Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Persona Persona Call Out Your Persona!!!

The wait is finally over and Persona 4 is finally here. Alot of people wondered would it be worth it being on the PS2 this far into the current generation? I can safely that the PS2 doesn't hold Persona 4 back at all and in fact Persona 4 is in my opinion the best RPG of the year.

I have to say that it amazes me how much better Persona 4 looks over Persona 3 considering the game uses the same engine. The character models are in most cases alot larger and far more detailed then they were in Persona 3. The environments also look far better and are more varied then they were in Persona 3.

The story of Persona 4 centers around your character(he is unnamed and it is up to you to name him) moving to the rural town of Inaba to live with your Uncle and his little daughter Nanako for a year. Upon your arrival a string of grisly murders begins and it is up to you with your new found power of Persona to solve the case and get to the bottom of the mystery. The game is incredibly well written and has plenty of twists and turns along the way as well as 4 different endings.

Returning again for the soundtrack is Shoji Meguro and the soundtrack again is extremely catchy and the songs are a bit less repetitive then Persona 3's soundtrack was. The voice acting is great for the main characters although some of the voices seem a bit out of place at first. As well as some minor characters seem very very miscast. For example anyone who has played Persona 3 will no doubt be familiar with Chihiro the student counsel treasurer. She makes a small cameo in Persona 4 and is voiced by Wendee Lee. Now don't get me wrong Wendee Lee is one of the best voice actresses out there however her voice does not fit Chihiro and therefore she ends up feeling out of place as a result. But this is a very minor gripe because as I mentioned this issue only tends to be a problem with the minor characters you see only a few times throughout the entire game.

When it comes to gameplay it's pretty much the same as Persona 3 with a few tweaks. There are now more stats related to Social links where as Persona 3 only had 3 stats Persona 4 has 5 Courage, Knowledge, Diligence, Understand and Expression. More often then not these stats will need to be high enough to trigger certain Social Links. Social Links as well have changed a bit as well as you will now sometimes be able to level multiple Links at once. Let me set the stage for you. You agree to spend the day with a friend on Sunday and you head to the Bookstore where you happen to run into another friend. You will now spend the day with both friends and in effect be leveling both of the Links at the same time. Not only is this very convenient but it also makes for some entertaining combo's of friends. Another change to make note of is that the Social Links of party members will directly effect how the perform in battle. For example if the level of the Social Link is high enough a party member may take a fatal blow for you in battle that would have otherwise ended the game. This is just a small example of how raising Social Links effect performance in battle.

When it comes to battle again the game is very similar but has some welcomed tweaks. You can now take complete control over all the members in your party which is a very welcome addition especially considering that the Bosses are far more difficult then they were in Persona 3. For the most part you will be looking to exploit the weakness of the Shadows you encounter so that you can perform the infamous All Out Attack which in most cases kills every enemy instantly. Also welcome is that you can now choose which abilities you allies Persona will forget once they learn a new skill which is very welcome as you can tune them to perform better this way. Overall you have more control over every aspect of battle which as I said is needed because the bosses are a bit more difficult then they were in the past.

The bottom line is I could keep talking all day about the finer details of Persona 4 and it's improvements over the previous game however I don't have that much time. It would also be far easier to just play the game for yourself. It's quite interesting that the best RPG so far this gen is a PS2 game which I don't think anyone would have foreseen. As for all Atlus games I suggest you act quite because Atlus games tend to disappear quickly thanks to their very limited runs. Seeing how much a improvement Persona 4 was over the last game I can't help but be extremely excited to see what the future of the franchise brings us.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Best Sonic yet?

For awhile now Sonic has been suffering from really lack luster releases. Many say that Sonic has not seen a good 3d game since Sonic Adventure 2 on the Dreamcast. Sonic Unleashed aims to fix that. Does it succeed? Yes it does but that's not to say it's anywhere near perfect.

First off lets start with how the game looks. Upon booting up the game you are greeted with a stunning CG opening which honestly makes me wonder why Sega has not made a Sonic CG movie. I'm sure one would be a total success were it to be made. CG aside the game is still very nice to look at. The night stages in particular have very beautiful effects and even suffer from a bit of slowdown every now and then.

Now I mentioned night stages. The game is split between night stages and day stages. At night Sonic turns into a Werehog. The game basically functions as a beat em up at night. Surprisingly there are quite a few moves to learn as you level up and get more and more powerful. There are also a few bosses that are quite fun to fight as well. So while they may feel somewhat out of place in a Sonic game I do think that the night time stages are a welcome addition. One thing I would like to add is that I don't understand the reason for Sonic to undergo a transformation for these night levels. They could have easily used Knuckles as the character for the night time missions which would make perfect sense. It would have also given Knuckles a role in the game. Doing this would have changed little in terms of storyline but I digress.

When it comes to the daylight stages in the game I have to say I am impressed. This is by far the best 3d game to capture Sonic's speed. The best part is that most of the time it is very fun to play. I say most of the time because there are a few sections in the game that are extremely annoying and that goes for night time stages as well. The daylight stages play somewhat like you are on a track most of the time however it never feels like that as you have many many different paths to take and rest assured you are in complete control most of the time. The speed at which you go through some of the stages is mind boggling. Like I said this game captures Sonic's speed very very well.

When it comes to storyline well. The game has one. It's nothing bad or good it's just kinda there. It revolves around Dr. Eggman waking up a evil being known as Dark Gaia which can control the way people feel at night and plots to destroy the world and it's up to Sonic to stop it. Like I said nothing special but Sonic fans will enjoy it nonetheless.

On the negative side the game like I said earlier does have a bit of slow down. Also there are a few horribly designed stages both night time and day time throughout the game that will be sure to annoy and frustrate you. However they are few and far between so it's not really a deal breaker. There are also still a few control issues in the game but they aren't nearly as bad as past games in the series. Also the final series of battles are incredibly annoying and seem to go on forever.

If you can get over the few problems I mentioned then you will surely enjoy yourself and fans of the Sonic franchise are in for a treat. By all means I would highly suggest giving the game a rental at least.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gears of Meh.

I would like to consider myself a fan of the first Gears of War. I played it just as much as Halo 3 online and although the campaign had it's flaws I still thought it to be a decent diversion and co-op was certainly fun. But now that I have played Gears of War 2 I have walked away extremely disappointed. Now before I continue be aware that this article will contain MASSIVE spoilers so please do not continue unless you have completed the game.

Now what everyone expects from a sequel is bigger better and more bad ass which is something the team behind gears said was their mantra while making the game but that didn't seem very apparent to me. At no point did I feel the game was better or more epic then the first game. Sure the game looks a bit better but in my opinion it was blown way out of proportion how much better the game looked over the first game because it is only marginally better. Now that in itself isn't a bad thing as Gears 1 was one of the best looking games around when it came out. But lets move on.

Now one thing everyone complained about in Gears 1 was the story or lack thereof as the game had little in terms of plot. Sure there was a storyline but you weren't really given much to go by. Now this is where the spoilers come in so please avert your eyes if you wish not to have key points of the game spoiled for you. Now alot of people have been saying the Gears 2 storyline is much better however I don't see why. There are more cut scenes but that doesn't mean that the game has a better story. My beef is lack of emotion. Gears 2 introduces quite a few new characters however they are all killed off before the end of the game. This makes no sense to me as you are hardly given more then 2-3hrs to get to know these characters and when they die you don't really care. Similarly when Dom finally finds his wife and has to kill her because of the state she is in how would you care? You don't know his wife she appears in a brief 10-15 second flashback and that's all you get other then Dom complaining about wanting to find her. If it's Dom you are supposed to be feeling sad for again the question comes up. Why? You don't know much about him other then that he seems to be Marcus' friend and seems to only be around so the 2nd player has someone to control during Co-op.

When it comes to evolving the characters there isn't much going on save for Baird. For those who have taken their time going through you will most likely have found the various research papers written by Baird which in turn expands his character as you learn that he is quite a intelligent guy and he is not only fighting but trying to understand whats going on during the war. As for everyone else they don't really change at all. Marcus is still big and gruff, Cole is still unstoppable and funny and Dom still follows Marcus around complaining about his wife. So really nothing happens in terms of character evolution.

Now another thing that bothered me was Gears 2's tendency to use gimmicky game play sequences like driving a tank or riding a Reaver or Brumak. The Reaver portion in particular lasts far to long. Now I know alot of people will say these sequences add to the variety of the game which is fine. However none of them control very well and they really only seem to be there to speed up the pace of the game or in the case of the Brumak slow down the pace of the game. Which is a sad thing as the last portion of the game shines until the Brumak section kills all the momentum and slows it down.

