Star Wars : Shadows of the Empire Review 2

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SOUND :

In just about every game there’s one section that people seem to know about already before reading a review. In Mario 64 it was the graphics, in Wave race 64 it was the 3D generated waves and real physics, and in SOTE it’s the sound. 

Somehow Lucasarts has managed to cram MOVIE STYLE SOUND onto a cart. Don’t ask me how they did it, but they did……and man does it sound good. I swear to you that a few times when I was playing the game, I seriously thought I was listening to a Star Wars movie. It’s that good. No wait….it’s not good…..it’s INCREDIBLE.

The Sound effects are good too. There’s not much to be said about the typical blaster sounds, but if you listen closely enough you can hear the Storm Troopers shout, ambient sound effects (such as water gurgling), and the wizz of Tie Fighters as they fly by your ship with a roaring sound.

Great stuff, I couldn’t ask for anything more. 

GAMEPLAY :

For the most part, the flying levels in this game have GREAT control and GREAT gameplay. They make it a pleasure to fire the game up, grab your controller, and blast away. The 3D Doom style parts are another matter however. The autoaim feature should have been seriously improved my Lucasarts before this game was released. Sometimes you can see the enemies in the distance but when you fire at them, the autoaim ignores you and goes to get itself a beer. You are stuck trying to manually press the Z button and aim while firing, something that is not easy nor fun may I tell you. 

Some people knock the control of Dash because he can’t turn in mid-air. Well that’s called realism people. Why don’t we all try leaping off the top of our houses and see if we can turn and fall in the window before splattering onto the ground. Can it be done?!? Of course not. I agree that it would have been nice to throw the realism factor out the window for this game (I mean how real is fighting TIE FIGHTERS in a spaceship?) but Lucasarts didn’t it, so….we have to live with it. Dash moves like a human, he doesn’t stop dead when you let go of the control stick, and he doesn’t change direction in mid-air. Enough said.

 OVERALL :

Well, we have a game that is great….but it isn’t incredible. Maybe if it had been released before the likes of Mario 64 and Wave race 64, we could all give it a perfect score, but it wasn’t……so I guess that’s life. For the most part, the challenge points to collect for secret prizes, the extending storyline over the different difficulty levels, and the overall fun factor of the game will keep you coming back for more. The flying/shooting levels are great fun, while the Doom style levels are long and intricate but on a few occasions…..drag.

Perhaps my favorite level is the Imperial Sewers, with the great ambient sound effects, the incredible underwater graphics, and the level design all combine to make a the atmosphere of that particular level very realistic.

So let’s give a rundown of each category and then an overall score.

GRAPHICS – 8.5/10

SOUND – 10/10

GAMEPLAY – 9/10

OVERALL – 9/10

Star Wars : Shadows of the Empire Review

Old game. But there’s been quite a few mixed reviews for SOTE (Shadows Of The Empire) and I thought I’d try and clear a few things up by writing this review. Hope you enjoy it.

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 GRAPHICS :

Ahh yes, the eye-candy. We all love it, whether we admit it or not, graphics are one of the most important elements of any game. Wave Race 64 has some of the best, Mario 64 has some of (if not the best), and now SOTE steps in to take a shot at creating new killer graphics for display on the “3D Powerhouse”….the N64. Did it make the leap that Wave Race and Mario did ? No. But that doesn’t make it bad. You see we’ve been spoiled by the graphics of some of the games available and now are standards are so high that we’re BOUND to be disappointed.

Anyway, let’s start with the negative side of SOTE’s graphics. Perhaps the worst and most noticeable flaw is the fogging in the Doom style levels. It’s just too damn close to the action and gets annoying after awhile. I guess it’s there to keep the framerate silky smooth, but I mean most of the enemies aren’t THAT detailed, and the architecture isn’t THAT sophisticated, so why does the fogging have to be THAT close?!? In some of the darker levels, you could just look ahead and the fog would light the way for you in front. It would show the enemies clearly in the fog so you could shoot them, and perhaps hide some doors or ramps until the last second when you’ve almost walked by them. 

