Kusoge Vacation Calendar

by AJ "Tyron" Martinez @ worldsbe.st • August 5 2018

October 2017. A 20-something Australian looks up from Jackie Chan In Fists Of Fire and fills the words “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance” into a spreadsheet. After a moment of consideration, he hits Tab and amends the entry with three letters: “GBA”.

Two months later, I discover that I have been condemned to eternal suffering.

Frost, back-turned and fullscreen, versus a largely unconcerned Kenshi
...did I leave the stove on?

Hi. I’m AJ. Two years ago, I decided to spend the entire month of December playing a surprise lineup of wackass fighting games with no regard for their quality, because variety is the spice of life and I don’t remember how to engage in my hobbies without hurting myself. Long story short, it got completely out of fucking control and now it’s a tradition.

There’s a certain breakpoint where things are so sad and shitty that they wrap around the spectrum, becoming good—but then keep going and become shitty again. It galvanizes them, making them completely immune to the human concepts of joy or hope while elevating themselves beyond mockery. After the Game Boy Advance version of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance showed up in last year’s Kusoge Advent Calendar, I put my foot down.

No more handheld games. No more rushed, cramped, low-resolution omega shovelware, especially if I have to emulate a link cable to even play it with another human. Not during a 25-day marathon. It’s going to fucking kill me.

Enter the Kusoge Vacation Calendar, a 14-day event sandwiched comfortably between each year’s December marathons. A few trusted “allies”—Zari0t, Keegan, Abbock and Sleepmode—put together a list of handheld fighting games, 14 titles (plus a little extra) that I knew nothing about. My mission: to play through one of them every day and not die.

Cell reminds everyone to consume their daily recommended amount of dairy
It's a great source of calcium, you know.

SNK Gals Fighters (NGPC)

With SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy on the horizon, let’s return to a simpler time, when SNK actually had money and handhelds didn’t have the graphical fidelity to sexualize 14-year-olds.1 SNK Gals Fighters features an all-female main cast and a surprisingly faithful recreation of honest, god-fearing King of Fighters mechanics. It also doesn’t really care much about combo rules, but, like, in the good way.

Miss X, Wonder Warrior
Iori, Master Of Disguise

Compared to our opening games of the past Calendars, Tekken (The First One) and Guilty Gear (The First One), this was actually kinda relaxed. It paved the way for a marathon that was more about exploring handheld design quirks than hitting me repeatedly in the face with garbage.2 You might even call it a nice palate cleanser.

Classic KOF movement and some bigass disjointed limbs give Gals Fighters a very familiar feel. Not every character survived their conversion, with some tools missing or strangely gutted, but I successfully picked up my gal Athena and eagerly chucked plasma through a cute arcade mode, minus her charming and endearing screeches of PSYCHO BAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL. I’ll never do it again, but for what it was, I guess it was okay.

Miss X, Wonder Warrior
Special moves, supers and taunts show off some cute wardrobe changes

Anyway, Iori can combo into a super that forces you to hop for 15 seconds, many characters have practical ToDs at certain game speeds, Athena has an air teleport, you can do whatever you want out of a backdash, and Leona literally eats faces. Welcome to the marathon. It gets a lot dumber.


Sleepmode: Pocket Rumble is a better sequel to this than SNK Heroines Horny On Main Frenzy.

Keegan: SNK, all you had to do with SNK Heroines was make something cute and funny like this, but instead you made your next game with your dicks and now even the Dead or Alive guys are looking at you like “whoa isn’t this a bit much?” Was definitely surprised at the speed setting, though, along with the speed-specific combos.

Also Iori Yagami is genderfluid and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it. Thank you for your time.

Zari0t: I wonder if we’ll ever find out who Miss X is.

Tekken Advance (GBA)

It’s 2002, your mom is driving to the grocery store, and you’re stuck in the back of the car for 20 minutes. Enter Tekken Advance, also known as God.

You know it's Real Tekken when you can plow through single-player using a single move

I think Tekken Advance is actually the mirror-universe Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. It runs at a smooth and stable framerate, with acceptable spritework and fairly convincing fake 3D, sporting impressive movelists and surprisingly responsive movement—but somehow, the controls are the real star of the show.

