Saturday, October 21, 2023

Creed Champions (Playstation 4, 2021)


This might be interesting for people who like the Rocky series. That's right, it's a Rocky video game and it's actually pretty good. It takes place after Creed II and gives you some story from that timeframe. The main draw here, though, is that you can relive fights from the rest of the Rocky series via character flashbacks. They're technically "telling the story" which means they have some leeway here to go in unexpected directions with what-ifs.

Technically this is a Creed game, but going off of the trophy counts the majority of people played as Rocky. So I'd say they're both the main character. In any case, we've got arcade ladders (different for every character), versus mode (two players can fight on a couch, there's no online though), and your other normal options.

Speaking of the movies...what do people think is the best one?
Looks like I voted with the winner (4), though the first one has a sizable nostalgic fanbase. The third movie is a ton of fun and I think it's a bit underrated. Surprised the Creed movies have so few votes, would think they'd at least benefit from recency bias.

At the end of the day, none of these is the wrong choice. The whole series is good and every movie at least has some shining moments. .......except maybe 5.

Character selection. Half the characters are locked from the get go which is annoying. You have to play through arcade mode as characters from the top row in order to unlock the character under them. Which means beating the game as various jobbers to unlock some of the characters. PROTIP: Playing 2-3 battles in versus mode as a character will also do the trick without having to do their arcade ladder.

In any case, we've got: Rocky, Adonis, Apollo (hidden at first), Clubber Lang (same), Ivan Drago (same), Viktor Drago, Ricky Conlan, Danny Wheeler, a couple of minor characters from the movies (like the first guy Adonis fights), and a bunch of jobbers created specifically for this.

Apollo is unlocked by beating the game as Rocky. Like I mentioned, another way to unlock characters is just to play versus mode a bit, so I give that a whirl.

You have to defeat unlocks before you can play as them (only with the versus mode method though). This means we get the impossible dream match of Apollo vs his kid. That's actually what this game is particularly good for: Dream fights between people who never actually crossed paths in the series.

Apollo is super fast, probably the fastest character in the game, and swarms his foes with strikes.

Dozens? Apollo's DOZENS of fans, folks.

Arcade mode is the meat of the game. Each character has their own ladder, and not only that, they have some interesting story bits sprinkled in. Rocky's ladder revolves around him training Adonis in the present and telling him about all of his old legendary fights (which you then get to relive).

We get a bunch of Sports Training Montage minigames sprinkled in. These are fun "quick response" button-pressers that sharpen the reflexes. They have no effect on the game though. Like you don't get more powerful or anything and there's no penalty for "failing" one. So they're just there for you to sharpen your own reflexes.

Ah yes, the Gandhi Method of combat. Don't defend yourself, just roll into a ball and wait for your attackers to get tired.

The very first fight for Rocky is Apollo of all people. This is the Rocky II version of the fight so you have to win. Yep, it's skipping right over the first movie.

This plays more like a fighting game than a boxing simulator. I'd say Punch-Out is a better boxing simulator. This is a very basic and simplistic game in comparison. You can shuffle around the ring in three dimensions and you've got quick punches, strong punches, and charged-up punches. Each character also has a special punch that does a lot of damage, but is easy to avoid unless you use it when your opponent is mid-swing already.

They add some room for skill growth by having counters and evades, as well. A couple of really good players could probably have a chain of counters and evasions as they try to hit each other. Not really necessary against the CPU though.

Rocky wins and becomes the world champion! Woo hoo!

Except Adonis points out that the fight seemed way too easy and Apollo put up a much better fight than that. Since it's the first fight in the game and kinda had to be easy, this is a good way to explain it. Since we're going off of Rocky's memory, he's remembering the fight as being easier than it actually was.

Next up we get Clubber de-throning Rocky in cutscene. These cutscenes are very unimpressive and basically the equivalent of cardboard cutouts and text boxes. They get the job done though.

Apollo is gonna train Rocky for the rematch. What does this mean? It means we get "Eye of the Tiger" playing in the actual game. Whoa!

More Sports Training Minigames!

Mostly just impressed they actually got the music for this.

Look at Apollo hamming it up before the big fight.

This is the Rocky III main event and it's pretty awesome to play out in a game. Clubber is super-strong but a little bit slower.

Clubber with a vicious knockdown!

