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It’s the Little Things: Short Takes on My First Year in the Pacific Northwest

It’s the Little Things: Short Takes on My First Year in the Pacific Northwest

I moved out to the pacific northwest a little over a year ago, and here are the things that really struck me about it:

I’ve never worn hoodies so often in my life. They’re the most useful clothes you can possess here. They run counter to the way I usually try to dress these days, but holy shit are they comfortable.

A lot of restaurants have three garbage disposals: Trash, recycling, and compost. I’m still not quite sure how to tell the difference between them.

The pizza places on every corner they had back east have been replaced by Asian food on every corner.

I do miss the autumn foliage of New York, but evergreen forests offer the corollary of not looking dead for the eight months of the year when there aren’t any leaves.

Coffee kiosks are the greatest things since Betty White.

Starbucks is a local business now. It’s also a life saver, even though the people who live here would never admit that out loud.

Salmon Chowder seems to have a lot in common with New England Clam Chowder.

The weather is awesome when it’s not raining. Even on cool days, you can get away with just bundling up in one of those aforementioned hoodies and a good long-sleeve shirt.

Speaking of the rain, I don’t know who said that this place receives less rain annually than New York, but I’m willing to bet it was someone who worked for the tourism department.

Airplanes seem to be nearly a part of the local culture. Seems every time I go out, I see a Cessna or some other four-person prop job flying around or performing jumps.

You know you live in Seattle when one in every three people you know works for Boeing.

For a place where the sky spends so much time coming into physical contact with your head, I don’t see very many people carrying umbrellas.

Seattle really is a sports city. Everyone outside thinks the place has nothing but fair-weather fans, but the fans know everything about football and I’ve met a lot of diehard hockey followers.

Everyone talks about the rain. No one mentions the wind, and that’s the real weather hazard here.

Seattle has the greatest selection of radio stations I’ve ever heard in my life.

I’ve never heard so much grunge in one place. It’s like the dominance of blues in Chicago. Every day, I can count on hearing old cuts from Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam, and old deep cuts from Nirvana. And by that I don’t mean the deluxe version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I mean the deeps and unknowns. (“I’m on a plain… I can’t complain…”)

I also think its weird how the two most prominent and influential musicians associated with Seattle – Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain – both played left-handed guitar. I don’t mean they were southpaws who happened to play guitar; I mean they played guitar using the lefty grip. That’s rare, because learning to play left-handed guitar is such a pain in the ass that most southpaws say fuck it and learn to do it right-handed.

Why the funny noises coming for the walk signs on street lights?

I’m amused that the cable car system isn’t a real cable car system.

Yes, there’s a commuter train. It’s called the Sounder, and it’s damn near useless unless you’re trying to get to The Clink.

Also yes, this is a microbrewer’s paradise. If you go to a bar and you don’t know what they offer, you can say pretty much any random combination of words and be given a beer.

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The March Madness Video Game Tournament Finals Round

The March Madness Video Game Tournament Finals Round

Final Four

Master Chief vs. Dante
The thing about Dante’s matches is that he really hasn’t been, ahem, challenged just yet. Now he’s facing off with a first seed who wears a suit of armor specifically designed to repel a lot of his attacks, and the person wearing it is a genetically enhanced, super-trained soldier capable of absorbing his melee attacks. Dante’s Devil Trigger is a limited mode, and it’s not going to be strong enough to knock off Master Chief in a single round. Given this, it’s easy to imagine Dante taunting Master Chief in the early goings of the fight, but Dante’s best attacks are his melee attacks, and he’s going to drop his act pretty quickly after approaching Master Chief only to get socked in the face. Master Chief’s armor is going to repel a good number of Dante’s more dangerous ranged attacks, which sucks for Dante because with melee combat being a last resort and Master Chief being a range fighter, that’s how Chief is going to make Dante beat him – at range. Although Dante is very capable of fighting at range, it’s melee combat which is his greatest strength, and so what Dante is stuck with is a choice between frying pan and fire: Use his now-unreliable ranged attacks or try to rush up to fight melee with Master Chief shooting bullets and energy weapons in his face. The Son of Sparda is going to be forced to fight off the mistakes of a guy who’s trained to never, ever make mistakes, and he’s going down.
Winner: Master Chief

