Okay, I know what you're thinking... "What happened to the Malloy List for July?" Don't worry, it'll be back next month. Right now, though, there's something on my mind I need to speak on...
Did everyone enjoy their EVO 2016 experience? Heheheh, I'm sorry... that was admittedly a rhetorical question. Not too long ago, your friend & mine KPB|Parappa shared his thoughts on SFV's story, "A Shadow Falls". If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend taking some time out of your busy day & checking it out. Seriously, it is some of his best work to date (and that's saying something). In it, he dissected Capcom's first attempt at actual narrative conveyance. If you've been paying attention, you'll know that I spoke at length about that very subject in the days before its release. Suffice it to say, I was excited. Foolishly so, perhaps, but excited nonetheless.
If you know me at all, then I'm pretty sure you know where this is going...
I have no intention of devoting as much energy towards my feelings on the matter as Parappa did. Not because I'm frothing at the mouth or anything, but due to the fact that I don't want to waste your time the way Capcom chose to waste mine. Before anyone jumps to accuse me of just reading the Wikipedia synopsis, understand that I watched the damn thing a total of three times over the Independence Day weekend. Not because I was looking for easter eggs or anything, but because I honestly kept trying to make sure that I didn't accidentally pass out & miss something. FYI, I didn't. Turns out that there was just a bunch of plot points that either had no concise introduction or proper resolution... but who needs character development, am I right?
On the subject of characters, both old & new, I find myself of two minds on the matter. On one hand, you have the brilliant performances of both Bison & F.A.N.G as your consummate villains. F.A.N.G is the perfect sycophantic foil to Bison's emphatic (almost vaudevillian) persona. He's your perfect antagonist. Rest of his crew, can't say the same. While I understand that they've been longtime high-ranking members of the syndicate, I honestly do not understand the purpose having Balrog & Vega around as henchmen. Their dichotomy comes off as formulaic. On the other side the coin, you have Urien working behind the scenes for the Illuminati. His impeccable fashion sense notwithstanding, his dominant presence seems pointless. The meandering story wouldn't really have lost any steps had he not shown up. And then there's Necalli... I cannot remember the last time I saw such a wasted opportunity. Instead of actually giving him some form of connection to the Satsui no Hado (as one would casually assume from watching that fancy intro), they turned him into the physical manifestation of that giant glowing arrow/"Go" sign from all those classic beat 'em ups of the arcade era. I still don't know whether to view him as a MacGuffin or some shoddy deus ex machina.
Which leads me to the World Warriors. The only word that comes to mind is "rushed". Overlooking the misuse of (in)effective misdirection, why did our attention as an audience have to be split between Ryu, Charlie & Rashid? Parappa made an excellent point by comparing Ryu's purpose in this story to Goku. If you're just going to show up and solve everyone's problems, how about handling that before the third act? Charlie's involvement feels like a disappointing birthday/Christmas present. Charlie's presence in SFV is the fighting game equivalent of SW: Episode I. Don't even get me started on his glaring lack of interaction with Guile. You might think that I'm about to take this opportunity to really lay into Rashid right now, but I'm not going to do that. No, my biggest beef with Rashid is that he's the B-side to this whole sordid affair. Rashid, in his own special way, is the running gag of this story.
However, all of that pales in comparison to what infuriates me about all this... the Dolls. What boils my blood is that actual time & resources were diverted from the bottom line of this production in order to individualize a handful of characters that will NEVER be used for anything else other than delightful PC mods. I want you to think about all the problems this game has had since launch. Poor matchmaking, no penalties for rage quitting, lackluster introduction of the DLC, etc... all problems that did not get the attention needed to be resolved because about a half dozen character models -- along with all of their corresponding lines of code, voices & shallow movesets -- had to be ready in time so that the secondary/throwaway characters could have someone to battle against. It's a madhouse, I tell you... a madhouse!
However, in all fairness, these problems were inevitable. The numerous shortcomings of "A Shadow Falls" are simply the consequences of a pendulous narrative that Capcom somewhat arbitrarily decided to pay attention to mid-swing. If your story is meant to be the bridge between two overarching plots, make damn sure both sides of that bridge are stable before trying to build upon it. We already knew what was on the far side of the bridge and that was stable enough, but the side we were trying to cross from had no real form or foundation. Just a collection of mass that happened to be within functional reach of where we were trying to go. You know what? I'm done... said more than enough, but I want to share something with you before I go: "A Shadow Falls" convinced me to forego SFV altogether in favor of focusing on GGXrd-R & KOF XIV.
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.