Thursday, November 30, 2000

Panzer Dragoon Saga | 9.5

Not many people have heard about this game. I know I didn't up until a couple of years ago. I didn't even think twice about the SEGA Saturn being much of a system to be recognized... until I found this.

First off, the bad: because this game was made over ten years ago, the graphics are... well, "ugly" is a nice way of putting it. It's not the worst I've seen, but certainly not the best. Once you get past the eye-sore that the graphics could be for you, then there's the combat mechanics, which are rather tricky to get used to at first, especially with the regular controller. I would highly suggest getting a "3D" controller for this game, because it practically demands it. Finally, many of the characters just don't have a lot of growth, save for the main cast.

That all said, the good heavily outweighs the bad. For starters, the story: the fact that, for an RPG that only goes for 22 hours max (and that's assuming you get really, badly stuck), the storyline and the characters are all phenomenal, and even somewhat human! A bit cliché, granted, but not horribly so. You truly feel connected to your character in this world. Even your sworn enemy ends up becoming a character that one can sympathize with. Next, I mentioned that the combat controls are a bit tricky to get used to... however, once you get them down, it's mostly a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Sometimes, it almost makes boss battles a little too easy, but never loses its fun factor.

Finally, the flow is absolutely spot-on. There's no seeking out items for long hours on end, no hidden "good" endings that must be unlocked by doing a certain little dance, no nearly-impossible battles where you needed a single item that you had to get back in the second area of the game, and can't get now. And although there is a bit of backtracking, each time you go back, there's more to be found - much like the Metroid game. Everything flows together very nicely.

So in conclusion, yes, I would recommend this to anyone willing to pay the money. It's a fun game with decent pacing that is a vast departure from it's peers - and still manages to be one of the best I've ever experienced.

- points off, because it was 1. Hardest RPG ever. 2.) the 3D graphics looked more blocky than PS1. Good usage of both SH-2s however. They should call the Saturn the first dual-core computer in a mainstream costumer product.

Torchlight for PC | 8.0

It's like Diablo II: The Animated Series and reminds me of Record of Lodoss War for Dreamcast. A game that I own and played 8-9 yrs ago. Then again there is World of Warcraft, but Record of Lodoss War predates it.

Classes - In Torchlight you assume one of three different classes. Within each class you gain skills that allow you to fine tune your play-style through acquiring abilities from three different trees. The higher your level the more options in each of the trees become available to you. Any skill in any tree is available to you at any time, so long as you've gained the level necessary to open that skill. The classes are well balanced, though my limited experience with the ranged class led me to believe it might be a little under powered.

Loot - Very much like any other game from Diablo to World of Warcraft. Enemies, some quest-givers, and chests drop loot. Weapons and armor come in a variety of flavors from plain to epic. Gear can be enchanted and/or socketed to gain new abilities and/or powers. You can sell items in town or transmute them to create new gems.

Pet - This is probably the most significant change from Diablo found in Torchlight. You choose a cat or dog and it follows you throughout the game. Fighting along with you, storing extra loot for you, or returning to town to sell loot. You can equip your pet with spells as well as rings and amulets to increase it's ability in combat. In addition you can feed it fish to grant it certain powers for a period of time.

Etc. - One feature that really stands out is the shared chest. Each character has his/her own personal chest as well as a chest that can store items for use with any of your other characters. This is incredibly useful as you're constantly picking up unique or rare items that other classes can use. The shared adds alot of replay to the game. The graphics are great as well.

The game play is a lot similar as Diablo with few improvement:
1) Tons of storage, so looting is much easier, esp. when you can ask your pet to go back down to sell the stuff. I didn't use one single town portal in 3 hrs play.
2) Easy to save, you come back whereever you exited earlier, and pick up exactly what you left before.
3) Easy fast key, you just use 1-10, you can put anything in there from lotion to spell to attack.

Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Skies of Arcadia | 9.5

Skies of Arcadia is great in so many ways, I don't think I can cover it all. This is the first excellent RPG of the next generation consoles, and it will be a hard act to follow. Almost everything is wonderful and fresh. The graphics, the story, the fighting system, the world of Arcadia - this is the stuff of gaming legend!

Naturally, the graphics are jaw-dropping. Just imagine the static backgrounds in Playstation RPGs, except that you can move about them in full 3D, and you'll get the idea. These textures are the most detailed I have every seen in a game - you'll stop just to study a mosaic in the floor. The towns and dungeons are impossible complex and detailed. Each seem to be more spectacular than the last. What impressed me the most, though, was how completely the graphics combined with the rest of the game to give you a great experience. For example, the character animation not only amazes you at how life-like it is, but draws you into the story and the characters.

The plot starts slow and predictable, but finishes incredibly strong. Everyone who's played this game agrees that somewhere in the first 3rd of the story, something grabs your attention and doesn't let go. Maybe it's the spectacular world of Arcadia, which basically combines the Age of Discovery and pirates with magic, and throws everything into the skies. People live on floating islands, with magic powered sailboats sailing to and from, clouds pouring down like waterfalls, and strange cultures sitting undiscovered by the Old World. Like in any good RPG, the story stirs emotion by taking you to new places and introducing new characters. I don't want to ruin anything for you, so I'll just say that Skies of Arcadia makes discovery *fun* again - you'll look forward to finding that new island, or meeting that new character, or challenging that new enemy. What a blast.

The combat system is actually broken into 2 seperate parts - your standard, run-of-the-mill random monster fights that any fan of Final Fantasy is familiar with and probably getting sick of. This type of battle is actually too frequent for my tastes, especially when exploring the world map. At least Sega has thrown in some new strategic elements to spice things up, like a group-shared spirit pool, or the most user-friendly elemental system on any RPG ever. The second type of combat is a more strategic battle between 2 seperate airships. These battles are very cinematic and a blast to play. They also require more thought and planning then your ordinary turn-based combat. You can spend a lot of time recruiting the perfect crew, or choosing the best combination of weapons and defense.

If you can only get 1 Dreamcast game this X-mas, definitely get Skies of Arcadia. Besides all of the above, this RPG had so many extras and hidden sights that you can easily spend an extra 10 hours finding it all. You can even download entire continents from the Sega web site! I don't want to tell you about all the neat stuff you get to do, so just trust me, and get this game.

Monster Hunter Tri Wii review | 9.0

So far this is the best RPG for the wii! The story is a little weak but fun. Very challenging and awesome multiplayer action. Great graphics! I love the interaction when playing online. The best part i have to say is the challenge cause its very hard to find a challenging game. If you play online you might want to get a keyboard or the wii speak (which i don't have either one) because its easier to communicate but you can survive without it. This isn't a very hard game to learn. I wouldn't buy this game for a young child because it does evolve a lot of strategy and gets pretty intense. I'm a adult and love the game so if you adults like games this might be one to consider getting. I wouldn't consider myself a heavy gamer either so if you are real casual gamer this would be good just to kinda pass some time and have a little fun.

The Last Remnant for PC | 8.4 for

Technically, it's better looking than Final Fantasy XIII running in DirectX 10 and there are a few patch revisions out. You could purchase PC version off Amazon about 4 months ago. A lot better with patches, and better than X360 to begin with.

As an admittedly picky game player, and having played enough RPGs to know "good" from "bad," I definitely think that the good parts of The Last Remnant outweigh the bad. I will jump right into the parts of this game that I enjoy:

1. Outside of the battle field, the game has stunning scenery. While there are standard caves and dungeons, there are vast and beautifully detailed outdoor environments that are very refreshing and energizing. Some of environments are very reminiscent of the "Myst" series, which I particularly liked.

2. Along with the scenery, there are some stand-out tracks on the soundtrack. Namely "Old Traditions, New Methods" and "Rolling Hills, Sprawling Plains." Many tracks have a very eclectic, new age feel. Unfortunately there are some uninspired electric guitar battle themes, but the composers more than make up for it with the better tracks.

3. There is a geniune sense of free adventure in this game. The story line is set up for you from the beginning, but the majority of the game is spent exploring areas through side quests. Through these sidequests and exploring different maps, you can open up new cities, landscapes and dungeons that have nothing to do with the immediate story at hand. Whatever your mood, you can satisfy yourself in this game. At almost any time during the game, you can choose between free roaming, completing side quests, or progressing with the main story of the game.

4. No matter where you go, the enemies usually seem to be programmed to fight at your level. Of course, there are difficult boss battles that you must level up your characters to win. However, for the vast majority of the game, there are no sudden huge spikes in difficulty that plague some games (like Star Ocean 3). You are able to save at any time you can open the game menu (99% of the time), and you are fully recovered after every battle. That said, regular encounters are a little more drawn out and less frequent than, say, Final Fantasy XII.

5. The characters have some depth! While some of the characters' stories leave a bit to be desired, you get to learn a lot about your party members and may even grow attached to them like you did in Final Fantasy X. This helps because you feel involved with their story, and it provides motivation to progress in the game.

There are few bad things that I can say about this game. The load times can be a little distracting. However, they tried to make it helpful by including game tips on the load screen. Additionally, there are some frame rate issues during battles because there is A LOT going on (by the end of the game, you can control up to 25 characters divided into 5 parties that fight at once on the battle field). However, I quickly got over that and don't even notice it anymore.

In all, this is definitely a game to check out. With the reduced price, there is no excuse not to try it out now. This is a masterfully done RPG - not completely groundbreaking, but very refreshing and enjoyable.

Sunday, November 26, 2000

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia | 9.0

I've been a long time fan of the Castlevania series, dating back since the release of Symphony of the Night on the Playstation. Every experience with Castlevania has wowed me to the point where I hardly play ANY 3D games anymore. In the recent years, fans have been upset due to the fact that Castlevania has deviated from it's roots. Well, now is the time for rejoice CV fans for the Metroidvania style of play has returned. Now let me start official review.