Samus Aran vs. Vectorman
A battle of attrition is going to commence between Samus and Vectorman, and it’s going to be an ugly match. Vectorman can turn into a bomb, and Samus can morph into a ball which plants bombs along the ground. Both know the importance of multidirectional aim. Hell, they even both use basic weaponry stored in their arms! Although Samus is armed with the mighty Screw Attack, it’s going to be tough to be able to get into a fully safe area where she can activate it. Samus is eventually going to take a final gamble using her Speed Booster, which allows her to move at supersonic speeds which are lethal to her enemies. She’ll get an opening in Vectorman’s line of fire, charge up as fast as she can, and launch at Vectorman in Shinespark mode, which throws Vectorman off his bearings. After that, Samus launches every ranged weapon she has at Vectorman while he’s down.
Winner: Samus

Championship Match

Master Chief vs. Samus Aran
Two stars of first-person shooting games wearing protective biological suits. Sadly, this isn’t going to end up being the legendary final matchup we hoped for – after all, Samus has a lot more in her arsenal, and items other than guns which allow her more functionality beyond just protection while killing everything in sight. She can move around and do more to avoid Master Chief’s attacks. The big difference-maker, though, is going to be Samus’s Ice Beam. Although Master Chief’s armor provides protection against the elements, its makers probably never viewed a beam capable of freezing up the armor from the inside as a real threat. It would be almost too easy, actually, and after Master Chief is frozen, it’s time to unleash the rocket launcher, or perhaps the Screw Attack or Shinespark, since there’s no real guarantee using the rocket launcher against Master Chief, who’s probably equipped to survive a close-by explosion.
March Madness Video Game Character Tournament Champion: Samus Aran

And The First Lady of Video Games takes the top prize. Was there ever any doubt?

The Microsoft Bracket Face-Off

The Microsoft Bracket Face-Off

Round One

Commander Shepard vs. Ryu Hayabusa
Both combatants in this match are extremely well-armed. Shepard has a ton of new-age weaponry, as well as a nice selection of biological abilities. Ryu uses a lot of standard ninja weapons, but if we’ve learned one thing from Shinobi, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all those other staples of ninja pop culture, we know ninja-tech can take high-tech to the bank very easily. Shepard, however, can take damage surprisingly rapidly, and is also slower on the draw. By the time Shepard realizes what’s going on and pulls a gun, Ryu already killed Shepard at least twice.
Winner: Ryu

Desmond Miles vs. Rayman
Desmond is like Solid Snake over in The Sony Bracket: Has a lot of primary abilities based on evading enemies rather than engaging them, unless of course they happen to be victims. This could play to his advantage, but it sort of gets cancelled out by his little pickings in ranged weapons. That’s not going to do a whole lot of good against an opponent whose own fists themselves can act as ranged weapons.
Winner: Rayman

The Prince vs. Pitfall Harry
Yes, Pitfall Harry has a slingshot and a pet jaguar, but he just can’t do a whole lot with them. The Prince uses melee weapons as his primary arms, which would ordinarily turn this into a David vs. Goliath fight, but The Prince is also an acrobat who can get the most out of heightened areas in the room, even if those heightened areas are nothing more than plain old walls. This is a closer match than anticipated, but it’s still going The Prince’s way.
Winner: Prince

Sam Stone vs. Nightmare
An FPS character vs. a fighter character. Yes, Nightmare’s fighting styles are described as “The Memories that Stain His Armor,” and “What the Sword Desires,” and yes, it’s safe to assume the sword desires victory. But desire isn’t quite as powerful a weapon as a good, trusty shotgun. I told you fighter characters weren’t going to fare very well in this tournament.
Winner: Sam

