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The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #1


Alrighty folks, today we finally reach the big #1 on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.

On our journey up through the Top 10, we’ve covered bosses featured in games of numerous genres, ranging from action platformers to 2D fighters.

Yesterday we took a closer look at Tageri and Ubusunagami Okinokai, a pair of end-game bosses from the acclaimed Treasure shoot ’em up, Ikaruga.

While some bosses earned their places on this list through being deceptive or unpredictable, the 2 bosses mentioned above did so through possessing entirely predictable, but immensely complex and oppressively persistent attack patterns.

There are innumerable traits and profiles to choose from, but when it comes to describing that which makes for the most difficult of boss fights, in my mind the combination of the 2 listed above makes for the perfect unbeatable monster of the videogame realm.

To be “unpredictable in one’s predictability.”

That’s what makes for the greatest challenges, not just in gaming, but in all things of a competitive or adversarial nature.

Today’s boss, the #1 ranked entry on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, possesses the aforementioned elusiveness, while at once making use of crushing attack power and inhuman speed.

That being said, The Hardest Boss Fight is:

“Iron” Mike Tyson – Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Pictured: Little Mac mere nano-seconds away from eating a right uppercut from Tyson.

Mike Tyson is of those rare bosses that is so hard that there’s a certain elegance to be found in the brutally of his design.

The original Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (that’s right, we’re not talkin’ that Mr. Dream bullshit) came out in 1987, smack dab in the era in which few would argue “Iron” Mike’s claim to the title of “Baddest Man on the Planet.”

To put things in perspective, at the time of the game’s release Tyson was 31-0, with only 4 of his wins going to decision.

The rest, went pretty much like this:

While time has gone on to prove things otherwise, in 1987 Mike Tyson was, for lack of a better term; invincible.

What better than to honor the man’s reputation than by creating an 8-bit digital version of him that was every bit as powerful, quick, elusive and intimidating than the real thing?

In case you couldn’t tell by now, that’s pretty much what the folks over at Nintendo did.

That’s right, they took the terrifying essence of Mike Tyson, and crammed it into an NES cartridge for mass consumption.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!: The game that eats your children.

In real life, Tyson’s aura of invincibility was shattered in 1990 through a complex combination of a lax training camp, possible fatigue generated by traveling to Japan and fighting at an off-time, and the relentless, pressuring attack of one James “Buster” Douglas, a B-level fighter emboldened by the recent passing of his mother.

While that’s how things went down in real life, the sad fact of the matter is that, in order to even last 2 seconds with the “Iron” Mike featured in Punch-Out!!, one’s best bet is to play defensive and look to land blows immediately after slipping one of his.

Which, if you've never seen it before; results in THIS delightful face.

Of course, if it were that simple Mike Tyson wouldn’t be the Hardest Boss on this list, now would he?

The core mechanics of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! are extraordinarily simple on paper, though in practice their complexity is not to be denied.

Much like real boxing, in every fight in the game the basic strategy, without fail; is to dodge or block your opponent’s blows while landing your own in response.

In the game, when you miss or block punches you lose “hearts,” which are representative of one’s stamina and must be exchanged at a rate of 1:1 in order throw punches.

Countering an opponent “clean,” that is; at the exact frame of animation in which they would’ve hit you with a blow of their own, awards you with “stars” that can be used to execute a devastating (but slow) super punch.

Every fight in the game goes a maximum of 3 rounds, with decision wins being a possibility, though more often than not fights end with one of the boxers being TKO’d due to the 3 knockdown rule being in effect.

Which will result Tyson doing his nifty "win" pose.

At it’s core, Punch-Out!! is a game that is based around timing and memorization.

Every fighter in the game has “tell” of some sort that signals you of their actions, though it’s up to the player to identify the meaning of these signals while surviving under the strength of their reflexes in the meantime.

All of the fighters in the game have a complex pattern to their actions, though many of them expand on their repertoire of moves should they be allowed to advance to the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the fight.

Mike Tyson takes all of the above complexities and turns them up to 11.

His power is unworldly.

His timing is deceptive and uncertain.

To put it in his own words:

Seriously man, words cannot describe the beastly-ness of Mike Tyson.

Like our #2 entrant(s) on this list, Mike Tyson is a rare example of a final challenge that demands absolute precision and excellence in all of the skills you’ve acquired throughout the game.

While I’d argue that such a gesture on the part of the game’s developers is actually quite admirable, especially in this modern age of gaming where “hand-holding” is in many ways the norm; there’s no denying that Mike Tyson is a videogame challenge was designed to be conquered by only the best of the best.

AKA The Koreans.

His absurd power and speed alone would likely make him worthy of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, however at the end of the day it’s his indecipherable timing that make him it’s king.

Like all of the fighters in Punch-Out!!, “Iron” Mike signals his attacks with a gesture or facial tic, however the reaction time necessary to avoid the resulting attacks,; let alone capitalize on the openings presented by them, is downright superhuman.

Not only that, the timing of his attacks, and his pattern on the whole, is somewhat variable; resulting in instances of familiarity on repeat plays, but never complete consistency.

Even if you somehow manage to avoid his attacks and land a follow up shot, if the timing of your offense is off by a fraction of a second, or worse yet, you overextend yourself and throw one too many punches; his recovery time is usually quick enough to punish you.

Pictured: What it looks like to be "punished" by Tyson.

Another tricky aspect of “Iron” Mike’s game, is the fact that his blows suck stamina like a fuckin’ Dyson, resulting the inevitable instance or 2 in which you’ll have to hang on for dear life and dodge a few of his shots in sequence in order to get your wind back.

Given the imperceptible nature of most of his attacks, this is usually the point in the fight when Mike Tyson picks you apart and puts you to sleep.

Dodging his attacks every now and again isn’t terribly difficult, but doing so several times consecutively is a whole ‘nother story.

Such is the indescribably nerve-wracking experience that is fighting Mike Tyson.

I’ve never beaten him, and to date I’ve only gotten to Mike Tyson maybe 1 or 2 times in my life.

While he’s quite a bit more “fight-able” than some of the lesser bosses of this list, (*cough!* Duriel *cough!*) in that it’s possible for an above-average player to hit, and even knock him down once, Mike Tyson remains to me the Hardest Boss Fight in videogames.

