Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Game of the year Awards

Everyone else does these silly awards so I figure I better join in.

Best Soundtrack for the Worst Game - Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

The soundtrack is fantastic but it is wasted on a miserable pile of drek. I understand the game has fans and everything but it's most likely because of the great music that improves anything it accompanies.

Least-talked about Game of the Year - Protect Me Knight

This absolutely brilliant game is going almost entirely ignored and honestly it kind of bugs me. Well I'm done talking about it so whatever.

Favorite character - Francis York Morgan

The star of Deadly Premonition makes the game work via his quirky behavior and excellent characterization.

Worst story - Metroid: Other M

It'd be one thing if the storyline to this game was merely terrible. However what we have here is a story that completely destroys Samus Aran's credibility. This excellent article deserves a read.

Most pain-inducing game - Final Fantasy XIII

It hurts to play this game. Everything from the story to the characters just makes me wonder why I even bother with videogames.

Least-played Game of the Year - Dead Rising 2

Since the original Dead Rising is one of the best games I've ever played I figure a sequel that improves upon it in every way should be at least a GOTY contender. Problem is I've yet to beat the game, heck I've put less than ten hours into it so far. How depressing.

Honorable mention - Super Mario Galaxy 2

How else can I put this...oops?

Most over-played Game of the Year - Phantasy Star Portable 2

All that time I could have spent playing real GOTY-contenders was instead spent getting phatter loot and raising levels in this masterpiece by Sega. The new features and abilities are amazing additions and all but wow...who cares? I should be talking about Red Dead Redemption, Starcraft 2, or some other game I have no interest at all in.

Lifetime Achievement Award - Cavia

I love these guys. It's such a shame that they're no more.

Best game of 2010(or at least current best because I'm playing it right now and it's a lot of fun) - Just Cause 2

Oh man! This game is so much fun. I just love zipping around on a grappling hook and soaring away on a parachute to get out of danger. Plus there's like a constant stream of objects to blow up and rewards to collect and that's always cool.

Friday, December 24, 2010

AA Look - Konami's other games

Missing in Action
Sending a single Green Beret or two into the heart of Enemy Territory isn't enough. You gotta send that man out there with just a knife and he has to be the type where if an enemy so much as breathes on him he collapses and dies. The mission? To rescue five POWs. If this kind of bravery isn't worth a salute I'm not sure what is. Missing In Action is the follow-up to Rush'n Attack and it's all about rushing forward, stabbing everyone that gets close, and occasionally picking up some weapons to even the odds just a tad.

The mechanics are definitely one-sided in this game. If the player runs into an enemy the player dies, and even if the player steps on an enemy's skull the player dies. There's a certain appeal to it I guess as it forces the player to be extra cautious. It's difficult to be cautious considering the player is repeatedly assaulted by enemies from both sides. Oh well whatever it's still a fun game.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Whoa...I've been sick.

This is my latest excuse for the lack of updates lately. It's been a rough weekend and it takes me forever to get up to speed after getting hit with the flu.

Anyway I think I purchased a few games...uh huh here we go.

Just Cause 2 - This is a lot of fun.
Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light - Also really good.
Super Meat Boy - Would probably be great as well except I can't get it working on my PC. Oh well maybe when I get a new computer.

The plan for next year is...well I dunno exactly. I have quite the library to work with for awhile and my two major purchases for January and February are Littlebigplanet 2 and the Pink Sweets / Muchi Muchi Pork double-pack. I guess I'll just play it by ear and see where it goes. I'd also like to look into a little self-promotion...y' get my name out there so this blog can get more readers. I don't know the first thing about any of that stuff though so *sigh* oh well.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

AA Look - GunForce 2

These days it seems like everybody is trying to put the "hell freaking yeah!" in a videogame. Go on the Xboxlive Indies service and seemingly every day there's some game that promises explosions, stuff blowing up, and death. One day developers are going to figure out how to make games where the hero dual-wields an M-40 and a hot blonde. In the movie Predator, Dillon gets one of his arms chopped off by the dread-locked hunter so he has to reach for the big-ass gun strapped around his other arm. That's the kind of macho-action I'm just not seeing games. At the rate videogame technology advances the way it should be is even if the main character is little more than a head covered in scars he's going to be oozing so much testosterone that he'll be pulling the trigger with his tongue and suplexing aliens with his eyebrows.

Yeah it all sounds ridiculous but that's the point. Sometimes the manliest games are the ones that are able to poke fun at themselves. Japan has always been a bit ahead of the curve in this regard because after all they created Contra. You can't really question the masculinity of Rambo and Dutch teaming up to take on an entire alien armada by themselves. Gun Force 2 (or Geo Storm) is a game in a similar vein. The big difference here is that the two main characters carry guns in each hand. At first I thought it was a fair fight but it's clear that the mutant cyborg aliens have no chance at all.

The story goes something like this: There's a big hole where a city used to be. I think that's really all that needs to be said. It's like punching somebody back because they gave you a black eye. No wait it's more like punching that person so hard that their head explodes. Gun Force 2 is all about taking it to absurdity. Both of the main characters will shoot in every direction, put bullet-holes into every possible object, and rescue nothing but hotties in skimpy clothes. They also collect medals and are then rewarded at the end of each stage for their effectiveness at getting riches and slaying baddies.

The first stage starts of with the good guys hopping on the back of a train from their armored truck. The truck basically explodes for no reason and makes one of those ridiculous effects where the explosion goes all over the entire screen. The truck doesn't explode from crashing into the train, no it explodes when the main character lands on the train. It's like getting out of bed with such intensity that the bed disintegrates. This more than anything sets up exactly what you're getting into when you start this game. Since real men(and women) don't get shot at all the heroes of Gunforce 2 die in a single hit. Sure it's rough but hey that's what run & guns are all about.

The entire game goes along this same course. It's like the guys at Irem went stir-crazy and just started cramming in anything explosive they could imagine. Somehow though they let the odd gag slip by like the beginning of stage 2 starts with a fence being climbed over instead of being blown up like it was a fence made out of combustible barrels. Half the time I'm not even sure why everything is being obliterated but it's all fun stuff and my brain is free to leave town for the next 30 minutes.

Most anyone could enjoy this game even if they ran face-first into every bullet. It may not be the best way to play any game but for some that sort of thing doesn't even matter. Still it's easier than similar games in the genre and those games don't seem to throw in heaping bundles of kaboom every few seconds. Though the pacing never really seems to move past "kill a bunch of stuff, move forward, then kill a bunch of stuff" it always feels different somehow, like the enemies are new, maybe there are vehicles involved, and so on. Fans of high-scores will have to keep an eye out for hidden hostages but other than there is little if any complexity to this game. Furthermore this seems to be one of those games that could probably loop forever if the player is really serious about their score.

Really I have nothing else to say about this game. Check it out, blow stuff up until you're bored, and maybe give it a serious play by trying to stay alive the next time around. It's about as deep as the average Metal Slug and it certainly won't require you to understand calculus like some shooters but eh who cares? Maybe all you really want is to see everything blown to pieces.

Game rating - 3.5 out of 5
My rating - 4 out of 5

AA look - Detana!! Twinbee

One of Konami's popular 2D shooter franchises was the Twinbee series. They're charming games that focus on bright colors and smiles while providing that hot shooting action we all crave in the genre. This particular entry won an award for best shooting game in the Japanese magazine Gamest. Yeah it's totally impressive stuff, even though Metal Black was robbed. Can you believe that? A ground-breaking and intelligent shooter that is an artistic achievement and one of the most brilliant games the genre has ever seen, and it was beaten by some happy-go-lucky kids and their bell-collecting adventure.

I...I...I don't think I can continue this review right now. I'm clenching my teeth so hard the enamel is starting to peel off. I bet even Sonic the Hedgehog won an award over Metal Black. At least Metal Black didn't defile whatever legacy it had by having a sequel called Metal Black 2006. That would be a wonderful sequel. It could feature a Black Fly, a Silver Fly, and a Blue Fly. The Silver Fly could have telekinetic powers and the entire game would be an unplayable mess.

Anyway Detana Twinbee...oh...Detana!! Twinbee (sheesh) is also known as Bells and Whistles over on this side of the pond. The plot involves rescuing a queen from an alien invasion and that's about it. The hero Light pilots the Twinbee while the heroine Pastel controls the Winbee. There's also a Gwinbee who helps out provided a power-up is snagged. This is also one of those shooters where it's probably best to play with a friend since through the power of friendship players can stick together and gain more attack power. There's also a charged shot for crowd-clearing and the ability to hit the ground targets with bombs. This aspect is similar to Xevious though there's auto-targeting which makes it more convenient.

The most unique quality of this game revolves around the bells. Fans of Parodius understand the importance of these bells as they bestow goodies depending on their color. In this game the goodies include power-ups like improved weapons, shields, and points. There's a medal...uh...bell-chaining system in place where the point-gifting golden bells can be continually collected for up to 10,000 a pop. This is obviously something to look out for as any lost bell drops the value back down to 500 and that isn't any good. The bells fall from clouds and will disappear off-screen unless they are juggled by the player's fire. This also causes the bells to cycle through their various colors.

With a system like this death can become extra punishing as it requires recovering all of these different power-ups while at the same time doing the best one can with a lousy pea-shooter. There's seemingly no rhyme or reason as to what the colors of bells will be so like a lot of early Konami shooters the solution is to simply not die at all. At least this game isn't particularly hard outside of some trouble-spots and even then the patterns are pretty obvious so on the next go 'round players should have a handle on it.

