Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pigeon's Scrapbook Halloween SPOOKTACULAR: Shadowman

Birds, we're back! We had a bit of trouble down here in Pigeon Country, what with all the service outages and Hurricane Sandy breathing down our necks. But that's all done and over with, so I say we get back into the swing of things and get to posting!

October 31st is here, and that means Jack-o-Lanterns, candy corn, and all the little chickadees dressed up and on the hunt for sweets and treats. And speakin' of treats, BP's got a real doozy for y'all! It's time to dust off the old scrapbook, and take a look at another of my fondest gaming memories. In keeping with the spirit of Halloween, let's turn the clock back to 1999, and step into the spooky voodoo lore of....

Released: 1999
Developer: Acclaim Teeside Studios
Publisher: Acclaim
Systems: Playstation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Windows

Front Cover
Back Cover (covers via )
 Usually, when one reminisces about long defunct Acclaim Games, they're reminded of mediocre licensed property cash-ins and strippers riding around topless on BMX bikes. But, every now and then, they would manage to squeeze out something worth your time. And Shadow Man is definitely high up on that list.

 Now before we get into the game proper, Pigeon's got a little history lesson for you. The Shadowman series actually got it's start in 1992, as the flagship title from fledgling comic book publisher Valiant Comics. The original series focused on a jazz musician out of New Orleans named Jack Boniface. Jack comes into possession of supernatural powers, and ends up butting heads with the various demonic denizens of the Underworld as the Shadowman. The comic series was actually quite popular, and was outselling the likes of The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Batman, and the Justice League of America in it's prime. Wanting to break into the comics business, Acclaim purchased Valiant for $65,000,000. Wasting no time, they got to work on rebooting the Shadowman franchise under the Acclaim Comics banner, with the ulterior motive to have it make the leap from comics to video games.

 In Acclaim's universe, the Shadow Man is known as Michael LeRoi. Ten years prior to the events of the game, he flunked out of his English Literature studies at a prominent university, and had gambled himself broke. To make ends meet, he took up work as a cab driver in Chicago, all the while keeping his failures a secret from his family back in New Orleans. One night, Mike's fare was gunned down in a drive-by shooting, leaving behind a briefcase with $20,000. Sensing opportunity, Mike runs home with the cash, and proceeds to lavish his family with gifts. Of course, anyone who's ever read or seen "No Country for Old Men" knows what becomes of those who decide to run off with dirty money. Fearing for his life, Mike tracks down a Bokor (voodoo priest) and begs him for protection, which the Bokor is all to happy to provide. When the gang tracked them down and opened fire, the protection proved successful.......for Mike. The rest of his family ended up dead. 

 The price Mike paid for his protection was a hefty one. Not only did he lose his entire family, but he was now an amnesiac, forced to serve the Bokor as Zero, his personal zombie assassin. However, Fate would intervene in the form of Mother Agnetta (Nettie, for short), an old and powerful voodoo priestess. Seeking retribution against the Bokor for attacks on her associates, she leads her gang into the Bokor's sanctum and gets to stomping. In the chaos, Nettie snatches away Mike, and implants the mystical Mask of Shadows into his chest. As a result, Michael LeRoi would become the Shadow Man, supernatural voodoo warrior, and the only line of defense against the malevolent forces from Deadside. On July 31st, 1999, Michael LeRoi was poised to make his gaming debut, and Shadow Man was released on the Nintendo 64 and Windows PC's. 

 This memorable intro would set the stage for 
Michael's adventure. Tasked with preventing the Apocalypse,
Mike would traverse the lands of the living and the dead in an
attempt to put the brakes on Legion's plans for humanity.

I think the best way that I can describe Shadow Man would be as a grim and grimy Legend of Zelda clone. Those types of games were quite common in the late 90's. Exploring vast worlds, collecting various weapons and trinkets, finding secret rooms and passageways, and so on. But it would be Shadow Man's spooky voodoo atmosphere that would help separate it from the rest. Each level exuded plenty of doom and gloom. From the desolate wastes of Deadside's furthest reaches, to the twisted architecture of Legion's Asylum, and the chaos and carnage running rampant at Gardelle County Penitentiary, each level offered up plenty of dark corridors and blood stained hallways to slake your thirst for the macabre. Complimenting the on screen chaos was the equally moody sounds of Tim Haywood's soundtrack. Tim created quite an eclectic mix for the OST, with pounding tribal beats working in tandem with off kilter piano chords and gruesome sound effects. He even saw fit to include a bit of Beethoven to sweeten the pot, as the intro above demonstrates.