In fact, in many ways “Iron” Mike’s faux vulnerability is what makes him the #1 entrant on this list.

While as the final boss of the game he was appropriately given the tools to run over you at the outset of the fight, his AI was cleverly designed to fight in unpredictable fits and spurts, resulting in a perpetually tense situation wherein you don’t know what kind of Tyson you’re going to be dealing with.

You could spend 2 thirds of the fight straight-up handling a relatively lax and predictable Tyson, only to have him suddenly shift gears and unexpectedly put you to sleep in the closing moments of the final round kind of like this:

There’s no such thing as catching your rhythm or finding your “comfort zone” with Mike Tyson.

Much of Tyson’s aura of invincibility in real-life was perpetuated by psychological means, through the fear each of his opponents failed to conquer, before and after stepping into the ring with him.

If Mike Tyson was unbeatable in his prime for this reason (among others) in real-life, then personally I find it’s only befitting that his videogame counterpart should share this reputation.

Thanks For Reading!

Filed under: Boxing, Games, The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #2


As you’ve likely noticed, the past couple of entries on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights have both been final boss characters from fighting games.

While I personally feel that the fighting game genre is quite likely the most prominent contributor to the realm of tough-ass boss characters, there is another genre of game that has a similar penchant for ass-raping it’s players when it comes to boss fights.

That genre, is the shoot ’em up.

Yes, this is in fact playable. And yes, it is in fact EASIER than the game featured today.

While occasionally consisting of pure twitch reflex gameplay, the challenge in conquering most modern shoot ’em ups lies mainly in knowing one’s hit box and a healthy dose of pattern memorization/anticipation.

And no, I will not be using the term “shmup,” as it is silly, and the people who came up with it smell like poo.

*ANYWAY* Many scrolling shooters, especially shorter ones; present gameplay challenges of such difficulty so as to be considered downright unfair, if not for the fact that the expectation is that the player will fail numerous times in attempting to slowly “learn” the stages and be able to anticipate them accordingly.

Indeed, the art of the shoot ’em up is a relic of times past, a genre that holds little relevance amongst the 10-20 hour technical marvels that largely represent the current age of gaming.

I don’t remember where I read it, but the best description of shoot ’em ups and old-school action games I’ve ever heard went something like:

“It’s learning how to play a small game well, as opposed to merely experiencing a large game.”

Let’s just pretend I was responsible for the quote above, ‘k?

Like many nostalgic lifelong gamers that grew up in the 8 and 16-bit era, I enjoy playing modern narrative driven games; however I often catch myself longing to go back and play some of the simpler games of the past.

That being said, today’s entrant on our list of the Top 1o Hardest Boss Fights does indeed come courtesy of a shoot ’em up, however it by no means what I’d call a “simple” game.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that today’s boss comes from perhaps the most sophisticated (and difficult) shoot ’em up of all time.

#2 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:

#2. Tageri and Ubusunagami Okinokai – Ikaruga

Pictured: A brave pilot faces down the bullet spewing final bosses of Ikaruga.

Ikaruga is one of those games that I want so badly to love, but I suck so badly at it that I just can’t….  ‘Cause it’s stomped my ass into the ground more times than I’d care to admit.

I love shoot ’em ups.

If it scrolls and it involves planes/dragons/fairies with unlimited ammo, chances are I’ve played it, or failing that; want to play it at some point in my life.

Unfortunately, I’m quite far from skillful when it comes to, well, shooting things up.

I’m usually good enough to get 2-3 stages into a shoot ’em up before dying, but as we all know; that’s usually not nearly good enough to beat the game in the arcade without dumping $5 into the machine.

Money I likely would've preferred to have pumped into Aliens vs. Predator.

To date, I have yet to beat the console version of Ikaruga.

You see, unlike an arcade game, the console version of Ikaruga restricts the player to making use of 3 lives per stage; meaning there’s no continuing from the middle of a level.

Basically, if you can’t beat the last stage with 3 lives, then you’re sunk.

While it’s an almost obnoxiously beautiful game, both in terms of art and design; I can think of no other shoot ’em up that requires as much memorization and focus as Ikaruga.

There are in fact harder shoot ’em ups out there, mostly of the bullet hell sub-genre; but in my mind there are few that are better.

That however, does not change the fact that I’ve never beaten the final boss(es) of Ikaruga.

As you may have noticed up above, I actually named 2 bosses as entry #2 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.

While some might call foul on that, in my mind both characters serve as the final boss of the game.

Tageri, a biomechanical monstrosity with a literal yin and yang core, serves as the penultimate challenge of the game, and boy is he a douche-rocket of an asshole:

Don’t let the INSANE skills the player in the clip above fool you, Tageri not one with whom to fuck.

You see, Ikaruga’s main gameplay innovation is the implementation of a black and white based polarity system for every attack and enemy in the game.

At the touch of a button, the player is able to change the color polarity of their ship back and forth from white to black, allowing them to harmlessly absorb enemy fire sharing their color profile and convert it to power a homing laser attack.

At the same time, enemies struck by fire of the opposite polarity take twice as much damage, making the bulk of the game an ongoing high-speed puzzle of matching polarities for survival, and opposing polarities for quick kills.

Like all of the bosses in the game, Tageri’s attack pattern involves both of the above tactics, however in a much more straightforward and confrontational fashion.

In essence, the fight with Tageri pushes your rhythm, memorization, and polarity matching skills to the limit; as his attacks never let up, and are almost impossible to avoid, forcing you to defend yourself almost exclusively absorb bullets as your only form of defense.

That’s the one element of Ikaruga that’s perhaps the most difficult to embrace, even as a veteran of shoot ’em ups:

In Ikaruga, you’re not only expected to run into enemy bullets; at many times it’s to your advantage.

In a genre where the one steadfast rule of the gameplay is to not touch the bad things, that’s not an easy pill to swallow.

That being said, the “dot eating” aspect of Tageri’s attack pattern is a nerve-wracking experience that as mentioned earlier, I’ve yet to conquer.

All of the bosses of Ikaruga are tough, but Tageri is one of the only ones that forces you to basically stand your ground and eat every bullet on the screen throughout the duration of the fight.

