Thursday, June 04, 2009

Saturday Night Slam Masters: Undisputed Muscle Bomber Comeback!!

The premise is simple -- bring back the early nineties Capcom wrestler Saturday Night Slam Masters in a whole new way for a whole new generation!

We started talking about this during a post a couple of days ago, and I'm going to be honest, I haven't really given it much more thought. Making punch noises in the shower while imagining shampoo bottle Zangief and Haggar duking it out for the right to rinse is about the extent of it, but with a concept like this, that's probably all the thought that a talented programmer really needs!

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm just going to steal images wholesale from the Gamespy "Hardcore Gaming 101" entry for Muscle Bomber. If you want to know more about the game and it's characters, you should definitely go have a look! Now! Do it, maggot!!!

Any S.N.S.M. revival would demand a great sense of balance if it's to achieve success.
In a perfect world, it should sit somewhere between the hyperactive action of Street Fighter IV and the pro wrestling format of Smackdown! vs RAW. It should combine conventional wrestling styles and characters, with the over-the-top energy that made Capcom famous. It should have an Arcade Mode on the top of the select menu, to cater to gamers who want fight their way freely through a ladder of opponents; while also placing a Career Mode right beneath it to allow players to embark on a story-driven quest to obtain the title and become the undisputed muscle bomber!

In theory, an SNSM revival would have the time and faith behind it to garner a great dev team.
Like any fighting game, the foundation lies in the successful construction of characters who have their own vivid fighting techniques that do not interfere with the perfection of a balanced fair fight. Characters should definitely possess advantages of strength, speed, endurance, and technique, but that should never be at the cost of a player's potential to win.

As basically fundamental as the success of the fighting engine should be -- it arguably comes second to the creative direction, which should be funding any level of development throughout the process. The mechanics of each fighting style should come directly from the references that have invented the character, ensuring each fighter has their own nuances and trademarks.
In a perfect world, gameplay would strike a balance between the vast customary movesets of any WWE wrestling game, whilst combining it with the fast paced simplicity of execution that the original Slam Masters was known for.
The construction of gameplay pretty much takes care of the basic idea. On this foundation is where a SNSM revival would set itself apart from it's previous SF-lite incarnations, utilizing cosmetics to create a whole new experience. Sure, Arcade and Online modes are probably where a lot of classic gamers would flock, but the real experience would lie in the Career mode.

Unlike SFIV; SNSM should fully embrace what Capcom's twenty-year old stable has to offer.
Bring back all those original characters from the last game, but for crying out loud, give your other characters a chance to shine! When I think "pro wrestling" and "Capcom" I think - Zangief!
The fame of these well established characters not only makes the prospect of playing them in a wrestling game exciting, but also panders directly to the traditions of heirarchy in wrestling! Let Zangief and his ilk be the headlining talent that budding Career Mode players work toward!

Rainbow Mika, Hugo Andores, Poison, El Fuerte, Alex, SodomBirdie, and if possible, Darun Mister, are all absolutely obvious inclusions for any Capcom wrestling game. Coming from SFA, SFIII, SFIV, SFEX, and Final Fight, they're the ready in-game equivalents of Triple H, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Goldberg, and any other prominent wrestling example you want to think of. They carry the exact same name value and weight as any longstanding superstar of the wrestling world, and should be made use of accordingly!

Similarly, precedent from the professional wrestling world gives you the chance to work in unique attract events, like elusive encounters with celebrity guests. Balrog, Ken Masters, and Fei Long, feel absolutely comparable to boxing, martial arts, and cinematic guest stars that have helped push WWE into the spotlight in the past. These special events could allow SNSM the chance to battle these specially unlocked opponents, team with them, or maybe just have cheeky ringside encounters and intereferences.

Add these headliners to the slightly more obscure SNSM classic cast of; Sheep the Royal, King Rasta, Lucky Colt, Mysterious Budo, Titan the Great, Aleksy Zalazof, El Stinger, Kimala the Bouncer, Astro, Black Widow, Victor Ortega, Wraith, and Rip Saber; and suddenly you're building a very credible roster of wrestlers to fill out tier-based progression in a career mode.

For me, a great attraction of a new Slam Masters would be the chance to use a better developed wrestling game to establish the otherwise vague characters moreso. More extravagant entrance treatments complete with music and effects would help communicate details about the characters just like "real" wrestling. Likewise, the chance to use storylines to build rivalries and establish attitudes would also be an opportunity to develop the characters further. The creation of some new characters - based upon popular references, and convenience - would also allow for tailor made rivalries on top of pre-existing opportunities. Career mode's story could allow these to play out through a series of standard events, and feuds and rivalries unique to characters, all set to a calendar of Saturday Night fights that culminate with monthly PPV-style mega events.

Setting itself apart from the Arcade mode; Career mode would also have the luxury of allowing players to continue unhindered despite their defeats. Statistical rankings systems, checkpoints, and other unseen factors could provide basic branching points for your unfolding story. Something that could be contributed to through annual (or more regular) DLC storylines.

Admittedly, nothing about this post has been quite as well thoughtout as I'd hoped, and that might not have adequately represented the idea. In this generation of retro revivals like Street Fighter IV and Punch-Out!!, it seems increasingly important that each game have a strong reason for being in order to avoid another conceptual recession.

As a game not quite arcade, and not quite simulation, I think a new Slam Masters could be the perfect comeback vehicle for the Muscle Bombers to find an undisputed Capcom champion! By capitalizing on references, it even has the opportunity to go places no previous Street Fighter has quite gone. Maybe next time I'll pluck up the courage and geek-out completely over ideas for some of the characters.

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