Monday, 30 July 2007

M.U.G.E.N - What is it?


I've just had one hell of a weekend! I tell you, you haven't lived until you've seen Shin Akuma (Gouki) & Evil Ryu going toe-to-toe with Violent Ken & Evil Dan, or watched a ungodly match between Nightmare Sephiroth Vs Nightmare SSJ5 Broli!

If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, let me fill you in a little! M.U.G.E.N (or just mugen for short) is a 2D Beat 'em up custom made emulator that allows the user to set up pretty much whatever they want, from which characters they want to use in their game (more on that later), what stages, music, even the look of the title screen! There is a whole ton of customisable options that you can change to suit your needs and desires. The only problem is, unless you have some familiarity with using and checking coding language, you're gonna have a little trouble putting the whole thing together and checking to make sure everything works.


-The Mugen Scene-

From what I've gathered, the Mugen scene has been very quiet recently, meaning it has been very difficult if not impossible to find anything relating to it on the Internet. Because it's effectively freeware (software that is free to anyone, on the proviso(?) that you don't modify or claim the files as your own), the programmers don't get paid to create the program, and everything that goes into it. Just like everything on the net, it was plagued by people looking to make a fast buck of the backs of these hard working guys by hosting sites that charge people to get these files, or don't give credit to those who created them.

-Putting it all together-

I had seen a lot of cool Mugen vids on YouTube for quite a while now, and I really wanted to get it up and running on my own machine at some point. Several factors kinda put me off though:

1. The original Mugen only ran on previous versions of Windows that use DOS (Win XP does not)
2. Finding the relevant files
3. The organising and coding of files.

Most of the full versions of Mugen were DOS versions (see point 1), and the only other version that would work on my machine was a basic version called WinMugen. This one is a lot easier to work with for me, but it only came with only 1 character (Kung Fu Man, very lame), 2 stages and no music. This meant that I had to get everything else and put it together myself.

I'm no stranger to coding (I know HTML and understand efficient file management), but I was a little reluctant to have to learn more coding. Fortunately, it was all pretty straightforward, and was able to get everything running within a couple of hours. Then the fun truly began!

-Screenpacks-

Once I had gotten a ton of chars (characters), I came across a slight problem. I had more chars than I had slots in the character select screen! (WinMugen only has enough slots for 10 characters) This meant that in order to have more characters to select from, I would need a new frontend (known as a screenpack), that had more character slots. Just like with finding characters on the net, the number of screenpacks readily available are few and far between.

I eventually found a good one (Mugen Tournament 3) which has space for 36 characters (there are other screenpacks that have space for up to 60 chars). Most screenpacks are just grafts of parts from their console brothers, such as Marvel Vs Capcom and Capcom Vs SNK.

If you're lucky enough to have more that 60 chars (lucky you!), the only screenpack large enough to contain all that awesomeness is the legendary EVE Battle screenpack. The EVE stands for "Everything versus Everything", and has a least 100+ char slots. Now you're cooking with gas, baby! EVE Battle was just as difficult to find on the net, but ironically, I already had a copy from a previous websearch! Go figure!

-Characters-

Once I had the whole thing up and running, the next task was to try and get every character that I knew HAD to be in the game to even make it worth all the effort. Easier said than done.

As I mentioned before, The Mugen scene is kinda dead now, so finding what you're looking for is hard, and finding something that is 100% complete is even harder. I'd found a few really good characters and stages from the more official Mugen websites, but finding some of my favorites was a lot harder (I'm still looking).

Ironical, I found a few chars I had stored on an old external hard drive. Two of them are quite possibly, the most powerful, dangerous and Broken (see: Too powerful) Mugen chars you are EVER likely to see in your life time! The name of these unspeakable monsters Nightmare Sephiroth & Nightmare SSJ5 Broli!

I have tested these guys against pretty much every other char I have including the Dark/Evil versions of Capcom favs Ryu, Ken, Akuma and Dan, and none of them (even in a 2 on one match) could put a dent in either of these guys armour! The only guys that can survive against them is.........each other!

I'm not afraid to tell you, that if you're a fan of 2D beat 'em ups, you need to see at least ONE match between these Behemoths. It's like the fate of the galaxy hangs in teh balance, and you're privileged enough to get a front row seat to the end of the universe as we know it!

If that don't get you hooked on Mugen, nothing will!

-Conclusion-

On the whole, Mugen is the kind of thing that either you love or hate. Casual gamers might be content to watch the kind of dream matches that can be created, such as Homer Simpson Vs Peter Griffin from Family Guy. Hardcore gamers on the other hand can use it as a way to expand their adaptability against a wide variety of opponents. It's especially handy for those people who are never fully satisfied with the endless sequels and remakes that Capcom and SNK keep hashing out, and expect fans to pay £40 for the privilege!

I've never been much of a 2D beat 'em up expert, but I do love martial arts, and I have a great respect for those pro gamers that can string 10+hit combos in their sleep. I've grown up with beat 'em ups, so they have a very special place in my heart. With Mugen, I can enjoy watching quality matches at my leisure, and jump in whenever I feel the need to relive those glory days of beautifully animated 2 dimensional violence on my laptop screen.

