Co-Optimus Your Prime Source for Co-Op Gaming <![CDATA[ Full Moon]]>
With the shelves collapsing under the weight of such mediocrity, it would be very easy for a devoted role-player to lose faith in the genre. But for me, that's where Lunar came in. Lunar restored my faith in RPGs. (I'm well aware of the fact that Lunar had been floating around for several years preceding all the games I just mentioned, on both the Sega CD and the Playstation. However, circumstances had prevented me from playing it for years.)

Considering the hype and enormous cult following surrounding the game, my expectations upon unwrapping Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for the Playstation on that snowy Christmas morning were quite high. Lunar took my expectations and blew them clean out of the water. I knew the game was supposed to be good, but never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined it to be as good as it is. Lunar isn't just "good good". It's up-there-with-Chrono Trigger-and-Final Fantasy IX good. And while it does contain many of the silly clichés that have been associated every RPG ever released, both story and gameplay contain wonderful, unique twists that will prevent Lunar from ever becoming just another face in the crowd.

In Lunar, we enter a magical RPG world where most of the main characters actually have regular names. There's the occasional oddball name, but nothing on the level of weirdness or stupidity that would rival the stupidity of parents who would name their child Dart (he's the main character from The Legend of Dragoon). The main character in Lunar is named Alex, and like many kids his age, he's inspired by the antics and adventures of a chosen famous person whom he admires. Alex's hero is Dragonmaster Dyne, a former world savior who disappeared mysteriously years ago. Alex spends many a day at the grave built in honor of Dyne, dreaming of having incredible and dangerous adventures before being snapped back to reality by either his foster sister and childhood sweetheart Luna, his money-obsessed friend Ramus, or his pet flying and talking cat Nall (I haven't a clue, so don't ask). It's a day like any other when Ramus decides to visit the cave of the White Dragon because he wants a rare jewel. During their spelunking expedition, the gang meets the White Dragon himself, who thinks Alex is able to become the next Dragonmaster. And so begins Alex's fulfillment of all the dreams he had of being like Dyne.

Lunar isn't merely about Alex's quest to become the Dragonmaster, though. What good is an RPG if it doesn't include the all-universal video game objective? That's right folks, we're heading out to save the world again, this time from a tall dark guy who calls himself the Magic Emperor. And as with all great adventurers, Alex has a crew of hangers-on by the end to help him absorb the punishment. All great adventurers have fair maidens or damsels or whatever you want to call them too, and that role is filled in very nicely by Luna. But there's difference between the Alex/Luna love story and most others, and that difference is Alex's devotion to Luna being so strong, he almost cares less about the world he's fighting to save than about his sweetheart since childhood. It's a wonderful way to do love stories, just showing how much the hero cares and sparing us the awful male self-realization we were forced to endure in games like Final Fantasy VIII. There are two other love stories in Lunar, but neither of them are brought to any real prominence as to deter our attention from Alex, Luna, and the world.

The characters in Lunar are arguably the best group I've ever met. Alex may be a teenager, but there's no inner pain to make him keep second-guessing himself, and so he shows a levelheadedness beyond his years and no reluctance in facing the dangers confronting him. While Luna does play up the pain-riven role a bit more, she makes up for it with her sensibility. There's also the overconfident, arrogant wizard Nash; the shy and reserved but powerful witch Mia; the barbaric, chauvinistic warrior Kyle; and the tough-talking, hardheaded priestess Jessica. All are excellent in their own way, and the exchanges between them are fun to read, especially the verbal rivalry between Kyle and Nash.

Speaking of verbal, Lunar's classification as an RPG means there will be talking in the game - lots and lots of talking. However, even talking in Lunar isn't the boring, nearly useless experience of many other RPGs. Part of this is because the dialogue is very good. But a large part of the reason for this is because the everyday street walkers aren't amnesiacs who drop one cryptic sentence that remains the same no matter how often you talk to them. Repeated talking to a single face in the crowd will take you through three or four different sets of dialogue before it loops. Furthermore, the characters often banter back and forth with each other during the interrogation. Characters in Lunar don't just talk to you, they converse with you, and that element alone does a lot more to bring you into the game's world than any other RPG.

Of course, since Lunar is an RPG, you'll find yourself taking to the battefield in order to be able to converse with other characters. One thing I noticed about battles is that they're not exactly random - you can see the monsters wandering around on the map. They move quite fast out there, and they do everything they can to crash into you, but they're avoidable. If you do run into one, a battle ensues. I point this out because of a dumb misconception I saw when Square-Enix released Chrono Cross - RPG n00bs seemed to be spreading the idea that Chrono Cross was the first game to offer such a system. Square-Enix, looking for their dollar-gathering hype, did nothing to discourage the idea. Lunar is among the many games that prove the idea wrong.

The battle system, like so many other things about the game, is nothing new but offers a few twists to stay above the humdrum. First, before doing the battle rounds with your characters, the game offers a choice for you to choose either having the whole group perform one action or whether you want to fight the round without help from the AI. For example, if you want your whole group to attack, you can select "attack" at the beginning of the round, and all your characters will save you the trouble of individual selection by attacking all by themselves. There is also an AI option for those people who can never think of what to do with certain characters. It's a nice thought, but using it will quickly show you that no matter what you wanted to do with your characters, the computer's auto choices are worse. But what I really like about the battles was that Lunar is range is a factor in using ordinary attacks. After selecting your option to attack and the enemy you want to attack, your selected character will actually walk over to that enemy, hit him, and then actually stay right where he stopped to attack. This can be good or bad, depending on how well you're able to adapt to using such a system. Sometimes, if your selected character has to walk a far enough distance to attack, he or she won't actually get to attack at all, and will sit there like a helpless sitting duck for your foes to prey on. The enemies are able to move around in a similar manner, and they won't hesitate to surround and pound a character to death.

Lunar's battles are challenging because the AI is powerful and bloodthirsty. This is easily countered using the age-old RPG solution of leveling up. However, this doesn't work on bosses. Whenever Alex levels up, the game applies complicated rocket science mathematical formulas in order to make the bosses more powerful. (An idea that Square-Enix ripped off when they made Final Fantasy VIII.) What I'm saying is that as Alex's level goes, so go the boss' levels. I both love and hate this system because while it keeps the game good and tough, it also ensures that beating some of the cheaper bosses relies more on your luck than on your strategy or skill. After losing certain boss battles a few times - and trust me, you will - some of the more short-fused among us will be buying new controllers before long.

One of the things about Lunar that drives me crazy is that the only character who can carry enough items to last through a typical dungeon is Nall, who you don't get to use in battle. Everyone else has an inventory that's so limited, deciding what items to place in it becomes necessary strategy. Perhaps the game offers the save-anywhere system in order to effectively counter this gameplay shortcoming.

After so effectively praising Lunar, you may now be beginning to wonder if Lunar has any chinks. Sadly, the answer is yes, and those chinks appear in the technical details. The version of Lunar that I'm reviewing may well be on a 32-bit console, but it's still a remake of a 16-bit game, and the graphics and sounds both show their age. Lunar has over an hour of animation, and while it's not exactly Disney-quality, it's just fine for what it does. The game graphics reek of 16-bit. While there are some impressive graphic effects in spells and certain animations like the blob that is the first boss, the sprites are unimpressive and lack detail. The sounds in the game are quite bad - whenever a character scores a hit on an enemy, the game makes a sound that can only be described as a squishy, muffled bang. The music is pretty good, but nothing on the level of the extraordinary compositions in, say, Final Fantasy IV. There are only two tracks that are really worth remembering - the title screen theme, and a song performed by Luna (lyrics included) as the group sails to Meribia. The rest is nice, but not indispensable, and the battle music sounds like a rejected disco track.

The gameplay in Lunar is quite good. The characters can move at diagonal angles, which is useful is you're on your last legs and trying to avoid battles. Having five different characters with five different inventories complicates the menu a bit, but it's nothing you won't figure out by the time you hit the second dungeon. When the AI pursues you in trying to start a battle, it will only chase you as far as the edge of the area you're currently in. It's almost as if the various AI map creatures are territorial, which is just fine with me because so many of them are faster then you.

Man, did I EVER want to give this game a perfect score. But out of objectivity, I just couldn't. The graphics and sounds are just too weak, and the boss level-up system too frustrating. However, those things won't stop me from giving Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete one of the highest scores I've ever given out. Plus, I guess I'm now able to brag about being rich enough to afford video games that include manuals with hard leather covers (which includes interviews with people behind the scenes and a strategy guide for the first leg of the game) making-of discs, music discs (of course, those are both common these days) and maps of the game's world printed on canvas (completely useless, but still very nice). Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is a classic for every reason good games become classics. It's a brilliant answer for those who insist that nothing will ever be as good as Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, it's also out of print and exceptionally rare, so you'll end up paying top dollar for it. But hey, the way I see it, Lunar's rarity is just another finger pointing at its greatness. If you're lucky enough to find it, buy it then and there and I guarantee you won't want to part with it either.]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 18:50:40 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Blue Blur Goes Isometric]]>
Although Sonic Team was the supervisor in the development of Sonic 3D Blast for the Genesis, the real legwork was performed by Traveler's Tales. It was an unusual move; At the time of Blast's development, Traveler's Tales only had a handful of games under its belt, and a rather spotty track record. One of their earliest titles was the notoriously horrid adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but after that, they worked magic with the Disney license and created the classic Mickey Mania and the moderately well-received adaptation of Toy Story. (Their reputation since then improved significantly; although they had a pretty bad adaptation record for awhile, they also went on to develop Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex; Spyro: A Hero's Tail; and the entire line of Lego games.) While Sonic 3D Blast definitely feels like Sega's attempt to cash in on the trend that was starting to overtake video games - many 16-bit gamers, myself included, point the finger directly at Sonic 3D Blast for being the game that ultimately killed Sonic the Hedgehog - it's easy to see what Traveler's Tales was going for: The fullest possible actualization of what Sonic the Hedgehog was. Not the mindless speed demon his reputation made him out to be, but the explorer that he was.

Sonic 3D Blast also failed spectacularly because of a few basic programming mistakes which really could have been avoided. The first, biggest, and most noticeable mistake was right in front of our faces: It was the failure to understand that gamers only like explorative repetition when it isn't forced on them. The plot of Sonic 3D Blast revolves around little birds called flickies that live on an island in an alternate dimension. Dr. Robotnik (again, there's no fucking way I'll ever call him by his current, other name) finds out he can travel anywhere using large rings, and in order to exploit that, he takes all the flickies, turns them into robots, and sends them out to help him find all the Chaos Emeralds. It's pretty basic Sonic so far, but this time, Sonic now not only has to outrun Robotnik to the Chaos Emeralds and send him back to the scrap factory, he also has to free all the flickies. Every last single one. Then he has to escort them to an enormous ring placed somewhere in the level. And the flickies aren't like the Chaos Emeralds, where you can just opt out of finding them completely and only get a bad ending for punishment. If you don't find all the flickies, you don't get to advance.

That's right; Sonic the Hedgehog, The Fastest Thing Alive, the unstoppable Blue Blur, has been turned into an everyday scavenger in a fetch quest.

That's the least of the problems. Sonic 3D Blast actually does that better by combining three widely hated aspects of video games: The fetch quest, the escort mission, and the isometric viewpoint, and then slams a beloved character into the whole mess for whom all three are very poorly designed to handle. While the classic Sonic series was built around exploration, Sonic 3D Blast is against the very ethos and being of Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead of a choice to blast through levels or stopping to smell the roses, you're forced into a ridiculous search for enemies. You have to kill the enemies, then physically walk over to the little birds they deposit to get them to follow Sonic to a designated big ring. Sonic isn't even allowed access to the full act at one time - he has to leave five flickies to a ring before he can move on in the act, and each act contains two or three sections of this before finally ending. While the flickies are busy following Sonic, they're subject to flying away from him like common Power Rings in the event that he takes a hit, and when that happens, Sonic has to run all around collecting them up again. This gets to be a real pain in the ass in obstacle-heavy areas, and while the levels are pretty creatively designed, there's no level design creative enough to justify putting a series loyalist through this.

The level designs do manage to incorporate many recognized aspects of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, including speed boosters and loop-de-loops, but they're not built in any way which could take advantage of Sonic's speed. There's no dashing off to another section of the level in Sonic 3D Blast when you get tired of one; you have to ring the flickies. It's also very difficult to find any situations in which Sonic's speed could be used to get him out of a jam or get him the upper hand in anything. What the levels do have this time are 3D hills, just so placed in order to pad the game and make getting some things a real pain. That has never been the case in any Sonic game before, when hills were used as a foreground enhancement and nothing more.

The isometric viewpoint hampers everything about this game. Lord knows isometric viewpoints were useful, unique, and exciting way back when, but they only worked well under certain conditions. Shooters could be great with them, but that's partly because an isometric layout could enhance a shooter - shooters didn't require constant moving all around the playing field and backtracking, because they were set on rails. Putting a platformer into an isometric viewpoint robbed us of depth perception when doing a lot of the actual platforming, especially with open ledges where you have to worry about precise landings because Sonic can now fall off ledges in three or four directions, and not just two. Traveler's Tales also gave Sonic 3D Blast an eight-direction plane, which means Sonic can move in every direction and there's little room for error in making leaps. That means platforming is a chore. Sega once released an action/RPG called Landstalker which also had an isometric viewpoint and included plenty of platforming. The difference was that Landstalker was a lot more tolerable because, even though the whole game was on a diagonal plane, it was still in only four directions. Sonic 3D Blast doesn't get such a benefit. If Sonic makes a leap that's even a hair pointed in the wrong direction, he'll miss the jump completely.

The Chaos Emerald stages are just pathetic. The floaty surrealism from the original Sonic the Hedgehog and the white-knuckle high-speed chases and gathers from the other Sonic games have been replaced by a bonus stage in which Sonic runs on top of a bridge, collecting rings which are a dime a dozen and avoiding the occasional spikes. It's much like the one from Sonic 2, but without the second-person viewpoint or the intensity. It's slow-paced, and you can see everything coming from a mile away. You really have to try to lose these things.

The flickies are a reference to an early Genesis game called Flicky, where you played as a bird trying to rescue her lost hatchlings from prowling cats. It's only an appropriate throwback for a game like this. The one thing Sonic 3D Blast really did right is get rid of the timer, so there's no more having to worry about that as Sonic goes about his business looking to find the sporadically scattered birds. The game did find it fit to keep track of the amount of time Sonic spends in each zone, though, and the purpose of it seems to be nothing more than taunting you. If you take too much time in a level, for example, the end-level bonus screen has a stat that tells you how much time you took. If you took an amount of time the game doesn't agree with, while you're not penalized in any serious way, you'll simply see the words "too long." Well, no fucking shit, game! That's the kind of thing that happens when you try to turn Sonic the Hedgehog into a scavenger hunter!

That's not to say Traveler's Tales didn't put any effort into Sonic 3D Blast. They put a ton of it in. It was just the wrong effort. The best they did was in the graphics and sounds. Both are pure Sonic, through and through. This is a very colorful game, with well-rendered sprites and fine art. Sonic's trademark whirling legs have been taken away, though. The sprites are gorgeous, with strong animation, and the rendering does nothing to slow them down even a little. Even fighting the impressive bosses, you won't have to fight with the controller. The sounds are equally excellent, and again, they're Sonic right through to the very bone. The music is perhaps the best in the entire series, and the common pops and jingles Sonic fans have come to know and love are all there. Unlike the graphics, the sound won't challenge any veteran of the series, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, right?

The gameplay is where things go wrong. Like I said earlier, you can place all the blame on the isometric viewpoint. Sonic still has his famous Super Spin Attack, but the viewpoint renders it damn near useless, at least for combative purposes. Trying to use it to fight will almost certainly leave you robbed of a few rings, and a major problem is that Sonic is stuck trying to rely on it for a lot of boss fights. The Spin Dash Attack gives Sonic much more accuracy, and it has its own button - you hold the button to wind it up, and let it go to turn Sonic loose. Unfortunately, the imprecise geometry of the levels means you have to get pretty close for exacting aim, and getting close is dangerous because there's a split-second between the time you press the button and the time Sonic starts winding up the Spin Dash Attack which is more than enough time for the enemy to get in and do some damage. To exacerbate the problem, there's also a new, different kind of throwback dynamic in play: If Sonic Spin Dashes into a wall, he kicks back a little bit, which can frequently knock him off a ledge or into something that can hurt him.

A lot of people blame the introduction of the 3D gaming generation with destroying Sonic the Hedgehog, but Sonic 3D Blast is the inarguable proof that he started making his first dip during the 16-bit Golden Era. Yes, Traveler's Tales deserves credit for doing a great job in making this thing because in this case, it's not the product itself that's the problem - just the template. In the end, though, dung is still dung, no matter how well-made.]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 00:26:12 +0000
<![CDATA[Wii Remote Controller Quick Tip by KingreX32]]>
Yes the Wiimote was a very odd controller, but its the instrument that lead the Wii to becoming the best selling console of all time, yes of all time. The Wii has currently outsold the PS2 and is only second to the DS. As a gamer though I loathed that thing, I mean for FPS games hell yes it was great, I could move and shoot so much faster than I could with a normal controller and in that I came to like the controller alot. But then came the times were developers would tack on unnecessary motion controls to simple actions (lots of early Wii developers did this) and that would just annoy me. (Alone int he Dark and Red Steel are perfect examples of this)

Then there were other times when developers got smart and started using the controller in innovative and engaging ways that really made me love the thing (Silent Hill Shattered Memories, No More Heroes, Metroid Other M, The Bit Trip Series) While now if I have the option I will always use the Classic Controller Pro over the Wiimote, I still will from time to time pick it up. It takes some getting used to but it is in its on right a good controller. ]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 14:07:16 +0000
<![CDATA[Dual Shock 3 Controller for the PlayStation 3 Quick Tip by KingreX32]]>
What I'm trying to get at here is that although my gaming roots sort of started with Sony the PlayStation controller was one that always felt a little strange to me. When i was a kid it felt big in my hands and some of the buttons i couldn't reach. I kinda have that same feeling with the Dual Shock 3. The controller feels floaty to me, its a little light and those triggers,Oh how I hate those triggers; it feels like my fingers are going to slip off and any moment especially when I'm playing Need for Speed. (its happened while playing Call of Duty) While I have become reacquainted with the Dual Shock series of controllers, nothing will ever beat the hand filling, comfortable grip and heft of the GameCube controller. ]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 13:46:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ A Pointless Quest]]>
Now, someone please tell me that Sentinels of the Starry Skies, the ninth entry into the Dragon Quest series, is more of a hiccup than a standard. Dragon Quest IX is my first encounter with the RPG series that started everything, and while I've played around 30 hours so far, it really isn't living up to the standard set by the series.

Online multiplayer is turning into the chic way to role play your grand adventure video games, but I'm suspicious. Certainly the idea of a multiplayer RPG is wonderful, but the ability to play one with other people hinges on the idea that lots of other people have internet connections, plus the very same console to hold the very same version of the game. This goes double for the Nintendo DS which, despite being the biggest seller of the last console generation, is also a portable console and therefore seen as a pleasant travel diversion rather that as a legitimate machine to play full-scale adventures on. I'm starting to think portable gaming consoles are never going to shake that stigma. Even in places with a lot of DS owners, there aren't likely to be a lot of Dragon Quest IX owners because the children are too young to appreciate the various quirks, complexities, and nuances of RPGs; adults have responsibilities to take care of first; and teenagers don't have the attention span. I love RPGs, but portable gaming is not a medium meant for them. Therefore, I can't give an accurate review of the multiplayer mode of Dragon Quest IX.