Now I will admit the multi player does redeem the game to a certain extent. Horde mode is a incredibly fun experience and I will challenge anyone to say otherwise. Sure at this point in time the multi player is a bit unbalanced but I'm sure that will be fixed at a later date as Gears 1 was patched to fix alot of the complaints of the community not long after it's release. As new maps are released I'm sure Gears 2 will be the place to be on Xbox Live and for good reason. One thing I would like to say is thank you to Epic for the spectator modes in Gears 2. In Gears 1 when you died you would normally just sit there and do nothing as the fixed camera almost always prevented you from getting a good view of what was going on in the remainder of the match. Gears 2 however has a incredibly flexible system that allows you to always keep the action in view and also allows you to take pictures. It's like a Demented Pokemon snap and gives you something to do until the next round starts.

Now I don't want anyone to misunderstand. I didn't hate or dislike Gears 2 I was simply disappointed. I followed the game quite a bit until it's release and I have to admit I was drinking the Kool Aid. I think after following the game and hearing all Cliffy B had to say about the game and the Tech behind it I built myself up to be disappointed. Here's hoping that Gears 3(Oh yes don't kid yourself there will be a Gears 3) will take the series to the next step in more ways then one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The reflection isn't always perfect.

Mirror's Edge was a game that impressed me with it's concept and I thought great now someone is finally trying to bring Breakdown to the next level. While I learned I was off the mark a bit I was still interested. Now that the game is finally here I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed.

First off I have to get this off my chest. Whoever decided that Mirror's Edge should have those Horribly animated cut scenes should be fired. No questions just gone. These cut scenes are the most horrible things I have seen in a game in a long time. They look cheap they aren't animated very well at all and they are just downright ugly. In fact they look so bad it's not a stretch to think that people may skip them and if they do this they will not get whats going on in the story. Not that that's a bad thing as the story is entirely forgettable. You play Faith who is a runner and your sister gets framed for a crime she didn't commit. Sounds like the plot of your average thriller no? Well therein lies the problem. The plot is so easy to read that you will see everything coming from a million miles away. There is one point in the game that I think was supposed to be a shocking twist however I already saw it coming about a hour before it happened so it was no shock to me. The whole game plays out like this so it's not really worth following the plot. The game is also tragically short about 5-6 hours depending on the difficultly.

When it comes to game play it's a bit of a mixed bag. When you are running the game is at it's best as running feels like it should and you feel like you can go anywhere and do anything. Until that is you find out that there is really only one path that works 90% of the time and it often comes down to trial and error. Will this path work? No? Ok how about this one? Yup. Ok that's the path you were supposed to take. Sure there are a few points in the game in which they will downright show you that there is more then one way to get to where you need to go but they are few and far between. If you can get used to this then the game is a joy to play. Until the last third of the game. You see throughout the whole game you are taught to always run from a fight and for good reason Faith isn't some superhero who can take down countless baddies with ease. She is just a runner and that's it. But then the game decides to throw tons of enemies at you and MAKE you have to beat them to continue. This is a chore because the combat isn't very good and is often times extremely frustrating.

What it comes down to is that most players will enjoy the first half of the game or so but when it comes time to be forced to take on the countless amounts of baddies the game throws at you players will either give up or get extremely angry. Either way it's a bad thing. Once you beat the game you don't have much to do either. Sure you can do the time trials and try to perfect your runs and there is the bags to collect throughout the story mode. However these offer little value to the overall package and clocking in at only 5 or so hours it just doesn't seem like a good value.
Mirror's Edge is definitely worth a rent if only to see how fun the running can be. But it's very hard to justify a purchase of a game this short and at the end of the day flawed. I would very much like to see a sequel to the game as DICE can easily fix the problems the game has.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Long live the Valkyria.

The first time I saw Valkyria Chronicles awhile back I was quickly impressed by the games unique look and feel. Now that I have finally gotten to play the game for my self I have nothing but praise for the game. I'll start this off real simple. Valkyria Chronicles is a masterpiece in every way. If you own a PS3 and you don't own this game you are very much missing out. I think it is more then enough of a reason to own a PS3 alone. Why is it that I feel this way? Well read on.

As any who have seen the game will attest Valkyria Chronicles is absolutely gorgeous. The game utilizes Sega's CANVAS engine in which they describe the game to look like a living watercolor painting. Personally I think it looks more like a living sketch but that's not the point here. The point is the game is beautiful. The style the game has is undeniable and certain portions of the game will downright shock you with how beautiful they are.

When it comes to sound again nothing but praise. The game has a top notch voice cast that was able to deliver on all of the emotional moments and the Japanese voices are also included. The soundtrack fits the mood of the game perfectly. If there is one gripe with the game it could be that the gun sounds could have been a bit more realistic but that is a very very minor thing amidst all this greatness.

The game play is another very unique aspect of the game. The game is a cross between a third person action game and Final Fantasy Tactics. You will be givin a map showing all your units however once you select a unit you will go into direct control and move that unit around the field and attack. It's unlike anything I have seen before and is very refreshing. The great thing about it is that it never feels repetitive which is a very good thing. The game breaks down units into a few different classes. You have Scout, Shocktrooper, Sniper, Engineer and Lancer. Now most of those explain themselves expect for Lancer. The Lancer wields a giant lance(hence the name) that has a tip packed with explosives that can be fired like a rocket. They are primarily used as Anti-Tank unit's but as the game unfolds you will find other uses as well.

When it comes to storyline and characters this is perhaps where the game shines the most. Every character feels extremely human and you will care about what happens to them. The war the characters fight and the losses they endure through out are heart rending. Believe me when I say you will cry during this game. At many points in fact. The game shows just how beautiful and how ugly human behavior can be. For those out there that don't know what the game is about I will give a very brief idea of what you can expect. Welkin Gunther returns home after being gone for awhile only to find that War has been declared on Gallia and his home town has been caught right in the middle. He is forced to follow in his Father's foot steps and join the Gallian Milita and help fend off the Empire to save those he loves and his home town. Now I'm not gonna go any deeper into the story then this as it is a pleasure to experience it for yourself.

As I said Valkyria Chronicles is a masterpiece and a game every PS3 owner should have. This is one of those games that comes along once in a generation and should not be missed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welcome back to Silent Hill.

It's been a long time coming but Silent Hill has finally arrived on next-gen platforms. Was it worth the wait? Well read on and find out.

Silent Hill Homecoming follows the story of Alex Shepard a soldier returning from war to his hometown of Shepard's Glen. However not all is what it seems. The town seems to be in a state of disarray and Alex's younger brother is missing. So Alex sets out to find his brother and it's not long before he finds out Silent Hill's involvement in all the problems with Shepard's Glen. Now as far as storyline goes there is good and bad. The storyline is solid however Homecoming borrows alot more from the sub par Silent Hill movie then it does from past Silent Hill games. This isn't to say Homecoming doesn't have a good story because it does but if you disliked the film you may be offput by all the similarities such as monsters the way the hell state appears. There are many more things to mention however I may be entering spoiler country by doing so. So lets leave it at that.

Visually the game is a bit mixed. The creatures look great and there is real time damage in place so as you slash at a creature you will see real time cuts and slashes appear on them. Most of the time Alex looks very detailed and great however there are a few instances in which he looks unfinished but they are few and far between. All other characters models however look unpolished and rough when compared to Alex. The fact that you will often see them on the same screen as Alex makes it that much more noticeable. The environments look pretty good most of the time and they look downright incredible during the Hell state. The transformation into the hell state was also handled very well. It is all in real time as the world peels away and the Hell state begins to show it self. Again very similar to the film.

This time around the combat system really allows you to fight back against the horrible creatures of Silent Hill. You can combo and dodge attacks as well as Counter attack and the like. Fire arms also are easier to use as they are far easier to aim. The combat system does take some getting used to and at first may seem a bit clunky however once you get the hang of it you will have no problems at all. The classic Radio and Flashlight return again and believe me when I say you WILL need them as Homecoming is a very dark game.

When it comes to sound design you are talking about Homecomings strongest point. The Voice acting is well done for most of the characters with no one standing out as horribly bad. But it's the sound you hear while around and about that makes this game. There always seems to be a tension in the air and hearing the white noise of the radio often adds to this as you near a enemy. Creature sounds are also very well done. Akira Yamaoka again did the soundtrack and once again delivers great music that fits the game very well especially in some of the boss encounters.