When your life meter gets depleted, you have to hammer a button to get back to your feet. You can only do this 3 times in a fight though. Fall a fourth time and it's an immediate KO. The CPU is the same way, with a few exceptions. Ivan Drago can get up a fourth time. And sometimes your opponents stay down on the second or third fall. Not sure if this is dependent on who the character is, or something else like what took them down. It's possible that taking an opponent down with a charged special might increase the odds that they stay down.

Rocky unleashes his own special attack, which is absolutely vicious.

It was a rough brawl, but I did it. Clubber looks pretty dead.

Our heroes reign supreme and live happily ever after.

Well, not quite. Since the game ignores the fifth and sixth movies, and since we need padding for the arcade ladder, we now get this side-story where Rocky and Apollo go to Mexico to celebrate.

This results in Apollo running his mouth and causing Rocky to have to fight this Ramirez guy who used to be a prominent boxer. Apollo then hams it up and Ramirez asks them to leave while Rocky apologizes.

Next up is the Kintaro of the game, Ivan Drago. He's the second-to-last fight but really should be last because he's the toughest opponent.

This fight is really, really good because of how tough of a foe he is. Ya know what, I'll just put the whole fight here:

Yeah, this fight went places, and is a good demonstration of how this game is at its best.

It took a couple tries, but I got him on my last life meter with room to spare. The rounds are one minute and there's some strategy here to making use of the timer. If time runs out and a new round starts, both fighters regain like 30% of a health bar. So if your opponent is low on health, you want to try and knock them down before time runs out. If they get up and get a new health bar, the round ending won't benefit them at all. Similarly, if you're low on health and the round is almost over, you want to avoid getting finished so you can get that heal.

Last fight of Rocky mode is a hypothetical matchup with him versus Creed. Adonis Creed that is.

This fight is actually super-even, as one would expect, and almost as tough as Ivan. I like that it takes place in the Delphi gym so it's just a fun exhibition.

Though it's just a hypothetical in the end, they didn't really fight. There's no way Prime Rocky and Prime Adonis can actually have a match.

Next up is Adonis' arcade ladder, which starts with him fighting Sammy Guevara's Raichu Form.

Adonis is average and well-rounded in all regards, like Rocky, though I am finding his fights tougher to win than Rocky's were. Rocky may have the edge.

Adonis' arcade ladder is kinda weird. I expected it to be him retelling the story of his first two movies, but instead it's all post-Creed II with him fighting various jobbers as part of a tournament.

The guy running the tournament is Shang Tsung this Benji guy, who is clearly doing his best to embarrass Adonis (the reigning champion at this point in time)

The third to last fight of this ladder is Viktor Drago, who I totally expected to be Adonis' final boss. These two are friends at this point and make that very clear. They're also semi-finalists of this weird tournament.

Viktor is a cool guy, and also a powerhouse like his dad. Er, his father. "Dad" implies that the guy actually plays the role of a dad.

It's a very tough fight, but not as much so as Ivan.

After this ladder I think I'm gonna check out Viktor mode, then once the unlocks are all done, Clubber/Ivan/Apollo. That's pretty much everything of note in this game, since the rest of the characters are largely goobers.

Speaking of goobers, Benji seems to be wearing boxing gloves. Who is this dude? He's also using the dastardly "Baby Creed" term that incenses Adonis.

The Kintaro of this ladder is Ricky Conlan, the champion of Creed I. This is a rematch with Adonis as champ, and I think it's their rubber match.

Last fight is against this crooked promoter, who tried to blackmail Adonis and stuff. It's a lot of weirdness and I'm not gonna go into it. Suffice to say he's a douche.

It's funny how he just jumps in the ring without proper attire. The guy makes references to Rocky VI which makes me wonder if he was in that movie.

Adonis squashes him and I move on. That happened.

Well, so far the real meat of this game was the Rocky arcade ladder, just to relive the classic fights.

Next I run through the Viktor ladder. It's basically him moping around after his loss to Adonis and buying drinks from this giant dwarf.

He laments how everywhere he goes he has to deal with people hating him because of his nationality and who his father is.

This mode is basically all jobber fights, which I'm guessing is the case for most of the arcade ladders.

Oh yeah, Ivan also abandoned him...again.

Viktor ends up going to a training camp in Mexico to find himself, where he battles Danny Wheeler. This could be a dream match of sorts for Creed II superfans, since Wheeler is like the perennial #1 contender in those movies.