The other thing I have against multiplayer RPGs is that so many of them involve the creation of personal avatar characters. This isn't just having a chance to rename a bunch of characters who drive the story; this is you getting to decide all the facets and features of every last man in your small army. Square Enix seems to have used that in Dragon Quest IX to go light on character development, and that's "light" as in "absolutely nonexistent." There's a main character in Dragon Quest IX, but he doesn't say anything, and he's at the whim and call of a sprite assistant named Stella. Stella is the only character in the game who is any kind of constant. She's the only one with real purpose or personality. Unfortunately, she also comes off a little like Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in that she comments at the obvious. She also has a fierce selfish streak and a bit of a bubble brain. This, again, is the only character in the game who's not a blank slate.

The main character is a Celestrian, a guardian of sorts. He's just earned his guardianship when some major disaster crashes Celestrian-land, and the main character is suddenly a mortal. He goes to a nearby town, picks up a few adventurers at random, and does favors for locals in order to earn his way back to jannah. He gets there, his immortality is still missing, yada yada yada, find seven pieces of weird fruit back on the surface.

Don't worry about a crew, because four characters are all you're going to need. Don't worry about the job system, because so far, I've been able to physically bash my way through everything Dragon Quest IX has thrown at me, so the job system has been useless. This makes Dragon Quest IX a very simple game, and that doesn't speak well of it to people who enjoy playing RPGs to stretch their minds and imaginations a little bit. The only real complications I've run into so far are keeping enough money in my bank account to keep my characters sufficiently upgraded with the best weapons and armor.

Combat offers the typical array of options, save for one: When a certain meter fills all the way up, that character will suddenly be primed to perform his coup de grace move! This is basically Dragon Quest IX's response to the limit break, but there's one difference: The coup de grace really doesn't mean very much. It's not a wonderful power move in a fight, so there's no saving your own hide with one in the intense throes of a losing battle. There's also a feature where, when you're allowed to hit more than one enemy with a single attack, the game makes you choose between certain groups of enemies. Sometimes, those fights against a more than one of the same kind of enemy will be split into a number of smaller groups for no apparent reason.

When leveling up, the game offers the nice feature of getting to give out five points to whatever you want your characters to be more proficient in. Some of the abilities this grants are more useful than others.

This game has the nastiest instant death spells I've ever seen. It's a good thing the game chooses not to use them very often, because it would destroy you every time, and there's no springing back to life in or after a battle. Yes, the game does offer the common method of going to a Minister to spring your loyal troops back to the land of the living, but are you caught in a dungeon with three dead guys, a living character down to his last legs, and out of every healing item? You CAN use a bell to escape the dungeon and then the egress spell or a chimera wing to get back to the local church (egress spells and chimera wings don't work indoors - the characters hit their heads on the cieling) but if you don't have those, you better hope the enemies (which are visible off the battle screen) aren't fast enough to catch up to you. I haven't seen any items that do the resurrection job and if there's a spell for it, my characters (all around level 30) don't have it. Well, wait, I have ONE item, and I had to randomly run into it while exploring.

The graphics are nice. They're fully animated and have decent designs. The sounds are very simple and predictable. Some of the tracks sound like they are 16-bit RPG tracks given an upgrade.

The controls are heavily menu-reliant. The menu setup is very bulky and inconvenient in every aspect of the game. The battle menu goes through a pair of screens, while the world map menu offers a lot of different options, many of which come across as meaningless. There's a Heal All option which heals the entire party in what the game decides is the most efficient way, but casting spells to heal takes you through about four screens. There's also an option to produce little party tricks like bowing and saying hello, but they don't seem to serve much of a purpose, although some can be quite important. There are a lot of them, and you can only assign for to use at any given time. It's a pain.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies works best as a beginner RPG. Any war-torn and battle-hardened vet looking to tackle the next great challenge won't find an end for that quest with this Quest.]]> Sun, 23 Feb 2014 03:00:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ Memorable for all the Wrong Reasons...]]>
The premise is typical anime scifi schlock. In the near future, nanotechnology has been refined and perfected to be used on a mass scale to enhance human life as we know it. All of these physically enhanced human Guinea pigs live on a paradisal settlement known as Nanotechnology Island. But one day, the main computer goes berserk and orders the nanites to transform its citizens into hulking cybernetic monstrosities known as Orgamechs. Instead of nuking the island and being done with it, the government decides the best course of action is to shut down the main computer. But who can possibly survive on an island filled with an airborne nanite plague and homicidal cyborgs? The government decides to fight fire with fire and send in a Cyborg itself. A fair haired soldier with a shiny white suit of cybernetic armor and an incredibly monotone voice. The player assumes the role of this hero: Jake Warren, Cyborg hunter extraordinaire who wields a deadly plasma blade which can cut through steel and orgamech flesh like cheese. On the island, Jake must face monstrosities of all kinds from slimy orgamech mutants to more slimy orgamech mutants and a rival Cyborg named Keith.

The story takes all the cliches you could possibly imagine in a military scifi themed Japanese game and blends them together in the most unoriginal way possible. But, like all other aspects of NANO BREAKER, its rendered in such an offbeat manner that it comes off as mesmerizingly hypnotic. Part of the reason for this is that the FMV's used to convey the story are gorgeous, well funded and extremely detailed. Playing this game just after having plowed through a smorgasbord of PS3 action games, it really occurs to me that the technical quality of video game FMV's has not hugely improved over the years. Indeed, these FMVs look just as good today as they did 8 years ago.

Another reason is the extreme contrast between outrageous scifi horror and polished superhero fantasy. The opening FMV showing a mother and her child being infected by the nanite plague is still one of the goriest and most disturbing openings I recall seeing in a video game in recent years. Then Jake comes gliding into action with his neatly combed blond hair, erotic white armor and sizzling lightsaber.  The reassuring teenage idol superman does not mix at all with the gruesome horror we saw in the first scene.  The transition is so jarring it will either leave you dumbfounded or laughing out loud before you know it.  Another offender is the dialogue, which tends to oscillate between predictable and laughter. One moment the characters will be muttering generic technobabble about nanotechnology and government research. Then in the next scene, you have Keith viciously barking to Jake such corny lines like "How does it be sliced in half by ME!?"

The quality of the voicework also contributes the unintentional mesmerizing hilarity. Crispin Freeman and Steve Blum are certainly no strangers to the voice-over industry, but their performances here might make you rethink their reputation. Freeman's voice for Jake is monotone and stilted, occasionally punctuated by bursts of constipated urgency. Blum as Keith, in sharp contrast, is completely over the top, bordering on the personality of a frothing maniac. The unintentionally humorous interactions between these two completely polar voiceboxes are the highlights of this sad little saga. Like so much of NANO BREAKER, its memorable because its just so off base.

Let's move onto the gameplay. NANO BREAKER is a third person action adventure game inspired by DMC based on the engine used for the next gen CASTLEVANIA games. Jake can jump, slash, or pull his way around just about any obstacle the game can throw at him. His weapon of choice is not a whip, like his Belmont ancestors, but rather a plasma sword: a lightsaber-esque weapon that ruins the programming of his nano-powered opponents (as well as chopping them up into big greasy chunks of cyborg flesh). Jake's weapon can also change into other shapes as well, such as an axe or a hammer, which are considerably more powerful than the main sword. But these transformations can only be activated by achieving a long combo string.

Combo attack strings are an integral part of NANO BREAKER. Instead of just upgrading weapons with experience points or at a hi-tech forge, Jake has to find "combo chips" to increase the variety of his attacks. Combo chips can be tagged onto the end of an existing combo to increase its length or tag on a different climactic finish, usually involving the aforementioned transformation into another weapon. For instance, say you want more horizontal attack combos. You go to the menu, open up a skill tree displaying all your possible horizontal combination attacks, tag on a combo chip to one branch of that tree...and voila! You've unlocked a new combo or finisher attack. So now instead of just slashing twice and stopping, Jake can slash three times and that third slash will always transform his sword into an enormous plasma scythe which cuts down all the enemies around him.

Learning these special combo attacks is essential to understanding NANO BREAKER's "complex" fight system. You see, counter to conventional logic concerning intelligent and cunning AI behavior, the opponents you fight in NANO BREAKER are dumb as bricks for the most part. The conventional orgamechs are just these unimposing bipedal wiry cyborg types who walk up to you, mindlessly thrash their arms up and down until you die or they get slashed to pieces. What I'm trying to say is...they're very predictable. And once you start slashing at them, they just freeze in place and put up no fight at all.

Since the act of killing them is far too easy, the only major challenge is trying to find the most rewarding tactic to take them down. When I say "rewarding", I mean currency. What is currency in NANO BREAKER? Some distinctive human fluids with a red hue.

Imagine if you were to fill a sprinkler with tomato juice, flipped it on at full strength, and watched those jets of red liquid come crashing down in a parabolic decent all over your lawn. That is the best visual analogy I can think of to describe the bloodletting in this game. In NANO BREAKER, enemies do not ooze bleed, they RAIN blood. Every enemy pops like a balloon and their fluids go flying up and crashing down on the ground again like a jetspray. NANO BREAKER may have possibly been the bloodiest game ever made for the time, although it's been bested by 2010's SPLATTERHOUSE. Like that game, blood is not simply for visual's also your experience as well. The more gallons of blood you spill, the more health and power bonuses you gain. There is no personal inventory in NANO BREAKER, so if you need health, your only option is to paint the environment red (or whatever color you've set the fluids to appear as in the options menu).

But in order to get more of the red stuff, you've got to know what attacks to use. Simply hammering SQUARE or TRIANGLE might allow you hack off the limb of an opponent, but you'll only a couple big gooey red drops. You need to aim (as Robert E. Lee would say) right for the center. Cleaving an enemy right through the torso with a powerful weapon like a scythe or axe will earn you the most amount of fluid. That's why it's so important to learn the right combos, so you transform your weapons into the appropriate murderous tools to generate the most/blood experience. So there's really a double benefit to making those fluids rain down on you, since you're making Jake a healthier person as well. When you cleave the torsos of several enemies and watch their middles erupt in huge fountains of scarlet, then you know you're doing good in the game.

What physiological sense this makes in the context of the game, I'm not sure. But it's implementation is part of NANO BREAKER's completely off-beat appeal. In 2005, GOD OF WAR also emerged on the scene as well. And as gory as the encounters get in that game, they are nothing compared to the scarlet showers one can generate in NANO BREAKER. In NANO BREAKER, you can literally fill up entire rivers with this red spillage. Also unlike the canned animations in GOD OF WAR which also result in your enemy avatar disappearing, in NANO BREAKER these eruptions literally interact with the game world, coating it all around you with red and changing its very texture.

Okay...enough about the blood. Did I also mention there's platforming in the game? Yes, Jake can leap, glide and pull himself up onto ledges to navigate the environmental obstacles set his way. Unfortunately, like much of NANO BREAKER, something is distinctly lacking in the execution of this area too. Jake jumps with a very odd posture, like he's constantly got a rod supporting his back or something. His stiff leap unfortunately translates into stiff controls, and it's very difficult to get him to quickly and successfully hop from one platform to another. Later on, you get a double jump, which makes things a little easier. From hereon out, the platforming becomes a little more tolerable and serves as an interesting diversion to all the hacking and slashing.

The technical qualities of NANO BREAKER fall close to the center, but personally I was impressed. The graphics are definitely PS2 quality, with high resolution models for the characters and enemies and some nice lighting effects to complement Jake's sword and it's various animations. The backgrounds are all rendered in real time, which unfortunately is a downer, since they're fairly generic for the most (mainly just run down streets, back alleyways and the like) and contain too much fogging to disguise the distance up ahead. The audio is where NANO BREAKER also stands out, albeit not astoundingly. Jake's ferocious grunts, the high pitched screeches of his dismembered enemies, the vroom of this lightsaber, can actually be pretty deafening at times. That's good. But all this chaos is complemented by a rather bizarre choice of soundtrack, involving a soothing compilation of piano-driven muzac interspersed with groovy techno themes and heavy metal guitar riffs. Although the choice of music is eccentric, there are not enough memorable leitmotifs. It's an odd combination, and doesn't match up with the quality of Michiru Yamane's work for the CASTLEVANIA series. However it is still memorable if only because it tries to be unique.

How…odd of a game NANO BREAKER is. Utterly predictable, yet bogglingly offbeat. Underacting contrasted with overacting. Bland, barren environments contrasted with over the top scarlet spillage. Piano muzac contrasted with heavy metal. Even the opening, with its grim, over the top scifi horror contrasts heavily with the campy scifi escapades that follow. The game is a paradox. An avant garde title that is completely generic. It's so wrong…and yet so right at the same time. I love it.

But would I recommend it? Not to everyone...just those who have an open for experimental titles with misguided artistic intentions. It's just too bizarre a combination. Just watch the insane trailer and see for yourself:

It might fall to the bottom of your list, but it's an experience you won't be forgetting it any time soon.]]> Thu, 23 Jan 2014 09:23:58 +0000
<![CDATA[ Oh the pain...]]>
Anyway, monkey man had previously starred in a ton of other games on the Sega Master System that were released only in Japan. Released in 1989, Enchanted Castle marks his first foray into the 16 bit era on the Genesis. So basically, this could be considered a pretty close launch title of the legendary system, and it was released in North America as well as Japan, although a couple of elements got lost in translation. For one, there's a huge emphasis in this game on playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors", but since the digitized voices aren't translated, Alex is constantly squeaking "Tanma Ro Rekken" or something like that. You wouldn't know the game was "Rock, Paper, Scissors" unless you paid close attention to the icons above each character

The rest of the game is kind of a funky and utterly miserable and cruel strategic platformer involving Alex going around jumping on platforms, punching bricks, dodging enemies, and (the best part) grabbing money bags and coins for his reward. In most games, collecting enough currency (or score points or whatever) in the game will yield the player an extra life. In Alex Kidd however, they serve as currency to pay for continues. $1000 nets one Continue for the player. This is a great incentive to keep collecting moneh'. Unfortunately the rest of the game is frustrating as hell. Unlike Sonic or even Mario, Alex can only take one hit and then he's out of the game. Given that this ain't Mario or Sonic, jumping on enemies to destroy them is noneffective tactic. Rather, little Alex has to punch with a grotesquely large fist or jump kick his foes before they touch him. For some reason, the game doesn't let the player input a command for a jump kick—it seems to do it automatically when Alex jumps. This can be a blessing in some cases, but most of the time its just an annoyance. Since Alex is so insanely vulnerable, all the enemies he faces are usually slow moving, ground based creatures that don't fire projectiles. There are some incredibly annoying opponents though, like an old wizard who can teleport to any location of the map and loves to use this ability when he senses Alex's fist heading his way. Most of my deaths were attained simply from bumping into a random enemy that appeared out of nowhere, or falling prey to the environmental traps that litter the area.

The boss fights are incredibly frustrating affairs, mainly in part because you don't actually FIGHT your opponents. Most of the time, the bosses will just play "Rock, Paper, Scissors" with Alex and victory during these encounters is obviously completely determined by chance. If Alex loses one of these matches, he not only loses a life, he gets sent back a significant ways to the middle of the stage. Exactly why would they do this!? It's infuriating enough just GETTING to the bosses, and to have victory over them simply be due to a matter of chance is INSUFFERABLE. The final boss is the worst example of this. This multi-armed beast challenges little Alex to a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" TWO TIMES in a row. Upon beating those two games, Alex then has to actually beat the boss himself, an opponent surrounded by arms and who loves to throw flying fists at his opponent. ONE screwup during the "Rock, Paper, Scissors" section or ONE TOUCH during the actual fight against the beast and Alex gets sent back several stories down.

Alex Kidd might have been the most popular franchise Sega had at the time, but I highly doubt this is one of the best games the Genesis had at the time. It's sickeningly cute visuals contrast heavily with its nightmarishly agitating challenge level. It's a sadistic lump of programming that may have well sent me away bawling my eyes out had I endured it during my youth. I feel like I'd rather play the Genesis Altered Beast nine times over than endure this again. There are a lot more exciting, more balanced, more visually stimulating, more innovative and just more COOL games on the Genesis than this relic. I'll respect it and admire it for what it is and what it meant to Sega, but I dread the day that I'll ever be placed in the shoes of Alex Kidd again…]]> Sun, 19 Jan 2014 18:42:54 +0000
<![CDATA[God of War Quick Tip by GargantuasGames]]>
Also some aspects of the game just feel flat out unfinished. Consider, for example Kratos' parry maneuver. From SOUL CALIBUR to ONIMUSHA, parrying attacks have always been an invaluable skill in hack and slash titles. In ONIMUSHA, it was essential to survival, since the Issen slash was the only way to kill enemies in a single blow as well as replenish large amounts of your health. When Kratos parries an enemy attack in GOD OF WAR, the action enters a dramatic slow motion phase like something really cool's going to happen, but there's no payoff. Kratos can deliver a quick counterattack with his chains, but it's not visually impressive and does just as much damage as your normal attacks. What's the point of building up excitement with the slow mo effect then?

That said, there are a lot of good things about from an entertainment. However I'm sure they've all been said already in many other reviews. Definitely worth a playthrough or two. I just don't think it's the infallible masterpiece people have made it out to be.]]> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 00:50:08 +0000
<![CDATA[ Burning Rubber]]>
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Burnout series, a series of games which is best described as racin' for people who want to go racin'!

In Burnout 2: Point of Impact, depth sleeps with the fishes. No one gives a shit about air brakes, double drifts, closed courses, or any of those other things racing games adopted once console gaming hit a third dimension. No, in Burnout 2, well, see that button there with the X shape on it? Yeah, press that sucker down.... Hold it.... Hold it.... Hold it.... Have you won the race yet? No? Keep right on holding, friend. Try not to smash into anything. Oh, apparently you didn't listen to that last one. Hurt real good, didn't it?

Okay, there are brakes used in Burnout 2, but they're basically only in the game as a precaution and as the way to drift. Yes, there's drifting in this game too, but I haven't yet found it necessary. But hell, the designers of Burnout 2 didn't see it fit to provide you with so much as a closed course. You get in your car and sign that race waiver, man, and then you're flinging yourself headfirst into the city traffic, and often enough, you're going to be going into it headlong as fast as you can. When you crash - and believe me, you WILL crash - you'll be treated to a spectacular cinematic of your road fuckup.

Burnout 2 banks on this kind of gameplay and fun. Pick the car, hit the streets, and try to outrun three other cars who are hogging the road along with you. The game encourages and rewards bad street behavior in the form of your turbo boosts, which, in case you can't figure it out from the name, bring your car to a complete, instant stop in the hope that your opponents smack right into your backside. (Note: That was sarcasm.) The game even takes you through an offensive driving school which is there to show you the rudimentary ropes. And this offensive driving school isn't like the vicious, endless road tests in Gran Turismo which are damn near impossible and prevent you from even getting the game started. The offensive driving school is actually rather easy, and I medaled in the handful of tests. I earned the lowest honor in most of them but was allowed to move on anyway. I was eager to start the game and get my offensive driving education that way.

See, Burnout 2 understands the PERCEPTION of racing, and it plots its gameplay accordingly. There are actually several different kinds of races to charge through. Of course, there's the regular, everyday grand prix mode that can be found in every racing game ever. But there are also one-on-one showdown races and duels where you play a car trying to repeatedly slam into another car and run it off the road. The variation keeps things interesting, which is important because, let's face it, otherwise Burnout 2's simplicity would work against it in a rather nasty way.

