Teacher says every time an album blings—that is, goes platinum—a rapper gets his wings. Well, a few more rhymers are flying high now that the soundtrack to NBA Live 2003 has shifted 1 million units. Why should you give a (bird) shit about contributor Fat Joe’s wallet getting even fatter, besides the fact that every time a song of his blings, a Crown Fried Chicken sells him twice as many wings? Because NBA Live 2003, the first game soundtrack to hit this mark, sets a precedent for entertainment industry synergy unmatched since, well, movie soundtracks. Who wants to hear fake funk when making a nasty dunk?
DEF JAM VENDETTA
For GameCube, PS2 (review version)
Developer Aki/EA Canada
Publisher EA Sports Big
Rating 6 (out of 10)
The world needs a new Smackdown-style brawler like rapper 50 Cent needs another hole in the head. Still, thanks to a particularly synergetic relationship struck by luminary hip-hop label Def Jam and gaming giant Electronic Arts, the underground wrestling fantasy Vendetta adds a previously unexploited gimmick to its predictably dumb story and vital four-player mode: characters modeled after real hip-hoppers. The celebs—who include Scarface, Method Man, Capone, N.O.R.E., Ludacris, and fly girl Christina Milian—picked their own outfits, wrestling maneuvers, and venues, while lesser-knowns like Joe Budden debut songs. Finally we get to bring home the glamour of bitter, high-profile beefs.
Actually, that’s one of Vendetta‘s problems—none of these affiliated artists have reason to fight one another. The day when we can mash buttons to watch Lil’ Kim yank out Foxy’s earrings, Eminem pistol-whip Benzino, or Biggie sit on Tupac belongs to a utopian future of reined-in egos and corporate cooperation. And although giving DMX something to really cry about appeals to some innate sense of pop-cultural justice, he doesn’t bring his own gimmicks, never mind personality, to the ring. (Also missing: wanksta Ja Rule. His imprint, Murder Inc., sat out, while Def Jam’s other subsidiary, Roc-A-Fella, plans its own title.)
Apparently we’re meant to be satisfied with the power-up “Blazin’ Mode,” activated when we play with consistent skill and toss out a dis—trash talk that we don’t even get to hear. Still, the easily accessible moves seem endless: There’s “Makin’ Footprints” (bone-crunching face-stomp), “Cheap Shot” (below the belt), and “Settin’ Off Bombs” (face hump on the ropes). And they often have hilarious names: “Smoked 4 Real”; “Perpetratin’ Armbar”; and “Unjust Conviction,” which I achieved, unsurprisingly, with a generic white character. If only DMX could sic his pit bulls on you, Funkmaster Flex burst your eardrums ID’ing himself, or Redman burn you with a blunt.
Kung Fu Chaos’s Xiu Tan Sour: pint-sized, but not soup
KUNG FU CHAOS
Developer Just Add Monsters
Hong Kong film subtitles from www.flubtitles.com, as reported in Harper’s: “Why have you moistened my head?”; “I am turned on. How to fix it now?”; “Long hung love will hurt.” The subtitle of Kung Fu Chaos scans fine: “Face full of fists!” But the up-to-four-players Chaos‘s creators clearly believe there’s something gained in mistranslation, or, at least, meta-translation: In “Ninja Challenge” your cartoonish character scraps her way through the collapsing sets of a martial arts flick directed by unfortunate braying stereotype Shao Ting.
The Kung Fu kitsch sinks pretty low (the predictably accented Ting announces, “I liking your style!” and there’s an obese character named Captain Won Ton), and the blaxploitation touches (sleazy funk soundtrack, shotgun-toting, Afro-haired character Lucy Cannon) aren’t exactly edgy. But the otherwise almost flawlessly executed retro design (which includes a grainy visual effect), lovely graphics, and combination of quick, arcade-style combat with ever mutating obstacles prove much more diverting than the bad humor.
Pint-sized cutie Xiu Tan Sour, one of eight protagonists at your disposal, wields paper-fan-style “blades of fanatical vengeance,” an expletive-symbol-shooting “taunt attack” (“You are a child of 1,000 bastard fathers!”), and a spiral-of-blades “super-attack.” Simple challenges, such as saving falling stuntmen, leaping away from hungry fish, and destroying wooden dummies, break up the intricate levels. On those, you must fend off hordes of ninjas while hopping from teetering bamboo stages and moving boats, and avoiding billowing green gas and a chomping dinosaur. Thugs should leave 50 Cent alone and take a shot at this game!
Now it folds in half! The new Game Boy Advance SP launches March 23.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 25, 2003