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7:49 PM on 03.20.2009

Suikoden: Tierkreis initial impressions

I'm pretty much the biggest Suikoden fanboy on the planet, so when I found out they were making a new entry for the DS, I was ecstatic. When I found out it was coming to the US, I just about had some kind of attack. When I found out they were removing a lot of the elements that I liked about the series, like unique weapons, runes, and the continuous world story, I was slightly disappointed, but I held fast and kept my hopes strong. The Suikoden team could do no wrong, and I was confident in this assessment.

I was pretty close, anyway.

There are a couple of things I dislike about the game, but for the most part I'm really enjoying it. In the interests of my laziness and the fact that I want to get back to playing ASAP(because srsly this game is just incredible), I'll just toss out some bullet points of things I liked and didn't like.

-The music is amazing. Suikoden has always had great music, and even the relatively "lackluster" soundtrack of S4 was still heads and tails above most other RPG's. And this game does not disappoint. Each town has music appropriate to the area that the town is located in, from jamming salsa music in Salsabil town, to music with a somewhat arabic influence in the Magedom of Janam. A lot of the music will have you bobbing your head along with the tune, because it's just so catchy.

-The voice acting is atrocious. Most of the characters I've encountered speak as though their sound files were sped up to 1.5x or 2x speed to save space on the DS cart. Or at least that's what I thought until I met a character Of course, I've never been a proponent of voices at all, and I usually turn them off in my games because I prefer to come up with my own voices. But of course, Tierkreis doesn't allow you to turn them off. WTF Konami, really.

Luckily, most of the voices are sped up so fast that they're over before they begin. So it's very easy to simply ignore them, and just listen to the great music.

-The characters have beautiful designs. Yet another thing the Suikoden series is known for, the character designs in Tierkries do not fail to disappoint. I have yet to see a character design I didn't like, and I don't really expect to see any in the future that I don't like given the wonderful artstyle being used. The Magedom of Janam in particular has some fantastic costume designs and characters.

-The graphics don't match up. A lot of people I know were really bothered by the designs of the characters in FF4 DS, because the super deformed design didn't match the image of the characters they had in their heads for so many years. But personally, it didn't bother me at all. They used the same models for up-close cutscenes, for the battles, and for the map exploration. You got the same level of detail and the same model in all the areas, so it all flowed together rather nicely. But after playing Suikoden: Tierkreis, I think I get what they were talking about.

Each character in your party has a beautifully drawn character bust that shows up in the status menu and when the characters are talking. However, for map exploration and in combat, Konami decided to use a super deformed polygonal model to represent the characters. And the difference in quality between the two is huge. Now, I'm not saying that the 3D models are bad, far from it. They're very impressive for a DS game; all the characters have a fairly high level of detail and it's easy to clearly distinguish who is who; an enormous feat for a DS game featuring 108 hero characters plus various villains and unique NPC's. However, when you have these absolutely incredible character portraits and then cut away to the significantly less impressive 3D models, the effect is jarring. Personally, I wish they had gone with sprites like the one of the main character that appears when you're saving the game. Even if the quality wasn't as high as what's on the 3D models, the change wouldn't be so completely jarring.

-The story is very much Suikoden. I was worried that with the changing of the worlds and the elimination of so many classic series elements, that Konami would screw up the storyline with some generic animu crap. I now feel bad for doubting them. Without revealing any spoilers, the story seems to be following a very interesting and very -different- take on the original 108 heroes legend that the games were based on, and it's managing to be as fascinating now as Suikoden 1 was back when I first played it. Each time I have to leave my DS to eat or go to work, it's a herculean effort. I've literally stopped playing all other games in my que, I have to know what's going to happen next.

-I still miss my runes and unique weapons. :( One of the things I loved about the older games in the series was the rune system, if only because it worked so differently from the other JRPG's that go around. The older games used a D&D style spell level system, in addition to the ability to freely equip magical "runes" that gave your characters new skills and magic. Through mixing and matching various effect and spell runes, you could give your characters all kinds of extra abilities and uses in combat. It was also a neat way of making the characters different; some character had unique runes that gave them special powers, or certain combinations of rune slots that allowed them to equip some types of runes but not others(For instance, certain runes could only be equipped to the head, or to certain hands). Replacing all of that with a generic MP system and per-character spell lists feels a little empty after so much depth.

