Archive for January, 2009

They Are Legend, Part 1

Posted in VS Ramblings on January 15, 2009 by omnicresence

One of the essential driving forces behind the thriving success of the comic book genre, if not perhaps the most significant one in mainstream comics, is the presence of larger-than-life iconic characters who entertain us with their heroic deeds and dastardly schemes on a regular schedule, providing a brief escape into a world where anything is truly possible.  Before the emergence of leagues of justice and secret societies, the good guys and the bad guys usually flew solo, and even when the team books shipped out in force, one or two particular members would always stand out, depending on the reader.  It was nice to have seen this translated into VS, piecemeal at first but eventually reaching the point where every featured major team now has at least one such character granted “legendary” status.  More often than not, the unique traits and marvelous abilities of the legendary character are successfully represented in game terms, leading to delightful experiences where it really feels like two mighty characters are duking it out, spending every last ounce of strength and cunning to walk away victorious.

This is just a rundown of the various Legends that have made their mark in the VS universe, with an assessment of how skillfully they and their powers were transformed into VS cards, and the impact they have had on the game.  This list does not include characters that just happen to be referenced by another character (e.g. Mr. Hyde, Iron Fist), but characters who have at least one plot twist or location that requires them in play or in hand.

THE LEGENDS OF MARVEL

DR. DOOM

The original Legend was reigning with terror long before the concept of the Legend had even begun to form in the minds of the game developers, due to the interesting thematic of the Doom team that revolved around the presence of the Lord of Latveria.  Being a dictator at heart hungry for power and control, most of the Dr. Doom cards revolved around exhausting an opponent’s character, returning opposing characters to hand, preventing an opponent from playing plot twists, and making it harder to even touch Doom, not being worthy of his scorn.  Doom’s scientific and magical genius were reflected in his being able to search out and re-use plot twists with ease.

Later on, Dr. Doom’s propensity for treating his minions like groceries would lead to new incarnations of him that required the sacrifices of others to generate power.  Ultimately, all lived to serve Doom, as far as the cards went, and this was brilliantly portrayed in the game.

Doom was a prominent force to reckon with throughout the history of VS, either on his own or as one half of the dreaded Common Enemy archetype, and eventually in Doomed Earth builds, and though his popularity has waxed and waned over the years, he will undoubtedly be remembered as the first, and one of the greatest, of the Legends.

LEGEND RATING:  10 (out of 10)

MR. FANTASTIC

Doom’s nemesis is content to this day to tinker about with various amazing devices all day in his laboratory, and his earlier versions represented this by emphasizing his interactions with Equipment cards, either to reduce their cost, search them out, or both.  This is perhaps appropriate even though it seemed to neglect his stretchable body completely, since Reed Richards’ greatest weapon is really his peerless mind.  Thus, later versions of him, while dropping the equipment fascination, generated card advantage, under the premise that card drawing represented the vast amount of options available to someone of superior intellect.  Eventually, Marvel Legends gifted him with the appropriately flexible Stretch Out, at last showcasing his malleable form that could deflect damage or focus it towards a single point.

Mr. Fantastic, always the team player, has functioned best in the company of others, whether with his own first family or the shadow government of the Illuminati.  As such, he isn’t the linchpin of many strategies, but an important element for which you will always be grateful.

LEGEND RATING:  7

INVISIBLE WOMAN

Reputed to be the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four, Sue Richards is gifted with a vast array of abilities, from being able to turn invisible to generating force fields that could crush steel.  These gifts are adequately represented in her different versions, that provide reinforcement for your characters, turn them “invisible” by shunting them into the hidden area, and reducing the effectiveness of attacks.

The Invisible Woman was not, regretfully, a truly important element of strategies involving the Fantastic Four for the longest time, until Marvel Legends came along and finally allowed Sue to demonstrate her considerable abilities by means of stopping attacks with a Force Field Projection, or using Invisibility to keep her family safe from harm.  For a Legend, her support is minimal, but it does reflect her powers well.

LEGEND RATING: 6

HUMAN TORCH

Johnny Storm likes to play with fire, and his many versions showcase his incendiary nature excellently, either by “burning” your opponent with direct endurance loss or boosting Johnny’s attack with some endurance payment for him to “Flame On”!  Later versions of him could stun opponents out of combat or reduce defense, which employed a different strategic tack but was still accurate in terms of representing his flame powers.

Johnny’s Legend support, in the form of further defense reduction from Firewall and direct stuns from Heat Wave, proved to be a formidable combination for a deck archetype that whittled away at the defense of the opposing field and stunned them all before combat had even begun.  Though not one of the heavyweight VS Legends, Johnny has lately become a character to fear.

