Friday, September 29, 2000

Far Cry PC review 9.0

2004 was a good year for FPS games. Both HALF LIFE 2 and FAR CRY were released. Whereas DOOM III and QUAKE IV came and went - mostly unnoticed, these two were here to stay. Nevertheless, whereas HL2 eventually got to my nerves with the whole STEAMed-permission-to-play-for-30-minutes blunder, FAR CRY was the game I loved the most and replayed again and again.

The graphics are just amazing! HL2 may have crisp and clear textures too, however, FAR CRY's are also realistic and detailed even at maximum resolution. The controls are intuitive and remapable - and take the character (Jack Carver) precisely where you want him. Running is fast and crawling is effectively silent. When greater distances are to be covered, vehicles are available to commandeer.

The weapons are beautiful: a mix of real and futuristic improvements. Ammo is never really a problem (well, with the exception of the Sniper rifle bullets and the RPG loads when they would really tip the balance in your favor) and, most importantly, the damage they inflict is TRULY BALANCED: both enemies and player go down with about the same amount of damage (you would be surprised on how many games this is not true - STALKLER for one...).

The story is interesting, the locales truly breathtaking and the horizon the further you have ever seen in any game! True free roaming is not actually available (try to round an island with a speedboat to circumvent same stubborn enemies and a black helicopter will chop you to pieces), however the taste is at the tip of your tongue the whole time.

The sounds and music have been worked on with care and they maximize the gaming experience.

My only (minor) objection focuses on the battles with the mutants: FAR CRY features one of the best enemy AI ever encountered. I truly savored battling human AIs - but was apprehensive when another mutant segment was coming up. The game is so realistic that it truly shines in real environments and opponents. Then again, it never lets you get bored either...

1.4 patch
Radeon HD 5970
Core 2 Quad Q9550
64-bit Windows 7.

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Crysis PC review | 9.0

This game is the long awaited follow up to 'Farcry' (one of the best FPSs of 2004). We now finally get a look at this newest offering.

Here are some of the things that I've liked in the single player mode...

1.)This is a FPS in which your nano armor gives you special 'skills"; these 'skills' include enhanced speed, strength, armor and invisibility; and you'll need them all to survive.

2.)Graphics that are smooth and excellent audio; both add a spooky, creepy ambiance to this jungle based horror game.

3.)The ability to use and control vehicles (on land, at sea and in the air), as well as the mounted weapons on these units.

4.)Generally good (but not great) enemy AI! Although some will just stand out in the open, there are some that will sneak up on you or hide behind cover; also they must reload empty weapons. Due to their larger numbers and the fact they're usually spread out, will necessitate your using your special 'skills' and the surrounding environment to defeat them. This is the basic, reoccurring challenge for this game.

5.)Easy, anytime save/loads with F5/F9 respectively, as well as game generated checkpoint saves.

6.)If your taking a beating (or find it too easy), you can change the degree of game difficulty anytime, as you play; you don't have to start a new game. This is a nice feature!


1.)I've had a couple freeze ups, requiring reboot; also some minor video fragmentation (after extended periods of play).

2.)I found the controls on flying the VTOL (vertical take-off & landing) craft were difficult to operate (the plane just didn't seem to respond to commands quickly) with the result of frequent crashes.

3.)There was one extended section where you were floating (in either space or water), that I found confusing, tedious and boring. I was lucky it was very linear, or I might never have gotten out of there.

4.)A high end system is preferable. Although playable on XP, Vista can use Dx10, and combined with good hardware and a high end video card, it does make a difference in being able to run a lot of the 'extra' graphic details.

All the pre-release hype made it sound as if this game would easily qualify for Game of the Year honors; I don't think so. Graphically it is beautiful and it is a good game, but it's not a great game! If you liked 'Farcry' then you'll probably like 'Crysis'. Was it worth the wait...probably, but somehow I was expecting something more. Over all, I liked 'Farcry' and its gameplay a little more. However, still worth a 4 1/2-5 Star rating.

Neverwinter Nights 2 Gold | 10

Like many fans of the original Bioware epic Neverwinter Nights, I was giddy as a schoolgirl when we approached the release of Neverwinter Nights 2. Perhaps the fact that it was constantly delayed should have been a warning, but I wasn't deterred at all and was travelling all over the city on launch day trying to find a copy of the Limited Edition with rings that don't fit and an art book.

But let me digress for a moment...
Bioware was the creative studio behind the epic hit Knights of the Old Republic, and Obsidian's only prior game as a studio was Knights of the Old Republic 2 which was lauded for its excellent story, and bemoaned over its incomplete nature and buggy unfinished feel. Neverwinter Nights 2 was Obsidian's second title, and also their second continuation of a Bioware masterpiece, and ultimately the foreshadowing of what was to be released should have been heeded by those of us who were chomping at the bits to get our hands on it as soon as possible.

Obsidian released Neverwinter Nights 2 without the DM client, despite the fact that they had been touting the fact in interviews a year prior that the online component of the game was well in hand. On the contrary, the online component of NWN2 was in shambles, and even after multiple patches over the course of 2 years now has the online component stabilized... to a point.

When you play online with the latest patch, you still get load screen freezes, the game crashes every time on exiting (Vista and XP), and it appears to have enormous memory leak issues which have not been resolved. I am not running a weak machine mind you, I'm running a dual core 2 duo 8400 (Wolfdale), 4 GB of RAM, and a 64 bit operating system, with a 512MB Geforce 8800GT... a powerhouse which crashes consistently with NWN2.

I had the same problems on my prior system, an AMD core, with 2GB of RAM and a 7900GT and XP. Multiplayer freezes your computer or crashes the game randomly.

Let us be honest... the Multiplayer component may not be what sells the game out of the gate, but it is what makes the original NWN a hit even in the present time (6 years post-release). Multiplayer was incredibly unfinished by Obsidian, and reading the release notes it is almost criminal how they acknowledge bugs, don't know what causes them, and don't issue any timeframe or even a plan on an expected fix.

This game hasn't worked since release for those who enjoy Multiplayer. Single player is buggy, but the campaign is good (reminiscent of KOTOR2).

Despite all this, the cash cow milking is at work, and Gold Editions, Platinum Editions, Diamond Editions, etc. are promised features and fixes for those who shell out cash to buy the newest bundle or expansion.

Obsidian/Atari should not be planning any expansions until the game actually works. Instead, they are financing development and running the license into the ground because of the shortsighted nature of development.

This game was supposed to be a D&D fan's dream, but many of us are moving back to NWN where Bioware still adds free content, fixes, and additions to the game despite not making much money off of it.

Perhaps Obsidian/Atari should slow down on milking the consumer and think about what breeds customer loyalty. I've bought every single Bioware title to date, and I will continue buying because I get what I expect - quality, and a finished game.

Monday, September 25, 2000

Tales of Symphonia GCN review | 8.0

After much waiting, wailing, and gnashing of teeth from its owners, the GameCube finally got its own RPG. And what an RPG it got!

This game is absurdly fun to play. Control in both the overworld, dungeons, and battle is effortless, with the controller utilized to good effect in almost every instance. Item use and character development are easy to control. However, if you want, you can get very particular about your character's growth thanks to the 'title' system. The Strike/Technical divide, which is poorly explained by the manual and the game, also allows for a more general way of controlling your character's growth. The application of EX gems and their associated skills allows still finer control of your character's abilities. But again, you can play the game very well and have a lot of fun without getting too deeply into any of this.

The real-time battle system will be a bit confusing to those used to the more standard turn-based gameplay of other console RPGs. The learning curve is pretty shallow, however, and the inability to directly control the other members of your party is not as much a handicap as you might think. The AI is reasonably intelligent (though the characters sometimes position themselves oddly or run around for no apparent reason), and if necessary the player can command them to use particular skills using either controller shortcuts or the battle menu.

The learning curve for controlling a given character, as I said, is very shallow... you can learn to control Lloyd, Kratos, Zelos, and Sheena in only one or two battles. Regal, Presea, and Collette require a bit more work (or at least they did for me), and Genis and Raine will be hardest (mainly because they're useless as melee fighters, and everyone else is either primarily melee or at least useful for it). Carefully assigning your battle skills to your controller and preparing unison attacks will allow you to create combos and special attacks that look awesome, but it's just as fun to assign a few stock skills and wail away on your opponents.

