Reviews: Death Battle

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Goku vs. Superman: Possibly The Greatest Fictional One-On-One Fight Of All Time
A crowning moment of awesome from the first second of the 30-ish minute running time to the last, Goku vs. Superman is without a doubt the crown jewel of Death Battle. Without spoiling the winner, some highlights include:
  • A Beam-O-War between a Super Saiyan 4 boosted Kamehameha and Superman's heat/laser vision.
  • Goku absorbing the energy of a Spirit Bomb
  • A reference to DBZ Abridged and Superman's iconic "car over head" pose (from Action Comics #1)
  • Goku uses the Kaio-Ken technique and all 4 levels of Super Saiyan
  • The fight moving from Metropolis to DBZ-like mountains and then to space
  • Great music throughout the fight
  • Truly nerdy mathematics used to justify the winner
  • A to-the-point yet in-depth recap of both fighters' abilities and histories that builds up to the battle quite nicely
  • And more.

I could go on and on about how great it is, but I must bring up the harsh Fridge Horror: While fans of the winner celebrated with ticker-tape parades and fans of the loser cried new oceans into tubs of ice cream, I just simply watched it again, but then realized that the best is now behind us. No match had ever been as requested, as hyped, as well produced, or as long and epic as Gv S, and it is a solid bet no future fight will even come close. Though the fight was really good, I truly feel that only by being a series finale would the Matchup To End All Matchups be done justice (doing so would also buy time to make the great but not perfect animation better). In its place, Master Chief vs. Samus Aran would have been a great Season 1 finale...

I also feared that a drop in fans would ensue, with the fans of the loser quitting due to rage and fans of the winner moving on to other things now that they're satisfied. I don't have the stats to prove or repress that fear, but I take comfort knowing that the current videos get enough views to justify making new ones, and that the quality of the videos is still decent.

The best is behind us, and maybe a year or two or three from now I will view the series finale of Death Battle. While it will no doubt be something truly special, in the end, nothing can top what is the show's best episode. However, even though I think no future fight will be as good, Goku vs. Superman will always be a fond memory to look back on.

Ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny indeed...
  comments: 7
Pikachu vs. Blanka: Deja vu, Thor vs. Raiden viewers?
Pikachu vs Blanka is quite the weird fight considering the one that came some time before it. Thor vs. Raiden took the oddly specific premise of "Thunder Gods who use electricity in their attacks" and went with it, and Pikachu vs. Blanka is the second "electrical match" of the series (and of Season 1).

Why two electrical matches in the same season, and so close (2 espidoses are between them) as well? And even stranger, the winner is victorious for roughly the same reason (both fighters were immune to each other's electrical attacks, so the deciding factor was physical prowess). Anyway, the fight is quite good with decent animation and flashy maneuvers by both combatants, and while I'm a Street Fighter fan, I have no attachment to Blanka and the same goes for Pikachu, but I can only imagine how fans of the loser felt when they witnessed an embarassing and brutal finishing move that makes Master Chief's tea-bagging look like a friendly gesture. A Mortal Kombatant would have puked; for all the brutality of their finishers, I don't recall any Kombatant eating dead bodies.

This match, while somewhat a repeat of an earlier one, stands out for one big reason: the preview for Goku vs. Superman at the end. At first, there is darkness and silence. Then we hear a very familiar voice chanting the name of his famous attack, and as the Ki beam surges towards the screen, it illuminates the icon of the world's greatest superhero.

But even if the preview had been something different, the episode is still good by itself. You have to love the technical skill put into it all.
  comments: 2
Fun, if flawed.
Death Battle is the fun alternative to sifting through forum threads to find out which character would beat who in a fight. The animation is often spectacular (By web standards I mean, it's great.) with decent research done on both parties. And some decent commentary from the two hosts. And if they have a personal bias toward a certain character, they don't really let it show.

I can appreciate that the duo don't let fanboyism blind them when it comes to deciding a match, and I can also appreciate when they don't give a character a win just because of popularity power. I mightn't have agreed with every match outcome (I'll always love Doomguy more than MC), but at the same time I know not to get too wrapped up in a show like this.

That all said there are flaws. As if often the problem with web-series, there's no real schedule to the show, so you can go weeks and weeks without hearing a peep about the next episode. In addition, the show has a tendency to match characters up based on similarities they have while ignoring any massive gaps in power between them (e.g Superman vs Goku and He-Man vs Lion-O.)

Also, maybe it's just me, but some of the match-ups seem like weird choices to base entire episodes around. Bomberman vs Dig-Dug? Really? And Ivy vs Black Orchid? Was there really such a demand for that match in particular? Oh yeah, and the comment sections for the videos can be wretched hives.

In the end, if you sit back and try not to get too wrapped up in any personal fanboyism, you can have some real fun with this show.
  comments: 16
Justin Beiber vs. Rebecca Black: Worst. Episode. Ever.
Death Battle had some things to smooth over when they were first starting out. The health bars made the fights less intense as it was easy to know who was winning. The hosts didn't have their personalities nailed down. The fights were graphically bland.

But that was all fixed. The health bars went away (though the problems of How Much More Can He Take moved in), Wiz and Boomstick firmly established themselves, and the fights began to look like something other than a cheesy arcade game. As season 1 progressed, some really good matches (most notably Goku vs. Superman) were done, but a huge blemish shall always remain on the show: Beiber vs. Black.