Also, I have a complaint about the darkness in a few spots. Obviously in some levels you have to have dark rooms and corridors, but the lengths that LucasArts went to in a few spots are just unbelievable. They made it pitch black in some corridors. PITCH black. If the corridor was long enough, the fogging could sort of light the way for you, but when you are working in close quarters…..it’s just plain frustrating! Good thing that only happens in a few spots.

Now onto the positive aspects of Star Wars’s graphics. The space levels are nice but nothing too fancy until the last level when you fly by the deathstar freely and fly in and out of a space station to destroy the reactor core. The first level is impressive with all sorts of baddies flying around. Lazers are blasting everywhere, you’re using tow-cables and blasters to destroy the Imperial buggers. There’s great explosions in that level, with enemies falling down in fire and rubble….it’s just plain impressive. 

On the up-side, the Doom style levels are large and complex with great looking bosses and some okay enemies. They could be more detailed but I guess the frame-rate factor kicked in again and designers decided not to go the extra distance. 

Perhaps one of the most impressive things in my opinion was the underwater sequences. In the Imperial Sewers, you can go underwater and it is VERY realistic looking. It’s murky, green, and somehow manages to capture that underwater feel better than Duke3d, Mario 64, or Quake did. The swimming isn’t very well done (in fact there’s not really any swimming at all) but the underwater sections are impressive nonetheless. 

One final downside before I move onto the next section. I very VERY much dislike the manner in which the cutscenes were done. Stupid comic book style drawings mixed with 3D elements (such as spaceships) just look awful. I was really disappointed with the cutscenes in general. The style is just NOT effective at all. 

CASTLEVANIA : PORTRAIT OF RUIN -2

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Gameplay :

What makes this game unique is the partner system. At any point during the game, you can play as either Jonathan or Charlotte. Jonathan excels at physical combat while Charlotte handles magic, so you will find yourself needing to switch characters from time to time. However, you can also have both of them out at once, with you controlling one and the AI having the other following your moves and attacking nearby enemies. In this method, your partner’s HP is the MP bar, so if you run out of juice, they’ll fade out. They don’t die, though, so you can still switch back and forth between them. The next mechanic is somewhat simple. By pressing one of the shoulder buttons, your partner will appear and use their sub-weapon/spell, then disappear again. This, though, isn’t too terribly useful. Jonathan’s sub-weapons are rather underwhelming, and Charlotte won’t charge her magic to full power, meaning weaker spells at the same MP cost as a full charge.

Lastly, there’s the Dual Crush . What happens here is that both characters use a special move that generally rains death upon everything on screen, depending on what Crush you have equipped. Much, much more useful than calling them in for a quick subweapon attack. Outside of all that, if you’ve played any 2d Castlevania since Symphony, you know what to expect.

Sound : There’s more dialogue in this game compared to previous entries in the series. A majority of it is still just in-battle grunts and attack names, but there are a few occasions where the characters will actually talk. Those few times, though, are the opening and the priest’s bizarre remarks if you hang out in his shop for too long doing nothing. (4 different possible comments based on lead character and/or a lack of a second character.) However, the twist is that this time around it’s all in English, which may or may not be a good thing.

When some Japanese guy is screaming something random that you can’t understand, it seems to sound a bit better than it would to hear someone screaming a goofy attack name, but, all in all the acting is okay. You will be hearing the characters yelling eachother’s names a lot, though. The music is what you’d expect from Konami; Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Not reall much to say beyond that, though, Yuzo Koshiro was involved. You may remember him from such soundtracks as Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2. If that doesn’t convince you of quality, just leave. Leave this website immediately, power down your computer, step outside, and begin to seriously reflect upon what went wrong in your life.