Those speed boosts you'll be using can be a bit of a problem. To use them, you need a little meter to fill up all the way. These meters aren't time-fillable; they're action-fillable, and the actions needed to fill them include driving on the wrong side of the road, flying over hills, and near-misses with pedestrian cars. Unfortunately, to get them to work, they need to be filled all the way, which puts you at a severe disadvantage if you decide you need to hit the burst button for just a second. You'll hit burst, fly through whatever needs to be flown through, and then, even if the meter is still mostly full, you won't be able to activate it again.

You'll probably be needing those bursts at a few points too, at least beyond the first few races, because Burnout 2 has terrible problems with the difficulty curve, which ramps up too quickly. The whole cheating computer routine starts way too early, although I haven't had serious problems with the the rubber band computer drivers just yet. This IS an Acclaim game, though, so I'm not going to rule it out.

The course designs blew me away with their originality, at least to the point where they stop being obviously navigable. There are blinking lights which show you the way through everything, but the don't crop up in quite as many places as you would like. Hell, there are spaces which look open, but you can't get into because they're not part of the proper course - they're just there to provide the open traffic flow which makes things interesting. I wasn't wild about not being able to find my way around the course because of a sudden shift in the road layout, nor was I wild about the way that nothing indicated differences between points which I was supposed to simply move a little bit to one direction or make a full out pinpoint turn. In the airport course, the appearance damn near cost me the entire race.

The graphics and sounds in Burnout 2 are functional and work exactly the way they're supposed to. They don't do anything challenging - hell, the music is generic and bland road rash rock music in this genre - but there's nothing to complain about, either. No slowdown, framerate, clipping, or pop up problems.

The gameplay also functions very nicely. You can feel the differences in the ways each and every car handles, and if you want a tip, then make damn sure you get a car that handles well. There aren't any fancy dodads in the controls or the handling. You get one brake, and a way to drift which is very easily pulled, plus a camera. The whole gyst of the game is to keep your finger on the accelerator button.

Burnout 2: Point of Impact is purely racing for the arcade-going, pick up and play crowd. It's a racing game for old-school racers who grew up playing Daytona USA and its ilk, and that ain't a bad thing.]]> Wed, 1 Jan 2014 16:38:46 +0000
<![CDATA[ "I have waited an eternity for this emancipation!!"]]>
The same goes for its gameplay, which is highly derivative of, yet again, GOD OF WAR. Despite being so large, the scythe Dante wields is a pretty fast weapon and easily capable of chalking up hundred hit combos. But unfortunately this is the only weapon you have for the whole game, and using it gets monotonous eventually. Wait a minute...that's not true. You also can use the Crucifix, which fires outs spectral emanations of the cross as projectiles. The sight of Dante "machine-gunning" down monsters with Crucifix projectiles is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the game. However this doesn't stop the combat from getting monotonous by the end. It also feels strangely limiting too...not as smooth as GOD OF WAR's. Enemy diversity is also a little too limited. Practically all the enemy monsters in the final circles of Hell are recycled from the earlier levels of the game. Most likely this game was rushed and the developers didn't have time to create new enemies for the later stages. Unfortunately that makes these final stages far less memorable than the earlier ones. Fortunately the game doesn't last too long (about 6-8 hours), meaning it ends before it gets truly tedious.

Still, this is a fun game when taken in pieces. Some of the level designs are really imaginative and horrific. The production values are fairly high. Graphics are fairly detailed. Voice acting is fairly entertaining (although some of the dialogue seems intentionally comical). The soundtrack is percussion heavy and thundering, but feels almost identical to GOD OF WAR's.

I do you rate DANTE'S INFERNO? It's a lot of fun, but it just doesn't really break any new ground in the video game world. Action game completionists should pick it up by all means. Other players won't get much more out of it though than many other modern action adventure dark fantasy game would deliver.]]> Tue, 19 Nov 2013 20:55:04 +0000
<![CDATA[Wii Classic Controller Pro Quick Tip by KingreX32]]> Fri, 9 Aug 2013 02:08:26 +0000 <![CDATA[ Definitely Stormy]]>
Why do I bring that up? Because Sega later recycled the formula. Hey, Golden Axe made money, what else would you expect? Well, the recycled version of Golden Axe was Alien Storm, a game which takes place in a more modern era, and it even involves one of those cliche plots that idiots who don't know anything about video games imagine every video game ever made to be about: Save the World! From who? Well, look at the title of the game: Alien Storm. From the aliens, duh!

There are a few cosmetic differences between Alien Storm and Golden Axe, but these two games run on practically the very same engine. Just as Golden Axe is a brawler set in a long-ago Lord of the Rings-type fantasy world, Alien Storm is set today, during an alien invasion, and you get to pick one of three characters who walks around beating up the aliens at close range. Okay, well, not exactly beating them up. You do get equipped with big guns, but the guns are only effective at close range. This idea borders on the completely outlandish, but given what Alien Storm is supposed to be, I'll go along with it. But I don't think anyone can deny that, even using the aliens as some kind of excuse, that gameplay mechanic definitely wrecks havoc on your suspension of disbelief, even by the galactically broad standards of a video game.

Every couple of levels or so, the finale of a level turns into a very primitive first-person shooter. That is to say, you're placed into the eyes of whatever character you're controlling, and you also get control of a small target mark which you can move around the screen to aim your gun. Gee, after a level of fighting aliens up close and personal, NOW the game wants to give us guns that work? Your "walking" consists of the game automatically moving back and forth. Your only concern is making all the face-huggers dead.

Believe it or not, the first-person sequences come off pretty well, especially for one of the Silver Era's first generation titles. They do have a habit of disrupting the flow of the game, but they're fun. The stupid gameplay mechanic you REALLY need to be worried about is the fact the game doesn't let you jump. Instead, the jump is replaced with a roll. It's basically there to serve the same purpose as the ordinary, average, everyday jump, except without the wonderful convenience of being able to leap over foes who have you cornered.

That gets to be a problem when you encounter the one lone boss design in the entire game because he has long range and moves fast enough to feel like he takes up more of the screen than he really does. Even though he can knock you out of your roll, the only real method of fighting him is by hitting him when he gets close, then rolling across the screen, and repeating until clean. The other aliens aren't exactly brimming with design originality either. You'll only get about enough designs to be counted on one hand, although to be perfectly fair, that lone hand would be my left hand, which is the one with all its fingers.

The level designs do take occasional breaks and vary things up a little - some scenes scroll by having the characters run really fast and be able to take out the bad guys in one shot. It's a nice little change, because those are the only parts of the game that feel truly smooth.

The sprites in Alien Storm are big and details. That's very nice, and you may have to chalk any graphic limitations up to Alien Storm being an early Silver Era game. They're also insanely clunky, and the few animation frames that exist feel like the animation was forced into the controls. The graphics also lack color - Alien Storm has a look to it reminiscent of the classic movie series Alien. There's a very stilted, rigid, cardboard feel, and the character designs are very very few and constantly repeating. The aliens look like B-movie rejects from the 50's. The backgrounds aren't pushing any limits.

Sounds? You don't wanna know that, friend. They're bad and nonsensical every which way on the board. When an alien is defeated, it makes a noise which sounds like a screwdriver handle being tapped against a wooden workbench. Music is bland, and the game just generally sounds like the audio was half-assedly thrown in the day before shipment after someone forgot the game didn't make any noise and was told to quickly get something in.

Controls, well, the game feels every bit as stilted as it looks. It's easy enough to move the cursor in the first-person shooter sequences, but that's the only good thing I can really say about the controls. It's difficult to get the characters to move, especially when facing an onslaught, and tough to make sure the characters are properly aligned with the bad guys before attacking. And oh yeah, did I mention there's no jump function? It bears repeating. There's no jump function, and this game is a brawler.

With the first few games of every new console, there will be a few daring classics which push the boundaries of what a good video game can be. There will also be games hastily rushed out in order to capitalize on that new console smell. Guess which one Alien Storm is.]]> Wed, 10 Jul 2013 15:24:38 +0000
<![CDATA[Super Mario Bros. Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Super Mario Bros. has been considered a classic in the world of videogames, and rightfully so.  Despite its 8 bit limitations, this game brought about a lot of fun, replayability, decent graphics (for its time), a catchy soundtrack, and challenge that's all balanced perfectly.

I think Super Mario Bros. 3 is the best of all the Mario games, but this is still a superb game that's just as fun to play as it was back in the 80's.

]]> Sat, 30 Mar 2013 01:03:58 +0000
<![CDATA[ Thank you, world.]]> Four words: I LOVE VIDEO GAMES!!!!! I thank you, world for having video games in our lives, because that is the greatest invention ever. I hope you all reading this feel the same and agree with me. :)

]]> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 22:58:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ Assissin's Creed]]> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 22:18:04 +0000 <![CDATA[Crash Bandicoot 3: WARPED Quick Tip by Pine_Bluff_Variant]]> Fri, 7 Dec 2012 22:00:04 +0000 <![CDATA[ Still a blast, even if it shows its age [May contain spoilers]]]> Overview

In this groundbreaking 1996 title you play as adventurer Lara Croft who is on the hunt for an ancient artifact called the Scion, which requires her to travel across the globe for it's pieces. but she will have to face off against deadly creatures and traps alike to acquire them.

Story Introduction and Premise

The game starts off with a CGI cutscene detailing how Lara comes to know of the Scion. one of the things that have not aged well at all are these cutscenes, with it's compressed video quality and awkward 90's low-budget animation. Thankfully the plot of the game is interesting enough, even if it lacks in intricacy. Lara isn't one of the most detailed characters in the world: she likes adventure, she owns a mansion, and she has a hilariously proportioned body and that's about it. But the fact that a woman was headlining what became a massive gaming franchise was a big deal at the time. Shame they didn't make her a more detailed character.


Here is where the games major strengths and flaws lie. A little over a decade after first playing this game I still enjoy the exploration, the puzzle solving and fighting the strange beasts. A big problem is the game doesn't exactly have fantastic controls (as in, trying to move Lara feels like moving a tank) but I was surprised how quickly I adapted to it's 'unique' control scheme. I played this game on the Playstation, and that system had (and the PS3 still has) a notoriously bad D-PAD. I feel that being able to use an Analog stick to control Lara would have improved the feel of the game (I also had a better experience playing the later games on the PC)

Platforming and puzzle-solving make up the majority of this game, and thankfully it is not incredibly frustrating as one might expect. In fact, solving the puzzles and successfully landing a massive leap give a nice feeling of satisfaction (and the puzzles aren't stupid hard), combat is slightly hampered by the controls but the game features an auto-lock on system so you don't need to worry about aiming, just maneuvering. If combat took up the majority of this game I imagine it would get frustrating quickly.

The level design is a combination of odd and actually quite impressive set-pieces. There are still moments in this game that made me go 'wow' (the camera zooming out and showing you standing on top of a Sphinx) and there are moments that just make you go 'wat' (A lever underwater opens up a door above ground. Why?) a nice thing about the stage design is that navigating the levels isn't a massive hassle, you will very rarely get completely lost. But they also aren't a cakewalk, and the difficulty curve feels fair.

Graphics and Sound--Production Values

I think it's fair to describe the graphics at this point as 'pretty bad', at the time it was one of the best looking 3D games out there (especially in an era with such abominations as 'Bubsy 3D') but now time has caught up with this game: the animation looks stiff, the textures blurry and the level design uses a lot of 90 degree angles. the sound work sounds a lot better, the guns are loud, Lara makes a sickening crunch noise if she falls to far and the large beasts make some pretty good roars. The voice acting does not hold up however, it ranges to mediocre to hilariously bad. Thankfully talking also isn't a major component of this game.

To summarize: while this game is clearly showing its age, and you might take issue with one or two things in this game, I'd say it's still worth checking out, due to its value in gaming history and the fact that at its core it's still a fun game.

]]> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 21:16:12 +0000
<![CDATA[ A Short Tribute to a Trail Blazer]]>
The Sega Genesis broke new ground when it was released in 1989 with it's 16-bit engine, and it killed it's only 16-bit competition, a popular Japanese system called the Turbo Grafx 16 (which, coincidentally, was my first home gaming system. My parents were too cheap to get me a Nintendo.). But sales for the Genesis didn't really begin to take off until 1991, with the release of their new mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. With the introduction of Sonic, the Genesis began to overtake the Nintendo Entertainment System, and Nintendo was forced to launch their own 16-bit system, the Super NES. The two systems then engaged in a legendary neck and neck race for 16-bit supremecy which lasted until the very end of the 16-bit era.

Alright, enough history. Let's get right down to the core of what made the Genesis a great system. I would like to start with the hardware, but I don't know anything about that, except that it had significantly more power in it than it's 1989 16-bit competitor, the Turbo Grafx 16, which was not much more powerful than an 8-bit system (this is not to degrade the Turbo, as it was a good system in it's own right. I'll try to write about it sometime soon.). It's 1993 16-bit competitor, the Super NES, packed more of a punch in that area, but the Genesis still prevailed. But all I really know is that it displayed a lot of great graphics onscreen, and played some catchy music. We didn't hear a lot of voices, though. The boys at Nintendo claimed that the Genesis didn't have the capability, but I think it was just laziness on the part of the programmers. As for the controllers, they were nice, simple things that fit comfortably and snugly in your hands and didn't have l and r buttons on the top. They had a directional button, a start button, and three action buttons. A great layout for most games, but if you were into fighting games, it downright sucked. Fortunately, there were 6 button controllers available, and no, they didn't have l and r buttons, either. The Genesis also had a lot of add ons, but these hurt it more than they helped it. It was the second system to realize the potential of cd technology, and therefore the second system to have a cd attachment (betcha can't guess what the first system to have a cd player was... yep, the Turbo!! The Genesis, however, was the first system to make good games for their cd player. Just a piece of useless trivia from the Baron.). Later, they introduced another add on, the 32X, which was supposed to increase the power of the Genesis to 32-bit, but that turned out to be the biggest mistake Sega ever made. Even Sega admitted they screwed up with that one. Said one representative, "We promised but we didn't deliver". The 32X broke no new ground, and was being sold cheaply (read: from $150 to $19.99 in a year) in flea markets only a year after it was introduced, if that. It did have a few redeeming games, though, like Doom and an outstanding translation of Virtua Fighter.

Now we get to the good stuff. The stuff that makes or breaks the system: The games! And the Genesis had lots of 'em! You name the genre, Sega delivered the goods. The Genesis was the reigning king in the sports arena, with games like the NFL, NHL, and NBA live series from EA Sports. I can't name all the other companies that produced sports games for the Genesis, but among the non-EA Sports titles are Prime Time NFL Starring Deion Sanders, a great translation of the 2 on 2 arcade basketball classic NBA Jam, and the Mutant League games, which featured bloodthirsty mutant players and nasty plays-throw a bomb in football, it's the real thing! Strategy or puzzle games? You'll love Columns and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. As for the action games, there are plenty of those. To begin with, you have the Sonic the Hedgehog series, starring Sega's plucky blue mascot, who runs through levels at high speed, freeing the animals of Mobius from the evil Dr. Robotnik. Earthworm Jim stars an earthworm who gains super powers from a space suit and uses them against the evil Psy-Crow. You also have Aladdin, the best movie to game ever, and the best Contra game, called Contra: Hard Corps. And I dare not forget the Shinobi series, which started the whole ninja craze back in the day. Shooting games included Forgotten Worlds and Space Harrier. RPGs on the Genesis were few and far between, but when one came out, it was remembered forever. The Phantasy Star and Shining Force games are among the most influential in RPG history. There were no original fighting games, but the Genesis does have the better version of the original Mortal Kombat. If you're like me and consider the beat-em-up genre and the fighting genre to be the same, then you can include Golden Axe and Streets of Rage.

If there is one downside of the Genesis, it is that the games Sega rushed out for it at the end of the 16-bit era reek of the fact that they were rushed out. I can't tell you anything about them, as I never played any of them, but from what I heard, I'm not missing anything.

But those without a Genesis are missing something. This is a gaming system that no household should be without. If you happen to find one these days, buy it. You won't regret it.

Farewell, Sega Genesis, you'll be missed!]]> Sun, 9 Sep 2012 18:56:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ Bring more souls, Slayer of Demons! and so I did, for hours...]]>
The kingdom of Boletaria is engulfed in a colourless fog after the current ruler, King Allant uses souls to perform dark arts, raising the eldritch abomination the "Old One" from it's slumber. your character is one of many adventurers that enters the fog to save Boletaria, or to harness the souls for your own ends.

The prominent feature of this game and it's successor is the difficulty level. Not paying attention during the game can be fatal, simple enemies can be devastating in packs and stronger enemies will pose a challenge. this is not however fake difficulty that you find in games like "I Wanna be The Guy" as combat is simple to learn but deep, enemies can be defeated with simple strategy and different equipment sets can provide you an advantage over certain foes.

The game world is separated into different areas linked via a hub, all the levels following a dark fantasy theme: a ruined castle, a prison filled with deranged prisoners and stocked with torture devices, a swamp occupied with crazed lost souls... The areas perfectly depict a ruined, besieged world. In-game actions can affect the "tendency" of an area, allowing access to new sections of a level and affecting the toughness of enemies and their drop rate.

Like Dark Souls, the levelling-up system is flexible and you can create a multitude of character builds, along with them using different styles of play: you can have a character utilizing sheer brute force, a magic heavy user that kills from a difference, etc.

The online component will be familiar to players of Dark Souls. players can leave helpful or deceitful notes for other players to read, and they can be recommended.

A few things I disliked compared to Dark Souls: the character animation has very little weight to it, the weapon upgrading system is more complicated compared to the other game, and I thought the boss battles were not as good compared to the Dark Souls bosses.

I would heartily recommend this PS3 exclusive to fans of Action-RPG's and those seeking a challenge.]]> Sun, 19 Aug 2012 22:26:03 +0000
<![CDATA[ My favorite of all the Mario games. 94%]]>

Bowser is back to unleash terror, but this time, he's brought his seven children, known as the Koopalings, to wreak havoc in seven kingdoms, and to steal the magic wands from those kingdoms for Bowser's nefarious plans. Mario and Luigi have to go stop the Koopalings' invasion through their airships, retrieve the stolen magic wands and turn the transformed kings back to normal, and eventually, fight Bowser himself...again.

What I find most interesting with this storyline is that unlike most other Mario games, Princess Peach isn't immediately the "damsel in distress," but rather in the beginning of most worlds you enter in the game, she supplies you with a power-up. It's not until near the end of the game that she gets kidnapped by Bowser.


SMB3's gameplay is a vast improvement over the previous two games. If you're familiar with the gameplay mechanics of the first Super Mario Bros. (the American Super Mario Bros. 2 is pretty different, considering that it's merely Doki Doki Panic with Mario characters, and therefore has some pretty different gameplay mechanics, and I don't consider it a true sequel to SMB), then you know around 90% of Super Mario Bros. 3's mechanics. The right and left buttons on the d-pad make you walk right and left (respectively), Start pauses the game, B launches an attack (if you have a power-up that dishes out attacks), A makes you jump, and the Select button is restricted to the title screen to toggle between 1 and 2-player modes.

Throughout the game, you navigate through eight different worlds and have to complete a number of levels until you reach the end of the overworld map (usually you have to beat each level in order to get to the end of the map, but you can sometimes skip a level if there's an alternate, unblocked route), which features a castle with a transformed king and a Toad in distress, asking you to retrieve the magic wand from the Koopaling you have to fight.

The eight lands in the order of progression in the game are Grass Land, Desert Land, Water Land, Giant Land, Sky Land, Ice Land, Pipe Land, and Dark Land. The respective Koopalings you have to fight in these kingdoms are Larry Koopa, Morton Koopa Jr. Wendy O. Koopa, Iggy Koopa, Roy Koopa, Lemmy Koopa, and Ludwig von Koopa (you fight Bowser in Dark Land). With the exception of Bowser, you fight each of them on giant airships, that are often bristling with cannons and flamethrowers.