And as for the weapons, well, it just strips away a little of what made the old characters so fun. One of the reasons you brought along the crappy non-fighter characters in your party was the watch the funny animations of them using non-weapons in combat. Hai-yo with his Wok and Ladle, Lester and his Pot, Tuta and his handful of River Pebbles that were inexplicably able to be sharpened, or Mel and her chauvinistic hand puppet(Yes! That was a weapon!). The Doctor shouldn't be able to fight with Brass Knuckles and Swords, he should have some kind of weapon suited to his profession, like a bone saw or sharpened tongue depressors or something.

Personally, I've remedied this by only allowing each character to equip whatever type of weapon they came with, but it still feels a little hollow compared to crazy shit like BRANKY WHO LIKES THE LADIES IN THE BATH.


Wow, that went on for a lot longer than I wanted it to. But ultimately, while I had a lot of negative things to say about the game, these thing are ultimately minor and only even relevant to a longtime series fan such as myself. The game on it's own merits is a lot of fun and I really enjoy it, I just hope that the next game goes back to the old storyline, or connects the new world to the old one in some significant way. I want to know the rest of the True Runes storyline, you know? It's not like the story doesn't allow for at least one character or concept crossover to show up.   read

9:58 PM on 03.01.2009

Exit 2 XBLA comments

I did a review for Exit DS a little while back, and well, this game is basically more of the same. 250 more levels of Mr. ESC helping stupid people escape disaster areas for money and coffee. You can literally read my old review and get a gist of what the game is about, so I'll save some time and just list some of the things that are different/special about Exit 2. You can also go to my old review if you want any pictures, because I'm lazy and I'm not going to post any here.

1 - Mr. ESC changed clothes. In the original game for PSP and XBLA, and in Exit DS, Mr. ESC wears a dapper suit with a stylish hat and scarf, and wields both with exotic flair. In Exit 2, Mr. ESC has gone for a classic noir look, sporting a fancy long trench coat along with his classic hat and scarf.

Yeah, it's a small change, and totally insignificant to the gameplay, but he looks pretty cool in the trench coat.

2 - The basic game follows an actual story. It's barebones as hell(I mean, we're talking you can see the organs through the skin here), but it's nice to see that a little bit of effort was put in to make all his adventures flow together. Instead of just sending Mr. ESC on random missions throughout the world and have him re-meet some of the more interesting characters in the later levels, Mr. ESC follows a Professor with a large mustache as he attempts to solve a set of ancient riddles which constantly land him and his group of students in trouble. Of course, you'll also meet some rather...colorful people who just happened to be nearby as well.

Yeah, it's basically the exact same thing as it was before, but they tried and I have to give them a little credit. It's a damn puzzle game, who needs a real story.

3 - There's two new evacuee types. In addition to the returning cast of "Skinny Person", "Fat Person", "Child", "Injured Person", and "Alien", we now have the "Dog" and the "Macho Person". Now technically, the dog isn't new to the US, since we got Exit DS first and it had the dog, but this game came out in Japan first, so this is technically the debut of that character. ANYWAY, with the addition of the new character types, the puzzles are even more diverse than they were before, and that's always great news.

Also, the Machos are totally hilarious. I know a lot of people got annoyed by the evacuees randomly saying the same couple phrases over and over(HELP HELP I'M OVER HERE HELP HELP), but I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing the machos proclaim "I AM SO BUFF AND GOOOOOOOOOOOOD LOOKING!" and "THIS IS BETTER THAN A REAL GYM!" in their goofy voices.

4 - The translation got fucked up. I don't know who is to blame for this, but somebody royally screwed up somewhere. The help menus and character profiles are in incredibly broken English, such as many of them barely make sense. As well, character portraits in the profiles are all mixed up, and rarely actually match the person they're talking about. I've seen Machos depicted as dogs, dogs depicted as aliens, men depicted as women, aliens depicted as Injured people, and all sorts of just silly mistakes that should have been caught long before this game went up for download. It just screams laziness and sloppy work, which is bizarre given my next point.