With access to the Game Boy Advance’s A, B, L and R buttons, it would have been easy to map the usual Tekken control scheme 1-to-1: straightforward and serviceable, if a little awkward. Instead, Tekken Advance crushes things down to two attack buttons, with R mapped specifically for throws—incredibly, it works, and everything from 10-hits to throw chains feels natural and familiar.3 Hell, it’s even got simplified backdash cancelling. Sign me up.

It wouldn’t be Tekken without a woefully inadequate training mode and a combo counter that blatantly lies to you, so I wasn’t able to do a whole lot of labwork. The single-player offerings are pretty standard and surprisingly slim, ditching unlockable characters or features for a focus on the core gameplay,

Despite expecting the worst, I’m pretty much sold on this one. Tekken Advance does a great job of preserving the feel and appeal of the series, saving its few concessions for the right places. It’s hard to call it anything but a success.


Sleepmode: Oh man, I wanted this game so bad as a kid. I never got it, but it’s at least comforting to know that if I did, it would have blown my little 11 year old mind with how much of a Tekken game it was. Aside from the compressed visuals and sound, and a simplified control scheme that works far better than it should, it’s almost literally just Tekken 3. Good shit Nam—what do you mean 8ing worked on this

Zari0t: I think it’s safe to say that absolutely nobody expected this game to be as good as it is. It’s Tekken Tag on the GBA, that’s insane - they did an amazing job at trying to adapt as much as they could about Tekken onto a handheld, even Rolling Death Cradle and all the other command grab chains. Mad props.

Sunday vs Magazine: Shuketsu! Chojo Daikessen (PSP)

So Inuyasha’s in this thing, I guess?

If you or a loved one recognize more than 5 characters in this image, it's not too late to seek help

Standard “I don’t fucking watch anime” disclaimer applies. Any licensed mashup fuckheap like this is clearly aimed at a different kind of “person” than me. Fortunately, even if you can name every character and list their VAs from memory, it’s probably still impossible to enjoy Sunday vs Magazine.

It’s pretty rare that a game manages to be repulsive on a visceral, mechanical and aesthetic level, but this checks all the boxes on my unholy trinity, unpleasant and irritating from its conception. The game is a fucking throw rug made of Legos—stiff controls, nauseating camera jerk and weightless hits kill it before its game mechanics can.

How do you fuck up camera movement on a forward walk. What are you fucking wearing.

Nothing feels like it has any real thought behind it. There’s an assist system, but none of them appear on-screen besides a static cut-in—all they do is grant buffs, some of which can win rounds on their own. There’s an install super that gives the combo system a little more room to breathe, but it’s also a metered burst like Tatsunoko vs. Capcom’s Mega Crash and stops the game for 20 years on activation. There’s progressive gravity, but it barely does anything because of incredibly low hitstun and lenient airtechs…I don’t get it.

But hey. To its credit, Sunday vs Magazine pretends to be an actual fighting game until the very end, where the development team throws up their hands, names the final boss of Arcade Mode “BOSS”, and throws their desks out the window.

Character name: Boss.
Someday I want to get paid for putting in this level of effort


Keegan: watch cromartie high school

Battle Arena Toshinden (GB)

Takara’s PS1 release of Battle Arena Toshinden had mixed reception next to its contemporaries, but everyone seemed to agree on one thing; it used 3D better than anything else. I’ve even seen it credited as the first fighter with true lateral movement,4 and after playing the first Tekken I can appreciate it for that.

With that in mind, I’m trying to put myself in Takara’s shoes. You have a PS1 fighting game, it’s achieved middling success thanks to its innovative use of 3D, and somehow you decide that the best course of action is to port it to the Game Boy? A full year after the PS1 release?

We may disagree on the definition of "ring", "out", and "win"

The Game Boy’s Battle Arena Toshinden is struggling. Movement is clumsy, defense is boring, and the framerate is pathetic, even next to Takara’s own King of Fighters ports for the same system. I probably won’t ever go back to this game, and if I’m being honest with myself, I can’t really recommend it to anyone either. It looks better than it plays.