I have no idea what's being maimed, but it sounds freaky
as all get out. 

Thankfully, the game plays as good as it looked and sounded for the time. Like the adventure games that came before it, Mike has plenty of weapons and tactics to employ against adversaries on both planes of existence. In the living world, Mike relies his arsenal of pistols and assault rifles to beat back the demonic horde. Once he crosses over to Deadside and becomes Shadow Man, he makes use of various voodoo artifacts and abilities to immolate and eviscerate the wicked, and navigate the more perilous paths found in the land of the dead. Various collection quests are also included to help boost Mike's powers and stats. One interesting bit about the game was that Mike was able to wield two of his weapons akimbo, which allowed for some crazy combinations of firepower.

 Another thing that stands out for me were the characters and creatures. On top of the now standard zombies and evil birds, Mike would also do battle with pig men, armed with meat hooks and rifles. He'd also lock horns with two headed abominations, magic wielding voodoo goddesses, and towering hulks of flesh and metal. But the most memorable adversaries were the five serial killers under Legion's employ. Most of these men were heavily inspired by the likes of Hannibal Lecter and the Son of Sam. Heck, they even saw fit to have Mike go toe to toe with a demonically reborn Jack the Ripper. Equally as memorable were Mike's partners in crime. Nettie would always offer up cryptic clues and voodoo wisdom in her Louisiana church,  while a drunken Irish skull snake...thing by the name of Jaunty would enlighten Shadow Man about the trials and tribulations to be found in Deadside.

He also wears a top hat. Classy bloke. 

 Shadow Man would share in the same success as his comic book, with the game becoming a sales success, and finding homes on the Playstation and Dreamcast. This success would earn Mike 'n pals a return trip on the Playstation 2, as Acclaim released Shadow Man 2econd Coming in 2002. But, that will be a story for another time. For now, why not find yourself a decent emulator, click a couple of links, and spend your Halloween evening in Deadside with Shadow Man. Or any other evening, for that matter. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ric Flair Fridays: Naitch in Tag Team Action.

Whether you like it, or you don't, learn to love it! Because it's the best thing going every Friday at the Coop. All the ability! All the looks! Sixteen times the World Champion! It's Ric Flair Fridays! WOOOOOOO!

Flap those wings, birds, because the weekend is here! And what would weekends at the Coop be without a little bit of limosene riding, jet flying, kiss stealing, wheeling and dealing? Why, it would be a weekend without Flair! 

This week, we've got a little nugget from Naitch's days in the former World Wrestling Federation. During 1992, Flair would become embroiled in a feud with "Macho Man" Randy Savage. And what a feud it was. From controversial title matches, to Flair's doctored photos of himself and Miss Elizabeth having an affair, tensions were reaching a critical boiling point. And at the Survivor Series in Richfield, Ohio, all that built up aggression was about to boil over.

Randy Savage had originally planned to tackle Flair and his partner, Razor Ramon, with the aid of the Ultimate Warrior. However, the Warrior had already departed the WWF for Parts Unknown, and Savage was seemingly left to fend for himself against the combined might of Flair, Ramon, Bobby Heenan, and Mr. Perfect. But Savage was no fool. It didn't take him long to find the perfect replacement for Warrior Man.

Enjoy the show! (thanks to SkiHippy for the video upload!)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ric Flair Fridays: Ric Flair vs .....RIC FLAIR?

Whether you like it, or you don't, learn to love it! Because it's the best thing going every Friday at the Coop. All the ability! All the looks! Sixteen times the World Champion! It's Ric Flair Fridays! WOOOOOOO!

The weekend is here, birds! And when it's Friday in Pigeon Country, it's Flair. Let's see what ol' Ric's got for us this week.

 WHOA! Now wait just a minute. Who is this handsome, Nubian stranger? And why on God's green earth is he making a mockery out of  the Nature Boy? What in the hell is happening here, wrestling fans? Has the world gone mad? 

 Eh, not really. Actually, what we have here are a couple of promo segments from TNA Impact (circa 2010) between Naitch and current Ring of Honor competitor Jay Lethal. Many folks who watch TNA best remember Lethal for his gimmick as "Black Machismo", in which he dressed up as and impersonated "Macho Man" Randy Savage. During this time, Lethal had come into possession of Ric Flair's coveted Hall of Fame ring, and decided to pay homage to the Nature Boy the only way he knew how.