Again, battle strategy is as deep as you want it to be. The game sets defaults which are reasonably useful, but if you desire it, you can adjust strategies to fit your own approach to battle. Also, you have the ability to adjust individual strategies in battle through the menu, or switch the whole group to an alternate strategy through D-pad shortcuts. As with other aspects of the game, battle strategy is scalable to your level of interest and expertise.

I have not tried multiplayer, but I have seen complaints that the tendency of the camera to zoom in on Player 1 in battle detracts from the experience. Multiplayer for this sort of game is an iffy prospect anyway, and the AI is sufficiently competent that you don't NEED your pals to pick up controllers, so I don't view this as a weakness.

The gameplay unites RPG strategy with good old-fashioned button-mashing fun, and that makes for a great experience, IMHO.

With the caveat 'for a game', as always. Despite some cheesy lines (and I mean REALLY cheesy), the story of the game is nicely plotted, and most of the characters behave believably. The twists in the story are both interesting and plausible, and the game makes effective use of foreshadowing without being ridiculously heavy-handed about it. The only problem is that you have to devote some time to the game before the plot picks up; the first part of the game makes it seem like it's going to be the standard 'beat the dungeons and save the world' story that's been standard on consoles since the first Legend of Zelda game.

Cel-shading. Some love it on general principle, some hate it on general principle. If you belong to either category, I can't help you. However, if you like a game that just looks good, then you won't go wrong with this one. The overworld graphics are rather bland (and the black-blob monsters in the overworld are atrocious), but everything else is very nice. The choice to use blurring as a method of introducing perspective was a mistake, but this is the only complaint I can level against the cutscenes and town areas. The character designs are pretty standard (slender build + narrow chin + absurd hair) for anime, except for Regal. Monster designs, however, are generally good, and the appearance of the special moves in battle is good overall and fantastic in a few cases. As long as you're not a cel-hater, this game will be lots of fun to look at.

Most of the voice acting is good (the post-battle exclamations particularly so). However, the guy playing Kratos sounds like he has a head cold, which makes his delivery fairly weak. The music is passable; not really inspiring (until the end credits, which inexplicably have much better music than most of the game), but not distracting. A few places have really catchy tunes associated with them, however (Katz Village), and generally the music is at least nice to listen to. The main weakness, however, is the z-skits, which should have had voiceover (and apparently did in the Japanese version). A few lines here and there are over-emoted, but generally voiceover quality is high.

An abundance of side-quests and mini-games (although these tend to be of little interest to me), the Grade system, and the ability to reshape the story in several places makes this game a lot of fun to play multiple times. Winning it once might take 60-80 hours, but in all likelihood you'll want to win it at least twice, and maybe more times than that.

Hours of excellent gameplay and an engaging story are paired with eye-pleasing graphics and surprisingly good voice acting. If you have a Gamecube, this is an excellent choice. Hopefully Namco will be releasing future 'Tales' series games over here as well.

Thursday, September 21, 2000

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift | 9.0

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is the update and continuation of last years masterpiece, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, this little gem was crafted by the brilliant minds at Arc System Works. Fans of the original or fans of the Guilty Gear series will no doubt want to purchase this, if for nothing else at least for the story mode, you have never experienced a deeper or more complex story in a fighting game

You will get a lot for your $40, newly added Tutorial Mode, Challenge Mode and Legion Mode from the portable version are present. The tutorial is a great place to learn the basics if you are new to BlazBlue and it is the best way to learn the advanced techniques as well. The new challenge mode is pretty much like challenge mode in SFIV and SSFIV. There are 10 challenges per character, each challenge is comprised of several different tasks though, once you get to the advanced combos for a character of your liking it could take you a very long time to clear the challenges. These games are easy enough to play at a casual level but it will take a lot of patience and skill to hang with some of the people you will meet online.

There are 3 new characters right off the bat, Tsubaki is a Valkyrie of sorts, fights with sword and shield and has a drive attack that charges her moves for added strength, she is a very simple character to use and I would recommend her to newcomers. Hazama, better known to veterans as Terumi, is another story. Hazama is tricky but unbelievably good, his drive attack sends chains out at his opponent both for attacks and to rapidly close the distance between players. He is fast, dangerous and unpredictable...and also serves as the final boss of arcade and Story mode for most characters. Lambda replaces Nu as the Murakumo unit in this game, hardly any difference. The true form of Noel Vermillion is also a playable character but I have yet to unlock her. As of now there are at least 3 more characters planned as DLC. Makoto, a...foxie lady (excuse the pun if you get it) that uses tonfa, I have only seen clips of her and have no idea how she plays. Valkenhayn, Rachel's butler and one of the Six Heroes, will join and I can almost guarantee that he will play like Slayer from Guilty Gear. Platina (Sena and Luna) is another future character, due to her split personality I expect her to be like A.B.A. from Guilty Gear.

All characters have a robust, branching Story Mode that will take you many hours to complete. The story picks up right after Calamity Trigger's True End, there is a brief summary for those that didn't play the original. Japanese and English audio are present and accounted for, thank goodness. Online returns of course, you can once again save and upload replays of your best matches if you so choose. There are a few new stages, a few new songs and sadly, a new announcer...not nearly as funny when she says Rebel 1, Action! The character portraits have all been redrawn and they look AWESOME, more like Guilty Gear art and less like anime. The sprites seem improved too, at least Ragna and Hakumen seem to have a few more frames of animation and slight color differences, all welcome changes. The gameplay is top notch, if you like high flying, air dashing combo-laden madness then BlazBlue is 100% for you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker | 10

If this game was called Metal Gear Solid 5: Peace Walker, I would not hesitate to call it that. This game is astounding. It's a technical marvel. A feat on portable platforms. There was not a single time where I said I wanted this game to be on a console. In fact, if this was on a console and cost $60, I would buy it in a heartbeat. From the gameplay, to the graphics, to the sound, to the length of the story, this is a huge console adventure, right in the palm of your hand. It's absolutely amazing that so much could be crammed into a little disc. I still can't get over it.

Unlike Portable Ops, the controls did not hinder the gameplay. Apparently, the developers learned from their mistake and made the controls work. Not once did I wish for a second analog stick. It works. It's Metal Gear Solid on a handheld. No exceptions. Do you remember the ability to recruit soldiers and use them in Portable OPs? Well, that's now more streamlined, it's improved, and overall more enjoyable. Knock out a soldier, hook a Fulton Recovery System balloon onto him, and continue your mission. No more dragging across the map anymore. Just pop on on there and continue your mission. When you go back to your Mother Base (GEE I WONDER IF THIS COULD BE THE START OF OUTER HEAVEN) you can put them in different units (such as combat and engineering) to have them do missions or build weapons or do other things of great wonder. However, you mainly want to build up your engineering (called R&D) sections. This is highly improved, because instead of getting random weapons ever so often like in Portable Ops, you choose which weapons to develop, and you can upgrade them. You can even upgrade your items, like your sonar system and Fulton Recovery System. It's awesome, useful, and you actually want to spend the time to upgrade it. And not only do you have this wildly improved Portable Ops system, but you have the main story missions, which are on-par with the likes of any of the console predecessors, and you have side-missions as well, which you can complete at any time. Let's just say this game will last for a long, long time.

The graphics are without a doubt amazing. I honestly kept forgetting I was playing a handheld. There is a ruddy texture or two, but let's cut the PSP some slack, eh? The graphic novel cutscenes are not only well done, but they fit the game. They don't feel out of place. Also, there are quicktime events inside the graphic novel cutscenes, which are beautifully animated. Also, did I mention the quicktime events don't suck?They're (shock and awe) fairly exciting, and do not seem forced at all.

The sound is also wonderfully done. Usually, I hardly ever pay attention to the sound when playing handhelds, because it usually ranges from 'alright' to 'mediocre'. Or maybe I don't even notice it at all. Well, I did this time. Do yourself a favor, play this with headphones. You won't regret it.

Storyline is your typical Metal Gear Solid fare: unmanned robots, nuclear weapons, Snake grunting in agreement, remembering the basics of CQC, etc. For those of you who have played Metal Gear Solid from the beginning will enjoy many plot points that tie in various people and objects from different games. Overall, very enjoyable, but I presume many will prefer the story lines from the console brethren.

I have only one gripe with this game: co-op. Now, usually, I would be extremely happy with having co-op for the game, but the developers put so much emphasis on co-op that some missions nearly require it, even if they don't say so. This can lead to frustration, but it is not impossible. Prepare for some difficult times, but most of the time, you will be having a blast.