In the individual levels within the eight worlds you travel, they're quite varied. There's "regular" levels where you travel through a level on the world's surface while jumping over obstacles and defeating enemies. There's "sky" levels where you have to traverse through platforms above a giant bottomless pit, and these are often "auto-scrolling," so make sure you're staying ahead of the screen's movement towards the right. There's levels where you have to go down a pipe and swim through water, and there's levels where you have to go down a pipe and traverse through an underground level. Aside from that, there' also smaller castles within each world that you have to beat. These castles often have lava pools and jumping fireballs much like the castles in the first Mario game, and in the end of each, you have to fight a reptilian creature known as a Boom Boom, though these guys are often easy to defeat.

There's also optional places in each world you can visit. These include "mushroom houses" that when you visit them, you choose from one of three chests to pick up a power-up and a location where you try to align three images to win a power-up (the power-ups you can win are a mushroom, leaf, or fireflower). Sometimes, a moving card will appear on the map and you can play cards to win things like coins, extra lives, and power-ups by flipping cards and matching two of a kind to win something. Once in a blue moon, a ship will appear on the map and when you get on it, you just collect a ton of coins and you go down a pipe in the end to fight two Hammer Bros..

In each map, you'll bump into the Hammer Bros., and when you beat the two of them, you'll get a power-up.

There's a smorgasbord of enemies you fight in this game. As usual, you got the Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Piranha Plants, and Buzzy Beetles, but there's some more this time around. Some of the new enemies are the Chain Chomp (when I was a little kid, I thought these were spastic football helmets that hurt you), Boo, Dry Bones (the Koopa Troopa skeletons in the fortresses), baby Piranha Plants (these are capable of jumping), Thwomps (the blocks in the fortresses that try to crush you), and Buster Beetles (the beetles that can throw Ice Blocks at you).

There's a bunch of new power-ups as well. Along with the fireflower, there's the leaf, which allows you to fly after attaining a high-enough speed. There's also the Tanooki suit, which like the leaf, allows you to fly, but also allows you to turn into a statue for protection against enemies (and can defeat otherwise invincible adversaries like the rotating lights and fireballs in the fortresses). There's a frog suit that allows you to swim better in underwater levels. Among the "best" power-ups are the P-wing, which is similar to the leaf, but allows you to constantly fly without having to run and fill up the P-meter (and flight ability doesn't run out unless if you get hit by an enemy). My favorite power-up is the Hammer suit, since this makes you throw hammers that can defeat nearly all enemies (such as the Boos and smashing blocks, which are invincible to tailspin attacks and fireballs), and when you crouch, the shell on the back of your suit protects you from fireball attacks. Because of how potent the Hammer suit it, it's only natural for it to be the rarest power-up in the game.


SMB3 is a step up in graphics compared to its two predecessors. Because of the more diverse environments, each world has a distinct visual style. With the graphical improvements, Mario and Luigi look better than in the previous two games, and the same can be said for all of the creatures in the game. Also, there's a much wider array of colors used in this game, and this game helped set the stage for what is now Mario's signature polychromatic worlds and creatures (while the first two SMB games had color, the color range wasn't very large). I think some of the best-looking environments in this game are for Ice Land and Dark Land. The former for the fact that it really does look and invoke the feeling of a chilly world (and to be humorous, I bet this is what Mario and Luigi would imagine what countries like Russia and Finland are like) and the latter for its really ominous, bleak atmosphere. Thanks to the wider array of colors, it helps flesh out each world as very distinctive from the other, which is a great thing considering how varied each of the eight worlds are.


A lot of the sound effects from the first two Mario games have been carried over into SMB3, such as the coin sounds, enemy-smashing sounds, and the fireball sounds. These sounds are quite effective, given the NES's hardware limitations.

The soundtrack for SMB3 is some of Koji Kondo's best work yet. There's more Overworld themes instead of just one, and the well-known Underworld theme has been "spiced up" in this game (and it sounds better). Two of my favorite themes in this game are the Fortress and Air Ship themes. The former makes you feel like you're in a hideous dungeon where hundreds of innocents are met with horrible fates and the latter has a percussive, militaristic aesthetic. In one of the levels in Dark Land, you have to traverse through a squad of tanks, and with the ominous black background and Air Ship theme in the background, it feels like a squad of German heavy tanks is pouring into the Soviet Union circa 1941.


I only have a few complaints with Super Mario Bros. 3. My chief complaint with this game is that for how challenging and lengthy it is, there's no saving feature in the game. So this means you gotta devote a huge chunk of your day to beat this thing since you gotta do it all in one sitting.

The difficulty curve among the last three Koopalings is a little off. Fighting Roy Koopa is pretty difficult since he can shake up the ground, temporarily immobilizing you if you're on the ground. However, Lemmy is after him, and fighting him is almost as easy as fighting Larry and Morton, but with Ludwig coming after Lemmy, the difficulty spikes up drastically.

The other is more minor, but it does irk me a little. Why are the Boos invincible to fireballs but not so to hammers? Theoretically, ghosts are supposed to be gaseous entities, so wouldn't fire be a more logical element in defeating them rather than metal projectiles?


This is surely a classic in the NES library, and easily among the best of all Mario games. This game is available on the Wii's virtual console (and has been re-issued on various handhelds over the last decade or so), so you can play it on there. However, if you're more of an old-school gamer, you may find yourself dusting off your NES and SMB3 cartridge to play this one again. Regardless of what method you like to play this game on, give it another whirl.]]> Thu, 2 Aug 2012 16:58:22 +0000
<![CDATA[ Steam: A PC gamer's best friend. 94%]]>

One of the best aspects to Steam is that registration and installation of Steam is free. The only things you pay for on this website are the games you want to get.


There's literally something for every type of gamer on Steam, since the app has around 1,100 games to choose from with just about every genre you can think of. Steam has FPS, RPG, strategy, puzzle, casual, platformer, point-and-click adventure, fighter/brawler, MMORPG, and free-to-play multiplayer games, just to name a few of the genres available. Even better is that aside from the smörgåsbord of genres, you get plenty of old and new games to choose from, which is great if you either missed out on classic PC games from the 90's, lost copies of them, or if the games aren't compatible with your current gaming machine.

Here's just some of the games available on Steam:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (FPS/RPG)
Q.U.B.E. (puzzle)
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (RPG)
Doom 3 (FPS)
Alice: Madness Returns (action/platformer)
Sam and Max series (point-and-click adventure)
Amnesia: The Dark Descent (survival horror)
Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition (fighter)
Streets of Rage 2 (side-scroller/brawler)
Wolfenstein 3D (FPS)
Columns (puzzle)
Portal 1 and 2 (puzzle)
Half-Life series (FPS)
Splinter Cell: Conviction (action/stealth)
Mass Effect 1 and 2 (action/RPG)
EDGE (indie/action)
Critical Mass (puzzle)
Mirror's Edge (first person runner)
Gunstar Heroes (side-scrolling shooter)
Digital Combat Simulator: Black Shark (aircraft simulator)
Railworks 3: Train Simulator 2012 (train simulator)
NBA 2K12 (sports)
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (racing)

That's just the tip of the iceburg.


Every week, there's sales for select games on Steam. Especially during the summer and Christmastime, there will be giant sales for individual games and game bundles. Just an example of some of the great deals I got on Steam were that I managed to get Bioshock for only $5, the Doom complete package for only around $8.74, and Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY edition for only around $7.49. So if you're short on cash and have some patience, you can strike some great steals on certain games.  There's some great promotions as well.  For example, when I pre-ordered Red Faction:  Armageddon last year, I got Red Faction, Red Faction II, and Red Faction:  Guerilla for free.


Aside from buying games for yourself, if you have any friends with Steam accounts, you can buy and send games to your friends on Steam. For example, I bought a game package on sale called Games with Cubes (this contained, Q.U.B.E., EDGE, Blocks that Matter, Bit Trip Runner, Critical Mass, and RUSH) recently, and wound up with extra copies of Q.U.B.E. and EDGE, so I gave the extra copies to a good friend of mine on Steam.


The only real bad thing I can say about Steam is that you can only get the games through downloading them on the internet, which can be a hassle for those who don't have rocket-fast internet connections. Downloading older games like the original Doom and Altered Beast won't take long, but newer games like Bioshock and Batman: Arkham Asylum can take many hours, even days, to download. However, this is only a minor setback considering all the good that comes with it.


Once you buy these games, you never have to buy them again. This is especially great if you've had some bad luck with your computer and wind up losing the games on your hard drive. In recent months, I had to combat a nasty computer virus and had to wrestle with computer bugs, and after having to erase my C drive a few times, I was delighted to see that all the games I bought were still in my ownership library. Even better, with some games, your gameplay progress will be saved on Steam's servers. After I had to re-install Deus Ex: Human Revolution recently, I was happy to see that when I turned the game on again, that the game resumed on the last save I earned. Unfortunately, some games like Super Meat Boy and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2 don't have the gameplay progress saved, but I think that's more of an issue with the games in question rather than Steam itself.


Some PC gamers hate having Steam on their computers for the fact that they'll need an internet connection and separate application to run the games on it, but I don't think these are big issues in today's computer world since so many people have high-speed internet now and having an extra application on my computer to play the game shouldn't be an issue. The benefits that Steam has, especially with the fact that you don't have to re-purchase lost games, makes it very well worth having on your machine.


If you're a PC gamer, old and new, Steam is an application you should register to and install, since the smörgåsbord of games, frequent sales, gifting options, and buy-once necessary purchase of games will make your gaming life so much better.

]]> Fri, 13 Jul 2012 19:36:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Turbo Zelda]]>
A quick look through video game history finds an ocean of more technologically advanced ripoffs of older games following the release of any new console. In no game is an "I want money from your formula too!" mentality more blatantly obvious than it is in Neutopia. Neutopia simply reeks of Zelda, everything from the gameplay to the plot and everything else in between. This isn't just taking too much inspiration from a single game here; if Neutopia isn't illegal, then it's performing a delicate balancing act on the line. No, that's an understatement. Neutopia is more like that little kid who's crossed the line entirely, except for one foot which he keeps firmly planted in safe territory so he can taunt his sibling: "I didn't cross the line! I didn't cross the line! You can't say anything because I didn't cross the line! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!" The game's designers better be thanking their lucky stars Neutopia was on such an unpopular console. If more people had heard of it, Nintendo's legal eagles surely would have swooped in and torn them to shreds.

Ask any veteran of both games to explain Neutopia without referencing Zelda, and you'll quickly learn why I opened this review the way I did. It's just not possible. The person in question doesn't necessarily have to be Bill Gates; he could be the world's greatest rocket scientist or the world's most eloquent speaker, or both. Ask about Neutopia, Zelda's gonna get mentioned. Therefore I'm not even going to try to explain this game on its own merits. However, I will list the number of Zelda references I've used at the end of the review.

This action-RPG begins with the obligatory RHC (really hot chick) being gracefully stolen from her residence by the obligatory DEV (dark evil villain). The RHC and DEV of Neutopia are respectively named Aurora and Dirth. The very morning after Aurora's kidnapping, our hero Jazeta shows up in the once-peaceful land of Neutopia (yes, the game is named after the kingdom it takes place in) with a sense of high adventure on his mind and a sword and shield in his hands. His mission: To go forth into the now-hostile land of Neutopia. To seek out new forms of life - and slaughter them like the lowly, evil scum they are. To boldly go where many have gone before - across the four spheres of Neutopia in search of eight legendary medallions which will open the gateway to Dirth's hideout at the North Pole. Let's see now... One hero setting out in search of eight relics which will enable him to fight off one evil villain in the name of one kidnapped princess. Gee, do we spot a certain resemblance to another video game in that objective?

Yeah, that could be the objective description of any other video game. But I'll describe just how Jazeta goes about accomplishing this objective: He wanders through a massive overworld, one screen at a time. In this overworld, he burns trees, crystals, spires, and pillars, and blows up weird-looking spots on walls in search of secret passages. In these secret passages, he picks up information, weapons, and items needed in the search for the medallions, which are hidden in dungeons that are also tackled in a screen-by-screen manner. The dungeons contain puzzles like locked doors and hidden rooms, which Jazeta has to solve by doing things like bombing walls and pushing rocks. To get the medallions out of the dungeons, Jazeta must defeat a boss (well, duh). Wash, lather, rinse, repeat until the kingdom is free of evil. He also does it all with the aid of a compass which points him in a general direction. In dungeons, he also has the aid of a map and a crystal ball when he finds them.

Among the items Jazeta picks up to help in in his mighty quest are a fire wand (one of the primary weapons) bombs, the Moonbeam Moss (Neutopia's candle) the Rainbow Drop (Neutopia's ladder) and various swords, shields, and armor. Are we beginning to see the Zelda-tribute picture now?

Okay, so Neutopia is a dumbed-down version of The Legend of Zelda for the kiddies. But aside from the stunning lack of originality, I'm not going to complain about much else - because, really, there isn't all that much to complain about. A novel could be written on the parallels between Neutopia and Zelda, but none of it will change the fact that Zelda was not a bad game. Therefore, a game which rips off Zelda in every way, shape, and form will not necessarily be a bad game. It may fade back in the shadows while the original version of it basks in the glory of being one of the all-time classic gaming breakthroughs, but that won't mean it isn't worth playing.

In a couple of ways, Neutopia is even superior to Zelda. While Zelda had one overworld for you to lose yourself in, the world of Neutopia is comprised of four of the biggest overworlds you've ever seen, with each one emphasizing a different theme. You start off in the Land Sphere, and finding the medallions will yield access to the Subterranean Sphere, Sea Sphere, and Sky Sphere. While the themes the four spheres are named after could have done a better job playing up their gimmicks, they all perform the function of getting you very lost quite well. The Subterranean Sphere in particular is a tricky world to navigate, but even if you completely lose yourself, there's an item in the game that allows you to return to the last place you saved. (Just don't save if you don't know where you are.) The dungeons aren't quite the fierce mindbenders seen in Zelda, but they're still filled with fun little surprises. I'm certain there are critics of Neutopia who cite the simplicity of necessary items in contrast to Zelda, but I don't consider that much of a complaint. There were times in Zelda when the game went over the top in its complexity. In Zelda, there were two different candles to light rooms with. In Neutopia, however, there's just one Moonbeam Moss which always performs when necessary for as long as needed.

While the overall simplicity is generally a good thing, there are times when Neutopia's lack of complication works against it. The most dangerous enemies in Neutopia are teleporting ghosts which aimlessly float from one end of a room to the other - a nuisance, but not exactly a threat. Granted the enemies in Zelda weren't exactly programmed to hunt you down either, but there were certain tricks and twists to some bad guys which complicated your battle approach. Neutopia's set of foes, while very diverse, can be entirely dealt with using the good old kamikaze approach - just walk up and start hitting. Things get more interesting when you meet bosses, but even those guys are still pretty hit-or-miss in the complication department. The game will give you a really easy boss like the dragon in the Land Sphere, then give you a more difficult boss like the gargoyles in the Subterranean Sphere. An action/RPG vet will have no trouble blowing through the game until the Sky Sphere, but even there the only existing challenge comes in enemies who can stand up to more punishment before going down. I'll even go as far as to say there are only four things about Neutopia which will really challenge anyone: Locating the necessary items, the crystal robot boss, the fake Dirth boss, and Dirth himself. You can include a fifth if you decide to neglect the Moonbeam Moss. Even opening the dungeon doors is no trouble. The door puzzle solutions are a select handful: Push the rock, kill the enemies, or kill the enemies THEN push a rock. Once you reach a certain point, those won't even matter because there's an item, the Bell of Heaven, which can open doors for you once you find it.

Someone got lazy while writing, or while translating for the English-speaking masses, or something. There's something weird about having almost every reference to Jazeta preceded by the words "our hero." "Our hero Jazeta has obtained the medallion!" "Our hero Jazeta has obtained the Boom Bombs!" As if we needed to be reassured that Jazeta has not joined the dark side or is a spy for them. Also, the strongest sword, shield, and armor in the game are called exactly what they are: The Strongest Sword, Strongest Shield, and Strongest Armor. (As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.) It is almost like the names of the items were rushed and tacked on at the last minute before press time. Those are the only qualms with the dialogue, though. The rest isn't what would be called well-written, but it's easy to read so your little kids won't have any trouble understanding. Again, simplicity is the advantage.

Neutopia's graphics are what they're supposed to be: A gussied-up version of Zelda's. While Zelda looked two-dimensional, Neutopia's graphics pull off a pseudo-3d effect. That's about all they do. On their own merits, the graphics have color splashed all around, but are otherwise neither here nor there. Zelda, however, still gets the nod in sound. Neutopia has an excellent title theme and good background music in the Subterranean Sphere, but the soundtracks just can't be compared. Zelda's soundtrack has endured over the ages for a reason. No matter how many times you hear it, it's always synonymous with a big adventure. Neutopia's soundtrack, if remembered at all, will be so only for its mediocre simplicity. And there's nothing to say about the gameplay - both games use EXACTLY the same control interface, so if you've played one, you've played them both.

See my rating. I would not give that rating to a bad game. Neutopia is excellent for little kids who don't have the dexterous minds needed to enjoy Zelda, or for people who are new to action/RPG's. It's a justifiable purchase over Zelda with more variety in the worlds, enemies, and simplicity. But for those who have played Zelda, the difference between the two games is like the difference between George W. Bush and John Kerry: One panders to voters by pretending to be a Republican; the other is a real Republican. And when one pretends to be something the other one really is, the voters feel better just putting the real thing back into office for another four years. Therefore, this voter has spoken. Zelda for President!

I have used 24 Zelda references in this review, give or take a few.]]> Wed, 11 Jul 2012 01:04:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ Bluestreak Returns]]>
Particular case in point: Sonic the Hedgehog. I'm almost certain Sonic wasn't the first animal to wear clothes (his power sneakers). He was just yet another animal to wear them and have ATTITUDE! He would TAP HIS FOOT when he got impatient! So now, designers figure, the hot new trend is clothing-wearing animals with ATTITUDE! So now store shelves are creaking under the weight of creatures like Bubsy, Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel, Conker, and all those other faceless entities.

Meanwhile, the boys back at Sega HQ are working their butts off trying to come up with a sequel to the original animal with ATTITUDE! One which would hopefully top the original. It was during this turbulent and chaotic time that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 would emerge and lead Sega to the promised land (the bank) once again.

As many of us already know, Sonic is the only marsupial on the planet who could outrun The Flash, Superman, Speedy Gonzales, and the Road Runner. When we last saw him, he was running free amongst the animals he had just freed. His nemesis, Dr. Robotnik, is still a mad scientist, and mad scientists, quite ironically, almost never learn. So Sonic has barely begun to bask in the glory of his newfound stardom when the good doctor sweeps back into town with a new death machine called the Death Egg. The rest of Sonic's vacation time is postponed, and Sonic is called back into action to save the friendly forest creatures from being turned into beings of unimaginable destructive power.

So what's different this time around? Well, to be heartbreakingly honest, practically nothing. Sonic still blazes from the left side of the screen to an exit on the far, far, FAR right. Along the way, he still collects oodles of rings and power-ups while avoiding Robotnik's cleverly designed methods of killing hedgehogs. He still gets an extra life for every 100 rings he collects, still has them all knocked off him when he gets nailed. Rings still won't insure him should he end up on the bottom of a bottomless pit or between two objects which would turn him into a pancake. He can still grab a shield, a pair of speed sneakers, super rings and temporary invincibility. He is still hunting down a handful of mysterious gems, which he finds in bonus stages.

