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With real March Madness hours away, there’s no better time for the Gaming Hero March Madness second round. We’ve met all contestants, and already said goodbye to half of them. This time around, the battles will only get tougher with no more throwaways on the table. Let’s take a look at today’s matchups:
1. Kratos v. 9. Gordon Freeman
The hero with one of gaming’s more memorable third installments enjoys a faceoff against the man whose third installment will never be. In Freeman’s previous matchup, he prevailed in a contest between brains and brawn. But this second round matchup is a completely different animal. No amount of brains is enough to defeat PlayStation’s God of War. If anyone beats Kratos, it’ll be someone who can hit him in the face and make it count. Kratos wins another fight with ease, and is our first Sweet 16 participant.
12. Jak and Daxter v. 4. Master Chief
Jack and Daxter ousted Mega Man in one of the tournament’s more noteworthy upsets. While not as famously powerful, the duo’s abilities provide a quietly dangerous threat in this bracket. Don’t let Master Chief’s more realistic graphics fool you. Jak and Daxter may actually pack the bigger punch in this matchup. However, the physical threat of this tournament’s champions is only half the battle. Master Chief, despite how we’ve all actually played as the character, does approach situations with a wealth of tactical experience and prowess. In addition to his combat record, Chief makes a living out of defeating enemies that are more traditionally powerful than he is. Jak’s Eco energy may hurt more than a semi-standard first person shooter arsenal, but the Halo veteran has seen much worse. Master Chief wins a battle of consoles and advances to the 16.
11. Ryu v. 3. Samus Aran
Two drastically different fighters clash in a matchup that would look weirder if it weren’t available in Super Smash Bros. This fight resembles what most fans say about a real deathmatch between Captain America and Iron Man. One is among fiction’s most skilled martial artists, and is nearly unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat. But the other can just fly up and nuke the planet. Ryu’s many strengths, even in his most powerful form, are wasted on a battle against a weapon of mass destruction. Any combination of Samus’ advanced weaponry would be too much for the legendary fighter to handle. Samus wins this one with an abundance of firepower and common sense.
7. Crono v. 2. Cloud Strife
We’ve got a high-powered duel between RPG protagonists. Both bring a variety of offensive approaches to the table. But Crono, while we can assume he isn’t bad on his feet, can’t match Cloud’s sheer athleticism and physical condition. We won’t be allowing Cloud’s summons in this tournament, which is strictly outside help, but his assortment of materia can better prepare the forgetful soldier for an opposing hero that has a specific elemental type. The time travel loophole, which can turn most fights upside down, isn’t exactly something Crono can jump in and out of on a moment’s notice. We don’t consider Link a time-traveler even though he essentially does the same thing. Without that sneaky edge and against a physically overwhelming opponent, nothing in Crono’s bag of tricks would be enough to add Cloud to Final Fantasy’s pile of bodies. Despite this being the region’s most interesting second round matchup, Cloud earns himself another victory.
1. Starkiller v. 9. Ratchet & Clank
We all know what a Jedi/Sith can do, and Starkiller is a version of the mythical warrior that isn’t ancient or missing a limb. Ratchet & Clank, surprisingly enough, actually wield the deadliest catalog of firearms in this entire tournament. It’s the Kirby complex, a mindset through which we forget just how powerful some characters are because their universes are aimed towards younger gamers. Unfortunately for the bracket’s second duo, projectiles aren’t exactly the best approach against a Force-wielder. Vader’s apprentice once yanked a Star Destroyer out of the sky. I don’t think he’ll struggle against any variety of guns, no matter how creative. Starkiller wins, beating a potential underdog story with an ideal matchup.
12. Aloy v. 4. Shulk
Both of these characters have a chosen-one significance in their franchises that surpasses their tangible abilities. This tournament isn’t decided by the power of the plot, so these two are equally vulnerable in a neutral setting. Shulk achieves a more godlike status over the course of Xenoblade’s endgame plot, but the Shulk you actually play as is pretty modest in the grand scheme of fantasy universes. In the last round, I referenced Shulk’s dependence on teammates in combat. It wasn’t enough of a detriment against a weaker opponent, but that drawback rears its ugly head now. Both fighters here are highly intelligent, dampening the impact of Aloy’s tactical stealth. But her raw damage output and variety of ranged attacks can still get this job done. Most of Shulk’s reliable battle strategies involve letting his companions take the heat off him and attract enemy attention while he charges up to buff the party. Shulk would do anything to avoid one-on-one scenarios, which is exactly where he finds himself stuck in this fight. He’s not built for a barrage of explosives and headshots. Aloy seizes another upset and climbs into our Sweet 16.
6. Geralt of Rivia v. 3. Sonic
Slow down Sonic is the name of the game. If you can’t do that, you probably lose. Geralt’s superhuman reaction speed and awareness can pick apart some of this tournament’s quickest foes. But I don’t think his precision is equipped for anything rollin’ around at the speed of sound. Sonic is a relative lightweight offensively and Geralt’s Quen sign is a protective force field, so the fight wouldn’t be over immediately. Before Sonic can finish this, however, there’s one important thing to take into account. Geralt’s Axii sign is a mind control that can completely shut an opponent down, awaiting an execution. Only enemies with a significant mental fortitude can resist this game-breaker. I don’t know how well you know Sonic…but a significant mental fortitude isn’t exactly on his list of attributes. He’s at best overeager, and at worst outright stupid. Mind control and telepathy busted a great many brackets in last year’s Superhero March Madness, and we catch a glimpse of that in this upset. Geralt can’t touch a fully operational Sonic, but a stationary hedgehog isn’t very threatening. Much to the dismay of this tournament’s TV ratings, Geralt wins and tosses Sonic’s head alongside Mario’s after his slaughter of gaming icons.
10. Ryu Hayabasa v. 2. Cole MacGrath
In a classic matchup between finesse and power, our second round is graced with another great fight. Ryu’s second-to-none agility is forced to evade Cole’s elemental fury for as long as he possibly can. Ryu is fast, but not faster than lighting. But Cole’s accuracy isn’t nearly consistent enough to pinpoint a character than can leave behind illusions of himself while he sprints at you from another direction. Cole hurts, but he’s a loose cannon. A fundamentally flawless character who isn’t a glorified bowling pin leaves him vulnerable to a more up close and personal fight. In that scenario, Ryu has every advantage. Cole might even run out of juice, turned into a dying battery after he failed to land more than one or two decent hits. As time goes on, scales tip in the ninja’s favor and Ryu Hayabasa sneaks into the Sweet 16 with a big win.
Half of our Sweet 16 is in place, and another half awaits in our next instalment of Gaming Hero March Madness. Check in next time to close out Round 2!
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