Round Two

Master Chief vs. Sam Stone
What happens when an FPS character fights another FPS character? In this case, you would figure Sam would have the advantage over a guy who can only carry two weapons at once. In this case, though, Sam isn’t cybernetically enhanced with more strength and unbreakable bones or equipped with a suit that repels a lot of weaponry and recharges itself. Without that nice advantage, Sam is a walking duck in a shooting gallery.
Winner: Chief

Marcus Fenix vs. The Prince
Now The Prince is in deep shit. Yes, he’s equipped with a complete armory, same as Marcus is. Unfortunately, Prince’s armory is literally medieval when compared to Marcus’s futuristic armory. His only hope is to keep dropping onto Marcus from above to hit hit, then running away and repeating. Marcus is going to figure that out, though, and Prince will be a sitting duck on the ground.
Winner: Marcus

Rayman vs. Ryu Hayabusa
The most interesting match of The Microsoft Bracket. Both have a lot of power when compared to the other, both can use ranged supernatural powers of sorts. Ryu has power developed beyond human nature while Rayman isn’t actually a human. Ryu does have an edge, though, with his ninja sense. It gives him a knack for knowing just when he’s about to get socked with something, and he undoubtedly has the developed reflexes necessary to jump out of the way and toss a knife at Rayman in return. For awhile, Rayman will no doubt be able to hold his own, but eventually he’s going to get worn down against a ninja who knows exactly what’s going to be thrown at him and when it’s getting thrown.
Winner: Ryu

Round Three

Master Chief vs. Marcus Fenix
Hey, a pair of top seeds get to fight against each other! There’s a problem, though: Master Chief beat Serious Sam in the last round, and Sam was an FPS character, which means he wouldn’t have held any particular advantages of Marcus Fenix. Maybe if he had a few genetic enhancements, like Chief does, it would make for a different and more interesting outcome, or at least if Marcus had anything different from the Generic Grizzled Space Marine from Doom who kick started the whole first-person shooting game craze. But he doesn’t, so this match ends the same as Master Chief’s last match.
Winner: Chief

Microsoft Bracket Championship

Master Chief vs. Ryu Hayabusa
Ryu looks like a formidable opponent for Master Chief, but there’s a reason The Covenant uses ranged weapons instead of blades against the SPARTAN Army that lands on planet Halo. Ryu’s primary weapons aren’t going to affect Master Chief very much, if at all. Engaging his Ninpo, Ryu starts throwing the elements out against Master Chief, but the elements are exactly why Master Chief wears the suit of armor he does – so he doesn’t have to worry very much about freezing to death. Even if Ryu resorts to time stoppage, we’ve already established the fact that there’s nothing he can do with a blade to hurt Master Chief. His only hope is to try to get Master Chief sucked into a vacuum, but the suit is probably a great defense against that, too. And when Ryu looks around, realizing he’s out of options, Master Chief is going to take aim with his most powerful weapon.
Microsoft Bracket Champion: Master Chief

March Madness: The Sega Bracket

March Madness: The Sega Bracket

In the early 90’s, Sega became known as the David that, for a couple of years, slew Nintendo’s Goliath. That should make it pretty surprising that Sega fields such a weak bracket, but in hindsight, it does make perfect sense. After overtaking Nintendo on the marketplace for a couple of years, Sega developed some marketing and developmental habits which made them famous as the hardware maker that couldn’t capitalize on the good thing it had going. Instead of developing a real business plan and sticking to it, Sega took the approach of throwing things until something hit, and the result was a horrific clotting of ideas which never reached their real potential. In some cases – like the Vectorman series – Sega had a fantastic idea which they up and abandoned. Some – particularly the 32X – were bad ideas from the start. The Saturn was undercut by better marketers. Sega managed to get their act together to launch one final hurrah with the Dreamcast, a console that pioneered a lot of the functions the new generation of gamers is taking for granted. While many gamers acknowledge the importance of the Dreamcast in the evolution of the medium, Sega’s loyalists had moved on by its launch and saw no need to return. Sega is the only bracket in the tournament which completely shut down its hardware department to focus on making games for the other consoles, but their hardware developments and competitive history are of too much importance for them to be left out. 