Sunday, September 17, 2000

Red Dead Redemption | 10

From the team that brought you Grand Theft Auto, you are now thrown head long into a wild west adventure. You control John Marston. This game is set in the desert in 1911 (same year as my favorite .45 was made). You are somewhere near the Mexico border. John was a criminal that ticked off many people in his past and now has to atone for what he did. People come out of the woodwork either as his friends or enemies.

My play experience:
On the PS3 the graphics are really sharp and crisp. The textures, the ambiance all bring the wild west to your home living room.

In recent years there have been games that have tried to capture the essence of the western genre. For example Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood which on the surface was a pretty good game, it however was not a very good story. In COJ the main characters are brothers that are ex-confederate soldiers. The story never really grabs hold and to be honest I never finished COJ. The story in Red Dead Redemption is done so well that it never feels pushed or contrived. Instead its done like an old western movie. Its gritty and a world that beckons you back time and time again.

For now let me discuss the cool features:

Horses: +
I think they put a horse into a motion capture room and had him run around. In Assassins Creed II the horse was a good way to get from town to town and the motion was pretty real. In Red Dead Redemption its super smooth an you feel like your out exploring the desert on a horse with no name... Kick your horse too much to get him to chase down that coach, you could be looking at a wild ride as he tries to buck you off. The longer you keep 1 horse the more stamina and other abilities it gets.
EDIT: I see they actually DID use a live horse to make the motion capture. It shows.

You can also ride stage coaches and trains. Or rob them, its up to you. See gameplay below.

Gunfighting: +
You are a real gunslinger in this game. To get prepped to get it I watched Young Guns [Blu-ray] and a couple of other westerns. This game matches the combat of say GTA and COD. Where you shoot someone matters, and it can affect your character in different ways too. Some of my opponents are gonna have a limp for a while at least.

Atmosphere: +
There are critters running all over as you ride through the desert landscape. It feels dusty, makes me want to wear a bandanna as I play. When you get low on cash you can kill and skin critters for a few coin. There are actually many ways that you can earn money in this game besides being a hard criminal.

World: +
So far its just massive. I can only compare it to the run from Commonlands to Qeynos in EQ. It seems to be fully explorable and I have found very few places I couldn't go. It really is huge. I have seen that someone said it was the biggest world ever done in a Rockstar game. Which is impressive considering that those games can go on forever. The land is great in that it hardly ever repeats as you ride. Matter of fact I haven't seen any textures or vistas that look the same. Maybe there are but they are so far apart that you wont notice it. An example of this is the train ride into the mountains in Uncharted 2.

Towns: +
Unlike GTA you wont have a huge city to run around. Out west these were small settlements and usually had only a couple of hundred people in them. Think about all the old wild west movies you have seen where there is maybe 10 shops and a few houses in the town directly. The way they did the towns is very endearing, because it makes it an immersion type of game experience.

Poker: +
I love the side games. I have lost my fair share of my real money playing poker and now I can do this in game too.

Gameplay options: +
You can be the good guy or be a down right criminal. The game system supports either mode and varying degrees in between. This allows RDR to be more than just a shooter, but more like an RPG. Be careful who you pull your gun on. If you do it in town you can start something that will ultimately lower your honor.

Controls: +/-
The controls are a bit different here and do take some time to figure out. But any game can be that way. If you go from say a driving game to a shooter you might hit the wrong buttons once and a while. After playing this for nearly 2 days solid now and not switching to other games in between, I have totally become comfortable with the controlling scheme.

Multiplayer: NA
I do not enjoy multiplayer shooters. I am really no good at it so I tend to not play it much or at all. That being said I jumped in a couple of games and it was ok. If your a hard core multiplayer person please check other reviews for this. I would not do it justice because I tend to be jaded with regard to multiplayer games.


I am almost done and I can see where I would have like to do something different in the way I played this. That being said, I think that I could go back through and try it again maybe being a bit evil this time. For that I think that this is a game you could play over and over, adjust the story line, and enjoy it each time you did.

This game is really appealing if:
A. You enjoy GTA type of game play, open world and a morality system that challenges you.
B. Fan of westerns and cowboy movies. If you hate them and think they are silly then you probably wouldnt enjoy this.

If you are A+B then this game is a hands down favorite pick to have in your PS3 arsenal.
Some Tips: (no spoilers)
I have almost 30 hours into this game and I am not done. I do goof around alot and like to go hunting and see what other mischief I can get into. Playing poker for 3 hours doesnt hurt either. That being said I want to drop some tips in to help those of you still waiting or are looking.

1. Dont get to attached to your horse. Think of them like a car, reason being there are tons of ways they can die. From random mountain lions, to getting shot by the enemy to you shooting them in the back of the head on accident when wolves are attacking (sorry skippy :( )
2. When going in to attack a gang leave your horse way back and run up. When you have hog tied your bad guy you can whistle ^ arrow and he will run back over to you.
3. If you buy a horse the deed is in your bag, click it to call your horse back from the dead. (thanks S.L.V)

Like in real life its alot about luck so go in with the thought you'll do 1 buy in and when that money is gone leave, go kill some stuff and come back later. Your hands may improve

1. Pausing the game with the start button will show what time it is. Saving the game gives you 6 hours of rest. If you like shopping be sure you go to bed no later than 3am. Then when you get back up the stores will all be open, and you can go out and have a blast.

Camp whenever you have a long ride ahead of you. As long as you have bought a map you can go to that place from your campground. Once in your campground you can select where to go without having to burn up the 6 hours of sleep. Then after it loads you will be at your destination. Good stuff.

Thats it for now. If I figure out any more lil tidbits Ill share them here with you. Have fun, it really is a great game.

Xenosaga Episode III | 9.0

Xenosaga: Episode 3 (Also sprach Zarathustra) brings back the magic of Episode 1 and fixes the vast majority of the problems that occurred in Episode 2. The story here, as rich and complex as ever, is brought to an appropriate and moving close as Shion and company battle to uncover a deep-seated conspiracy unlike anything else they've ever encountered. The fabric of the story itself, the voice acting, and the cutscenes are all truly superb - it's remarkable that the makers at Namco/Bandai managed to pull all of the loose ends together to make the story finally make sense. To boot, it's a pleasure to watch and listen to -- who could ask for more?

As for the battle system, it finally regains its fun in Episode 3. I simply wasn't a fan of Episode 2's system, so the return to "basics" was a blessing in my mind. The characters still do battle in their unique ways, as each has his/her own customizable skills to obtain, but long gone are the days of ridiculously long battles against painfully weak enemies. Here, in both ground and E.S. (mech) battles, your ability to strengthen and customize your party shines through and you are always rewarded for your hard work. Replay value is moderate-to-high as well, since your party consists of all the familiar players for most of the game; if you have a habit of using the same three or four people (like me; yay for chaos!), you can always play through again with a different group.

Shops return in this Episode, making buying and selling your merchandise once again possible. The only thing lacking is this game is a little more in the "extras/side quests" department, of which this game only offers a handful. While some of these take longer than others, a few more side quests would have been nice, particularly since this is the last in the series.

I can't rave enough about how impressed I was with this title. It rivals Episode 1 in every way possible, and the trilogy's epic story outstrips other RPG competition without question. If you're looking for fun battles, a fantastic story, and beautiful graphics, then look no further; Xenosaga: Episode 3 is for you.

I can only hope that someone changes their mind and decides to make another one -- after this exceptional closing Episode, it's hard not to wish for another game to come along in the future. Very highly recommended.

Story: A+
Cutscenes: A
Graphics/Rendering: A
Battle/Skill System: A
Extras/Side Quests: A-
Replay Value: Moderate-to-High

The Longest Journey | 9.5

Absolutely beautiful and surreal. Like so many woven dreams and breathtaking vistas and grand accomplishments... this game is everything I hoped it would be from the time I first spotted the box to the final credits. There is also no false advertisement in the title, as this is an extremely long journey. After dozens and dozens of diverse characters and locations and victories, you realize you have three discs of game left to go through. I played this game for months, though not always at the computer. I would get stuck on a particularly devious puzzle or plot point and wouldn't play for a while, but found myself brainstorming possible solutions all the time. There are many hours of dialogue and monologue (April tends to talk to herself about whatever is on her mind, which are often the same questions you find yourself asking) and most of it has some comic relief, usually from April's understandable cynacism (she does see and hear some very strange things).

If you want an awesome adventure game that will stretch the limits of your imagination and that will take for-freakin'-ever to finish, I highly recommend this game, although you'd probably love it regardless.