This involves keeping an eye on the half dozen or so sources of fire at all times, and accounting for which color bullets are going to hit when.

That's a direct quote by the way.

The fact that you only get 3 lives, many of which can easily be exhausted before you even enter his chamber, coupled with the information overload produced by Tageri’s maddeningly aggressive attack pattern, has resulted in me never quite getting to a point in which I’d say I were “comfortable” in fighting him.

Despite this, I have managed to beat him once or twice, though I did so with little tact, and at the cost of nearly all of my lives.

Which brings us to the “other” final boss of the game, the Ubusunagami Okinokai, or “The Power of God:”

Awr?...

Not actually an enemy to be fought, Ubusunagami is actually just a diamond shaped object that shows up after you’ve defeated Tageri, and then proceeds to fill the screen with bullets for 60 seconds.

Indeed, you read that right.

Immediately following one of the hardest bosses in gaming, with one of the most brutal and oppressive attack patterns imaginable, you then have to face down the diamond-shaped embodiment of “The Power of God” for an entire minute.

Before the dark times, before the Empire, THIS is what Ubusunagami looks like.

Remember when I said Ubusunagami wasn’t really something to be “fought?”

Well, what I meant by that wasn’t just the fact that you’ve gotta’ have Korean-level gaming skills and APM to win against him, but that you also can’t fight him period.

That’s right, after encouraging you throughout the entire game to eat like colored bullets to survive, the game basically forces you to put that newly developed gaming instinct to the test and survive, without the option to fight back; for one whole minute.

THIS. FOR AN ENTIRE MINUTE.

While that’s admittedly a very bold and, frankly, “cool” way to force players to truly excel at the game in order to be rewarded with an ending, it’s sadly a test I don’t know I’ll ever pass.

As mentioned earlier, much of Ikaruga is based around the concept of memorization.

It’s a well known fact that Ikaruga players are among the hardest of the hardcore.

The fact that the ultimate source of pride in playing the game is not simply beating it, as few mortals can ever hope to do; but to do so with a high-score should tip you off to how dedicated they can be.

Doing so that involves killing enemies of the same polarity sequentially to string combo multipliers, or in some cases, beating the game without firing a single shot.

Yes, it’s possible, though not for this poor shmuck:

I’ve beaten games like Demon’s Souls, which involved a great deal of trial and error and persistence, but the level of memorization and timing required to beat Ikaruga straight through, are such that I’d probably have to sacrifice my ability to recognize simple shapes to free up space in my brain.

Who am I kidding, if I sat down and forced myself to be an expert Ikaruga player, I’d probably end up an autistic and incontinent husk, capable of nothing but playing shoot ’em ups and counting cards.

Huh, if I could get Tom Cruise to take me to Vegas, that probably wouldn’t be too bad a deal…

*Sigh* If only...

Filed under: Games, Movies, The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Top 10 Manliest Man Moments #6: “Remember Jefferson, 20 Seconds!”

Today we reach the halfway point in the Azn Badger’s list of the Top 10 Manliest Man Moments in movies.

That’s not to say the MANLIEST MAN moments covered today and previously aren’t worth their weight in MANLINESS; rather they’re simply MANLY to a degree that makes them not quite worthy of the Top 5.

That being said, it causes me actual physical pain to rank it below the Top 5, but in any case our 6th MANLIEST MOMENT comes from perhaps the MANLIESTof WWII movies; The Dirty Dozen:

Or if you were on the other side of the conflict: "Das dreckige Dutzend!"

As with seemingly every entry on this list, The Dirty Dozen represents a drastically different school of MANLINESS; namely that of the classic “LEATHER-FACED MEN OF EPIC HARDNESS” subgenre that was prevalent in the 60’s and 70’s.

Whether you blame it on the fairly recent emergence of PC culture, or the government slowly poisoning our water supply with “pussy-fying” drugs; it’s hard to argue that the MANLY MEN of generations past bore a “harder” and more world weary image than those of today.

Drover or not, I'd put my money on Bronson...

It’s this HARD image that The Dirty Dozen thrives on.

As is evident from the title of the film, virtually the entire cast of major players in the film are made up of lowdown dirty bastards that are serving time for war crimes.

The vast majority of the Dozen are impetuous and irredeemable sons of bitches that probably should hang for the shit they’ve done, but at the end of the day; they’re all exactly the breed of HARD MEN that are needed to do what must be done.

In this case, the mission at hand happens to be a (fictional) mass assassination of several high ranking Nazi officials just before the D-Day invasion.

Despite the action-packed conclusion, by far the strongest aspect of The Dirty Dozen, is the fact that despite most of the cast being bigots and murderers; at the end of the day you end up caring about what happens to them:

Pictured: The appropriately named "Maggott," who nearly blew the entire mission.

Well, most of them anyway…

Being as there really are over a dozen fucking MANLY MEN in this movie, there really isn’t time to cover everyone; but at the very least I feel I should mention some of the more prominent heavy hitters in the roster.

First off there’s Lee Marvin, the MAN so MANLY even Toshiro Mifune was forced to acknowledge him as his equal.

Trust me, if this guy says you're cool; you're fucking COOL.

Marvin’s Major Reissman serves as the badass leader of the group.

While not a convicted a man like the rest of the Dozen, Reissman demonstrates, on more than a few occasions; that he’s every bit as SAVAGE as they are, and if anyone wears the pants in their relationship, it’s him.

Like Tom Selleck and his mustache, Lee Marvin made an entire career of being a tough-as-nails army dude; and The Dirty Dozen serves as an perhaps the finest example of his acting method.

Expect maybe The Delta Force. The Delta Force was the shit...

Next up is Charles Bronson as the German speaking Wladislaw, who as we all know can’t help but be a BADASS FUCKING SPHINX of a MAN even during something as sedate as a word association therapy session:

BADASS. FUCKING. SPHINX.

Throughout his lengthy career, Bronson played the LEATHER-FACED HARD MAN bit to the point of self-parody.

It’s not his fault, I mean fuckin’ look at him!

How could you ask a man with a MANLY FUCKING CATCHER’S MITT for a face to be anything but HARD in whatever role you cast him in!?

More importantly, what self-respecting MAN would pass up an opportunity to make use of said MANLINESS in a movie?