(an interesting note - in my searches on the Internet, I have come across mugen chars and stages that could only be described as HENTAI. That's all I'm willing to say on the matter, you can find out the rest for yourselves! ¬_¬)

-Extra-
Ideally, it would probably nice for those who also have an interest in Mugen to have a couple of links to relevant sites to help get themselves going. I am in NO WAY to be held responsible if you can't find what you're looking for. I had to do it the hard way, and so do you! ~_^

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.U.G.E.N
http://conversion.wo.to/ (Character Download)
http://unofficial-winmugen.jpn.org/ (WinMugen Download)


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots


Some NEW INGAME footage has just been released by Eurogamer.net. I've been a big fan of Metal Gear since the first MGS game on teh PSOne. I've bought each game that has come out since, and am fully engrossed in the whole Solid Snake story. I consider Hideo Kojima (the creator of the MGS franchise) to be some kind of VideoGame genius/god, and I would not be wrong in saying that the advent of the release of Metal Gear Solid 4 is the BIGGEST and MOST ANTICIPATED of the ENTIRE YEAR!! (probably bigger that some game on the Xbox call Halo 3 something....)

I was pretty much basing my decision of whether I would buy a PS3 or not entirely on the release of MGS4 (and to a lesser extent, Devil May Cry 4). Sufficed to say, if the game plays as good as it looks, I WILL be getting a Playstation 3!!

http://www.eurogamer.net/tv_video.php?playlist_id=3886&s=l

Also, when I have time, I'm gonna spend some time on Kojima-san's blog to get some insite into the upcoming release! (I'm a total fanboy!!)

http://www.blog.konami.jp/gs/hideoblog_e/

Monday, 23 July 2007

Japan Expo July 2007

Last Saturday (21st July), I decided to attend the Japan Expo, being held at the Excel Centre near Canary Wharf. (The same place that the LondonExpo was held a couple of months before).

I had been planning to go since finding out about it in the recent Neo magazine, but recent events had conspired to put me off going. Namely work (Those selfish bastards!). Anyway, on Saturday morning, I mustered up as much strength and determination I could, made my morning preparations and left.

One of the cool things about going to the Excel Centre is that I have to take the Docklands Light Railway to get there. This means I get to see the cool sights of traveling along the River Thames, see all the cool penthouse apartments, the moored sailing boats in the harbours, the tall corporate skyscrapers, and the Millennium Dome (which is surprisingly impressive to look at close up, even if it is a complete waste of money!).

Unlike the last time I went in May, the weather was excellent. The sky was clear and the sun was shining, giving me a really good feeling that I was going to enjoy the day!

It was as busy as I expected it would be when I finally got into the hall area. The first thing I noticed as I entered, was there was a couple of videogame booths to the right of the entrance. There was a Naruto beat 'em up on virtually every console there (apparently, Naruto is VERY popular these days!), and a couple of dance/rhythm games. I'm not afraid to tell you, I usually shy away from these kinds of games. Not because I don't think I'd be any good at them, but because when I see other people on them, they look like complete idiots! I guess that says a lot about my personality, doesn't it?

Next up were a few shops selling Japanese merchandising, such as food, t-shirts, keyrings, plushy toys etc. If I had more money than sense, I probably would've bought a whole load of that stuff. As it was, I was happy to just capture them on my mobile phone's camera!

Other shops were selling action figures of various famous Anime, Manga & Videogame characters. the ones that peaked my interest however, were the EXTREMELY cute, hot and perky female dolls. If I had a place of my own, it would probably be full to the brim with these hotties (although, I'd probably get a lot of strange looks from family members if they ever came to visit!).

It was great to get the chance to see some real life Japanese samurai swords up close and personal. Just looking at them made me want to grab one, pull it out of it's sheath and start waving it around like a maniac! It is probably a good thing that you aren't allowed to handle them personally! There were also replica swords of famous VG characters, like "Legend of Zelda" Link's Master Sword or Cloud's Buster Sword from Final Fantasy 7. If I ever get into the cosplay scene, getting one of these would have to be a prerequisite!

There was a lot of other Japanese related stuff at the event, like the board game known as Go (which has inspired a popular manga in Japan), Origami, Gothic Lolita dolls (yeah, I thought so too!), and specially made to measure cosplay costumes.

There was an excellent performance from Taiko Meantime, a troupe of performers that play traditional Japanese tunes using the famous Taiko drums. I had never had the opportunity to see something like this before , so it was a truly exhilarating experience to be able to see anything like this in person! It was very traditional, and yet so in your face and full of impact. I would definitely recommend going to see Taiko Meantime where ever they play during the year!

The cosplay scene is still in its relative infancy in the UK, but is growing. I was lucky enough to be around when the cosplay competition was being held on the main stage. Most of them were not bad, although I kinda thought some of the cosplayers should've put more effort into their poses and actions, to get the crowds really fired up and into it. One honourable mention goes to the guy dressed as Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta. Sweet! ^_^

I had seen the Manga Alley the last time I had gone to the LondonExpo in May, and was amazed by the number of highly skilled artists that were submitting their work for the competition. I vowed to myself that I would "throw my hat into the ring" and submit my own artwork the next time I was there. This time round, I came prepared with a few printouts of my own work (much to the demise of my printer - need more ink!). I was a little sad that I could only submit one piece of work, because I consider a lot of my stuff to be quite good.....¬_¬

Anyway, I'm glad I did it, and even if I don't win anything this time, I'll just up my game and try again next year!

All in all, it was a good event (even though there was heavy rain as I was leaving). This was a big deal for me, because it was to mark my prescience as a committed attendee to these kinds of events. I have every intention of going again next year. You just TRY and stop me!

Just so you all know, I've submitted all the video footage I took while I was at the event (and the one I was at in May too) on veoh.com (kiss my ass, YouTube!)


Online Videos by Veoh.com