- Some of the puzzles are entirely based on "hunt the pixel" -- success hinges on finding the one tiny pixel that's hidden behind something else. I want puzzles to require intelligence and flexibility on my part, not keen eyesight and infinite patience in moving the mouse over the screen.

The game *was* good. The voice acting was excellent, the graphics were pretty, and the characters were engaging. The story was also very good (though some threads never got resolved, which was annoying).

Saturday, September 16, 2000

Super Mario KArt | 8.5

This is the best non-serious racing game for SNES! Pick from eight racers, Mario, Luigi, Toad, Bowser, Koopa, Donkey Kong, Yoshi and the Princess. Then pick your difficulty and one of three circuits that you want to race on. Each circuit has five racetracks, each is severely detailed from start to finish! The ghost houses have ghosts everywhere, Bowser's castle has thromps to come down and crush you! You can pick up items along the way, like mushrooms that give you a huge boost of speed, stars, which make you invisible, and shells that you fire at the other racers! Throughout the game you can even add to the fun by earning extra difficulties and an extra circuits with five new and cool racetracks like star road. The only downfall is that the game is quite dated,

I can understand in some ways why some people seem to think I despise "good clean fun", because of my bad reviews for a lot of kids games. Nintendo classics like this are reasons why I got into games in the first place and why people who have this perception of me are not right. This game has a lot of fun tracks that are noticeably absent from its successor, some characters not featured as racers in Mario Kart 64 like Koopa Troopa and Donkey Kong JR, multiplayer is lots of fun just like its follow-up, and it has endless replay value. Though it may not quite be as good as its successor it still is way to much fun for even the most M-rated infatuated gamer to resist.

Xenosaga Episode II

The story is Good. The movies are always entertaining, and the story is always interesting. It never reaches the emotional depths that the last game did. There seems to be a greater emphasis on making the whole thing more...unrealistic. The first game presented a believable future - all the technology was explained, things behaved realistically, etc. That's all thrown out in this might sound strange, but it seems to be more "Japanese" than Episode 1. Characters now swordfight in a Samurai style and shout things in what sounds very similar to Japanese. They shoot lasers out of their swords (and it's never explained why). There's even a character that wears samurai-ish robes. It destroys any believability this universe had.

Also, I'm personally disappointed that the game focused so much on Jr. (couldn't stand him from the first game), and not so much on wonderful KOS-MOS, who's not even present in the first half, and barely says two words in the second. And this is a Very Good Thing, because some of the voice actor changes were not for the better. Shion's VA is improved, but KOS-MOS's was a huge downgrade.

The music is also terrible compared to last game's. Episode 1 marked the first time I ran out and bought the soundtrack to a game. The beautiful orchestra and haunting chorus from that game have been replaced by forgettable boppy tunes, with maybe one decent melody in the whole thing.

Now, one to Dark One's taint = the gameplay. The battle system is easily the worst I have ever seen in any RPG. Ever. They aren't random - the enemies are onscreen. This is the One and Only Good thing. When you do touch an enemy, it takes a strangely long time to load. Your characters appear, one-by one. Then the monsters appear, one-by one. Sometimes, you'll be surrounded by the enemy. Other times, you'll surround the enemy yourself. This is Completely Random. Even if you attack an enemy from behind, you won't start the battle at the enemy's back. Which is too bad, as Back Attacks do more damage, and every time you enter a battle, you'll be desperate to scrape up as much damage as possible.

There's no such things as Powerful Moves here. You're forced to hit an enemy in specific "zones", which you do by hitting Triangle or Circle (did I mention the moves you do have no titles? Bye-bye, Moonlight Serenade or Spell Ray). Hit Triangle/Circle in the right order, and you get what's called a Zone Break. Now, you have to Boost your other characters in so they can damage the enemy while it's in this "break" stage. You boost the other characters by having them sit there and Not Attack during their own attack phase.

You are FORCED to do this - while some enemies do have special weaknesses, they're not exactly mind-blowing helpful for the majority of enemy types. Instead, you have to do the Zone Break, or all of your moves will do about 20 a creature that has 5,000 HP. And there's still 3 other creatures in the battle, all with 10,000 HP each.

Sound fun to you? Admittedly, once you DO get an enemy's weakness down, and get a Zone Break in, then Boost all of your characters in a row to take advantage of the enemy's weakness and the zone break, you can rack up huge damage. Sometimes it's even enough to take a single enemy down - and it only took 10 minutes to build up!

So, yes, the battle system will corrode your soul. Expect every battle to last at least 5 minutes, and that's if you're quick and know what you're doing. Meaning that you've already fought this enemy before and have either memorized it's Zone Break and weaknesses, or you've taught one of your characters a Memory skill.

And here's another embarassing part of the game. Every single character can learn every single skill. This completely destroys any individuality the characters had. KOS-MOS still has a couple special skills only she can use, but they're not nearly as impressive as the classics from the first game. Instead of being awed by what your characters are capable of, you cooly assign specific skills to each character based on what attributes you want in each battle. If that sounds fun to you, it's not. Many of these skills are useless, and characters will repeat skills that are helpful.

It's possible to "unlock" new skills and Double Attacks (two characters team up to attack) by undergoing the torture that is the game's sidequests. You run around, doing good deeds for people. These good deeds are very loosely explained, and very often involve playing fetch from place to place. I didn't even attempt it.

Other things that will leave you a blackened husk inside when the game is done: The puzzles in the dungeons. Oh how I wish my mind could let me forget them so I could live again. Unfortunately I can't, and so I will always remember shooting boxes to form a bridge, shooting boxes to clear a bridge, and shooting boxes of a specific color that explode other boxes of the same color around them. To form a bridge.

In conclusion, let me just say that I hope Episode 3 is better, or I will go insane. Or the Red Ajah will come for me in the form of Final Fantasy XII.

Friday, September 15, 2000

Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht | 8.5

I'm an avid FF fan, and tend to be pretty biased when it comes to RPG's. Xenosaga is the first RPG that I have ever found to be MORE exciting and intensive than the FF games. I couldn't put it down. I loved the battle system, even though it was complex, I felt I had control of leveling up my characters the way I see fit. The story line is amazing, even the long cut scenes are worth the watch, and I'd even play the game again to watch a few of them. The voice acting is great too, I'm usually not a voice over fan, but I felt the voices fit the characters perfectly! I beat the game in 60 hours, I obtained most of the items, though a few area's were left unplundered. I think my only beef is that the bosses weren't excessivly difficult to beat, but then again, I spend a lot of time boosting levels, so that could contribute to the ease I had beating the game. At any rate, I highly recommend this game to any serious RPGer. Even if you're not a "sci-fi" fan (which I'm not either), you won't be disappointed. I can't wait for the next one!!!!

Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies review | 9.5

The photo realism must be seen first hand to be believed, screen shots and movie clips found around the net cannot describe half the beauty that this game is. The graphics, consistent frame rate, and responsive controls successfully creates an immersive environment of flight. There are times where I would ignore the mission objectives and fly at incredible speeds, low to the ground, amongst snow-capped mountains. One word: Bliss.

The gameplay sits somewhere between simulation and arcade. Personally it's a perfect balance. I find simulations (Jane series on PC for example) too steep of a learning curve. The massive amounts of micro-management required to fly a plane is a bit daunting, if anything, definately not 'fun'. On the other end of the spectrum, arcade fliers are too simplified with unrealistic physics, dumbed down controls, and gameplay mechanics that offers nothing but a mindless blast-a-thon. Shattered Skies is not a shoot-em-up. It offers an incredible sense of flight with controls that anyone can pick up after little practice.

Only drawback...18 missions seems awfully short. But short games seem to be the trend with these next-gen console games . The missions, however are varied enough, and since you can revisit them with any of the 21 air crafts (each with a distinct style of flight), the replay value can be arguably good.

Bottom line - finally, PS2 games are starting to show off the system's capabilities. AC4: Shattered Skies is no exeption, even the controls take excellent advantage of the analogue buttons. Dog fighting, bombing missions, avoiding anti-aircraft gun fire, shaking off missle locks, etc. etc. etc. everything you'd expect and want in a title like this, you will find. And all of this is presented in a style that is polished and, for a lack of a better term, very slick. If anything, for the genre of the game, it is Fun. Blissful and Gleeful in immersive flight.