For a game where the enemy-designs are both cute and nonsensical I was pretty well thrown off when the final boss turned out to be some freaky alien-brain. This guy is pretty dang sick but he dies very quickly. Unfortunately his appearance sets the pace for the rest of the game. Detana!! Twinbee is one of those second-loop kind of shooters and Konami decided not to mess around at all. There are double the enemy aircraft, double the enemy fire-power, and heck they even release more bullets when you kill them. Veterans of this game probably get pretty bored when they have to spend nearly half an hour of playing to get to the real challenge. This also serves to further embarrass me as currently I've yet to see past stage 3. The second boss with his spinning oars keeps nailing me. The really sad part is I know that if I can get past him and hold onto my cool weapons I could sail through the next few stages with no trouble.

Despite it all it's very easy to see why this Detana!! Twinbee is an award-winner. This game is very approachable for all fans of the shooter genre and the scoring system is absolutely awesome. There's enough of a challenge in the first loop to keep anyone occupied for days as the combination of air & ground targets as well as the bell managing strikes a perfect balance and is very rewarding. I really like the music and to a lesser extent the art. I guess the only thing that really bothers me is that I have no idea what the regular enemies are supposed to be half the time. They're like some strange combination of evil food and vague threatening-shapes. Oh and I'm still slightly bitter about the raw deal Metal Black got.

Note - I went with the X360 Game Room version of this game. While it doesn't support TATE the video options are still decent enough plus there are other features like replay saving, dynamic leaderboards (like Geometry Wars 2), and even an instant-rewind so I can figure out why I died and how I could have avoided it. It's really not bad at all for $3.

Game Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
My Rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AA Look - X-men

Today marks the release of Konami's arcade classic X-men on the PSN service. Tomorrow X360 fans will get their chance to team up with friends to take on Magneto and his Minions. Over the course of nearly twenty years gamers have developed an opinion about the game. What made this game remarkable is usually attributed to nostalgia these days. I'd wax poetic about the glory days of blowing my school lunch money on games such as these but I know nobody wants to read about it. As it stands X-men is an important release because while flawed and a bit dated it is still a remarkable game and its release gives us hope that future titles such as Aliens Vs Predator will see a competent re-release.

First off let's talk the PSN/XBLA release. It was handled by Backbone and certainly shows. The new art is pretty tacky (which says a lot considering the X-men's look at the time) and while a smoothing option is nice there's not enough in the way of good video options. The real kicker is that the online-play suffers from input lag. Sure players that host won't notice but unless the ping is below expect 50 expect to notice a slight delay with every move. This will put off the more serious players who actually put forth the effort to use less continues and not just button-mash everything. At least the PSN version offers six-player local coop. The trophies are very easy aside from one requiring a completion time of under 25 minutes and I have no idea why scoreboards are included because X-men is probably the easiest arcade game to exploit for points.

Anyway let's talk the game itself. X-men arcade is seven stages of action where the six heroes punch and claw their way through legions of Sentinels and face off with a handful of different villains. On the surface it's pretty standard fare with its large number of enemies and an emphasis on moving around and positioning oneself correctly to take them out. Each of the six characters have mostly the same attacks though they can have slight differences in range, power, angle (for jumping attacks), and so on. Each of the X-men also have their own unique power that is better for particular situations. These cost mutant power orbs and they can be collected by defeating pink-armored sentinels. By the way power-ups are exclusive to the Japanese version of X-men which is included with this release, personally I'd never play the US/World version. With the JP version there are more opportunities to restore health and mutant power, which helps in the pacing of the game and adds to the fun.

Where X-men really works is in the multiplayer. Sure beatemups are always better with a friend but with X-men it becomes something more. There's a certain organization to everything and usually the best players pick their roles and carry them out effectively. Sometimes it's all about protecting a certain side of the screen or being the main force behind attacking a boss, with the rest of the team providing back-up. Furthermore thrown enemies can actually damage other players so disorganized players have plenty of opportunities to beat themselves up. This is not something anyone will see in 99% of the X-men games played online but it's rather brilliant if everything comes together. Beating the game without continues is still a distant dream for the most part but smart and efficient players can get through quite a bit of the game with minimal losses. However without that kind of team-work it just becomes messy as players chew through their mutant powers and waste all of their energy doing very little damage.

Those who go solo will miss out on this particular dynamic but the game is still solidly put together. The bosses could stand to be a bit more creative with their arsenal and there are quite a few cheap hits but in the end it's about as decent as anything Konami has put out in the early 90s. Still if you're waiting for that really great beatemup you may as well keep waiting. There's enough of a challenge to this game but some may prefer a bit more style and finesse. Still if you decide to pick it up give it a serious effort and work towards becoming good at the game. It's a more fun and rewarding way to play, even for a port like this one that relies so heavily on nostalgia to get sales.

Game Rating - 3 out of 5
My Rating - 4 out of 5
Port Rating - 2 out of 5 (Online-play needs work. In fact if online-play is the reason you want this port you may want to skip it unless local is an option)

Monday, December 13, 2010

AA Look - Blade Master

Blade Master is one of those arcade games where you actually have to complete it before it tells you the story. A fair maiden who also happens to have the powers to seal/release a King of Darkness was captured by an Evil Army to do their bidding. The heroes Roy and Arnold must save the day by fighting through these Phantom Soldiers. Roy and Arnold? From the looks of this game it takes place in ancient realm completely unlike anything in this world, so why the generic names? Arnold is a big dude so I figure he takes after Arnold Schwarzenegger. Roy is a smaller guy so he must be uh...Roy Scheider? Look just forget I said anything.

This game belongs to the hack & slash genre. It uses the conventional setup of a beatemup with its belt-scroll style of level-design and masses of foes and bosses to put down. Where the genre differentiates is in its usage of weapons and different style of mechanics to create something similar but quite unique. The Blade Masters specialize in close-quarters fighting and though the player is free to swing wildly at anything that approaches there is a level of depth to this game that makes it interesting. When a player's attack collides with an enemy's their weapons will meet in a clash. From here the the player can stab at the enemy they blocked for good damage, attack an enemy approaching from behind, or even devastate the stunned enemy with a jumping attack. It's a neat system since it promotes an aggressive style not seen in the genre, which is more about maneuvering so that the enemies are properly "herded" for easier disposal.

The really useful aspect of this technique is that it works on bosses, making them something more than just a very large target with a lot of hit-points. However this can also make bosses too easy since a large number of them can't so much as get a hit in when the player can safely deflect their blows. So to keep things challenging Blade Master plays the numbers game. That is the player will be frequently outnumbered in each encounter. A friend can and probably should join in to even the odds as towards the end everyone attacks in pairs, even the final boss. Still this can be an extra layer of challenge for those going in solo and if they can manage to defeat the final bosses with little trouble that's a very respectable achievement.

The most unfortunate aspect to this game is that it gets repetitive. Yes I know this is the kind of complaint that gets thrown at the genre as a whole but with Blade Master it has more to do with the level-design and bosses. This game doesn't wear itself down with ridiculously long stages but there's usually not enough to differentiate stage 6 from stage 1 or 2. This has less to do with the enemies and more with the stage layouts, which do little in the way of traps or other factors that keep things moving. There's the occasional pit and even a section with what looks to be a staircase but it's not enough. The bosses also repeat and just because there are more of them doesn't quite excuse the fact that they're the same guys with the same attacks. Still the game moves very quickly so this complaint never really occurred to me until after I completed the game.

In the end the appeal of Blade Master depends on the player's affinity for the genre. It's easy to write this and similar games off as shallow button-mashers that exist solely to eat quarters and even fans of similar games like TMNT: the arcade game and Capcom's King of Dragons might just ignore this one anyway because it's too obscure. Personally I find it to be a solid title deserving of recognition as it captures all of the aspects that make the genre fun while adding a bit of technique to keep things fresh. Definitely give this a look if you have the time.

Game Rating - 3.5 out of 5
My Rating - 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, December 12, 2010

AA Look - Undercover Cops

In the year 2000-something criminals think they can just do whatever they want in a post-apocalyptic world. Obviously that sort of thing can't fly in the face of justice and a trio of Undercover Cops are brought in to restore order. There's the karate-dude Zan, the football-player Matt, and the hot blonde Rosa who for whatever reason does a flying butt attack in lieu of a jump-kick.

This traditional cast of vengeance-seeking heroes has to face off with a rather untraditional cast of freaks, villains, and some things that are just plain sick. It's all good though because rarely has it been so satisfying to clobber the ugly out of these jerks. Each of the three characters has a handful of combos, grabs, and even some super-special health-draining attacks to get things done. Furthermore instead of swinging around some lame bats or pipes the heroes swing girders, stone pillars, and even toss some cars and motorcycles around.

There is not much in the way of fancy tricks and while a finesse rating rewards players who perform lots of moves there's nothing in the way of unique combos. To keep things fresh over the course of the game a number of different themes are introduced over the course of each stage. Things such as pitfalls and unique enemy types keep stages moving but at the same time their inclusion can also throw off the player. Without a real strategy or knowledge of how to defeat certain enemies the player can get stuck on encounters as their attacks are knocked away and they chew through lives just to get a hit in. When it comes to design beatemups tend to favor either aggressive or defensive tactics.

I'd like to say Undercover Cops is for the aggressive but the enemy tends to get priority on most attacks due to longer reach and number-advantage. Grabs are probably the most useful technique as they can be used on nearly anyone but getting close requires an understanding of what an enemy will do in a given situation. It becomes frustrating as enemies will go into an attack depending on their location and without a dodge-roll or block, the player either has to stop the attack before it happens or have predicted it to the point where they're safely out of the way. To some extent defeating enemies may require a bit of baiting so that they perform these attacks that'll give the player room to breathe.

