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The Best Track In The Game #14: Knights of the Round

Yes, I did in fact buy this just the other day...

Knights of the Round was, and forever will be; one of my favorite beat ’em ups of all time.

Truth be told, I didn’t actually play it in it’s original arcade form all that much, I played through the Super NES version an ungodly number of times.

While the graphics and animations of Knights of the Round may not be up to standard with many of it’s contemporaries, both in the arcade and on home consoles; it’s relatively unique gameplay, setting, and terrific soundtrack continue to sustain it even to this day.

Well, in my eyes anyway.

You see, Knights of the Round was one of those rare games that really made me feel “heroic” when I was playing it.

Sure, all you ever do in the game is walk from left to right and bash people’s brains in with swords and axes, but because of the character designs and music; it felt like so much more to me as a kid.

Seriously man, you try taking down a giant fuck named BALBARS and tell me you didn’t feel awesome for doin’ it.

THAT'S a BIG hammer...

Anyway, the original 1991 arcade release of Knights of the Round was a 3-player arcade game that was, of course; based on Arthurian lore.

As mentioned earlier, I didn’t really play the arcade version all that much; so for the purposes of this article, I’ll largely be referencing the Super NES version from this point onward.

Like many beat ’em ups of the time, there were multiple characters to choose from in Knights of the Round; each with their own individual strengths and weaknesses in the areas of attack power and speed.

"Choose Your Destiny..."

Arthur, whose sprite is curiously puny; is the Leonardo of the group, boasting the most balanced stats of the group.

Lancelot, who looks absolutely nothing like Richard Gere with his shimmering golden hair; is the fastest in both movement and attack speed, however his power is somewhat lacking; making battles risky by forcing one to engage their opponents more frequently to finish them off.

 

Somebodies lying to me...

Finally, Percival is the green pants-ed Incredible Hulk of the group who wields an axe, and can indeed mess people up most mightily; at the cost of being slow as molasses, as well as having the most pathetic of all jumping attacks in beat ’em up history.

The character roster of Knights of the Round was always a huge selling point for me as a kid.

Thanks to movies like Jason and the Argonauts, as well as TV shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and King Arthur and the Knights of Justice; I got really into mythology at a young age.

Here’s why:

Greek and Japanese stuff was always my favorite, but thanks to that AMAZINGLY FUCKIN’ AWESOME cartoon; Arthurian stuff always had a place in my periphery.

In that sense, even though Knights of the Round has absolutely nothing to do with the mythology of King Arthur; just having a trio of recognizable characters from the myths present in the game did a lot to draw me into the experience.

Anyway, I think it goes without saying that, whenever I played this game with my friends; there was always a scuffle over who’d get to play as Arthur.

Seriously man, the word “King” is part of his name, he’s arguably the best character in the game, and by the end of the game he gets to wield Ex-FUCKING-Calibur, how could any kid not want to play as Arthur.

In all, I think that’s only bad memory of Knights of the Round.

That, and playing as Percival.

 

Really? You're wearing THAT into battle?

It didn’t happen that often, by I can recall being tricked into playing as Percival once or twice by some of my weaslier friends.

As indicated by the relatively balanced characteristics of all the playable characters, Percival isn’t intended to be a shitty character; but the sad truth of the matter, is that he is.

Too fuckin’ slow, zero fuckin’ jumping attack, and the proud owner of a He-Man esque bowl-cut; Percival is the fuckin’ Aquaman of Knights of the Round.

Nobody likes him, and if anyone should ever make a claim to the contrary; it’s ’cause they’re trying to be ironic, and thusly must be killed with hipster flames of violence.

 

This guy likes Percival... I just know it.

Anyway, I should probably get on track, right?

The gameplay of Knights of the Round was much like most Capcom beat ’em ups of the day.

That is to say, there’s 2 buttons, 1 for killing with auto combos, and 1 for jumping like a damn foo’.

If both are pressed at once, the player can sacrifice a bit of health to blow everyone around them ass over teakettle and to the floor.

Like I said, standard stuff.

In addition to this however, were the addition of horse riding, a few special attacks that could be executed with simple directional inputs, (no Hadoukens here) and an incredibly awesome experience and leveling system.