5 - Physics changes. This is one I'm rather impressed by. Instead of just porting the exact same physics engine to all the games(Which they easily could have done), Taito actually changed it each time. What follows is an incredibly technical explanation of the new abilities, so if you aren't familiar with the game's physics you might want to just skim it or skip it. But suffice to say, they reprogrammed the system and didn't leave it the same.


Exit DS had a weird feature that allowed you to jump towards certain walls and latch onto them as if there was a platform there(And one puzzle in particular actually required you to do this AFAIK). Exit 2 added two new little touches(That I've found, anyways) and they're really neat. The first is that they shortened the time it takes before Mr. ESC goes into his "latch onto platforms" animation. He is actually capable of latching onto platforms almost immediately after he starts his jump, which means he can now make jumps -up- one level, as opposed to only being able to jump perfect horizontals and declines. Another addition is sort of also reliant on this new feature. If you -run- off the edge of a platform, Mr. ESC will now move forwards a slight bit. This is normally useless, but it allows you to totally bypass ladders going down, via running off the ledge and "latching" onto the other side, then dropping down. Since ladders only go down 5 spaces, and you can drop-fall 5 spaces safely, this shaves about 5-6 seconds off your time.


Have I mentioned I REALLY like Exit?

So anyway, the game is essentially more of the same. If you didn't like the first Exit, you probably won't like this one either. If you did like the first one, this is more of the same great stuff Taito has put out before, with a few cool new twists and big additional helping of the series' humor and charm.   read

8:21 PM on 02.27.2009

Pangya PSP announced for US release; yes, I'm aware I'm the only one in the world who cares

I love Pangya. I've never really gotten to play it's original online version, but I saw something about it in a rogue issue of Nintendo Power, and saw it compared to Mario Golf, a game I loved on the N64. Always on the lookout for something interesting to play on my Wii, I checked it out, and I've never looked back. The game is fantastic, and this is coming from somebody who detests sports games, and who finds golf in real life to be the most boring sport even, beneath even curling.

I mean, seriously, the game has a demon from hell as a playable character, and you're encouraged to play Golf with all kinds of hilariously inappropriate objects like swords, paper fans, squeaky mallets, and baseball bats. The character design is just fantastic as well, if you like cutesy Korean art and loli pirates.

I've been watching some trailers for the game, now that I know it exists, and I'm getting really hot and bothered over here. I'm really digging the new redesigns. Scout and Kaz, who were already my favorite characters, look absolutely amazing. Azer looks absolutely badass with his new golfball gun(instead of like a fat doofus that he's been in the last few games), and everyone just looks generally more impressive and amazing then they did before. They've really done a lot to distinguish this version from the Tecmo-ported Wii iterations, from vastly improving the character animations and overhauling a lot of the little things in the game. And with (apparently) UFO's publisher backing it, I can say I'm fairly certain it'll be getting the treatment it deserves here.

ANYWAY, Silconera, GameFAQs, and Gamestop agree that the new PSP iteration of the game is going to be hitting US shores in late May.


Christ, I'm going to need to take out a loan just to buy all the great games coming out this year.   read

11:45 PM on 02.01.2009

10 things about Gen Eric Gui that you couldn't care less about


10 - I'm a self-defeatist.

I hate everything I have ever done in my life. I am a perfectionist, and I have yet to come even remotely close to meeting my ludicrously high standards. Oh sure, I might feel proud about something just after I finish, but within a day I'm looking back and regretting I ever did it in the first place. Which will probably happen re: this post about five minutes after I make it public.

That said, I've never let my self-defeatism get me down, and I'm still one of the most jovial and happy people you'll ever meet.

9 - I actually -liked- Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.

In fact, it's one of the only Final Fantasy games I like, with the others being 1, 4, and 6. Something about it's lighthearted nature and unpretentious, simple story just cause me to feel unbridled joy every time I play it. Plus, the enemy graphics CHANGE and you can jump! Badass shit right there.

Plus, awesome music is awesome. The battle themes from this games are some of my favorite of all time.

The Bone Dungeon is the best dungeon idea ever. FACT.

8 - The worst injury I have ever sustained I got while baking cookies.