1 – Sonic the Hedgehog
Who
The world’s greatest environmentalist and star of his namesake series, Sonic is a flying bundle of spikes who loves freedom and hates injustice. When he was first introduced, Sonic became the immediate prototype for the popular “XTREME” characters and attitudes that dominated in the 90’s, which produced later (and much worse) characters like Bubsy and Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel. Sonic was an instant star and when Sega still had its marketing head, they dumped their old mascot – Alex Kidd – and rode Sonic’s spiky back as he rushed them to the bank through some of the most magnificent platformers ever made. Sega invented a concept called “blast processing” to sell Sonic, but while blast processing was a real thing, it was created using a technique which can be likened to DW Griffith being the first director to move the camera: Such a stupidly easy thing to do that everyone just plump didn’t bother with it at the time. Sonic also helped legitimize video games as a medium when, in 1993, he became the first video game character to appear as a float in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Unfortunately, his games have undergone a terrible drop in quality since the 90’s, because they didn’t translate into 3D. His nickname in gaming circles is the Blue Blur.
Abilities
The theme song called him the fastest thing alive for a reason. Sonic gets his very name from his habit of regularly using his feet to break through the sound barrier. Several of his abilities, like the Peel Out and Spin Dash, capitalize on that. His primary attack is the Super Spin Attack. In later Genesis games, a shield would enhance the Super Spin Attack by allowing him to bounce high, fly as a fireball, or double jump. In later games, it had a targeting quality. When running at a high speed, Sonic can also roll up into a ball, which enables him to take out any enemies that happen to be blocking his path. His spikes are a simple thing, but Sonic is very good at getting both literal and figurative mileage out of them. 

2 – Joe Musashi
Who 
One of the killer apps that propped up Sega in the early, unsure days of the Golden Era was a line of strong arcade games that could be easily shrunk down to home Genesis size. One of those games was called Shinobi, which starred the ninja Joe Musashi. Shinobi was one of the series in a trinity of series – along with Strider and Ninja Gaiden – which popularized ninja video games, and is arguably the best of those series. Shinobi was never ported to the Genesis itself, but its three sequels – Revenge of Shinobi; Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi; and Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master – are all Genesis classics. Shinobi was later rebooted for a new ninja craze on the Game Boy Advance and Playstation 2.
Abilities
Like all good ninjas, Musashi makes use of a katana and shurikens. His games granted him with a variety of different ways of getting around, like dashing, hand-over-hand walking, wall climbing, and a flip from which a fan of many shurikens at once could be shot. Musashi is also known for his use of ninja magic, which is very powerful – it has the power to grant invincibility, smart bombs, high jumps, and to turn his body into a living bomb – but so rare that he rarely gets to use it more than once per level. 

3 – Ecco the Dolphin
Who
Known as the Defender of the Future, Ecco the Dolphin is the star of a series of very unique adventure games which sent him in search of his missing pod. It’s kind of a love-it-or-hate-it series because with its slow, meticulous gameplay, it rubbed a lot of casual gamers the wrong way. People who loved it (like me), though, reveled in an engine which opened up amazing mental rewards to those who could go along with its demanding, exploration- and puzzle-based gaming depths. Ecco the Dolphin revealed exactly what was possible in the realm of photo-realistic graphics; see, Ecco is NOT a cartoon dolphin. He was designed and animated using photographs and what we know about real dolphins, and the design and atmosphere remains one of the truly great early arguments for video games as art. 
Abilities
Since Ecco is a real dolphin in video game form, he has all the abilities you would expect of a real dolphin. Like all dolphins, Ecco deploys a charge which he uses against hostile sea creatures and the aliens who kidnapped his family. Also like all dolphins, Ecco communicates in song with other sea creatures, and uses echolocation to find and orient himself. Unlike other dolphins, Ecco upgrades his song through the course of his adventures so he can use it as a stunner and an outright weapon. 