Though the game has only five bosses the difficulty curve is very sharp. The first boss is absolutely pathetic but the final boss is practically impossible. Everyone in-between may be susceptible to grabs but they can also slap a good 1/3 of the player's life away in one hit over the slightest mistake. It's a bit of a raw deal as the bosses are easily the least fun part of the game. It's also the kind of game that favors playing along with friends. Scores may suffer but at least sanity won't have to.

Still this is a beatemup you want to play. When everything comes together this game stands up to some of the best in the genre and overcoming the different style of play is rewarding in itself as it isn't too hard to go long-stretches without a death as the enemies pile up. This game is especially fond of its high enemy counts and any time a fist makes contact with more than one person in a single punch is a thrill that hasn't gotten old for close to thirty years. Undercover Cops delivers in its own way with a unique style and a level of brutality that isn't seen enough in the genre.

Game rating - 4 out of 5 stars
My rating - 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, December 11, 2010

AA Look - Irem's other games

Battle Chopper Mr. Heli - Even Irem's "cute-em-ups" are a kick in the nards. "The Muddy" is out to take over and or destroy an earth-like planet and it is up to some cutesy copter to stop him. The goal of this game is to collect crystals, buy power-ups, and blaze a trail through seven levels. This is a bit of an interesting twist on the standard side-scrolling as some sections allow the player freedom to move forward and at other times scrolling is forced like any other shooter.

The main problem I have with this game is the challenge level is a bit on the rough side. I expect a challenge sure but Mr. Heli's doesn't seem quite right. Frequently enemies will fire without so much as a warning and health is drained far too quickly. Furthermore it hurts especially bad when I die because not only do I lose all my weapons I also lose all my money so I can't buy new ones when they become available.

As for the rest of the game. Well I'm not sure what to think. It's a neat twist and all but things like being unable to drop bombs unless sitting on the ground is very frustrating(enemies love to come from below) and way too much time is spent digging in the ground for money. On the other hand maybe I'm not playing the right version of the game. One of the most frustrating aspects of arcade games involves region-differences. I mentioned this way back when I reviewed XEXEX by Konami. While the Japanese version is a great game but the US release is unplayable. I doubt it's quite the same situation with this game but all it takes is a few slight changes to make something either far more enjoyable or not fun at all.

Cosmic Cop - The original name for this game is something to the effect of Armored Police Unit Gallop. What we have here is a combination of the methodical style of R-Type with the fast-pacing and nards-out style of...well..whatever the opposite of R-Type is called. It's a jarring combination to say the least.

The concept is interesting since depending on where the ship is on-screen the level moves by slower or faster. Speed is imperative to a high-score and the level-designs are good enough for that sort of play. The weapons are similar in that there's a high-powered forward cannon and a weaker but area-clearing laser available at all times. Power-ups are available as well but they can be lost if the player bumps into walls.

As the game progresses however the memorization aspect starts to become more pronounced and while the ship's hitbox is smaller than the ship itself it's little comfort when the ship itself is freaking huge. There are those that can get around this and clear the game with little trouble but uh...I dunno, I just can't get into it at all.

Dragon Breed - Oh joy another checkpoint-based shooter by Irem. Imagine how different everything videogames would be without the checkpoint? Just think next time you die in some FPS you don't end up redoing the entire section as you'll respawn instantly. This is how I feel a lot of the time when I play games such as these. Yes I'm well aware that dying showcases my lack of skills and I haven't memorized the level enough but come on. I'll do better next time so just let me move forward!

With that rant over with let's look at the game itself. You're a wimpy little dude with a crossbow who gets to ride on a large invincible dragon. It's a pretty sweet deal until you realize that draggy can be effective at nullifying bullets he only offers to join in the killing with power-ups. A simple fireball would have sufficed because the hero's pea-shooter is sad, sad, SAD. At certain points the hero is free to jump down from the dragon to battle on-foot. I'm not sure why this is included but the hero gets a pretty sweet three-way shot when on the ground and that's just not fair. Also when the dragon gets the yellow power-up it can wrap itself around the hero and do a different attack occasionally. This is really useful but apparently it only works with the yellow weapon, thanks a lot.

The checkpoints are also badly done. I die at the boss so obviously my weakness is the boss. Logically the checkpoint kicks me back to about the last 1/3 of the stage. While I guess I'm supposed to be grateful to get the chance to grab some power-ups these checkpoints feel like they were added after the game was completed. A better idea would have been to throw out some power-ups just before the boss and have the checkpoint sitting there too but man that's just too generous. Irem may as well give out unlimited lives while they're at it.

Dragon Breed was also unique in that it had a sit-down cabinet. Maybe I'm just imagining things again but it was pretty neat and the sound-system was loud. Every time the player died the noise would blow out one's eardrums. It was pretty awesome.

Friday, December 10, 2010

AA Look - Air Duel

In the year 2004 a mad mother computer known as "Enemy Chief" gained control of an army vast enough to destroy the world. It was in these dark times that two heroes arrived to save the day. Though their rickety ships were frail and their limited arsenal was pathetic they had courage and skill which is more than enough to cover for any weakness. This is just one of many entries Irem has made in the 2D shooter genre.

Every 2D shooter needs a hook or a gimmick to draw the player in. It could be anything from the concept to some unique power-up and sometimes it doesn't have to mean anything at all. It was a sign of the times back then since arcades were filled with so many similar games all looking to attract quarters from somebody. Air Duel allows the player to use a regular ship that fires peas in a straightforward fashion or a helicopter that can turn slightly to fire peas at an angle. That's the extent of it really. Sometimes one ship is more effective than the other and at other times more power in the firepower is better than more firepower. It's an interesting relationship and the player can swap vehicles at the beginning of each stage if they feel the need.

Yes these peas are not of the literal sense but that's probably because actual peas would be more effective. All that pea juice could seep into the engines of enemy aircraft and cause them to explode. Instead I am referring to the "pea-shooter" trope. These days everyone plays those crazy games by Cave where the default weapon is hyper-mega-beam so the pea-shooter has long been forgotten. Air Duel makes the pea-shooter into something of an artform by essentially making it the only weapon the player can rely on. Sure there are bombs and while they're great for damage and clearing enemy-fire they're also limited. Fact of the matter is in order to survive Air Duel the player has to deal with their firepower having pitiful range. As a bonus a single-death will send the player's weapon levels back to 0 which just makes everything harder.

Some of us got out of the old-school for a reason and Air Duel is a clear example. It's the kind of rough & nasty game where the insurmountable odds just aren't enough and an extra layer of pain is necessary to get the maximum effect. There's no fancy tricks that'll summon fairies who hand out gold coins and bullets travel at a speed that actually makes sense. You play a shooter like this because you're tired of fighting huge battleships that for whatever reason were built to do nothing but fire thousands of pink bullets that don't go anywhere. You're also probably sick of little girls yelling "POWAH UPPOOO" and that's completely understandable. Sometimes I like to play a game where I don't start yelling "NO! My medal-chain!" and the screen doesn't look like Willy Wonka threw up on it. Air Duel is basic, bland, and would probably win an award so nondescript nobody has any idea what it's for. But y'know that can be pretty alright sometimes.

Game Rating - 3 out of 5 stars
My Rating - 2.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Irem Arcade Hits is out and about

I guess I should get out more seeing as how a compilation of Irem Arcade games flew right under my nose.

Irem Arcade Hits is a pack of 18 great to terrible games for the PC. Yes I know I say arcade and PC and everyone says "well I'll just stick with MAME then" in response. Still while the set has some kinks that need working out it's a pretty swell deal for $10 and some patches are in the works. I figure I'll give it a go and post some impressions in the near future. At least this is a serviceable explanation as to why there's been a whole lot of nothing about Irem re-releasing their library of classics.

Read more about the compilation over here.

A shmups forum thread where somebody has already purchased it and posted their impressions.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

PS3 Look - inFAMOUS

In the world of game balance you have to make sacrifices in order to keep the game playable. Sometimes you go in with all these ideas about enemies, level-designs, and powers but when it's all over you're left with a small fraction of what you started with. Sometimes you just have to let it go and move on and other times you feel you have to make up for this drop in content in other ways. Say you wanted to make a planet with mountains, deserts, forests, and oceans. When the cuts(time, budget, etc) come around you lose the forests and the oceans. So in response you make two planets, one with mountains and one with deserts. This is what it feels like to me when I play Infamous, a content-light game that goes for just too long.

What you've just read is for the most part an assumption. I did not complete Infamous and I have no intention of doing so. I'm just one of those guys who didn't follow the development process of this game and merely bought it at a whim for $10 because I liked the demo. Furthermore since this review has already started on a negative note you may as well stop reading as what follows is a bunch of fluff and then finally a low score.

The story involves a man named Cole surviving some horrific attack and gaining super-powers as a result. There's a bunch of stuff involving a corrupt-government and a lot of nonsense about karma and doing what's right or wrong but really it all works out to be rather dull. The whole karma aspect really bugs me because in this game it's the most black and white decision imaginable half the time. In the first instance Cole is given the choice between allowing starving people to eat or killing starving people so he can eat. It probably would have made at least some kind of sense if in the game the player had to eat to stay alive. Therefore the only reason to even choose one way or the other is for the power-ups available. Good guys have access to slightly different abilities than bad guys.

Given the choice I should have went with being a bad guy because doing good is more of a nuisance than anything. The cities this game takes place in are about as bad off as one can imagine. Just to give an idea there's no food, apparently the water makes everyone sick, thousands of people are just lying on the street dead or dying, and there are gangs everywhere shooting helpless civilians indiscriminately. Cole isn't really affected by all that because as long as there's electricity he can just fly around, zap people, and just ignore the plight of the city until he gets bored. If anything Cole's dealings with the people really have no effect on himself. He just does bad because he wants to be a jerk. Karma is meaningless so what it all comes down to is whether the game should reward or punish me when my errant bolt of electricity blows up an old lady. Oh sure further down the line Cole's friends may dump him and the city will be even worse off but how would I know or care when I didn't bother to finish the game?