Others : Quite a bit of replayability in this one. Upon gaining the good ending two new game modes open up, and they are very, very appreciated. One makes use of the stylus, the d-pad, and nothing else, and the other is a rush of nostalgia that most will appreciate. Also, there are three seperate boss rush modes, an online-shop mode for trading with other players over WiFi (where you can sell any item you’ve ever had, despite not having it anymore, and therefore making an absurd profit in a hurry), a coop mode which I honestly haven’t tested yet, and the usual music/sound test. And you get to draw your own file emblem, too, so that’s kinda nifty.

Overall : Look, I can’t really say this any other way: Despite some rehashing here and there, the game is still loads of fun, and there’s plenty of new content. You want a number? A solid 9 out of…

…wait.

Wait.

There is one annoying issue. During the latter half of the game, I kept encountering a bug that caused my game to randomly crash when I used a subweapon. Now, I haven’t seen a console game crash in many, many years, so it goes without saying that this can be a seriously irritating issue, and one that you wouldn’t expect from a very reputable company like Konami. It’s enough of a joykill that I’ll actually knock a point from the score.

8/10

 

 

CASTLEVANIA : PORTRAIT OF RUIN

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Overview :

It is World War II. With each day, hundreds, if not thousands, of men, women, and children are dying. The anguish of these souls have once again summoned the demonic Dracula’s castle, and an artistic vampire has decided to take advantage of this in a bid for power. Enter Jonathan and Charlotte, the Belmont and Belnades placeholders for this game, who arrive at the castle intent on fighting evil. Evil art. Evil artists. Whatever. It’s 2016 and it’s time for the newest Castlevania. They wanted to experiment with the castle exploration by having ‘stages’ hiding in portraits throughout the game, and by having the partner system, a la Castlevania III, become a main feature. So, how is it ? Good. Very very good.

Graphics :

Well, let’s see. Portrait runs a pretty strange gamut, here, one that I’ve only previously seen in some Capcom fighting collections: The sprites in this game range from brand-new to made-in-1993. Of course, being the sort of person who never got to play Dracula X, and forgot most of the bland and gutted SNES port, this didn’t bother me. However, it has bothered some, so if you think you’d be the sort who’d be angry at an old sprite, well, you won’t be happy. That aside, this is still a wonderful looking game. I dare say it’s Symphony of the Night caliber. Every character is VERY well animated, and the two leads even have a little hidden animation in their sprites as well.

Pretty nifty if you ask me. The castle itself is rather mundane by now, seeing as there’s only so many ways to make a clock tower level and an underground caverns area, but luckily the portraits aspect of the game is here to fix that. The portrait areas are all rather nice looking, from the quaint European village theme of City of Haze, to the purely chaotic carnival atmosphere of Nation of Fools , or the rolling dunes of Sandy grave, the levels don’t really run the risk of being forgotten. Well, until the second half of the game, anyway. Also of note, the game once again uses the nifty trick of placing 3D buildings in the background that turn slightly as you move across the field, which is nifty, if a bit old hat.

Gameplay :

Okay, here we go. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that despite my nearly two decades of gaming, I still suck at avoiding attacks in numerous genres of games. However, recent Castlevania titles have still managed to be pretty easy, if only through the ability to either power level so that massive attacks won’t hurt, a large collection of healing items, or elemental absorbing equipment. PoR, however, manages to have difficult boss fights, and even difficult areas where even normal monsters can still wreak havoc, despite healing items and level gaining. That was rather refreshing, I think. Obviously anyone can still beat the game with a little effort, so that’ll lead folks to say that it’s easy. Bah. So you made Castlevania 1 your bitch back in the day. Most likely you had to play the game so much that it wasn’t even fun anymore in order to do it. But, enough about that. The game is harder than previous free-roaming ‘vanias. That’s all I’m trying to say.

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix Review

While Capcom is best known for such hallmark franchises as Street Fighter, Mega Man, Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, the publisher has also made its mark with quirkier fare, such as Phoenix Wright and Viewtiful Joe. It also has had success with a casual game of sorts, which harkens back to the mid-’90s arcade debut, with its Super Puzzle Fighter series.