God damn, though, it’s trying. Sidesteps are replaced with a KOF-style dodge, nothing particularly special, but the PS1 game’s ring outs are implemented in a really interesting way. If you push an opponent into the corner with an attack, they lose a tick of their Ring Out meter—push them with no meter left and they’ll fall over the edge for an instant win. Mediocre multi-hit attacks become really scary near the corner, since blocking them in full can lead to an instant loss.

Super Game Boy border and palettes
The story's not winning any awards, but it's nice to see a handheld title make the effort

Besides that, Toshinden is full to bursting with charm and ambition, with unlockable moves, characters and modes hidden by plenty of secret codes. What really struck me was a Super Game Boy-exclusive mode that took off the speed limiter, using the extra hardware to run the game as fast as possible. It was a different kind of disorienting, speed constantly fluctuating as the system’s overhead rose and fell, but it felt so much better that it got me wondering—what would the game have been like without its technical constraints?


Sleepmode: Normally the phrase “2D fighter with ring outs” is cause for alarm. This game actually managed to impress me with how novel its solution is. Shout outs to Takara.

Guilty Gear Petit 2 (WSC)

Man, the WonderSwan was a weird line of consoles. Two face buttons, two d-pads, a monochrome screen a year after the Game Boy Color…and that painfully inflexible sound hardware. Jesus, my heart goes out to the arrangers charged with wrangling this thing.

Milia Blocker for the Nokia 1011. LOWER YOUR VOLUME.

Guilty Gear Petit 2 might actually be too normal for me to talk about it much. It’s a pretty paint-by-numbers port, down to the sound effects directly ripped from Guilty Gear X, for a largely unimpressive set of hardware. Uh…there’s a new character in it, I guess? And she’s kinda cute?

<TyroneSama> i don't even know how to talk about gg petit 2
<TyroneSama> went in one ear and out the other, perforating both eardrums

The most frustrating thing about Petit 2 was actually its art style—and not for aesthetic reasons.5 Short limbs and strong movement make everyone feel too similar, all playing at the same range; bigass strong normals are a big part of Guilty Gear, but it’s sadly lost in translation.

Despite being mostly feature-complete, with pretty much every classic Guilty Gear mechanic somewhere in it, Petit 2 feels more like an ill-advised experiment than a proper game of its own. I feel like that’s probably unfair to it, but it’s tough to think with all this ringing in my ears.


Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble (PSP)

I am here to talk about video games, not natural disasters.

I could write a description but it really wouldn't help
This randomly-selected frame from the stream is a good example of Red Hot Rumble's visual clarity.

Party platformer minigame hell. Honestly, it might actually be okay—I don’t know, because as soon as I looked at it for longer than 5 seconds, I spontaneously lost all ability to parse visual information. Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble crams as much shit as possible onto the PSP screen,6 then keeps going anyway, until it becomes completely impossible to do something as basic as track your character. Shit Does Not Make Fuckin' Sense Dawg.

Attacking your opponent is really an auxillary goal at best; you’re more often focused on killing hordes of paper-thin enemies, collecting tokens, or dealing damage to a boss that you can’t see because there are four fuckers pinging around the screen at lightspeed generating particle effects that are at the top of the z-order for some reason. That, or playing a randomly selected microgame as you and all the other players are sucked into a black hole in the middle of the round.

This is a fighting game in the same way that Digimon Rumble Arena is a fighting game. It’s not. I’m very tired.


Keegan: Screw classifying this as a fighting game, I’m having trouble deciding whether it’s a video game at all, in that I’m pretty sure none of the players' inputs actually affect the outcome of any given match or the progression of any events on screen in any meaningful way. This game makes Mario Party 3 look like David Sirlin’s Chess 2.

The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood (GBA)

It’s literally KOF2000. Depending on who you are, this is either extremely exciting or extremely worrying.

Kyo jumps the fuck in
Howling Blood is a pretty graceful conversion, making great use of limited resolution

The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood is a bit of a weird situation for me—it’s my first long-term exposure to The King of Fighters 2000, in a slightly weirder aspect ratio and with some more awkward music arrangements. In that way, it’s hard for me to judge it purely as an adaptation, although the local Striker apologists assure me it’s pretty fuckin' close.