Overall Homecoming is a solid entry in the series but doesn't approach the level of the first 3 games which I consider to all be equally as masterful and are very much my favorite. If you are a fan of the franchise or a fan of survival horror in general it's certainly worth playing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So StarCraft II is big.

So recently Blizzard let out that StarCraft II is going to ship as 3 different games. The reason behind this is because the campaign is far to big to be done the traditional way. Now obviously there are alot of questions to be answered about this issue.

One of those questions is just how big are we talking here Blizzard? Well some reports state that each races campaign is as long as the entirety of all of the original StarCraft. Now if that's true that's quite a large game we are going to have.

The biggest worry right now is how the pricing is going to work. If Blizzard charges 50$ per game we are talking 150$ to play the entire StarCraft II saga. That's quite a pretty penny and may not be within the range of alot of gamers out there. Also remember that this figure doesn't account for any expansions the game may have down the line so the game could quite possibly end up more expensive. Even if Blizzard decides to sell the games cheaper then a normal product the combined three will still cost far more then a single game alone.

Would it have been better if Blizzard simply split each of the campaigns and then finished them via a expansion? Possibly. But I guess we won't know until the game finally ships. Or I guess I should say until the first part of the game ships.

Be open minded about evil kids.

So the latest entry in the Disgaea series is finally upon us and it seems alot of people have been giving it a bit of a hard time. But I'm here to tell that not only is it the same great game we have come to love but it's even better.

First off we are gonna talk about graphics now if you have played past games in the Disgaea series you know what to expect. Now the game has been criticized for not using the power of the PS3 to it's advantage and I'm here to tell you that it does. While technically the game looks exactly as Disgaea 2 and Disgaea 1 before it that isn't to say it isn't using the PS3. There are countless animations for abilities and spells that would have never been possible on the PS2. Those who have played Odin Sphere and saw the slow down when the game got intense will know exactly what I'm talking about. So while the game isn't a next gen graphics masterpiece that's ok as I would think the series would lose a bit of it's charm if it ended up looking to much different.

The soundtrack is another great highlight of the game with Tenpei Sato delivering another catchy upbeat soundtrack that we have come to expect from the series. The Voice acting is also great and has pretty good anime cast in the line up. The original Japanese is also included so that is a definite plus.

Now the game play is the way you remember from Disgaea 1 and 2. It's you general turn based strategy action with great over the top animations. Now where the game changes it up a bit is that the game is far deeper. In past Disgaea games you would simply level up and learn things as you go and things would get more powerful the more you used them. While that's still true to a certain degree you are now able to customize the way you want a character to grow. You all remember the Mana you are rewarded with after each kill. In past games Mana was simply used for the council to get certain things like making new characters and getting better items. However in addition to all of those things Disgaea 3 allows you to use that Mana to let characters learn new abilities and spells and even new Evilties which are basic native traits that are always active. The great thing about this system is it allows you to make the characters into what you want them to be.

You will also be using Mana for other things as well such as creating new Clubs. That's right folks you can make new school clubs. You can appoint members of the party to the clubs and they gain a benefit from being part of the club. For example there is a club that allows characters seated in the corners of the classroom to earn 25% more experience. There are plenty of clubs as well and you will be sure to unlock plenty of them first time around. The Item world also returns. For those unfamiliar with the item world it basically allows you to enter a Item and level it up as you progress through the stages and it's a great way to level and make items even more powerful. Find a great weapon? Well enter the item world and make it even better and even more powerful.

The great Disgaea humor also makes a return. This time around you play as Mao Number 1 Honor Student of Evil Academy. Now when I saw honor student it's really not what you think. Mao is a demon after all. Being a honor student in the netherworld means being evil not attending class and never doing your homework. On the flip side those who do go to class, do good deeds and always do their homework are the delinquents of the school. This alone makes alot of the conversations between characters extremely funny. The story is basically about Mao wanting to defeat his father for destroying his games. It just so happens that Mao's father is also the Overlord of the netherworld. The story has plenty of laugh out loud moments and that's not easy to find in gaming nowadays so it's great fun.

All in all if you liked the past games in the series then you will love Disgaea 3. If you haven't played any of the previous games there is no better place to start. The only excuse not to play is if you aren't a fan of the humor or the game play. Otherwise pick it up.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Infinite Undiscovery.

Infinite Undiscovery is a odd one. This is a game said to contain 10 years worth of RPG concepts that could only be realized with the power of the Xbox 360. It's from Tri Ace a dev known for great games in the past however it just fell so so short of what it should have been and the reasons for this are many. 

We will start this review a bit different. Normally I would tell you about the good a game has to offer and then save the negatives for last however we are gonna reverse that this time around as there is a bit more to talk about on the negative side. Now don't get me wrong this doesn't mean that Infinite Undiscovery is a bad game and if you don't believe me please read to the end of this review.

Infinite Undiscovery is a game that needed alot more polish then it ended up getting in the end. That could really be the main problem with the game. The graphics show moments of being great particularly at the end of the game in the final area. However the vast majority of the time they are simply serviceable. Also the character models are hit and miss. Capell the lead of the game looks great as does Aya the Female lead. The rest are a bit hit and miss. Rico and Rucha look great however Eugene and Michelle look odd for some reason. Speaking of odd Infinite Undiscovery has some of the worst Lip syncing ever this generation. Now some of you out there will say that's because the game was originally Japanese and the mouths match that language. Not so. The Lip sync is so bad there is no way it was better even with the Japanese. In fact the movement of the mouths in general looks a bit like that of a dummy at certain points. This may have been less noticeable if you could play the game in Japanese but it would still be a problem. Oh and yes you read that correctly, you can not switch to the original Japanese voice track. Normally that wouldn't be that bad however the Voice acting in Infinite Undiscovery is horrible. There are some characters that sound OK but the vast majority are horrid. The cast does get better as the game goes on but it still isn't all that great. It's a good thing that the main 2 characters Capell and Aya have decent voice actors because they have alot of the better moments in the game.

One of the other sticking points for me was that the areas in the game were sometimes far to big. Now generally I would not complain about something like this however Infinite Undiscovery has one of the worst mapping systems ever. The maps only show exactly where you have been which is very annoying when the areas are so big and expansive. The game really needed prefilled maps. Some of the areas are so large that you can get lost for almost a hour without knowing where you are going. 

Whew that was a mouth full. Now with that out of the way we can get on to the good stuff. Infinite Undiscovery has a great combat system. It's somewhat like a MMO however it's all real time. You have a weak attack(A) and a strong attack(B) you can also hold down these buttons to use special moves as well.The game does a great job of giving you plenty of members to experiment with and gives inactive members experience as well so you are really encouraged to mess with your setup. There are also a great number of moves and spells to learn so combat never really feels all that boring. Leveling also comes fast so you will not spend much time grinding. You can generally get by just fighting what you come across and not have a problem with the game.

Now in my last review I mentioned that Motoi Sakuraba's Tales of Vesperia failed to deliver a soundtrack that could live up to his previous track record with games like Trusty Bell and Valkyrie Profile 2 however I am glad to report that his work in Infinite Undiscovery is a very good return to form. There are plenty of top notch songs worth listening to over and over and they relay what is happening on screen very well.

There is also a fairly deep creation system in the game in which you can make food, Armor,Weapons as well as enchanting Armor and Weapons in a similar fashion. There are plenty of items to make and the system is very simple and works very well. I found it very fun to mess around and make things as the game went on.

Infinite Undiscovery also has a great story line. Which I believe is worth experiencing despite all the problems I mentioned. The moon has been chained to the earth to allow people to gain it's power via what is known as Lunaglyphs however the chains are also causing horrible disasters all over the world. However there is one man who is fighting to free the moon from it's chains. This man named Sigmund is known world wide as The Liberator. However you do not take on the role of Sigmund. You play as a young man by the name of Capell who at the start of the game has been thrown in jail because he looks exactly like Sigmund. As the game begins the young woman known as Aya frees Capell under the assumption that he is indeed Sigmund. One thing leads to another and Capell is thrust into something he neither wanted nor asked for. The story is very well done and does not rely on cliches all that much. In fact during the last 5 or so hours of the game I had forgotten all the issues I have mentioned thus far. I was completely Engrossed by what was happening and could not put the game down until I saw the credits role. 

All in all Infinite Undiscovery is a game certainly worth giving a shot. You will find out pretty quickly if you will want to stick with the game to the end. Some will stay simply for the combat and some like me will be able to look past all the issues to see that great story that lies within. There is no denying that the game has issues and needed to remain in development for a while longer however most of those issues are superficial and do not prevent the game from being played. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Tales Of Brave Vesperia.