Wednesday, September 13, 2000

God of War Origins Collection | 9.0

I LOVE the God of War series with a passion in the same way a film lover loves the works of Ingmar Bergman/Alfred Hitchcock/Stanley Kubrick/Andrei Tarkovsky. As a matter of fact, it's easily my all time favorite game series. It's art direction, story line, characters, emotions, and game play are all among the cream of the crop. It's a force to reckoned with in gaming, and it's no secret that all Sony game systems benefit from having God of War on it. The highlights of the PSP's game library were definitely the two God of War games, so naturally I was very excited when I heard the two GoW games were being ported over the PS3. I've played both games on the PSP before, but ever since my aging PSP died on me, I was definitely bummed I would never be playing the two God of War PSP games. Rest assured, two of the PSP games are now available on the PS3, and they are better than ever.

First off, the games themselves. What exactly do these two new games offer for God of War fans? Are they worth the journey? The short answer is YES!!! (OK, that's pretty obvious, but read on anyway). (Minor Spoilers Ahead).

Both games have their own original plots, with CoO being a prequel to the whole series, and Ghost of Sparta being set after the second game. Both stories are well written and bring out entirely new elements and subtexts, filling out plenty of back story and developing the characters, especially Kratos. In particular, Ghost of Sparta does an amazing job at really setting the tone for the rest of series. More members of Kratos family appear, and it's the suffering and the negativity about that is caused by the gods, that really give an understanding of the agonizing ten years he spent serving the gods. It actually doesn't QUITE explain why Kratos went on a killing rampage in the beginning of the second game (it's actually because he was betrayed, in game, in the cell phone game God of War:Betrayal), but it really lingers on Kratos own suffering and more intimate feelings, really showing you as to WHY he's so pissed off. Chains of Olympus is an excellent prequel as well, highlighting the seemingly never-ending quest of serving the gods. At the end, it all comes to a deadly conclusion that would ultimately lead to the most harrowing journeys in video game history (at least for Kratos). In particular, the revelation near the end of the game is the light bulb moment if you always wondered why Kratos made the ultimate sacrifice at the very end of the series.

The games basically follow the same GoW formula, as you will perform combat, solve puzzles, execute quick-time events, and collecting red orbs in order to level up and gain new abilities. The same action-based, combo-stringing, combat is here and works as great as before. You will still gain access to awesome magic and weapons, including my favorite new weapon, the Arms of Sparta. You will be able to combine and use a single combat spear with a heavy duty shield. As a matter of fact, the two games contain some of my favorite magic and weapons. I also love the Djinn, which let's you summon a fire genie that pounds flames into the ground, and The Horn of Boreas let's you wield the name sake, with the ability to freeze enemies in a whirlwind of Ice and wind. However, I'll let you explore all of the new abilities yourself. The controls have also, actually, improved a bit thanks to the PS3 controller. The addition of rumble is a nice feature, and the the DualShock 3's extra buttons provide for easier controls as well (rolling with the analog stick, for one), since the PSP didn't have as many buttons.

Most of all though,those who LOVE the game series for it's awesome level design, excellent stories, great writing, emotional ability, and the GoW artistry will love these games. None of the games feel redundant; they are always fresh in it's execution of its world. From exploring the monumental Helios temple, exploring the Pits of Tartarus from the very deep, being present during the seize of the city of Attica, and watching the world crumble beneath a stone pillar, I've always played these games knowing exactly why I treat this game series the ways fantasy fans do The Lord of the Rings. You will not regret playing these games, as you will gain more insight into the unique GoW myth, understand the characters even more, and the God of War universe itself. After all, one main reason I play these games is because you love the art of the game, and all of the games here would be utterly indispensable to the series in my eyes. They are just that important to the series.

As you all wanted to know though, God of War Collection, besides giving a wider audience a chance to play these two games, is known for it's "remastered graphics". The team responsible for the previous collection did an excellent job with remastering the visuals for the first collection, as it was one of the big selling points of the first collection. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, the HD remastering adds better texture, speeding up the frame-rate to a constant 60fps, and cleaning up the rough edges and shoddy textures of many PS2 games. It really cleans them up and makes them look more vibrant enough they can hold their own against today's visuals. While these PSP games obviously show some graphics shortcomings due to the fact these are PSP games, they still look excellent. In particular, I personally think Ghost of Sparta looks terrific. Ready at Dawn used excellent graphic technique, and it honestly is the second best-looking GoW game, with the third with the lead. Colors look amazing, the liquid and particle textures looks ultra clean and dense, and the backdrops are stunning and slick. Chains of Olympus is a bit more rough around the edges, but it still looks great and much of the rough edges have been cleaned up.

Perhaps the best upgrade, however, is the HD experience. This may just be a selling point for those who still are able to play their PSP versions. While it's plenty possible to connect your PSP to your PS3, the image will not be very pretty, and it's definitely not as easy and you might end up spending around the same amount of money to do so. But with this collection, the crisp High Definition picture, the pounding, visceral, earth-shaking sound design, all work together and can truly floor your home theater system and your own God of War experience. This is what the medium/art game gamer mindset LIVES for! Besides, these games SCREAM epic treatment. You don't play GoW on a little portable handheld that only has a 4.3 inch screen. You play it with a TV, a home theater system. With astounding sound design, larger than life, awe-inspiring visuals, these are the types of games you buy a Home Theater system for. Thanks to this collection, you can finally translate the PSP games to the area it's truly known for.

On top of that, God of War Origins also features a lofty new addition for people who really enjoy such a thing (nothing wrong with that): 3-D. Alright, fine, I admit it. I did not get any time to check out the 3-D first person. I don't own a 3-D TV, and I agree with such figures as Roger Ebert that 3-D is largely unnecessary and a complete gimmick. However, I can definitely understand why people like the effects, and from what I heard, the 3-D works fine and really helps amplify many effects such as fog and other material. However, I'm definitely hear to tell you that It really shouldn't detract you either way from purchasing this, as 3-D or not, it should not disappoint. If you like it, great. If you don't, also great. It's not a make or break decision in buying the collection, as the main feature here are the games themselves.

As far as bonus features go, you can also unlock trophies. watch documentaries, and spend some time with the DLC. I didn't find the bonus features to be a "must-buy factor", the games included are, but they are fun and interesting. The DLC is definitely interesting and fun, and most GoW fans will definitely find some use and value in it. The Forest of the Forgotten is a brand new arena challenge similar to previous ones, and you will get all new objectives to solve in the vein of Super Smash Brother's challenges, like most of the challenges. The Kratos Legionnaire is basically a costume where you play with a very Golden Spartan soldier, complete with awesome helmet.

The roundtable video is where all five creators of the series all meet together and discuss the franchise together. You also get Trophies, which are mostly just virtual bragging rights and a way to compare each others skills. Well, skills predetermined by the software company, but hey. Personally, I'm not a big fan of trophy achievements (I find them trivial and I never go out of my way to achieve them, I just achieve them unintentionally), but some people like them and they aren't too difficult to unlock, as you get them for activities such as beating the game on higher difficulty levels, using items for a particular amount of time, or achieving/completing/coming to certain plot points.

I easily give this five stars for what it is, as all God of War fans who haven't played one of the games here would be fooling themselves if they didn't own this one. The games here are essential to the series, and if you don't have these games, then you should buy this collection as soon as possible. It's true that, if you own the PSP versions, the value of this collection may not be AS obvious (although I don't think many would regret it, given that you can play these PSP games on an awesome Home Theater System). For everyone else, you will be spending your hard earned money very well. I can't think of a single God of War game not worth playing, and this collection is just as essential as God Of War 3 is. The games are, in many ways, more intimate, more personal, and emotionally satisfying, especially Ghost of Sparta, which has one of the best story lines in the game series. Really, I'm running out of things to say here, just get it, and you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Final Fantasy X-2 | 10

Final Fantasy X-2 is a brand new world in the beloved series. While it is based on, and set in, FFX's world of Spira and containing the core characters of Yuna & Rikku, and a plethora of the supporting characters seen previously, it as much different as it is similar.

Some 2 years have passed since Yuna, Wakka, Sir Auron, Rikku, Kimahri & our lost dream (and Yuna's love,) Tidus defeated Sin to bring the eternal calm. For anyone that hasn't played and beaten X, it's a good idea to pick up a copy and play it through first simply because X-2 doesn't give you a lot of backstory, instead alludes to things and moves forward.