KOF With Assists is a hell of a concept, but I hadn’t quite worked out how busted Strikers were until watching this two-part combo video, which showcases a treasure trove of broken bullshit that I never even thought to try for on my own—plus some excellent and profoundly 2008 music choice.

Besides that nonsense (and there is a lot of it), Howling Blood feels and plays an awful lot like god-fearing traditional KOF, besides some unusual macro assignments. There are still four kinds of jumps, hop CD is still really fucking good, and motions are still Old Game Hard.

I’m not sure if I’m really qualified to judge this one, but I had fun. There’s even a surprisingly full-featured training mode, so the next time I feel like making bad decisions, I might even come back to the lab.


Sleepmode: As the other KOF2000 evangelist, I gotta say, this is a fascinating game. KOF2000 with a Striker system like this makes for a team building dynamic I don’t think I’ve seen in any other fighting game. I almost want to see a full console version of this.

Keegan: play kof2000

Naruto Shippuden: Shinobi Retsuden 3 (NDS)

By this point, I’ve played way more Naruto fighting games than I’ve ever been interested in, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the entire idea of substitutions. I don’t think I’m a fan.

dislikes: niceness, happiness, kevin robinson from school fuck you kevin stop showing evryone my fuckin deviantart

Every time I try to write about one of these things I get a headache, and I’m never really sure why. See, in the moment, weird tacked-together Naruto fighting games are, if nothing else, interesting. They nail a lot of the fundamentals of good feel, with powerful animations and satisfying hit effects—and for those of you who still run with your arms pinned behind your backs, I’m sure there’s plenty of appeal—but something always seems to cause a short-circuit.

In Shinobi Retsuden 3’s case, that’s substitution. Surprise! As it turns out, when you can use meter to instantly teleport to your opponent’s back from anywhere on screen, even during hitstun, handing out absolute fucktons of it makes the game into a mashfest where movement feels completely irrelevant.

But hey, it’s got like 50 characters in it, if that’s your thing.


Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper (GBA)

Crawfish Interactive’s GBA port of Street Fighter Alpha 3 might actually be too faithful to its source material. You can’t port a 6-button game onto a 4-button system without making compromises; for Alpha 3, that compromise is requiring a two-button combination on opposite hands to input a medium kick.

You might expect this to make the game completely unplayable. And you’d be right!

Avoiding Final Psycho Crusher is not particularly easy

Besides that, the port is surprisingly faithful and full-featured, including all of the ISM-specific special moves, simplified super inputs, playable bosses, Dramatic Battle mode, and turbo options up to TURBO FUCKING SEVEN. Compared to the arcade version, the music and graphics aren’t particularly graceful, but considering the cartridge space, I can forgive little corner cuts—like Sakura using a pitched-up Ken voice.

If Crawfish had taken the Tekken Advance route with this, it might have been interesting because of its limitations. Unfortunately, the version we actually got is completely obsoleted by the later PSP port, sporting higher resolution, better audio, more content, and a control scheme that doesn’t need a MENSA card. There is no reason to play this.


Keegan: To be completely fair, apart from the control issues this is basically just Alpha 3 at a lower resolution. This, of course, means that it’s total ass.

Sleepmode: Capcom’s real solution for V-ism infinites was to nerf the control scheme, apparently.

Zari0t: does this exclude regular alpha 3 from being in a kac

Dragon Ball Z III Fighting 2002 (GBC)

I’m not totally sure if Dragon Ball Z III Fighting 2002 even counts as a fighting game, since there’s no way to play it against another human. Not that I would have tried, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Gotanks (sic) and Buwu (sic) explode into glitchy disasters
Hitsparks and projectiles have a habit of turning every visible sprite into a misshapen slide puzzle

The game listed on the lineup spreadsheet was actually Dragon Ball Z Fighting 2005—I grabbed the wrong ROM by mistake. Fortunately, in the proud tradition of shitty bootlegs, Dragon Ball Z XIV Fighting 2048 is the exact same game. Playing either of them is like trying to swallow a gallon of boiling tar while encased inside a 10-foot subwoofer playing a Chinese karaoke cover of Cha-La Head-Cha-La at rocket launch volume.