The reason why I didn't beat this game is simple. I saw what was coming for once. Way back when I reviewed Viking: Battle for Asgard on the 360 I noted that it was essentially the same thing a few times over. I arrive at a new country, complete a bunch of tasks and upgrading my powers as I see fit, take back territory from the enemy, and then engage in a climatic battle with the enemy army to restore peace. If I had played infamous first I likely would have beaten it and not finished Viking. The problem with Infamous is that they made it far too obvious so I knew exactly what was coming so I got out and saved myself a lot of time. I completed the first third of the game which involved much of the same stuff as I retook a bunch of territory, did some repetitive missions, and had a completely mediocre boss-battle to cap things off. Both games even share a similar overworld structure in that the player will be overwhelmed if they attempt to go deep into enemy territory. The areas that Cole shouldn't access yet have no power so he is weakened severely while the enemy territories in Viking are heavily patrolled and far out-number the player.

Infamous can be considered a well-made game as the powers are developed properly and enemy encounters have a solid and functional design to them but it's all so stiff and boring. There's never enough in terms of chaotic action and at the same time not enough reason for me to go back in case I feel like I gypped myself for quitting. Just as soon as I arrived on the second part of the game I felt like I was back at square one, like I was replaying the entire game but at a slightly higher difficulty and with most of my powers unlocked. The same could be said about Viking but that got a pass because it was my first-time dealing with such a setup in terms of game progression.

When my best comparison is a C-level game nobody remembers there's really no reason at all for me to continue going on about this game. It's a fine piece of software that won't throw garbage in your face but at the same time it keeps itself just a bit too clean and too structured to be any fun. All I can say is better luck with the sequel.

Game rating - 2.5 out of 5

My rating - 1 out of 5

Monday, December 6, 2010

360 Look - Prototype

Every now and then we gotta have a game where we can just let loose with tons of ridiculous powers and kill friend and foe alike until we turn blue and fall down a flight of stairs. For those of us whose only real concern is how many people we can gib in a single attack there's Prototype. From at least one of the guys behind Hulk: Ultimate Destruction comes an adrenaline-soaked Super Anti-hero story about some guy who gets a couple hundred super-powers and decides to kill until New York floats away in a river of blood.

I'm the kind of guy who can appreciate Michael Bay movies so Prototype's brainless plot is right up my alley. Alex Mercer is a man on the run who discovers that he has incredible powers. Without the incredible responsibility to balance things out however he's no better than Elizabeth Greene. This woman suffered the most horrible haircut ever and in response she plans to infect an entire city with some virus that mutates everyone in hulking beasts. The government does what they do best and sends the Marines to solve this mess. The solution shared by all three parties is to kill until one stands alone. This isn't the entire story as some room has to be left for the twists and turns that are commonplace but for the most part players never have to worry about thinking.

Mercer's said incredible powers read like the sort of things I would have come up with back in elementary school. Aside from insane speed, strength, and agility, Mercer is considered a shape-shifter. He can alter his appearance, consume people to gain access to all of their thoughts, turn his arms into several different weapons, and generally do things with his body that...well...there's a reason why I never went around telling classmates about all these ideas I might have had. Given enough time Alex can learn to hurl cars over a mile, power-bomb civilians from thousands of feet in the air, elbow-drop tanks, and latch onto helicopters to steal a ride.

For whatever reason this just wasn't enough as Alex can also snag military vehicles, use guns, change his skin into armor, and even perform a cannon-ball dive that'll explode anything he makes contact with. It's not always imaginative but it's pretty clear that the developers took the time to come up with all kinds of neat ways for Alex to get the job done. While the player can get away with completing the game using only a fraction of them that's all the more reason to keep coming back and trying out different moves to get through the same situations in other ways.

The first five minutes of Prototype basically gives away all of the opposition Alex will be facing. The military is your bog-standard guys with guns, tanks, and helicopters while the infected are the hunters, zombies, and other beastly guys who just like to clobber everything. Dealing with these foes is easy enough at first since early on Alex is practically invincible. Over time however both sides start employing tougher resistance and higher numbers, forcing Mercer to get creative with his encounters and evolve his technique. Since Mercer is the only hope of straightening out the mess in Manhattan he will also have to work with and against both sides. This adds a very interesting dynamic as while exploring the player is bound to see military and infected forces squaring off against one another while the unfortunate civilians get caught in the middle.

This game is all about its fast pacing and its ferocity. As the intensity ramps up the player will have to contend with multiple attacks coming from all possible angles. This means moving quickly, changing directions, managing forces, and being able to do so in only a short amount of time. Health is recovered fairly easily by consuming or destroying but it can also be lost very easily thanks to the multitude of tough enemies such as higher-level hunters and a plethora of rocket-launcher soldiers and their fancy Mercer-killing equipment.

It's a rough game in all meanings of the word as a lot of the time it looks like things just aren't going to work out for the player. The missions can become very frustrating as they'll involve everyone's favorites such as escort and protect as well as an infinite and constant barrage of enemies while trying to focus on important matters like bosses or even just getting some breathing space. The bosses are absolute drek as while the concept can work most of these guys just stack on some absurd additions like countless enemy troops or just completely ignoring most of the player's attacks. When so much of the game is spent in control these times that require patience can really tear it all down.

The mission design leans towards the really bad later on as optional missions become all but impossible with everything going on. Infiltrating an enemy-base is cake early on but towards the end there's simply no way for the player to get in without setting off several alarms at once. After taking out a dozen choppers, ten tanks, and over a thousand troops the player will come back and find the base no worse for wear. Early on it may have been too easy to be sneaky as everyone is apparently blind to a guy running up walls and throwing cars everywhere but towards the end Mercer can't even cough without an entire nation of soldiers discovering him.

It's too bad really because when this game is good it's damn good. The good aspects align and connect to create a constant source of exhilaration and excitement but all it takes is the slightest slip and I feel like I'm playing Ninja Gaiden 2 again. I just feel like some impotent chump flailing about while a constant stream of rockets kicks me around town. Losing momentum can happen in seconds and Prototype isn't really designed well enough for the blame to lay squarely on the player when things don't work out.

Take the "War" line of missions for example. The goal is to kill a certain number of enemy troops while protecting the troops the player is working with. So for example if I'm working with the infected that means I have to deal with tanks and the like. My only real option at times is to steal a tank and go from there, as destroying tanks through other means tends to take too long and lead to too many casualties. Problem is Whenever I fire a shell at a tank there always seems to be several of my guys nearby, thus costing me dearly. Yeah restraint in these situations is important but with the odds the way they are I don't have a choice. If I do things any other way I either run out of time, leave myself open for other enemy tanks, or my allies just get killed off anyway. It's just one set of side-missions but issues such as these tend to come up whenever the game really tries to push itself beyond just "invincible dude killing things for fun".

The controls are another issue since while for a number of other action games they'd probably be okay but for everything that goes on in this game the player just doesn't have the options. An evasive roll is always handy but in this game there's no invincibility period tied to it. Getting out of the way of danger is a constant but the most effective means tends to be predicting what will happen and going from there. Even a block would have been helpful since it'd give the player a last minute opportunity to minimize damage. Sure the armor and shield abilities have their uses but what it comes down to is that the player can't counterattack when they're pinned down. They can probably escape without too much trouble but getting just out of range and creating an opening tends to be sloppy and ineffective.

Prototype can be a really fun game when everything comes together but it doesn't have the right design, the proper usage of mechanics, and even a handful of hidden variables to really work on multiple levels. Sure I've done a lot worse with $10 but if you're looking for something more than an excuse to kill innocent people you may as well look elsewhere.

Game rating - 1.5 out of 5

My rating - 2.5 out of 5

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PS3 Look - Littlebigplanet

It's really difficult to point out exactly what makes Littlebigplanet such a special game. For one there is the "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" aspect. Yes I'm well aware that this is a very trite and overused way to describe a game but all the same it fits. In fact I would go as far to say I would not recommend this game if all someone is going to do on it is play the story-mode. Thankfully that's not really the point of Littlebigplanet as it is a community-driven game where nearly all of its truly great qualities are due to average folk like you and I.

This is not of those games that can merely be reviewed. I can't just put up a checklist and explain the controls, talk about the story, maybe discuss the point of the game. Littlebigplanet is both too simple and too complicated for that sort of nonsense. The fact of the matter is that the player is at the mercy of the world and must abide by its rules. There is a demo available that gives enough of a taste but in all honesty it doesn't sell the game at all.

The story-mode is in many ways a tutorial, a proving ground for one's mind. It may sound like pseudo-babble but trust me when I say that the story-mode serves its purpose well in preparing the player for what the game actually has to offer. Through the story the player will find all sorts of trinkets and gadgets, decorations for the worlds they want to create and the sackboy they control, and an understanding of what makes the Planet work. Like any other game there are rules to follow and breaking them will either lead to sackboy's destruction or worse they will render a level unplayable. As far as the story-mode is concerned, platformer-veterans may find it to be a bit too traditional but for the most part it's pretty solid.

All told it really isn't enough. The campaign offers just enough to get the player started but when it's all over they'll feel left out and disappointed as the game has ended before it has even begun. Thankfully it doesn't end there because the player still has access to over three million levels. These levels are all designed by others who have played through the story-mode and have a basic grasp of the mechanics and ideas this game has to offer.