Needless to say, Flair was less than appreciative of the gesture. This lack of respect on the part of Lethal would end up putting him in the cross hairs of both Flair, and his new stable of wrestlers he called "Fortune". 

Many thanks goes out to the official TNA Wrestling Youtube page for the videos. Enjoy the wackiness, birds. And enjoy your weekend! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wallace's Quest

Hiya, birds!

Today I want to help out a good friend of mine, and spread the word about Wallace.

Ya see, Wallace here is in pretty bad shape. Now all us birds here in Pigeon Country don't know where the poor fella came from. But we do know that he was found roaming along our dusty back roads, and from the looks of it...he could really use some ol' fashioned T.L.C. right 'bout now.

And I think all you birds are just the ones to give it to him.

So while he's layin' up in the local vet's ICU, why not pay a visit to his official web site, and see what kind of help or support you can offer up? Wallace would be mighty grateful to you if you did. And so would we.

Thanks for your time, birds. I'll see y'all real soon!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Metacritic pls

 And here it is, birds. The game that the Internet loves to hate, at the moment. And believe me, there's plenty of game to be had here. It'll take a while to get through it, but rest assured that ol' Pigeon will give his side of the story. No snark. No cynicism. Just humble honesty. That's the Pigeon Promise.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ric Flair Fridays: Affairs of the Heart

Whether you like it, or you don't, learn to love it! Because it's the best thing going every Friday at the Coop. All the ability! All the looks! Sixteen times the World Champion! It's Ric Flair Fridays! WOOOOOOO!

T.G.I.F. my avian amigos! The weekend is officially upon us, and that means our great friend Richard Fleihr is stopping by for another visit. And boy howdy, he's got a real heart stopper to share with us today. Literally.

In December of 1998, the feud between Naitch and WCW/NWO president Eric Bischoff was reaching a boiling point. Bischoff had taken to the ring to deliver yet another biting piece of commentary towards the Nature Boy, and you know damn well he was going to have none of that. Like a rocket, Naitch came charging out from behind the curtain and led Bischoff on a merry chase that would make any member of the Looney Tunes troupe beam with pride. Eventually, Ric's tenacity frightens away this self-proclaimed "trained killer" , and the crowd is now his to command. Ric wastes no time in addressing the frenzied mob of fans in a way that only he can.

 But then, suddenly, things take a turn for the worse.

 Was it real? Was it worked? Only you can decide.

(thanks to wcwwrestling49 for the clip)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Coop Conundrums

Hello, birds! Nothing special tonight, really. I'm just thinking out loud. Back patting, that sort of thing.

I'm actually enjoying blogging quite a bit. Granted, I'm nowhere near the level of quality of a lot of stuff that's out there, but at least I'm doing it. And who knows? Maybe with enough time and effort, I can really make something out of it.

Anyway, I'm still working on ideas for content, as well as ideas for a general layout 'theme'. Everyone loves reviews, and I'd certainly like to do more of them. However, I'm a bit concerned that I won't be concise or accurate enough to give a respectable opinion. Also, I'd certainly like to shine the spotlight on some of the more obscure games that many folks have never really heard about. Like the Kenji Eno thing, for example.

That's it, for now. Sorry for all the rambling. If you've been reading along so far, allow me to thank you for stopping by. If you have anything you'd like to suggest, any criticisms, ideas, or whatever, please don't hesitate to drop a line and let me know. Dialog between the blogger and his/her audience is always important!

Till next time, my feather friends!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Coop Scoops: Dead or Alive 5