Differences are mostly little, nitpicky things. Instead of running through six zones with three acts each with a one-act zone at the end to face down Robotnik, Sonic now runs through ten zones. The first seven zones all have two acts each. The eighth zone, the Metropolis zone, has three. The next two, the Sky Chase Zone and the Wing Fortress Zone, both have one. Then comes the Death Egg zone, in which Sonic faces down a robotic version of himself before taking on the doc, who's wearing a giant, robotic version of himself for the big showdown now. One level up on the original game may not sound like a whole lot, but wait until you see the SIZE of these places! Most of the zones are quite large, and creative to boot. The Casino Night Zone has slots which Sonic can play to win rings, or possibly lose them. The Oil Ocean Zone has oil slides which Sonic slides down. The giant Metropolis Zone, an insanely difficult world of mechanics, simply has to be seen for you to grasp its enormosity.

Graphics too. Graphics are also different. They're still top-notch, but they're different. Sonic, for example, looks darker and thinner. Rings and power-ups have slightly different animations. The original Sonic theme sounds a bit different, too.

So what's new this time around? Lots of things! First, the game's plot actually gives Sonic a reason to hunt down the Chaos Emeralds. Since these gems are believed to hold exceptional powers, Robotnik wants them to power his Death Egg. There is also a new Chaos Emerald lurking somewhere in the game, since there are forevermore seven of them to hunt down, instead of six like in the original.

While I'm on the subject of Chaos Emerald hunting, I might as well mention the way of getting to the bonus stage, which is also new. Instead of jumping through a giant ring when you have 50 rings at the end of an act, all you have to do is grab 50 rings, hit a star post, and jump through the little ring of stars which forms when you do that. This is a welcome change from the first game, as it gives you several chances at an emerald during every stage. If you blow a shot at one, collects 50 more rings, find another star post, and do it all over again! Whenever you leave the special stage, all of the current act's rings and power-ups will be back where you first found them, so finding more rings to take you back to the special stage won't be a problem unless you're an amnesiac.

The special stage itself is also new, not to mention REALLY FREAKIN' HARD! Instead of simply floating through a rotating maze to the emerald room, Sonic now runs through a giant half pipe. As he runs, he collects rings, trying to meet a goal of a certain number of rings by the time he reaches various checkpoints. If he can't nab the rings, the star post spews him back out into the real world, emerald-less. And the designers decided not to make collecting the required number of rings easy for you. There are bombs bumrushing at you in the special stage too, and for every bomb you collect, you lose a number of rings - which you can't retrieve. This is probably the best special stage Sega has introduced in the Sonic series, but it's also the most frustrating.

Part of the frustration comes from Sonic's gamelong new partner, Miles "Tails" Prower. Tails is a two-tailed little fox who trails behind Sonic every step of the way. He's good to dispose of a few enemies and reel in some rings, but he's generally useless unless you have a second player controlling him. If you're trying to clear the game with all seven emeralds, you should at least have a second player man the controls during the special stages, in which Tails always manages to find the bombs. In the game itself, Tails' help doesn't really matter a whole lot. The player who winds up controlling him will get the royal screwjob, since Tails will spend half the time offscreen, having lagged too far behind Sonic. Although he can fly, you can't control when he flies. Fortunately, you have the option of going through the game with just Sonic or just Tails.

Tails may not lag too far behind in the new TWO-PLAYER GAME! Since there's a second good guy, the designers decided they might as well throw in a few two-player levels to up the replay value. Unfortunately, when I said throw in, I meant throw in. The two-player game, while a lot of fun, reeks of afterthought obviousness. Instead of creating some inventive new levels for you and player two to blast through, the designers just smushed down the Emerald Hill, Casino Night, and Mystic Cave Zones, tossed in teleporter and Robotnik moniters, and said "Go." The result is a two-player mode which is plagued with slowdown. The special stage is there for competition, but it's a bit too basic.

Tired of backtracking to get Sonic up that one too-steep hill? Then build up his speed without ever moving with the new SPIN DASH ATTACK! This move allows Sonic to do just what Mr. Voice said - build up his speed without having to leave his current location. Just duck and press the jump button, Sonic revs right up, and when you take your thumb off the down button, off he goes, leaving his foes in the dust. Very useful for those times when you have to go forward but can't go back.

The graphics, as I've already stated, have changed. For better or worse is in the eye of the beholder, but Sonic remains the fluid sprite he always was. Tails is a bit less detailed in his movements, but his two tails and the fact he uses them to fly are nice touches. The cute little forest animals still jump off when Sonic bashes the machines they command, but the enemies actually seem to have a bit more detail now. There are also a lot more of them, many of which are far more creative than they were in the first game. The backgrounds are also better looking. And wait until you see the Casino Night Zone!

Except for the opening theme - which doubles as the invincibility music - the music of Sonic Sr. has been scrapped for a new soundtrack. It's just as well. The new score is a definite keeper, with tracks which evoke different elements and influences. The score to the Oil Ocean Zone has an oriental flavor. The Casino Night Zone has a wonderful hot jazz track, and the Hill Top Zone's music sounds like a combination of the good aspects of country and bluegrass music. The music in the two-player zones was changed, but the general essence of the single-player tracks is kept, at least in the bouncy Emerald Hill and jazzy Casino Night scores. The music in the Mystic Cave zone turns from low-rent horror fare to low-rent techno fare. The sounds are generally unchanged from the first game.

The controls are also unchanged from the first game. Sonic still takes time to build up to his full sprint, and he still has trouble conquering hills if he doesn't have a running start. The game can still be played with a single action button.

Some call Sonic the Hedgehog 2 the series' finest hour, but I'm a bit hard-pressed to agree. I love this game, but trying to pick out the best Sonic game out of such a great series is agonizing, and not something I'm going to attempt right now. I'll tell you this right now: Sonic 2 was my first Genesis game, and I very often found myself crawling back to it. It's bigger than the first game and contains a lot of little secrets, and the two-player mode only adds to the replay value. If you own this game, hold onto it for awhile. Gamecube owners, go out and buy the Sonic compilation disk right now. For 50 bucks, you Gamecube owners get most of the 16-bit Sonic games (I'm not sure if it includes Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3d Blast.).]]> Sat, 23 Jun 2012 14:32:22 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Blue Blur is back in his best game. 94%]]>

After defeating Dr. Robotnik in the last game, Robotnik gets back to work with his usual scheme of taking over the world. Like in the last game, he's captured a bunch of animals and is turning them into malicious robots, and is building a devastation space weapon called the Death Egg. You take control of Sonic again to thwart Robotnik's plans, and this time, a two-tailed fox by the name of Miles “Tails” Prower tags along and helps you.


If you're familiar with the way Sonic 1 plays, then you know how to complete 99% of the controls in this game. However, they added a critical improvement in Sonic 2, which is the spindash attack. All you do is crouch down (holding the bottom d-pad) and hit the jump button to start spinning, and when you release both buttons to go much faster than without the spindash. With the spindash, you can also plow into most Badniks and they'll get destroyed.

All the power ups like the Ring monitor, Invincibility monitor, Shield monitor, and Extra Life monitor are in this game. The rules about collecting rings in Sonic 1 carry over into Sonic 2.

Also, there's a point in getting points this time around. At the end of each act, if you get 10,000 points in that act, you'll get a continue. Whenever your cumulative score hits 50,000 and numbers with a divisor of 50,000 (such as 100,000 and 150,000), you get an extra life.

There's also a point to getting Chaos Emeralds. If you collect all the Chaos Emeralds (now its seven emeralds instead of six) and get 50 rings, you turn into Super Sonic. Super Sonic is a yellow juggernaut. Other than drowning, bottomless pits, and getting crushed, nothing can hurt Super Sonic, as he's not only invincible, but he can run extremely fast and jump over really long distances. The only drawback to Super Sonic is that your ring count gets deducted at one ring per second, and once you run out of rings, you turn back into regular Sonic.

The Special Stage is different from that in Sonic 1. Instead of collecting 50 rings and jumping into a giant ring at the end of an act, you collect 50 rings and jump into a bunch of rotating stars that pop up when you hit a lamp post. You also race through a half-pipe and need to collect a certain number of rings before each checkpoint. When you clear all the checkpoints with the required amounts of rings, you get a Chaos Emerald. These Special Stages are significantly more difficult than the ones in Sonic 1 because aside from needed to collect the required rings, you have to dodge a bunch of bombs, and these can be hard to dodge. It also doesn't help that usually, Tails will get hit by bombs, making you loose some of your rings.

You also have the option to switch between Sonic + Tails, Sonic solo, and Tails solo when playing the one-player mode.


There's also a 2-player mode for this game. Basically, it's a split-screen racing game where you and a second player choose as Sonic or Tails and race each other until the end of the acts. The acts to choose from in the 2-Player mode are Emerald Hill, Casino Night, Mystic Cave, and the Special Stage.


While the graphics in Sonic 1 are impressive, Sonic 2 manages to improve upon this area as well. There's better color arrangements to improve visual depth on the levels and backgrounds. The finest example of this would be the Casino Night Zone. The background in that level is absolutely beautiful and colorful, and makes you feel like you're in a “sanitized” version of Las Vegas. The “industrial” themed levels like the Chemical Plant, Oil Ocean, Metropolis, and Death Egg Zones have improved from industrial-themed levels in Sonic 1 as well. The architecture and atmospheres in these levels are much more serious-looking than in Sonic 1, and particularly with the Chemical Plant and Death Egg Zones, I think they perfectly exemplify the way a high-tech, industrial setting should look like.


All the sound effects from the first game are carried over into this one, so I can't really say much more than what I already said in my Sonic 1 review.

The soundtrack is even better than that in the first game, and Masato Nakamura returns to create music in this game as well. Aside from having more levels and therefore more music tracks, a good deal of the music on here is better than in the first game (which still has great music). Standout tracks on here are for Chemical Plant, Aquatic Ruin, Casino Night, Mystic Cave, Metropolis, Sky Chase, Wing Fortress, and Death Egg (though for Death Egg, you only hear about four seconds of the music since you immediately go into one of the last boss battles). Death Egg is the perfect music to hear when you're in a high-tech spacecraft. Mystic Cave is worth mentioning because the opening melody is really reminiscent of the Inspector Gadget theme, and that the music itself is pretty creepy. Casino Night and Sky Chase have really relaxed, upbeat feelings to them.

The 2-player levels even have their own versions of the music. The 2-player version of Casino Night has a peppier beat to it, and reminds me a bit of the Last Resort club music featured in Total Recall. I personally think the 2-player version of the Emerald Hill Zone sounds better than the single player version.

There's also a track called Hidden Palace for an unreleased level of the same name in the game. Despite not being in any levels, I think this is one of the most elegant videogame tunes I've ever heard.


My only real complaint with this game is that in the Special Stage, Tails can make it more difficult for the fact that he's prone to getting hit by bombs, so you have to be extra careful with how you play in the stages.


Of all the “classic” Sonic games and with the entire Sonic game library, this one is the best. Like Sonic 1, it's been re-issued countless times and is available with other Sonic games like Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (Xbox 360, PS3) and available as individual game downloads on Steam.

This game is nearly 20 years-old and I still think it's totally awesome.

]]> Thu, 14 Jun 2012 21:24:31 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Blue Blur makes his rather remarkable debut. 90%]]>


In this game, an evil scientist named Dr. Robotnik is turning animals into malicious robots and is searching for the six Chaos Emeralds, which he thinks will make him rule Mobius. You play Sonic, a blue hedgehog who's really fast and is determined to stop Robotnik from getting the emeralds all while saving his furry and feathered friends.

Admittedly, the story and characters aren't works of art, but the brilliance of this game lies in its innovative style of platforming, lush graphics, and excellent sound.


While it's been said millions of times before, Sonic really set itself apart from the other platformers out there for its fast speed. While this game series isn't Ninja Gaiden-level difficult, Sonic's speed really makes a gamer refine his or her motor skills and hand-eye coordination to make precise jumps and to jump or run all at the right times. Despite the fact that this game is famed for being fast, there are some spots in the game where you have to slow down to properly avoid certain obstacles, which I don't really have a problem with since I think it's these little “breaks” that add just the right amounts of variation in gameplay to keep from getting monotinous.


The gamplay behind this is simple in concept, as the only buttons you really use are the d-pad and the jump button (and the Start button just in case you need a snack or bathroom break). The physics in Sonic's jumps are well-done, since the movement-arcs feel natural and there's no “sudden stops” when you stop moving, which like the jumps, feels more natural.

Throughout the game, you race through 2D levels with plenty of platforms you jump on and pits and other obstacles you have to avoid by usually jumping over. You also have malicious robots known as “Badniks” throughout the levels where you can either avoid them or you can attack them by jumping on them to set the animals inside the machines free. Some of the most annoying Badniks in the game are Catterkiller in the Marble and Scrap Brain Zones, Roller in the Spring Yard Zone, Orbinaut in the Labyrinth and Starlight Zones, and Ball Hog in the Scrap Brain Zone.

The levels in this game are nicely-varied. You run through six levels consisting each of three acts, and at the end of the third acts (except for Scrap Brain, the last level), you have a boss fight with Dr. Robotnik. Each level has its own theme. The first and iconic level, Green Hill Zone is a level full of greenery and some tropical trees, while there's levels like the Spring Yard Zone that are almost like giant, colorful pinball machines without the flippers, and there's even a beautiful, star-lit level called the Starlight Zone. One of the most hated levels in the series is the Labyrinth Zone, mainly because out of all the water-based zones in the Sonic games, this one is where you were most likely to drown.

You have to collect rings throughout the level to stay alive. If you get hit while you have rings, you lose all your rings, but if you get hit without any rings, you die. If you collect 100 rings, you get an extra life. If you have at least 50 rings by the end of a level, you can jump into a giant ring that takes you to the Special Stage.

In the Special Stage, you go through a rotating maze where you have to reach the end of the maze, in which where you find the Chaos Emerald, and you reach the emerald by breaking through jewels encircling the emerald. You have to keep yourself distanced from the “Goal” areas, which take you out of the Special Stage.

Throughout the levels, there's various TV monitors that provide various power-ups for you. There's a Shield monitor, which gives you a protective shield that's lost once you hit a dangerous obstacle or get hit by a Badnik. There's a Ring monitor, which gives you 10 rings. There's a Shoes monitor, which makes you run fast temporarily (and has faster music when you're in this mode). There's an Invincibility monitor, which gives you temporary invincibility from enemies and certain obstacles (though you can still drown, fall from a bottomless pit, and get crushed). Finally, there's a Sonic monitor, which gives you an extra life.


Despite the fact that this game is 21 years-old as of writing this, the graphics in Sonic the Hedgehog still look really good. This game, along with Sonic's sequels in for the Sega Genesis, would take full advantage of the Genesis's processing capabilities to generate beautiful, eye-catching graphics that do an excellent job of creating visual depth by adding many shades and highlights to various objects. I think the levels with the best imagery in this game are the Green Hill Zone, Starlight Zone, and Scrap Brain Zone. Even Sonic and other characters in the game, which are smaller than the beautiful environments, have a good deal of visual depth to them thanks to the proper use of colors within the game platform's hardware limitations.


The sound effects and music for this game are marvelous (especially the latter). The sounds like the explosions, jumping noises, and spring noises despite having obvious limitations from the gaming hardware of its time, still sound fresh today.

The soundtrack is where the game's sounds really shine. The music was created by Masato Nakamura, who's the main composer for J-pop group Dreams Come True. I watched some videos about the development of the early Sonic games, and in an interview with Nakamura, he said that he imagined the Sonic game as a movie and composed music that would fit the caliber of a film, along with matching the moods evoked by the images of the levels. Out of all the tracks on here, the Green Hill music is probably the most iconic track on here, and while I really like it, my favorites here are the music tracks for Spring Yard and Starlight. The former for its really bouncy, joyous feeling, and the latter for its relaxed, beautiful nature. All in all, the music in this videogame is so great, I regularly listen to these tracks by themselves, thanks to websites like YouTube where people have uploaded the music for our listening pleasure.


My only complaints with this game lie in with the scoring system and Chaos Emeralds. The scoring system for the fact that unlike the sequels to this game, you didn't get any rewards for reaching certain numbers of points.

The Chaos Emeralds for the fact that all you get when you collect them is a “good” ending (which admittedly, is a pretty lame ending). The sequels fixed this problem for the fact that you become Super Sonic when you get all the emeralds.


Despite the two shortcomings I just mentioned, Sonic the Hedgehog has earned its place as a classic in the videogame world. It's been re-issued countless times over the years, so you can get it bundled with other Sonic/Sega Genesis games or for you PC gamers out there, downloadable purchases on Steam (or you may dust off your Genesis and Sonic cartridge to play this one again).

I've loved this game for nearly 21 years, and I'll probably still love it by the time I'm 95 years-old.

]]> Wed, 6 Jun 2012 02:35:19 +0000
<![CDATA[ Decent gameplay cannot overcome glaring flaws [Review may contain spoilers]]]> Overview

You play as Samus Aran, famous intergalactic bounty hunter. After returning from her mission to wipe out the Metroids and Mother Brain on the planet Zebes, she picks up a distress signal from the "Bottle Ship" and sets off to investigate. Within the ship she discovers a group of Galactic Federation troops and a wide range of menacing creatures on the loose, the kind of situation Samus knows all too well.

Story Introduction and Premise

Okay, first off I would like to apologize if this comes off more like an angry rant, now on to the review.

Metroid: Other M is the first game in the series to feature heavy usage of cutscenes. and it DOES NOT WORK.

If I had to describe the writing in this game with one phrase, I would use "Really bad anime", the cutscenes are long, and they WILL start to irritate you very quickly. The game relies heavily on Samus to deliver exposition, and I do not think good writing involves having the protagonist repeat to the player what just happened on the screen moments before.

The most complained about aspect of the writing in this game is how the character of Samus Aran was handled. Having the distinction of being one of the first, if not the first female protagonist in gaming history, her character is regarded as a certifiable badass, smashing through hordes of enemies intent on saving the galaxy from hostile forces, even if it ends with her death. And what does she become in this game? Dull, childish and blindly following orders from her former commander. Also she repeats the word "Baby" a million times during the course of the game (A fun drinking game if you liked alcohol poisoning is taking a shot everytime she says baby)

In this game, Samus only activates powerups when Adam (the leader of the Galactic Federation unit) tells her to, which leads to several stupid events during the course of the game. Being forced to run through a lava room without the Varia Suit until Adam decides to finally let her use it while Samus loses health at a steady pace is just stupid. Also, when Samus inevitably meets Ridley, she just loses it and has to be snapped out of it by one of the soldiers. At this point, Samus has met and defeated Ridley twice already, and she just breaks down when meeting him in this game? why?

Other games in the series like Super Metroid and Metroid Prime immersed you in their game worlds, and they did not have to rely on cutscenes to do so. I didn't care about any of the characters in the game or what was happening, while Metroid Prime gave you scannable objects that detailed a far more interesting story than the plot of this game and did not feature ANY supporting characters except for perhaps the boss creatures. Such a shame the writing is so bad, because I am not against the idea of Samus having a larger talking role and I think it would be a good idea for future titles, I just think the depiction of her in this game is awful.


