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‘Def Jam: Fight for NY’ and the Art of Battle

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Video games are weird, and none come any weirder than the hip-hop-influenced fighter, Def Jam: Fight for NY.  The background of this often forgotten gem stems from its predecessor, Vendetta, a game that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have happened. Publisher, Electronic Arts, initially meant for the Def Jam: Vendetta to be a follow-up to its last 2 wrestling projects, WCW: Mayhem and Backstage Assault.  The project seemed promising enough, with Japanese developer, AKI, manning the construction of the game’s mechanics. AKI was responsible for the two WCW licensed games for the Nintendo 64, WCW/nWo World Tour and the critically acclaimed WCW/nWo Revenge, as well as the acclaimed WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy. The deal fell apart, due to Vince McMahon’s purchase of WCW in March of 2001, and a faiedl attempt to revive the brand later in the year, causing the project to be nearly scrapped entirely. The assets of the canceled WCW game were transferred over to what would be known as Def Jam: Vendetta, which was successful enough to warrant a sequel. But instead of resting on their laurels, EA and AKI would use the wrestling template to create one of the most appropriately urban and influentially hip-hop fighting games ever made.

While Def Jam: Fight for NY wasn’t the greatest fighter ever made, not even during the dry spell of fighters in the mid-2000s, it does arguably give the most respect to the art of hip-hop out of any game ever made. That sounds more loaded than anyone would actually realize because, on the surface, it looks like one of the worst examples of “rapper” tripe that was coming out pretty regularly during that time, with the profane dialogue, the excessive bling, a story with a script that plays out like gangster rap fan fiction, and an amount of product placement that would make a militantly conscious rapper lose his mind. But if the player digs a little deeper, the game, in and of itself, is a portrait of battle emceeing taken to a physical extreme, both figuratively and literally. But to understand the parallels, one has to understand the very roots of battle emceeing itself, which unfortunately means bringing up the one event in American history that everyone would like to forget… briefly, but still.

Battle

Battle emceeing is rooted in the “Yo Mama” back-and-forths, which were known in African-American communities as the Dirty Dozens, or just “the Dozens”. The Dozens was conceptualized from American Slavery, where slaves were sold one at a time unless they were suffering from some kind of ailment; illness, missing limbs, etc. Those “defected” slaves were sold by the dozens.  During down time, the dozens would crack jokes to one another, usually at each other’s emotional expense in an extreme sense.  This tradition of verbal combat would last for generations, with even a young Cassius Clay using the Dirty Dozen’s format to launch a barrage towards Sonny Liston in a famous interview, and it would become a perfect fit for hip-hop, especially when the shift of focus went from the DJ to the emcee. Conceived in the South Bronx, New York, hip-hop was used as an alternative from the omnipresent criminality of the street, with battle emceeing being used as an alternative from the use of guns, and even fists, to solve civil disputes.

DJFFNY2

How does Fight for NY fit the paradigm of battle emceeing, when the point of the game is to beat each other into hamburger?  Well, within the extreme nature of the combat; the game plays more like an urbanized Enter the Dragon or Master of the Flying Guillotine blended with amateur mixed-martial arts. Many rappers, particularly the lyrically inclined, often liken their styles to martial arts anyway. Some say that’s how can tell a good rapper from a bad one; the ones who take the time and put forth the effort into what they say so that it becomes second nature, as opposed to the ones that sound jumbled and, well, stupid. The former would destroy the latter. The same principle applies to fighters too; remember that CM Punk/Mickey Gall fight? While it can be argued that Punk is a decent fighter in his own right (maybe), Gall’s been training in mixed-martial arts for his entire life, while Punk only utilized his Muay-Thai style for professional wrestling; not exactly the same thing. Regardless of intent, the similarities were there from the start, and the individual styles of each licensed fighter in the game reflect their styles as rappers, from Redman and Ludacris’ fast and in-your-face styles, to Ghostface Killah and Scarface’s hard-bodied power tactics.

There’s also a matter of the setup of all of the venues, particularly the ones that include crowd involvement. During what we now called freestyle battles, the point of the performance of each emcee is to win the accolades and affection of the audience. It’s usually done with well-placed punchlines and witty wordplay.  During a fight in Fight for NY, members of the audience only get involved if the fighter hits his opponent with a staggering haymaker and creative combos. There’s even a mode in the game where the fighter who the audience likes the most (dictated through an arbitrary high money count) wins the match, even if the winner gets knocked out. No, really!