Apparently none, hence the reason the world has 5 Death Wish movies.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

In addition to Marvin and Bronson, I feel it’s worth mentioning that The Dirty Dozen also featured the EPIC MANLINESS of Cool Hand Luke and The Naked Gun’s George Kennedy, as well as the always awesome Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan of The Wild Bunch fame.

Pictured: A DAMN MAN.

It’s unfortunate that all 3 of said EPIC individuals are only in the movie for a few short minutes, but even so; their presence did a lot to bolster the palpable air of MANLINESS that permeates every frame of The Dirty Dozen.

Now, I’ve spent a great long while sucking the cock of this movie, and yet, up until now; I’ve actually made no mention of the MANLIEST MAN moment contained within it.

Said moment belongs to none of the awesome individuals mentioned above, nor any sort of big-time movie star; but rather to football legend turned actor, Jim FUCKING Brown:

Whatever movie this image is from, I haven't seen it. Looks fuckin' savage though...

As the only black member of the Dozen, Jim FUCKING Brown’s Robert T. Jefferson spends much of the movie at odds with the majority of his comrades.

The target of bitter racism during the early portions of the film, Jefferson responds in kind with hate of his own.

Despite this, Jefferson demonstrates a clear sense of duty and commitment to his mission that rivals even the most steadfast of the Dozen, as evidenced by he and Bronson’s Wladislaw going out of their way to prevent John Cassavete’s Victor R. Franko from deserting, thereby scrapping the entire mission.

It’s this sense of duty that ultimately leads to Jefferson’s death, which also happens to be our 6th MANLIEST MAN moment:

At this point in the movie, the Dozen’s forces have been cut down to a mere half-Dozen; and things are starting to get down to the wire.

Having succeeded in forcing the Nazi officials into the bomb shelter area beneath the mansion, our heroes work frantically to throw grenades into the air ducts that lie just above the bunker.

... And based on the big-ass grin on Jim FUCKING Brown's face, I'd say they enjoyed it.

As enemy forces rapidly bear down the mansion, members of the Dozen simultaneously work to provide cover fire to those prepping the explosives, and secure a half-track to use as their getaway vehicle.

Eventually, the half-track is readied and the machine gun crew begin to displace, however one thing remains out of place:

The explosives need to be detonated, and the only man in position to do so is:

JIM. FUCKING. BROWN.

Before he can make a move though, Jim FUCKING Brown is ambushed by a sniper, who proves to be a terrible shot; thusly prompting Mr. FUCKING Brown to dispose of him in decidedly MANLYfashion:

Following this, Jim FUCKING Brown strips off his extraneous gear and steels himself for the task at hand one of the Dozen yells:

“Remember Jefferson, 20 seconds!”

20 seconds?

The man runs 100 yards a game, I would think he can run a Nazi driveway in 20 fucking seconds!

With that Mr. FUCKING Brown clenches a pair of grenades in his hands and steels himself for the task of EPIC MANLINESS that lay before him.

Chucking his first grenade into the air duct beside him, Jefferson breaks out into a trademark Jim FUCKING Brown sprint towards destiny…

Run Jim FUCKING Brown! Run!

With enemy fire incoming all the while, he reaches the 2nd duct and puts a pineapple in there without skipping a beat.

Making his way to the 3rd and final duct, Jefferson fumbles with his last grenade, costing him precious seconds as he struggles to dislodge the spoon.

Looks like somebody got caught with their hand in the cookie jar...

With all of the explosives in place, Jim FUCKING Brown runs down the homestretch of the mansion driveway; when from out of nowhere, hidden just beside a nearby bridge, he is gunned down in mid-sprint by a Nazi soldier.

As his body collapses against the brick driveway, the remaining Dozen members call out to Jefferson in both agony and anger.

Mere seconds later though, all emotions are put on hold as the massive fireworks show that would be Jefferson’s parting gift springs to life, thereby solidifying the exploits of the mission; no matter how chaotic or disorderly, a job well done.

BOOM.

As the of the mansion cuts a fiery swath across the night sky, all the fighting and gunfire seems to pause for a moment.

Despite this, with the memory of his fallen friend and comrade still fresh in his mind, Lee Marvin turns to the bridge and revenge-kills the fuck out of the Nazi bastard that took out the Dirty Dozen’s Ambassador of MANLINESS, Jim FUCKING Brown.

Make that, "Overweight Nazi Bastard."

Pair this immediate revenge/spite killing of the Nazi soldier with the fact that Jim FUCKING Brown is the only member of the Dozen to get a sad music cue as a result of his death, and you have a MANLY moment worthy of the Top 10 MANLIEST MAN moments of all time.

If all that isn’t enough to convince you, I present to you the heap of forlorn reaction shots that show up as soon as our boy Jefferson goes down:

Anyway, thus concludes our 6th MANLIEST MAN moment in movies!

Check back tomorrow for MANLY moment #5!

Filed under: Movies, The Best Track in the Game, Top 10 Manliest Man Moments, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Demon’s Souls Just Raped My Face. And Ate My Children…

*WARNING!  SPOILER ALERT!  IF YOU’RE LIKE ME AND DON’T WANT ANY HELP OR SPOILERS ON YOUR FIRST RUN THROUGH DEMON’S SOULS, PLEASE STOP READING NOW! *

A few weeks ago I typed up a post declaring the nigh impenetrably difficult Demon’s Souls to be far less difficult than I previously assumed.

While this fact still rings true, something happened today that has taken my feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction and shat all over them.

Not only that, the game proceeded to set them on fire, and eat their children in front of them, seemingly just for kicks.

Oh yeah, and then the game tore out my eyes and raped my face, once again; seemingly just for the hell of it.

I’m not gonna’ lie, the past 2 days have been a rollercoaster ride for me in Demon’s Souls.

I cleared 2 and a half worlds, dusted God knows how many bosses, and even managed to save a few NPCs.

That last part is where the aforementioned face rape-age comes in.

You see, somewhere in the Tower of Latria stage, (one of the better and more atmospheric levels if you ask me) I happened upon a caged NPC named Yurt, The Silent Chief.

Sure, he looks like a wholesome and friendly guy...

Now, as I approached Yurt, preparing to engage him in conversation; I happened to notice that some of the player created messages scrawled on the ground near him were saying some awfully nasty things about him.