The game plays like a 3D sidescroller with moments where you can swap to a first-person view to fire missiles or observe the environment. Samus has a few new moves in this game, she can dodge or perform finishing moves. The finishing moves are a nice addition, but you will come to rely on them heavily while taking down tough enemies. The staple Metroid gameplay element of hunting for items is still here, but your ability to explore where you please is severely limited, this game forces you down a linear path (even more so than Metroid Fusion did) which is quite disappointing as exploration is such a crucial element to the gameplay of the other titles in the series. The overall gameplay just doesn't hit the mark that Super Metroid and the first Prime game hit.

Graphics and Sound--Production Values

One of the things that Other M nailed was the graphics, this game is one of the best looking titles on the Wii. the sound design and soundtrack are also satisfying (the soundtrack containing remixes of classic Metroid music tracks) but the voice acting falls short. Samus sounds monotone and the other characters don't sound any better, as if the voice actors resented having to read their dialogue (I can't really blame them)

In conclusion, unless you seriously love the franchise and want to play every Metroid game out there, it's probably best you spend your money elsewhere. You could also watch this 2 hour video compiling all of the cutscenes, with added commentary:

]]> Thu, 31 May 2012 23:19:05 +0000
<![CDATA[Portal 2 Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
The fine developers at Valve improved upon the first game my making more complex puzzles and a longer single-player mode.  Along with these improvements, they also added a new character, which is a computerized personality core named Wheatley, whose loyalty to you is ambiguous.  To make the gameplay more interesting, there's also "bouncing gel" and "speed gel," in which you coat certain parts of your environment with these things, the gelled areas can make you bounce or run really fast.

If you're looking for a game that's really fun that'll also make you think a lot, then this is a must-have game.]]> Thu, 24 May 2012 07:23:35 +0000
<![CDATA[GameStop Quick Tip by KingreX32]]> Goodness I cant stand these guys anymore. Am I the only one who feels like they are being robbed at gun point whenever they shop there? Some things that really annoy me with them is that the prices for some games here are ridiculous and their trade policies for games is just downright theft.

You could go there and buy a game new just as its released, you spend 70 dollars on this game and play it. Two weeks when later you come back to trade it in they tell you its only worth 30 dollars and put it back on the shelf for 50. I cant stand being stolen from, and that's what these guys do.

Its sucks though because Gamestop is the only Gaming Specialty store around, there are somethings you can get at Gamestop that you just cant find at Walmart or Zellars. So its almost like I'm forced to go there. Yes I know Best Buy and Futureshop have their own Gaming sections but the prices are just as bad.

]]> Sun, 8 Apr 2012 21:28:42 +0000
<![CDATA[Console Wars Quick Tip by KingreX32]]>
Cant wait to see what happens when Nintendo releases thier new Console The Nintendo WiiU to do battle against th Forces of Xbox 360 and PS3. Its gonna be one for the ages.]]> Sun, 1 Apr 2012 17:00:18 +0000
<![CDATA[ GOD OF WAR Light In the World of Norse]]>
The overall gameplay is fairly easy as VIKING: THE BATTLE FOR ASGARD is basically a hack-n-slash game with some elements similar to GOD OF WAR and FABLE. You just keep fighting your way through one Legion warrior after each other. There is some strategy involved as you can gain new abilities and upgrade old ones and certain moves work better on different types of Legions. Also, you are able to upgrade the magical ability of your sword, though you're stuck with that sword and an axe for the entire game.

The things I liked most about the game were the visuals and the ease of achievements. The visuals are gorgeous and there are some really scenic shots in different places in the game. Also, when killing Legion, the action turns to slow-motion which shows the hacking of limbs and beheading of Legion soldiers in graphic, gory detail. Visuals aside, what I liked most about VIKING: THE BATTLE FOR ASGARD was the ease of attaining achievements. Most people will be able to unlock about 700-800 Achievement points while playing the game.

At the end of each level, there is a massive battle that involves tens-of-thousands of soldiers as well as dragons. The battles themselves aren't all that impressive because Skarin doesn't really get to fight and instead has to go around killing Legion shamans and giants. What makes these large scale conflicts impressive are the cutscenes.

There's been some criticism that the game doesn't have a lot of sound. Games with a constant soundtrack and a plethora of sound effects can be enjoyable, but it gets tiring after a while. It's nice to play a game that doesn't have a full-fledged musical score during the entire game every once in awhile.
The biggest issue I had with VIKING was the repetition. There are basically five major battles and you go about reaching each battle in pretty much exactly the same way: you kill a bunch of Legion, you free the correct locations, you rescue the correct amount of Viking captives, you collect the proper items, and you call for a dragon. There are only three dragons, but there are some levels where you don't have to call forth another dragon. The consistent repetition makes VIKING easier to play for inexperienced gamers, but also makes it less enjoyable for those who have played more than a handful of video games.

I enjoyed VIKING: THE BATTLE FOR ASGARD. I like hack-n-slash games and it was kind of nice playing one that connects with Norse mythology. I found the repetition a little annoying, but it wasn't enough to infringe upon my overall enjoyment.]]> Sat, 25 Feb 2012 18:37:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ Kung Fu Gets a Graphic Update]]>
In China Warrior, you play China Warrior. You really do, because that's all your character is called. A villain has taken over China, and it's your job to rescue your fellow countrymen from his tyranny by beating him down in a contest of good, old-fashioned, man-to-man fisticuffs.

I love it when a video game story tells me that a whole society hinges on my heroic journey because it makes me feel important. It makes the main character into a legendary hero if he makes it or a martyr who had the courage to stand alone against an impossibly powerful foe if he gets killed along the way. China, with the world's largest population and second or third largest land mass, would certainly seem like a society worth saving. (I mean this only in theory. I'm not making a political statement here, so I'll appreciate it if you keep your own political statements to yourself.) Unfortunately, my elation at the thought of having such a big country depend on me quickly went down when I saw what my fierce opponents were packing: Sticks, stones, and really not much else. I have to wonder what kind of country would have allowed itself to be taken over by an army of thirteen martial artists who could be promptly whipped by a group of white-belted kids from Downer's Grove, Illinois.

Thirteen is the number of bosses in this game. Oh, the game has levels and enemies all right, but they're filler material. The layout of the game is like this: You, the large dude at the left of the screen who holds a copyright-infringing resemblance to Bruce Lee, walk to the right. Along the way to far right of the level, you fight "enemies." Your non-boss enemies include things like rocks, snakes, nunchukus, and fireballs all flying at you from the right side of the screen with no apparent purpose or even an explanation of how they're being launched at you. I like to think the level bosses are standing there with some kind of cannon which they're just loading up with whatever is lying around. When the game really feels like giving you a jolt, it sends monks after you. Monks are generally regarded as peaceful people, and they hold to tradition in China Warrior because their method of attacking is to walk right into you. The green monks actually duck when they come onto the screen! One wonders if they're praying to you. The gray and green monks are easily dispatched in one shot. The orange monks are tougher by merit of the fact they can take three shots before going down. None of them go out of their way to engage you in formal combat.

Anyway, you punch, kick, and dodge your way to the very end of the level in which China Warrior tries to turn into a one-on-one fighter by presenting you with boss characters who actually look like they took some effort to create. You beat the boss and go on to the next level. You wash, lather, rinse, and repeat until the end of the game.

Oh, the problems, the problems….. This HAS to be the only time I've ever had trouble writing a negative review because I have too much to say. First of all, China Warrior freaking SCROLLS. You have a game in which you control a martial artist and the game impersonates a common shooter. When you try to move China Warrior around, all you're doing is controlling which side of the screen he's on. The only way to stop the scrolling is to duck. And since every attack or obstacle in the game comes at you from the right, the game becomes a rare game in which an entire button on the d-pad is rendered almost useless. The only time the right button comes into play is during boss fights. Other than that, just keep the main character about one-fourth of the way across the screen and you should be just fine.

China Warrior looks like Bruce Lee. The legendary Dragon would be insulted if he ever saw this game. China Warrior's arsenal consists of all of five moves, which is poor even though the controller only has two action buttons. You have a standard punch and kick, plus a ducking punch and two types of jumping kicks. Unless you're playing China Warrior specifically to amass a high score – in which case you would utilize every one of those moves to hit the targets which would have otherwise no chance of hitting you – you can get through the game safely on just the punch and kick, with the occasional diagonal jumping kick to knock off the orange monks in one shot. The ducking punch is useless at all times and the jumping kicks aren't the most necessary moves in the world, especially seeing as how they become useless during boss battles. The bosses knock you right out of the air and take no damage for doing it. For some reason, our brilliant designers neglected a sweep kick. A lot of enemies who attack you on the ground can't be hit even though the manual inexplicably says they can be defeated. But your sucking punch doesn't hit that low! A sweep kick would be the only attack which could hit those foes, but since you don't have one, those snakes in the grass are invincible.

It's the boss fights one would play China Warrior hoping to see. Once you've gotten through the fillers known as "levels," you get to take on the boss in a one-on-one sparring match. The boss fights increase in difficulty as you get further into the game, and the increase in difficulty is very well done. Each of the thirteen bosses is harder than the last. This doesn't excuse the fact that only the punch and kick are useful against the bosses. While the game is nice enough to give you a supply of special moves for the boss fights, those special moves are executed at random and so you have no control over them. And the frequency with which they show up leaves something to be desired. If the game grants you the privilege of using a special move during later boss fights, pray it hits because it may be the last one you see for awhile.

Well, I think that sums up the game. I can't figure out whether I want to give the graphics a high or low score. China Warrior and the bosses he faces are all very detailed and well-designed despite the palette swap here and there. The enemies are well-designed for the most part. It's just they're poorly imagined. How hard is it to design a fan or a boulder? Now that I think of it, I may be giving the artists too much credit. The boulders look more like tumbleweeds, the nunchukus remain straight like sticks while flying at you, and the whole game is bogged down by a serious lack of animation. China Warrior has ONE frame of jumping animation and about three frames on the basic punch and kick. Both flying kicks have two frames of animation. It's sad when a ducking punch is the most spectacular-looking move in a video game.

The sounds aren't much better. The music is extremely bland and many of your enemies make interesting sounds when they get hit. You could make a fun game of guessing how the next enemy will sound when it meets China Warrior's punch or kick! When you pick up the sounds of each enemy, you could turn it into a drinking game! (I'm being sarcastic here. I don't want this review to be used as a prime suspect in a DWI arrest.) Most of the hitting sounds don't sound anything like you would imagine them to.

China Warrior's controls are standard. I find it stupid that you have to jump kick the game's only power-up, a health-replenishing teabag, in order to collect it. The teabag floats up and down and since you scroll right past it, you have to time your kick in order to grab it because the kick will miss if the teabag is too high. As mentioned before, you have to duck to stop moving. The diagonal jump kick is almost impossible if you're using the standard Turbo controller. I only got it to consistently work using the TurboStick, a joystick controller.

China Warrior is not only bad, it is lazy and thoughtless. Only a masochist could enjoy it.]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2012 00:02:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ Newly Rooted Mario]]>
Yes, New Super Mario Bros. is a throwback to the old, OLD days. There's no FLUDD pack for this game, no interstellar travel, and there's not even a third dimension for Mario to traipse around in. The layout, fortunately, means that there won't be any of those scavenger hunt quests which can be such a pain in the 3D editions of the Mario series, and instead of trying to repeatedly go into a level to collect a star or a shine sprite, Mario is once again going from the extreme left side of the level to the extreme right. And in a feature which is an eternal delight to me, he ends every level by taking a flag down a flagpole and entering a castle.

The beginning cinema of the game finds us watching Mario out for a walk with his longtime squeeze, Princess Peach. Lightning stikes Peach's castle over in the background, and as Mario dashes off to make sure everything is all hunky dory there, Bowser Jr. leaps out from behind a large nearby bush to kidnap Peach. Really now, what did you think it was going to be? Princess Peach has spent her career defining the typical damsel in distress. Anyway, off Mario goes to chase Bowser Jr. across eight worlds, chasing him into every fortress and catching up to him just to have him run into a nearby castle. Bowser Jr. does this what seems like a million times.

Being of such vintage gameplay, New Super Mario Bros. is not afraid to lampshade its heritage every now and again. In one castle, you fight Bowser Sr. on a bridge, which is suspending them over a pit filled with lava. It's hard to believe the original Super Mario Bros. which defined the side-scrolling action/adventure game genre for all time is now 26 years old, and that many people like me who grew up playing the original will have to explain that reference to the original Super Mario Bros. to kids of their own. While the scene is slightly altered, the reference is unmistakeable. And many of Mario's iconic power-ups like the super mushroom, fire flower, and starman are dished out for the functions they were originally used for. Hell, when you play as Luigi in this game, there's no difference between the way him and Mario handle.

New Super Mario Bros. does manage to recognize and acknowledge its 3D series, though, and it's the first time the wall jump - a staple of the 3D games - makes an appearance in the 2D Mario canon. It's an improvement to the technique, as you now don't have to compete with a camera to angle the wall jump the right way. The ground pound also has a place in New Super Mario Bros. New are a blue koopa shell which lets Mario travel like a kicked koopa shell, as well as mushrooms which turn Mario into mini-Mario or Giant Mario.

I thought the Mini-Mario and Giant Mario were both underutilized. Mini-Mario is the more creative idea because it allows Mario access to paths he otherwise wouldn't get to, but Mini-Mario is a real pain to control because his jumps are more float than jump. Giant Mario is invincible, and I love how he can crush everything in his immediate path - and I do mean EVERYTHING, enemies, drainpipes, bricks, all of it - but he doesn't show up often enough. The most common newer power-up is the koopa shell, which doesn't do a whole lot even when it's charging because there's a very real chance Mario could bounce off a block and fall into a pit.

There are eight levels, but you only have to go through six of them to finish the game. Trying to get to the others does add to the replay value, though. Like in other Mario games, you reveal the path by completing certain challenges or finding alternate exits. The levels are reminiscent of previous 2D Mario levels, and seem especially deferential to Super Mario Bros. 3 in particular. A jungle and mountain world are in the game, but the rest include grasslands, desert, ocean, ice, sky, and enemy base. In the levels themselves, you can collect special coins which open alternate paths.

You've heard the major problem with this game screamed through to the rafters, and I agree with it: New Super Mario Bros. is extremely short. This isn't short like the 16-bit Mario games; New Super Mario Bros. can easily be completed in one sitting, secrets and all. Good thing for the level designs, which keep things from getting boring.

The graphics of New Super Mario Bros. are rendered like the graphics of Donkey Kong Country. The animation is complete, although not as smooth as I would like. Mario was always a cartoonish character, and I couldn't help but get the feeling this game should be animated when watching him get smushed or get off to a running start. The scenery is gorgeous and bright, and although the character designs do absolutely nothing we haven't seen before, it's tough to mind because it's such an intentional throwback. The rendering only helps.

Considering the love and care going into the throwback feeling, it's extremely disappointing that the original Super Mario Bros. theme was somehow missed out on. The underground music is the same, and that makes no sense whatsoever. The original theme is a ubiquitous piece now - its been over 25 years, and everyone knows it, and it's becoming like a famous bit of classical music or art or a movie scene - we may actually be starting to forget where the original came from. The sounds, though, are spot on.

The controls are the same, classic Mario. It feels a bit different, though, because Mario seems to feel more real when he moves now. The swimming is a real pain, and you have less control over it than ever. It's the only aspect of 2D Mario that wasn't improved in New Super Mario Bros., and it's possible that being deprived of flying may have been best because I don't want to think about the ways it could have been screwed up.

If you want to play old school Mario with your kids, this may be the perfect game to start with. It's new, but it's totally old school in every way, shape, and form.]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2012 01:19:24 +0000
<![CDATA[Killzone 3 Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Personally, I think this is the best game in the Killzone series thus far.  Unlike Killzone 2, you have three weapon slots as opposed to two, so you can easily dish out more pain against the Helghast.  The graphics are top-notch and the "Brutal Melee" system is a blast.  If you can disorient the Helghast after shooting them, you can kill them off in such savage ways like stabbing their eyes out and cutting their throats.  If you have a PS3 and love the FPS genre, you have to get this game.

]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2012 01:38:58 +0000
<![CDATA[Earthworm Jim Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2012 04:56:40 +0000 <![CDATA[ Its the sequel to an awesome game. They cant screw this up?....................can they?]]>
Star Wars The force unleashed 2 is the latest game in the Star Wars franchise, it was developed by Red Fly Studious and published by Lucas Arts. It was released on October 26th 2010.

Taking place Six months after the last game (but one year before A new hope), the Force unleashed 2 tells the story of one of Starkillers Clones as he embarks on a quest to figure out who he is while searching for Juno Eclipse.

The Force Unleashed 2 improves upon some aspects of the first game, the load times are faster, the environments are more destructible, and the game is a little better looking and runs a little smoother, the developers have included support for the Wii’s pointer functionality, also this time around enemies don’t drop health canisters or force refills when defeated. Once again force powers and light sabers are customizable and upgradeable (this time you can do it on the fly instead of having to return to the Rouge Shadow). Unlockable Concept Art and Multiplayer also make a return.

Force Unleashed 2 also features new and improved Force Powers. Exclusive to the Wii version is Force Rage, when activated players will enter a bullet time mode were Starkiller is able to take out multiple enemies. Force rage isn’t always available; you have to wait for a meter to fill before you can use it. Another new Force Power is Force Sight, this allows players to see through objects like doors or bosses to find weak areas or solve puzzles. Lastly although found in the first game (through a cut scene) Mind Trick has now become part of the gameplay, when used on an enemy the targeted enemy will attack other enemy AI in the area which comes in handy when surrounded by lots of bad guys with little health.

Graphics Wise the game looks a little more polished than the last game, the cut scene graphics have also been improved but still look kind of bad. Gameplay Wise Force Unleashed 2 is more of the same its primarily hack and Slash but this time with puzzle solving elements thrown into the mix. The Controls have been completely reworked they are very different from the first game so reading the tutorials is a must. Despite this the controls seem abit simpler and easier to learn.

Some problems I had with the game were the campaign was really short about 4-5 hours long, unlike the last game there isn’t really much replayability, the pointer function while added to make the game easier did more harm than good (at times Force Attacks would go opposite to were you wanted it to go), although simpler the boss fight finishers are still a pain. Lastly the Story was the biggest disappointment for me, as a Star Wars fan I felt this game should not even exist in the first place (based on how the last game ended) and on top of that The Story feels thrown together and not very well thought out.

Despite the crappy story the game does a few things right, the new force powers make the game fun to play, and the multiplayer now supports four players on screen at the same time (like Smash bros) instead of just two.

Overall Force Unleashed 2 is not as good as the first game, unless you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan I’d recommend renting this one before you invest 30 bucks. Star Wars the force unleashed 2 gets 6.7 out of 10.

Official Website


]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2012 18:24:00 +0000
<![CDATA[Disgaea 4 Quick Tip by Draparde]]> Sun, 1 Jan 2012 21:34:39 +0000 <![CDATA[ Interesting premise, but like many other post-Genesis Sonic games, lame. 17%]]>
First of all, I'd like to say that I've been a fan of Sonic since Christmas of 1991 and have been a fan of the franchise throughout the 90's. Sonic Unleashed, like the other Sonic games that have broken into the "3D" generation of game consoles, is really unpleasant.

The graphics are pretty nice and the whole thing with Sonic becoming a "Werehog" and going around slashing and punching bad guys is pretty fun, but that's all there is to say that's positive about this game.

While it may seem unfair to target this particular Sonic game for this upcoming flaw, I feel it's legit. The biggest problem with this game is the 3D environment. Sorry, but I truly feel that Sonic wasn't meant for a 3D environment since it's extremely difficult to move really fast while collecting as much rings as possible in this type of environment since it's much easier to die and since it's easy to veer off your desired path, it's much harder to collect rings. While most video games in the last 8-10 years have done away with the "limited life" system so ubiquitous in the first three game console generations, it's still in this game and it gets on your nerves because you're gonna die A LOT.

