Archive for October, 2008

5 minutes reviews – October

Friday, October 31st, 2008

For November entry

Dragon Quest IV:
Chapters of the Chosen
The additional prologue seems a bit like a last minute throw in. At least give the hero a less fancy pixel. This is probably the only series that can get away with no change in its core gameplay. Straight to the point dialogues that skip any character development. Linear level system has you focused. The music score makes me feel like holding a portable “console” first time with the DS. I still think the character by chapter strategy is smart. Great enemy animations, especially the final boss transformations. Once the world opens up the focus is kind of blurry as you have to scatter broken clues around for the next objective. Characters aren’t entirely balanced as some will stay as bench warmers. The dungeons are relatively tender.
I had a hard time putting it down.
Soma Bringer
Outstanding graphics, outstanding music. This hack-and-slash ARPG has enough of varieties on character designs, skills, and weapon types. Your allies drop from legitimate force to human shields who may help to chain up your combo. The idea of shops is pretty useless as you find a ton of re-spawning chests around. Those big dungeons later on will make your fingers and patience suffer a lot. Decent plot and good-enough character developments. Solid length, though things can get repetitive and tiring.

Smooth Moves
Quirky whacky as always. This game is a demonstration of Wii’s potential. And sorry to say not many has come close to this launch title’s creativity. Outstanding presentation, even though the categories don’t seem too distinct according to their theme characters. Games will put a smile on your face even after a clueless death. Some great physics as well as some questionable ones. The cutscenes are always charming yet boring. Block Star is a strangely addictive mini game.
All around positive free-spirit energy
Kirby Squeak Squad
Nintendo platformers just don’t get old. Another 8 stage set with some elemental obstacles. The plot says a lot about this franchise’s market at kids. Abilities absorbing gives a nice variety of game play of choice and puzzle solving approach. Tribute abilities are just great. Since Kirby floats the platformer aspect is slightly on an easier scale. From time to time you’d face some challenge to obtain treasure chests. The additional modes after beating the game aren’t that exciting.

Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution
Think Command and Conquer, but spanned across ~5000 years. You begin in B.C. Every turn can be 500 years, however when you get around to the years 0-2000 the timeskips decrease all the way down to 5 years. You first have to choose your leader. Even though you start in B.C., you can pick Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Napoleon, and many more. You begin with a Settler and a Warrior. Settlers’ only purpose is to start cities. Warriors can go and explore, or stay and defend your newborn empire. You start out with a small community (1) and as your city grows in population, the number increases (2 3 4 5 6…) You can create more warriors, or make more settlers to expand your empire. You can research things like writing to expand your knowledge, and metalwork to unlock new units like Archer and Horseman. When you explore, you will run into other empires, and some barbarian villages that you can take over. To win the game, you must either 1. Get 20 famous people/famous structures in your cities, which will make more sense later on if you play the game. 2. You have to conquer all the other empires you encounter, 3. You have to reach a set number of money benchmarks. If you reach 50 gold, you have achieved a benchmark. However benchmarks get harder and harder to achieve. 4. You have to be technologically advanced than the other empires. These all seem complicated, and they take the most time. The easiest way is just to create an army of 20 horsemen/archers/warriors and lay siege to the other empire’s cities. Ill put up a review later about the Civilization computer game, which is MUCH better and addicting. Not much music in this game, and in my opinion the graphics were a bit on the bad side.

All in all, Civilization is a fun, addicting RTS game spanning from ancient times to the current age. It gives you a perspective on how civilizations have evolved.

PC game is much better

Motor Raid
Motor Raid basically is F-Zero meets Road Rash on Akira-like Motorbikes, futuristic high speed races where the bikers are allowed to fight eachother with various kinds of weapons just to get to the finish line first.
I played this on the SEGA Model 2 emulator from Nebula so I didn’t have the arcade perhipeal of the bike where you can sit on while playing, but frankly I didn’t miss that much the game is still pretty solid without it.
There are 5 characters to choose from (1 secret, the Boss character), each with their own style and weapon, here lies the main problem with the game, it has some tier balancing issues. But don’t worry the singleplayer is engaging enough to make this game worthwile.
There are various planets/race tracks in this game, and most of them are fine piece of solid stage design (what else to expect from the creators SEGA Rally).
While racing you can use your weapon to throw other bikers from the motorbike or steal their weapon if you’ve lost yours. There’s a boostmeter who you fill to a certain level: blue is the short burst, green the longer burst and red is the ultimate boost where you also knock everyone out of your way, needless to say there’s quite some strategy involved on when to use a certain type of boost or save up.
The SEGA Model 2′s hardware is just slightly better then the SEGA Saturn, but graphically it comes close to being a Dreamcast game, pretty impressive!

There are some balancing issues in the tier list which makes competitive play slightly inappropiate, but don’t let that take away the fact that we are dealing here with a top class racer.