Story: I feel no need to give anything away but let me tell you that the story starts out with main-character Shanoa on her way to reciece the supreme glyph Dominus. When she nearly recieves this glyph, her peer named Albus attacks her and steals Dominus. I'm sorry that I'm being very skimpy on the details but that's the point so to find out more please play this game.

Gameplay: This is where the game truly shines. The new glyph system is absolutely an astounding revelation for the Castlevania series. The way it works is, certain enemies will contain glyphs that you must absorb by either killing them or in some cases wait till the enemy performs it's most powerful attack and hold up to absorb it. Now before you start to think that this is anything like Dawn of Sorrow's soul system allow me to elaborate. First of all Shanoa's attack are completely based off of an speedily replenishing MP bar that will continuously regenerate as long as she is not attacking. Another thing to note is that, where in DoS the soul system was essentially the spells, the glyph system is basically the weapons and the spells. Glyphs can be equipped on the back and on both hands. The hand glyphs are usually your basic spells, swords, and axes, while back glyphs will be stat boosts, summons (brought back from SotN) and transformations (yes that's right). The same glyph can be assigned to both hands and chain attacks can be performed, as well as something called a glyph union which is essentially an item crash but it uses hearts instead of MP. Now I want to separately review the pacing of this game.

Pacing: This game will spring tough enemies and bosses on you from the get-go. This said, new glyphs will often be provided. Not every enemy has a glyph and glyphs are easier to obtain most of the time, than the souls from DoS. Mind you, this is NOT an easy game. Fortunately, I found that repeatedly dieing was not all that frustrating. Of course, it goes without saying that even if you are skilled at CV games, you will die A LOT!!!! All I can say is, don't let it get you down because even if you are not an avid CV player, with each death you will become more skilled in dodging and quickly executing each enemy.

Graphics and Music: I coupled these sections up because they are both extremely short. The graphics are quite literally astounding. The only 2D game that comes to mind with art as beautiful as this game is Odin Sphere for the PS2. The character models are executed, and all of Shanoa's movements seem as if they're being performed at 30 FPS (which of course they are not but literally everything Shanoa does that involves movement seems to flow quite well). The sound is where this game most suprised me. I didn't think it was all that good. CV games are usually highly praised for their music but this just didn't stack up in my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed the review and please remember that everything I said that wasn't a fact about the game was MY OPINION, and should not in anyway detract from your experience in buying and playing this game.

Saturday, November 25, 2000

Super Mario World | 9.5

When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES for short) first came out in the early 90's, it had a great lineup of launch titles to easily make it the new best seller. Super Mario World was the first, and probably the best of these launch titles for the SNES.

Just like Mario and Luigi did for the Super Mario Brothers titles on the NES, they are still collecting tons of gold coins, Bowser is still their biggest enemy, and the Princess is waiting to be rescued once again. Only this time around, their journey along the way to Bowser and the Princess will be a bit different.

There are many new experiences to be held in Super Mario World. This is the game where the Mario clan first meets and uses Yoshi, the worlds and levels are bigger than ever, and the Mario brothers even have new abilities such as new flying techniques.

Super Mario World is more like Super Mario Brothers 3 than any of the previous Mario adventures. You can play by yourself in a one-player game, or with a friend in a two-player game at any time. You can guide either Mario or Luigi through the 7 different world maps that are full of different kinds of memorable levels.

Among these levels are haunted ghost houses, underwater environments, underground stages, a secret "Star Road," various other secret stages, a castle (one in each world) that houses the world's main Koopa boss, and so much more.

For the time, Super Mario World had spectacular graphics, great sounds and music, top-notch control, and overflowing replay value and fun. It's easy for any player of any age to find out what needs to be done once they start playing this 2D action/adventure. All you really have to do is get past all the interesting enemies and get to the end of all the levels.

All in all, Super Mario World is one of the best video games ever made, and it always will be! It's the game that started the Super Nintendo on the right foot, and now, it's a major classic. I wish they still made video games like this.

If you're a fan of action/adventure games, platformers, or the classic 2D side scrollers (which I miss more than anything in today's games), Super Mario World is a definite must have!!

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence | 10

When the prologue to the game took me almost 2 hours to get through, I knew I had something special. After the explosive opening to the game, the beginning credits roll with a song entitled Snake Eater. I was surprised, thinking I had already started the game proper. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I think Kojima did an excellent job of creating a 60s style Metal Gear game. He mirrored the game off of James Bond, taking the beginning area, then a cool segue into the main action, including a song that has meaning to the game. The opening theme also carries into the mission and is played at several key points. Very effective.

Also in keeping with a James Bond type influence, there's the female love interest, who has a habit of exposing her bra. I found myself chuckling and thinking fondly of James Bond movies at many points in the game. I think what Kojima has done so well is construct a game that truly has a cinematic flair. Yes there are cut scenes that are long but, in comparison to MGS2, they are short and have a TON of gameplay in between. I never once found myself sitting through a boring codec call or boring cutscene wanting the action. There was enough spliced through.

In fact, toward the end, the game raises the bar on cinematic excellence, incorporating you directly into the action while at the same time making you feel like you're watching a truly awesome scene. I don't want to spoil it for those who play, but the last 1/3 of the game races to a truly exciting climax.

I am completely amazed at how well all of the new gameplay works into the game, from the camo to the food to the healing system. All of it naturally fits and the game does a good job in teaching you the basics with it. I never once felt like it was a gimick.

As far as negatives, sometimes the color scheme was so drab it was hard to see some people who weren't trying to hide. In particular toward the end, almost at the climax. Also, unlike previous MGSs who have bosses nicely spread out, I felt that they all came at once. I didn't feel like I got a chance to really know them like in the first MGS. But, these bosses (the Fear, Fury, Sorrow, Pain, End) are some of the weirdest and cool bosses in MGS games to date.

Some people have commented on the lack of radar. I never found this lack to be a hinderance to the game. In fact it makes perfect sense in the context of the game world. And, the truth is, there is a radar that you can use. You have a motion detector, and a sonic detector that shoots sonic waves and shows you where things are. I say things because you are in a jungle and it's possible that what shows up is an animal not a human. Also, getting caught does result in either killing everybody and hiding, or just hiding forever. In fact, at one point in the game, I hid in a place I couldn't be found and went to the restroom and got something to drink just to wait it out.

However, this minor things aside, this game does what Metal Gear Solid 2 semi-failed in doing. It brings together the cinematic experience with wonderful espionage. The characters are excellent, the story far surpasses the previous two (which is a difficult thing to do since I consider the story in MGS1 to be one of the best I've experienced). And it is just plain exciting. Kojima and his wonderful team know pacing and the pacing of this third masterpiece is wonderful.

Friday, November 24, 2000

Mega Man ZX advent review | 7.5

This game is more directed towards those gamers who have played Mega Man Zero 1-4 and the original Mega Man ZX. This game is difficult from the get-go, and it gets harder from there. Even then, it's actually EASIER than the aforementioned games.

Normal mode isn't as hard as it's cracked up to be, but it is difficult. Here's the clincher; this game was meant and directed towards HARDCORE gamers; I truly do not recommend this game to anyone under the age of 15. This game is "Nintendo hard."

I myself loved this game due to it's balance of difficulty and the many different aspects of gameplay, but I give it a 3 rating because of the fact that not ALL gamers are HARDCORE gamers. I could have been biased and put a 5 because I myself loved it to death, but I gave it a 3 because it's not geared to the majority of gamers out there.

Thursday, November 23, 2000

Diablo 3 PS3 review 9.0

The majority of console titles being released nowadays are either first person shooters or sandbox games. Isometric Action RPGs, a genre so basic, so essential, I never thought would become scarce, hasn't seen a decent release on the current console generation in almost 7 years. Not one. Back in the PS2 era, the golden age of console action RPGs, we had the holy grail. Baldur's Gate: Dark alliance, and its more than worthy successor, Dark alliance II. The genre was so in vogue, even the Everquest universe brought a worthy contender to the table with the release of Champions of Norrath, and Champions of Norrath 2: Return to Arms. Oh, those were the days. I used to sit on the couch with my girlfriend (nowadays my wife) and play together for hours on end. Just us, exploring dungeons, marveling at the prospect of a dropped piece of armor or sword, which we would immediately pick up and analyze in order to compare to the one we were wearing. Since the current generation of consoles was released, we have waited, and waited, and waited for a worthy successor of one of these games. And there hasn't been any. There have been flops like Sacred, or Dungeon Siege's console version but none that were remotely decent (with the exception perhaps of Lord of The Rings: War in the North. Technically NOT an isometric RPG but a brilliant coop action RPG game nonetheless, which filled somehow the void we carried as gamers for over 6 years). Enter The Lord of Destruction.

The wait is finally over. Diablo III is that game. That worthy successor to Baldur's Gate: Dark alliance we had waited for (for more than half a decade mind you). From the moment you pick up the controller you can tell Blizzard nailed this port. It doesn't even feel like a port. It's like the game was designed with this control scheme in mind from scratch. Movement is fluid, combat satisfying. Everything is there. The search for better and shinier loot is just as fun as it was back in the PS2 with Baldur's. The co-op action is flawless. Minimap, skill trees, chests, weapon racks, everything you may have possibly missed is there, and then some.