Now we see a further expansion of the latter with the launch of (with what might be the longest game name ever) Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix on Xbox Live Arcade. With previous releases on other consoles sporting a full retail price, at 800 Microsoft Points (or about $10), this might also be one of the best bargains on XBLA.

For those who’ve never played it before, SPF2THDR (which we’ll call it so as not to run out of pixels on these pages) takes Capcom’s lineup of characters, shrinks them down and drops them into the puzzle game as peripheral combatants. The main action takes place on the playfield, where you control colored pieces as they drop—and similar to such games as Tetris or Columns, you rotate and push them into place at the bottom.

superfightUnlike those other “drop” games (at least in the main “X Mode,” which replicates the coin-op original), though, instead of eliminating pieces when you complete line or match a certain number in a row, SPF2THDR has players creating groups of like-colored pieces, which are then eliminated by dropping a circular “Crash” Gem onto pieces of the same color. From where the Crash Gem lands, any adjacent gem will break, so there’s some strategy in building up a number of gems on your side, because breaking gems on your side dumps Counter Gems in your opponent’s playfield.

Additionally, if you can clump together like-colored gems into a square or larger rectangle, they’ll group into a larger Power Gem, which is more damaging when a Crash Gem breaks it. If you can create Chain Combos, by having gem breaks cause other Crash Gems to drop on matching pieces spontaneously, the clutter on your foe’s side is even bigger. And every 25th piece that drops contains a diamond, which will remove all gems of the color it hits, though with a damage decrease. One person wins when the other player can’t fully place a piece into the bin.

The game makes good use of the Xbox 360 hardware.

While it sounds simple, SPF2THDR is one challenging strategic contest. At its most basic, it takes a little time for players to pick up the methods of creating Power Gems and arrange combos; at the higher echelon, players pay attention to “drop patterns” (each character has a specific pattern that Counter Gems are dropped on the opponent, and knowing them might help the recipient clear them out faster).

Capcom has also expanded the gameplay modes, throwing some variety in the mix : In addition to the X Mode (as well as an X’ Mode, which the publisher claims has the characters rebalanced from X Mode for better competitive action), there are also Y and Z Modes:

Y Mode involves the same concept of pairs of pieces dropping one at a time, but here Crash Gems are removed and pieces are eliminated from the board when three or more of the same color are lined up in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

• Z Mode is a wildly intricate variation, with a continuous collection of pieces moving up from the bottom, which threatens to fill the playfield. Each player controls a square-shaped cursor that highlights four pieces, which can then be rotated to make breaks (using the Crash Gems that are also in the playfield), Power Gems and combos.

If this is all confusing to you, it’s much easier played than explained, but Capcom also includes a Tutorial Mode where you can try each gameplay mode out without risk.

As for player configurations, one player can take on an AI opponent, engage in matches against up to four players on the same system or go on Xbox Live for ranked or unranked competition against up to four players.

REVIEW : TALES OF SYMPHONIA – DAWN OF THE NEW WORLD

Back in the days of the Gamecube, there were so few RPGs to sink your teeth into. Tales of Symphonia took first prize for not only the best RPG on the Gamecube, but one of the deepest and most excellent installments in Namco Bandai’s Tales series to date. Even today, it holds up against its competition with some of the finest co-op RPG gameplay, compelling story and laugh-out-loud humorous moments.

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Tales of Symphonia : Dawn of the New Word is a direct sequel to the original Gamecube installment (to the point where you can load up a finished save from your old Gamecube Memory Card for a nice little in-game bonus) that centers around new protagonist Emil. In the very beginning of the story, Lloyd Irving has seemingly turned to the dark side, murdering Emil’s parents before his eyes. Longtime fans of the original Symphonia will see a lot of familiar faces in this sequel, but you might not always greet them with a smile. There are a lot of plot points that deal directly with Emil’s relationship and driving quest to avenge his parents that allow many old familiar faces to show up. It’s great when they do, because playing as Emil and his rag-tag group of adventurers this time around doesn’t really have the same charm that playing as Lloyd and his rag-tag group of adventurers did last time.