Virtually identical to the Bizarrians of Golden Axe, mounted combat in Knights of the Round was a bit of let down.

Lacking the flash of the elemental powers of the mounts from Golden Axe, horse riding felt slow and somewhat counter-intuitive.

While riding a horse, one’s attack power was boosted, and one could perform a leaping stomp attack by double-tapping forward on the d-pad; however the downside in all this was the fact the horse was actually kind of slow, and required pressing of the jump button in order to turn around.

Really, there was no reason not to hop on a horse whenever the opportunity presented itself, particularly when enemies that could ride horses were around; however I always felt a little more vulnerable on a horse, and would usually defer the luxury to whoever was playing alongside me.

 

"Yay, I'm on a horse! Now what...?"

The special attacks in Knights of the Round consisted of a damaging stun attack that, while somewhat slow in execution; would knock enemies on their ass, and cause them to stand up in a defenseless “dizzy” state.

Curiously enough, the execution of this attack was done in exactly the same fashion as a horizontal Smash Attack in Super Smash Bros.

 

If you can do this, you can knock a foo' silly in Knights of the Round.

Another special attack, was a strange launching attack that I never really found a practical use for.

Basically, you do an “Up Smash” motion; and the character will perform an upward stroke, followed by a leaping chop attack.

I think the intent is supposed to that of a “knock ’em up, smack ’em down” kind of thing, however the follow-up attack always ended up causing me to advance to far and get smacked upside my head.

Oh well, it looks cool; but I never use it.

While not an attack, it needs to be mentioned that Knights of the Round actually had a blocking system.

 

No, not that kind of "block."

Blocking is not exactly a common feature in most beat ’em ups.

Despite it’s unique medieval setting, being able to block was a feature that served to set Knights of the Round apart from many of it’s contemporaries.

There were 2 ways to block in the game.

The most common method of blocking, was by pressing and holding the attack button, while holding the directional button away from the incoming attack.

While this was the most common method by most standards, the other method; and indeed the one that I used most often as a reckless youth, was one that was triggered automatically by pressing back on the directional pad the moment an attack was landed on your character.

In other words, if one’s timing was good enough; (mine never was) the game would give you the benefit of the doubt and allow you to block attacks simply by attempting to run away from them.

Thankfully, the timing required was quite precise; making this a gameplay mechanic that not at all feasible to exploit.

Unlike this shit:

Anyway, despite all the coolness of the swords and medieval skull-bashing; the real reason Knights of the Round was awesome, was the leveling system.

At the time, I can think of no other beat ’em up that, while linear as fuck; had any sort of cumulative upgrade system for it’s characters.

Throughout the game, one’s character gains experience by defeating enemies, collecting gold and jewels, eating food (health power-ups) on a full stomach, and of course; breaking shit.

Upon reaching a predetermined level of experience, one’s character levels up, bringing forth some pretty awesome cosmetic upgrades.

 

... I want that cape.

Sadly, as far as I can tell; the benefits of a level up are purely cosmetic, with no changes to the gameplay occurring whatsoever.

Despite this, when I was a kid, seeing Arthur go from leather armored pussy to red-caped, golden armored KNIGHT OF JUSTICE, was one of those accomplishments that made me feel really awesome.

Sure, the game was structured to have you max out your levels no matter what.

Sure, the game made no attempt to make you feel like you were getting any stronger.

Even so, none of that bothers me; ’cause the game is awesome regardless.

More importantly though, it’s an awesome game that I have some truly awesome memories of.

I remember playing with my one friend that we’d always call the “Bad King.”

 

Pictured: The "Bad King."

Basically, this friend of mine would always manage to be quickest on the draw in selecting Arthur.

That alone made him kind of a punk in the eyes of my friends and I.

In addition to that though, said friend would go out of his way to hang back and stay out of harms way, effectively forcing his partner to do all the fighting; yet at the same time he would horde all the gold and food, essentially stealing all of the experience and health.

We always called him the “Bad King,” and indeed; he never made any attempt to play the game more altruistically, but goddamnit; he owned the game so we’d always end up playing with him anyway.

 

Ping Pong tables and videogames make us a lot of dumb friends when we're kids...

