World of Mixed Martial Arts 3 (PC) Review

Game: World of Mixed Martial Arts 3
Developer: Adam Ryland
Publisher: Grey Dog Software
Genre: Sports Simulation
# of Players: 1

World of Mixed Martial Arts 2 is one of my all-time favorite games, so I was very excited to get my hands on the sequel. After playing it non-stop for the past week and a half I have to say one thing: WMMA 3 blows its predecessors out of the water in every area and it’s a must buy for text-based game fans or MMA fans.

For starters, WMMA 3 is a text-based simulator developed by Adam Ryland, the creator of the Extreme Warfare, Total Extreme Wrestling and Wrestling Spirit series. The game’s default database is a fictional universe set in the Cornellverse (the same universe as the Total Extreme Wrestling games) that features fake fighters and companies that have some similarities to real life promotions. For example, Japan’s #1 promotion is ALPHA-1 and it is as close to PRIDE as possible, complete with one 10-minute and two 5-minute rounds for fights (extended to 6 rounds for title bouts), battles that take place in the ring and judges that evaluate the whole fight instead of a round to round basis. Their heavyweight champion is Hazzan Fezzik, the most dominant MMA fighter in the world who specializes in Sambo and thus, can be compared to Fedor Emelianenko. The Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (or GAMMA) is a close approximation to the UFC, Xtreme Cage Combat (XCC) is a very close approximation to WEC and so on. If you don’t like the fake fighters and universe, the game is highly customizable with mods.

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If, like me, you are a fan of the fake universe, be prepared to see some major changes. The database is set in 1998, one year earlier than WMMA 2 and features one new promotion set in Brazil. There is a total of 1,100 fighters, around 300 more than in WMMA 2 and many of the returning characters have seen drastic changes, like former 0-0 prospect Spencer Rubenstein who is now an established fighter in GAMMA (their Light Heavyweight Champion as a matter of fact) while other veterans (like Chuck Dooley) are now prospects. All the changes have made the database better since it is better balanced and every fighter in it feels useful.

One of the major complaints about WMMA 2 was that it was too easy to separate the good fighters from the bad fighters and it was too easy to create a mega-star by putting him in the cage with tomato cans (bad fighters). That is not the case in the sequel. The introduction of Fog of War means that it is harder to get accurate scouting reports on young talents. The way it works is that the more fights a fighter has under his belt the better and more accurate the scouting report becomes. A guy might seem like a future star after 4 fights because he has absolutely dominated weak opposition, but 10 fights later you realize he is just a journeyman or gatekeeper who happened to have had a good streak of bouts. This simulates real life pretty well since the more you watch a guy fight the more you get to know about his style and skills. Add in the random “destiny” stat variable and you could (in theory) play this game forever and always find something different and unexpected.

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As I mentioned above, the database has been rebalanced and every fighter feels useful. In WMMA 2 a star would beat a tomato can 99% of the time. WMMA 3 does a better job of utilizing a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses, making upsets much more common and forcing you to make good booking choices. Fighters are also smarter and utilize tactics and gameplans during fights in a much more intuitive way than they did in WMMA 2. For example, if you put two natural strikers (let’s say kickboxers) against each other, but one of them has better takedowns and submissions than the other chances are that this fighter will try to take the fight to the ground and tap his opponent out, something he would not do against a high-level BJJ fighter. A boxer fighting a wrestler will try to use movement and quick strikes to stay away from the clinch and minimize takedown opportunities. A BJJ fighter will gladly accept a takedown from a mediocre wrestler if he feels he has an edge on the ground. The fight engine has been greatly enhanced, adding new positions (like North-South), new submissions, the ability for a fighter to refuse to tap, more varied takedowns (German suplexes, Judo throws), more submission escapes and a greater variety in the commentary. This makes for exciting fights, less repetitive commentary and a more enjoyable experience.

Another problem addressed from WMMA 2 is that submission attempts where automatic deaths in that game. What I mean is that once a fighter managed to lock in a submission he would win the bout. That is not the case in WMMA 3: fighters can gas their arms while trying guillotines, fighters can escape submissions this time around and they can even refuse to tap or hold on until the round is over.

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Promotion customization is also greatly enhanced, especially in non-regulated areas that allow soccer kicks and stomps in the ground. I just fell in love with Fight League Brazil and their brutal Vale Tudo rule set. The judges are enhanced as well: Now you can choose whether judges evaluate every round (like in the UFC) or the whole fight (like in PRIDE) and they can even outright rob someone by making a terrible decision. There is even an achievement (named Cecil’s People) for witnessing a robbery!

The mod making tools have also been enhanced, allowing for the use of Eras that will greatly affect the comings and goings in the world. For example, setting the Era to the dawn of MMA will mean more one-dimensional fighters, while the modern era will feature more well-rounded “real” mixed martial artists. Mod makers can even program certain events to happen in the future (like economy booms or depressions) and the use of templates will help in the creation of fighters. The mod makers at the WMMA forums believe the game is worth the price of admission for the improved mod making tools alone and I agree with them.