I have 3 problems with it: First off, it was really just a huge Take That to the two pop stars for no grater purpose. They dedicated resources away from making "real" episodes to produce what is essentially an elaborate insult to two people who already get so much crap. Imagine all the other possible matchups they could have done...

Second, I hate the fact that they took two real life people and had them fight to the death. I'm not coming from a moral angle, but a legal one. What if one of them sees the video and gets upset? Nothing good can ever come from that. And yes, while MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch got away with it, a web show on a gaming website is very different from one of the most popular channels ever (as far as money and therefore legal defensive power is concerned). And while Death Battle uses all sorts of copyrighted figures, most of whom belong to big companies that would crush on a whim, that hasn't happened yet, so it's safe to assume the companies are fine with Death Battle's use of their characters (or at least can't do anything to stop them).

Third, it was just a plain bad episode. Most of the characters rundowns were not related to combat at all, the combatants were just headshots of the real life pop stars crappily photoshopped onto sprites, Boomstick implying he wants to commit suicide because of what he thinks is bad music is not funny, and I just found the fight to be boring, focusing on (poorly done) slapstick rather than serious action. I also found the omnicidal ending to be tasteless (I do not find joy in the Jonas Brothers dying in a car explosion, thank you very much).

Worst Death Battle episode ever. No denying that.
  comments: 1
A Dream Come True
I remember watching Deadliest Warrior, which had the interesting premise of pitting two warriors against each other. Knight vs pirate, Samurai vs Viking, you name it. It was cool, or more accurately, the fights themselves during the last 5 minutes. But no matter how cool the show was, there was something missing: the nerdiness of fictional matchups.

I had always been a scholar of pop culture, and as far as violence and combat centered series and shows were, I had always argued with friends and family with what I called "interesting matchups", and many joyful hours were spent discussing the merits of The Hulk vs Superman or John Mc Clane vs Rambo.

Death Battle was a dream come true when I found it. The dream matches that fanboys worldwide had always argued about were finally done. Wiz and Boomstick not only settle the fanboy debates, but settle them soundly; they are quite scientific about their rationale for the winner. Don't be surprised if they break out the math and declare with good reason that Character A is 43% faster than Character B.

Most episodes are about 5-10 minutes long, so the Death Battles can be watched by a person with little free time. In the first part of each video, the combatants are introduced, and their equipment, skills, and physical abilities are summarized. The show excels here, and I find myself well educated about each fighter even if I had literally never heard of either of them before. During this part Wiz and Boomstick also make jokes and banter back and forth, leading to many moments of hilarity.

When the "Fight!" sound is heard towards the end, you know it's about to get real. The fights are all awesome, but the royal jewel is Goku vs Superman. Two of the greatest fictional warriors of all time fighting to the full extent of their power in a 9+ minute ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny is even more awesome than it sounds. And when each fight ends, you get even more hilarious commentary by Wiz and Boomstick. However, there are flaws.

For one, I'd like to see more "all star" battles between previous winners, but other than that I just have to say that none of my personal "interesting matchups' have been done. But that's more of a personal complaint than an objective flaw in the show overall, and even still I enjoy the living heck out of Death Battle.
  comments: 3
Two Parts, One Good and One Not
After Deadliest Warrior, people everywhere were clamoring to try and apply the format to pop culture's most recognizable characters. Really, it's understandable—the crossover battle caters to the primal urge of throwing two recognizable powerhouses at each other and watching the sparks fly, if only because the resulting fight would (usually) be fucking awesome.

Death Battle is one of many bandwagon hoppers, specializing in exactly that. Wizard and Boomstick are two commentators who present a vague overview of each character before throwing in an animated fight sequence to the death—a concept easily summed up. The problem in copying the Deadliest Warrior format, however, quickly becomes evident.

The first part of each episode are where the problems lie. Putting a lot of valid criticisms aside, Deadliest Warrior did more than just "who would win in a fight", it also introduced cultures, weapons, and etc that others hadn't even heard of and brought them up. It also (again, a lot of valid criticisms aside) had physical items to measure, test, and compare to the legends surrounding it. At the end of the day, there was something you could tangibly evaluate. Death Battle, on the other hand, often boils down to theory-craft of "He would TOTALLY do this! That means he wins!", picking and choosing bits of canon (and frequently non-canon or fanon) that applies to their arguments while ignoring plenty more.

On the other hand, the second parts of the episodes, the actual fight scenes, is where shit gets real. It's amazing to see these characters brought to life on the battlefield again, bringing their signature moves and abilities and putting them to the test. Jordan Lange's talents as of episode 20 only cemented this even further, and every match since has been simply harder, faster, and greater all around. It's such a shame, then, that only the last three minutes are dedicated to his talents, but what a magnificent three minutes they are.

In the end, Death Battle is best treated like a You Tube meme video. Roll your eyes at the bullshit, skip to the good part, laugh a little and go about your day. Fans of franchises would do best to steer clear, but those who can bite their tongue and just go "Whatever, it's just a video" to more glaring inconsistencies might find some good times anyway.
  comments: 48