Rival Schools – United By Fate: Capcom 1998
At a time when the arcade was king, Capcom was the honored guest. Street Fighter II ushered in a financial windfall for owners, operators, and developers. Street Fighter II inspired and was directly responsible for the fighting game boom. Titles like King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, and Tekken (among many others) owe their success to Street Fighter II. Given the level of success that Capcom experienced it would not have been without question for them to rest on their laurels and watch the cash roll in. Thankfully, they didn’t. They explored other fighters, characters, and game styles. And one of the most successful, and best of these experiments, was Rival Schools. Rival Schools is a game about various teachers and students of different high schools in a fictional Japanese city being attacked. As the game progresses, we come to find out that one super stuffy, hoity-toity school (Justice High), is responsible. Pretty silly but have you read the rest of these articles? The gameplay is where this title really shines. Capcom simplified controls to four buttons instead of the standard six. Fights were one on one with a helper character available when your meter filled up enough. Special moves and combos were there like any good fighting game. Counters were also available and easy to pull off. Overall, Rival Schools: United by Fate was a welcome addition to the fighting game genre and a worthwhile way to spend some time with friends.
Battle Royale: Kinji Fukasaku 2000
And for the final film in this years series we get perhaps the perfect back to school flick, Battle Royale. In a dystopian future, the Japanese government has decided that in order to enact some measure of control of the unruly youth of the country, they will gas them, take them to a remote island, and make them fight to the death. (makes sense right?) Super controversial on its release (the book it’s based on was as well) it is now a highly respected examination of youth culture, teamwork, and the will to overcome. Starring a mostly unheralded cast, save for Beat Takeshi who we’ve spoken about before, the kids in this flick really go for it in their performances. It is a film that is equal parts tragic and heroic, horrifying and hopeful. The direction in this movie is without question the best of Fukasaku’s career, which sadly ended to prostate cancer after completion of the film. It is incredibly, sometimes off-puttingly violent in spots but so very worth the investment. I imagine this is what A Clockwork Orange felt like in the 70’s. New, different, violent, but with an underlying message worth experiencing. Spend an evening with this film and Rival School right before sending the kids back to school or heading back yourself. It’ll make for one hell of a night and a perfect endcap to summer.