4 – Akira Yuki
Who
The mascot of Sega’s awesome Virtua Fighter series comes off a lot like Ryu: Similar garb and similar point of his entire being, wandering, improving his skill, looking for good fights against worthy opponents. The first Virtua Fighter game was released in 1993, and it sent a shock through a public which had, by then, been given fighting game nourishment on a steady diet of the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat wars which had captured the imaginations of anyone who had any interest in video games whatsoever. The reason? Virtua Fighter was in 3D and contained a deceptively simple three-button control scheme which was difficult to master because every joystick/button combination you could think of resulted in one different move or another. Those two features made Virtua Fighter an oddity, but the style caught on and now, led by games like Tekken and Soul Caliber, 3D fighting games are dominant on the landscape. 
Abilities
You know what also makes Virtua Fighter unique? The fact that every character in the game uses a real fighting style. There are no meter-building power moves, no projectiles, and no unbeatable or unstoppable special attacks to abuse. Everything Akira does is based on real kung fu moves. EVERYTHING. His move list includes things like the kaiko, tenzankou, and soutoushou, things which, in the arsenal of an experienced and hotheaded fighter like Akira, are very much able to put some clangs and dents in opponents’ heads. Akira is very strong on offense and, when in the hands of someone who is truly skilled at Virtua Fighter, nearly impossible to so much as even hit. 

5 – Vectorman
Who
Another eco-friendly hero, Vectorman starred in his own namesake game, in which he started out as an “orbot,” a cleanup robot left behind on Earth by the humans who abandoned the planet after it got too polluted to live on. He fights against a warped orbot named Raster, who took over after being mutated. Vectorman is a later-era Genesis series of action platformers which won various game of the year awards and were noted for their level designs, soundtracks, and graphics. The graphics were something of Sega’s response to the rendered 3D designs seen in Nintendo games like Donkey Kong Country. They were pre rendered, and instead of being a single sprite, were composed of many small sprites moving in unison, creating an ultra fluid look and feel. Unfortunately, they came out around the time Sega’s marketing department became SEGA’S MARKETING DEPARTMENT, and their handling of Vectorman became one of their legendary missteps. A potential new mascot was left after two stellar games, and Sega quit using their new graphic style for some reason. A third game was scheduled for release on the Playstation 2 in 2003, but it was cancelled because it deviated from the creativity of the Genesis originals, becoming just another generic third-person shooter; and the character was redesigned and looked more like Halo’s Master Chief. 
Abilities
Vectorman is armed with a ball gun contained in his hand which, like in any good action game, can be upgraded; Vectorman could nab power ups containing a machine gun, a triple fire gun, and a bolo gun. He also had the ability of transformation, and can turn into a drill which breaks through floors; a bomb; and an aquatic form to help him move around underwater. That doesn’t even cover the levels where Vectorman starts out in morph form and stays that way throughout the duration. Vectorman 2 gave him new weapons like a pulse beam, and new insect transformations. Even his double jump relies on foot boosters which fry any enemy unfortunate enough to be standing too close to him! Watch out for this one. 

6 – Blaze Fielding
Who
The resident tough girl of the Streets of Rage series, Sega’s response to the Final Fight games. Blaze is a dancer by night and she WAS a police officer by day until her efforts with her buddies Adam and Axel to form a blockade against a criminal ring failed and they all quit the force to take out the syndicate on their own. Streets of Rage was heavily influenced by Final Fight, but it tweaked the Final Fight formula just a wee little bit and made itself the better series.
Abilities
Punching and kicking bad guys into oatmeal is always nice and fun, and Blaze has an extremely developed array of punches and kicks. Besides being an ex-cop and dancer, she’s also really into judo, which means she’ll pick you up and throw you across the room without breaking a sweat. She has the most powerful throws of anyone in the Streets of Rage series, which is useful for hurling bad guys into pits or other bad guys. She later develops a very short-range fireball for use in emergencies, and has the most complex and elaborate ways on using the various weapons the bad guys leave on the ground. 