If there is maybe one department where the game takes a hit vs. the PC version are the graphics. They're not bad. They do feel a bit...cartoonish. But they're totally current gen. You just can't compare the graphics of a current PC (even a mid-range one) with the graphics of a game, running in 720p on a console like the PS3, released 7 years ago, and already on it's way out. If you have never seen the PC graphics, these will look totally OK to you. Nothing to write home about but not bad by any stretch of the imagination. And my only other gripe with the game (now, this is a minor thing and I'm definitely nitpicking), is that I wish 2 players playing local co-op could enter their inventory at the same time instead of player 1 having to wait while player 2 compares 10 different kinds of armor in order to be able to enter his inventory, or at least, there should be an option to enable this. I'm rocking a 55 inch screen, there's plenty of room for both player's inventories. If a player has a small screen they could disable this option. The upside is when my wife is going through her inventory, I get to see everything she's carrying and sometimes a weapon or piece of armor catches my eye so she gives it to me and viceversa so it's not like it's super boring or anything like that. Like I said, I'm definitely nitpicking. This game is seriously awesome. I can't wait to see what Blizzard does with this game on the PS4. Even if it's just a graphics overhaul, I'll buy the PS4 version in a New York minute and play it all over again (Heck I intend to play the PS3 version all over again several times). Just take my money Blizzard. Keep releasing games like this on the console and keep taking my money. And I hope this game sells like hotcakes so publishers realize there IS a market for this genre on the consoles, and that gamers like us will buy anything you release in this genre as long as it plays this nicely.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love first person shooters as much as the next guy, but sometimes a gamer needs a break from that. No online lobbies, no 8 years olds yelling at the top of their lungs threatening to quickscope me or anything like that. Just me, my girl, the couch and the dungeons (wait, that sounded a bit kinky. But I digress). Sometimes you just want to sit on the couch with a friend, relax, and just have some fun. Sometimes, we need to get back to basics. And what a glorious playground Diablo III is for that purpose. Welcome home Lord of Destruction. What is thy bidding my master?

Zelda Phantom Hourglass | 9.0

t's been a while since I enjoyed a Zelda title on a handheld. This selection doesn't disappoint.

I'm only a few hours in and I'm hooked. The story line, graphics, music and the characters are all excellent. This title, like Wind Waker, uses the cartoonish/younger set of characters versus the young adult set from Twilight Princess.

For now, here is what I like and don't like. Of course, I'll update the review as I get deeper into the game.


- Picks up where Wind Waker left off. A great story!
- Having the map on the second screen is brilliant. Being able to jot down notes on it is even better. This is by far the most useful tool in the game.
- You can save at any point in the game.
- Puzzle mix is pretty balanced. Nothing too simple and nothing aggravating to the point I want to put the game down. I really dig some of the creative elements they've added to the dungeons. That's all I'm saying; I don't want to give away any spoilers. :)
- The boomerang. I love drawing the path out on the screen. Not only is it used to complete certain actions/puzzles, it's a vital tool in fights. Tip #1: Go slow when drawing the path. If you hit walls or obstacles, the throw is not completed. Tip #2: You can hold down the left shoulder button to instantly switch to the boomerang. This is a great way to quickly arm it.


- I feel like I'm always running out of "screen". This just boils down to the stylus control and limited real estate of the DS.
- Getting Link to "roll" is quite difficult for me. Others may have this move down. I'm still struggling.
- You can "fall" into water (you lose a heart piece) and off of cliffs. One stylus touch too far and Link can be sent flying off a cliff forcing you to start a map from where you landed. For me, that always seems to be the beginning. :)
- Other than accessing menus and flipping the screens, the direction pad is pretty much unused. In similar games, I prefer to use it for "moving" characters on screen. It was a little disappointing to see this left out. Not a deal-breaker, just nice to have.
- Using the microphone. I don't think you need to incorporate this into every game. It's great for its intended purpose, but frankly, I don't want to have to blow on my DS to make candles go out as part of a puzzle. Is there a button that will do the same? If there is, I haven't found it yet. I'm still blowing. Just a minor annoyance.

So far this game is a lot of fun; more to come soon, if I ever put this thing down.

***UPDATE 10/08/07***

The game continues to rock. The story is getting deeper and I've very into it. I also like how the ocean-going portion of the game is panning out. (E.g. Upgrading the ship, plotting courses, ocean battles, etc.) The addition of "treasure hunting" or "salvaging" is like a mini-game in itself.

The versatility of the items you acquire continues to impress.


- The bombs (oh, how I love the bombs) can obviously be used to blow up enemies, but they are equally useful in blowing up crates and walls so you can gain access to new areas and treasure.
- The bow and arrow (my new favorite) is not only a fast and accurate weapon, but a vital tool fot activating dungeon "eyeball" switches.

***UPDATE 10/14/07***

More great items, more great adventure.

Here are some highlights from the last week (hopefully I don't spoil anything).

- Fishing is great. I found myself a fishing rod. Well, I was actually given it. It is little hard to control at first, but once getting the hang of it, provides a lot of fun and there is a nice surprise waiting for you if you "catch 'em all".
- I'm hooked on the Grappling Hook! Like the boomerang, it's a vital tool and is used for much more than just grappling. One great example, think "Human Slingshot."
- I finally died (fire and ice dragons were tough until I figured out what to do). It was nice that all I had to do was walk back through the blue portal and I was right back to the boss fight again. Thank goodness I didn't have to do the entire dungeon again.

***UPDATE 10/28/07***

I finished the game on a flight to LA this weekend.

- The storyline continued to develop and really kept me interested; all the way to the end.
- The new items (especially the hammer) were perfect additions to the already creative arsenal. (Hint: Be sure to hold down the stylus for a second or two and the hammer doubles in size and punch)
- A couple of the boss-fights were actually in 3D-mode versus top-down 3rd person. The graphics during these sequences looked great.
- There were even some really funny moments towards the end. When G'Pa snatched the hourglass from Link mid-spin, I cracked up.
- Lastly, the final boss fight was excellent. Not too hard, multi-leveled (literally) and actually really fun. No frustration.

Kudos to Nintendo for making one of the best games I've ever played on the DS. Thank you!

Final Fantasy XII (DS) review | 9.0

Final Fantasy XII was not a game that was met with universal praise. In terms of fan reaction, it was rather mixed. There were a great deal of people who did not like it for the lack of character depth and change to story telling. Just the same, however, there were some who were quite taken with the world of Ivalice and who loved the political and philosophical intrigue of the original Final Fantasy XII. Even if you didn't like Final Fantasy XII, however, Revenant Wings is so different that it's almost an entirely new game. That also means that if you loved Final Fantasy XII there's no guarantee you'll like Revenant Wings.

Vaan and Penelo are now full fledged sky pirates. In this adventure they're helping the Aegyl people in the land of Lemure. In truth, the story is a lot simpler than Final Fantasy XII. It is also a bit more character driven. This adventure is an all new one, though. It takes place after Final Fantasy XII but even if you didn't finish the original game, it's no big deal. There are a few familiar faces, and a couple of references to the storyline of the original, but you're not missing anything by not having played the original title.

In terms of how the game looks, Revenant Wings stands tall. The cutscenes are some of the best looking the DS has ever had by far. Even superior to Square-Enix's own Final Fantasy III. The game itself also looks pretty good. There is a good deal of unique artistic design here. Those who played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance will be able to recognize the art style instantly. Its also very colorful looking and bright. Revenant Wings also has a strong soundtrack. Much of it being remixed from the original game, but it sounds wonderful nonetheless.

Eye candy aside, how exactly does the game play? This is where it becomes harder to judge Revenant Wings. The game is a Real Time Strategy game that's not really made for the RTS crowd. Needless to say, even if you don't like RTS games, you might still get into Revenant Wings. At the same time, however, the game is a little over simplified. Especially when compared to Final Fantasy XII. Everything is controlled via stylus. You can tap units and move them or you can trace out a box to select more than one if need be.

If you're looking for a deeply strategic and challenging game, you won't really find it with Revenant Wings. It has a lot of what you'd expect from a strategy game. Such as characters who are better as ranged fighers, or better suited for melee. You'll also find that each type has a weakness. What it doesn't have that you'd expect, however, is a lot of strategy. There's a strategic element to the game but you probably won't have to utilize a lot of it. In terms of difficulty the game is incredibly easy. While there will be some missions that'll take you a while, it'll mostly come as a result of the game speed not moving fast enough. Your units move very slowly on the battlefield. You can't speed things up much either.

Along those lines, the game has been simplified a lot. Where as Final Fantasy XII had a lot of complexity--especially with its gambit system--Revenant Wings doesn't offer a whole lot at all. The gambit system has returned but there's not nearly as much tweaking and experimenting to be done with it here. You can only assign one action to characters. On the other hand, you'll probably spend a lot of your time giving orders manually anyway.

Units get bunched up a lot as well. Things can get pretty hectic on the battlefield. But it's no fun when units get bunched up and you're only trying to select one.

It's hard to judge Revenant Wings. It is by no means a bad game. On the other hand, though, its like comparing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance to the original Final Fantasy Tactics. Final Fantasy XII was a huge game filled with a lot of complexity in its story and gameplay. Revenant Wings sacrifices all that. Perhaps simplicity is key in this case, but sometimes its hard to escape the fact that Revenant Wings, like Tactics Advance, could've stood to reach a little higher. The story could've been a little deeper and the complexities to the combat could've been fleshed out and expanded more. Regardless of that, the game is still pretty fun.