His last fight is a friendly spar with Adonis and that's it for this guy. Most importantly, this unlocks...

...Ivan Drago to be playable. Gonna do more with this. Who's gonna win the Ivan/Clubber dream match? Will Apollo avenge his loss in a hypothetical? What happened in the secret third battle between Rocky and Apollo? FIND OUT... RIGHT NOW!

Checking out Clubber Lang of Mr. T fame next. This guy is a beast.

Here he is doing what he does best: Clubbing people.

Clubber has a lot of training minigames in-between crushing his foes en route to the title. This story mode takes place before and during Rocky III.

Most of it is jobber fights with people we've never seen before this game, but it's kind of fun to squash foes as this guy regardless.

Clubber is also really into insulting his opponents, which goes against the code of conduct for The Sport. So a lot of them take offense, including the giant dwarf (seen here in younger form).

Clubber towers over most of his foes. Was Mr. T actually this large?

Clubber's got his sights set on BALBOA.

Clubber wipes out another foe! By God the man's been broken in half!

You've just been CLUBBERED.

Unlike actual Rocky III, Apollo steps in to challenge Clubber in Rocky's defense. This is another dream match for the series.


This is it. Clubber vs Rocky. The first time, so I can win it.


YOUR NEWWWW CHAMPION. And that's it for Clubber. I was kinda hoping it'd continue on and do some kind of hypothetical alternate universe story where Clubber is the one to defend America against Ivan, but nope.

Speaking of, time for Ivan's story mode. Clubber has matured a bit, and actually shows some class by calling out Ivan for Apollo's death. Clubber may be a brutal fighter who insults his foes and mauls them with no mercy, but killing an opponent is too far. I think this means Clubber is gonna be Ivan's final boss, which is a pretty compelling match.

First fight. Wait, the game is gonna make me kill Apollo Creed? THEY'RE GONNA MAKE ME KILL APOLLO CREED.

Ivan's fighting style is pretty much what he used against Apollo in the movie. Giant haymakers one after another.

So that happened. I'm astonished that they included that.

After that disaster, it jumps forward to post Rocky IV.

Ivan goes to the same Mexican bar that everyone else goes to in this game, where people relentlessly mock him.

He doesn't know what to do with himself so he just smashes random guys who pick fights with him.

Not sure what the "incredible dream" was here.

Clubber makes an astute point here: Ivan may be the biggest bad guy of the series, but he's 0-1 against Rocky while Clubber is 1-1, and the win was a decisive one. Which is the closest Rocky ever got to actually putting anyone over.

This is kind of a dream match for me, since I love the Big Bads in things like this. In the canon, Ivan is considerably better than Clubber, so the fight only happens in this story mode where Ivan wins.

It's a real brawl, but I end it fairly quickly. There's actually a second fight with Clubber immediately after the first (he Hulks Up). Except... the second phase of the fight, Ivan hallucinates that Clubber is Rocky.

This is Ivan's final boss and toughest fight. Rocky is no slouch.

Win, and Ivan absolutely pummels Clubber while continuing to hallucinate.

...and Clubber is dead. My God. Ivan has killed Clubber too.

Last up is Apollo's story mode. This follows him from humble beginnings as he climbs to the title.

This means he fights a bunch of jobbers who aren't in the movies. He wins the title from this guy. In the official canon I think he won the title from George Foreman.

This leads up to the final fight of Rocky I, aka the legendary draw.

It's another tough fight with Rocky, and the best part is you have to defeat him twice in a row because there's another fight after this.

Of course a win here is phrased as "going the distance". Yeah, you push your narrative, commentary!

This jumps forward to Rocky III. Which means...

That's right, the legendary Secret Third Fight is Apollo's final boss.

...and it's fought in front of like 15 people! THEY HAD ONE JOB.

This is a good pick for the final battle of the game.

Apollo gets the win, and that's that. Course nobody can know about this until decades later.

But wait! There's one last bonus fight for this story mode. Apollo vs Ivan in a hypothetical match while Rocky and Adonis are reminiscing again.

I do indeed take Ivan to school, and Apollo lives.

Ivan goes back to Russia even MORE of a pariah!

Cut back to the present and these guys are like "yeah, that would have been nice"

That's it for Apollo mode. Really good game here for Rocky fans. However, be warned that it's very short, and all of this can be played in an afternoon. There isn't much to do after that with no online component, but at least it has couch one-on-one.

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