Obviously with such a large number there isn't the slightest guarantee that even the smallest percentage of those millions of levels are truly great. In fact the results vary so wildly that it's actually rather charming. I've played stages that are quite brilliant and showcase a really talent for level-design. Then I play some stages that just feel a big mess of stuff to play around with and that is appealing as well. The worst stages tend to be the ones where the designer offers some scant reward for hearts. Hearts are basically the currency of LPB. Make a good level and you're bound to get some. Unfortunately hearts are also tied to trophies so players not interested in putting forth the effort think they can just buy them.

This sort of randomness is all due to the "quick-play" function. From the title-screen the player can be thrown into any one of the millions of levels. The surprise aspect of it all makes this function far more addictive than it has any right to be. There's a perfectly done search function as well for those who would rather seek out good levels but for me at least I just like going places and seeing what they have to offer.

The multiplayer is perhaps the most entertaining aspect of this game. Since most players don't have a mic communication is limited to sackboy's various facial expressions and animations as well as a text-message system that is handy but only useful if the player has the time to stand still for awhile. This actually works in favor of the game since many players will just follow along or decide to go their own way on a whim. Since the content of the levels is apparently well-regulated it's highly doubtful that anyone will end up seeing something they didn't want to. I was especially shocked because in all my time playing I've yet to see any penis-shaped objects in levels. Usually that's the first thing somebody makes when they get a game with create-able content but I guess they can only do that on their own.

What's especially fun about playing with others is that while some go through the motions and play respectfully with others there are always those moments where things go downhill. Players can drag or slap each other into pits, some get over-zealous with the paintball-gun and blast everyone nearby off a cliff. While there is a bit of a competitive aspect to the game there's really no reason to do anything to harm another player and thus when it actually does happen it adds a fun little challenge to the level. So while the player jumps around and avoids traps they also have to contend with other players trying to mess things up. It never turns creepy either since a simple command can shut down anyone who attempts to follow somebody.

More than anything however Littlebigplanet believes itself to be something of a vacation. It doesn't demand much of anything from the player except for a willingness to have fun and there's so many ways to customize the experience to the player's liking that while they can't change the rules they can still play along in their own way. The level-creator is a fantastic piece of work as it perfectly adapts to both sides of the player. Some just want to tinker with all of the different objects and experiment while others are looking to build that perfect stage. Since friends are free to join in they can either work together on this stage or they can put their imagination towards something that doesn't make any sense but it's fun all the same.

While Littlebigplanet does not have the finesse and flawless design of a favorite platformer it manages to be something very special in all other aspects. I'll go as far to say that this is a required play for all gamers.

Game Rating - 5 out of 5

My Rating - 5 out of 5

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PS3 Look - Sengoku Basara 3 : Samurai Heroes

The Musou genre is a tough sell these days. Back then titles like Dynasty Warriors 2 on the PS2 were seen as a big deal because they showed off the power of the system. Problem is after a few hundred sequels, several spin-offs, and no shortage of clones it's fair to say that a few people are suffering from burnout. So when a Musou game is announced everyone says "oh good another one of those games where you just hit the X button until you win." and then the reviewers say "don't bother with this. 4/10" and the sales...well they don't say much of anything apparently because these games still keep getting released.

Last generation when the genre was just a bit more fresh, Capcom created the Sengoku Basara series. It's essentially based on Japan's "Warring States" period and features the likes of Nobunaga Oda, Ieyasu Tokugawa, Mitsuhide Akechi, and so on. If those names are familiar to you you've probably either been brushing up on Japan's history or played Samurai Warriors. Though both games have their similarities -- such as being part of the Musou genre -- Sengoku Basara puts more of an emphasis on the fantastical.

To start things off Nobunaga Oda wears a cape that appears to have a mind of its own, destroys his enemies with a shotgun, and laughs himself into hysterical fits at every opportunity. The typical battle consists of just this warlord making short work of an entire army before the climatic battle with whoever pissed him off that day. The grunts that oppose him are peons of the lowest order whose only purpose is to provide amusement. What it usually comes down to is when an army approaches their only purpose is to be juggled endlessly by a constant barrage of attacks. Apparently wicked outfits and crazy special attacks just aren't "Basara". One has to clobber dozens of enemies at once and fling their lifeless corpses around like they're the unluckiest balls in a ping-pong convention.

Then you throw in some trivial commentary about honor, loyalty, and the chaos of war and that is the entirety of the game. Everything about Sengoku Basara is just one notch below total absurdity and that's perfect. The third game takes place during the intense battle between Mitsunari Ishida and Ieyasu Tokugawa. The goal is the unification of Japan and potentially the end to the constant warfare that has claimed so many lives. Since things have a habit of never being easy, many other factions have their own goals in mind.

The colorful cast of characters have been designed around achieving that highest level of basara. Masamune Date is notable for wielding six swords like they were claws, Yukimura Saneda is all about being hot-blooded and carrying two spears, Magoichi Saica carries enough guns on her person to perform a one woman's World War 2, and with any of the other thirteen characters you can bet they're about as extreme as one can imagine. They all have their own techniques for the acquiring of "hits". Sure punching a guy once may count as a hit but in this game the only hits that get the player respect are those that get into the tens of thousands.

Getting these hits may come overnight if the player is diligent enough but for the most part it's a long road to the top. Each character starts off at level 1 and has access to only a couple special attacks. There's the command string of basic attacks, jumping, dodging, and parrying/blocking to help round them out. Over time as the player progresses their characters will gain levels and unlock newer and stronger special attacks. There are also special arts which offer all sorts of nifty uses and through a combination of all of the above a massive number of hits can be attained.

The long road is not a straight path either as each of the sixteen characters have their own story modes. These tales tend to offer multiple paths and even alternate routes that play out events not entirely in tune with history. Each path is broken up into multiple stages where the player goes through an enemy army, takes on some notable generals, and then faces off with the boss. Along the way everything from stats to weapons to money to accessories can be bought, built-up, and in other words upgraded. Fans of carrots and that constant feeling of progress will fall in love with this game.

The stages themselves are very straightforward. The boss is always waiting at the end of the line and along the way there are bases to acquire and sub-missions to engage in. In one stage a heavy mist will roll in where the player will be constantly attacked by tigers. Doing away with this obstacle requires the capturing of enemy bases. Another stage might involve avoiding an exceptionally strong adversary, still others involve racing someone on horseback. Not all of these sub-missions work well as some are just a nuisance and can be more frustrating than fun. Still in the long run they serve their purpose in offering materials, hidden fugitives, and end-of-mission rewards that will eventually lead to hits.

The hit-talk gets annoying I bet but that's what really makes the game fun. Building a character up to the point where they are enveloping their foes in a whirlwind of pure destructive force is just absolute joy. Plus there's a certain skill in finding the right opportunities to trigger abilities like hero-time and the basara attack to keep the combo going. The many accessories that can be crafted or found offer all sorts of different functions that change the way the game is played. While it can get repetitive there are just enough factors that can be changed with every playthrough that the game never feels too much like a grind.

Still the grind is acknowledged as it takes a bit of persistence in the later stages of the game as permanent stat-gains are usually in the hands of fugitives. These jerks love to hide in the corners of the map and while a handful of stages are good for farming them it's still a lot of work for minor upgrade. They're not all that necessary but they make the hardest setting a bit easier. Still unless the player is a trophy-hunter none of this stuff is really necessary. Besides it'll take probably 200 or more hours to complete everything.

Perhaps the best thing about this game is if even with 200 hours the content stays relatively fresh throughout. This isn't Way of the Samurai 3 or some other game that doles out stuff like "more creative name +1" in the 100th hour. A fair number of the late-game accessories make some fairly dramatic changes in the battles and there's all sorts of perfectly acceptable methods of getting that particular level of challenge out of the game. The alternate story routes are entertaining and the characters have enough depth to them that just one of them could take dozens of hours to master. Still all of the best parts of the game tend to involve being showered in gold and enemy bodies as your hero is dishing out hundreds if not thousands of hits a second.

If you haven't been turned off entirely by the Musou genre I highly recommend this game. If you have well that's fine too, but I'd still give the demo a shot.

Game Rating - 4 stars out of 5

Like I said earlier some of the sub-missions don't quite work and the worst of them tend to involve things that don't require hitting bad guys. I mean seriously who thought a horse-race was a good idea? Maybe Capcom should throw in a stealth mission while they're at it. The trophies are also all kinds of ridiculous. Yes they are completely optional but when the average mission can involve the deaths of 500 to over a thousand people, completing a story campaign killing less than 100 people total is just stupid and boring.

My Rating - 4 stars out of 5

A number of characters that were playable in prior Sengoku Basara games for one reason or another didn't make the cut here. I guess it would have been too much effort to develop a story-mode for them but that doesn't mean they should have been dumped out entirely. Speaking of modes this game also cuts back on them. Sengoku Basara 2 had a Survival mode as well as a special campaign where everyone fought each other and rewards were determined by how much of the land the opposing characters controlled. Here it's just story and free-battle which is fine for the game but I think it's lacking. At least there's always room for a sequel/update.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Shopping

Don't even try to deny it because you knew it was gonna happen. Oh yeah a couple updates ago I was all "yeah yeah I'm done buying games for awhile" but it's Black Friday bay-bee and you know what that means.

Prototype - Look it was $10..just don't bother me. Plus for some reason I felt compelled to get it along with...

inFamous - Two open-world "superhero" games that came around the same time as one another. I like this sort of stuff so eh why not?

Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction - I'm really liking Crack in Time so I got the prequel.

Sin & Punishment 2 - I probably should have bought this game back when it was full-price because y'know I gotta support the smaller developer. But eh getting the game off of newegg for $16 is more beneficial to me.

Dragon Quest IX - I think I've put at least several hours into every game in the series thus far. Oh and yeah the price was right ($17!) so it was done.

Final Fantasy XIII - I'm going in expecting to dislike or even hate this game. Still I can't let a main-line FF go unplayed.