Seriously. My brother had haphazardly stacked clean dishes in a cabinet, and as I opened it up to get out a bowl to mix the cookie dough in, one fell on my hand and wedged a piece of white pyrex into my left ring finger knuckle almost all the way through my hand.

It's not impressive or manly, but it's a funny story anyway.

7 - I actually got started gaming because my parents didn't want me to go outside.

When I was old enough to finally start playing outside by myself, the house we were living in had no actual yard. To play outside meant to play in the street. My parents, bless their souls, decided that was just too dangerous, so they bought me an NES and some games to keep me firmly rooted in front of the TV where I wouldn't get hurt.

And then years later they wondered why I generally kept to myself, never got interested in sports, and didn't ever want to go outside to play in our large new yard.

6 - I was a project manager and editor for Doublejump Books for the better part of a year.

My name is in their guides for Persona 3, Soul Nomad, and Operation Darkness, check it out. I also edited the hell out of some articles for

The opening to this, where it talks about all the Japanese customs and what?
My idea. Not my writing, but my idea. Which is still pretty cool, imo.

This job was awesome while it lasted(They hired me because of a crunch, and when the crunch was over they let me go like a dried leaf on the wind~~~). I got to chat directly with Yu Namba at Atlus, and several of the people at NISA back when they were still cool. I also have copies of pre-release code for Soul Nomad, which I don't have the equipment to play but which is still pretty awesome. I also have hand-signed letters from NISA that I'm going to get framed at some point.

5 - I have a habit of picking up on the eccentricities of the people around me and mimicking them.

I have a friend who likes to flips quarters in his hand when he's idle. I never used to do it, but ever since I've known him I've started doing it too. Another friend raises his voice at odd points during sentences. I never did it before, but since knowing him, I now do something similar. It's not something I do intentionally, the action is totally unconscious on my part, and luckily I don't think anybody has ever noticed it.

It's kinda creepy, when I think about it for too long. So I try not to.

4 - I've written game fanfiction.

And I'm not afraid to admit it, or link to it!

I figure it was good practice for writing real fiction, which is something I'd like to do at some point in my life. Or if I ever get to do my dream job of producing videogames, it was really good practice for writing those too.

3 - Of all the books I've read in my lifetime, my favorite one was a children's book.


2 - Despite the fact that I identify myself as an old-school gamer and love older games, I still believe that newer games are generally better.

I mean, really now. SMT: Nocturne is -leagues- ahead of any oldschool RPG I can name. And I can name a lot of oldschool RPG's. I've had more fun with Guilty Gear XX and Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom than any fighter made before 2000. Games like Theresia make old text-adventures look like jokes.

That said, I still loves me some Megaman 3 and Kid Icarus. Yessir.

1 - When I go to the gym and run on a treadmill or elliptical runner, I -always- listen to Megaman theme songs and pretend I'm running the levels.

Yeah, I really do.   read

5:27 PM on 01.27.2009

Atlus needs to fix their faucets: more possible game leaks

I've never heard of Dokapon Journey or Crimson Gem Saga until just now, but Knights in the Nightmare, Super Robot Taisen, and Devil Survivor have made my pants tight. CAN'T WAIT. ATLUS I WILL GIVE YOU ALL MY MONIES.   read

5:55 PM on 01.14.2009

SaGa 2 remake announced for DS, I am in awe

Back when this was only known as "Final Fantasy Legend 2" and I still actually played Final Fantasy games, I rented the game from a Mom and Pop game rental store that rented out GB games. Almost instantly I was in love with the strange game that played nothing like the other games that shared it's name. No Exp? Weapons that had to be taken care of or they would break? An RPG that was actually difficult? I was amazed and stupefied by the game, and it arguably is the game that really got me truly and utterly hooked on off-beat JRPG's.

Years later, I actually bought my own copy from a Gamestop, and to this day I consider it one of my favorite GB games of all time.

And it's being remade. For DS.

Glorious. Don't fuck this up, Square.   read

5:27 PM on 11.09.2008

Exit DS review

As I said in my Legend of Kage 2 review, I'm really growing to like Taito. They know what they do well and they just do it. The results may not be the most original games, or even the most impressive, but they're solid and fun and that's all that matters.