The tallying system at the end of each level really gets on my nerves because in the "classic" Sonic games, the tallying system just tallied your numeric score and if you got a high score, you'd get a continue. However, the tallying system in Sonic Unleashed is atrocious because the game expects you to accomplish much more difficult levels in a timely manner and has the nerve to actually grade you (using letters A through F) at the end. Isn't it good enough that I came out alive? Just give me a numeric score, don't grade me like a strict university professor.

Aside from the 3D layout and harsh tallying system, I was stuck on one level where you're on top of the Tornado (piloted by Tails, of course) and Eggman has launched a giant robot thingy firing guided bombs at you. I DETEST this level because in order to shoot down the incoming bombs, each projectile is targeted with an icon of either the A, B, X, or Y buttons above them and you have to press the right button in a really short time in order to fire the missiles. This is horrendous because you're in such a panic, you're just mashing buttons, hoping that you hit the right ones since you don't have any time to think. Wouldn't it be more convenient if there was just one button to fire missiles or just have a machine gun and point it at the projectiles? At that point, I quit playing and returned the copy to Family Video.

After playing this and the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog games, it's no surprise to me as to why the newer Sonic games aren't so popular among gamers and critics alike. Sonic Team should really take their cue from Nintendo concerning the New Super Mario Bros. Wii game and make a game that's essentially a "throwback" of the Genesis Sonic games because those are the Sonic games people tend to remember in a positive way. Just get Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection instead.]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2011 22:25:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ Hey, Man has Gun. Hey Man, Have Fun. Nice Shot!]]>
Ratchet and Clank came along and finally gave gamers the solid, pure action game they've been waiting for since the Super NES and Genesis duked it out for video game supremacy. Instead of going on scavenger hunts, looking for random items, you had to fight your way through onslaughts of enemies, completing objectives on paths through the levels. It still wasn't the traditional fight-from-one-end-of-the-level-to-the-other layout, but it was raw action that gamers hadn't seen in a long time. Is it any wonder Ratchet and Clank turned into such a hit? And arguably the closest thing the Playstation consoles have ever come to a mascot?

Anyway. Ratchet and Clank opens with a robot named Clank meeting a humble mechanic named Ratchet, who is very good at his job but dreams of something bigger. Clank has learned that Chairman Drek of the Blarg race wants to create a whole new planet to contain his species. Which really doesn't seem all that bad until it's revealed the planet creation process will result in the destruction of an entire galaxy. Clank needs help, and so he ran off to find the greatest aid he can: Famed Superhero Captain Qwark! They track down Qwark, but to say the whole plan doesn't exactly pan out is putting it lightly. So Ratchet and Clank decide to take matters into their own hands.

You play as Ratchet. Clank serves one or two different functions, including the double jump that is apparently necessary in every 3D action game or platformer ever, but mostly he hangs on for dear life as Ratchet's backpack. You occasionally take control of Clank, if you have to explore an area that Ratchet is for some reason not allowed into. Clank can control clone-like robots called Gadgebots which can do certain things for him. The Gadgebots are a little difficult to understand and control at first, and I had serious problems figuring out what they were used for and how to use them the right way. Using them did get easier, but I felt like the game was just leaving me in the dark at first there.

You'll be playing the crux of the game as Ratchet, as I already said. Ratchet at first glance is just another fuzzy-wuzzy with an attitude, there to assure parents Ratchet and Clank is safe for their precious young minds while using cynical snark to make kids think he's cool, and possibly allow developers to slip things past censors. But there is something that differentiates Ratchet from his fellow Naughty Dog (the developer) pal: Ratchet likes to blow stuff up. He's also really, really good at it. While most 'tude-laden platform characters tend to use harmless melee attacks as their primary form of offense, Ratchet buys crazy new-fangled weapons like the Bomb Glove, an automatic pistol called the Blaster, a flamethrower called the Pyrociter, and the holy-schnit-that's-flurking-insane Suck Cannon, which sucks up smaller enemies and then spits them back out as ammunition!

One of the more unfortunate points of the game is that most of these weapons are ammo-based, which means you have to conserve and not just point and fire away. The reserve ammo can be knocked out of crates or bought using bolts, basically Ratchet and Clank's monetary system. The ammo you knock out of crates tends to be a little bit too sparse for my liking, and the store booths don't exactly grow on trees. If you run out of ammo, you can always resort to using Ratchet's primary weapon, the Omniwrench, a big monkey wrench with a boomerang-like capability to return upon being thrown. You'll be using the Omniwrench a lot to hold on to some of your ammo, but it can be risky because there are a lot of enemies that are dangerous to approach with a long-range weapon, let alone on foot with a weapon whose ranged attack flings it away for two seconds.

One of the more pleasing aspects of the plot is the fact that it develops. Ratchet, aside from being a substitute for a demolition expert, is also refreshingly non-pious. During the course of the game, he gets in a fight with Clank about their next course of action, Ratchet's preferred suggestion being to automatically drop everything and run after one of the bad guys.

Each level has two different objectives, and sometimes you can get lost trying to figure out just how the paths diverge so you can pursue the one you haven't completed. This tends to get a little bit annoying, but fortunately, the levels are all pretty linear. They have little paths you can go exploring on, but none of them are going to deter you long enough to get you hopelessly lost. The difficulty progression is very well done. After the first level, you'll wonder what the big deal is. But when you get deeper into the game, man...

The graphics are some of the best on the Playstation 2. The characters are wonderfully designed and gorgeously rendered, and it's amazing the number of things you'll see happening onscreen at the same time. There's no slowdown, and the color rendering is also fantastic. Ratchet and Clank is one of the best-looking video games I've ever seen. The sounds are also very good. The music is lighthearted in a wacky sci-fi kind of way, and the gun sounds and explosions all stand out.

The Gameplay also works very well. It's not a problem once you learn it, but sometimes Ratchet feels remote-controlled. The weapon selection, fortunately, is very easy.

Ratchet and Clank brought back a genre which was, for all intents and purposes, dead. It did a good job of it too. If you play video games not to get that vaunted 100 percent completion but just to blow things up, your ship has come in.]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2011 18:21:56 +0000
<![CDATA[ More than Zero]]>
Nintendo pitched Metroid: Zero Mission as an update with a handful of new material. That description does Zero Mission a gross injustice. Zero Mission has the same plot elements, weapons, and a few of the same moves and musical pieces. But what Nintendo did with Zero Mission was effectively tear down the original Metroid and rebuild it from scratch. The plot, main character, weapons, and some moves remain the same. Don't expect to recognize a whole lot else. Trying to describe Zero Mission as merely an update is akin to saying a 30-year-old man is a five-year-old boy who can legally drink alcohol.

Most video gamers are already familiar with the plot: A band of space pirates have attacked a docile science-lab-by spaceship and stolen all the samples of very dangerous aliens called metroids. They're planning to take them to the planet Zebes and breed them to turn them into biological weapons. The thing with metroids is they're insanely dangerous; they feed by latching themselves onto your head and sucking your life energy out. So the Galactic Federation is naturally a bit concerned that a small gaggle of these things has gone missing from one of its research vessels, and they happen to run into the pirate base looking for them. The Feds assault the base but the pirates hold fort, and as a last resort the Feds hire a bounty hunter to bust into Zebes and wipe out Mother Brain, the mechanical life form that controls the pirates and their defenses. After (I'm sure) flipping through a retail store-like catalogue of all available bounty hunters, the Feds settle for a woman named Samus Aran, because her catalogue description (I'm sure) contained the description "greatest of all bounty hunters." And yeah, since Samus's little secret was, you know, revealed 20 years before Zero Mission was released, no one tries to hide the fact that she's a woman.

In updates, we usually know what to expect: Nicer graphics and better, slightly more orchestrated music. Metroid: Zero Mission goes well above and beyond that duty. It completely reinvents the entire structure of the original game.

An aspect of Zero Mision which angered a lot of gamers is the fact that the game is now giving away its directives on a map, showing you where to take Samus next. The original Metroid needed one of those. Ironically, with the incredible graphic updates, the remake doesn't need this feature. In the original Metroid, it's a pain to navigate through the endless chambers of Zebes because everything looked alike and you never knew where you were or were supposed to be headed. In Zero Mission, there are lots of easily identifiable landmarks, and every rock outcropping has a different color and shape, so it's easy to figure out where you are even if you don't use the map to guide you. Only a very few locations are mapped out the way they are in the original Metroid, but one of them is the classic opening screen on Zebes, where you move left to pick up the morph ball.

Wheras the original Metroid's only real puzzle was locating the next room, getting there, and finding an important item, Zero Mission has a bunch of minor puzzles meant to hold you up. Some of them are really good, requiring outside-the-box thinking in order to find the necessary secret route. One puzzle involves using bugs to eat up some kind of hive that blocks you. Samus is given a few moves which, although they are series staples at this point, weren't in the original game. The ledge hang and that move where she runs at ultrafast velocity are among them. There are also bosses who pop up every now and then, although most of them are pretty easy. Kraid takes up at least three screens, and Ridley is a lot bigger too. There are also mysteriously encrypted items Samus has to pick up, but whose usefulness isn't revealed until later in the game.

The story is told through quick-shot cutscenes which only last a few seconds each but tell everything you need to know about the story rather effectively. Mother Brain being awakened to the presence of Samus and the impending doom-like atmosphere as Samus descends into the lair of Mother Brain are only a couple. This not only tels the story, but it also spares endless cutscenes so if you need to turn off the game, you can easily head to the nearest save point, save the game, and then shut it off. The game lacks dialogue too, but the little cutscenes are worth a thousand words themselves.

New areas are common throughout the game, but one of them really stands out: Chozodia. If you hate spoilers, don't read this paragraph, but as six years have passed since Metroid: Zero Mission came out, the statute of spoiler limitations has expired. In the original Metroid, destroying Mother Brain wasn't the end of the game: You had to race out of the exploding lab on Zebes in a time limit to take Samus off the planet safe and sound. Well, as you would expect, this is going to apply for a remake too. So you race to Samus's ship and get her off Zebes, nice and safe and sound. Except you don't. The pirates gun her right back down and steal her power suit, and as the final act of the game, you have to guide Samus through the space pirate mothership with nothing but a stun gun to get her suit back and eventually destroy Mecha Ridley. It's a cool twist, but the stealth aspect of it truly sucks. It isn't very well done, and Samus can't take more than a couple of hits before dying. Once she gets her suit back, though, she becomes the damned Terminator!

The graphics are more detailed and beautiful. The sprites are larger and much more detailed, and the bosses are awesome. Everything about Metroid was beefed up on steroids. Even little things like the weapon designs look a lot better. The Metroids, which now appear flying in suddenly from backgrounds, make for one of the most chilling entrances I've ever seen in a video game. The sounds are also great. The music has more depth, and the sounds are given new polish and convincing new additions. There are, for example, a satisfying new ice-cracking sound you hear whenever you plug an enemy with the ice beam and a whoosh that accompanies the wave blaster.

The gameplay was given a few tweaks with the additions of aiming buttons and the ability to use rockets by holding one of the shoulder buttons. Other than that, it operates under the standard Nintendo principle: Shoot with one button, jump with the other. Getting the running attack to work can be a real pain, though, and I don't think the game's legendary screw attack was thought through enough. If you're trying to freeze enemies and use them as ledges, it's tough to do without accidentally activating the screw attack, killing your next intended ledge, and then falling back to the bottom and having to leave the room and return in order to start over.

If you want to know how different Zero Mission is from the original Metroid, just beat the game, and the options screen will allow you to play the original Metroid, which is a cool little addition. Why play the original Metroid again? Because this isn't even close to the original Metroid. It's better.]]> Sun, 20 Nov 2011 16:04:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Dark Knight Returns]]>
The story here is actually amusing in some ways. The game is set one year after the events of Arkham Asylum where Warden Sharp is now the mayor. After the events of Arkham Asylum he has moved the prisoners to a new bigger place dubbed Arkham City. Here, the villains run around in a place where anarchy pretty much rules and somehow Batman finds himself in this madhouse. There are a ton of villains and a ton of story to undertake. There is a lot going on, but it's hard to say the story is quite as focused as the original game. It's a great story and all, but one of the things you'll notice about Arkham City right off the bat is that the game just might be a little too big to handle. It's stuffed to the brim with villains, most of whom don't get much screen time. This makes for less development of the villains but with a cast this big, going above and beyond in character development is harder. Some familiar faces return from Arkham Asylum as well. Nevertheless, though the villains may not have much development they are still strangely interesting because some of them are presented to us so well.

When you are traversing through the story, however, it's very well presented. Without a doubt one of Arkham City's finest achievements is the visual spectacle of it all. Everything is dark and gritty. Every last detail begs you to look at it. If there's one thing we can definitely say about Arkham City it's that it definitely pulls you into its fictional world with is amusing aesthetics and visual design. This is made better by the voice acting throughout the story. Certainly the game doesn't focus a little too much on the villains because there are a lot, but when you run into them they're voiced very well and the dialog is also very well written. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return to reprise their roles of Batman and the Joker respectively. If you enjoyed the animated television series of the 90's you're more likely to enjoy Arkham City's overall presentation and story.

Batman Arkham City doesn't play too terribly different from Arkham Asylum. When in combat it can, at times feel like a button masher. You'll be able to string together long combos along with performing takedowns or counters to deliver the pain on your enemies. You'll also gain experience which you can use to level up and learn skills. If it were all about button mashing to get through the game, however, it wouldn't be quite as engaging in other ways.

Like Arkham Asylum before it, you can put on detective mode to learn more about your enemies in the area. This will allow you to see through walls, pinpoint enemies holding weapons or those who may be panicked... or even just using the mechanic to find secrets. And it is very easy to be sidetracked in Arkham City because not only is there the main story, but there are also side quests, Riddler tropies and riddles to solve as well. It is very possible to go through Arkham City and still have a lot of the game left to explore. The only real downside to detective mode is that you won't be able to admire the games visual presentation if you keep it on throughout the experience. And most players will find that detective mode is a very useful way to play the game as is.

There are, of course, other ways you can feel like Batman. As you go through the game you'll also find several gadgets, but more importantly certain areas have other means to go about them. Like Asylum, you can perform glide kicks, stealth takedowns and zipline across the level or use your grapple. There's a lot you can do but the way it all comes together is simple enough so that the player doesn't feel overwhelmed. There are even moments where the game puts a large emphasis on a strategic takedown of your enemies as opposed to always just dropping in and kicking butt. So even if you saw Arkham City as a button masher, it isn't likely to get you through the game anyway in areas where say... all the bad guys are using guns. Thanks to these moments as well as the gadgets and various amounts of villains there is a lot of variety here. The boss encounters you find yourself in are among the most unique in the game. For example, the encounter with Mr. Freeze puts you in the position of finding out various takedowns for him... but the same one will rarely work twice because he learns from his mistakes. Arkham City isn't exactly an easy game either. If you somehow manage to mess up, the game is always willing to provide you hints and help you out.

Arkham Asylum was a hard game to follow up. Mostly because it showed us how a Batman game should be done. Batman Arkham City is just as good. In some ways it's better. It's a lot of fun to play, has an amusing story, but most of all there's just a lot to do. Many a gamer will no doubt stumble through Arkham City and still leave a lot of ground uncovered. There's a lot of replay here... and a lot of exploring to do. The game is bigger and better but in a careful manner. It primarily keeps true to the things which worked so well in Arkham Asylum. If you played Arkham Asylum and enjoyed it, then Arkham City really does prove to be a worthy follow up.]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2011 01:05:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ An Amazing Addition to a Fantastic Series]]>
The story in Uncharted 3 is a bit more rich and defined than the first two games. Nathan Drake is back and this time he's searching for the Atlantis of the Sands. It has something to do with the ring he inherited from Frances Drake. But a woman by the name of Katherine Marlowe believes that ring is hers and it ultimately holds the key to finding this lost city. On paper Uncharted 3 sounds pretty basic, but watching the story in action showcases a strong character driven narrative. In particular players will learn more about the dynamic between Nathan Drake and Sully. The cast is remarkable and charming. And we learn about them not just through the cutscenes but how they interact with one another during some of the moments in between the actual cutscenes. The dialog and banter between them is charming, humorous and sometimes even heartfelt. There are also moments that can, and often do, feel as though they've been ripped from a summer blockbuster. Though some of it is definitely over the top, the character driven nature of the story is what ultimately makes it so good. Like the first two there is a distinct human element at play that makes the simple situation an interesting one.

The cutscenes are aided by extremely good direction and motion capture as well. The characters feel human. But more than that, Uncharted 3 is simply a beautiful game. The environments the game takes place in are detailed and the animations are smooth. The Uncharted games in general are some of the prettiest you'll ever see. But it isn't just that they're visually astounding, it's that their detailed and encompassing. The environments come alive. Other details also stand out a lot. Water or sand is amazing and the way the physics work is also amazing. If there's one thing we can clearly say about Naughty Dog, it's that they'll never skimp on the presentation of a game. The voice acting is equally as good and charming. Some of the best you'll hear in the industry. As you play and watch the characters interact and hear their voices it's hard not to love them. You'll be drawn into their personal hell and anguish, but also their joy. It's all great on the eyes and ears.

Gameplay wise, Uncharted 3 hasn't changed too terribly from the first two. There is a good amount of gunplay, platforming and puzzle solving throughout the adventure and the game does a very good job of balancing them all and pacing things along. The gunplay in and of itself hasn't changed much. You'll find yourself charging from one firefight to the next, taking down the bad guys and picking up their weapons or replenishing your own supply of ammo. You'll also take cover to avoid fire and pop up to shoot when the time is right. You can also enter melee combat which is fun as well given how much it has improved over time.

The platforming sections are generally among the easiest to acquaint yourself with. You'll find yourself scaling walls or jumping from ledges or hanging off objects all in an attempt to keep yourself from falling too far. Despite all the detail, the path is usually laid out for you. This is also true throughout the entire game. You'll rarely get lost or not know where to go next. You'll also rarely find yourself backtracking as a result. Aside from a few of the hidden treasures off the beaten path, there's no reason to really deviate from your destination. And if something should happen where you find yourself stuck, the game will point you in the right direction. The puzzles are pretty creative and simple. You won't find yourself stuck for too long, given that the game will provide hints thanks to a journal that Nate carries around with him.

The game handles all of this well, rarely keeping you in any given situation for long. What is more amusing is how much adventure is truly packed into this game. The second game, in particular, had amazing moments: A helicopter chase across rooftops, an amazing train sequence, a game of cat and mouse with a large tank and a jeep chase were just some of the second game's highlights. Uncharted 3 does a little more. Without spoiling anything, you'll find some of these moments leaving you quite breathless at the spectacle. It's not the situations themselves that are amazing as it is how the game presents them. You'll even find yourself scaling and shooting at enemies firing from above and watching as they tumble forward and fall past you. It's amazing stuff.

Without a doubt the biggest overhaul is multiplayer. Before the versus primarily had you on teams but here you can do a free for all or three teams against each other at the same time. You still have other modes such as the co-op survival mode or a variation of capture the flag. You also still have tons of different boosters to equip. But you can also enter matches with temporary boosters (called kickbacks) which you can get by earning a certain number of medals. They're not permanent but they help for those who may need that small boost. Likewise, for those who want a truly hardcore experience you can always go onto the hardcore battle arena. The maps are also ingeniously designed. Not only are your opponents people you have to look out for, but so are some of the environmental effects. In one level a sand storm rolls in, for instance.