Crash-Time - Look I really don't know what to make of this one. I got it for a song and from the description it sounds like I just drive around knocking people off the road. If that isn't worth something I dunno what else to say.

Warhawk - I needed a multiplayer game and Warhawk is cheap and apparently still fairly popular.

Recettetear and four other games - There's a great GREAT deal on Steam going on right now featuring this much-praised doujin and a handful of other games that are from what I hear decent to good. It's a really good haul for only $5 so yep yep I made it mine.

VVVVVV, World of Goo, and three other games - Damn Steam! Another great indie bundle for only $5. I just had to buy it.

Torchlight - Wow it's just like Diablo...and it's $5. My PC barely runs it because I don't have a 3D card but oh well it gets bought anyway. *sigh*

Resonance of Fate - The Tri-Ace RPG that hit around the same time as FF13. Features uhhh..absurd gun customization and is likely really good oh and cheap price too. Gosh darn it I can't take it anymore.

I'm done for real this time...I'm serious.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

PS2 Look - Sega Classics Collection

Not much else to say really.
You can read what I think over here.

PSP Look - Half Minute Hero

The concept behind Half-Minute Hero reminds me of the days spent playing RPGs on an emulator. The greatest appeal of playing console RPGs on an emulator is because of the various speed settings. So what would have been hours of grinding exp can be done in minutes and the average dungeon could be completed in seconds if I knew what I was doing. All the while the party power-walks through every encounter at the speed of light.

So with all that in mind we take the core concept, balance it out a bit, and build a storyline entirely around saving the world thirty seconds at a time. The goal of Half-Minute Hero is to travel to various lands, gain exp, find/purchase equipment, and save the day from the evil thirty second increments. This is all accomplished through the hero's blazing speed and very limited skills. Basically he charges forward and if he's stronger than the monster he wins and moves on. Success in this game does not involve tactics but in choice of equipment, split-second decisions, and refining movement so not a single second is wasted.

Each stage starts off with the basics. A bad-guy has gotten their hands on a world-destruction spell that takes thirty seconds to cast. Half the time these guys aren't even evil but maybe they just had a bad day or somebody insulted them so obviously the best response has to be the most irrational. The Goddess of Time (who happens to be a real jerk) will point out what has to be done (kill the bad-guy) and maybe the hero will get some pointers about what to do next. Sometimes this will involve fixing a bridge, rescuing various townspeople, finding some great weapon, and will eventually involve every console RPG trope.

Since everything takes seconds the pacing is of course pretty excellent. Retrying stages is never an issue since the loss of progress is negligible and it'll be easier the next time around as the player knows what to do. The battles are flawlessly implemented and provide the right amount of feedback to keep the player up to date on what the next move is. This is just an absolutely perfect game for very quick gaming sessions.

Still though the concept does get old after awhile. There's only so many variations for each stage and while there's a constant stream of new bad-guys to conquer and new equipment to snag it all becomes pretty dull after awhile. Rarely are things really changed up so I feel like I'm going through the motions with each new stage. There are additional goals and all sorts of secrets to add extra replay value to the stages but there's no real incentive to go after them. However it's not all bad as the game seems to retain its freshness quite well in five minute spurts.

Outside of the main campaign there are a handful of additional game-modes that use the half-minute concept. It's a nice extra but really they're not fun at all. The half-minute RPG actually pushes the genre a bit by upping the ante and challenge-level properly. These other half-minute games just sort of lull about and don't accomplish much of anything. On the bright side it'll only take less than a minute of playing before you can decide if you like them or not.

The greatest part of this game is the writing which tends to be pretty clever and never takes itself seriously at all. Of course this is also dependent on the player's stomach for dozens of jokes being shoe-horned into every stage at every potential moment. While all of this can be skipped through it does lead to the feeling that something is missing. Sure the story is trivial and irrelevant but the writing adds the necessary flavor to the game that really brings it all together. It does have an effect on the pacing though when there's more text to read than game to play.

All in all I'm not quite sure what I want to say here. Half-Minute Hero is a fresh concept but it may not be for everyone. Part of what I like about RPGs is that they aren't fast-paced and they tend to favor tactics and understanding of various mechanics and design-philosophies in the battle system, things that this game has none of. Sure equipment can be decided on before the stage starts but its all a little simplistic (expecting a lot of bugs? bring a bug-swatter). Still it is different and that's worth checking out on its own.

Game Rating - 3 stars out of 5
The biggest weakness here is the lack of compelling modes outside of the main campaign. That's not to say having no modes at all would be any better. The way I see it extra modes are a good idea as they can offer a nice break from the campaign. Unfortunately these just aren't any fun. The writing is consistently charming at least.

My Rating - 3 stars out of 5
This isn't my strongest recommendation but this game yields some good things. It's not like it takes some massive amount of effort to get into. At least if it turns out you don't like the game you're only out a few minutes and $20. By the way the sequel sounds pretty good, though its unlikely we'll see it in the U.S.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Car problems...

Good news everyone!
It looks like thanks to some car repairs I'm going to have to stop buying games for awhile. I gotta get my priorities in order and all that since I need my car for my real job and since this job doesn't pay I don't need new games.

So consider this the last of the purchase updates for the near-future. No worries though as this means I get to take a crack at the backlog that's been hounding me ever since I started this blog.

Little Big Planet (PS3)- The PSP version is not bad's the PSP version. I figured I'd better just go with the real deal instead. Really loving the game I gotta say. While I can understand the complaints about the controls I think they don't really effect the game. Of course I'm still in that period where I'm just overwhelmed by everything. From tinkering with the level-creation tools to wandering random levels to see all sorts of oddities the community has cooked up. I'm sure I'll be on this game for quite awhile.

Oh and just a reminder: Pacman CE DX is excellent.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

XBLA Look - Pacman CE DX

The original Pacman CE was and still is one of the best games to see release on the Xbox Live Arcade service. Anyone who is anyone has played it and to be honest considering how often the game has been given away through various promotions and bundles there's really no excuse for anyone to miss out on it. So what if it is based off of some game that came out over thirty years ago. Like any good update Pacman CE turned everything around with a dynamic maze setup, huge potential for chaining ghosts, and most importantly it made a game that can be completely satisfying in as little as five minutes. There are some that enjoy sitting in front of the same game of Pacman for several hours to get a high-score, I'm not one of them.

Has it really been thirty years? I can't help but get a little poetic here, like I should say something significant about one of the most important games of all time. Unfortunately in front of the computer I just never have the right words to say. It's sort of like how I'll be in my car and I'll come up with some brilliant thought but then the words are lost before I can even so much as write them down. Playing Pacman CE DX gives me that similar feeling. I want to properly explain what makes this such a brilliant sequel and yet I can't quite get it together.

There are more ghosts, more ghosts than originally thought possible. These ghosts are still of the edible sort provided Pacman grabbed a power-pellet but things are different now. The ghosts are usually sleeping, waiting for Pac-man to awaken them. Some of these ghosts even carry power-pellets with them. They are no longer the threat they were thirty years ago. It's like they have given themselves up for a greater cause. They do what they must to make the game fun.

Then there is the maze. As with Pacman CE the player must eat all of the dots and then the fruit to unlock a new half of the maze. Sure it sounds clumsy but as we all know it turned out to be an excellent idea. Obviously this update continues the concept but now with each new section of the maze comes the sleeping ghosts. They along with the lines are arranged in such a way that it is easy to collect all of them in a second or less...for the most part.

The goal is to create a chain of ghosts. Pac-man has ascended to a higher plane of existence just so he can shepherd these lost souls. As the mazes progress he will continue to lead these ghosts until the opportunity arises. There will be times when a maze will appear just filled with ghosts. The addition of power-pellets in these particular spots makes everything obvious. The ghosts then fall by the tens and possibly hundreds as Pac-man cashes in. I believe I've eaten more ghosts in a single game of Pacman CE DX than in twenty-five years of playing the other games in the series. The simple act of eating ghosts has never gotten old in all those years so without a doubt devouring a score of them in seconds triggers feelings I probably shouldn't be having about a videogame.

That's not all there is to it of course. In order to get the most out of a five minute time-limit it is up to the player's maneuverability and quick-thinking. There always tends to be a spare ghost or four floating around attempting to throw the player off and every second off of the track set by the game is wasted time. To keep things moving the game offers a couple new additions. When Pac-man is dangerously close to a ghost the game slows down dramatically. It's a handy tool but only useful in near-death situations, there's nothing slowing Pacman down from wandering off the path of optimal scoring. For those who have really goofed up there are bombs. These are limited in number and put a bit of a damper on the player's score but it does kick the ghost-chain back to their hideout along with any nearby sleeping ghosts. It's useful sure but when the entire purpose of the game is the high-score what's the point? Real men and women jump straight to the select button on the X360 pad, which restarts the game within seconds.

The game itself is split up into multiple map modes. These maps each have their own theme such as highway with its many straight passages or spiral and its all constant turning. From here the player can play the traditional five-minute game, a longer ten-minute one, or take on other challenges such as going for the highest ghost combo or doing time trials. One such map known as Half is entirely time trials as only one half of the screen is used to gather sleeping ghosts to create a safe route for Pac-man to get to the dots. It is a great mode on its own but more importantly it reinforces the concepts of the game and provides excellent practice for the other maps. The original Pacman CE is also playable and includes the bombing as well as death-avoidance systems. Interestingly enough neither of these functions helped me get a better score than in my runs with non-DXified Pacman CE.

Sure anyone can skip one episode of their favorite sitcom to get all of the achievements in this game but it certainly won't end there. There are a ton of leaderboards for friends and strangers alike to compete on and while the interface isn't quite as good as something like Geometry Wars 2 it is still solid and efficient. Obviously that still leaves out the gamers who don't care about scoring but that's their problem.