Another thing that I don’t think any article on Knights of the Round can gloss over, is the fact that there’s a fuckin’ GHOST SAMURAI in Knights of the Round.

Similar to Capcom’s own Bishamon from Darkstalkers/Vampire Savior, there was a boss character in Knights of the Round named Muramasa that was essentially an animated suit of samurai armor.

 

Uh... I wouldn't turn my back on that guy.

In medieval England.

To this day, I don’t take offense to this; however I wish they hadn’t made the fucker so goddamn cheap.

I can’t tell you how many times I got a game over during the fight with Muramasa.

Goddamn fire magic bullshit…

Oh well, payback’s a bitch:

Speaking of goofy bosses, another one worth mentioning from Knights of the Round, was a skinny fuck in black pajamas named Phantom.

Early in the game, you fight Phantom; and he’s really no big deal.

Sure, he can run real fast, throw cleavers at you and fire magic at you, and even make duplicates of himself; but for the most part he’s too weak to be a legitimate threat.

Now, while he really isn’t any harder the second time around, it’s worth noting that this time around he sees fit to bust out his pulley and chain operated GIANT FUCKING ROBOT.

I did mention this game needed to be a movie, right?

Seriously man, no joke; a giant fuckin’ robot!

In medieval England.

As I mentioned earlier, the fight isn’t really all that hard, or even thrilling; but the novelty of fighting a pre-steam age robot was always something that tickled me just right.

Anyway, this post was, as indicated by it’s title; supposed to be about music, so let’s get down to that, shall we?

The Best Track in the Game for Knights of the Round is…

Village on Fire

Why?:

You know how I said Knights of the Round made me feel “heroic” when I was a kid?

Well, this track was largely responsible for that.

I love how it has that medieval minstrel sound to it, while at once being upbeat and action-oriented in nature.

When you think about it, that’s kind of a difficult combo to pull off.

Anyway, I don’t know what else to say; other than that this is brilliant track to begin a game with.

It gets your blood pumping, makes you feel badass, and more importantly; makes you feel like you’re fighting for something.

Runner-Up:

The Knight’s Tournament

Why?:

Well, you did listen to it, right?

Seriously, this is just a really good piece of music.

It sounds like medieval dance club music!

I remember this track only playing for about a minute or so in-game, but even so; it always struck me as, at the very least; the second best piece of music in the game.

‘Nuff said.

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Thoughts On The Thor Trailer

Let it be known, the Azn Badger is in no way an authority on Thor.

Like most kids, I dabbled in Norse mythology in my youth; however when it comes to the Marvel version of the Nordic god of thunder, I’m really kind of a newb.

Truth be told, I’ve never read a Thor comic in my life, largely because I could never find an appropriate jumping on point in the character’s expansive continuity.

That being said, while I don’t know Thor all that well, I do consider myself a fairly knowledgeable movie buff; and it’s from that perspective that I’ve decided to throw together this article regarding my impression of the new Thor movie based on it’s recent trailer.

When I first heard that Thor was going to be directed by the great channeler of Billie Shakes himself, Kenneth Branagh; I found myself struck with a crystal clear vision of what to expect:

Shakespeare-ian melodrama, obscenely lavish and over-the-top costume and set designs, and a cameo by the director himself; most likely shirtless and covered in physique enhancing oil.

"I shall now remove my shirt.... For SCIENCE."

Basically, I expected Branagh’s Frankenstein, but with Norse gods and (sadly) no Bobbie D.

Upon viewing the trailer, I can’t help but feel that most of what I expected, good and bad; has come to fruition.

I’m a little disappointed in the fact that, based on the trailer anyway; many of the principle Asgardian (heh heh, “Ass-Guard”) characters are shown without their helmets and garb, most likely due to a creative decision along the lines of:

“The audience can’t connect with the characters if their faces are covered by their helmets!”

On that note, costume designs seem appropriately lavish and extravagant, and the sets seem impressively vast as seems to be the norm for any Kenneth Branagh film, however I feel it must be mentioned that the sets that appear to represent Niffelheim (the Norse realm of ice) seem a little anemic compared to the Asgardian ones.

While I’m on the topic of Niffelheim, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I’m excited to see how the Norse frost giants are depicted in this movie.