The most rewarding is the co-op experience. Sure you can still go into an arena and do a survival mode and whatnot, but there's actually a co-op campaign here as well. And it's a full blown story campaign, complete with cutscenes and everything. You can team up with two friends and go at it. It's remarkably satisfying and pretty addictive.

Uncharted 3 isn't perfect by any means. Like the first two before it, there's a lot of precision in playing. For example how the game times some of its jumps when say... platforms are falling from beneath you. Or cutscenes that run seamlessly into gameplay. If you're not on the ball you may find yourself retrying certain segments constantly. Some moments can feel like a trial and error practice simply because you don't know WHERE to go immediately and thus you fail until you figure it out. Since Uncharted 3, like the previous two, is very straightforward and linear you generally only have one option out of a situation. If you don't find it fast enough in some of the more time sensitive moments you're done for. In other situations your timing may be off by just a second. Uncharted has always been somewhat of a challenge but most of it comes from the first hand experience. When you play through a second time things tend to flow more seamlessly when you know exactly where you're going and what you're doing. The good news is that checkpoints are everywhere. If you end up failing a platforming section or a gun fight you usually tend to start right next to it. So the game won't punish you too badly.

Uncharted 3 is a great follow up to Uncharted 2. Whether or not the game is better is up for debate. The multiplayer suite certainly is, but for some fans who were truly blown away by Uncharted 2, they have to face the fact that the third game isn't exactly the same leap forward that the second one was. You've got new weapons, a revamped melee system and you can now toss grenades back to your enemies... but for the most part Uncharted 2 didn't have much that needed fixing to begin with. It was a near perfect game, addressing each and every issue the first game had. With not much to address there isn't much for Uncharted 3 to really improve upon. Or add, for that matter. In seems the only part that Naughty Dog strived for more with was the story. And they succeeded. You certainly get a much more emotionally involved story but the gameplay is primarily the same thing here. If you've enjoyed the gameplay of the series thus far, there's no reason not to jump into this one. The story and characters alone make this a must play for Uncharted fans.]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2011 01:03:29 +0000
<![CDATA[ Batman Returns]]>
The voice acting is some of the finest of all time. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman and Mark Hamill give his final performance as Joker. Several animated series and video games later, these two actors are the definite vocal performers of the roles. The other villains and characters are well-done, too.

The graphics for the game are top-notch. This looks and feels like you are in the world of Batman. This is perhaps, the best representation in any medium of Gotham City and the world in which Batman lives. Never before has Gotham looked so menacing, threatening, and real.

Control is relatively easy and some the only flaw from BATMAN ARKHAM ASYLUM, odd camera angles, has been fixed. The gameplay is fairly easy, though as the game progresses it might prove challenging for a complete beginner. All the weapons from ASYLUM are back, but there are new ones and some of the old ones can be upgraded to make them even more useful.

The voice acting is some of the finest of all time. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman and Mark Hamill give his final performance as Joker. Several animated series and video games later, these two actors are the definite vocal performers of the roles.

Besides the main game storyline, there is also a separate storyline with Catwoman. At the time of the release of the game, only those who buy the game or buy the code can play the Catwoman story. I have no doubt that eventually this storyline as well as the soon-to-be-released storylines of Robin and Nightwing will all be available on a "Greatest Hit" or "Game of the Year" version of the game.

Overall, BATMAN ARKHAM CITY is a fine video game. It's one of the best video game sequels ever, surpassing the original. It is, perhaps, the best video game based upon a comic book ever made.]]> Tue, 15 Nov 2011 04:43:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ I Can't Coach it, nor do I Particularly want to]]>
When the deal broke, I was upset. I reviewed both the Madden and the 2K offerings that season and viciously ripped EA Sports in both reviews. (And I stand by them completely.) I found that Madden 2005 was a bigger, updated retreat of Madden's trademark slippy, unrealistic arcade gameplay while ESPN 2K that year was (and still is) the finest football game ever made. Playing the games a couple of years down the line, though, it seems that EA Sports actually HAS been making higher-quality football games. In 2008, I reviewed the upcoming crop of EA Sports football games for both the NFL and NCAA and found that the series had taken great strides forward in the areas that had been more troublesome for me than any other. I said I preferred the NCAA game that year, but both were immensely playable and a lot of fun.

2K Sports ended up taking the expected hiatus before coming back in 2007 with All-Pro Football 2K8. As it turned out, they didn't throw in the towel after all. What they were doing instead was getting licensing of their very own from the NFL Players' Association, in order to bring the likenesses of a bunch of retired players into their newest game. It was a good idea, and Madden NFL 2009 introduced a similar feature a year later which I loved. So to be a team architect in a 2K Sports game sounded like many happy hours of ideal armchair football. Unfortunately, despite the concept and the awesome player selection, All-Pro Football 2K8 feels rather limited when put against its Madden counterpart from the following year. I can't believe I'm saying that, but duty calls and it feels like 2K Sports and EA Sports have reversed position for their football games - Madden is taking the gameplay strides while 2K is using its lack of an NFL license as an excuse to not do anything challenging.

First and most obviously, there's the players list. It's very extensive and impressive, but you can't help but notice some omissions that stand out. Lawrence Taylor, the greatest linebacker of all time, isn't in the game. Jim Kelly isn't anywhere in the game either, and he was part of the vaunted 1983 quarterback class, went to four Super Bowls, and was 20-10 when his teams played against Joe Montana, Dan Marino, or John Elway. Joe Greene isn't in the game, Sam Huff isn't in it either, hell, here's a list: YA Tittle, Terrell Davis, Cris Carter, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Namath, James Lofton, Larry Csonka, Richard Dent, Eric Dickerson, Art Monk, Ray Nitschke, and Deion Sanders. Still though, you can't complain about a lack of selections.

On the other hand, some players who did make it into the game leave question marks hanging over your head. Is Brian Bosworth known for anything more than tripping over his untamed tongue and getting run over by Bo Jackson? Jeff Hostetler is in the game. Sure he won the Super Bowl, but he was also a career backup whose gameplan for said Super Bowl was to not screw up. Mark Rypien, Natrone Means, and Alvin Harper also made the cut.

The players are divided into gold, silver, and bronze levels. Gold level is strictly the A-list - it's where you'll find Joe Montana, Barry Sanders, and Reggie White hanging out. Silver is a grouping of lesser players who have acclaim and renown in the football world - some of them border on the Hall of Fame, some actually in it (Andre Reed), but they didn't transcend the game the way the A-list did. Ottis Anderson, Bart Starr, Too Tall Jones, and Jesse Tuggle reside there. The Bronze level is the most questionable. All the players are definitely known to football fans, but their careers range from outstanding to okay to bad. It's inconsistent. Bernie Kosar, a great quarterback, is a Bronze. But so are Leon Lett, Carl Banks, William Perry, Rocket Ismail, Steve Tasker, Willie Gault, Dwight Clark, and Brian Bosworth. If you don't follow football, just be aware that's a very absurd range of talent. Tasker was the finest special teams player ever, with the possible exception of Devin Hester. Banks had some great years, Lett and Clark are best known for standout moments, and Perry was a better pitchman than a football player. OJ Simpson somehow made it into the game, by the way, as a gold-level running back.

When you first flip on All-Pro Football 2K8, the first thing you need to do is build your team. You get eleven of the retired players for it - two gold, three silver, and six bronze. If you don't like anyone available, there is a create-a-player option to put yourself or perhaps an excluded favorite into the game. After selecting your players, the rest of your team is randomly generated, which kind of takes away from the novelty of the game. That's bad enough, but it's after you select your players when the team architect feature shoots itself in the foot. I came to realize years ago that 2K Sports does team creation in the most halfway form possible. First of all, without an NFL license, created teams are the only teams you'll be playing against. Yet, the team you create personally is the only one you'll be allowed to take onto the gridiron. You can create more than one team, but it feels cumbersome and makes you wonder why you're not allowed to play as one of the game's teams.

Beyond that, team creation is even worse and more limited. 2K Sports appears to have created the feature with without any regard for what you might really want. The only part of the feature which really gives you a big list of options is selecting their location. You get a list of virtually every major and minor metro area in the United States. Of course, the announcers never bother to say the name of the city during games! This made it convenient to 2K Sports, because by not mentioning the city name, they don't have to explain why my first created team, the Sacramento Firebirds, play in Wayne County, Michigan! The limited options lead to a second problem: Beyond the city selection, every part of the team creator exists strictly to compliment a very particular name, logo, and home stadium. You can't exchange the Beasts' logo with the Cougars' or Red Dogs' logo. If you change stadiums, it's going to look weird because every team has its name and logo design worked into the stadium aesthetics. You also don't have any control over what colors your team wears. I wanted to put my third created team, the Buffalo Iron Men, into some snazzy duds of dark blue but the game won't allow you to do that. Third, you can't create a brand-new team name. My second created team was lamely, generically called the Tucson Scorpions. I had wanted to call them the Tucson Sidewinders. Perhaps the Tucson Roadrunners. Given the generic names, I'm shocked 2K Sports managed to create a team called the Firebirds, which has long been a favored name of mine when I create teams in video games.

You get a full season gameplay option, but no franchise mode, which is inexcusable. Pretty much every option 2K Sports is known for doing well, including The Crib, was either severely cut back or lopped altogether.

After years of making the best football sims known to man, 2K Sports is finally fumbling and taking sacks once the actual game begins too. 2K style football still means a tougher game and lots of controlled scoring and statistics. In 2K8, this trickled down to the easy mode as well, and the easy mode provides a challenge. Much of this challenge is legit, but a good chunk of it feels like padding as well: If there's a penalty, you can bet it's going to be against your team. The increased burst of catch-up speed from the computer AI in the last quarter of any given game it's losing hasn't been improved, and in fact it's worse than ever. It's so bad now, in fact, there doesn't seem to be any point in even trying to stop the computer. Any third- or fourth-and-long situation it faces will be converted. Any red zone face-off will result in a touchdown. Any last-quarter drive in a close game which could potentially put the computer away will be cut short. Any challenge will go the computer's way.

All-Pro Football 2K8 marks the first time I've seen that the 2K Football series uses consistent defenses. At last, 2K Sports has made a football game in which using a zone defense isn't just for people who like to give up first downs. Getting sacks and interceptions happens about as consistently as it does in the NFL. There's a tackle stick, but as with 2K's Madden counterpart, no reason for its existence. But whenever I take control of my favorite defensive position, middle linebacker, well, before the snap he skips around in such a way that it's impossible to move him closer to the line without jumping offsides. After the snap, I'll occasionally have the analog going down, but Dick Butkus or Mike Singletary won't move in that direction for several seconds, which is a real pain in clutch situations.

Offense is cool. It controls as well as it ever did, but I've discovered that I'm not able to spread the ball around as efficiently as I could in editions past. In the past, it made no difference if whoever I was aiming for was the primary receiver on the play. In 2K8, the primary receiver is noticeably the one with the best chance at catching the ball. The other receivers are noticeably worse, and throwing to them will result in a lot of dropped and missed passes, or worse, an interception. While this means the option to switch the primary receivers on a play now has an actual purpose, it's very inconvenient to do so and I preferred my old method of just throwing to whoever was, you know, open. Running is easier than ever, though.

2K Sports ditched the useless numbering system of player ranking. Now, they have implemented an ability system which is based on the players' real-life counterparts. It picks out a series of attributes those quarterbacks were known for on the gridiron and emphasizes them in the game. Need a fourth-quarter comeback? John Elway is your man. Too many of the other team's runners getting into open field? You can rectify that problem using a hard-hitting defensive back like Jack Tatum. Dan Marino have too much time in the pocket? Grab a player with the sack master ability, like the Minister of Defense, Reggie White. I like this system because it allows me to create teams and players using the abilities I believe are most pertinent and important to a team's success. It makes choosing the right players an important strategy in its own way, rather than just giving you a number which tells you he's the top dog on the block.

The graphics in All-Pro Football 2K8 include some clever, wonderful stadium designs but otherwise look like something you would see on the old Xbox. Some of the players don't really look like their real-life counterparts - Joe Montana especially. And if nothing I've written so far tells you that 2K Sports was being lazy, the sounds will. Peter O'Keefe and Dan Stevens are back doing the commentary. This is ordinarily a good thing, because the fictional O'Keefe and Stevens are bright and enthusiastic. But in All-Pro Football 2K8, almost - if not absolutely - all of their lines have been recycled from previous editions. I want to shoot out my screen if I hear Stevens say "You can't coach that!" one more time. The music is decent, but includes a hideous remake of the classic Rush song "Tom Sawyer."

I can't believe my beloved 2K has finally been taken out by the yearly roster update from EA Sports. It really looks like 2K Sports was hoping to grab gamers using just names and a concept, and that they were using their lack of an NFL license as an excuse to not do anything with All-Pro Football 2K8. The concept is definitely worth looking into, but only get this game if you don't like the current NFL. (Which I don't blame you for.)]]> Sun, 6 Nov 2011 16:18:55 +0000
<![CDATA[ Playing THE SIMPSONS.]]>
Plot-wise, there's a lot of weird stuff happening in Springfield and each one of the Simpsons clan find they have new powers. Giant statues start walking and an alien invasion happens. To figure out what's happening the Simpsons have to meet the "creator" and convince him not to erase them when a newer THE SIMPSONS game is released in the future. They eventually do, but the "creator" (Matt Groening) is more interested in a different show he's created (FUTURAMA) and tells the Simpsons he's just using them to make more money. Towards the end of the game, Lisa uses her powers to make a stairway to heaven and challenges God in a game of Dance Dance Revolution in order to get him to give them advice on what to do.

Graphics-wise, THE SIMPSONS GAME looks very much like the animated show. You actually look like you are interacting in the world of THE SIMPSONS. Also, the game features the vocal talents of the cast so the game sounds like the show, too.

With that said, the camera angle in the game is often terrible, particularly when you are running around or jumping from platform to platform. Also, the controls don't always work the way they are supposed to work.

I enjoyed playing THE SIMPSONS GAME. It's designed so that gamers of any level can play it. It looks, sounds, and feels like the tv show, but the bad camera angles at certain points and the control issue are the games only real negatives.]]> Fri, 4 Nov 2011 03:35:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ Wow just Wow. A very great game.]]>
Back at E3 2009 Epic Mickey Wowed audiences with its dark and mature portrayal of Disney’s iconic character Mickey Mouse. The game was praised by journalists and gamers alike and was nominated for many awards. Despite the good things I heard about the game I wasn’t really interested in it. I’m not sure why but one day while browsing in EBgames I decided to pick it up (cause I couldn't find anything good)

Disney’s Epic Mickey was developed by Junction Point Studious, and published by Disney interactive Studious. It was released on November 30th 2010. Epic Mickey follows Mickey Mouse, after a night of messing around in the workshop of the sorcerer Yen Sid Mickey accidentally creates The Shadow Blot, panicking he throws a bunch of paint thinner to get rid of it. Unbeknownst to him the Shadow blot survived the encounter and years after decides to abduct Mickey to a dark twisted version of Disneyland called Wasteland, a place were forgotten Disney characters reside. Now with your magic paintbrush and bottle of thinner you have to help Mickey escape. Don’t not let the fact that Mickey mouse is on the boxart fool you, this game is not easy. Epic Mickey features a unique gameplay mechanic in the form of paint and thinner. During the course of the game you have the option of using either your paint or thinner to complete objectives, how you use these objects dictate how the game will play and change towards your choices. An example of this is the type of Guardian available to you; Tints are the blue guardians you get these by using Paint to revitalize the environment or to revitalize and be-friend enemies. Like Paint Tints when used against an enemy will turn them into Mickey’s allies. Turps are the green guardians, these are obtained by using thinner, like thinner Turps when used against enemies will permanently erase them. Like most games though guardians can not be used until your guardian meter fills Your choices not only affect which guardians you get but also the quests available to you.

Depending on how you play some quests may or may not become available to you. Apart from paint and thinner your other choices will have an effect on the game. Forgotten Disney characters are not the only residents of Wasteland gremlins are another inhabitant. Throughout the game various different gremlins will either give you quests to complete or act as a guide through different parts of the game. Unfortunately many gremlins have been captured by the mad doctor and it’s up to you to free them. Remember Gremlins help you through the game so freeing them is only beneficial to you………..sometimes.

Graphics wise Epic Mickey looks great, they are a little on the cartoonish side but it fits overall with the tone of the game. Gameplay wise Epic Mickey is An Open-ended RPG, platformer, yes you will be jumping from place to place, and yes usually you are surrounded by pools or lakes of Paint thinner. While the platforming elements were a bit of a pain, the game played very well. Control wise the game uses the Wiimote and Nun-chuck (that’s right no classic controller or GameCube controller support) predominantly the Wiimotes pointer function. The controls take a bit of getting used to but like everything else practice makes perfect.

Overall though they were ok. Points of criticism with the game are that at some points you have no control over the camera which in a 3D platforming title is very problematic, and like most games it is alittle slow at the start with all the cutscenes and tutorials. Apart from this Epic Mickey is a really fun game to play I loved the level design and the music and I found the paint and thinner gameplay to be truly exceptional, reminiscent of Silent Hill Shattered Memories. If your looking for a fun game that’s also challenging, with a decent length (over 15 hours) then look no futher than Epic Mickey. Epic mickey gets an 8.5 out of 10.

official Site

this review can also be viewed here]]> Sun, 30 Oct 2011 00:22:08 +0000
<![CDATA[ You Are the Dark Knight]]>
Taking a cue from the graphic novel of the same name, players get to play the game as Batman. The gameplay is great. Just like Batman, you have to use certain weapons to complete certain tasks and defeat different villains. There's a good mix between platform games, puzzle games, and action games. A key to making it through to the next level is using stealth; you can't just jump out of nowhere and beat up everyone in sight. To be successful, you have to stay in the shadows and sometimes wait for the right moment to strike. There's a lot of free range in the game and there are all sorts of collectibles that a person can get as you explore the asylum.

As far as the story goes, Batman is at Arkham dropping off a prisoner when the Joker sets forth his greatest plan to date: Batman is trapped in Arkham during a lockdown where all the inmates are set free. Batman battles one foe after another, including Bane, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, and Poison Ivy. Along the way you save workers who are trapped, solve riddles, and unravel the Joker's master plan. The climactic battle finds Batman facing off against the Joker that is much a battle of brawns as it is brains.

BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM is a must-play game for gamers and anyone who is a Batman fan. It's also highly recommended for anyone who likes superhero games or just enjoys a great single player game.]]> Wed, 26 Oct 2011 02:28:30 +0000
<![CDATA[Kirby's Epic Yarn Quick Tip by Kuronoa]]>
Gameplay is a little different than Kirby's usual outings.  There is no flying and you do not suck up enemies since his new form forbids him in doing so.  You can still pick them up and throw which does a similar effect.  You do not obtain copy abilities either, for obvious reasons.  Kirby can still transform into a variety of things.  It reminds me of Yoshi Island actually, as you grab the powerup and transform into a train or UFO for example.  Maybe Yoshi should of been the star, but save the debate for another day.

It is easy to finish the story since you there is no death only lose beads (use as currency and scoring at the end of the level).  This is only at face value, collecting a mass amount of beads and collecting the three treasures in every level serves as a fair amount of effort in accomplishing.  You can also accept missions from your neighbors as well.]]> Sun, 9 Oct 2011 14:43:14 +0000
<![CDATA[Portal [PC] Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Sat, 1 Oct 2011 20:10:42 +0000 <![CDATA[Deus Ex: Human Revolution Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Sat, 1 Oct 2011 18:27:01 +0000 <![CDATA[Steam Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Sat, 1 Oct 2011 18:08:45 +0000