Real men wear scarves and hats.

The first thing I want to point out is that this is NOT a port of the original Exit on the PSP or 360 Arcade, as many reviews and previews have been claiming. This is an entirely new game(it MIGHT be a port of the Japan-only Exit 2, but I can't prove or disprove that notion since I haven't played it). In fact, there are several additions that should have made it abundantly clear that this wasn't a port, the most glaring of which being the inclusion of an entirely new type of evacuee(the dog).

In Exit, you play as the cat-loving and coffee-drinking Mr. ESC, a professional escape artist who goes to various disaster sites world-wide to help people in need...for a price. Mr. ESC lends his skills to anyone that pays and he does not judge the people he helps, although he has been known to help people free of charge when he's personally vested in the situation. If you've ever read the manga "Blackjack: Two Fisted Surgeon", you'll know the type.

The gameplay is best described as a puzzle-platformer, not unlike Braid or Lemmings, and is identical to it's predecessor in every way. Each "situation" finds Mr. ESC in a different disaster site (burning building, collapsing tunnel, avalanche, etc) and consists of ten different stages where you must maneuver blocks, items, and traps in such a manner so as to reach the stage's "EXIT" sign with a pack of evacuees in tow. The real strategy comes in having your evacuees help you to solve the various puzzles by using their special abilities in conjunction with your own. It's in understanding how each evacuee operates and how to utilize their abilities in tandem that will allow you and them to escape each level unscathed.

You'll never have to control this many evacuees at once, thankfully.

The presentation is very stylish, and is one of the things that has made the game stand out so much to me. Compared to the original, which was 2.5D, this version is completely sprite-based. The overall effect has actually made the game a little duller(the spritework isn't very well done; everything feels very flat(lolol) and lifeless. It feels like they tried to take the 3D models and crush them into 2D space, and it hasn't been a gentle process.), but in the end it's still a very unique presentation and it still looks good; it'll just be a tad disappointing to anyone who enjoyed the original game on the PSP or 360. As for the music, well, it's largely forgettable, but it's not particularly intrusive which is just as important in a puzzle game. You're here to think and to act, if the music prevented you from doing this there'd be a problem.

To preface each situation, you get a very cool comic book intro to tell you what's going on.

And one thing in particular I feel I need to mention when talking about the presentation is the character profiles, accessed off of the situation select menu. This is a really small addition, and I'd be willing to bet most of the people who played the game never even looked at it, but it adds a touch of flavor to the game that really makes it stand out in my mind. You see, the people Mr. ESC rescues aren't just generic nobodies in need of help, they are people with lives and histories, many of which are highly entertaining and fun. For each person that you rescue over the course of the game, you can read their story in the character profiles. Some notables are the superhero who would help rescue people but he's too afraid to change clothes in public, the old billionaire withering in a hospital and the two young women claiming to be his long-lost daughter so as to claim his inheritance(and his real daughter who took a job at the hospital because she only cares about seeing her father get better), and many, many more. The fact that they took the time to give each and every evacuee their own (sometimes very comical) story is just that extra added bit of flavor that really sells me on this game.

One point of contention I have is that Taito decided that, since this was on the DS, they of course needed to shoehorn in terrible touch controls where they didn't belong. And believe me, the touch controls are ATROCIOUS. For just walking around and pushing blocks, they're serviceable. But the second you try to do anything advanced, like heaven forbid climb down a ledge or maneuver through a pile of blocks, it becomes nearly impossible to get Mr. ESC to do what you want him to do, and in a puzzle/platformer that's unforgivable. Luckily, a standard button control scheme has been included as well, although it still feels a little off and sticky compared to the original game's controls.

Overall, if you like puzzle or action games that make you think a little, and you either already beat the original game or don't have a PSP or 360(And if you own one of those machines and haven't played the original, GET TO IT, BEST GAME EVAR), then I can highly suggest this title to you. It's not nearly as polished as the original was, and the controls aren't as smooth as they could be, it's still a great game that everyone should at least give a shot. Plus it's only $20, so what have you got to lose?

Are "HEAVEN OR HELL" jokes getting old yet? I still like them.