Tales of Vesperia is the latest in the long running Tales series and it had alot to live up to being the first next-gen entry in the series and boy did it live up to it all. It's great to see a classic style J-RPG come around as we don't get many of them very often anymore. 

First off lets talk about the graphics in Vesperia. Vesperia uses a Cel Shaded style popular among anime themed games and for good reason as it's the closet thing to anime you can get without using full blown anime cut scenes 24/7. However don't expect to be blown away by Tales look. The game looks great but isn't even comparable to something like Trusty Bell (Eternal Sonata for those in the US). On the other hand the anime cut scenes will blow you away. The character design and anime cut scenes were handled by Production I.G. and any anime fan worth their merit will know that Production I.G. does incredible stuff. Many of these cut scenes are down right stunning in their beauty, It's a shame there aren't more of them here.

The combat is extremely fun. Think the Devil May Cry of RPG's only slower in pace. Everything is in real time and you will form combo's guard and use special moves and Magic to survive encounters. The great thing about the combat is that it is constantly evolving over the course of the game. Be it from new mechanics being added or the hundreds upon hundreds of moves you can learn the combat always feels fresh and fun to play.

The story is a bit off putting in that at first glace it seems to be nothing special. It simply starts with the main character Yuri Lowell investigating the theft of a Aqua blastia core from the Lower Quarter of Zapias. He soon gets arrested and breaks out of the Dungeon where he meets up with a young lady who joins him on his journey to find the stolen blastia. Now the story takes the first 6-7 hrs of game play to get you introduced to the various characters from the game but the story quickly becomes far more mature and deep then it first lets on. There are plenty of plot twists some of which come out of no where and you will never seen coming. It is certainly a story worth experiencing granted it takes a little to really take off. 

Now as for sound the game has a decent soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba but it's not close to the level of his other work in games like Trusty Bell and Valkryie Profile 2 Silmeria. The voice acting on the other hand is a grand slam. We are talking about a All star anime voice cast here with the likes of Liam O Brian, Sam Regal, Michelle Ruff and Wendee Lee just to name a few. There are no bad voice with the exception of one and that's done of purpose as he is a annoying character so they helped get that across  via his voice. Combat is constantly full of chatter be it story related chatter or simply spells being chanted and moves being called out. One of the great things I noticed from the game was the amount of victory dialog there was. There is at least 50 different things that the characters will say after a battle depending on who is in the party who killed the last monster who performed the best and so on and they are all very funny. The game also has this innovative feature they call Skits. Skits are little dialog sequences that can be activated when the game tells you to press the Back Button. These Skits are basically the characters talking to each other about various things and it really helps you learn about them and also gives a deeper understanding of whats going on in the storyline. A simple but very effective method of getting to know the characters. There are 100's of these skits and I don't even think I was able to see them all.

So as you can see the game really is a great entry in the series. There is little to bog down the experience. You vary rarely need to grind because of the nature of the combat system you can win battles even if you are very under leveled in fact one of the games achievements is about that fact. If you are a J-RPG fan or ever just a causal RPG fan there is no reason for Tales of Vesperia not to be in your collection. 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Will Xbox 360 Final Fantasy XIII outsell PS3?

So recently I have been seeing alot of debates and alot of articles talking about how it's a very real possibility that the Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XIII will outsell the PS3 version. Now I am not here today to have yet another discussion about why it will outsell the PS3 but I am here to tell you why it wont.

Personally I think it's gonna sell better on PS3 because First and foremost PS3 is the only place to get the full Final Fantasy XIII experience by which I mean VS XIII is still exclusive and Nomura-san said it would stay so. You may not consider that a very valid reason but trust me for Final Fantasy and RPG fans in general it is a very big deal. Second is the PS3 version is going to be better quality.Be it better graphics, faster load times, better sound or simply the fact that it will be on a single Blu-ray disc the PS3 version is going to have something on the xbox version. Personally I think the Xbox version may suffer from slowdown. Any of those who have played Ninja Gaiden II know that there are many points in the game in which the game has a bit a slow down and one point in the game with MASSIVE slowdown. Lets be honest with ourselves Ninja Gaiden isn't even close to being in the same ball park graphically as FFXIII is. With that being the case it is reasonable to assume that the Xbox 360 version of the game is going to have some sort of technical flaw.

The way SE has been talking about the 360 version it seems as if they haven't even tested it yet. Meaning they don't know how well it will work. We have heard them many times say that the 360 port is not underway and it will not begin until after the PS3 version is complete. That being the case I wouldn't be shocked if they bit off more then they can chew and just aren't aware of it yet. Although this is SE we are talking about so they must have thought it through to some degree.

Also you must consider that alot of the Final Fantasy diehards like myself bought a PS3 long before they announced the Xbox version and they are not going to sell off their PS3's or anything. At least the majority won't as I have heard of people that say they will be boycotting the game because they feel betrayed by Square. Let me say this now Square did not betray anyone. They have always done what is best for the company. Back in the days of the PS1 and N64 they knew that the N64 would not be able to deliver on their vision for FFVII and because of this they changed over from Nintendo to Sony. Just think Final Fantasy simply would not be what it is today had it stayed on the Nintendo consoles. This generation is notorious for insanely high production costs in some cases exceeding those in Hollywood. Developers need to find ways to help recoup these losses and that is exactly what Square did. Sony was not betrayed in fact I would say they have it pretty good as far as Square goes. Square recently announced PSP versions of both Parasite Eve The 3rd Birthday and Final Fantasy Agito XIII not to mention the already in development Dissidia and Kingdom Heats Birth By Sleep as well as Final Fantasy VS XIII. Sony has plenty of Square exclusives so it is clear the relationship between the two companies is well and good.

So fear not it is a strong possibility that Final Fantasy XIII will sell better on PS3 and not only that but it just may be a better game on PS3.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Tale of Souls Eternally Retold.

Soul Calibur 4 is finally upon us. It's a exciting thing considering we don't get much quality fighters anymore. Soul Calibur 4 is probably one of the best fighters this generation and easily the best in the series. However that doesn't mean its perfect in fact it is far from such.

First off the game is gorgeous easily one of the best looking fighters out there. Environments are indeed destructible however you may not really notice as you wont see it all that often. Armor and equipment can be destroyed this time around which is nice. Some Environments are beautiful and really show off what the engine can do however the vast majority of the areas are dark dank cave or castle like areas that don't really show off much. The fighting animation is also top notch.

Now when it comes to balance well.... Soul Calibur has never been a series to concerned with balance. Yoda on the Xbox 360 version of the game proves this. Yoda is straight up broken. Far to many attacks miss him because of his height and he seems to be immune to throws. Vader is better balanced however if someone can learn how to use his force powers well enough he too is broken. Many of the characters have a few attacks that can be spammed over and over to win with very few chances to stop the chain and mount a counter attack. However the AI in the game doesn't do this and you will only have to worry about friends and people online doing this.

Which brings me to the online mode. Soul Calibur online is a very mixed bag. Often there are mass amounts of lag that will screw with your timing preventing you from playing properly. When the lag isn't there you will most likely be facing off against one of the aforementioned spammers which will quickly become annoying. However when these problems don't appear playing online is incredibly fun. It's great fun to show off characters you have made against others online and it's always entertaining to see what others have made and their reactions to your creations. Which brings me to the best thing about Soul Calibur 4.

Create a Soul mode. This is a mode that allows you to create a character which considering how many characters are already in the game is impressive. You start off with a decent amount of gear and will gain more by unlocking Honors(PS3) or Achievements(360) or by earning the gear piece by piece in the tower of souls. The sad thing is that the Create a soul mode could be alot deeper and I'm sure it will be as more and more DLC becomes available but it's sad it wasn't there from the very start. Also something to note that I found a little odd is that Male characters are far more customizable then female characters. Male characters have more gear to choose from as well as more faces which I found a bit odd. That being said Create a soul mode is still the best thing Soul Calibur 4 has going for it.

I'll Also give a quick mention of the guest characters. You all already know about Vader and Yoda. However there are a few characters designed by famous manga artists in the game as well. They look great and each of them has a good back story. What is sad though is that they are all just pallet swaps of other characters already in the game for example Shura = Cervantes. It's sad because when Namco made their own character they made a new fighting style I'm of course speaking of Hilde who is the only new character that has her own new style of fighting. It's disappointing yet they are still welcome additions to the game.