“Liar.”

“Don’t bother about nothing.”

These were the cryptic and/or cautionary messages strewn about in the immediate area.

Despite this, in games with morality systems, my general aim is to be a “white knight” of sorts on my first time through, so in keeping with that trend, I decided to free Yurt.

I figured:

“He hasn’t done anything wrong as far as I can tell.  He’s cool in my book for now.”

Sadly, my naivete was not to be rewarded.

From his gravelly, foreboding voice; and his decidedly menacing armor, I figured he was at least somewhat evil, however I figured I’d get a chance to rectify whatever mistakes I made by freeing him if he were to suddenly turn outright heel on me.

After I freed Yurt, I happened upon him on the second floor of the Nexus.

He was tucked away in a corner, very much out of sight; such that I was lucky to have even spotted him.

When I spoke with him, excited to see if he’d offer me a sub-quest, or reward me with some sort of item, I was surprised to find that he had nothing helpful to offer me whatsoever.

He sold no items, he offered no services, all he said was something along the lines of:

“Life is not as precious as most may think.”

Following that episode, I would go on to visit with Yurt with every successive return to the Nexus, hopeful that he would eventually say something or do something useful.

It never happened.

At some point, my dungeon crawling in Demon’s Souls fell into a unbelievably progressive rhythm.

For several hours, my character; Ultimate Warrior, was an unstoppable juggernaut of untold epic-ry.

If only I could get him to look like this in-game...

Bosses fell by the wayside, and at least one entire realm collapsed at the might of the Ultimate Warrior, effectively making me like I had finally made the gaming beast that is Demon’s Souls, my servile bitch.

After venturing into the untread depths of the heart of the lion’s den, I reached a point where my inventory was utterly full, even with the use of strength augmenting rings; and I was forced to return to the Nexus to offload my loot.

Only a game as cruel as Demon’s Souls could come at me at my highest of highs, and tear me down to the lowest of lows in the blink of an eye.

One blink, and my eyes were out of their sockets, while Demon’s Soul’s virtual cock jackhammer-ed my frontal lobe with fervor unimaginable.

You see, Yurt The Silent Chief is an assassin.

Not only that, he is an assassin assigned to kill the survivors of Boletaria, I.E. the central cast of the game made up of static NPCs, and NPCs you’ve rescued (like Yurt himself) throughout the course of the game.

Being as I never saw him kill anyone, I have to assume that he goes about his business off-screen, that is; while you are away having the time of your life, as I was.

When I returned from my epic journey, I returned to a Nexus devoid of life.

Every single character I had saved, began learning skills from, and in a loose sense, gotten to “know,” was missing from their previously constant positions.

I searched the upper floors.

I searched all of the dead end nooks and crannies.

Nothing.

All that remained, were a few floating orbs containing what I presume were said character’s belongings.

As I charged up the stairs, already coming to realize that Yurt had to have been responsible, I took note of the background music.

It was different.

After 20 or so hours of play, one notices when the previously monotonous music changes to something totally different.

The tone was gloomy and somber, such that I could tell that I had fucked up just by the sound of it.

When I approached Yurt, I was not surprised to hear him take full responsibility for the deaths of everyone in the Nexus.

As one would expect, the last task on his agenda just happened to involve killing me, which of course led to a brief melee between myself and Yurt.

Despite the horrors of his previous actions, Yurt proved to be a less than capable opponent.

Unable to deal any sort of serious damage to my Ultimate Warrior, I crushed Yurt, took his armor, and immediately put it into storage, finding it to be utterly worthless despite it’s striking appearance.

In the blink of an eye, Yurt The Silent Chief took my “white knight” sensibilities and swathed them in darkness.

To my knowledge, everyone who died, that is; every character in the game, will never come back.

I’ll never learn any more spells.

I’ll never learn any more miracles.

I’ll never get to hear anymore retarded stories and anecdotes that I genuinely never cared to hear in the first place.

In the blink of an eye, the living symbols of my success in Demon’s Souls were taken away from me, leaving my home base a dull and lifeless husk of pitiable solemn, complete with sad-sack music to drive the point home.

I’ll continue to push forward and beat Demon’s Souls, as to my knowledge I’m very near to the end, however I find that in getting there I simply don’t care as much as I used to.

Maybe it’s just me, but beating the game, and winning the day is a helluva’ lot more rewarding when you feel like you did a good job.

As it stands, after losing every NPC in the game to a mistake I didn’t even have a chance to realize I made; beating Demon’s Souls is going to be the equivalent to finishing a race, dead last; and crawling on all fours.

Sure, you finished; but do you feel good about it?

No, you feel humiliated; and realize you need to try harder next time, if there is a next time.

I can’t wait to be done with Demon’s Souls so I can finally move on and play something else…

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Demon’s Souls Is… Not So Hard Anymore

Hah! Not so bad anymore, are yah'!?

About a week ago I posted a bitchy/whiny article about how Demon’s Souls knocked me down and took my lunch money.

I was about 2 hours into the game at the time of writing said article, and I just wasn’t “getting” how the game worked.

I was frustrated by the game’s punishingly restrictive rules, and humbled by it’s timing heavy combat system.

I’m now 8 hours into Demon’s Souls, and I feel like I’ve got it by the nuts.

'DESE NUTS!

At around hour 3 I had memorized the layout of the 1-1 section of the Boletarian Palace level, making harvesting souls (money) quite a bit easier than before.

Around this time I also began finding uses for my souls in the form of upgrading my Knight’s  long sword among other things.

Did I mention I named my character after the Ultimate Warrior?

Now if only I could make him look like this...

Now that's just a terrible photo... Sorry about that.

After toughing it out for some time, advancing by inches every time, I met and defeated my first boss demon, Phalanx.

It was a tedious battle to be sure, but unlike some of the stiffer challenges I’d faced up to that point, (I’m lookin’ at you Red Dragon of one-hit kill-ery…) I managed to best the blob monster on my first try.

I should probably note, that I really admire the artistic design of the Phalanx demon.

Consisting of a hoard of shield-faced blobs armed with spears, all protecting a central core, I found it to be an inspired take on the Sumerian/Grecian military formation.