I’ve been doing this (that is, playing unconscionably bad fighting games) for a while now, and I’m starting to get used to bad AI playing tricks on me. No matter what weird combos or setups I find, I assume everything is fake until I can make it happen in training mode. But Dragon Ball Z MMXI Fighting 3000 doesn’t have a training mode—or multiplayer of any kind, making everything I found both real and fake at the same time. This is a long-winded way of arriving at the sentence “The AI blocked my infinite and I’m mad about it.”

Quick tangent: in the Super Smash Bros. series, jump startup varies between characters, ranging from 3-8 frames depending on their speed. The absolute slowest jump in the series is Snake’s, who takes 9 frames to get airborne because he’s just a normal-ass dude who has to bend his knees and everything.

I mention this because every character in Dragon Ball Z IIII Fighting 20000002 has 14 frames of jump startup. That’s almost a quarter of a second, which would be visible on a complete geological history of Earth.7 Every other action in the game is equally glacial. I’ve used more responsive voice controls.

Also, all the music is stolen from Mega Man Xtreme. I’m choosing to interpret this as an act of mercy—if they handled it the same way they handled the rest of the game, it would probably have sent me to the hospital.


Keegan: This game’s missing the “skip neutral” button. Clearly a mistake by the devs.

Dual Blades (GBA)

So a bunch of dudes from Istanbul, fresh outta college, asked “Hey, what if we made a GBA fighting game despite having nowhere near enough resources to compete with any fighting games on the GBA?” And then they fucking did it. That’s awesome. You probably shouldn’t play it, but it’s still awesome.

Dual Blades and its struggling character select screen
This, if nothing else, is an extremely potent first impression

This part of the write-up could have been a single sentence—"Samurai Shodown with Roman Cancels"—and it wouldn’t have been much of a disservice. Dual Blades is not shy about its inspirations. Movement is weighty and committal, with an awkward moonjump begging for anti-airs, but you can spend meter to keep pressure on or bail yourself out of bad situations. You can also chop people in half with your final attack of the round, and the round call helpfully explains “DEATH” when this happens.8

“AJ, you’re sure giving these developers an awful lot of good faith, are you sure you aren’t broken?” Listen. This was the only game in the marathon with a half-decent training mode—anything that was designed by anyone who cares about labwork. They put in fucking combo trials. Half the developers in this list don’t even know what a combo is, and the other half don’t want anything to do with it. Nobody makes a no-name fighting game for the wrong platform and bothers to include combo trials.


Don’t let me downplay how incredibly awful Dual Blades looks and sounds (it’s fuckin' bad), but even that kinda serves as proof of a team that cared. It’s a product of people who are excited about Good Ass Fighting Game Gameplay and don’t want something like “actually doing spritework” getting in the way. Fuck it, just scan the concept art and crush it to a palette. It’ll work out in the end.

Anyway, if you decide to actually give this a shot, do yourself a favor and visit the options screen first. Turn off the music and crank the game speed to maximum. Alternatively, you can try THE SEQUEL THAT IS SOMEHOW BEING DEVELOPED RIGHT NOW. WHAT


Hokuto no Ken - Raoh Gaiden (PSP)

This game has multiple practical infinites, jumping normals with literally infinite active frames, and your forward dash can laterally miss your opponent. Despite that, at one point, the opening sentence of this section was “Not broken enough to be interesting.” I think I’m ruining my brain.

That's not video lag or an emulator hiccup—the hitstop actually just looks like that

I started writing this section and typed something that looked like “pbbbbbbbbbbttttttttttttttttt sdjfgsdfggsdfg.” I backspaced that, shook my head, and typed the same thing again. I don’t really have a better way of explaining how I feel about Raoh Gaiden. It doesn’t really expect you to do anything but hit buttons in a random order, but if you try, it’s more than happy to bore you to death.