Bishin Densetsu Zoku
This is a pretty obscure game that only got released in Japan for the Super Famicom and never found it’s way to a western release. Quite a shame though, because it’s an odd mix of a Beat’em up and a race game.
In the first stage you race through a post-apocalyptic road somewhere around Tokyo and make it it in time to the finish before the time runs up. Seems like an easy tasks, but the race tracks are confusing mazes.
After clearing the first track, you encounter a all-female post apocalyptic gang that kidnaps one of the characters (depend on which character you choose), and now your out to retrieve your partner back.
After this the maze-like qualities of the tracks aren’t your only concern, your constantly chased and attacked by junkcars from the gang that kidnapped your partner. Now you have to take in account the jolt meter, when you get enough hits by the enemy you get thrown out of the car and are setup for the Beat’em up part of the game.
Kinda like “The Combatribes” your stuck in an arena and can freely travel around in 2.5D. Your attacks, are quite limited as your fighting system is very basic and crude, pretty much underdeveloped. It must be said that these type of battles aren’t that fun, but what are are the various bosses, all leaders from the all-female gang that kidnapped your partner, that you face after the end of each track.
Too give this game some more replay, the developer added a versus mode where you pick all the bosses next to the standard characters, and fight against PLayer 2 or CPU, it’s a generous effort, nothing mindlowing.

All in all not a bad game at all even if the Beat’em up parts are a bit too simple for my taste.

Cooper’s 9
Good Boy and Wild Cat are members of the international assassins organisation called Cooper’s 9 headed by Carlos Cooper.
They decide it’s time to quit the organisation and settle down, Carlos doesn’t let them leave the organisation that easily and send in their former comrades to eliminate them.
As a lightgun shooter it’s all pretty mediocre, it build further on the basis Virtua Cop gave us and introduce us to Cooper’s unique part of the shooting system, to grab objects from your surrounding, like briefcases or.. fried chicken, and deflect certain shots of your enemies. But Cooper’s 9 has a saving grace and that’s it style. The game is full with comicbook-aesthetics and 70s movie genre stylings (Blaxploitation, Cop-drama, Yakuza Eiga etc). From the look to the gags, this game has nailed the mood perfectly. Just look at the effects of your shotgun or shooting certain area’s of grunts do and some quote’s after defeating a boss are hilarious and filled with pop-culture references. The situation is kinda similar to another video game based around assassins, No More Heroes for Wii (Cooper’s 9 was released earlier though). It chooses style over substance, but does it in such way that you kinda forgive the game for having such mediocre mechanics.

It’s a crime that Konami port and publish lightgun shooters for the Wii like Target: Terror which is just another Eugene Jarvis drab from the arcades, while leaving this gem of their own in the arcade’s, It really deserves more than that. If you ever stumble upon a cabinet of Cooper’s 9, try it out. It’s certainly worth a try.

Warriors Orochi 2
Xbox 360
The sequel to the Farewell-PS2 Koei game, Warriors Orochi. The game takes place immediatly after the end of the first game, with the armies of China and Japan’s history still trapped in the warped world that Orochi had created. Da Ji, his strategist is attempting to ressurect him, while alternately several “Mystics” (aka Immortals) have come to either Aid Da Ji, or put an end to Orochi and imprison him once and for all.

The addition of several new characters from History, and Mythology create a fresh addition to the game, as well as adding the characters we missed out on from the Expansion to Samurai Warriors 2 (which was released only a couple months after Orochi 1) Thankfully, anyone who had played the first, will be gifted with 1 Team Ability per character (including 1 unlocked on every future unlocked character) giving you a pretty decent start bonus. To make up for having to start all your characters back at level 1. The new plot lines are also very fun, and there is a new (wicked) Versus mode, where you can either fight 3v3 Tag style, or Elimination style with your 3-man teams.

And for those who don’t care about how their unlikely team of warriors ended up in their odd scenario battle, there’s the new Dream Mode, which contains over 2 dozen isolated scenarios of varying difficulties. Each level in the mode can be unlocked by obtaining all 3 characters in the level, or by leveling their Proficiencies to 50 or levels to 99. (Prof. happens naturally from fighting, lvl 99 actually takes a bit of focus. Anyone missing levels should check the net for specific unlocking requirements)

Once you beat all the Dream Mode levels on 1 difficulty, you’ll get access to Orochi’s ressurected form. Orochi X, which is so fun to use, even more so than regular Orochi. Overall with the addition of a new type of weapon attribute, a dozen new unique (and old school Nu Wa/Fu Xi) characters, good mode additions, Warriors Orochi has made up for all of the original games faults. This is truly a game made solely for the fans of the Koei games, that want to satiate their “What-If” natures. (What if Cao Cao and Sima Yi had to battle Nobunaga Oda, or Keji Maeda and Lu Bu had to face off against Tadakatsu Honda, and Guan Yu, etc)

The possibilities are endless, especially with the new Versus modes. Anyone who loves hack and slashes, and has a back-play ps3, a ps2, or Xbox 360. Should pick this game up. I play it even more than my Dynasty Warriors 6. (And that game is awesome to)

24: Awing Moments, Day 3

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Season 3 is a common pick as one of the weaker seasons in the series. While I don’t see it weak at all, I can see some of the reasons why this season may not be the most likable. It has a lot to do with the two main characters in the show: President Palmer being back and forth indecisive and his weak(er) plotline; Jack Bauer’s mental breakdown and fewer opportunities to demonstrate his individual Jack Bauer Power…and so on.
Having said all that I think there’s a particular scene here that’s undeniably powerful. It’s so powerful that it haunted me for a few days after watching the episode, and eventually motivated me to write this series of Awing Moment posts (!).