Even in the process of writing this review I still can't come up with the words to express how this game makes me feel. It's a good feeling but it seems like I can only describe properly it when in the middle of a game. It's probably something that can't be put into words because it would likely lessen the impact, or maybe the meaning isn't interpreted properly. Maybe I'll figure it out one day or maybe I was better off not trying to think about it at all. I mean let's consider what I said earlier. Y'know the part where I said "I believe I've eaten more ghosts in a single game of Pacman CE DX than in twenty-five years of playing the other games in the series". It gets kind of scary when I think about it. Just think, nearly an entire life gone by in as little as five minutes. The only time I really get to reflect on this is the couple seconds of time that elapse as Pac-man engorges on a particularly long ghost-train.

Everything from the faded memories of playing Pac-man on the Atari 2600 to the days spent playing in the local bar are in that one train of ghosts. Those days spent in laundromats playing Ms. Pacman and the early days of the Internet talking about how much Pac-man sucks...all of them are gone with the chain. Then there is all the time spent playing the countless sequels, remakes, updates, and spin-off. Everything up to even the time spent with Pacman CE is just a miniscule portion in the average game of DX. Every game of DX I play is spent trying to recapture these moments and the events that surrounded them. If I beat my high-score well that's wonderful too but more than anything this game gives me precious moments to recall. It's probably all just the same as nostalgia but I guess I want to say "Thank You". As in "Thank you Namco for giving me this opportunity". Aside from producing an excellent game Namco was able to trigger all of these thoughts and emotions despite the game itself having nothing in the way of a storyline. It's probably all just history and nostalgia but I don't care. I've said it and I will stand by it for as long as I myself am standing.

Game rating - 5 out of 5 stars
My rating - 5 out of 5 stars

Monday, November 15, 2010

PS2 Look - Gradius V

Everyone knows Gradius and everyone knows Treasure. Put them together and blammo! a Gradius game by Treasure. Five is a dramatic departure for the series and while it's oft-seen as a quality title there's still been many discussion as to how this game holds up to the rest. I try not to look at Gradius V compared to other Gradius games, but how the game compares to other 2D shooters. Still I have my reservations and I'd like to air them out. If you just want a short answer...well I highly recommend checking the game out, no doubt about that.

Criticism is never easy. It used to be something was either awesome or crap and that was the end of it. Nowadays that junk doesn't fly so I try to put forth the effort to explain why things don't work the way I think they should. Gradius V is a good game in practically every respect so I can't just start going off about whatever since it wouldn't make any sense and admittedly I'd lose a bit of self-respect.

The goal of the game is the same as any other Gradius. As the Vic Viper and/or Lord British the player(s) must navigate 7 and 1/3rd stages filled with hostile life-forms, diabolical traps, and fearsome bosses. Fans of the genre will slip comfortably into this game as all of the additions are seamlessly integrated into the core of it all, making even the more complicated aspects like multiple-manipulation seamless and entertaining.

Multiple-manipulation, Option-handling, whatever phrase fits best for you that's the most important element of this Gradius. Power-ups and thus options are very easy to come by which means the stages have every excuse to test the player's control over their ship as well as the options that help to protect it. It's a very fresh approach to the series since for the most part options were pretty limited in how they could be used. All four option-settings in Gradius V offer different configurations for differing play-styles and skill-levels. Freeze is handy as it locks whatever positions the options are in, leading to some great setups that take advantage of particular locations and enemy weak-points. Rotate is an effective choice for novices as the multiples encircle the ship for solid protection. Spacing is a rather unique setup in that it has many viable methods yet they're not always obvious. Finally direction is perhaps the most difficult and most rewarding to master as it allows constant control over where the multiples are aimed.

Despite all of the multiple-setups there is only one path through the game. This means that situations that might favor one setup will have to be trudged through using another one, and there's no getting around that. Furthermore exceptional players might also opt for no multiples at all, which leads to some creative methods of surviving. Throw in a host of difficulty settings, multiple loops that further increase the level of challenge, and a bunch of extra weapons...and this becomes a game that will take awhile to master.

It's rather strange how Gradius V is setup. Each level revolves around a particular gimmick. This is nothing new for the series but in this game the gimmicks are taken to the extreme. Whereas one Gradius game might have asteroids flying about, this Gradius Game will throw around thousands of asteroids, toss in some different-shaped ones for flavor, and have an entire boss-fight revolving around the importance of the asteroids (as they're pretty handy for stopping enemy-bullets). For the most part this game is all about using whatever option setup that works best to get through situations that continue to ramp up the level of intensity. It's a pretty fresh take on the series and though it lacks some key stalwarts (like a level based around Moai-heads) it is as I've said a quality title.

Now then this leaves me with the job of criticism. The way I see it is that Gradius V is simply too long. It's too long for the series, too long for the genre, and just plain overly long. That sort of thing might be a boon for some but we're talking about a 2D shooter. This is a genre where a single mistake decreases the chances of the player beating the game by as much as a third. Sometimes this mistake is one of those truly awful ones where it takes the player entirely out of "the zone", destroys their rhythm, and before-long they've lost whatever momentum they had and crumble to pieces. This works wonderfully in a game that is about thirty minutes in length...not so much when a game clocks in at over an hour.

This is the part where it gets complicated. Making Gradius V reach an acceptable length means that sections of the game have to be cut out entirely. Treasure put a lot of effort into showing off some very creative and memorable sections into the game. What can be taken out of Gradius V so that the game is leaner, more focused, and better but at the same time none of the best moments from the game will suffer for it? To further complicate things one must also understand that the key to good level design is proper pacing and a steady build-up of intensity. Cutting out a chunk from one section could see the player hitting a massive brick-wall, the sort of thing they'd never expect given what they saw earlier. It doesn't help matters that Treasure is especially fond of "slow-burning" the gimmicks in this game. Condensing things may also ruin the pacing as particular sections would be too close to one another, leading to a confusing and disorganized game.

So again we must turn to the magic of youtube and I'll point out whatever fat that can be trimmed.

Stage 1

For the most part it's pretty standard for the series. The thing is though is that the gimmick really doesn't come into player for over a minute in. It's also a rather boring gimmick as it's been done before in other games, though slightly differently. Unfortunately without a sufficient replacement this level is probably best left as it is. Still at least a minute could be shaved off and it would not affect the game in the slightest. On higher difficulties/loops things become more interesting but it's really not enough to consider leaving things as they are.

Stage 2

From the outset one thing is very noticeable: This stage is apparently over ten minutes length. Is that really at all necessary? Especially considering the fact that about a third or so of this stage must be re-done at the end of the game. Sure it's a very cool twist on the standard "destroy the great evil" at the end of the average Gradius but again it's a pretty slow-burn. The first few minutes are very necessary as they begin to show off the situations the Vic Viper is capable of getting into. Stages will move in all different directions and enemies tend to be placed in hard-to-reach areas. It's a good stage as it introduces elements at a good pace and does not waste anything.

The boss-rush takes nearly as long as the entire stage yet it's an even harder section to cut from. I'd probably drop the second mini-boss. It's a rather unnecessary battle. The more drastic measure would be to lose the boss-rush entirely. Gradius games really only need one of them but on the other hand three pretty good fights would be lost. I can only choose to lose the weakest of the three.

Stage 3

Here we have another stage that ignores the straight-forward nature Gradius is known for. While some of the sections look easy on harder settings they're a bit more complicated. Again changing them would probably ruin the difficulty curve in one way or another. In fact I'd go as far to say that there isn't a single thing I'd change about this stage. It's kind of difficult to accept since the stage is around eight minutes but there's hardly an element out of place.

Stage 4

This level is the standard "bio-themed" stage that tends to crop up in Gradius games. One thing that I should have mentioned early is that these stages are based off of the easier difficulties. On normal and above there are all these creatures that crawl out of the various holes in the stage, making for some serious problems. It's a brilliant stage in my opinion as it effectively uses four different gimmicks. There's the uh...whatever those things are with the arms that attach to the walls, the shifting walls and the crawling guys that accompany them, a giant worm, and regenerating walls. Some of this could have been pared down but stage 4 is so important because it represents an up-tick in challenge.

Stage 5

Here we have my favorite part of the game. When it comes to 2D shooters I like to dodge stuff and blow stuff up and there's an overload of both going on here. There's an absolutely amazing showcase of mechanics going on here as the asteroids are constantly shifting in motion depending on the circumstances. This leads to an almost endless supply of close-calls and situations that cause the sort of rush I can only get from a 2D shooter. This all leads to one of the best boss-fights in Treasure's history, making this an absolutely perfect stage.

Stage 6: part 1

With this one I really get the feeling that it's bloated. Nearly the entire stage revolves around this endless supply of dangerous green goop and the player must carve a path while the stage itself makes all sorts of twists and turns. Treasure really outdid themselves with this one and it's such a creative gimmick that the slow-burn process really works here. The slightest changes in how the level is structured lead to some dramatic effects. It's a great level for at least the first-half.

Stage 6: part 2

The second part starts off with a backwards-section which leaves a number of multiple-configurations and the ship itself practically defenseless. Still it's not impossible as the ship can actually slide in-between the space where the ships and walls connect. It's a clever little piece but ultimately it really has no place in the stage and possibly in the game. The jump to the boss-rush could have been made immediately after the last of the green goop and nothing would have changed. On the other hand the third mini-boss undoes my theory a bit because he can attack the Vic Viper from behind, which means the backwards-section early isn't really a waste. Anyway it's a long rush but the end-boss goes quickly if the player is willing to play risky.