All normals have dash-cancellable recovery, but you can also chain them into anything (including themselves!) on hit, block or clash, so there’s no fucking point in using movement at all. You spend the whole game at point-blank, trading blows and trying to use vaguely evasive properties to dodge opposing mash—and even if you get a hit, nothing combos into anything, not even preprogrammed jab strings. It’s like Asuka 120%, but all the silly loops and punchy synths are replaced with the color brown.

I noticed something on a repeat viewing; despite having unique stage themes for its (extremely short) story mode, Raoh Gaiden uses a 5-second loop in training mode, no matter which stage you pick. I think it’s trying to force you out before you realize that nothing in the game is actually interesting.


Sleepmode: This game is a prequel to the story of HNK proper, so I guess they hadn’t invented basketballs yet

Shrek SuperSlam (GBA)

  _   _       
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 |  \| |/ _ \ 
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 |_| \_|\___/     


Sleepmode: The reason I refuse to play Shrek SuperSlam is because I’m terrified by the possibility that I might like it. Seeing this trainwreck doesn’t help, because now I just want to know how badly they fucked it up in the conversion process.

Windy x Windam (NDS)

There is absolutely no way this game is finished. I’m kinda sad about it.

This game is weird to record. Check out that sick collision when she lands.

Windy x Windam doesn’t really have enough mechanics or identifiable gameplay for me to call it any subgenre of fighting game, but it’s convenient to call it an anime fighter—airdashes, big eyes, and half the cast is Guilty Gear characters explained through Google Translate.

Other games have flying screen, but Windy takes advantage of the DS for a very literal interpretation of the words, stitching both screens together to create an enormous vertical playfield. Both shoulder buttons trigger a metered 8-way airdash, which you can use freely and cancel into itself at will. Sounds like a recipe for fast, dumb fun, right?

Here is an incomplete list of things that Windy x Windam should probably have, but doesn’t, wasting the entire premise of an aerially-focused fighting game:

The highlight of the experience is a glitch affecting chainable air normals, where your character refuses to re-enter a standing state until they’re done with their animation. Churn butter on your DS, probably cracking the hinge, and you can chain your light and heavy normals back and forth forever while hovering on the ground. Remember how there’s no pushback on block?

While you're here, I'd also like you to read Not-Potemkin's name



Abbock: If someone told me a contrived story about how Ninja Studio accidentally sent Success Corp a prototype build instead of the finished product, I wouldn’t hesitate to believe it.

Sleepmode: “why is this game called ‘drink windex’?”

“oh, no reason”

Keegan: Big the Grappler

Power Rangers: Legacy Wars (Android)

There’s a particular feeling I remember vividly from my time with Elsword—a boiling cocktail of shame and frustration, shaken with a generous spoonful of righteous anger and just a pinch of fading hope. It’s the knowledge that even though the odds were stacked against you, you technically had a chance; if you were just a little faster, a little smarter, a little better, you could have succeeded anyway. It tastes like bile in your throat.

If this doesn’t sound familiar, a great way to experience it for yourself is Power Rangers: Legacy Wars.

The moment of revelation

Legacy Wars is weird, because it actually kinda looks like a fighting game if you don’t know the particulars. “Look, there are corner combos and assists! You can make stuff whiff by backdashing! Ryu’s in it!9 Fighting game!” And you’re not wrong, in the same way that refusing to feed a child isn’t murder.

Explaining why Legacy Wars is mechanically fucked is hard, and requires me to say sentences like “you can block out of any non-stagger hitstun,” so just take my word for it when I say that Hitting Buttons Fucking Sucks. Offensive tools that don’t get you blown up are few and far between, and not every character even has any. Guess you’d better start opening up those lootboxes!~

Like, I’m used to gear imbalance and stat gaps. That’s the world I come from, where people can spend hundreds of dollars on a free game and then insist that it doesn’t really give them any advantage at all.10 Legacy Wars goes a step further, though, locking entire characters and assists behind a gacha system.

Couldn’t roll a character with moves that don’t get invalidated by core system mechanics? You’re fucked! Oh, but don’t worry, you can open this free lootbox—and by that we mean you can tap the Unlock button, wait 18 hours (during which time you can’t open or acquire any other lootboxes), and receive absolutely fucking nothing.