So all in all Soul Calibur 4 is either a love it or hate it affair. I would suggest giving the game a rent to see how you like it and if you do buy all means buy it. I'm sure the game will receive plenty of DLC in the future. The question of if that content will be worth paying for is debatable.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

E3 Thoughts.

Well E3 has come and gone and while there were some great announcements I would argue that most gamers will feel that it wasn't the best of shows this year.

Nintendo's presser was to me a big slap in the face of the core gamers. Nothing they showed proved that they cared about the core gamer. Sure they briefly let out that the teams behind Zelda and Mario are working on new projects but they never told us what they were or when to expect them. A new Animal Crossing game was announced but that's more of a casual game then a Core gamers game. Everything else was casual fair such as Wii Sports Resort and Wii music. Wii Sports Resort is the title that will be used to show of the new Wii Motion Plus attachment that tracks the Wii motes movement far more accurately supposedly a 1:1 ratio. The Nintendo conference was definitely the bore of the Big 3 conferences.

Next we have Sony. Sony's conference was pretty good in that they showed the games and they kept the numbers game to a minimum. However considering they used a very creative Little Big Planet level to show the numbers in a very fun way that showed off what Little Big Planet can really do I guess we could have done with more numbers in this case. It was a great way of getting more people to realize how great Little Big Planet will be once it finally ships. They showed a incredible demo of Resistance 2 that showcased a battle with the MASSIVE levitation. The demo was certainly impressive as the monster is immense. The player was picked up a few times and needed to fire a rocket into the monsters mouth before being thrown down. While the demo was brief it did show that Resistance 2 is certainly stepping up the intensity the second time around. Also of interest was a new game called M.A.G or Massive Action Game. This shooter is said to allow up to 256 players into a single game. They showed a CG trailer show casing the concept of the game but it really will be hard to tell just exactly the game will function with that many players until we see more. They showed a concept of squads of players but that doesn't help explain enough. Oh and lets not forget the God of War III teaser trailer. Yes the game is now official however the teaser trailer was very short and little was revealed about the plot. However there is already rumors spreading that the game is close in terms of graphics to the CG teaser that was shown off.

Now Last but certainly not least we have Microsoft. Plenty of rumors were proven to be true for Microsoft as they announced a complete overhaul of the Xbox Dashboard that will implement Avatars. Avatars seem to be alot like Mii's except far more customizable if the video shown was anything to go by. Also announced was Lips. A very Singstar esque game however the video shown shows being able to use a Zune or a Ipod to import music into the game possibly allowing you to use your own music in the game. However it is still somewhat unclear exactly how that will work. In addition to many proven rumors Microsoft also showed off what we want, The games. We were shown Demo's of Resident Evil 5 which showed for the first time that the game will be Co-op playable. Also shown was a very impressive Gears of War 2 demo. The demo showcased just how far the game has come since the first. There is always alot more going on on screen as well as the fact that the areas seem to be far more expansive then the first. The biggest moment came when Microsoft dropped the biggest Bombshell of the show and that is that Final Fantasy XIII will be coming to Xbox 360 in America. I say America at the end of that because it will only be coming to Xbox 360 in the US and Europe it will stay a PS3 exclusive in Japan. This news was certainly a shock to everyone in attendance. It was a shock to me that news this big didn't leak before the show.

Other games at the Show that impressed me were Mirror's Edge. This First Person Action game is very different then a FPS so you shouldn't call it one. You play a runner named Faith who is out to get revenge on the government for framing her sister for a murder she didn't commit. What is so great about this game is how the immersion really makes you feel for Faith. When Faith runs you she her arms pumping when you roll you see your torso it's as if you are seeing things through Faith's eyes and not just drone as in most First Person games. Think Breakdown except far more fluid and polished. Combat is not the focus of Mirror's Edge in fact it will be the running and platforming that is. There will even be a achievement for getting through the entire game without killing a single person.

Another impressive game was inFAMOUS. This game is by the guys at Sucker Punch which you may remember from the Sly Cooper series. Infamous is a open world game in which you play a guy who gains powers that you must choose to use for good or bad. The short demo shown was quite impressive. However alot more needs to be seen to show off the true potential of this game.

While there are certainly alot more games to talk about these are just the great ones that caught my eye. Also keep an eye out for. Little Big Planet, Mercenaries 2, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Halo Wars and the many more incredible games that will be coming soon. This will certainly be a very full holiday season.

But wait. Didn't I say that I didn't feel this show was really all that great? Why yes I did. My reasoning behind this is that in the past E3 always had many HUGE bombshell announcements and new game reveals. While we certainly had alot of incredible games at this years show we really didn't see that much new announced. We basically just got more info on the games we already knew about. While that is great there is just something fun about being shown newer, bigger and better games. I read a interesting interview where a dev said that the mid July timing of the new E3 may be to blame as most of the devs are simply trying to get their games ready for the Holiday Season and they really can't focus on revealing the next big game they have on the way. I tend to agree with this thinking. What we need to see is E3 moved back to the old May timing and maybe things will start to get better but its really hard to say at this point if that will ever really happen.

Expect alot more news in the coming months as we will be hearing from Square Enix at their own private party where they have revealed some major announcement about Final Fantasy VII will be unveiled. We also have Leipzig to look forward to as well as PAX and TGS.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Metal Gear Solid: The Motion Picture?

As many know there has been lots of talk about a Metal Gear Solid movie recently. So many people have been getting caught up in who will write it, direct it, star in it, etc. But no one has stop to think would a Metal Gear Solid movie even work? Think about it this way. There is so much plot in MGS that certain cut scenes in the game near the 90min mark which is close to a feature length film. With that said is it even possible to make a Metal Gear Solid movie fit into the mythology of the series and be cohesive. Or would it simply be a cash in with a random Solid Snake adventure?

Then there is the important stuff like writers, directors, actors and so forth. Recently IMDB has listed Hideo Kojima as the story writer and David Hayter( The man behind Solid Snakes voice) as the screenplay writer. Now if true that is great however last we heard from Hayter himself that he was not involved and struggling to get Sony to allow him to write the script. Hayter is a rare breed indeed as not only does he play Solid Snake in the games, he is also very passionate about the series and knows just as much about it as any fanboy so Hayter doing the screenplay is a very good thing if it turns out to be true. Then there is the problem of casting Solid Snake. Snake is a Icon no doubt. Even if they got someone who looked exactly like Snake does in the games as soon as he spoke most fans would give up as we have heard Hayter's voice in the role for the past 10 or so years. There has been talk that David Hayter himself could play the role and I would tend to agree with this as he does indeed look a little like Solid Snake. I would rather have someone who looks close and sounds exactly like Snake then someone who doesn't look or sound the part. However Hayter has said in the past that he isn't very interested in acting in film. Could a Metal Gear Solid film make him change his mind?

Oh lets not forget the biggest thing and that would be who would direct. Now my vote would go to Hideo Kojima himself. Kojima-san has said it has always been a dream of his to be a director and this could be the perfect project to jump in on that. Now if this were to happen it would not be the first time a Japanese director would be making a film for a American audience as Takashi Shimizu director of Ju-on directed the American remake of the very same film better known as The Grudge. We have all seen what Kojima-san can do with the Metal Gear Solid 4 cut scenes it amazes me to think of the possibility's should he be allowed to direct the film. We could certainly expect great things from him.

All said the Metal Gear Solid Film has alot of hurdles to get over. Not to mention the bad track record of Games to Film adaptations. Could the movie be great? Of course it could. However the odds are very much stacked against it. However it is still a very early project and almost nothing is known about who will be working on it. Until we have more concrete info we cant really get a idea of how the film will shape up. Lets hope we get more news soon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Being alone isn't that scary.

When the end of the year comes and the best and worst of lists are written Alone in the Dark will not doubt top many "Biggest letdown" lists. It's sad to because Alone in the Dark shows alot of promise. It's easy to see the developers had the best of intentions and where trying to make something revolutionary how ever most of if not all of the aspects implemented into the game aren't realized to there fullest and bring the experience down.

Lets start with the story. You play Edward Carnby who awakens with no memory of who he is, where he is or how he got there. He is then thrust into a situation that is very much beyond his control but it seems it is up to him to get to the bottom of it. The game at first glance seems to have a great plot but it's hard to care much when the voice acting is so bad that you will find yourself wanting to skip the cut scenes. It also doesn't help much that what is supposed to be scary in the game is either not scary because of the voice acting or because of the rigid animation the game has going on. Which leads to the next problem.