Released: 2012
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Coop Scoops are the silly term I'll be using for reviews of the latest and greatest (or not so greatest) vidja games that I get the chance to play. My intent is to keep them relatively brief, but informative. Hopefully, I'll succeed in this endeavor. But if not, feel free to let me know!
Ever since it's inception in 1996, Tecmo's Dead or Alive series has garnered equal amounts of fame and infamy. While many folks equate the name with bikini babes and ridiculous bouncing breasts, those that look beyond all the Xtreme Beach Volleyball nonsense remember it for it's beautiful interactive backdrops,  and it's simple fighting system that made it feel less like a game, and more like a Jet Li film. Now, seven years after it's appearance as an Xbox 360 launch title, and coming off a stint on the Nintendo 3DS, Tecmo's troupe of ninjas, assassins, and brawlers take to the arena once more in Dead or Alive 5. And while it's admittedly not the best fighting game you'll play, it's certainly the best DOA experience to come out of Team Ninja's dojo in quite some time.
If you've ever played a DOA game, then you are familiar with it's rock/paper/scissors approach to fighting via it's counter system. A couple of quick button presses are all it takes to turn the tide of a match in your favor. That is, until your opponent presses the same buttons and puts you back on the defensive. It's those hectic back-and-forth mind games that have helped DOA endure over the years, and it's back with a vengeance in DOA5. This time around, and to the game's benefit, Team Ninja have implemented new features and tweaks to the engine to help make it a bit more competitive. For starters, the damage output of counters have been reduced across the board, and the recovery times for whiffed counters have been increased. Also, Team Ninja have implemented true sidestepping (ala Tekken), and a new status effect known as the Critical Burst. While stunned fighters in a DOA game could simply counter their way out of trouble, the Critical Burst leaves them vulnerable to a punishing combo, or the massively damaging Power Blow technique.
The Power Blow technique in action. Yes, the arenas
are as vibrant and wild as ever (image via
 Power Blows are DOA's new way to interact with the environment. Activated in a way similar to SNK games such as Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, these powerful attacks are capable of sending your opponent flying into moving trains, electrical boxes, and other hazards, and can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Together, these tweaks and additions result in matches that put more emphasis on player ability, instead of simply getting lucky with button mashing and counter guesses.
DOA cover girl Kasumi shows off her before and after
pics. The improved character models are readily apparent.
(image via
And speaking of the environment, DOA5's visuals are a real sight to behold. The arenas are quite detailed, and feature lots of little touches that really make them come to life. Even more impressive are the brand new character models. Team Ninja have finally decided to do away with the glassy eyed Barbie dolls they've been using since DOA2. In their place are characters that are much more expressive and...well, human that what you're used to seeing.
While not as feature filled as other fighting games, DOA5 still offers up a good chunk of content. Taking a cue from the recent Mortal Kombat reboot, the Story Mode serves as a tutorial, in which players learn the basics of the game while witnessing the events of the fifth Dead or Alive tournament unfold. Set two years after the destruction of DOATEC's Tri Tower headquarters, Helena Douglas has called together the world's best and brightest martial artists to trade blows and barbs inside the squared circle. Fan favorites such as Kasumi, Ayane, Ninja Gaiden's Ryu Hayabusa, and Jann Lee make their triumphant return, and are joined by newcomers Rig (a taekwondo expert) and Mila (an MMA ground 'n pounder). Team Ninja has also jumped on the guest character bandwagon, as Akira, Sarah, and Pai from Sega's Virtua Fighter series join in on all the fun.
Hitomi and Ryu Hayabusa duke it out, and get dirty
in the process. (image via
 Rounding out the feature set are standard Versus, Time Attack, Tag Battle, and Survival modes. A more robust Training mode. A Spectator mode, in which players can snap photos of the action (or load up on panty shots.) And, of course, local and online multiplayer, which benefits from improved netcode. Tecmo have even thrown in Facebook integration, so you can let all your friends know how much ass you've been kicking.
 You're probably thinking "Man, this sounds pretty good...but there's gotta be something wrong with it! C'mon, Pigeon, what's the deal?" Well, the only 'major' fault I can find with the product is that it's a bit lacking in terms of features or customization when compared to some of the more recent fighting games out there. Sure, there's a fair bit of costumes and swimsuits for you to unlock, but the inability to customize your character is a bit of a letdown. And while I think Tecmo have made tremendous strides in making DOA5 a more competition worthy title, there's bound to be some folks that will still find it to be too simplistic for their tastes. The Fighting Game Community can be understandably picky in that regard.
 However, if you are willing to look beyond the limited feature set, the casual friendly mechanics, and it's sketchy past, you'll find plenty to enjoy here. Dead or Alive 5 is easily Tecmo's best brawler to date, and will offer up many hours of over the top fighting fun for gamers of any skill level.
Pigeon Says:

A PLAY IT! rating indicates a game that, while certainly playable and enjoyable for some, may contain a couple of glaring flaws or gameplay features that could dissuade you from shelling out full price for a copy. As such, I recommend you 'try before you buy'.