7 – Chris Redfield
Who
Chris is one of the defining faces of the Resident Evil series. Usually, fictional worlds present us with either evil corporations or evil zombies, but the Resident Evil truly terrifies us by having both. Chris Redfield was inadvertently yanked into a web of intrigue and conspiracy as a member of a special unit otherwise performing a routine mission. He and his three partners got trapped in a mansion where some experimental illegal shit was going down, and we’re not talking your average random drug dealers here. Chris was in the original Resident Evil game, a hit from Capcom which is credited with kickstarting the survival horror genre, and he is still playing regular major roles in the series. His most notable is arguably CODE: Veronica, which is considered one of THE must-own games for Sega’s final console, the Dreamcast. 
Abilities
Chris served as the point man for his STARS Alpha Team, and as for that common business of no one getting left behind, he takes that very seriously. He is an extremely proficient marksman, especially with handguns, shotguns, and sniper rifles, and his stance when blowing something’s head off allows him to fully control his weapons recoil, so he can retarget right after every shot. He even has that ability with the Remington Model 1100, a weapon so powerful that its recoil is capable of knocking a person down. On the off chance that his accuracy is taking a sick day, Chris is also trained in many different fighting techniques, with both fist and knife. Powerful, fast, and agile, Chris is pretty much everything you could ask from your combat team leader. 

8 – Liu Kang
Who
A kung fu fighting monk affiliated with the Shaolin Monastery, Liu Kang is considered the heart and soul of the Mortal Kombat series, the fighting games which competed with Street Fighter for the hearts, minds, souls, and imaginations of blood-and-guts-obsessed teenagers throughout the 90’s. Kang was mentored by Raiden, the god of thunder. In the end, Liu Kang defeats half-dragon Goro and shapeshifter Shang Tsung, becomes the champion of Mortal Kombat, and lives to keep repeating as Tsung’s master, Shao Khan, keeps trying to use the tournament to take over Earth. Mortal Kombat provided breakthroughs in photorealistic digital graphics, but the series is best known for a level of ramped-up ultraviolence. Mortal Kombat is known as one of the most violent video game franchises of all time, and it’s credited as the series that helped usher in a new era of cartoonish shock violence which changed video games by paving the way for more adult orientations, which helped because everyone old enough to remember the NES is now grown up and gaming is now a popular and accepted adult hobby. Mortal Kombat is also credited for being one of the final straws that resulted in the creation of the ESRB rating system, and Guinness says it’s the most successful fighting game series of all time. 
Abilities
Liu Kang is one of the most popular characters in Mortal Kombat because he might be the best starter character ever in fighting games. It’s very easy to learn and use his moves, and his combos don’t demand the precision and hours of practice required of the more advanced characters. His fireball is a good, reliable projectile, and his flying kick is a good way to catch an opponent off guard in close quarters. His bicycle kick is devastating. Although his primary fatality move – cartwheeling into his opponent and smacking him with a hard uppercut – is one of the most boring and pedestrian fatalities in the series, his dragon fatality more than makes up for it. Since the symbol for Mortal Kombat is a dragon, it’s only appropriate that it was Liu Kang who got to transform into a dragon and eat his opponent’s torso!

9 – Earthworm Jim
Who
The star of the same-name series is basically another marketing gimmick of the 90’s going XTREME! In the case of Earthworm Jim, though, there’s honest to god substance to back it up. It’s about an ordinary earthworm who is transformed into a superhero after crawling into a special super suit. The original game was a runaway success, and the Genesis version in particular was lauded with many game of the year accolades. There was a sequel soon after which was cited by many sources as better than the original, and a Sega CD remake of the first EWJ is considered the best game in the series. The 16-bit classics are renowned for hand-drawn-style graphics which were rare in the Golden Era, and their stylish and quirky humor. He got a couple of 3D games at the beginning of the Next-Gen Era as well, but they were made under a different developer, panned, and Jim has been retired ever since.
Abilities
Jim can use his worm head as a helicopter and a whip. His gun is capable of receiving some powerful upgrades like a Barn Blaster – an actual barn which blows up everything on the screen – and a Three-Finger Gun. There are a few traditional weapons, like a 64-directional machine gun and a Plasma Blaster, and Jim also carries a rocket in his pocket which he uses to push a bomb at one point in Earthworm Jim 2. He’s just fine as long as he avoids picking up the Bubble Gun.