Part of the problem with this sequel is that the main character isn’t likable. Emil is kind of a wuss, and although he does eventually evolve into a confident hero, he definitely grinds on your nerves for the first few hours of the game to the point where less patient players will want to put it down for about a week before having to deal with Emil’s whining self-deprecation again. This is possibly the greatest determent to the game’s even fans eagerly anticipating this direct sequel will feel a sense of frustration that instead of playing Lloyd, they’re playing a whiny, confidence-lacking child with the courage of an undercooked string bean.

One of the new mechanics that Namco Bandai has added is a Pokemon-like monster capturing mechanic. It allows the player to capture monsters to join their party and your new pets level up as though they were a regular character. A nice little mechanic, but it doesn’t really add much to the strategy of the game. Truth be told, the studio hasn’t really rewritten this Tale’s gameplay is almost exactly the same as the original Symphonia from battle to questing to roaming the map. If you enjoy the Tales series for its gameplay, this will probably appeal to you. As a big fan of Tales of Symphona from the day of release, this game was actually a bit of a disappointment for the first few hours before it kicked into high gear, mostly due to the annoying personality of the protagonist. However, much like its Gamecube predecessor, Dawn of the New World is one of the few RPGs on the Wii. As a result, if you’re an RPG fan and Nintendo loyalist, it’s really worth sticking with the game until the story picks up. Much like the original Symphonia, there are plenty of sidequests to keep completion-ists busy, while casual gamers will appreciate the drop-in co-op gameplay during combat.

Does this game break the mold ? No. Most of these ideas have been seen before in Tales games, but at the same time, this formula is tried and true. If you’ve got a Wii and have been longing for a deep involved RPG, check out Dawn of the New World. You’ll definitely get a lot more out of it if you played Tales of Symphonia, but it’s also an enjoyable experience for new players and veterans alike.

HOME ARCADE ACTION !

HOME ARCADE ACTION! From Pac-Man and Paperboy to Root Beer Tapper and Robotron, classic arcade games are making a huge comeback on consoles from the Wii to the Xbox 360. If you’re a true fan of those old school “bleeps” and “blips,” though, you may want to forgo the downloads in favor of a tabletop arcade. Here’s the lowdown on bringing the arcade home.

1. Most of these gaming cabinets come loaded with multiple classic quarter-munchers. The Cool Hunter’s Arcade Table ($2,800), for example, packs in nearly 50 favorites including Galaga, Space Invaders and Pac-Man, while the Donkey Kong Cocktail Table ($2,995) includes the damsel-saving classic as well as Donkey Kong Junior .

2. From the sound of Mario’s barrel-crushing mallet to the unmistakable look of DK’s chest-pounding animation, Donkey Kong, as well as all these arcade staples, offers an authentic audio and visual presentation. The only thing missing from the ’80s arcade experience is the cigarette smoke and smell of pizza.

3. Most of these collectible tables will run you more than a PS3, 360 and Wii combined. However, some come fully equipped with working coin slots, allowing you to tax your friends for the fun. Better yet, open it up to the local neighborhood brats and net yourself a small fortune—Chuck E. Cheese’s been doing it for years.

4. Joysticks and buttons are just like you remember—minus any mystery stickiness. And with two control panels, you can go head-to-head with friends and family. You don’t even need to worry about switching seats or craning your neck to get your game on—the screen flips to each player’s perspective between turns.

5. Beyond providing addictive gaming and the appealing nostalgia factor, these units double as classy, durable pieces of furniture. Additionally, decorative color schemes or classic arcade decals allow you to customize to your personal preferences. Now, the next time your wife or girlfriend suggests some furniture shopping, you’ll be prepared.