+A bit more focus on the characters this time around
+Very simple game to pick up and play
+Beautiful game--especially the cutscenes
+Good soundtrack


-Combat is slow
-Forgettable story
-Far too easy for a strategy game

Mega Man ZX | 7.0

It is geared more towards hardcore/older audiences not because of offensive material, but because of it's difficulty. Older Mega Man games were fun for everyone regardless of what kind of gamer you were, but these are directed towards 1)those who love Megaman, 2) are hardcore gamers (that is, those who are dedicated towards their games and gameplay), and 3) those who can take a beating and return for more. This game in normal mode won't necessarily tear your hair out, but it's hard mode will make you bald quickly. I myself LOVED hard mode; it's like a shout-out to how hard Nintendo games were. So, if you are sick of playing easy games, this will definitely satiate your thirst. I definitely cannot give it a 5 because it's not as accessible to all ages (even to the older ages), so I give it an average score.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow | 9.5

have thought that the Castlevania franchise peaked with Castlevania 4 on the SNES. Even now 14 years after its release I think the graphics, main character animation, and music were excellent. After that game the 2D releases never felt right, and I actually thought the much-hated 3D adventures on the N64 were more in the spirit of the franchise than the much-loved GBA games. The newer games felt like Metroid wannabes with an excessive number of useless features. I kept buying the 2D Castlevania games anyway because, well, I'm a sucker and always hoped for a game as fun as an old NES or SNES Castlevania but was always disappointed, until now.

I'm not even the entire way through the game, but "Dawn of Sorrow" has so far been very entertaining. I think I've finally figured out why I've hated the new crop of 2D games; the constant toggling between the map and the game screen just interfered with gameplay too much. The old games tended to be very linear, and without having to worry about your place on a map you could concentrate on gameplay. The newer games removed that linear layout to increase game complexity, but the map/game toggling apparently destroyed the best characteristic of Castlevania and made gameplay a chore. With this game, toggling from the action is nowhere near as common. First of all, the main map is always on the top of the screen. Second, the extra buttons on the DS require fewer trips to the submenus for option swapping. In short, "Dawn of Sorrow" successfully merges the fast action of the old games with the advanced RPG elements of the new games.

The game is not without its drawbacks:
1) Navigating the menu system is far too difficult. You will often find yourself randomly hitting buttons to navigate to different sections of the menu system and accidently deactivating features in the process.
2) It takes too long to get back to the game after your character's death. Instead of asking the user whether or not they want to try again you are dumped on the logo screens that come before the main menu. (I think the game's predecessor did this too)
3) The music hasn't been that impressive. It's better than what we've heard on the GBA, and better than most other games I've played, but it's apparent that the quality of the classy and catchy tunes of the earlier games are gone from the Castlevania series.
4) The opening animation and inscreen cut scenes are done in that cheap and ugly anime style. Fortunately in-game animation of your character and enemies tends to be smooth. (And why is Soma the same creepy gray tone of Micheal Jackson?)
5) You'll find numerous upgrade items, and many require a special upgrade in order to obtain. Once you get it, you'll often discover it doesn't grant you anything you don't already have. You can also modify the clothing Soma wears, but doing so never affects his appearance in the game.
6) Most of the touchscreen features haven't been that compelling, but the game doesn't really need them. Anyway, the use of the second screen for a map more than makes up for this.
7) More info displayed on the map screen would have been nice.

In short, this is a fun 2D game with only minor drawbacks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Mario Kart 7 9.0

Here's another must-own for the 3DS, plus it's my most played on the handheld. Just like how I got Super Mario 3D Land, I got Mario Kart 7 the day it came out. If you love Mario Kart or if you're new to the series, this game is especially a must!

Just like the other Mario Kart games since Mario Kart DS, you can play this game on your own, with nearby people provided that they have 3DS's, or play online. I dig the fact that you can be able to customize your kart, as well as the ability to glide and drive underwater! I would also like to thank Nintendo for getting rid of the thunder cloud that plagued Mario Kart Wii, that thing was just really annoying... you also won't be able to see any fake power-up blocks either, yay! Instead, you'll see new power-ups which are the fire flower, the raccoon tail, and the lucky 7 (I only use that to use the star lol). But still, be prepared to get attacked by those too, that includes blue spiny shells, bullet bills, and bloopers! And each time you get a lot of coins, you'll be able to unlock kart parts. You will also be able to unlock hidden characters, as well as a 3-star rank when you do awesome in the grand prix mode.

The best part of Mario Kart 7 is the game's online mode. You are able to play in worldwide matches much like in Mario Kart Wii, but with an improved VR system that doesn't decrease by a lot for no reason! The only way to lose your VR is when you get last place, and you only lose 3 VR when that happens, which isn't much at all - that is much more fair than Mario Kart Wii's online! You are also able to race in communities and find people/friends you previously raced. There is also the Mario Kart Channel where it updates the time trial ghosts and the community list. The game also keeps track of your wins, losses, coins collected, etc. Plus you'll still be able to unlock remaining kart parts while you collect coins in the online mode too!

The only cons I have are the mii's voices, no actual way to ban whichever items you want while you make a community, not having the ability to create your own messages when you're in a community, and Toadette not being in the roster (I miss her!!!). Overall, the game is definitely chaotic, but you'll keep coming back for more action. Right next to Mario Kart Double Dash, this is my favorite entry in the Mario Kart series. Go get it right now!

Final Score - 9/10 - Awesome

Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Guardian Heroes review for Saturn | 10

This game is superb. I'll keep it short and sweet. You can choose between 4 characters (initially, 5 eventually) in the story mode. Each of these characters is powerful in his or her own right, showcasing fighting styles ranging from ninjutsu (Ginjiro) to old fashioned street fighting...with a sword (Han). You get to command an undead skeletal warrior with superior fighting abilities and an awesome sword and he is an extremely handy ally when in battle. Eventually, it is possible to encounter another undead skeletal warrior and if you have Han as your character, you will reap his sword and a TON of attributes to go along with it. Very cool.

It is not a free-roaming brawler/hack-n-slasher like Final Fight or Streets of Rage: the boards feature 3 "planes" through which you can cycle to gain an advantage or retreat when the heat gets too much to handle. But this is okay because a free roaming environment would make it difficult to execute some of the special moves that each character possesses. The action on screen is pure PANDEMONIUM. It is absolutely awesome, as sometimes you can't even tell where you are or what the he** is going on but bodies are flying everywhere. The music draws you into the action. The combos are insane and you can certainly juggle your foes with good timing. There's a good dose of humor here, too.

Anyway, I was going to keep it short and sweet but I guess I failed. So what. This game is a must have because it doesn't get much better. And yes, the multiplayer/duel mode allows you to take control of some of the awesome characters you will encounter in the game, each with a robust set of moves! JUST GO GET THE GAME.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence | 8.0

In a sense this game is old hat. The beautiful fiancée of Leon Belmont, a knight crusader, is captured by Walter Bernhard, a master vampire. Leon deserts the crusades and flies off to the castle of the aforementioned vampire. There, after being handed a mystical whip, he penetrates layer after layer of horrible badness until he faces, and hopefully destroys, his true enemy. Which is about all the plot a good third person hack-and-slash really needs.

However, to create such a game with sufficient workmanship to make it compelling visually and challenging mentally and physically is no small feat. And that is what sets Lament of Innocence apart from many of its competitors. For one thing, developers are always tempted to substitute extreme difficulty for interesting challenges. Lament, on the other hand, is just doable enough to keep the player from throwing the controller at the monitor in disgust. And its puzzles can be resolved by keeping in mind that anything can be a tool.

Castlevania isn't perfect. I found that motion control and camera angle are both a little too loose. To some degree this is intentional, but I prefer controls that send objects where they are suppose to go. Especially when you are leaping from stone to stone in a frantic effort to scale a wall and there is one, and only one, spot from which to leap.

One of the problems in rating a game like Lament of Innocence is that it is very good, but falls slightly short of some other, very similar games. In this case I'm thinking of Devil May Cry. This is a case where 5 stars are too many, but 4 are too few. I would recommend both as great examples of their genre that can be played repeatedly.

Fallout: New Vegas | 9.0

The previous installment of the Fallout series, FALLOUT-3, was an excellent open-world Role-Playing Shooter (RPS). Although it suffered a far from...happy ending and most of the DLCs offered little more than even more loot and a handful of unique items, it was a game I greatly enjoyed for hours at no end and was more than happy to replay it only to follow different paths every time the story bifurcated. I for one was sure left craving for more and the Obsidian/Bethesda people were more than happy to deliver. Even so, true to Vegas mentality, they seem to have let their winnings ride...

The first thing that hit you in the Mojave desert is how...familiar this new world looks like. The graphics, which were excellent two years ago, are still very good - but they are no longer cutting edge. Besides some richer shadowing and somewhat more vivid colors, if there are any major graphical improvements since FALLOUT-3 I failed to notice them. Having said that, I must admit that I loved the skies, especially during sunrises and sunsets!

Although both the story and the location are different from FALLOUT-3, I was happy to meet old friends: the handy PIPBOY-3000, the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill system and the V.A.T.S. targeting aid. The gameplay seems to fit like a favorite old pair of jeans.
Character development has both acquired more depth (with the return of Traits which offer advantages but at a price) but also made easier. There are new guns and more explosive kill-shot sequences as well as more skills and perks but I felt far less pressure to complete quests to gain experience points and translate them into perks, skills and traits as the game is generous in offering different ways to accomplish this.

Notably, with all the conflicting groups and factions angling for an edge in controlling New Vegas, the story seems more byzantine than FALLOUT-3 and the choices one has to make now cut deeper. And after about 20 hours of playing it feels like I barely scratched the surface. This is a longer game than FALLOUT-3.

Now some bad news. Whereas FALLOUT 3 had a simple disk-check, FALLOUT:NEW VEGAS comes with mandatory OnLine STEAM registration and activation. If you are wondering, the game lost its fifth star neither because of its somewhat dated graphics, nor its numerous bugs or occasional crash but rather its anti-customer DRM scheme. (That was a serious misstep BETHESDA, I was disappointed). Having to activate your game OnLine means that you never actually own the game you paid for at full price. If this does not concern you, well, you can now make an informed decision either way.

