Friday, October 12, 2012

The Horrible World of Smartphone Bootleggery

When I was a kid my family would annually go on vacation to Florida to see family and do vacation stuff. We would often go to flea markets and outlet malls and stuff like that to find weird stuff for whatever reason was not in the flea markets and outlet malls of Michigan. At one point I got a wall scroll of Iori from The King of Fighters, and another I got an amazing bootleg toy of Zero from Mega Man X. It was clearly based off of the mold for the old Bandai model kits, but it was already assembled and the colors were all wrong. All his armor was metallic silver and his hair was blue. Sure it was janky, but it also looked cool and it was very cheap. Also, the paint was so thick, though probably also poisonous, that the joints would actually stay together, unlike a certain X model. My point is that bootlegs are awful, but entertaining, and on occasion might accidentally do something right.

I love "super fighters" and "mortal kombats"!
This memory came to me recently as I was browsing the Google Play store, looking for some new games to waste two minutes of my day, and I got much the same feeling as I had when browsing shady flea markets. Everyone knows of the big cases, Gameloft has made a great deal of money aping popular console titles, particularly with their Modern Combat series that follows the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games. And of course there is Zynga, which has become a mobile and social gaming juggernaut, mainly by stealing games and painting over them with their terrible art style. I'd like to say that Zynga is the The Asylum of video games, but that doesn't really fit. The Asylum is a small company eating the table scraps of Hollywood by making mockbusters. If the Asylum were actually like Zynga, then Transformers would be a small indie movie, and Transmorphers would have made millions.

No, games in the Google Play store are often much more like those bootleg toys found in flea markets, made as cheaply as possible to capitalize on the work of others. FYI, I am not going to link to the games because I don't think people should actually install them. Searching for The King of Fighters, the first result is not The King of Fighters Android, the official version of KoF for the platform, but King of Fighters – History by Boxing Games. This game uses the name of KoF, has an icon that is from Street Fighter Alpha 2, and the game itself is just an emulated version of Data East's Fighter's History. I appreciate the irony, and I would probably laugh the whole thing off it weren't for the fact the game has banner ads, and someone is theoretically making money off of it.

Just under KoF is Kung Fu Do Fighting by WaGame, starring a main character that looks something between Kim Kaphwan and his son Kim Jae Hoon from the Fatal Fury series in a Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo Ryu intro pose. The sprites are too small and poorly animated to have been directly copied from anything, but the design inspirations are obvious. The game is just way too limited to be good in any way. It's not even possible to crouch, and the only thing need to win is to hold forward and hit the single attack button until the opponent is done, possibly pressing the super button when the bar is full. The classiest bit about the game is probably the banner ads that cover up life bars and the video ads that play between matches.

Capcom is not immune to this sort of shenanigans either. A search for Street Fighter quickly turns up the game Super Fighter Heroes, referred to as Street Fighter Heroes in game menus, by successful copyright infringer (and probably the same company/person as Boxing Games) LOVEMARIO LTD. For some reason they didn't just use the rom of Street Fighter 2, and the game is actually an emulated version of Jaleco's Brawl Brothers. It even says so right there on the character select screen, which is the first screenshot on the game's page. Of course, there are ads abound. Also of note is LOVEMARIO LTD's Zombies Hunt - Save The People, which is Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Another rom with banner ads is Fatal Mission-MegaMan X by HAPPY MOBILE LTD (AKA the same people again), which, obviously, Mega Man X.

On the slightly higher end are the games from Playphone. While they certainly steal ideas, art, designs, and general aesthetics from others, they at the very least make their own games with some minimum amount of quality. For example, a search for Castlevania will turn of Castle of Shadows, a game that looks to be trying extremely hard to be an IGA Castlevania game. Sadly, it is only like one in looks because it is a very boring, linear, hack and slash game. The type where everything is just a clusterfuck of explosions and numbers.

Another game from them is Street Fight, which is a beat 'em up with a whole lot of artistic theft. Most obvious is that the main character's portrait is clearly the a drawn over version of Kyo's The King of Fighters XIII art, while the female lead is swiped King. The art on the game's page includes K', Maxima's back, and a bunch of character portraits from The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match. Why make your own shit when you can just throw your logo over a screenshot from the intro of 02UM? Other bits of lacking originality can be found in the main character's special moves. And to top it off, the loud screens feature King from Tekken for some reason.

Totally not K's Crow Bites.
Totally not that one move Benimaru does.
I've always liked Metal Slug, but I always thought it was just too precisely controlled, well animated, and fun to play. Thankfully Playphone has my back with Assaulter and Metal Slugs, a knockoff of Metal Slug that plays itself. All the player has to do is wag his or her finger around to move and the game will do all the aiming and shooting. The Metal Slug always had a lot of shit going on screen, but it was always manageable and understandable. With Assaulter, it doesn't matter that the game is a clusterfuck of explosions and numbers because the player doesn't need know what is going on because the game plays itself.

There are many other curious games on Google Play. Zombie Hunt for Resident Evil by digicave is a simple zombie shooting gallery with gyroscopic controls that has Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City branding because fuck the police. Escape From Three O Four by Harris Co. Ltd is a point and click room escape adventure game Silent Hill branding because fuck you. Ken GO by iTsu Mobile Inc. is what I can only describe as a Ken Masters simulator because fuck fuck fuck fuck. I give up. I don't know how much money is being made off of this stuff, but it has to be something, and that is just wrong. I now feel bad about buying that bootleg Zero. I'm sorry Capcom, this is all my fault.

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