Yuna is now a Sphere Hunter with the Gullwings and travels with her cousin Rikku and a brash new character, the Gothic female Paine. Rikku arrived on the Isle of Besaid and gave Yuna a sphere containing a video of someone that looks like Tidus trapped for trying to use some kind of weapon. I can't elaborate more or I would spoil most of the adventure. So, Y. P. R. (as they call themselves) are hunting every sphere in Spira trying to find out just who this is. Along the way, they are constantly hounded by the Leblanc Syndicate (another Sphere Hunter group) and the rise of New Yevon. If X's tagline was "This is my story," (meaning Tidus,) than the tagline for X-2 is appropriate as "This is Yuna's story." In fact, it is a deep story as I have come to find out and far moreso than the brief synopsis by Square-Enix. (This is a good thing.)

The same source code was used for many of different area's seen in FFX, but have been tweaked and updated to bring the world of Spira 2 years forward. Some area's look exactly the same, however, with new people and places to explore. Graphically, FF X-2 is better looking and superior to X because of these added elements.

Graphics II:
The character models are sharp and gorgeous. The speech to mouth movement has been overhauled and plays out smoothly. You'll notice the incredible graphics while in battle and especially while changing dressspheres.

This is where X-2 differs so much from FFX. Instead of the linear world of moving from place to place, you now have a beautiful airship to roam wherever you want to, when ever you want to. In short, you can play this game any way you want too as there's no preset way to go. The world map has returned and with your airship you pick where you want to go instead of waiting until deep into the game to acquire the ship (as was the case in previous FF titles.) Also, instead of one defined mini-game, like Blitzball & Tetra Master, there are many (sorta like the things you could do at the Gold Saucer in FFVII.)

Gameplay II:
Ah, the battle scheme. It is easy, and it is tough. ATB, "Active Time Battle," seen in Final Fantasy IX has returned and you can change job classes in the middle of battle. Be careful however, changing classes in a tough fight could leave your party vanquished. Gone is the usual fight stance and style where one party stays on one side and the fiend on the other. X-2 presents the battle in a realistic form. You may surround the fiends once, or they may surround you. Also, I can't leave out the mentioning of the "Chain Attack," a cool feature done in other games and now bringing a great strategy to FF's turn-based battle system. (You'll notice in X-2, that it doesn't as heavily rely on turn-based as previous FF's and could be an Action RPG like Summoner 2 if was loosened any further.) Again, a good thing.

The voice acting is suberb by the same cast as the original. The music is upbeat and lively and bear's no, and I mean NO, resemblence to Nobuo Uematsu's awesome scores and themes. This may be the games only drawback and is sorely missed, at least by me.

X-2 is presented as a game in itself with ties to X. The mission-based gameplay, free roaming world and familiar meetings make the game an incredible RPG. Square-Enix has outdone itself. Don't expect to be replaying FFX, this is a forward-driven, exceptional new chapter as much as a sequel.

I have left a lot out in this review, simply because to divulge too much would be to give away spoilers. There is something at every turn in the game that is new and connecting the 2 games.

Saturday, September 09, 2000

Super Mario RPG | 9.5

To be honest, I like this game a whole lot better than Mario 64.

When the Super NES was beginning its end, games sometimes are rushed out to beat the discontinuing of games and systems. Mega Man 6 was the last NES game released in America and it was not all that worthwhile of a game (although it is necessary to complete any Mega Man collection). However, for the Super NES, one of the last few games ended up being a great classic: Super Mario RPG. Combining the world of Mario with the designs of a classic RPG setting, this game is not only a great game, BUT a landmark game in the RPG genre.

Since it came out near the end of the Super NES (at least in America, anyway), this game is very hard to find. Nevertheless, it is WELL WORTH YOUR TIME. The music is very good, the characters and story well developed, and the OldSkool-style battle system is very pleasing indeed. Plus, Mario and Bowser actually fight side-by-side.

This game uses a simple RPG system to introduce newbies to RPGs, but at the same time, it captivates veteran gamers with a great story and interesting characters. The biggest irony is that Mario doesn't speak, which is intended to be classic because a lot of RPGs have main characters that never speak. This will surely please even the jaded RPG gamer.
It was cool having Bowser Koopa on my side for once, as well as two new characters (Geno and Mallow) I was disappointed that Luigi wasn't part of the game, but having Peach as a playable character's cool. Everyone has nice attacks, and I liked playing with all of them - I was often switching between characters because none of them were really weak (unlike other games where some characters are practically useless) and the storyline itself is unique and interesting. The game length was also good, you have all of these quests (and side-quests) to explore, along with quite a few bonus quests (which turn up a few cool and rare items). Overall this really is a lot of fun, and gets 4.5/5 stars from me. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 07, 2000

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete | 8.0

TThe story of Eternal Blue is pure classic. It's the simple story of a brash adventurer who falls for an enigmatic girl with a mission. Quite simple, but monolithic nonetheless. Unlike many current RPGs, the simple charm of the love story is not buried under reams of dross. Yes, an epic adventure unfolds, but Eternal Blue never loses sight of its greatest strengths: its characters, simple romance, and a sense of lighthearted adventure. Working Designs knows what they are doing: their script is witty and proficient, underscoring unique personalities and heightening the emotional impact of any given scene. The villains are more interesting this time around, the plot hardly ever runs off track, and there's a few plot twists you'll never expect.

For those who didn't experience this wonderful story in the Sega CD days, you owe it to yourself to play it through. It ranks among the greatest stories ever, and in many ways is surpasses the original telling (which had too much humor for its own good).

The graphics are very 16-bit, so the game lacks graphical titillation. (The FMV is gorgeous, though.) The gameplay, likewise, is archaic, and actually a step down from the Sega CD original. The magic system, which was one of the greatest merits of the original, has been simplified to the point of mindlessness, which is ridiculous and dumb. Actually, the gameplay seems more tiring than I remembered, the dungeons being particularly exhausting. The game is a little tougher though, which creates a sense of urgency not often associated with many RPGs these days.

While the gameplay hasn't aged well, the story is as timeless as they come, and that makes the game worth playing.

All the extras are a nice treat as well. I personally found the "Making Of Lunar 2" CD very interesting, and while I have no use for the amulet or the character standees, they are nice bonuses. The map is a nifty keepsake, and the full soundtrack is great. I don't listen to the soundtrack, because I don't really enjoy the Lunar music outside the context of the game, but I appreciate the gesture, and there are still several good tunes included (Lemina's theme is fookin' catchy). Hopefully other publishers will include soundtracks with their games in the future.

Wednesday, September 06, 2000

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete | 9.0

It's kind of hard to tell RPG players the appeal of Lunar when other games have more stellar graphics, more complicated storylines and deeper gameplay systems. While some of the older games from the SNES era are considered RPG classics despite very outdated looks, it's strange trying to do the same for Lunar since it wasn't quite as big or as mass-appealing. While yes graphically and storyline wise, this isn't exactly Vagrant Story or even Final Fantasy stuff, there was always an appeal to the Lunar games that made you forget about it and just enjoy it anyway.

Story: You play as Alex from the town of Burg who wants to become just like the Dragonmaster Dyne. But an encounter with a Dragon has Alex, his pet dragon Nall and friend Luna on a quest to save the world where they'll be taken to floating cities and different cities to save the world of Lunar. Again it's not the most deepest and complex RPG plot but like a lot of classic fairytales and fantasy stories, there's a wide appeal for the story simply because of the charming characters and just the general atmosphere of the game.

Graphics: You'll notice a difference between the new stuff and the "revamped" stuff. Basically the new is fully-animated cutscenes which help flesh out special events but usually they're served as character introductions. They're gorgeous with great character designs and they really stand out. Everything else is iffy since the overworld/town stuff is incredibly simplistic with mini-sprites and character portraits during dialogue. But if you love Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger, than this kind of graphic style is nothing.

Sound/Music: Soundtrack was done by Noriyuki Iwadare who's quite talented at doing upbeat catchy themes and although music-wise it can get slightly repetitive, they're quite fun and the vocal tracks are quite stellar. Sound work otherwise is functional but not impressive as swords clang and enemies die with small groans but this isn't really one of those "immersive" sound worlds like Metroid or Bioshock where there is tons of ambience. The voice acting though is quite stellar and aside from the Metal Gear series, Lunar is usually mentioned among games that best use voice acting.