Behold, the only culturally significant photo on the Azn Badger's blog!

In doing so, I was awarded with what I had spent the entire game to that point wishing for:

A waypoint.

4 hours into the game, and I encountered my very first checkpoint.

Eerily enough, as if crossing that first major threshold served to change the entire dynamic of the game from then on out; playing Demon’s Souls has become a markedly less devious affair.

While the early goings were teeth-grittingly difficult and frustrating, ever since I took out that first boss demon; my progression through the game has eased into a much more natural, and far less tedious pace.

Maybe I’ve just become accustomed to the cautious play style required to navigate the game, or maybe my character has just gotten strong enough that he’s able to power through what used to be one-hit kills; but either way, I’m enjoying the experience a whole helluva’ lot more than before.

I’ve killed no less than 4 more bosses in the past 4 hours of gameplay, 2 of which I didn’t even really have to fight.

What I mean to say is, there were 2 bosses that I took out through exploitative means.

No, that would be "blaxpoitative," but it shows you're thinking...

As mentioned earlier in this post, as well as probably every first time Demon’s Souls player’s writings, there is a Red Dragon in the first stage that pwns you like a bitch if you so much as look at him funny.

Good riddance you flying, red piece of fuck....

Truth be told, he’s not so much a boss as he is a predictable, but still dangerous environmental hazard, but seeing as he killed me a few times and has a meaty health bar, I count him as at least a mid-boss.

Anyway, as an environmental hazard, the Red Dragon is stuck on a very simple looping movement pattern, making him unable to reach you in certain areas, as well as unable to defend himself from attacks launched from certain areas.

That being said, I took note of this, bought 80 arrows, and sat down for 15 minutes slowly chipping away at his health with a wimpy bow and arrow while standing completely out of harms way.

It was silly, it was spiteful, but good God was it satisfying to get that fucking dragon off my back for the remainder of my gameplay experience.

Exploitative Boss Kill #2 came in form of slaughtering the Vanguard boss of the Shrine of Storms using a similar tactic.

My money's on the big guy. Jus' sayin' is all...

This one was not as satisfying as in the case of the Red Dragon.

The Vanguard was a demon that I had spent much of my time in Demon’s Souls expecting to have an epic showdown with at some point in the game.

You see, The Vanguard was the demon featured in the opening tutorial segment of the game.

While I don’t actually know if it’s possible to defeat The Vanguard during the opening sequence, in my case he killed me in 1 hit, thusly handing me my first humiliation of many to come while playing Demon’s Souls.

Sadly, my revenge would be bitter sweet; as instead of facing him head on, I found a way to get behind him and, much like the Red Dragon; peppered him in the back with arrows without him so much as trying to hit me.

Oh well, at least he coughed up a shit ton of souls.

"Vanguard! Your brother's soul, is MINE!"

As of writing this, I feel that I’ve grown to like Demon’s Souls very much.

It’s a tough game, for sure; but it’s one that can be very rewarding if you’re willing to play by it’s terms.

Not long ago I ran into a Mind Flayer-like creature in the Tower of Latria (a place I got lost in and quickly retreated from in favor of the Shrine of Storms).

Huh, wouldn't you know it they actually call it a "Mind Flayer." How very proper of them.

Said creature could be killed quite easily, however I found that it could do the same to me with even greater ease.

Though I was killed in my encounter, on my second; I changed up my tactics and stayed out of sight until it drew very close.

In a very Solid Snake-esque maneuver, I dashed out from the shadows and caught the monster off guard, thusly killing it before it could even lift a finger/face tendril to attack.

It was a very satisfying moment, that would not have been nearly so rewarding if not for the fact that the game forced me to rethink my strategy.

Now that I think about it, I like that; that the game is always difficult, no matter how buff your character gets.

Not only does it keep you humble, it serves to make the gameplay more involving in the sense that you’ve always got to be on top of your shit, regardless of how puny your opponents may be.

Much like another game I happen to like a lot, Devil May Cry 3.

While I may be a much better player than I was at the start, make no mistake; I still die in Demon’s Souls quite frequently.

Except for a few instances of ridiculous fall related deaths in the mine stage, I can concede that most of my deaths in Demon’s Souls are my fault.

I still get frustrated, yes; but I haven’t really felt the causes to be unfair or cheap.

Every now and again I get a little bit too adventurous, or a little bit too overconfident; and that’s generally when I find myself dead.

Thankfully, the penalty is just losing your money… All of it.

I’ll probably never get used to that, but I’ve never been too upset by it.

After all, it’s just money.

Thankfully, I’m not having to say that in regards to my purchase of Demon’s Souls.

Yet.

 

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Demon’s Souls Is Hard…

 

ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!!

So, I bought Demon’s Souls from a friend the other day.

He told me he played it for 5 hours and then called it quits.

This is coming from a Korean fellow that specializes in, as he phrases it; “beasting” games faster than they can come out.

As fate would have it, there would be no “beasting” of Demon’s Souls for my Korean buddy.

In fact one could go so far as to say that the game “beasted” him.

Despite this, like a fool I thought I could do what my friend could not.

Before I bought the game, I read scores of reviews singing the praise of Demon’s Souls, and heralding it’s difficulty level as the Battletoads equivalent to the modern era of gaming.

While it does indeed seem like it could be a great game, make no mistake; Demon’s Souls is a punishingly difficult game, to the extent that it feels borderline unfair.

As of writing this, I’m barely 2 hours into the game, and I’ve done exactly nothing.

My first created character was a Barbarian.

I set out into the game with the mindset of creating a Conan-esque tank, however to my surprise; the Barbarian was just about the worst choice to do so, at least in the beginning stages of the game.

Turns out, despite their inherent physicality, Barbarians start out the game with no armor, and some of the worst equipment imaginable.

Not good when the game derives most of your survivability from your equipment and armor rather than your stats.

Despite spending about an hour getting a good feel for the timing and nuance of the game’s control scheme, (while dieing about 9,000 times…) I found that; for a beginner level player, a Barbarian was simply too fragile for my skill level.

Enter my second character within an hour of starting the game, a much sturdier and well-equipped Knight.

Well, after dieing every 5 minutes as my Knight, I think I can honestly say that he’s probably going to be my primary character from now on.