Control. The game is so clumsy and slow in everything it does it gets very very frustrating. Some may say the controls are supposed to be like that it helps induce scary situations. To that I say that is no longer acceptable after Resident Evil 4. The game is so hard to control it's a wonder you can even defeat enemies in combat. Which again leads to the next problem.

The combat. Now if you were following the game like I was and watched the tech demo released on the web and on Xbox Live then you were no doubt impressed by the fire in the game. The fire indeed looks great and acts and works just like a real blaze would which is an integral part of the game. Why you ask? Well the monsters and enemies you come across can only be killed with fire. A great thing to add for story sake we all remember John Carpenters The Thing in which the only way to complete kill the alien was to burn it. That added alot of tension and terror to the film and I would imagine that they were going for the same thing in Alone in the Dark. However in practice it's very annoying and slows down the game quite a bit. Let me explain. The game utilizes a coat inventory system in which Edward will open his coat Ala the merchant in Resident Evil 4 and display everything he has acquired. A nifty way to show the inventory indeed. The catch is that the game isn't paused while viewing this screen so the monsters can still attack you. Why is this a problem you ask? Well at many points in the game there is no fire to utilize and you will have to make your own be it Flaming bullets or a bottle of flammable spray with a lighter to make a mini flame thrower. The problem here is that nifty little inventory screen isn't the best thing to sift through while being attacked and makes getting armed enough to fend off the beasts attacking you a chore. Were you able to simply attack the monsters with a nearby object and finish them off without flame that alone would make the game far more enjoyable.

In addition to all that Alone in the Dark is host to one of the most horrid driving sequences ever put into a game. There are more bugs and glitches in this little section then there are in the entirety of other games. It is so bad in fact that I would argue that if a player is unaware of the chapter skip function(that I wouldn't be surprised was added because of this horrid driving section) that this section of the game would cause them to give up and return the game.

Alone in the Dark is a bit of a mystery to me. Some of the problems with the game could have been fixed had it stayed in development for a while longer. We are talking about bad collision detection, jerky animation, bad camera, along with a few bad design choices some of which could be removed entirely for the benefit of the game. The game was delayed many times so I don't think it was being rushed that caused this to happen. It's sad really because you can see by what there is that the people behind Alone in the Dark really wanted to make something great and through out the game there are hints of that greatness but there are so many things both large and small that bring it down it's just so hard to recommend.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Snake's Final Mission.

Before I even start with this review I'm going to state this clearly. Metal Gear Solid 4 is easily one of if not the best game of all time. Metal Gear Solid 4 is everything Kojima-san promised it would be and proves to be a fantastic ending to one of the most memorable saga's in gaming history.

There is no hiding that Metal Gear Solid 4 is the best looking game of all time. The graphics really must be seen to be believed. There are many times throughout the game in both game play and in cut scenes where the game looks photo realistic. In fact there are many occasions in which the HUD pops up as a cut scene is coming to an end and looks out of place because it looks like you are watching a CGI movie.

MGS4's game play while similar to older MGS games has evolved and allows for alot more freedom in how you do things. In the past you would really need to sneak around or face certain death. However Snakes new arsenal of CQC moves, Octocamo, a new Weapon customization system and far more freedom of movement makes fighting a far more viable option. Another option for FPS fans allows the game to be played almost entirely like a FPS although I found this is not as fun or engaging as playing the game normally.

No longer are you limited to cramped hallways when sneaking as this mission takes place in a many war zones across the world. While previously you may take on 4-5 enemies at once you will now find yourself up against much more enemies and fighting in full scale wars between PMC groups and the Rebels that are trying to stop them. These battles aren't merely superficial either. Helping one of the factions will align you with that faction and they will not attack you and may help in your mission by attacking the enemy and distracting them so you can get where you need to go.

Also no longer will you be limited to finding your weapons on the battle field as early into the game you meet up with Drebin a gun launderer that allows you to purchase guns, ammo and custom parts for your weapons. When finding a gun on the battlefield you won't be able to use it right away in most cases as they are ID locked. Drebin can unlock these ID's for a price and allow you to use them. You get "Drebin Points" by selling weapons that you already have found. For example when you pick up a AK-102 it will go into your inventory but every one you pick up from then on will be sold to Drebin for points allowing you to purchase things to help you on your mission. While this is a great addition to the game and the weapon customization is very fun I found that being able to purchase ammo whenever you need it makes the game a bit to easy. But that is a minor complaint.

Throughout the game there are also many event's that are played very differently then the rest. Such as riding on the back of a motorcycle while being attack in a city at war or trying to escape a ton of gecko with the help of a armored carrier. All of these control very well and are extremely fun and a spectacle to behold visually. There are more game play variations later in the game but I won't spoil them as they are very fun to see as they take place and one of them is kind of a spoiler.

Now I'm not gonna get to deep into the story as I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Many faces from the past appear in the game such as Naomi, Meryl and Mei Ling among others. There is also alot of fan service in many forms such as jokes and whatnot from the MGS series that only fans of the MGS games will see and find funny. Such as Otacon calling you via Codec and telling you it's time to switch to Disc 2 before realizing that MGS4 is on Blu-ray. You will also see flashbacks as well. Many times during cut scenes there will be a prompt to press the X button doing so will trigger flash back like imagines showing many things from the past, the significance of the events going on or showing something you may not find a link to just by watch what is going on. It's a very cool way to get refreshed on certain events from the MGS universe. I will also say that the cut scenes are 90 minutes long rumor is not true. While some of the cut scenes are quite long especially the mission briefings between acts none are 90 minutes long. The ending however may be close to the 90 minute mark but I didn't care to time it as I was to enthralled with the ending to one of the greatest saga's in all of gaming history to care about something so trivial.

On the bad side there really isn't much to say. There are a few animations in the game that look a bit odd or out of place but that's a very minor complaint as for the most part the motion capture is excellent. Some will say the installs between acts is a negative however they are very short only taking about 2-3 minutes to complete and they only occur every few hours of game play so you can use them as an excuse to get up and have a break or make a snack or something. The main install isn't anything to complain about either it takes about 8 minutes to install which is about the same that other games requiring a install take.

All said Metal Gear Solid 4 is easily the best game on the PS3 if not the best game of this generation or all time. If you own a PS3 you owe it to yourself to own Metal Gear Solid 4. It would be a shame to miss the ending to one of the best Saga's in all of gaming history.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ryu Returns!

Ninja Gaiden II has finally arrived and with all the recent controversy about Tomonobu Itagaki leaving and suing TECMO some have wondered if that may have had a effect on the game. Well the answer is no but that's not to say that Ninja Gaiden II is perfect because there are a few flaws.

Alot of people thought that Ninja Gaiden II didn't look much better then Sigma which is untrue. The game is gorgeous and needs to be seen in motion to be appreciated. The animation is top notch and some of the best you will see anywhere. The environments look great and some of them further in the game look straight up stunning. The enemies look great and they pack quite a few onto the screen at once which is impressive. The much talked about gore effects are incredible, blood and body parts never disappear remaining to show the carnage you have caused in your path. It's a small touch but its really nice.

The game play is great. Although there are almost no puzzles and little platforming. Ninja Gaiden II focus's on only the combat and that's where the game shines. The combat is by far the best in any action game to date. This is not a button masher. Button mashers look elsewhere as you will quickly get your ass handed to you if you don't know what you are doing. Defense is immensely important you will not beat the game without learning how to block, counter attack and evade. Each weapon in the game has a impressive move set and they get new moves as you level them. All of them are very fun to mess around with and decently balanced although there are a few weapons that seem to work far better then others like the Dragon Sword and the Scythe. The variety in combat is impressive if you get bored of using the Dragon Sword you can use something else and it really changes the experience.

Little tweaks make the game alot more different then Ninja Gaiden 1. Such as the new health system. When you fight you health will go done and a portion will become red. However after the fight is over the health with recover up to that red line. This makes Health alot more manageable but it doesn't make the game any easier. The new quick menu system allows you to change your weapon, ranged weapon, use health items and change Ninpo(which is no longer useless). Also Defense has been changed a bit sense Ninja Gaiden 1. In the original you can basically stand by blocking and wait for a opportunity to counter and this would work for the most part. However in Ninja Gaiden II the enemies will grapple you very quickly if you stay still for to long. Counters as well are a little different in that the timing required is a bit more precise then in the original game. While these are minor changes to be sure but they make a game feel very different from the first.