Just don't use the stylus controls. Really. They're just awful. STOP DOING THIS SHIT, DEVELOPERS.   read

9:02 PM on 10.23.2008

First Impressions of Legend of Kage 2

Taito has been making quite a comeback since Square-Enix bought them up, and I might say it's one of the few good influences S-E has brought to the game world. With recent releases like Exit and the upcoming Exit DS(I've also heard that their Space Invaders and Arkanoid remakes were pretty spiffy) they've really caught my attention, and so I decided to take a gamble and toss a little money their way on their newest release, Legend of Kage 2.

I've only played a few levels, but from what I've seen so far it's a pretty decent oldschool-style platformer. You can choose between titular hero Kage and his stalwart female companion Chihiro as your character, although both seem to go on the exact same quest, and both have access to the exact same powers. Both Kage and Chihiro can run, attack at close range, use a throwing weapon, jump VERY high, and use Ninjutsu spells to attack enemies or power themselves up in various ways. But this is not to say that the characters are completely identical. Kage's long range attack (the shuriken) travels very far and very fast, but does little damage while Chihiro's Fundo attack only travels a few feet in front of her, but deals somewhat more damage and she recovers from it faster. Kage has quite a bit more health than Chihiro, but Chihiro has more magic and is able to use Ninjutsu more often and to greater effect. Thus far, these differences haven't made too much of a difference(For the most part you want to use melee attacks since you don't have to stop running to do them, and magic hasn't played a very large role in the game just yet) but I assume as I advance in the game and the enemies get tougher these differences will begin to stand out more.

An interesting feature in the game is the creation of Ninjutsu. In the beginning of the game you have no spells, and you must complete the first level without any help from Ninjutsu power. However, once you reach the map screen after defeating the first boss, you are able to access the Ninjutsu Creation menu. The touch screen displays a scroll with several blank slots, and special elemental orbs you collect in the stages are displayed at the top. You can place the orbs on the scroll in any fashion you please, and certain combinations of orbs create different spells. By stage 4 I've already created a plethora of different spells, ranging from Power and Defense boosting spells all the way to spells that summon lighting and whirlwinds of fire to attack enemies. And you're allowed to equip as many spells at once as you can fit into the scroll. It's a pretty standard system, but it's implemented in an interesting way that allows you to plan out what skills you bring according to the level and your own personal taste.

Suddenly, Ninjas! Hundreds of them!

As to the meat of the game, it's honestly a pretty standard action platformer. You run and swing your sword and mass murder Ninjas to build up a combo meter for points and you fight a boss at the end of the stage. You can repeat levels to try for higher scores to unlock new skills and artwork in the gallery, or just to try and top your personal record. My only real complaint so far is that the jumping is rather touchy, due to the fact that the characters jump so ludicrously high and at such a high speed that it's often hard to tell where you're going to go, but since the top screen displays the skies above you it's not too big of a bother.

Overall it's a pretty standard game, but it's good and it's fun. And since it only costs $20, that's all you can really ask for. It isn't going to melt your eyeballs with its graphics, and it isn't going to blow your mind with exciting new gameplay, but it's a solid 2D platforming experience, and with the dearth of those lately it's nice to see one that knows exactly what it does well and does it, no strings attached.

Fun fact: This is the only game I can think of in recent memory where the male lead is wearing less clothing than the female. Kage isn't wearing a shirt, let alone much of any armor, but Chihiro is sporting her full ninja gear. This is a strange development in the world of videogames! I uploaded pics of them below.   read

11:35 AM on 10.22.2008

Quick review of the new Megaman 9 DLC

I finally got around to downloading the new difficulty modes and the extra Time Attack stage last night, and I have to say I'm very pleased.

The new Time Attack stage is really a step above and beyond the normal stages in the game. Not only are you up against several mini-bosses in addition to two actual bosses, but the stage is quite long, you're on a time limit, and you're not allowed to die. The level is laid out with the same care that the rest of MM9 is dealt, and even to get through it normally(let alone do it quickly) you have to know all the properties of your weaons and use them to their fullest. Ultimately, though, I see no reason as to why this was made into DLC, there's nothing in the level that really screams "this should have been extra content", though at only a $1 it's still a pretty good buy if you like the game's Time Trial element.