Every time I play Demon’s Souls, I feel like I’m moving a half-step forward, only to get thrown 20 feet back every 5 minutes.

When I said the game felt borderline unfair, I was referring largely to the checkpoint and currency systems.

The checkpoint system is a pain in the ass because, well; near as I can tell there are none.

This wouldn’t be a problem except, unlike friendlier games like Diablo; Demon’s Souls has no “scroll of Town Portals.”

Not only that, Demon’s Souls thoroughly rapes you by forcing you to reclaim your “souls” (money) while wading through every enemy in the level up to that point.

Enemy placement is always the same, and any entry or exit of a level causes them all to respawn.

My main issue with the currency system, is not that you lose all your money when you die, but that there’s no banking or storage system in the game.

Do I really have to carry all of my wealth on me at all times?

Seriously man, if you had 5,000 souls of demon’s in your possession would you go walkin’ around with ’em in your wallet?

No, you’d put ’em in a fuckin’ bank.

That being said, the currency system is largely why I’m “nowhere” in the game as of yet.

Simply put, I can never survive long enough to save up my money to purchase items with.

Not that there’s any items I want/need anyway.

I suppose it doesn’t help either that I haven’t the slightest clue how to level up my character…

Anyway, I’m whining; so I’ll stop now.

As it stands, Demon’s Souls is a brutally difficult game, but for drastically different reasons than I am accustomed to in my “hard games.”

When it comes to twitch reflexes and memorization I.E. Contra, Raiden, Devil May Cry; I have no problem.

In the case of Demon’s Souls though, the game’s difficulty comes largely from the stringent rules of it’s gameplay, as well as the fact that timing and precision are the order of the day, rather than quick reaction time or fancy button combinations.

It’s a frustrating and loathesome game that truly hates it’s players, but truth be told; I actually feel compelled to keep trying at Demon’s Souls.

After a few years of getting raped by Battletoads, I put my controller down and said “No Mas.”

Though I’ve only spent a few hours with Demon’s Souls, those few hours have shown me that; despite all the teeth-gritting frustration, there still may in fact be a game worth experiencing hidden beneath it all.

Here’s hoping I’m right…

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Azn Badger’s Top 5 Songs That Keep Him From Stabbing People (Japanese Edition)

In light of my ongoing blood feud with my virus infected laptop, I figured it would be a good idea for me to take the time type up an article (or 2) regarding a therapeutic topic.

In this case, said topic would be songs that keep me from stabbing people AKA songs that, for whatever reason; make me feel happy.

Being as I am indeed an Azn Badger, with relatively Azn interests; much of my song library consists of Azn tunes.

That being said, I foresee this post being part of a series, so I’ve thusly labeled this one the “Japanese Edition” of this particular Top 5 list.

Anyway, the only requirements for entry on this list, are that the track must indeed be a song; meaning it must have lyrics, and in this case, it must also be Japanese.

Expect other versions of this post for the next couple of days.

Apologies in advance to those that truly don’t give a shit about music, much less of the Azn variety…

Anyway, let’s make with the list!:

*PLEASE NOTE, I DID NOT WATCH ANY OF THE VIDEOS BELOW, SO DON’T COMPLAIN TO ME IF THEY’RE OBNOXIOUS, STUPID, ANNOYING, OR ALL OF THE ABOVE.*

5. Sanpo (A Walk) – Azumi Inoue


That’s right folks, #5 on my list of Japanese songs that keep me from stabbing people is the opening song from My Neighbor Totoro.

Honestly though, you can’t mention “happy” without including Totoro, can you?

This song brought me much joy as a child, both in English and Japanese, and it continues to put a smile on my face to this day.

Hell, being as it’s written for kids, it’s one of the few songs on this list that I can actually understand 100% of.

Azumi Inoue has a wonderfully sweet voice that’s perfectly suited for the Blue’s Clues-y, Wiggles-esque, sugar-coated pre-schooler nursery rhyme feel of the song.

The only other song I’ve heard her perform was Chiisa Na Inori (Tiny Prayer) from the Guyver Image Album, (yeah, I actually went and bought it…) and I’ve gotta’ say, the woman’s got some pipes.

Not necessarily of the “strong” or “booming” variety, but I think “sweet” describes her sound pretty well.

4. Yume De Aeta Nara (If We Met In A Dream) – 175R


DISCO POP = FUCK YES.

Yume De Aeta Nara was a song featured in the first film in the Kamen Rider Den-Ou series.

Around the time the movie came out, I was knees deep in my own personal period of “Tokusatsu Revival.”

Just a year or 2 before, I had rediscovered Ultraman and Kamen Rider; and so when the movie came out, I was really fuckin’ excited.

Like, REALLY excited.

Anyway, while Den-Ou was perhaps one of the best Tokusatsu series I can recall, the first movie of course turned out to be kind of “meh,” leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth until fairly recently when the Den-Ou franchise miraculously resurfaced.

That’s a story for another day though…

So anyway, the movie sucked, but the one awesome thing I took away from it, was this song, Yume De Aeta Nara, by 175R.

I’ve never heard any other songs by the group, but honestly I don’t feel I need to, as this one has since provided me with more than enough enjoyment.

Like I said man, disco pop is THE SHIT.

When it comes to making an Azn Badger happy, few things do it better than a disco beat and nostalgic ties to Kamen Rider.

3. Yuke! Tiger Mask! (Go! Tiger Mask!) – Hiroshi Nitta


Tiger Mask is the fuckin’ MAN.

Initially starting as a manga, and then later serving as the inspiration for countless videogame characters, an anime series (or 2), and even a legacy of real-life pro-wrestlers, Tiger Mask is brilliant to the point in which I’m actually jealous that I didn’t come up with the idea.

Really, I ask you, who the fuck wouldn’t enjoy a story about a man in a tiger mask wrestling the shit out of dudes, while protecting the children of the world from an evil Illuminati-esque organization?

Anyway, the song I chose for this list comes from the 1980’s anime series, and as such, it’s sound bears the remnants of the enka style of vocalization that was popular in the post-war period.

By the way, enka is THE SHIT.

That being said, the enka style of the lyrics, combined with the almost spaghetti western-like music, make for a wonderfully cheesy and over-the-top theme song to a cheesy and over-the-top hero.