Jade Cocoon 2 | 10

Jade Cocoon 2 is the kind of game which invariably will be explained, failingly, in comparisons: Final Fantasy X, Monster Rancher, Pokemon, etc. It is no less fabulous for the seeming inability of gamers to describe its pleasures for what they are. If I were to compare JC2 to another game, the title that springs to mind would be Okage: Shadow King, and that simply on the virtue of its irreverent charm and heavy stylization, for be assured that the gameplay stretches leagues and leagues deeper, and the experience becomes far more addictive than that relatively lukewarm RPG. JC2's prime offering for you, prospective customer, lies in the endless drip feed of pure RPG dungeon crawling, monster evolving joy -- and the game's developers have stuffed JC2 with enough side quests, arenas, dungeons, and monster variations to keep your thumbs rooted to the dual shock for just one more level, one more merge... Before long, you'll start marking time with your bladder. Critics who whine about repetitiveness apparently have never spent an afternoon with Monster Rancher 3 or Phantasy Star Online -- and even those games are enjoyable. After all, who cares about going back for seconds if the game makes it so entirely worth your while? Other selling points include JC2's cute character designs (including a faux girl band with a dead ringer for Scary Spice), inspired voice acting (yes, probably better than FFX) and very nice graphics throughout, from the actual battle animations to the high-res boss cut scenes to the anime narrative bits. JC2 is every bit worth your time and money, and for all the love that went into this title, it's also well worth yours too.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty | 9.5

As promised I'd post an actual review of the game after beating it to a pulp.

Needless to say that this is an amazing game with a gripping story, and defintely a worthy sequal. To say that it has perfect top notch graphics and music that will blow you away. Not to mention its great character development and plot twists.

I won't give away any of the story where as to me (and a lot of other people) this game has some of the best Plot twist in history. All I will say is that the game is divided into two parts. The "Tanker" chapter and the "Plant" chapter. They both link in everyway and you can see if you play through the game.

The characters are a true treat in this game. There are several new characters introduced and they all have their own reasons for being where they are. However the main villian...compared to Liquid Snake isn't the best. Next to Kefka (FFVI) Liquid was probably the best villian of all time. In comparison, the main villian didn't live up to Liquid.

The music is breathtaking done by Harry Gregson-Williams (The Rock and Enemy of the State if you don't know him). The music will really catch you, and that intro music is just awesome!

I'm not much for graphics but I will say that the graphics are so good that when watching the cinema scenes they look like real people! Can't go wrong with that. Also, the voice acting is sheer brilliance. They actually show emotion and they have a change in tone when they're upset or sad.

It'll take you about 10-15 hours to complete the game your first time through but it is worth it. However, movie cinemas make up at least six hours of the game. This may bother some people as they said the first one was short. Sorry to say that the game is NOT short. But that means you actually HAVE TO WATCH THE CGs!!!! Also, watching the CGs is the only way to understand anything thats going on.

The game doesn't really present any BIG challenge. In fact with the new gear and stuff you can do I'd say it makes the game EASIER than the first (is that possible!?). To say the least though the new gear isn't much different from the old gear in MGS.

Lastly the fun factor. The game is very fun if you don't take it too seriously. What I mean by that is don't be ashsmaed to break some of the stealth rules and have fun with the guards every once and awhile. That was the funnest part of the first one.

One final note. In the HARD and EXTREME difficulty setting you can choose to have a game over if you're spotted. Being that you take so much damage I'd probaly suggest that you take that oppertunity on EXTREME.

Graphics: 10

Plot/Story: 10

Music: 10

Gameplay: 9

Fun Factor: 10

Overall score: 9.9

You won't be disappointed

Mario Kart 8 9.0

Like most people, I bought a Wii U for the New Smash Bros, LOZ, Animal Crossing and so on. And I've been anxiously awaiting this games arrival for a long time, as I pre-ordered it the second it was available on amazon. The last game I can say I truly enjoyed on the Wii U, was Super Mario 3D World, and boy am I glad the wait for a new great game is over.

This game is AMAZING! I've played every entry since SMK and have loved each one since, as they all brought new ideas to the table. Mario Kart 8 takes the reigns as my favorite title in the series though, no question! This has got to be THE best racing game Nintendo has ever created. It's so much more tasty and rich than the ones before it.

So first off, the gamepad controls for this game feel very nice. Being used to the wii remote, I was surprised at how natural the conversion to the gamepad felt. I prefer using the analog sticks opposed to the gamepad's gyroscope though. The gamepad is just a little too big to be leaning back and forth!:/ I also like how they incorporated the gamepads screen into the game. If you're playing on the T.V. you can easily switch to gamepad-only mode with the touch of a button, there's also another little button you can press to see where everyone is on the track! Very convenient! Some people may complain that the gamepad screen isn't being used enough, but come on, lets be honest... There's not much you can do with the gamepad in this game. You're racing! You want to keep your eye's on ONE screen!

Next, the graphics.  I can't describe the feeling of seeing an HD Mario Kart game, it's completely different from seeing the videos of it in reviews on YouTube. Once you own this game and you play it on your TV... Then and only then you can truly see how nice this game looks. My favorite track has got to be Twisted mansion (i'm a sucker for anything spooky!). Nintendo, like always, does a great job in course variety and it's no different in this game either as each one is COMPLETELY different from the one before it. They stuck to the traditional 16 re-made old tracks, and 16 brand spankin new ones. I love this tradition as it eases us into new territory in the series. There's tons of throwbacks in here though!

Also, I don't know if anyone else likes to do this too, but to really appreciate the game more.. i go on time trials and just explore the tracks to their entirety. I know I'm gonna have fun doing that on this game considering all the detail they put into it, and how nice it looks!!

Next, the ANTI-GRAVITY! Wow, You ever play a mario kart game and just be like "man, I wish I could just drive on the walls.. And then onto the ceiling! Well, now you can. The first course showcases this and man it feeds some sort of hunger I had. I love this feature along with the gliding they incorporated (which was first used in Mario Kart 7) So happy these have been added to the main series. Oh, and you can drive UNDERWATER NOW TOO. Fun little things like this make a game all the more enjoyable!

And finally, the MUSIC! The music Is amazing. If there's one company you can count on for making great music along with their games, it's nintendo, I mean come on. Pokemon, LOZ, Smash Bros, Super Mario. Big band music with sweet guitar solos and jazzy songs? Yes please! Loving the music so far, 10/10 !:)

Last, THE BAD. Honestly, it's pretty tough to find anything bad about this game.. I haven't had any real issues with it. I wish next time instead of 32 tracks, they would add some more more cause I managed to race and beat every single one in about 2-3 hours. Then again, I'm not sure if I really do want more tracks. Maybe 32 is perfect! Nintendo knows balance. Another thing.. WHERE IS THE TRACK CREATOR? I would absolutely love to make my own track. Nintendo understood that people like to be creative in games back in 2008 with smash bros brawl with the stage creator.. We haven't changed, nintendo! We like to make our own stuff! Hopefully the next entry will allow this. No biggie though. I'm really happy with this game!!

If you own a Wii U, you have to get this game. It's a no-brainer!:)

Monday, November 20, 2000

Gran Turismo 6 PS3 review 9.0

Gran Turismo is one of my top games. I love racing games. From the days when I used to sit on my dads lap and watch him play Pole Position in the local arcade, I've been hooked on all sorts of racing games. Gran Turismo 1 for the PS1 was such a game changer with racing. Having been used to Need for Speed, it was unheard of when you had to use the brakes in a car game.

Gran Tursimo 6 continues the series. But it doesn't move it along very much. I did just get my copy in the mail about 3 hours ago. And I've put in around 2 hours of gameplay in it already. But for being the next game in sequential order, it just doesn't feel like that much of an upgrade.

They say they've redesigned the suspension and tires from the ground up. Most people probably won't even notice a difference. Graphics don't look any better than they did in GT5. There may be some slight differences in lighting. But really nothing stands out too much.

All the sound FX from all the previous games are still there. The bongs of the menus. The whiny pitch of the engines. And when you hit the walls or other cars, it still sounds like you just hit one of the large 55 gallon rubber barrels. I don't understand why they couldn't get a team to go out and collect realistic sounding noises.

The most disappointing part of the game is that you have to start all over from square one. Since this game already feels like GT4 and 5, I just wish you were able to carry over your progress. So instead, you have to start out on the very first track, again. Sunday Drive on the High Speed Ring. I feel like I've done this 5 times before.

The menu layout has been re-arranged. It doesn't really feel like an improvement, but it doesn't feel like its worse either. Its just re-arranged.

One of the things that GT6 has over GT5 is that you have access to all cars right away. Meaning, with GT5, if you wanted a Standard version of a car (ones that weren't re-done in HD,) you had to wait for it to show up in the used car selection of the game. Now, all those cars are listed under each of the new car's manufactures.

But I'm giving this game 4 stars because I feel I should judge this game for what it is now. And not comparing it to the previous versions. Although that's what most of my complaints are about here. But if you're new to the series, and this will be your first Gran Turismo game, its a fantastic racing game. As long as you don't assume its anywhere near what NFS is. Either you love games where it takes skill like Gran Turismo, or you just love games where you just feel like you always need to have the pedal to the metal like NFS.

Most likely you are reading this to see if its worth buying. It may be, if you're into having some of the newest cars, and some upgraded features. But if you're reading this to see if you'd be interested in Gran Turismo in general, I'd suggest that you buy Gran Turismo 5. For the price, you can't beat it. And if you're unfamiliar to the series, you most likely won't notice much difference between the two.

Hope this review has helped. Like I said, I'm only 2 hours into the game so far, so I don't have everything unlocked yet. Only just a couple slow cars. I'll update this review if I discover something new that I didn't touch on.

Oh, if you have the pre-order promo code, you have to enter the code inside the game. It will look invalid if you enter it in the PS3 dashboard, outside of the game.