(Which I do! My current time is 3:17:71, anyone beat that yet?)

The difficulty modes are another matter, however. These are some of the best DLC I've seen in a game yet. For $1 apiece, you are essentially getting a whole new game. For most games, the developers would have made the enemies do more damage and you do less damage and called it a day. Not Inticreates. Damage levels aren't changed at all, in fact; Megaman takes and deals exactly the same amount of damage he did in the normal game. Instead, MM9's new harder modes change the entire face of the game. While each level is laid out in fundamentally the same manner(ladders, spikes, pits, and (most) platforms are all in the same locations), enemy and trap locations are laid out in drastically different patterns, which cause the player to have to approach each level in a completely different manner than they would normally. The teleporters in Galaxy Man's stage are laid out in crazy patterns, the birds in Concrete Man's stage fly in different patterns and on more screens, Mines are spread more liberally in Splash Woman's stage, and so on and so forth. Both modes are only a single dollar to download, and they will essentially double/triple the size of the normal game. Now THAT is good DLC.   read

11:51 PM on 09.28.2008

Time Hollow review

This review is almost as short as the game, haha! :(

Time Hollow is an adventure/puzzle game in the vein of King's Quest and Monkey Island, except it's much easier, told in first person, spiffed up with anime art and lots of pretty animated cutscenes, and it replaces all the funny with drama llamas.

The game stars Ethan Kairos, a teenager who, on the day before his 17th birthday, sits down to dinner with his folks. As he's eating, he gets a headache and has a flurry of strange flashbacks that are not his own; and when he wakes up, his parents have been dead for years and he's living with his uncle. He later receives a package from his father, sent to him through time and space. It's a device called the Hollow Pen, and it allows those who use it to trade some of their remaining lifetime to "draw" a hole in the space/time continuum, and alter things in the past for better or worse. The point of the game is to gather information about the flashbacks that Ethan has to alter the past in an attempt to help the people around him and eventually bring his parents back into the main flow of time.

Now that I think about it, Time Hole sounds kind of dirty. <3

Now, that all sounds incredibly complex and awesome, but in the end, the game is only slightly above-average. The actual puzzles are incredibly easy to solve, as it's not uncommon for multiple characters to tell you exactly what you need to do to progress. "Oh hey, if only I had done this when I was here, I wouldn't have gotten into this mess! Ethan, did you hear that? Ethan? IF I HADN'T DONE THIS WHEN I WAS HERE, I WOULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN INTO THIS MESS. ETHAN? DID YOU GET ALL THAT? HERE LET ME WRITE IT DOWN FOR YOU IN A MEMO." *Ethan received Problem Memo*

The first of many memos.

Adventure/Puzzle games are all about making the player think in strange ways, and to deduce logically what s/he should do with the information and items that are present. Time Hollow removes this element, almost entirely eliminating the "game" aspect in exchange for having you run errands that the game explicitly dictates to you to continue the story. While this removes a lot of the problems with the time-travel theme mucking up the story, it doesn't make for a very fun game. Rarely will you feel like you really "solved" anything, and isn't that the point of the genre? The game does try to put a little pressure on the player by way of a gauge that ticks down every time you use the Hollow Pen, but you have so many uses per chapter that it's nearly impossible to run out. You can also regenerate the bar by locating Ethan's cat Sox throughout the town, who helpfully finds little green things that fill the bar back up. It's nearly impossible to see the Game Over screen, if there even is one.

The music has a nice jazzy feel to it and is rather catchy, if a little repetitive, and the animation is gorgeous if you like a sort of generic-y anime-style art. There are quite a few animated cutscenes that take place during the game, and they're pretty well utilized for important parts of the story. The cutscenes, as well as many of Ethan's comments through the game, are completely voiced in English, and all the voices are performed admirably, especially given that this is a DS game. Overall, the presentation is really top-notch, AAA+ stuff, and it's really nice to see this amount of effort put into such a niche game.