Gameplay: Lunar does something different (though not together uncommon) in that spells are actually gained when you obtain a certain level as opposed to finding them in the world, buying them from shops and the like. It encourages level grinding so you can obtain new spells though enemies can get just as bad since they can level up with you a little (mainly bosses though) but really it's just going through a dungeon, beating enemies - which are thankfully onscreen like Chrono series - finding item chests and making it to the boss and whomping them. There's also some collectables called bromides which are character artworks that show up as mini-cutscenes and since the ladies are quite lovely to ogle, I like collecting the things.

Since there was extra care in the making of the game, we get some added stuff like the cd soundtrack, an artbook with a readily-available walkthrough inside (complete with funny captions, character artwork and interviews with game developers) and a map. Might not be the absolute best RPG to many people but there's lots of fans, myself included of course, and Lunar is one to pick up, or at least try.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution | 9.3

The original Deus Ex(DX) hit the market back in 2000 and with its combination of a Cyberpunk atmosphere and fusion of RPG and FPS elements, became a hit title that eventually won game of the year amongst many other awards. The game was ahead of its time in a way, similar to how Blade Runner (the movie) was ahead of its time for back in the 1980's. With this new release, DX: HR, does the game fall into mediocrity or does DX continue to be a a beautiful melody of various gameplays in an immerse environment?.... A few technical details aside, I would say this game easily marks a new generation in the Deus Ex line and could just be one of the best SP based campaign game released in 2011.

And a whole lot of it! This game is massive and the cyberpunk vision of the future is captured beautifully. DX:HR I feel, tends to be a blend of FPS meets Stealth meets Espionage meets Social. You play as Adam Jensen who is a security officer for an Augmentation company. After an attack leaves him so badly wounded he needs heavy body augmentation the game begins. Who plotted the attack? Why? Terrorism? Self-Sabotage? The conspiracy runs deep and it is your job to figure out it! At your disposal is a very immerse and game changing set of mechanics that shapes how you play the game, yet adapts to your play-style. Need to get to the 5th floor and hack a terminal.. no problem go in guns blazing...or maybe stealth past the guards taking them out one at a time... or maybe break in through a vent system...or combine all 3! Not only can you approach objectives and quests from various methods, but there often are quite a few options available to you. You don't always need to take that grate on the left. You could hack the janitor's closet and steal the keycard and just walk right in on the objective. Maybe there is a guard wandering who has a keycard also, or someone wrote it in an email message that you found when hacking terminals. The variety is just huge and never gets old! To top it all off you can upgrade Mr. Jensen to better suit your play-style

As you complete objectives, side quests, or basically do anything you gain XP. Shoot a mob you get XP, stealth him instead XP, Avoid combat all together get XP! Hacking amounts to bonus XP as hacking is more of a mini-game than a mandatory tool in this game, but I found it worth my time to hack. It was fun and provided some interesting bits of information that paid off in the long run. Anyhow, the XP you gain is used to level up Jensen, and as you level you gain the ability to further boost the level of mods you have. What is so beautiful about this the upgrades compliment your play-style. You are not forced to pick upgrades you do not want, however I rarely found that I picked something that felt like a waste. It is a solid system that gives you the freedom to play as you want for the most part.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not the flashiest of games. It isn't the latest and greatest game engine that might choke your PS3/360 or stress your video card until it explodes. The game still looks very good though. It captures a cyberpunk / blade runner style atmosphere very well and uses a darker color pallet which makes for a slightly darker vision of the future. Character animations can seem a little stiff or awkward at times, but do remember people are walking around with augmentations so the body movements might seem a bit unnatural for a reason. On the PS3 version the Frame-rate dropped from time to time, especially during one or two intense cut-scenes but it wasn't that bad. There was similar frame-rate issues on the 360 but occurring in different areas spots so the drop is probably relating to how the system is handling the engine itself. Graphically, the PS3 vs the 360 have differences but not enough to sway me to one or the other. It really depends on what you are looking at, at the time you are comparing. Sometimes PS3 looked better, sometimes 360. PS3 lighting was better in some spots, yet the 360 had better coloring in others.

In short... The Graphics, while not the best, are very good and despite the PS3 and 360 having some frame-rate issues, either system is a perfect option for this game; each boasting pros and cons over the other.

The music for this game is awesome! The style of music chosen fits the environment and setting of the game perfectly, going well with the cyberpunk theme. It helps immerse you into the game which is a big plus. Voice acting however is a sub-par as often the same voice actor played multiple characters and didn't even change their voice. You may even find multiple characters who say the same line of text. I'm not surprised by this though as the original Deus Ex had some of the Worst-yet best! voice acting of any game I played. .... Storyline wise, while I honestly have not completed the game at this point (the game is LONG!), the storyline is great! Everything you do has influences on the game, and the storyline is very deep and balanced. It is full of plot twists and surprises that had me hooked.

While this game lacks multiplayer, you are getting your $'s worth here. The game easily has 25+hrs of gameplay, more like 30-40 hrs if you factor in side quests and taking your time to really immerse yourself. Not only does this game boast a huge amount of varied gameplay, but I could easily see myself picking it up and doing it all over again! The variety in gameplay is just that amazing. You stealthed your way into the building for Mission 6, replay it and try going Rambo. You might find new items or bits of information, or even slightly influence events of that mission. Deus Ex reminds me a little of Mass Effect in this sense. Every new gameplay can be filled with little bits and pieces you may of missed, or simply did not see in a previous playthrough; plus there are multiple endings to this game which only tempt you to try alternative paths and methods.

Normally I integrate my Con's into each section, but Deus-Ex is the kind of game that you need to see the entire picture. The game can clock it easily +25hrs and has such a wide variety of elements to it things were bound to go wrong in some spots. This comes in the form of frame-rate problems(see graphics), boss encounters, and AI problems. Frame-rate has been covered but Boss Encounters were a disappointment simply because there is only one real way to fight them. RAMBO style! If you specialized in hacking that won't help you during the fight. The illusion of choice is removed here and you are forced into a play style you might not enjoy. This isn't a major problem but for someone who didn't specialize in guns, since the game is forgiving, it feels like bosses were rushed in rather than fully thought out. AI problems well, it was to be expected. Sometimes enemies just become stupid and forget you are there or have such obvious pathing it makes you wonder how they were even hired to be guards. Despite their AI problems however they seem to have eagle eye vision when it comes to accuracy with guns (which makes for a good challenge!)

OVERALL ... 93% (9.3 / A)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a product of its sums. Individually each part of the game, from the shooter, to the stealth to the social aspects 'could have' been done better. Instead each element was created specifically to balance the other and what you end up with is a game that has multiple play-styles, gameplay which caters to the needs of the player, immerse storyline and environment, and a wide variety of methods to tackle the problem; so much so alternative play-throughs are a must! DX: HR has technical issues, but when a single game can easily surpass 25-30hrs and contain such variety, a few problems might slip through the cracks or be inevitable.

In the end, we have a beautiful game that will keep you glued to your PC, 360 or PS3.

Tuesday, September 05, 2000

The Curse of Monkey Island | 9.0

This is a game that any true adventure lover MUST add to their collection. It keeps things alive with witty jokes, puns, and overall silliness but doesn't get too annoying. The puzzles you must solve are at about a medium difficulty throughout the game and don't really get any harder or easier. Once you solve the first few you can expect the rest to be about the same. I never play adventure games more than once because I already know the solutions, but I must admit I've played this a couple of times already and I'll probably play it some more. It's like reading a funny comic strip with brain teasers! This game supplies HOURS of enjoyment. I consider it a must have. The Curse of Monkey Island is, in my opinion, the best of the Monkey island series. This game has very good graphics, puzzles and plot. A must have for adventure games fans.The intuitive point-and-click controls make it a snap to control Guybrush and the hilarious yet challenging puzzles, great voices, and wonderful acting make this a highly engrossing game.

Monday, September 04, 2000

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 | 8.5

For many of you who enjoy the Megaten series, you may already be well aware of this series. Two years ago, Persona 3 broke onto the PS2, creating an influx of newcomers and old school gamers alike. It provided a unique battle system, an intriguing dark story, a plethora amount of characters, and overall a great experience. Persona 4 is a standalone game, bringing many of the features, settings, and atmosphere from P3.

You are a silent protagonist who transfers into a rural area. Soon enough, you find something mysterious and dangerous. On one rainy night, you look into a television. Voices begin to ring, the storm seems to enrage, and the television flickers on and off. Reaching into the t.v, you are sucked into a whole new dimension.

Interesting, is it not? You'll find many mysteries held within the storyline. Unlike the city life in P3, you're in a very small town named Inaba.