By the way, I should’ve included this song on my list of ways I keep sane at work; ’cause I have a tendency to sing it when I’m on the shipping line…

I’m not retarded.

I swear.

2. My Lonely Town (Mai Roneri Taun) – B’z


Oh B’z, how the fuck did I live without you?

Seriously, B’z is a Japanese band that’s been around FOREVER, but me being me, I didn’t find out about them until 2004 when their lead guitarist, Tak Matsumoto; composed the soundtrack for the movie Ultraman: The Next.

Come to think of it though, news of stupid-ass movies about dudes in rubber monster suits duking it out seems to be how I get most of my news from Japan, so I guess that makes a fair amount of sense…

Anyway, I was really impressed with the soundtrack for that movie, (another one that I eventually bought) so I looked up the composer, which led me to B’z, which led me to finding a mega-awesome band that I hope will continue being awesome for years to come.

My Lonely Town is an unbelievably awesome song from B’z(‘s?) most recent album, Magic.

When I first put this song on, I was reading the Wolverine comic, Old Man Logan; and I gotta’ tell yah’, it just fit too fuckin’ well.

Seriously, My Lonely Town has a big, loud, Bon Jovi-esque rock sound to it, but at the same time it also has some amazing string work that gives it an epic, again, almost spaghetti Western-like feel.

It was a brilliant case of right song, right book, right time.

1. Let It Go – Yuna Ito


This one is special.

I can’t really put my finger on it why, but for whatever reason; Let It Go has been my favorite song for almost a year now.

I don’t have “favorite” songs.

I have songs I like, but never “favorites.”

This song is one of the few exceptions I can name off the top of my head.

Songs from Transformers: The Movie and the Rocky series don’t count, ’cause those are built in.

Seriously, I didn’t “choose” to love those songs, they chose me.

*Ahem!* Anyway, Let It Go is sung by Yuna Ito.

While it lends no credence as to why I like the song so much, it’s interesting to note that she’s a hapa girl.

That is, she’s half Korean, half Japanese, raised in Honolulu.

Way to represent the local people… By leaving the country and making music in a foreign country.

All kidding aside, while the music is definitely the biggest selling point for me in this song, with it’s beautiful, and surprisingly almost country-esque string work coupled with an unrelentingly upbeat tune, I have to say Ms. Ito’s voice is pretty fuckin’ good.

I’ve never really paid much attention to vocals in songs.

Like I’ve said in previous posts, I was a “hummer” as a kid; and thusly kept music in my head rather than songs.

That is to say, while the other kids annoyed their parents by singing “Under the Sea” at the top of their lungs everyday, I was busy pissing off my folks by incessantly humming music from Snow Bros. and Mega Man 2.

I can’t explain it, but for some reason I have a lot of trouble understanding the lyrics to songs, regardless of language.

Despite this, from what I know of Japanese pop music, Yuna Ito is a rare talent.

Near as I can tell, most Jpop stars are, like our own American ones, studio musicians I.E. pretty people that can do just enough of everything to appeal to the core demographic.

They have flat voices, and more often than not; hide behind backup dancers, high production value music and voice modulation.

Ms. Ito, while most likely guilty of all of the above, actually seems to have a genuinely strong singing voice.

While I’m probably wrong, my first thought process was that it may be a cultural difference.

She may be fluent in Japanese, and indeed have lived there most of her life for all I know, but being raised in Hawaii, as an American; would most likely lend some boldness to her style of singing.

It seemed to be the case for Utada Hikaru, who was from New York; so I don’t exactly feel dumb for making this assumption.

Anyway, if ever the Azn Badger seems primed for a stabbing session, just remember to put on Let It Go, or any of the above mentioned Japanese songs, and chances are you’ll be just fine.

Don’t quote me on that though.

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Let’s Play Robocop, Part FAIL

Let it be known, Robocop on the NES is a MEAN-ASS game.

It’s honestly not that difficult a game, not even worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence with The Adventures of Bayou Billy or Battletoads, but that doesn’t make it any less MEAN.

ASS.

Seriously man, just take a look at the bullshit ass-fuckery that the folks over at Data East decided to throw at me in the last stage:

Fuckin’ bullshit…

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A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part IV – The Real Donnie Yen

A funny thing happened in the 2000’s.

Jackie Chan got old.

Jet Li was tied up doing movies with rappers.

Guess who stepped forward into the spotlight?

Close, but not quite.

That’s right, Donnie Yen, and he was bringing the sexy back!

2005 marked the first collaboration between Donnie Yen and Bio Zombie director Wilson Yip.

The film was called Sha Po Lang, (S.P.L.) and it kicked some serious ass.

See that baton? It's goin' right up your ass.

In the late-90’s one of my brother’s videophile friends screened for me a laser disc of John Woo’s The Killer.

With Jackie Chan having just become the next big thing in the states with the domestic release of Rumble in the Bronx, the climate was just right for me to get into Hong Kong cop and robber movies.

Needless to say, Tiger Cage, Hard Boiled and Beast Cops were old hat in my book by the time I was in high school.

SPL was a throwback to the Hong Kong “hard boiled cop” movies of the 80’s and 90’s, and it accomplished what very few Donnie Yen films had done before it.

With a star studded cast including the likes of Sammo Hung and Simon Yam, SPL presented us with an emotional and dramatic story, populated with characters we cared about, and did it all with a smaller than expected dose of action.

However nobody said that what fighting was there wasn’t some of the best of Mr. Yen’s career.

This brutal fight, between Donnie Yen and, then, up-and-comer Wu Jing, is what I proudly refer to as “The Best Weapon-Based Fight Scene of All Time.”

No fooling, I’ve watched it dozens of times and I’ve never once felt any doubt in my sentiments.

I love how you can read the intent behind every move in the fight just by looking at the intensity in both men’s facial expressions.

I love how the pace of the choreography has a natural and realistic sense of progression and crescendo to it.

I love the energy of the camera work and how it darts in and out like a fencer on the sidelines, hinting to us the perceived openings in each man’s guard from each fighter’s perspective.

I love this movie, and I’m glad it was the one that finally introduced me to the real Donnie Yen.

It was well worth the wait.

Check back for “Part V – All Hail Emperor Yen!”

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