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Is Death by Degrees Doomed?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 05, 2004   |   Episode 39 (Show Archive)  

   
With Tekken 5 still several months away, Namco is hoping to mine some of the same gold with a spin-off starring the lovable Nina. In Death by Degrees, her first solo outing, Nina is set to kick and punch her way through boats, castles, and other exotic locales. But don't get too excited, Defunct Games has uncovered a trend that may spell doom for Nina before it even hits the shelves.

Namco isn't the first company to attempt to extend the life of their franchise by offering a character a spin-off, large companies like Sega and Capcom have also done this with mixed results. The four examples we located all featured good ideas, but could never function on their own as a stand alone title. They are spawned from some of the biggest names in video games, like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, yet still manage to suck all the life out of their respected genre.

If you don't want to take my word on it, I suggest you read about the four games that have already sailed these rocky seas. These games broke away from their one-on-one arena and made run for a world of side-scrolling bliss ... with miserable results. One has to worry that if we don't study our history we will be doomed to repeat the terrible mistakes of the past. Let's hope Death by Degrees is better than what has come before it.

Street Fighter 2010: the Final Fight
What did Cyril say about this Ten Years Ago? "Why the heck did I rent this Bionic Commando wannabe?? It has the name Street Fighter in the name, yet doesn't resemble the classic fighting game in any shape. And why even include the name Final Fight, as if it has anything to do with Cody, Haggar, or the rest of Metro City. This game is a scam I tell you, a scam!"
How is it Connected? Since Street Fighter 2010 was released after the original Street Fighter and before Street Fighter 2, Capcom had yet to realize the power this franchise would hold. This may explain why the story found in 2010, which features a bionic-enhanced Ken avenging the death of his best friend Troy, seems so foreign to the Street Fighter universe. In many ways this version of the
game feels more like a sequel to Bionic Commando than Street Fighter, which may be the reason Capcom has all but forgotten that this title exists.
Continuity Problem? According to Street Fighter 2010, the original Street Fighter tournament took place in 1985. Anybody familiar with the original game will tell you that it was released in 1987, and featured a Ken that didn't look all that much younger than the Ken found four years later in Street Fighter II: the World Warriors. If you were to take the Street Fighter II instruction manual at its word, you're led to believe that Ken was born in 1965, which would have made him only 20 when he fought in the original Street Fighter tourney. I'm not going to suggest that Ken looks too old for 20, but it does seem odd that he's so well established at such a young age. Or maybe Capcom just decided that nobody was going to check Ken's back story and they could fudge the numbers a little.
So, What's Wrong with It? In many ways Street Fighter 2010 features everything we hate about second rate spin-offs. This is a game that features extremely small characters in weapon-based combat, instead of large figures taking on his opponents one on one in various grudge matches. This is a game that is all about platform hopping and memorizing patterns, whereas the original Street Fighter was about blocking and learning how to perform moves. By using both the "Street Fighter" and "Final Fight" name in the title Capcom suckered thousands of unsuspecting gamers into buying one of the worst games on the NES.

Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
What did Next Generation say? "The Mortal Kombat series hasn't always been on the forefront of video game innovation, but at least it's held its own in the fighting arena, finally even conceding to switch to 3D with Mortal Kombat 4. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero is Midway's attempt to branch out and take the series in new directions. However, why Midway believes MK's new direction should be a side-scrolling action/adventure title, especially one with so little to it, is beyond us."
How is it Connected? Unlike Street Fighter 2010 and X-Perts, Mortal Kombat Mythologies is actually based in the same world we're familiar with already. This tale of
Sub Zero gets to the bottom of who he is, where he came from, and his connections to fellow ninja, Scorpion. This is the adventure that prepares our frozen hero to take on Shang Tsung in the first Mortal Kombat. Mythologies also sheds some light on new characters like Shinnok and Quan Chi.
So, What's Wrong with It? Had they spent as much time on the control as they did trying to wrap up loose ends, Mortal Kombat Mythologies might actually be worth playing. As it is, this Sub Zero adventure is bound to leave you feeling cold with its atrocious control set up, frustrating level designs, and dirty graphics. You get the feeling that Midway really tried to make something exciting and fun, but just couldn't work out all of the things keeping it painfully dull. At least it's not the the worst Mortal Kombat title ... that "honor" goes to the fatally flawed Mortal Kombat Advance.
Say What? "The first (hopefully of many) MKM game ...." -From the overly positive GameSpot review which seems to go against every other review of the title.
X-Perts
What did Next Generation say? "Every now and then, a game comes along that is not simply bad, but intrinsically insulting. The fact that Sega is asking an unsuspecting public to fork over $70 for the painful experience that is X-Perts elevates the game - or perhaps denigrates would be a better term - from the insulting level to being a crime against humanity ... Whatever potential X-Perts once had (even this is questionable), the shoddy gameplay results in a final product that feels crafted without care and rushed out. X-Perts is the ultimate argument for letting the 16-Bit system die rather than prolonging the pain."
How is it Connected? The gimmick behind Eternal Champions was how each of the characters were snatched out of different time periods and made to fight to the death. You'd think this gimmick would facilitate a number of interesting spin-off ideas, but Sega never really knows what to do with these characters. X-Perts really doesn't have anything to do with Eternal Champions outside of the inclusion of
Shadow Yamoto. It's the kind of game where just about any character would work, just as long as they looked good in tight clothing and can fight. Like most of the spin-off games covered here, X-Perts has very little to do with the original Eternal Champion game, and has already been easily forgotten.
So, What's Wrong with It? Time has taken some of the impact out, but in the months leading up to its release; X-Perts was being hyped as Sega's answer to the CGI-enhanced Donkey Kong on the Super NES. It featured new technology, a steep price tag, and some of the best graphics on the system ... it just ended up not being any fun at all. It was nearly impossible to control, the levels were dark and rarely interesting, and you could see the twists in the story coming a mile away. Although there could be a resurrection in the future, for now it would appear as though X-Perts was the final nail in the Eternal Champion coffin.
Mortal Kombat Special Forces
What did GameSpot say? "Even at a semi-bargain price of $19.99, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces isn't worth your time, let alone your money. Even die-hard Mortal Kombat fans will be sorely disappointed with Midway's latest offering, so we'll just have to wait and see if the MK series can recover from this near-fatal blow."
How is it Connected? Special Forces attempts to fill in the entire back story behind the Kano and Jax feud. Like Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, this game is set in the Mortal Kombat world but isn't really a fighting game. Instead Special Forces has more in common with Pac-Man, since you are
required to collect items, parts, keys, and security passes, to move on with the game. There are fighting elements, but they are pulled off so poorly you'll wonder why it even carries the Mortal Kombat name.
Continuity Problem? For a game that is all about filling in the blanks, Special Forces doesn't seem very worried about continuity. Take for example Jax, who appears here with his brand new arms. According to the instruction manual (as well as the in-game cinemas), this game takes place before the first Mortal Kombat. Jax didn't receive new arms until Mortal Kombat 3, which would still be in the distant future. The rest of the game uses this kind of logic, and barely answers any questions.
So, What's Wrong with It? It takes a mighty bad game to make Mortal Kombat Mythologies look good, and Special Forces is that kind of awful. It features graphics that are only a step up from a frozen black screen. It offers gamers very little control over their "fighter." The music sounds like it's a thirty second loop playing non-stop throughout every aspect of the game. The game just feels like Midway is playing a sick joke on us. If you've been looking for a game that will turn you off of gaming, Special Forces is just bad enough to make you never want to turn your TV on again.
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