The battle system holds its true colors. Although this time around, there are some tweaks. In P3, you were unable to control your allies, as they were under the influence of the AI. All you could really do was give them certain commands. This time around though, you are able to control their every move. These actions include using items, attacking, and defending. The all-out-attack is still implemented and the battle mechanics overall are ALL the same.

For those who have played P3, Tartartus was a large dungeon with many different themes and atmospheres. Instead of that, the dungeons in this game are spread out. Giving a more variety in gameplay. Each dungeon is uniquely themed based on the storyline. One night, you may be going through a steamy spa, the next you may going through an abandoned mall.

Many of the things you find in P3 and, to an extent P2, are all found in Persona 4. If you love the Persona series or you are a newcomer, pick this up, it's well worth your money.

(Side Note: For those who pre-ordered this game, the art-book is quite large (100 pages) and provides a few major spoilers. It's highly recommended you wait to look at it later. Although, the presentation of the package is wonderful, giving both the artbook and soundtrack is awesome).

+Fast-paced action.
+A great, long story. Develops quite fast.
+Interesting concept. Different from many other RPGs.
+Amazing soundtrack and character voices. It won't disappoint.
+Different endings create a twist.
+Characters have a lot of depth.
+Eerie Atmosphere accompanied with Amazing Artstyle

-Long adventure may tire some people out.
-Town is somewhat small; not many places to explore.

Sunday, September 03, 2000

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 review | 8.0

Gamers who buy games developed or published by Atlus know that Atlus games tend to be somewhat different from other developers' offerings. After several hours of play, I think it's fair to say that "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3" continues this trend.

The gameplay is fairly realistic, given that P3 is a Japanese RPG. In battle, they may stumble when attacking and leave themselves vulnerable to the enemies' attacks. If you try to push them too hard, they will get tired, which will affect their performance. Ignore their fatigue, and they will get sick, which further hampers them. This principle applies to the main character, whom the player directly controls. Try to do everything, and you won't be able to do anything particularly well.

Since part of the game involves the character's day-to-day life as a high school student, one cannot expect major plot turns every day. However, the choices the player makes in school do have an effect on the player's options as a Persona user. The more connections the player forges with other students, the more power he will bring to bear as a Persona user, so expect consequences if you decide to play as a loner.

Some players may find some of the imagery in this game disturbing, or even offensive. The characters summon their Personae by using a gun-like device called an Evoker. Unlike another reviewer, I do not think that they are mimicking suicide. Instead, given that in-game dialogue suggests that one can summon a Persona without an Evoker, I think that the Evoker is used to break down a character's inner barriers so that his Persona can manifest. While I understand why the summoning animations may be offensive to some, I do think that Atlus did it this way for a legitimate reason. However, parents thinking of getting this game for their teenage children should be aware that this game contains imagery that may be inappropriate.

As for the title of this review, I think this might be a thinking man's RPG because of the themes I've encountered thus far. I haven't completed the game yet, so I can't say I've seen everything it has to offer. However, given the introductory movie that plays when you load the game, I think that Persona 3 will give an attentive player a few things to think about. For example, the player is asked to sign a contract at the beginning of the game. The terms seem simple enough, but when is responsibility ever simple?

As for technical details; the graphics are somewhat minimalist, but very stylish. I think that the character and Persona portraits were well done, but I don't think that Kazuma Kaneko (who handled character design for the other SMT games on the PS2) was involved. Shoji Meguro, however, handled the soundtrack. I suspect that some of the hip-hop influenced tracks may begin to grate on me after further play, but I am a long-haired metalhead. Your mileage may vary. You may also dislike the voice acting, but the Config menu includes an option to turn off voiced dialogue for players who just want text.

I heartily recommend SMT: Persona 3, and think it's worth the fifty bucks I paid for it. Buy it instead of renting it, and you'll get a nice little art book and soundtrack disc in the package.

Saturday, September 02, 2000

Resistance 3 | 9.0

Multiplayer now plays really smooth, frame drops and the juttering of the release code are now gone. After I flushed Rage on eBay, I went back to R3 for some online play here and there and it is a lot of fun. After the fixes I am upgrading the review one star since it plays pretty much perfect now.


A quick note: The game manual comes with an online pass code you redeem through PSN to play competitive multiplayer. If you want to buy this used down the line to just play through the campaign and pick up the trophies, it's no big deal. But you probably won't be able to play online unless you buy the game new.

Ok on to business...

I did not like Resistance 2. In fact, I never finished the game. The whole thing felt unfinished - big time. The guns were creative, but never felt very powerful. Graphically, it looked ok in spots, but there were so many rough edges and glitches, it was a disappointing release for insomniac. The Co-op was good in some ways, bad in others. This mode felt more like World of Warcraft than it did Resistance because every single bullet spray produced rampant amounts of XP. Also it felt like a totally different game on the gameplay side. The online MP could be fun, but the bullet damage needed to bring an enemy down was frustrating sometimes. I played the demo for the very first game waaay back when, but it didn't ever grab me. The third installment in a series can be the weakest, but this is not the case with Resistance 3. This is a really good game.

First my favorite aspect of Resistance 3, is naturally the shooting. The weapons are all excellent. Each shot feels powerful from the trigger to the sound. And you have many weapons to use. This is not like a lot of other FPS games where you carry two, Insomniac loads you up and you can carry tons. The Chimera AI isn't bad, they don't do the side step dance the Brutes in Halo Reach avoid shots with, but they can still be formidable in numbers. The levels are pretty well laid out. There isn't much in the way of exploration, but there is plenty in the way of bullet fodder to keep you moving. There are some dark levels that feel a lot like Left4Dead that keep you on the run too. Start playing the game on HARD difficulty - it feels right. I think it should have been the "Normal" setting from the get go. The visuals are a big improvement from before - there is a very gritty feel to everything. The story? Meh, but if you are going to tell me with a straight face Killzone, Gears of War or even any of the HALO games were more than a total nonsense excuse to kill aliens either - I will call shenanigans. This is not Uncharted 2 granted, but it would be hard to find this type of firepower anywhere else.

Multiplayer is pretty much what every other FPS or Third person action game has these days - I prefer the Breach mode where you have to destroy an opposing team's reactors, but in a few weeks there will DLC coming, which normally I would be agnostic to, but in this game, I feel it would be a lot of fun with the style of enemies and the wicked weapons at your disposal. Bring it on.

If you were on the fence on this one, I'd say go for it. This is such a big step from the last game you can't go wrong.

Final Fantasy X | 10

Not having a lot of experience with the PS2 platform, I am less than jaded when it comes to comparing role-playing games on the PC to their platform-based cousins. Having only the PC version of Final Fantasy IX as a basis of comparison, I was amazed by the graphic richness of the new game. This is not just a matter of higher powered engines and CGI wizardry. It really springs from the artistic commitment of the staff designing and creating the game.

Character design still shows its heritage from Yoshitaro Amano, one of Japan's greatest graphic artists. In addition, the background and 'set' design is equally imaginative. Massive use of CGI work simply makes all this magic spring to life with movement and gesture. No less an effort has been spent on the game's sound and music, making the experience of the game intense, and sometimes even spellbinding.

Tidus, a young blitzball professional, is thrust, mid-catastrophe, into the world of Spira, where an incredible monster (Sin) is gradually destroying the world as punishment for its ecological missteps. He meets Yuna, who is a Summoner, capable of calling up Aeons as battle weapons. Yuna has begun a voyage from temple to temple, a quest that must end in a confrontation with Sin to bring peace to Spira. In typical RPG style, they and their companions follow a path of ever escalating monsters and challenges, culminating in a prolonged, exhausting final struggle.

The story and dialog are fine, with a few twists to keep player interest, but for the most part it is predictable. Since people come to this game looking for different things, the creators have tried to manage a difficult balance between narrative and play, and, for the most part, are successful. The dialog is sometimes silly and sometimes touching, but it is never unbearable.

This is an incredibly large game. It is possible to stick to the basic story line, minimum leveling up and barely make it through the game in 50 to 60 hours. A quick perusal of a good walkthrough quickly reveals that nearly half of the game is hidden from view, and that diligent playing can be very rewarding. My time using the walkthrough was 90 hours, and there were still possibilities left unexplored. Obviously, the game will stand up to replay.

I have to give the game five stars. I can quibble about storyline and some predictable gameplay, but there is too much that is simply outstanding. This will be considered one of the peaks of RPG gaming for some time to come.