Continue if you are a fan, have seen the series, or you are ready for humongous spoilers.


Nothing on Jupiter – page 14

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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3×3 Eyes

Monday, October 27th, 2008

A whooping 40 volume series by Yuzo Takada. Judging by its long running it should be reasonable to assume its popularity and classic status. For sure, it features colorful characters and exotic scenes; both are a result of superb art. However, I was truly frustrated by the story progression.

The story started with Yakumo Fujii bumping into Pai Ayanokoji, who was a Sanjiyan (a race with three eyes with magic abilities, thus the title) looking for Yakumo. Yakumo was soon killed in an incident and was turned into an immortal guardian of Pai. The two then went on a unique journey to look for a method to become humans. They constantly tracked down clues that brought them into different regions on the earth where they had to confront other magic users to advance in their adventure. The story brings the readers to exotic locations such as Hong Kong, Tibet, Malaysia, and Egypt, with strong tie-ins of local mythologies. This format seems solid enough until they started tangling up with Benares, another immortal guardian who served the most powerful Sanjiyan, Shiva.

Then stuffs got really repetitive from there on. Benares appeared relatively early in the series and never went away. Yakumo and Pai had to face him more than enough to exhaust you, and each of their confrontation ended in a rush with both party escaping from each other due to various reasons. Sometimes you got to wonder if they were really trying to defeat each other or not. Obviously the final blow is saved till the very last volume, and until then, Benares kept returning with evil schemes.

The development of Benares itself is very frustrating. While Yakumo got better with his fighting experiences, Benares just showed up to be stronger each time receiving a new title and a new set of troops. It certainly seemed like Takada’s rule of thumb to expand the story is to put some new enemies under Benares and have them messing with Pai and Yakumo. If not, power Benares up by “awaking his hidden power” so he gets to mess with Pai and Yakumo. For a while Benares was accompanied by his faithful “9 dragon generals”, who of course got dispelled and out of nowhere Benares started to be leading brand new hordes of infinite devil army. On top of all these Yakumo and Benares were both immortal beings. You can imagine how this epic battle just drags on and on and on.

Then when it finally gets to the last showdown it’s more yawning than exciting. It’s one of those “love friendship courage overcome anything” type of thing in which both Shiva and Benares vanish by one punch. All the built frustration wasted, zero satisfaction.

Yakumo’s way of fighting is also very annoying. Since he is granted the immortal body, he had received plenty of beating throughout the series. Almost every fight started with him getting owned badly then struggling his way back for a victory, despite how weak or powerful the opponents were. Equally puzzling was that his opponents would look undeniably powerful while facing Yakumo, but once they turned into his allies, they immediately became pretty useless. Both Pai and Yakumo had a tendency of sparing their enemies’ lives, which later led to some unnecessary backstabbing. Having that said most of the converted enemies stayed as a potential background character who would find his/her way to shine when they are about to be forgotten.

The relationship between Pai and Yakumo will be my last rant on this piece. Like most lovers, the two shared their own love and hatred, trust and distrust. But a lot of times they were forced to be separated on careless or ridiculous reasons. Then other times, Pai’s mind would be controlled to turn against Yakumo. After a bunch of dramas and soap operas, Yakumo’s deep care and love would awake Pai at the very last minute of an arc/battle. I’d say as much as 1/4 of the manga is about fights between the good guys themselves who shared the same purpose of defeating Shiva, thanks to those “please not again” reasons.

There are some witty outcomes, unexpected plot twists, and overall really nice art. Those are reasons why this piece managed to stay alive for a long run. But I got pretty tired half way through, and the rest seemed liked a copy and paste.

Nothing on Jupiter – page 13

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

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No time to waste – MMX 2 & 3

Friday, October 24th, 2008

24: Awing Moments, Day 2

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Since it’s totally impossible to put the camera on Jack Bauer only, the show has been having multiple plotlines going at once. Some of the less critical lines are considered as fillers. Now, if I had to name the worst series of fillers, many fans will probably agree it’s Kim Bauer’s in season 2. While CTU has a nuclear bomb to look for, viewers are constantly force to watch the soap opera drama Kim voluntarily creates.

Fortunately, her exposures are kept to the minimum in the second half of the series, where the agenda has been evolved from the nuke to the decisive evidence that has the power to stop a potential World War III. The awing moment of choice for this season has to do with Jack Bauer finally getting the possession of the evidence.

Continue if you are a fan, have seen the series, or you are ready for humongous spoilers.