Now on the downside there are a few things to note. First and foremost is the camera. It's the same as the first and that means you are bound to have trouble with it from time to time. Although you can control it finding time to do so during combat is asking a little much. However pulling the R trigger centers the camera behind you so if you make a habit of doing this the camera is not so bad. Also the bosses seem to be a little cheap in the game. The bosses in Ninja Gaiden 1 were hard because they were either huge(Bone Dragon) or extremely fast and smart(Alma) however almost all the bosses in Ninja Gaiden II have cheap shots that you have to avoid and if you do this they aren't very hard. It's like figuring out the pattern to win. While that does add difficultly to the game it just doesn't feel the same as Ninja Gaiden 1 did. Now I know alot of you out there don't care about the story in the Ninja Gaiden games but I as a Dead or Alive fan who loves the universe and the characters in it found Ninja Gaiden II's story to be a bit weak. No where near as good as the first for many reasons that I will not go into so not to spoil it for those who have yet to play it. The soundtrack as well is not up to par of the first game. At best its serviceable. These may sound like stupid things to some but to fans of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive they are very valid complaints.

All in all Ninja Gaiden II isn't as good as the first one but that's not to say its not good. The game is still incredible and maintains the punishing difficulty the series is known for. One thing I don't seem to understand is why the Gaiden games connect some plot points but not others. For instance Momiji a great new character introduced in Dragon Sword is no where to be found in this game. Nor is Rachael the fiend hunter. You would think that once the world becomes infested with fiends that being a fiend hunter she would be trying just as hard as Ryu to solve the problem. But I digress this is another topic for another day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The World Ends With You!

It's not very often you see a entirely new IP from Square-Enix and one look at The World Ends With You will make alot of people wonder why. The World Ends With You separates it self from the norm in quite a few ways making it one of the best DS games out there.

The one big thing that The World Ends With You does different is that it takes place in the real world. You follow Neku a boy who wakes up in Shibuya with no memory and a timer oh his hand. You soon find yourself being attacked by Noise and the story begins to unfold. Now some may say big deal who cares it takes place in real world Shibuya. Well taking place in Shibuya influenced the game alot. As some may know Shibuya is often referred to as the fashion mecha of the world where all the big trends start. The World Ends With You heavily deals with this in the game as armor takes the form of different clothing brands and styles and the more popular that brand the more effective it becomes.

The combat puts the DS's 2 screens to very good use. During combat Neku will appear on the bottom screen and his partner appears on the top. You control the bottom screen with the stylus and the top screen with the D-pad and other various buttons. Yes you control both screens at the same time and while it may seem very daunting at first once you get used to it it's not to bad. If you fail to get the hang of it you can set the game to quickly take control of the top screen.

Over the course of the game you will gather pins that each have a particular power during battle each is activated by a different move of the stylus and for the most part the stylus is pretty responsive although there are a few pins that are somewhat difficult to use consistently. The pins only allow for a certain amount of uses before they need a cool down period in which you need to wait until they are usable again similar to most MMO's. You will collect various pins and use them to build a deck for combat. There is a large amount of pins and they all can be leveled up and some even evolve into better pins so there is alot of variety in combat. Although on your first play through you may just find yourself sticking with the pins that are easy and quick to use.

The World Ends With You takes alot of chances and most of them pay off. The characters are great and well developed, the story while somewhat short is still very good, the combat and new and fresh. The positives are almost endless. So with that said are there any negatives? A few. The game very rarely forces you to fight so some may try to just rush through without leveling and that will be a big problem further into the game. The combat while great is very hard to get used to and if someone cant get used to it the CPU controlling the stop screen isn't always very good and you will often find the top screen character getting killed during boss fights. However if you don't have a problem with the combat then it's not a problem at all.

The World Ends With You holds alot of promise of becoming a franchise for Square-Enix. The game has performed well and it's refreshing to see SE do something so different from the norm. If you have a DS you should get The World Ends With You a shot you may like it and then we may get a chance to see more of Neku and company in the future.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Dark Hour Returns.

So if you don't know what Persona 3 is and you own a PS2 you may have something wrong with you. P3 was the best RPG of last year and one of the best PS2 games ever released. If you never played it you now have your chance. Persona 3 Fes is the enhanced version of the original game along with The Answer. The Answer is a 30-40 hr add on that takes place after the events of Persona 3 and provides a real conclusion. Oh and did I mention you are getting all this for a budget price? So there really is no reason to pass it up.

First off if you don't know how Persona 3 works I'll explain. During the daytime you basically do everything a normal high school student would. Making friends, Dating and of course taking classes, Studying and exams. At night the game functions as a hardcore dungeon crawl. It's these two complete opposites that keep the game so inventive and fresh through the whole 100+ hr experience.

You will spend daytime trying to balance your time between studying and hanging out with friends. The key here is the closer you get to your friends the stronger you can make your persona which in turn will make the battles that take place at night easier. Certain Persona can only be obtained after you have reached a certain point in a relationship with a certain character so the game encourages you to get to know all the characters so you can excel in battle.

At night battles will begin and you will explore the tower of Tarturus. Battles are your basic turn based affair with a few twists. You don't fully control your party. You can direct them to use a certain strategy but you can't directly control their actions. This dynamic adds alot more strategy to battles then you might think even more so during boss encounters. If that sounds a bit rough fear not as you do hold complete control over the main character so you will be able to make up for the rest of the party's short comings. You also have to be careful not to push your party to hard as they can become tired or sick and hinder your exploration. Those that become tired or sick will be alot more susceptible to being knocked down or end up on the receiving end of a critical hit so you must plan ahead to avoid such things.

Fes adds a number of new additions into the game such as a weapon synthesis system in which you can combine Persona and weapons to make powerful new weapons to fight off shadows. A costume system was added in which when you put a costume on a character it really looks different unlike the first version of P3. In addition there are also new Side quests, A new Social link involving Aigis and alot of little fan service for those who played the first version of P3 such as seeing more of the social link characters around town far more often then in the first version.

But wait that isn't all. Persona 3 Fes also includes Episode Aigis which was changed to The Answer for the US release. The Answer is a add on to Persona 3 that will take about 30-40 Hrs to complete and takes place after the events of the original game. You take on the role of Aigis and for some unknown reason the same day begins to repeat itself endlessly. It is up to S.E.E.S to find out exactly how this is happening and to stop it once and for all. The Answer plays out just like the night portions of Persona 3 however there are no social links this time around which may disappoint some. However The Answer is simply there to give closure to fans who didn't fully understand the ending to P3. Also be aware that the difficultly of The Answer is much higher then that of Persona 3 unless you played Persona 3 on hard mode.

Now you may notice that I never once mentioned anything about graphics and the like and that is because there is simply no need. Persona 3 is a game that is immersed in it's world. The story and the characters are what make this game shine. Atlus went as far as to hire many big name anime voice actors( Michelle Ruff, Vic Mignogna, Liam O'Brien)to bring the characters of Persona 3 to life and it shows. Anyone can find a character in Persona 3 to relate to and that makes the story that much more emotional by the end.

All in all Persona 3 Fes is one of the best games to ever see release on the PS2 and in my opinion one of the best RPG's ever made. Atlus took two ideas that upon hearing them would sound crazy and combined them to make one of the most compelling RPG's to date and it certainly should not be missed by anyone.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Say it ain't so Frankie

It's a sad sad day for Bungie fans everywhere. In a shocking revelation Frankie O'Connor will be moving on from Bungie. He left a message to fans thanking them for all the memories over the years and assures us he won't be to far away. He is departing Bungie to go work with Microsoft on the Halo franchise.

He leaves us with positive thoughts stating that we will be surprised on what Bungie is working on. There isn't really much I can say about this it's sad that we will be without who is perhaps Bungie's most vocal member. It seems no one really saw this coming but it's nice to know that we will be seeing a lot of Frankie as he shifts focus at Microsoft.

For now I think mister chief says it best.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gears of War 2 Thoughts.

So last night the first game play footage of Gears of War 2 was revealed. How was it you ask? Well calm down and I'll tell you.

First off all that talk of the Unreal Engine 3 looking way better for Gears of War 2 is really kind of non sense. While it is true the graphics are better they are only slightly so. That's not a bad thing as Gears is still one of the best looking games out there.

What is impressive is the amount of things going on at once without even a hint of slowdown. I think that's where Epic has truly gotten the Unreal Engine to shine. The video depicts an area of the game in which you are aboard a armored walker of sorts heading into Locust infested territory. What results is absolute chaos. Looking off the side of the Derrick as the armored vehicle is called you can see 20-30 locust running around trying to take the vehicle down. Also multiple Brumacks and Seeders firing those nasty exploding missile pod things. Oh and yours is not the only Derrick entering this fight. So as you can see a lot is going on and there wasn't even a hint of slowdown anywhere and that's very very impressive.