LEGEND RATING:  7

THE THING

The rocky blue-eyed Ben Grimm is the muscle behind the Fantastic Four, as represented by the huge stats on most of his versions.  No need for the Thing to be flashy; his oversized stats speak volumes enough.

Sadly, that really is mostly what Thing has going for him.  Clobberin’ Pine allows him to take a hit for one of his friends, and he’s got the mass to hit back, but at the end of the day, Thing is little more than a blunt instrument, in the comics or in the game.

LEGEND RATING: 2

SPIDER-MAN

Everyone’s friendly neighborhood web-slinger blasted into the VS scene in style, becoming the first non-army character in VS who could potentially have multiple copies of himself running around at the same time.  While his agility and various costume powers were translated nicely, it was his most devastating weapon, the incapacitating webs, that made him the most difficult 7-drop in the game to oppose.  Nobody enjoyed having all of his characters exhausted before he could even get to attack on his initiative.

In time, Spidey would get enhanced support for his web-slingers to Gift Wrap his foes, and his later incarnations dropped the agility and strength portions in favor of his fearsome exhaustion abilities.  Up to today, no other character in VS has been able to exhaust characters with the skill and consistency of Peter Parker, which is a sound achievement.

LEGEND RATING:  9

MAGNETO

The master of magnetism and one of the greatest X-Men foes was legendary at first simply due to his interaction with Genosha, although for the longest time he had earned his status as the most splashable 7-drop in the game.  He would make appearances in several other sets after Origins, though it would not be with any level of prominence.  Marvel Legends finally granted him a true Legend suite of cards, but regretfully, all of them seemed to focus on his ideology of wiping out Homo Sapiens, and not on his magnetic powers.  An exhaustion or equipment destruction/manipulation card would have been a nice tribute.  Today, Magneto feels like more of a supporting character in the game than the mighty villain/antihero that he was in the comics, which is a shame.

LEGEND RATING:  4

KANG

The time-traveling despot was the first non-army VS character to be specifically non-unique in his versions, to represent the many incarnations of him scattered throughout time.  Though he had quite a few cards that referred to him, he is most famous for the shenanigans caused by his many versions, and the possibility that one could build a deck with no characters aside from Kangs.

LEGEND STATUS:  4

WOLVERINE

Logan has always been a popular character in the comics, and likewise in VS, sporting a vast number of versions that reference his many different identities, his healing factor, and most of all his penchant for savage violence.  Marvel Legends granted him full use of his Adamantium Claws, allowed him to devastate the opposition with his Berserker Rages, and improved his Healing Factor to really demonstrate his resilience.  Almost every incarnation of Wolverine has managed to inspire terror, especially when backed up by this ridiculously useful Legend suite.  Hey, he really is the best there is at what he does.

LEGEND RATING:  10

JEAN GREY

Marvel Girl isn’t quite as marvelous game-wise as she is in the comics, as for the longest time she was useful mostly to clear the board on turn 8 and thereafter.  Admittedly, it isn’t easy to translate telekinesis and limited telepathy into VS game mechanics, but really?  Resource replacement?  Card draw also doesn’t seem to be the province of telekinesis/telepathy – more of discard, hand/resource reveals and stat augmentation to simulate flying projectiles or suppression of attacks.

To give her a fair shake, she does have a fearsome 5-drop incarnation, depending on how much Jean you get to dump in the KO’d pile, and the 8-drop is no slouch for stall tactics.  A good support legend, but could have been done much better.

LEGEND RATING: 6

PUNISHER

The skull-wearing, gun-toting antihero of the Marvel universe is all about shooting the bad guys, and his Legend support demonstrates that well in the form of his M-60s and his Scattergun, which can make any incarnation of the Punisher on which they are equipped a decimator of the opposition.  Even if he isn’t burning through hundreds of rounds of bullets, he can sit around planning the perfect Sniper Shot to instantly take out an opposing character.  Certainly a deadly force to reckon with, and it shows in his card form.

LEGEND RATING:  8

GHOST RIDER

The spirit of vengeance emphasized punishment of the wicked (i.e. your opponent) for their sins (of stunning your characters), and I like how this carried over into many of Ghost Rider’s versions, which affect your opponent badly or become stronger depending on whether your opponent has more of something than you, or simply if he managed to stun one of your characters.  Chain of Vengeance was revenge-wreaking fun, Anguish of the Innocent helped level the playing field a bit, and Wheels of Vengeance meant Ghost Rider had his motorcycle to ride up buildings and scare the reinforcement out of many an enemy.  Perhaps not very tournament-effective, but definitely very flavorful.

LEGEND RATING:  5

Next up:  I’ll finish off the rest of the Marvel legend characters, and hopefully move into the realms of DC.