10 – Terry Bogard
Who
Terry, along with his brother Andy, is the main character of the Fatal Fury series, which later crossed with Art of Fighting to create The King of Fighters series. He’s easily identifiable by his trademark red short-sleeve jacket and Fatal Fury hat, and his drive to kill Geese Howard. Fatal Fury is known as one of the Neo Geo hipster alternative fighting games played by people who got bored of the mainstream war between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, and it’s also considered a somewhat pioneer of the 3D fighting game because of the dual plane innovation. Characters could jump between the foreground and background. Fatal Fury 2 introduced the desperation move, a very powerful special move to be used when low on energy, and a precursor to today’s ultra-difficult power moves which can be used when a meter fills.
Abilities
Terry can unleash the power wave, a wave of energy which moves along the ground; and the burn knuckle, where he launches himself at an opponent with his fist stuck out and on fire. Knowing Neo Geo fighting games, though, the only good special moves Terry uses are the ones in which the setting is on the powerful punch or kick, otherwise they wouldn’t dent a soda can or fly past Terry’s fingernnails. Every Neo Geo fighting game character is like that. If you’ve never played a Neo Geo fighter, later Street Fighter games give us Dan, a fighter who is in the game basically to mock the Neo Geo. Even though there are players who are awesome with Dan, he’s totally in those games as a joke character.

The March Madness Video Game Character Tournament

The March Madness Video Game Character Tournament

March is here, and that means I’ll soon be able to go outside and ride my bicycle again, which will rescue me from the tedium of fluffy but fun little projects like this one which I’m writing about now. It also means March Madness, one of the very few sports events on the planet which lives up to its hype every year.

Through Easter vacation, I’ll be reading a book about the political journey of a common voter that I was asked to review, and in a precursory skimming, I ran into one chapter in which the author used a March Madness-style bracket on the Presidents of the United States from Washington to the first Bush to decide the greatest. (It comes down to a contest between Lincoln and FDR.) Since I’m stuck for something to write for fun, I’m taking the idea and applying it to a group of video game characters. Here are the rules I’m applying:

1 – Four brackets of ten characters each. The first two seeds of every bracket get first-round byes.

2 – The brackets are Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and Microsoft. The first varying handful of seeds in each bracket will be given to some of the most iconic characters from each developer. The rest of the bracket will be given to any random characters I believe should have the right to compete for the title of Greatest Video Game Character Ever.

3 – One character per series. That means I’ll be using the character who is most representative of the series, and not just the one I happen to like the most. I’m using Cloud from Final Fantasy VII to represent the entire Final Fantasy series, and people familiar with my feelings on that game know that I’m really swallowing my feelings to do it. I’m not a Cloud fan, and after the tournament, I’ll be nice and explain my ire toward Final Fantasy VII.

4 – Licensed characters are a last resort only, no matter how good the games based on them are. I’m trying to decide the best video game character, and that means I’m trying to fan out my field of 40 using characters created specifically for video games. Much as it hurts, that means James Bond won’t make the cut.

5 – No generic characters. Don’t whine at me about how I missed “Random Space Marine” from Doom, or one of the million other tortured people who have names but are otherwise merely different versions of the same character. The minutia for this law is admittedly random, but generally, if he can be replaced by another character from a different game in the same genre and the game wouldn’t be any different, he’s generic. A couple of exceptions are made for fighting game characters, due to the nature of that genre.

6 – I’m not averse to using bad guys, but since it’s the good guys who most frequently appear on the company signs, they count for a lot more. If they can be considered equally iconic, I’ll be using the good guys. Hence Mario over Bowser; Sonic over Robotnik (no way in hell I’ll ever call him Eggman); and (thank god) Cloud over Sephiroth.

7 – No NPCs, but this law is exempt from any possible villains in the tournament.

8 – All possible powers and abilities will be taken into account.