soulcalibur series. He was Siegfried in the first game, but winning the coveted Soul Edge sort of brought out his rather nasty id, and lately Siegfried has been locked in a bitter fight with the dark side of his mind to get himself free. Soulcalibur is widely considered the greatest of the 3D fighting game series, and it introduced the innovation of unrestricted lateral movement, which deepened the strategy and skill necessary to win. It also introduced “forgiving buffering,” in which fast-execution combos can be launched with the game inputting the commands for movements before a character finishes recovering from a previous action. The original Soulcalibur has been named the Greatest Dreamcast Game of All Time, and subsequent games have received even more acclaim.
Abilities
Nightmare wields the damn Soul Edge as his primary weapon. He has a tone of peer packed into his move set, and each hit will send an opponent flying. Even though most of his moves are slow, Nightmare’s array will light up anyone after he gets his first move in, and once he gets into a comfortable combo, he can obliterate anyone. He’s built purely to kill.

8 – Pitfall Harry
Who
One of the original video game characters, Harry is best known for going jewel hunting in the Atari 2600 version of Pitfall. Harry avoided pits, collected treasure, and jumped over obstacles. Although it’s REALLY dated – it was released in 1982 – the original Pitfall is one of the most important games in the development of the modern side-scroller. The game didn’t scroll itself, but it did introduce the ability to travel up and down on different levels of play. At the time, it was longer than any other game the Atari 2600 had ever seen, and it set an unprecedented time limit of 20 minutes. There was a string of sequels, but most were received terribly. The only notable one is the 16-bit classic Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure.
Abilities
Aside from his bravery and classic leap – also, he can cross ponds on crocodile heads – poor Harry doesn’t have very much going for him. That’s what you get on a controller with a single action button which is used to jump. Later games give Harry a fighting chance, though, arming him with a sling, a shield, and a jaguar companion named Quickclaw. Still, though, Harry may be the worst bet in the tournament, and you shouldn’t pick him unless the Mafia is paying you to take a dive.

9 – Rayman
Who
Rayman is another star of a namesake series. He was originally one of the first next-fen characters to star in a traditional 2D platformer, but he branched out. Although Rayman has typical appendages, they’re not attached to his body with any limbs, and that’s basically Rayman’s look and schtick. Rayman was named Best New Character in 1995, but was written off by old-school gamers such as myself at first for being another little piece of 90’s character hubris like Aero the Acro-bat or Earthworm Jim. Since then, he’s proven to have a very surprising amount of staying power.
Abilities
The white ring on Rayman’s body piece appears to have magical powers, and he can attack by winding up his fists and throwing them at enemies. His hair can act as a propellor helicopter. Later in the series, he started using energy balls, Heavy Metal Fists, a missile attack, and the Tornado Gloves.

10 – Ryu Hayabusa
Who
No, not the Ryu from Street Fighter II. This is a whole different character altogether, who was actually Nintendo’s boy at first through a trilogy of classic games called Ninja Gaiden. The Ninja Gaiden series is regarded among the hardest and most frustrating games ever made, but are highly regarded for their gameplay and constant developing story. Although he defined the prototype of the ninja game craze in the late 80’s, Ryu was sort of retired after Ninja Gaiden 3 until he started making surprise appearances as a playable character in the Dead or Alive series. Finally, in 2004, Ninja Gaiden made a stunning return on the Xbox. The reboot was well-received and cited by a few sources as the best ninja game ever made. It spawned three sequels, though none of them met the acclaim of the first.
Abilities
Ryu has been called The Singular Super Ninja and stated as the world’s greatest ninja, which is pretty justified since he’s killed omnipotent beings. He’s strong and has senses developed beyond typical human nature. His ninja sense is basically like Spider-Man’s Spidey sense, and he can also regenerate his health and recover from wounds that would otherwise kill him. His main weapon is the Dragon Sword, although he’s pretty much a sure bet with anything in hand-to-hand combat. He can also utilize a form of ninja magic called Ninpo, activating various elements including always-popular fire; ice; wind; and even vacuum. On certain occasions, he can also combine Ninpo with his abilities to do things like stop time; create a doppelgänger; and teleport.

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About Nicholas Croston

I like to think. A lot. I like to question, challenge, and totally shock and unnerve people. I am a contrarian - whatever you stand for, I'm against.

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