Overall, although the game sports a very powerful presentation and an interesting concept, ultimately it falls a little short in the "gameplay" part. There was a lot of space for them to have made some really clever puzzles utilizing the Hollow Pen mechanic, but the game seems more interested in telling its story than in providing an interesting gameplay experience. I'd like to tell everyone to go out and buy the game so as to support more titles like this coming out in the US, but with how utterly short the game is, coupled with how incredibly easy and straightforward the entire experience is, I honestly can't suggest it to everybody. If you like adventure games or games with a large focus on the story, it's probably worth checking it out. Everyone else should really wait for a price drop.   read

7:19 PM on 09.02.2008

Commando: Steel Disaster impressions(now with pictures!)

It took me a whole week, but I finally managed to track down a copy of this game.

Turns out it was worth the search.

You don't fuck around with this many enemies.

I went into the game expecting a balls-hard, less-polished version of Metal Slug, and that's exactly what I got. Honestly, I can't find a better way to put it than Nilcam already did about a week ago; it's the slightly homely-looking lovechild of Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes, so if you've played and liked either game, you'll probably like this one.

You play as a special ops trooper named "Storm" (oh how original) who is sent on all manner of impossible missions, and yet always manages to climb out alive and victorious. Anyway, there's something about a super villain named Rattlesnake who the government thought was dead but he's really not and he's stolen his plans to build a "super weapon made of steel and iron, to bring disaster upon the world" back from the government who kept it in a flimsy, unprotected laboratory (shack) in the middle of nowhere, and you have to stop him. Or something. It's hard to tell because the localization isn't very good, and there's a lack of spaces and a bounty of poor wordings that makes the story hard to follow.

But why are we talking about the story in a Metal Slug clone anyway? If you wanted a story you're doing it wrong.

Who cares about story when you fight bosses like THIS?

The gameplay is pretty much exactly like Metal Slug. Enemies run on-screen, and either slash at you, shoot at you, or try to make you blow up in various ways. Your job is to shoot them and kill them first, while dodging their gunfire and explosions as best you can. You can collect different weapons to help you more effectively wipe goons from the face of the earth, such as heavy machine guns, shockwave cannons, gas canisters, rockets, and so on. As in Metal Slug, you can also lob grenades at foes, which travel in an arc and do lots of damage, but which are severely limited in number. In a spark of barely original thought, the devs included a welcome addition to the basic MS controls in the form of a combat roll, executed by holding down and pressing the jump button. It functions much like the slide in Metal Slug 5, except you are completely immune to enemy bullets (but not explosions) while doing the roll. Several times, even in the first level, this maneuver was all but necessary to Storm's survival.

The biggest difference between Commando and MS is in how the game deals with player lives. In Metal Slug, if you get hit once, you die, period. You have three lives per continue, and you must pay money to continue(Since it was made to be an arcade game.) In Commando, you get one life, and no continues: if you die, it's game over. However, you do get a lifebar. You start each level with 99 health, and can restore it by collecting medpacks scattered throughout the level. You can also pick up armor from crates, which can give you up to 99 extra health over top of your basic HP bar. Enemy attacks do not instantly kill you, but instead just drain some HP. When that runs out, it's time to call the pallbearers and start the level over. So it's still very important to get hit as little as possible; although you can restore health, it's fairly rare and almost never there when you actually need it.

Expect to see those two little zeroes at the top left more often than you'd probably like to.

The game is brutally difficult, like any good MS clone. Despite the various extra combat options that are helpful in keeping you alive, the game compensates for them by throwing even more chaos in your general direction(and considering how much chaos gets onscreen in MS, that's pretty damn crazy.) The game is balls-to-the-wall hard, and wimpy gamers and the faint of heart need not apply.

Overall it's a pretty good game, and considering it only costs $20 I'm inclined to be a little less judgmental on it. It's definitely not as pretty as Metal Slug; the animations are a little stiffer and the characters have a lot less personality. But the gameplay is definitely up to snuff and for what the game costs you can't argue with that.   read

7:57 PM on 08.22.2008

Tatsunoku VS. Capcom: New character revealed! Megaman Volnut!

Megaman Legends finally gets some love.

I shed a single tear of pure joy when I saw this video. It is...absolutely magnificent. Of all the Megaman games, Legends is pretty much my favorite. It's such an amazing game with incredible gameplay and characters and setting and EVERYTHING.

I...I need new pants.   read

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