I hate that I understand why people play this.


Sleepmode: Please I’m begging you just play Smash Supreme

Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance (GCN)

Last year, I played the handheld version of this game, describing it as “the fighting game equivalent of plastic fruit”. Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance was the catalyst for this marathon’s entire existence; its console counterpart, which was actually played by humans at one point, is the matching bookend, a fitting conclusion to the marathon. It may not be a handheld game, but fuck it—we’ll bend the rules, just once.

Hsu Hao, the peak of 3D animation and the original Chad

Deadly Alliance feels like sort of a mess casually, stiff and weirdly clunky despite its decent animation—honestly, not a big surprise for earlier Mortal Kombat. It earns some points for an ambitious stance system, giving every character two unarmed styles and a weapon style to switch between at will. It earns even more points for the ability to impale someone with your weapon, dealing steady bleeding damage and taking away your weapon stance because it is still in their fucking chest and it’s not coming out.11

At higher levels, things start breaking down. Standing characters can block throws. Moves that shouldn’t track sometimes can. Blockstun ends when you let go of the block button. Attacks can be backdash cancelled, even on whiff, but only some of them. Unblockables have an arbitrary lockout period that doesn’t work. Highs can hit crouching opponents, but only sometimes, and no one agrees on why. There are multiple characters with practical infinites, and the best character in the game isn’t one of them.

There are no special mids.

This is the end of the article.


Sleepmode: I could say actual things about this game—lots of them, actually—but I won’t. It’s just not worth it. Instead, here’s a handheld Gamecube.

Keegan: [ed boon voice] throws are cheap

Zari0t: The Gamecube has a travel handle, it counts as a handheld shut up

When we started planning the Kusoge Vacation Calendar, everyone was expecting an unmitigated toxic garbage fire, spewing enough smoke to be visible from low orbit. Somehow, what we actually got was more relaxing than either of the events that came before it. I can’t decide whether I’m getting better at this, or the Kusoge Illuminati is going easy on me.

When I see next year’s list, and it turns out to have 6 games that are Dragon Ball GT Final Bout levels of unplayable12 because everyone’s overcompensating, I’ll probably regret writing this.

Abbock 1 1 1
Keegan 1 2 2
Sleepmode 1 3
Zari0t 2
A Group Effort 1 1
Total 2 4 9 1
Zari0t Goes For A Perfect

The numbers don’t tell the full story; in a marathon explicitly designed to be garbage containment, I honestly think we ended up with better games than average. Every one of these marathons ends up destroying everyone’s expectations, so I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

If anything on this list interested you, give it a shot—they’re all trivial to acquire and emulate. If you just want to watch the trainwreck in realtime, check out the stream archives. Find me on Discord or harass me on Twitter if you find something that I missed—and remember, there’s still a bounty up for the inexplicable Twinkle Queen event in the last marathon.


See you in December. :D?

  1. Leave Kula alone. ↩︎

  2. There is still garbage, don’t worry. ↩︎

  3. GameFAQs reviews disagree, which seems like a reliable indicator that it was the right thing to do. ↩︎

  4. I’m sure someone’s going to come out of the woodwork in about 5 seconds and name something else. ↩︎

  5. I actually kinda dig the chibi look. See me in Super Gem Fighter. ↩︎

  6. I emulated this on a 27-inch monitor with upscaling. I cannot imagine what it’s like to play on original hardware. ↩︎

  7. From the Dragon Fighting Ball Z VI Fighting XX 1998 Fight design document: “Framecounts are listed in Frieza time” ↩︎

  8. If both players are near death on the final round, the game actually stops the timer and music with a call of “END IS NEAR”, and it’s fucking wild. ↩︎

  9. I realize that Capcom isn’t exactly A-list collab material anymore, but this still feels like better than Legacy Wars deserves. ↩︎

  10. Don’t complain. What are you, poor? ↩︎

  11. It loses all of these points because the second-best character in the game has a random chance to make fart noises on any movement action. ↩︎

  12. Why is it always Dragon Ball? ↩︎