As far as game play goes there are a few interesting things to take note of. First it seemed as though there may have been a new weapon, an automatic pistol of sorts. Second there was the ability to use a downed Locust as a living shield. Third was of course the chain saw duel. Basically how it looks like it pans out is that if both players chain saw at the same time they will mash the B button and the one who does it faster wins and gains the kill. It will be interesting to see how that works out in Multi-player as the animation takes a bit and if the characters are invincible during the animation it may become a bit unbalanced.

Before seeing this video I wasn't at all excited about Gears 2. I thought it would be simply a rehash with new missions and that's it ala Unreal Tournament. However I was pleasantly surprised and am now excited for the games release. I'm anxious to find out what other changes and improvements Epic has in store. If you've yet to see the video you and find it at GameTrailers.com or on the Xbox Video Marketplace. Go check it out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mirror's Edge.

I never thought I would find myself looking forward to a EA game. Maybe it's not so much that I'm excited about it but more that I'm hoping they pull it off. For those that don't know Mirror's Edge is basically a First Person action game somewhat like Breakdown in which the movement is far more realistic and you will see your body as if you really are the person you are playing. You will see your arms when you running full speed just as if you are really pumping your arms and you will see your legs as well. If you perform a roll when landing from a jump you will see you torso just as you really would. Immersion is the name of the game here. Some are worried that motion sickness will even take hold of players as they get into the game.

Now graphically the game looks great if a bit to shiny. What I am really wondering is if the game play will be able to handle the concept well enough. I'm hoping EA DICE takes the Breakdown concept and runs with it. If they can pull it off it will easily be one of the more innovative games to come out in a while. I'm hoping the game doesn't devolve into a run of the mill shooter in which you just happen to be able to see your arms and legs. I want the game to really immerse you in the character and make you feel as if you are really there in the game fighting enemies and jumping from building to building as if you are a street runner.

It will be interesting to see how EA DICE handles the game and I'm anxious to play the final product. Let's hope they can deliver.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Journey worth getting lost on.

Lost Odyssey was described as Hironobu Sakaguchi's masterpiece and now that it's here is it safe to say that it is? Yes it is within certain bounds.

Lost Odyssey is somewhat of a mixed bag. While the story is certainly a masterpiece is every way the game is riddled with little technical glitches. However I will say this before we go on that those little problems should not stop you from playing the game as the positives more then make up for the negatives.

As many may know Lost Odyssey is the epic story of a man named Kaim Argonar. What do I mean by epic? 4 disc's and a incredible story thats what. The game starts at the Wohl Highlands during a war and by the end of the battle everyone is dead. Everyone except Kaim who is a Immortal and can not die and has lived for 1000 years. However Kaim doesn't remember much about who he is, where he comes from, or why he is here. Over the course of the game Kaim will slowly begin to regain his memories and discover why it is that he is immortal and why he is here. The story is full of Heart ache, Political intrigue, War, Murder, Love and there is even a bit of comedy here and there to. The great thing about Lost Odyssey is that it nails all of the emotions. This game will make you cry and if it doesn't you may not have a soul.

The real treat in Lost Odyssey is A Thousand Years of Dreams. When ever Kaim remembers something about his past it comes to him in the form of a dream which are presented as short stories. These stories all of which were written along with the entire game by acclaimed and award winning Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu. These stories recall a specific event from Kaim's past and they are the most emotional stories you are likely to read in a long long time. Some tell of a lost loved one, some tell of a war that Kaim fought, while others are about the differences in the way people think in different parts of the world. Each will move you in some way shape or form and thats not a easy thing to do when each of them had to be translated.

The game play in Lost Odyssey is your classic turn based combat and I mean classic. The game goes back to the roots of Final Fantasy the series that Sakaguchi-san created all those years ago. While admittedly a bit slow by todays standards the game never feels dull. The reason behind this is that Lost Odyssey is turn based combat perfected. By midway through the game you will have 5 members active per battle and you will have various spells and abilities to choose from. Black Magic, White Magic, Spirit Magic and Composite Magic. Immortals do not learn skills and spells on their own like mortals do so you need to link a Immortal to a skill one of the mortals has to learn it. Immortals can also learn abilities by equipping items with skills attached to them. This system in essence allows you to customize your Immortals to perform how you like. The combat also incorporates a ring system. The ring systems allows you to enhance your attacks if your timing is good. Basically 2 rings appear on screen and you need to time it so they over lap for a bonus such as damage of a drain effect. Another nifty thing present in battles is that Immortals being just that can't really die. Sure they can get knocked out but leave them be and after a few turns they will get up on their own. Take caution though as if everyone in your party is reduced to 0 HP Immortal or not it will be game over.

So with all these nice things to say what is wrong with the game? Well game has frame rate stutters quite often even in areas where not a lot is happening. There is also a bit a screen tear every now and then but it doesn't happen to often. The graphics are also a mixed bag. The game uses the Unreal Engine 3. Some areas look absolutely stunning but for every area that looks stunning there are a few that look horrid. You can tell that the Unreal engine couldn't fully realize the artistic direction the game was meant to have but they did the best they could with what they had. Load times are also a bit to long and often. Also the game has somewhat of a slow start. The game won't really seem like anything special until the events that occur towards the end of the first disc about 7 hrs into the game. These events are what makes it almost impossible to not finish the game.

But like I said all the negatives should not stop you from playing Lost Odyssey. Had the game been kept in development for another month or 2 so they could iron out the bugs and frame rate issues the game could have been better. All the issues are superficial and should not stop you from experiencing one of the best stories gaming has seen in a long time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Falling for the hype?

So I have been roaming around the net recently and have started to see something I don't know how I should feel about. Alot of the advance reviews for Grand Theft Auto IV are coming out and almost all are giving the game perfect scores across the board. Now granted I have yet to play GTA IV and once I do you can be sure to find my review right here. I just find it hard to believe that everyone is giving the game perfect scores across the board as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with it in anyway. We know as gamers no matter how good a game is it cannot be perfect it's just impossible. Now I have enjoyed GTA games in the past however I got fed up with the series after seeing the games were more or less rehashes of each other with minor upgrades.

So this begs the question. Why is the game getting such perfect reviews? Have the reviewers fallen for the hype and are overlooking every little bad thing in the game as a result? Are they all GTA fanboys? Do they really like gangster stories? Or is the game really that good? It amazes me that a game like Bioshock that I and many others consider a masterpiece didn't get scores as high as GTA and Bioshock did alot of things games had never done before. Even if GTA IV is that good it's just another GTA it's basically the same game GTA has always been just with way more spit and polish that the power of next gen allows.

I don't know maybe I'm selling GTA IV short and if that's the case we will all know once I get my hands on the game for a reivew.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kawaii Heart.

Well Kawaii means cute and that must mean I'm talking about Arcana Heart. Yes Arcana Heart is out. Is it the fighter that fans have been waiting for? It's that and so much more.

Arcana Heart is a very pretty game the animation is very smooth and the sprites are sharp and look crisp. It's right up there with Guilty Gear. Each of the 11 characters are somewhat varied so there are a lot of animations to see add on to that the 11 arcana and there is a lot to see.

Now when it comes to game play Arcana Heart is one of those fighters that a master will always destroy a button masher. The reason is the complex nature of the battles in Arcana Heart. Blocking is a big part of the game if you don't learn to Block effectively you will lose very quickly. One of the unique features of the game is called Homing. Homing allows you to launch yourself at your opponent no matter where they are on the screen allowing you to get close and start some big combos. You can cancel Homing as well so there is a bit of strategy in psyching out a opponent. There are also all kinds of cancels and counters that you can learn.

Each of the 11 characters has a Arcana that is native to them however the plus point is that the game allows you to change that Arcana. Which effectively allows you to customize how you fight and find a style that suits you. While each characters move set isn't huge that is a good thing as it allows you to remember most of the moves once you learn them instead of limiting yourself to one character that you wanna master.

Arcana Heart has a very charming look and feel to it which is odd for a fighter in which the characters are beating each other senseless however it never feels out of place. With a Arcade Mode and a Story mode the game will keep you occupied for a decent amount of time and if you have a friend to play against then you can keep yourself interested for quite some time. At only 30$ if you are a 2d fighting fan it's hard to pass it up. And as with most Atlus titles if you don't pick a copy up soon you will be paying for it later so go out and pick it up.