Def Jam: Fight for NY was originally released for the Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube, and got a follow-up of its own. But with a shift in developers (from AKI to EA Chicago, which developed the Fight Night games) came a shift in the direction. While the physical manifestation of battle emceeing concept stayed intact, Def Jam Icon’s use of a “realistic” fighting system rather than the over-the-top, tactile, Ong-Bak-inspired action from AKI’s wrestling mechanics, caused the game to lose its soul in transition. The point of Def Jam: Fight for NY was to use those wrestling mechanics to create something entirely original, a point that EA Chicago apparently miss. It’s worth checking out, and will hopefully give a sliver of appreciation for hip-hop culture with this new perspective of the game… hopefully.

Lifelong gamer since the days of the NES, retrospection is the bread and butter behind the writing, loyal Nintendo and Playstation fan, ol' school movie buff, part-time writing, part-time cook, full-time student, full-time cool dude.

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Watch the Trailer for ‘The Mandalorian’ the First Live-Action ‘Star Wars’ Series

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Thanks to the arrival of the D23 Expo, Disney has revealed the first trailer for its long-awaited Star Wars original series, The Mandalorian.

Created by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), the series is set after the events of Return of the Jedi and follows Pedro Pascal as a mysterious, gun-slinging Mandalorian bounty hunter who navigates the seedier side of the Star Wars universe.

Along with Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian stars Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog, and Taika Waititi. The first season of episodes will be directed by filmmakers like Dave Filoni, Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow.

the mandalorian trailer

Here’s the official description of The Mandalorian:

After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.

The Mandalorian begins streaming on Disney+ on November 12, 2019.

Check out The Mandalorian trailer below.

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Soundtrack Gets a Vinyl Release

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While we don’t publish music news or music reviews here at Goomba Stomp, we are huge fans of vinyl and since we cover film, we figured this announcement would interest some of our readers.

Back in 2017, Jordan Peele’s Get Out topped our list of the best films of 2017 and while the year isn’t yet over, there’s a good chance his follow-up Us, will land somewhere on our best of the year list as well. There are many reasons why we love Peele’s ambitious sophomore film including for the suspense, cinematography, performances, and direction, but one thing that doesn’t get enough praise is the soundtrack by Michael Abels. And if you like us, love the original score, you’re going to love this bit of news.

After giving his Get Out soundtrack a vinyl release last year, Jordan Peele is now doing the same for the soundtrack to Us.

WaxWork Records announced the news earlier today and if you’re planning on buying a copy, you don’t have to wait since it is now available to purchase through the label’s website.

The soundtrack, which received a digital release earlier this year, features composer Michael Abels’ score, in addition to songs from Janelle Monáe, Minnie Ripperton and the “Tethered Mix” of Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It” that appeared in the film’s first trailer. The album artwork was created by illustrator Edward Kinsella and features an interactive die-cut mirror board back cover, a heavyweight art print and an exclusive essay from UCLA Professor, scholar, and activist Shana L. Redmond Ph.D.

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Trailer for the Twisted Dark Comedy thriller ‘Villains’

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Alter has released the first poster and the official trailer for Villains, the upcoming dark comedy thriller which stars Bill Skarsgård (IT) and Maika Monroe (It Follows) as a couple who rob a gas station and scores enough cash to start a new life in Florida. Unfortunately for them, their getaway plans turn upside down and the young couple end up stumbling on much more than they bargained for.

Villains hits theaters on September 20th and was written and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. In addition to Skarsgard and Monroe, the movie also stars Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick. It’s co-produced by Bron Studios, Star Thrower Entertainment, Creative Wealth Media Finance, and The Realm Films. You can watch the trailer for Villains below.

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Beanie Babies: The Collectables with Heart

Toys We Love Spotlight

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For our Toys We Love Spotlight, I’m looking at one of my personal favourites: Beanie Babies. I had collected so many of these growing up, and households worldwide in the 90s and early 2000s were sure to have at least one Beanie Baby in their possession (was it even the 90s if they didn’t?). These plushie companions were cute, cuddly, and collectable, so it’s not a surprise that the Beanie Babies craze swept the globe, forcing parents and toy collectors everywhere to dig into their wallets.


Beanie Babies had a few aspects to them that made them stand out from your average plushie. Firstly, they did not have as much stuffing as most soft toys. Whilst some thought that this made them look cheap, it also made them light, posable, and gave them a realistic feel and look. The bear Beanie Babies were particularly good to pose, and this set them apart from run-of-the-mill teddy bears. Another element that made Beanie Babies more unique was their special tag. Each toy had a tag attached which had the toy’s name, date of birth, and a quotation etched inside. The former was something that could have been a risky choice, as although it wasn’t completely taking away the child’s choice of name — there was nothing stopping them from just calling their Beanie whatever they wanted — a pre-selected name can be difficult to sell, as kids can often take great pride and pleasure in naming their toys.