In glancing at the imdb for Thor, I happened to notice that Ymir is listed in the cast; which in my mind means we’ll be treated to a bit of a throwdown between him and Thor at some point in the film.

Call me crazy, but the idea of a big fuckin’ Scandinavian dude winging away with a mallet against a mountain-sized man of ice just seems like good watching in my book.

Here’s hoping Mr. Branagh doesn’t fuck it up by having the 2 of them give a soliloquy before initiating a “gentleman’s duel.”

...Or fuck it up by having Ymir look any less cool than THIS.

Sorry, I’m not much for Shakespeare…

Getting back to the movie, I don’t know if maybe the intention was that the Niffelheim sequence in the film was meant to be intentionally “stagy” or theatrical, but at this point the set just looks kind of cheap.

Like, Jerry Bruckheimer King Arthur cheap.

Pictured: A still from the climactic battle sequence of King Arthur.

Moving on, from what I can tell, the cast for the film seems fairly solid.

Casting Sir Anthony Hopkins (that’s right, I call him “sir.”  The question is: Why the fuck don’t you?) as Odin was pretty much a no-brainer.

The man has a voice, and gruff old man presence about him that makes him perfect for pretty much any elder god in all of mythology.

Curiously enough, both the actors for Loki and Thor are strangely unknown to me.

Tom Hiddleston, at least physically anyway, seems to fill Loki’s shoes rather well.

When I picture Loki, I picture a frail, weasely motherfucker that does pretty much all of his fighting with his words and his voice.

That is to say, while Hiddleston seems to look the part at this point; the effectiveness of his performance will likely be determined by the strength of the script… which will most likely suck ass.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor, seems to be a bit of a gamble; but a fairly well justified one.

Remember when Daredevil came out, and people were up in arms about Michael Clarke Duncan being cast as the Kingpin?

People were upset that a black man was cast for a white character, however they did so without taking into account the fact that the Kingpin, in the comics anyway; was supposed to be built like a brick-shit house.

Can you name any legitimately talented actors, black or white; with a physique that could meet that description as well as Michael Clarke Duncan?

BRICK. SHIT. HOUSE.

Didn’t think so.

My point is, while Chris Hemsworth is pretty much an unknown in Hollywood; I honestly don’t know of many actors that can pull off the whole “musclebound viking look.”

I said "actors." Yes, he probably would fill the role just fine though.

And don’t say “what about Brad Pitt?” because I honestly don’t think he’d be a good choice given that he’d probably put too much swagger into his Thor.

Stupid Brad Pitt, bein’ all sexy n’shit…

The last thing I’d like to say about the cast of Thor, is that I don’t know anything about the nature of her character in the comics or in the film, but the way they showed her in the trailer, Natalie Portman seems like she’s just there.

Nonetheless, that tends to count for a lot when you look like this.

Seriously, I don’t know if the marketing guys over at Marvel are to blame, but the way she’s treated in the trailer suggests that this may very well be a case of “Tree #3 as played by Natalie Portman.”

Maybe it’s just the fact that she’s the only one in the cast that doesn’t have a flashy and heavily ornamented suit of Scandinavian power armor, or the fact that her schedule was very likely crowded with, y’know; good movies she had to act in, but seriously; if it wasn’t Natalie Portman, I don’t think any of us would’ve even noticed her character in the trailer.

In closing, Thor looks to be pretty much what I expected.

I don’t expect an epic, fast-paced, or even all that entertaining an experience out of it, but it’s a Marvel movie, it has superheroes hitting each other, and yes; that is enough to make me go see it.

I want to see the Destroyer armor blow up cars.

I want to see how many creative ways a big hammer can be used to kill frost giants.

I want to see if Tadanobu Asano AKA the Brad Pitt/Johnny Depp of Japan, can make a name for himself in American films.

But most of all, I want to hurry up and skip this pile of ass so we can get to the good shit like Captain America and The Avengers.

Fanboy as I am, it’s more than likely that all of the above will end up sucking balls though.

Though Thor is the only one that can boast the possibility of a random shirtless Kenneth Branagh.

"I must do this scene, SHIRTLESS! The integrity of the film demands it!"

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