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All in all, there are over 200 improvements and changes from WMMA 2 to WMMA 3, making it a real must buy for fans of MMA or fans of the entire series.

If you like text-based games and/or MMA, this would be the most fun you will have. It’s every arm-chair Booker’s fantasy come true, the ability to be Dana White (because no one wants to be Scott Coker….only joking Scott, we love you ) and book your own company, your own fights the way you want it to be.

World of Mixed Martial Arts 3 is a great improvement from WMMA 2 and will satisfy fans of the genre. Sure, there are some similarities between the two games, but it’s like going from a 1994 Corolla to a 2010 Corolla: it’s the same car, it’s the same brand but the new one is a billion times better will all its fancy bells and whistles. I have played all three games in the series and I can honestly say that I won’t be able to play the first two anymore. WMMA 3 is just too good.

Final Score: 9.0/10

 

Shining Force (Sega Genesis) Review

Game: Shining Force

System: Sega Genesis

Developer: Climax Entertainment & Camelot Software Planning

Publisher: Sega

Genre: Strategy/RPG

Year of Release: 1992

Players: 1-player Game

 

Let’s get this out of the way: Shining Force is one of my favorite games of all time.  I first played it when I was 7 years old and I have finished it over 30 times with all possible combinations of characters imaginable.  The first time I defeated Dark Dragon I remember getting cold chills and then starting the game over immediately. When I finally discovered Musashi, a hidden samurai character (on my 7th play through back in the days when the internet didn’t exist) I called my Dad at work to tell him.  In other words, this game and I go way back. I have owned it on the Genesis, the Game Boy Advance, on PS3 (as part of the Genesis Collection) and again on PC (Genesis Collection as well) and I have beaten it at least 5 times on every system.

The story is simple fare and won’t win any awards, but it gets the job done. The Kingdoms of Guardiana and Runefaust are at war after King Ramladu turned evil.  Many believe him to be a puppet King for his adviser, Darksol, seems to be the one pulling the strings and controlling the King through the use of a mysterious mask.  You play as Max (default name, but you can rename him) who is a young swordsman from Guardiana assigned to lead the Shining Force, a group of young and inexperienced adventures who seek to stop Darksol from resurrecting the evil Dark Dragon. Over the course of the story you will travel all over the land defeating Darksol’s army and getting new warriors to join your cause.

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There are a staggering number of characters to find and since you can bring only 11 of them with you to battle you will need to replay the game several times in order to fully use everyone to their maximum potential. Each character comes from one of several classes which include typical fantasy tropes like warriors, knights and mages, as well as more exotic classes like birdmen, samurai and walking steam-suits (no kidding!).  Each class has strength and weaknesses and mixing and matching characters to come up with a balanced group is key to survive the toughest battles.  For example, warriors are your tanks: they deal high damage and can take a mean blow but have slow mobility and can’t cast magic spells. Archers can attack from range but have weak defense. Healers can heal(duh) and cure status ailments but are weak attackers and have low defense. Birdmen can fly which gives them tremendous mobility but are very weak especially against range attackers.

Battles are turn-based and similar to the Nintendo classic Fire Emblem.  The movement phase takes place from a top-down perspective. Each character can move a certain amount of squares and terrain affects mobility (it’s more difficult to move through forests and mountains than plains for example). Once you choose to attack or cast a spell the perspective changes to an animated cut-scene of the character performing the action, which was very unique at the time.  Enemies are just as varied as your characters with their own strengths and a weakness, which means you, need to think before moving and attacking. The A.I. is smart enough to attack your weakest and most useful characters if leaved exposed and some enemies can cast spells that target multiple characters at once.

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When characters reach Level 10 they can be promoted to a different, stronger class. This once again presents a dilemma since promoted characters go back to Level 1 and become weaker than they were at Level 10 in the previous class but with the potential to become stronger in their new class than they could ever become in their original class.  Promoted characters can also use equipment that the base classes can’t.

 

The graphics and sound are comparable to the best in the 16-bit RPG genre. Colorful and distinctive characters and a suitably heroic score are the strongest points. The only faults are repetitive tiles in the environments and that the game sometimes recycles character models with different colors (also known as palette-swapping) to indicate a stronger version of an enemy.

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Although the game is linear it does have notable replay value. Exploration is limited but there are hidden characters and treasure chests to find. Because the game has around 30 characters and you can only take 11 into battle with you (and because it requires a significant time investment to make those 11 strong enough to beat the game) the replay value comes from beating the game multiple times with different characters and seeing how they turn out. Some like Pelle and Gort will become instant favorites while others like Arthur and Anri will be a real challenge to turn into something useful.  Seeing one of your weakest characters evolve into one of the most powerful is deeply satisfying.

 

Shining Force is an all-time classic that fans of strategy and RPG games need to experience.  It’s the game that got me into RPG’s as is very accessible, especially compared to the less forgiving Fire Emblem series. Thumbs up.

 

Final Score: 9.0/10