***UPDATED*** (12/9/13)
So after spending the weekend playing GT6, my recommendation is to either buy or continue playing GT5. I have put several hours into the game, and I feel that I'd rather be putting that racing money towards the already large bank account I have in GT5.

AI is still very dumb. They don't race. They just drive in single file line, while following a very set path. They are sometimes aware of your location, but I've had the PIT maneuver done on me a few times in a corner. If this was a real race, I'd be getting of of my car, and throwing my helmet at your windshield the next lap.

But they might as well make the game only time trials. This racing game just doesn't seem like a racing game. You're only overtaking opponents one by one. But its been this way since GT1. For once I'd like to try to overtake 2 opponents who are battling between themselves.

ALL sounds are still all horrid. From the same menu SFX that have been in every single game, to the music that sounds like it belongs on the Nintendo, to the car sounds. I don't think that by putting racing exhaust on a 2014 Corvette would make it sound like a 6-cylinder import car. Chevy should be ashamed.

Cars still feel floaty when in the air. I believe the track is Trial Mountain. Its been slightly updated from the previous version. But the last corner has a slight raise against the wall. If you hit it, you'll get some air, but only from the two wheel that run over it. And it just felt the same as before. Like there was a pocket of air surrounding the car, which gently carried it across the track, and gently placed all 4 wheels back onto the ground. Updated suspension and aerodynamic models, my butt. And in reality, if I had actually hit that corner the same way in a real car, it probably would have flipped me over.

So since I did pay full price for this game, I've been trying to get the most out of it. And I've also tried to make it as realistic as possible. I still have my Logitech steering wheel from when I bought GT4. I've turned off all HUD items, and turned off the racing lines. I also drive from the cockpit view. So its as realistic as it can be. Which BTW, cockpit view makes your screen DARK. Not sure why they feel that adding glass makes everything dark. With the nose cam view, the track is bright. In-car, dark. But the rear-view mirror is still bright.

***UPDATED*** (12/16/13)
Few more things. As a commenter point out, I realized I haven't tried online yet. Figured I'd get some better cars first, and learn the tracks with different setups before going online. Unlike others, I try to race without using other cars as brakes.

V-Sync seems to be more of an issue later on, when you're racing against more cars. I've noticed it quite a bit on the Matterhorn track. Its a new original track set in the mountains. It looks beautiful. But am getting v-sync "tearing" around almost every corner. It really doesn't affect gameplay, and frame rate seems to stay quick. But its kind of annoying. But for most people, you may not even notice it.

Night races not in the city are nearly impossible. I really don't want to mess with my TV's brightness settings, but I'm going to have to to be able to finish some races. There's a night race at Willow Springs, and I CANNOT see anything. The headlights don't light up the road, but they do light up the dirt when you run off track. Its near impossible to race like this. The only thing thats somewhat helped is to always stay behind a crowed, and watch the taillights. But even doing this, I finished 6th, and ran off the road several times. One good thing though was that I unlocked an achievement of staying in the air for a second after I hit a minor dirt hill.

Alundra | 8.5

This game fun and highly addictive, but OH LORD IT'S SO FRUSTRATING!! At times, anyway. Don't plan on finishing this game quickly. It's a lot like Zelda as far as the gameplay goes. The story goes like this : You're a little elf boy named Alundra who has the ability to enter people's dreams and control them. You are on a journey in the beginning, on a ship to some place or other, when a storm comes up and the ship sinks. You wash up on the beach near a town called Inoa, where there seems to be an epidemic of nightmares that are killing off the villagers. Your job is to enter their dreams and confront the demon (or whatever he is) Melzas and his various minions. The gameplay is pretty fun, the enemies and bosses are pretty easy so far. I've only had the game a couple of weeks, so I haven't finished it yet. There are some puzzles that are extremely difficult, so you will find yourself online looking for a walkthrough so you can know what the heck to do. That's not so bad. The part of the game that really ...[stinks] is the jumping. You can spend thirty minutes trying to jump from one ledge to another so you can progress in the game. The distance from one ledge to another is sometimes just a little bit farther away than it should be, or else you have to take time to carefully jump from one pedestal to another without some big iron ball knocking you off. The jump button is very sluggish and sometimes doesn't respond at all, so after trying to make the same jump 50 times you will probably need to go to another room and smoke a cigarette or something and count to 100 so you don't end up destroying your Playstation. Oddly, in spite of this the game is highly addictive. I would recommend it only if you're a very determined soul, however, or if you're a masochist.

Saturday, November 18, 2000

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West | 8.0

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an action adventure game from developer Team Ninja that attempts to re-imagine the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West with a bit of future apocalyptica flare.

You follow the story of a young tech girl named Trip and a battle-hardened vagabond named Monkey. After escaping from a slave ship, Monkey must escort Trip safely back to the village she was kidnapped from, whether he wants to or not. Set in a time where free men struggle to survive in a world dominated by the homicidal mechanical ruins of a long ended war, you must run, jump, and smash your way through crumbling cities and clockwork goliaths to reach your goal.

I had a lot of fun playing Enslaved and can honestly say that I fully enjoyed the experience. That experience, however, has to be taken with a grain of salt. Do not purchase this game expecting a deep gameplay experience. It is very straight forward. Run and hit things. That's pretty much it. The battle system mainly boils down to pressing the attack button repeatedly while intermittently tapping a dodge button. There are some more aspects involved but nothing really game changing. Outside of combat, the game has a heavy focus on parkour-style exploration. However, this feature is noticeably shallow. Rather than preforming any button combinations that may require mental and reflexive dexterity, you simply run toward the object in front of you and tap jump, and your character takes care of the rest. Hell, you don't even have to guess at where to go next, because that area will be lit up brightly just in case you stopped to wonder if you had to go anywhere but straight for once. Level designs are straightforward, with exploration only ever really extending as far as 'there is a path that veers slightly to the right, lemme check there for something new'. This isn't going to scratch your adventure game explorer itch the way say, Ocarina of Time may have.

That being said, this game is enjoyable so long as you don't go into it expecting more than it is capable of offering. It is beautiful. The graphics are fantastic, and the world Monkey and Trip travel through is at times breath-taking. Sapphire blue skies that reach out to the horizon, as well as lovingly detailed urban environments with the lush greens of invasive nature are the staple of this game. I often found myself stopping and playing with the camera angles just to get a look at the world the developers had crated. The level design is also fantastic. Yes, they usually are straightforward, but the complexity of the scenery and architecture around you will quickly help you forget that you are essentially traveling down a convoluted corridor the whole time.

Another winning point for this game is the characters. At first they seem rather cookie-cutter at first: the strong hero tasked with protecting the weak, but support-effective girl, and the third wheel comedic relief. While they do fill these roles rather typically, their personalities, dialogue, and voice acting truly set them apart and above other video game casts to date. Also, the game has a very subtle sense of humor that took me completely by surprise. I found myself at several moments bursting with laughter at dialogue and cutscenes that were delivered with such perfectly unexpected comedic timing. The motion capture is phenomenal, and by the end of the relatively short campaign you will feel a true sense of humanity from each of the heroes. Speaking of the end, I was pleasantly surprised by that as well. Without spoiling anything for you, be prepared for the game to end with a twist that is both unexpected and slightly unsettling.

All in all, if you're a fan of adventure games and can appreciate a title for its good points without it being some ground-breaking achievement, get this game. However, don't you dare pay full price for it. Nothing more than $30 is acceptable. If you do find it for cheap though, jump on it. So long as you dive into the game without expecting it to give you things it can't promise you should be able to garner a sense of appreciation for it, as I have.

Friday, November 17, 2000

New Super Mario Bros U 9.0

New Super Mario Bros U makes the Wii U worth the buy alone. I think it's a fun, amazing game that anyone any age can appreciate.

The game I played most when I was a kid was Super Mario 3 for the Nintendo. This game more than lives up to the name. It seems like it takes all the best things from every single Mario game and combines them into a masterpiece. Countless times you will find yourself smiling remembering something from your past. Finding secret areas, using all the power-ups, fighting stuff on the map, dungeons, and bosses are just so much fun. Time comes into play as well, it makes you try to move fast and explore, all while trying to beat the clock. There are tons of hidden areas and each level has 3 star coins. The Miiverse plays a role here too where you can leave comments on levels to help each other out or just say that you are happy you beat the level. For single player the Wii U tablet remote doesn't serve as a real purpose other than mirroring the screen, if you want you can play solely on that and let someone else use the TV.

The multiplayer is crazy and exciting. Some people would complain about other players on the screen because they run into you and mess you up but I find it to be more fun. You have to not only watch yourself but watch your teammates and work with them to get past obstacles. It's worth noting that you need a Wii remote for each character playing. For instance 1 Wii remote + 1 Wii tablet = only 1 person on screen while the tablet player has a different function. For 2 player you need 2 Wii remotes. This game can be played by 5 people, 4 players on the screen using Wii remotes and 1 person using the Wii tablet. My friend and I have never had a dull moment and have had to stop for a minute because we were laughing so hard. Playing with friends adds to the complexity and makes you work together to accomplish getting to secret areas.

Mario looks amazing in HD and this game is a must have for any Nintendo fan.

Update Feb 2013: Nintendo announced that there will be upcoming New Super Luigi Bros. U DLC coming for this game. Which seems like it will redo every map with a Luigi twist to it. Also I realized I didn't add that the Wii U Pro controller will NOT work with this game either, so you are stuck with Wii Remotes.

Update May 2013: Super Luigi U DLC officially announced as a $20 download on June 20th. My friend and I have finally beaten all the levels and gotten all the star coins. The bonus star world has some extremely fun levels.