Stage 7: part 1

The final stage like all Gradius titles relies a particular set of gimmicks. This is the part where I get really biased because I hate Gradius last stages. First there's the speed section. I'm always terrible at these and for whatever reason there always has to be this sharp-angled turn towards the end. Earlier Gradius games were less-forgiving when it came to speed-powerups so death was guaranteed if the ship wasn't set at the right level.

Stage 7: part 2

Just watching this video makes me ill. I'm pretty sure I'm claustrophobic and this part of the stage is all about tight spaces filled with enemies. As a bonus another last-stage stalwart in the form of moving walls makes an appearance. I think a lot of this doesn't really need to be there as the only purpose it serves is to remind everyone that this is a Gradius game. The mini-boss here is an exceptionally challenging one and it's pretty much game-over if the player never bothered to figure out how to get past the section with the laser-blocking movable orbs.

Stage 7: part 3

Second only to the completely pathetic final boss is the invincible or nearly invincible mid-boss. These guys attempt to crush the Vic Viper with their legs while various smaller enemies do everything to either kill the player outright or distract them so they get killed. Thankfully this version can be destroyed but depending on how quickly it dies the rest of the time until the final door is spent sitting around waiting for something to happen.

Stage 8 or Stage 2: Alternate

Gradius games are known for their loops but whoa a time loop? That's pretty crazy. Honestly it kind of bothers me because as with past videos the player uses the single-stage mode instead of doing a playthrough of the entire game. So the second Vic-Viper doesn't even appear...what the heck? Anyway this is the final portion of the game and while it is really creative the whole time-traveling aspect is probably the most unnecessary edition to the game. However if that gets taken out stage 2 is going to be a complete mess and it'll probably lead to this paradox that destroys the universe and...well I give up.

So despite everything the most I could actually see getting cut from this game is minimal. Treasure put together a really tight game with excellent presentation, flawless mechanics, and some of the best level and boss designs seen in the genre. The only real argument that can be made (its length) would require drastic changes to the entire game. It really isn't worth the trouble and considering the game had to be balanced for over 250 levels of difficulty I can't really argue much more than that. Although in all fairness around 95% of those extra difficulty settings amount to things such as more bullets. In any case Gradius V is a spectacular game.

Game rating - 5 stars out of 5

Believe me when I say I actually tried to put forth an argument that Gradius V wasn't flawless. Considering the issues are negligible and my arguments amounted to little more than nitpicking there's really nothing that stands out as problematic.

My rating - 4 stars out 5

I really like the game but I still hate stage 7 and stage 1 gets really dull after repeat play-throughs. It is great for picking up and challenging certain stages with differing weapon setups however. In the end this game stands next to Gradius Gaiden as the best the series has to offer.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Whoa where are the reviews?

Yeah I've been away for awhile. I have been writing reviews at least but you gotta go to the Gaming Age Forums(Neogaf) to read them.

You can read about:
Space Invaders: Infinity Gene - here
Lufia: Rise of the Sinistrals - here
Light Crusader - here

I'll have some more updates for this blog later on. I've been playing a lot of Sengoku Basara 3 so there's that to look forward to...hopefully.

Friday, November 5, 2010

PS1 look - Final Fantasy 7

Whoo boy where do I even begin with this one? Aside from being critically acclaimed, arguably one of the most important reasons behind the success of the Playstation, and the jump-starter for a Golden-age in regards to Japanese RPGs, Final Fantasy 7 is still a highly sought-after remake and it's still #1 in the Playstation 1 message-boards at gamefaqs. Huh? Hold on a second. What in the world are people still doing talking about this game? Are they running polls for who would win in a fight between Tifa Lockheart and Cynthia Rothrock? I could have sworn every piece of Cloud/Sephiroth fanart was drawn from epic battles to loving embraces to things that would make any sensible person give up on humanity.

Why exactly is that? The game is a relic and I'm saying that in the nicest way possible. Its storyline has become legendary for its usage of tropes we take for granted in every RPG, most of the characters are laughable and useless, its sitting on enough retcons and side-games that should have tarnished its legacy beyond recognition years ago, and everyone on the internet will be the first to tell you if they dislike it. The legend of how FF7 sucks is almost as big as the legend of FF7 itself.

The only way this piece is going to achieve any sense of normalcy is if I ignore all talk not related to the game itself and that's just what I'm going to do. Final Fantasy 7 is still a game and surprisingly despite everything it has held up rather well, since in the end it is an entry in the Final Fantasy series. These games are notable for the many different ways they can be played through. Back in Final Fantasy 1 there was beating the game with all white mages, using no espers in part six, and seven is no different with no materia runs, no item runs, runs where the player beats the game with Aeris (isn't she supposed to die?), and so on and so forth.

The story is something that I've kind of grown to appreciate. Sure it revolves around tired standards such as amnesiac heroes and ancient civilizations but I can't really fault it because after all this was before that sort of nonsense became really commonplace. I think the main thing to take away from the story of this game is that it never really takes itself too seriously. One of the villains has some hatred for Tifa that is never really explained and at one point she attempts to have her publicly executed. This feud is settled with an epic bout where the two of them reach the point of showdown and proceed to slap each other silly. It's ridiculous sure but I find it to be charming and coupled with the exaggerated animations and little touches like Cloud being able to do stunts while parachuting into Midgar and it's all pretty amusing.

Even when the actual plot and story doesn't hold up I find that the themes it explores are nicely done and despite lacking in subtlety the point comes across well. The ending for example is really interesting as it depicts a rather interesting scenario. If the planet is capable of being saved should humanity be saved as well? They may have been the driving force behind nearly destroying the planet and even the protagonists carry their fair share of flaws but maybe they're deserving of a second chance. I'm not very good at explaining these sorts of thoughts but the way I saw it Aeris' death was less the death of a person and more the death of innocence itself. It sounds cheesy and all but if all hopes of the future rest on the innocent, who spends their lives seeking peace and fall at first sight of the wicked, then how are they able to save the world? It's obviously not the kind of issue that can be solved by some ultimate white magic. Cloud was able to resume the fight because of the memories he shares with others but more importantly it's the hope he shares with everyone including Aeris'. This hope takes the form of the White Materia Holy, the counter to the Black Materia Meteor, and humanity's place in the middle is up to the decision of a higher power (which in the case of FF7 at least would be the planet). But that's just the way I see it, and I'd go further but I'm sure everyone got tired of reading stuff like this over a decade ago.

The game itself is as I said a relic. It represents a time that even Square-enix let alone any other RPG-developer will never revisit. Each location aside from the world-map is designed using pre-rendered art. Sometimes it can look good and even striking but in the context of the game it doesn't really work. There are a lot of locations where it takes a long time for the character to move from one end to the other. This can lead to quite a few boring dungeons as they'll consist of over-long straight lines just to run from one end to the other. Due to all of the pre-rendered assets there are also times where it isn't exactly where the player is supposed to go. Square rectifies this by making most treasures easily visible and offers a toggle setting that slaps red and green indicators on the screen which dictate exits and objects that can be interacted with. Still nothing can really be done about the long walks it takes to reach certain places.

The battle-system is nothing entirely new to Final Fantasy fans but the materia system is very clever. It offers a ton of customization and for those willing to put in the time it can lead to making characters practically invincible or even so incompetent that the game becomes more difficult to beat. It's a very good system as it can even be completely optional for the extra-challenge. Sure this limits the identities of the party-members down to their base-stats and limit-breaks but I can see why it was done. Giving everyone unique abilities would most likely lead to Final Fantasy 6 all over again which means nearly double the number of playable characters. As far as this play-through is concerned though all I really focused on was limit-breaks and enemy-skills and I didn't see a party member die until towards the end (thanks to an instant-death attack). Yeah part seven is definitely one of the easier games in the series but that just leads to more possibilities for a greater challenge.

As far as pacing is concerned the game really didn't pick up for me until the materia started pouring in. That says more about me than anything as I've said it many times before I like numbers and bars. Numbers that get higher and bars that fill up are the strangest addiction to me so quite a bit of the early game wasn't really interesting. Since the very end of the game consists of nothing but top-level materia that are relatively easy to level thanks to a handful of monsters I could very well still be playing it right now but eh I have other things to do. The one section that really threatens the pacing involves a bunch of fetch-quests throughout disc 2. These tend to involve mini-games and I tend to hate them in RPGs. In fact I'd say part seven would definitely have been a better game if there weren't so many forced mini-games. Actually I'd probably do away with chocobo raising/racing if I was given the chance. I've still never forgiven the yellow-feathered bastards for the years they took off of my life in the Final Fantasy 10 mini-game.

Still aside from some glitch that causes the game to crash every time I access Barret's armor menu I've enjoyed this recent playthough of Final Fantasy 7. It's still a pretty class title even if time has numbed its presentation quite a lot. The customization and multiple ways of playing through the game represent the highs, while the dungeon design and pacing represent the lows. I'll also never understand Sephiroth's appeal but whatever.

Game Rating - 3.5 out of 5

It's a good-to-great entry in the series, what more do I really have to say? Yeah there are a few issues that need worked out but considering the time and everything that's been said I expected something much worse when I decided to revisit Final Fantasy 7 after a decade or so.

My Rating - 3.5 out of 5

Again it was a pretty decent ride and I've managed to gain a bit of an appreciation for this game that I didn't have in the past. I'll refrain from comparing it to other Final Fantasy games because for one that's just not my preferred method of discussion and for two it's been so long since I've played through most of these games I can't possibly consider my opinion on any of them to be valid.

So whatever the case if you have a Playstation 3, ten dollars to burn, about thirty to forty hours, and a memory of FF7 almost as bad as Cloud's, you may want to give a revisit some consideration. I guess any other Playstation would work just as well but I wouldn't pay whatever ebay sellers are expecting for this game.