It was a great success, however, and worked as a nice finishing touch for the Beanie Babies, adding a dash of personality and flair (something much needed in the often critically over-saturated soft toy market), as well as making each Beanie Baby feel like their own creature with their own little stories. Adding to that was the wide variety of animals that were available, such as Tiny the Chihuahua, Pegasus the Unicorn or Swampy the Alligator. This means that the desires of each individual child or enthusiastic collector could be catered to (I myself favoured the dogs and bears).

The puppies were my Beanie Baby of choice. They were all such good boys and girls.

The Beanie Babies also had their own way of tackling difficult issues in society, showing them to kids through the guise of a soft toy. I’ll give you an example through my own experience: I had a Beanie Baby that (as odd as it may sound) gave me more of an understanding of the horrors of September 11th. Weird, right? Allow me to explain. I was only just nine years old on that now-historical day when the twin towers in New York were attacked and so many innocent people lost their lives. I had come home from school (it was afternoon time here in the UK when it happened), and I remember my mum watching it on television in complete shock. She had watched the whole thing whilst I’d been at school.

I didn’t really understand what was happening to be honest. Even when I was watching the repeats of the plane crashing into the side of the tower, I was somewhat oblivious the gravity of the situation (though as a nine year old child, I suppose I could be forgiven for that). The news continued to report the tragedy for a long time, and my school held assemblies to discuss the matter. I knew people had died, and that made me very sad, but I remember thinking that people died all the time, so why was this one incident reported on so much? About a month or so after, TY released three Beanie Babies as a tribute to those lost during 9/11. One of these was a Dalmatian Beanie Baby called Rescue, and I wanted him the moment I saw him, not really knowing the true nature of his purpose. My mum obliged happily, knowing what he represented. I remember taking my little Dalmatian with the red collar and American flag on his leg home and reading his tag. It read:

To honor our heroes
who lost their lives in the
national catastrophe that
took place on September 11, 2001.
We mourn for them and express our
deepest sympathy to their families.
God Bless America

Rescue the Dalmatian was joined by America the Bear and Courage the German Shepherd. The Beanies were a set of three released to honor those who perished in the tragedy of 9/11.

I found Rescue in my room recently, and the memories flooded back to me upon reading it again. I remember looking into all the acts of heroism and bravery after reading Rescue’s tag, and that’s when the situation really hit home to me. I looked into the stories of firefighters and first responders and those who had died, as well as all the search-and-rescue dogs attempting to save people among the chaos. As a child, it can be hard to see past your immediate opinion and truly consider the sheer weight of a situation, but with Rescue’s help, I was able to see just how this event was indeed very different to anything I had ever seen before, and how serious it was. It was the first time I felt like I was thinking like a grown up. I looked at the world differently from then on — obviously as I got older, but also from my ability to think harder and search deeper. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have even bothered if it wasn’t for Rescue reminding me of exactly how much was lost on that day.

Rescue, perhaps the goodest and bravest boy of them all.

Beanie babies will forever be ingrained in culture. They are still bought, sold and collected even now and will remain a timeless staple of most of our childhoods. They certainly are for me. Especially you Rescue, the bravest firefighting Dalmatian the world has ever known.

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‘Shenmue III’ Gamescom Trailer Details a Day in the Life of Ryo

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The original Shenmue games pioneered the open world genre, in part through their inclusion of many different minigames and side activities. The Kickstarter-funded Shenmue III looks to continue that legacy, as developer Ys Net and publisher Deep Silver have debuted a new trailer at Gamescom 2019 entitled “A Day in Shenmue.”

The developers provided the following description of the trailer via their latest Kickstarter update: “Exploring the town, playing minigames and battling! We hope it feels just how a Shenmue day should!” Sure enough, the footage showcases the series protagonist Ryo participating in a number of minigames, such as a boxing game and a pachinko machine. The end of the trailer also includes a good look at the series’ signature kung fu combat.

Beyond the new trailer, the Kickstarter update also noted that Yu Suzuki, the famed creator of Shenmue, will be present at Gamescom for autograph signings.

After numerous delays, Shenmue III will finally launch on November 19, 2019 for PS4 and PC via the Epic Games Store.

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Freelance Film Writers

Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.

Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com

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