Update June 2013: Super Luigi U is out as DLC to this game, you can also buy a physical copy but it won't be released until Aug 25. This DLC is not a drastic change from the original game. You get the same map with all the levels reworked. They are shorter and you are supposed to complete them in a faster amount of time. To me it seems a little easier. The physics (jumping and running) are different too. I personally don't like it as much. Also when playing with 4 player, whoever uses Nabbit gets bored since he can't die and it's cheating on all the boss fights. I wouldn't say this is a must have, but if you like Luigi and have the spare money you might as well.

Update July 2013: Thanks to Kyle B. in the comments, I've also been informed with the Luigi U update the game can now use the Pro controller which is a nice addition. My friend and I have played some more of the Luigi U DLC and it's just not as fun. We don't find ourselves laughing nearly as much and it seems we are always out of time, even though I know that's the point of the shorter times. If you play as Nabbit it is still horribly boring

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together PSP review | 9.5


The original Tactics Ogre is one of my favorite games of all time. Great characters, a well written story, challenging (and at times *brutal*) battles, memorable music, and a bunch of rewards and secrets for the dedicated player. This version is everything that I loved about the original and more. The new translation has a great feel to it, and the character portraits are stunning.

Customization and Leveling:

My favorite new part of the game is the skill and special attack customization. It adds a good deal of depth to your characters and was largely lacking in the original (with something like 10 special skills available in the game, and even then only at endgame). Leveling is quite different, eliminating the need for most of the grinding. Entire classes gain levels, so even the guys you don't use can be decent level, but only the characters you actually use gain skill points. Also, everyone gains experience together at the end of battle, so the berserker you have in the front ranks and your healer each get their fair share. This is great, since you don't need to "share" kills and have your cleric try to thwack a wounded soldier just to level up.

Chariot and World systems:

I was worried about the Chariot system making things too easy (you can instantly warp back up to 50 actions while in battle), but it actually works quite well. You can try different strategies without a ton of load time and annoyance, but the battles are still challenging. In the 90s I logged well over 100 hours trying to get all the endings. The World system makes this much more manageable and actually lets you know where the branches happen.

All in all, it is a great tactical RPG!

Thursday, November 16, 2000

Final fantasy X remaster

In 2001, the original Final Fantasy X came out and single-handedly brought the JRPG into the PS2 generation. It was a remarkable feat. It had a brilliant story, a good combat system and a soundtrack that was to die for. It quickly became recognized as one of the greatest JRPGs you could find on the PS2. It has had it's ardent fans and ardent haters alike. It is a game that garnered a lot of strong responses from gamers. Square-Enix is a little late at jumping on the HD bandwagon, but if there was one game in their catalog that definitely deserved one, it was Final Fantasy X. Final Fantasy X-2 is here as well, but it did not make the same splash as its predecessor. There are some things about Final Fantasy X that are still brilliant. It's nice to relive it and to experience it again. As for Final Fantasy X-2, though I would not claim it to be as memorable as the first one it had some great gameplay elements that still hold up well today.

Final Fantasy X centers on Tidus. He is a star Blitzball player, like his father before him. One night during a game a mysterious entity called Sin attacks and takes Tidus from his home and sends him into the land of Spira. There he meets Yuna, a summoner about to go on a pilgrimage to the various temples in Spira so that she can have the power to destroy Sin. Final Fantasy X has a lot to its story. It had a lot of well developed characters, but mostly it was willing to tackle a lot of themes. In particular, the large amount of time it spends looking at the fictional religion of Yu Yevon and the teachings present. It's quite a story. It is only a shame that the voice acting isn't that especially good. Final Fantasy X didn't have great voice acting in 2001 and it's certainly not better now. It's a good story but the voice acting takes some time to adapt to. Final Fantasy X-2, by comparison, does a slightly better job (although not by a whole lot).

The gameplay in Final Fantasy X still resonates quite well. There are random battles to be fought, but the battle system was quite intuitive at the time. You always know the order in which you and your enemies will take action. This allows for lots of strategy and planning as opposed to being quick on your feet. For some this made the game easy, for others it allowed for them to have more control over combat. Each character also had an overdrive gauge which was very similar to Final Fantasy VII's limit breaks. When the gauge is full you can use an overdrive attack, which is a powerful attack. Each character also has their own uses and "job" in battle. Tidus is good at hitting agile enemies, Wakka hits flying enemies with ease while others miss, Auron has piercing attacks, Lulu casts her magic, Rikku steals and disassembles machines and Kimahri can absorb abilities of his enemies and use them. But the most interesting is Yuna who can summon aeons that you'll use in battle. Each with their own set of abilities and attacks. You can also switch characters in battle at any time provided that they are not knocked out. Every character shares in experience.

The most amusing aspect of Final Fantasy X was the sphere grid. The sphere grid is Final Fantasy X's unique level up system that has certainly influenced some RPGs (most notably Tales of Xillia). Each character gains sphere levels and follows a path along the sphere grid. You activate various nodes using spheres to raise your stats and learn abilities.

In a nutshell many of these elements in Final Fantasy X still hold up. Final Fantasy X-2, on the other hand, was somewhat polarizing back in 2003. Yet, for what it's worth, over a decade later it's really not a bad game by any means. The story is not as strong and neither are some of the characters. On the other hand, it is a more open world than Final Fantasy X. In particular, the battle system is still fast paced and fun. It goes back to the ATB battle system instead. Each character has access to dress spheres where they learn various abilities to be used in battle. The jobs affect how fast they attack and this makes Final Fantasy X-2 a fun game to battle in. The system is unique. Each job plays its own role. White mages heal, thieves steal and warriors attack. Final Fantasy X-2 has such a non-linear approach it can come across as quite tough and challenging at times.

There are some moments in Final Fantasy X-2's tone that certainly clash from time to time with Final Fantasy X. Where as Final Fantasy X is quite sad in many respects and downtrodden, X-2 is a lot more upbeat. Both games are rather fun to play, but fans probably still see Final Fantasy X-2 as being a less "serious" game. Originally when I played Final Fantasy X-2, I did not care for it. Here, I'm okay with it. The battle system is fun. And while the story isn't nearly as good as the first one, it's not necessarily bad either.

The HD Remaster has quite a few things of note, however. While I would like to point out the HD visuals first, I'd rather start with the fact that this is the international version of the game. Meaning that for North American players there's a wealth of new content. First and foremost, the sphere grid. There is now a standard and expert version of the grid. The expert grid allows for slightly more flexability. Where as the standard grid kept most characters contained to their own section, the expert one lets you divert a lot sooner. This means characters may learn other characters abilities sooner rather than later. It is also a less straightforward path. The expert sphere grid will require more grinding. There are more paths that diverge. Where as the standard is a more straightforward path, the expert sphere requires you to be a lot more aware of what you're doing. You might find yourself going back one direction just to get an ability you missed. The standard sphere grid will, for the most part, take every character to every ability along their path, but the expert sphere grid is less concerned with that. It can make the game harder or easier. The reality is that you need to zero in on what you want sooner rather than later. The expert sphere grid alone can give you a totally different experience with Final Fantasy X. I would highly recommend veteran players go with it. Newcomers should stick to the standard grid.

The other big addition are the dark Aeons. In 2001 North American players completely missed out on this optional quest. These are ruthlessly challenging bosses with millions of HP, requiring the best and boldest from players. Likewise, there is another hidden boss called Penance These bits of extra content are worth your time if you're willing to invest it. But most of all, they make Final Fantasy X worth revisiting even for those who mastered it over a decade ago.

Final Fantasy X-2 doesn't really include much (if any) extra content, unfortunately. No new bosses or story elements. But the collection as a whole does include "Final Fantasy X-2" Last Mission as well as a prologue to Final Fantasy X-2. There is also an audio credits sequence. In terms of whether or not you're getting your bang for your buck it's no argument... you are getting a lot of content for the asking price.

There are some other notable changes. The visuals are actually quite noticeable. The font of the text is different, for instance. But more important, the actual look and art style is more expressive and vibrant. It looks fantastic and it runs in 1080p. Not only that, but it's just a smoother looking game. A lot of HD remakes neglect to touch up on some of the pre-rendered stuff but Final Fantasy X and X-2 certainly do. Even the prerendered scenes have no muddied textures or blotches. They're also in 16:9 like the regular game. It's clear there was a lot of care taken with this one. Lastly, the music has been rearranged. While I still remember the original soundtrack quite clearly some of the new arrangements definitely do justice to the original tunes. Final Fantasy X-2 does not have a rearranged soundtrack, however. It's a good sounding game. The voice acting on the other hand isn't that good. As I said, it wasn't that good back in 2001, but now it just sounds terribly outdated. You almost wish they had re-recorded the voices. I'm not too especially bothered by it, however. The gameplay and story trumps it and there's something deliciously nostalgic about bad voice acting and.

There are smaller things that I'm somewhat picky about. Chief among them is that Final Fantasy X spends a lot of time expressing its dialog in various cutscenes. The option to skip them isn't present. I wish Square had added that for when one decides to replay as some moments can get a little dragged out. Likewise, with the audio there are moments when the game has small hiccups or pauses before other characters begin speaking. The dialog doesn't always flow naturally because there are moments when the next line has to load. Those nitpicks aside there isn't much reason not to get this HD collection if you loved Final Fantasy X and X-2. Even if you liked one and didn't like the other, there's enough content to justify the purchase of just one game. Square-Enix included a lot of stuff here that makes it worthwhile for fans. The version I had also came with an artbook and it's gorgeous. It has an introduction by Yoshinori Kitase, the game's producer. It's a neat little artbook that comes with the Limited Edition of the game.

Overall, I'm satisfied with this HD reissue. Final Fantasy X was a fairly remarkable game to me and it still remains so. The updates and care taken to the game are worthwhile. For fans of these games, it is certainly work taking the time for that trip down memory lane.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow | 7.5

udging from the reviews it seems like there are strong opinions on this game from both sides. I for one personally loved this game and very glad I finally decided to give this game a chance.

I grew up in the 80's/90's so I am very familiar with many of the old school games like Metroid, Zelda, and Castlevania; probably my three favorite franchises of all time. Though I never played every Castlevania game, I did like Castlevania 64 which many people hated. I was on the fence with this one but decided to take my chances a few months after the original release.

I found the graphics amazing. From pressing through the misty swamps to hiking through the crumbling ruins of past civilizations I felt as if I were actually there. I can tell by the sheer amount of detail in each level that the graphics team obviously spent a lot of time in getting these environments just right. In addition to the beautiful scenery, the bosses and NPC's also were done very well. Some of the smaller enemies are not as well done, but that doesn't take away from the overall look of the game.

The sounds are great as well. The voice acting is spot on and the background music goes very well with the gameplay and the background story. It is quite reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and many times I found myself thinking of that movie while I played through the game especially since this game seems to play as a movie itself.

Gameplay is good and the controls are very smooth and responsive. At first I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of combo moves and powers you could purchase, but after a while I was pretty used to them and while I eventually ended up buying all the combos I only used a handful of them on a regular basis. Speaking of combos, you will need to learn some of them because while some of the weaker enemies can easily be taken down by just mashing buttons some of the stronger and smarter foes require strategic attacks and defensive maneuvers to advance or you will find yourself dying often (i.e. Greater Lycans). One small complaint I have about the combat is the QTE which requires you to press a button (any button), before 3 on screen circles converge. It was cool the first few times, but after a while it gets pretty monotonous. I would have liked to see a God of War type QTE which required a specific rotation of your thumb stick.

One thing I absolutely loved about this game was the many puzzles. While I was able to solve all the puzzles without the help of a guide I did enjoy the challenge and more importantly I found them fun especially after I solved them. Unlike some other games that either make the puzzles way too easy or just bombards you with puzzles the entire game, this game has a good balance of puzzles and difficulty to challenge you just enough to get your creative juices flowing. Of course if you REALLY don't want to be bothered with the puzzles then you can always just unlock the solution, but you lose the puzzle solving bonus as well as the pleasure of figuring it out yourself. The favorite puzzle for me has to be the music box puzzle which you encounter later in the game followed by the chess-like Vampire War game that occurs earlier. The puzzles add a nice touch to the game and without them I probably would have felt that the game was missing something.

The difficulty of this game may be a bit harder than many video games these days, but honestly after playing it and keeping at it, I didn't find it as difficult as I originally did as I got further in the game. For comparison, its not as hard of the original God of War and I would say it's probably right on par with God of War III in terms of difficulty. If I were to play through it again on the same difficulty I probably could easily zoom through it, so if I do end up playing it again it will be on a harder difficulty.

Also different from many games these days is the sheer length of this game. I don't know how many game hours I spent playing this game to completion, but I started playing in March and didn't finish until a couple of days before I wrote this review. That is nearly 3 months of playing on an off. Now keep in mind I spent a lot of time backtracking to pick up missed items so I could get 100%, but still it's a long game even if you don't go back. I got this game for half of the original price but even at the full price I would say this game is one of the few games that warrant such a high price tag.

The storyline while not that original was greatly told and narrated by Patrick Stewart. Basically we have Gabrielle Belmont looking to avenge the death of his wife and seeks the power to bring her back from the dead. While this story is nothing new, the path Gabrielle goes on to achieve his goals and the many different people he meets during his quest makes the story very enjoyable. The final moments of the game before during and after the final boss fight was brilliantly done, I don't want to spoil it, so all I will say is that I was staring at the screen in amazement as I watched the final events unfold. Hopefully this is just a start of the story and I will be very interested in seeing how things continue from here.

All in all a great game all across the board, there are some few issues with not being able to control the camera, but it did not affect me much during the game. Many of the times I fell to my death is because I mistimed a jump or purposely jumped down from a ledge because I wanted to see if a secret was down there, but this had nothing to do with the camera.

If you are one that is used to easier games, then you may find this game a little frustrating at first, but if you stick to it I really believe you will find it enjoyable the more and more your progress. I have beaten the game and already find myself wanting more.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep | 9.5

This is a brilliant prequel to what will be one of most well known video game crossovers of all time.

Beautiful graphics, the PSP shines like the PS2. True sceneries could be played with more but for the PSP Im massively impressed.

The story is absolutely heartbreaking, and incredibly dramatic. A perfect tie in to Kingdom Hearts, while also setting up potential storylines for KH3(whenever that decides to be announced).

I despised 356/2 days, absolutely loathed it this is such a breathe of fresh air. True its a hack and slash but there are so many minigames and story to tell its just a fantastic experience.

The gameplay like any Kingdom Hearts game is the typical God of War hack and slash with reaction commands every now and then. I like how they added D links and I LOVE the new combat system, its very enjoyable.

The one problem with the gameplay is the camera mode, they fixed the problem in KH2 but it came back in this one, granted it does not really effect the game play but when your trying to fight the boss and it locks on to a crate it can kind of make or break you.

Which now leads me to difficulty, this game is HARD. It is very challenging especially on Proud Mode, I underestimated the level of difficulty. It seems all those fans that complained about how easy KH 2 was can breathe a fresh air because BBS especially on proud mode is HARD. I think I died 6 times in the Sleeping Beauty world, very difficult.

This game is well worth the money, well worth the wait and an incredible experience.

Gears of War 2 X360 review | 10

To start off, I played the first Gears for the campaign/co-op campaign. And I purchased this game for the same reason, so if you're looking to know more about multiplayer gameplay, check out another review. That said, this game plays very well, very much like a thrill ride for the most part. Story can use a lot more refining and better integration. This gets a 5-star in its own right. But Halo 3 and BioShock are still better games overall than GoW 2.

This game still plays like the first Gears, except with a wider array of weapons and features (ie, chainsaw battles, different modes of executing a downed enemy). This is a third person shooter, for those who have not played the first one. And also, expect a lot of blood and violence, so if you are parents considering this game for your children, this serves as fair warning.

The campaign takes longer to beat this time around (10-20h I think). The graphics are very beautiful and realistic, and a lot more 'vibrant'. The first Gears was in general a very dark and gloomy game. You see a lot more color in this one. Co-op campaign gameplay continues to be addictive and I think a strength in this game. It is still as immersive an experience for all players involved as the first Gears was.

Further, the creators definitely outdid themselves in design of the levels. You should expect to be pleasantly surprised with every single level that comes up. While you can clearly expect to see yourself running around in the streets battling waves after waves of Locust, you will also see another order of magnitude of fighting, with sometimes even as many as 80-100 Locust rushing through your field of view. To emphasize the creativity of the creators, there was also, at various points later in the game (spoiler warning), a section where you had to traverse a pitch-black tunnel to safely escort a vehicle across, and even a level where your squad somehow ends up inside one of the Locust beasts and had to fight your way out...

Overall, this game has been quite an experience. It deserves an A+ and Game of the Year awards.


Given that this game promised to have more leads on the storyline of the series than the first one, it does a better job. A lot of the early story is centered around Dom and him trying to find his wife, amidst all the fighting. The voice acting is compelling for the most part, and you can tell a lot more easily that it's a dark time for humanity on this fictional planet. In the first Gears, playing through the story was mostly humorous because of the way all the guys were joking around in between fight scenes and the light talk that went on. In this Gears, those dialogues are still present, but with a lot more of a sense of urgency mixed in here and there. And cutscenes are well made. The script is definitely that of a cheesy scifi as some of my buddies like to call it.

Finally, instead of COG tags for collection, we have bits and pieces of 'collectibles' like newspaper clippings, ads, so on and so forth that in some cases contribute to the backstory a little bit, kind of like the way those terminals worked in Halo 3. All of these, when found, are put in some scrapbook that's accessible from the Main Menu, and arranged in a more or less logical order.

The reason the story only gets a B+: if you think about games like BioShock and Mass Effect and the Halo series with their very immersive storylines, GoW 2 is still not quite there. But it is closer to that state now than it was previously.

I won't reveal any more in this part, but definitely expect a lot more of a plot that serves as a backdrop to all the fighting that's going on. Epic Games did a good job of piquing your interest and making you want to learn more.


The characters come across a lot more human in this one. I have mentioned that the mood in this game comes across with a lot more of a sense of urgency to beat the Locust. As you play the game, you begin to feel more and more of a connection with each of the characters and in some cases, almost have to just stop playing when certain characters die... Let's leave it at that.

All that said, the game needs a better scriptwriter if it is to convey a stronger storyline.


With the first game, I recall beating it my first time around with a friend on Hardcore, and then on Insane, and then going around and helping each of my roommates and a good number of friends beat the game on both difficulty settings. The same will probably hold for this game. I think it's a thrilling enough of a ride that I wouldn't mind going over it over and over and over...


To sum up, this game is definitely worth the $60.

PROS: This is all about gameplay and the feel of the game. Even on top of all the additional features and improvements, it is still undoubtedly Gears of War. The controls remain very intuitive and easy to learn. It's easily one of the best 3rd person shooters out there, in my opinion.

CONS: I think storyline could have been a lot deeper. I guess they are saving this for Gears of War 3. Violence may be a little too much for the unprepared. Right now, this is all I can think of.

FINAL VERDICT: A. This is a very well-made game. I have the tendency to buy games and sell them back when I'm done. But I think GoW 2 will probably be a mainstay in my library, just as GoW was. For that, plus all the +'s I have mentioned, I think this game deserves an awesome grade. Can I hear Game of the Year?