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10:12 AM on 06.03.2008  

Necros Is Pretentious: How MGS reminded me that Konami makes games other than Castlevania.

Aha! You thought I was going to write something about Castlevania eh? Well, since this contest have a similar topic with the current Monthly Musing, I decided to leave my favorite franchise for the MM. Anyway! Here's my take for Necros contest and I hope you enjoy this story, it may not be that long or as well written, but hey! Free games is always good for me.



It was a hot summer of 1999 in Chile and I've already finished another year at school. As usual, I was saving money to buy a PS1 game and ready to play another great game. I have to be honest though, I never had a PS1 so my only way to play these games was doing it in my PC with a emulator. I know it's wrong, but at least I was buying the original games.

So I went to my favorite independent gaming store and the first thing I saw was there was just one copy of Metal Gear Solid already at discount. I couldn't let myself slip that oportunity and bought it without thinking it. At home, I just popped in the first CD on my PC and was ready to play.



Since it was a Konami game, I was expecting to be a fun experience with lots of action and such, since I didn't have any other info about the game (didn't have internet nor gaming magazines). As the game started, the first thing I noticed was how it was introduced as it was a film, which left me a bit unsettled for some reason, but as it progressed and get to use the Codec for the first time, I was surprised how incredible the voice acting was. As progressing further, the gameplay was pretty weird for me since the idea was more about hiding than just attacking the first guard you saw. Getting even further, I started to get a bit confused with the story, but it was still enjoyable for a 13 year old pre-teen.

As a game, MGS was something really different for me compared to any other game that I have played before. The production value for this game was beyond than anything that I could have imagined. So many things that grew on me, like the characters, story, gameplay, etc etc...This game made me look games more than just a way to have mindless fun, but that can also deliver a epic experience that other mediums can't. After playing this game so many times during that summer, I was wishing to play more games with an experience similar to my beloved MGS, and even though there were few games like that for the PS1 (i.e. Breath Of Fire 4, which is for me one of my favorite RPGs), MGS still has a special place for my passionate heart.

Well, that's it! I hope the story was well presented as Necros hopes to be.

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11:40 AM on 05.24.2008  

If you love it, change it: Castlevania.



I love the Castlevania series, and I really mean it, I'm "that guy", the kind of who buys any game of the series without hesitation or thinking about it. There is just something about Castlevania that makes me go on and on with every game that comes out. Besides that I'm a big platformer lover, it's the setting, which happens at the castle of Dracula and that you have to battle a army of minions that is as big as the army of the late Soviet Russia and that is just plain fun. Whatever if it is old school, metroidvania or 3D, I'm always excited for a new title of this great franchise.

Of course that it has its faults here and there as any series of games, because Castlevania has been around for more than 20 years and trying to change something that already has been changed can be kinda hard for the team, since the saga was reinvented on 1997 with Symphony of the Night. I'm actually worried that the series will lose its charm and many will stop to buy these games except for the "hardcore" fans. As the Retroforce team said in their last episode, I don't wanna see my Castlevania in the "another Symphony of the Night clone? Do not want" way, so that's why I will give some ideas that maybe could help the franchise. I will write ideas for the old-school, metroidvania and 3D separately, so let's take a look, shall we?


Classic Castlevania:



Controls:

The classic style doesn't need many changes since it only needs to be how it was done since the first Castlevania for the NES, just plain fun and challenging platform bliss. The only problem though is some minor issues with the controls and many have problems in controlling a Belmont during his adventure, like how stiff it is to move the character. The common complaint from many is that they can't change the direction in mid-jump. I know that it adds difficulty but I've known many people who are turned off from the game because of this. Besides of that, the other common problem is that the character is pushed back with each hit, and can get really frustrating for the new comers. Even though most of the "purists" don't have any problem with this, changing some of the control mechanism would help for the newer players if there is new classic style Castlevania, which leads me to...

New Classic Castlevania game:

I'm not just going to say "plz another old school Castlevania" here, but I really would love to see a new one. I can see why IGA doesn't do this, since he thinks that they are outdated and it would be unsuccessful. Here's my main complaint, many who still buys and plays these new Castlevania games have grown up with the earlier games, so there is a big demand for this style. I'm really worried if we won't see any other old-school Castlevania again, since it would really work. A good example is The Dracula X Chronicles. It had the original and the re-enchanted version of Rondo of Blood, and both of them were really fun and at the same time they felt like different games. Again, many were turned of because of the difficulty, but that is something that can be helped easily with a Difficulty Setting. Please Castelvania team, bring us more new Classic Castlevania games.


"Metroidvania" Castlevania:



Even though I really love the Metroidvania style of Castlevania, this is where I will give more ideas how to change some games that could work, since all the GBA and DS Castlevanias have been all Metroidvania ones. Most of them have been trying to replicate of what was the legendary Symphony of the Night and that's the main problem. Instead of just trying to get the same reaction as with SotN by adding similar stuff it can get really repetitive. At the same time, there is something the late Castlevanias doesn't have and need from Symphony:

The Castle and Beyond:

In this part there are two kinds of people; one is that it shouldn't be that linear and the other is that it should. I'm the one of that thinks it should be a Castle more opened. Let's take Symphony as an example once again. After getting the Blue Medallion to open the blue doors you have 3 options where to go; one could be The Royal Chapel, the other could be The Underground Caverns or you could try to go to The Clock Tower without the Double Jump and just try to avoid the falling bridges as a Wolf. Where am I getting at you say? The sense of liberty, but at the same time the idea of opening new areas with new relics that Symphony had was one of the main attractions of this game, and even though most of the new Castlevania game are trying to be like Symphony, they never tried to have a castle where you can wander almost wherever you want to, and I would love to see that back.

Another thing that could work is that there could be a overworld outside of Dracula's Castle. For this, I will use Simon's Quest as an example. Having areas outside of the castle would make it a bigger game, visiting different mansions which ever one would like, giving the liberty of choice as I explained with Symphony. This idea almost worked with Portrait of Ruin, since besides the main castle, you had to go to different areas in the portals that the paintings had, but then again, the last four areas were just reused from the other 4 paintings, which was a big shame and it could have been better.

Graphics (Reused sprites):

In the last two Castlevania for the NDS, most of the sprites and many enemies have been reused from the Symphony, and it seems that some of the enemies in Order of Eclessia will be too. More than a complaint, this is more of a "it could be nice.." thing. Yes, it could be nice if some of the common enemies (Skeletons, Medusa Heads, Bats, Merman, Axe Knight, Ectoplasm, etc etc..) would had different sprites than the ones from Symphony. Also, how many times have we fought Legion? Wouldn't be nice to fight a new boss like Cthulhu instead of having him as a lesser enemy? (Cthulhu is in these games, only that it was renamed as Malachi). But it seems that there will be newer bosses in Order of Eclessia and that really makes me happy.

Gameplay:

First of all, I know it's a 2D platformer, and some rules shouldn't be changed, but how about the battle mechanism? Sometimes just doing the same attack again and again can be bothersome to many, so why not trying something different? One common idea would be to add attack/combo chains, differing the attack of one sword with different buttons and even trying some aerial combos to mix up a little bit. Many would like the idea and many don't, but, doing it correctly it can work and can make the battle even more fun than before, specially with bosses where they can even try to counter you easily. Just a simple idea, again, this is one of those "it would be nice..". Something that changed a bit this was Dawn of Sorrow with the Doppelganger soul, where you could change your equipments and weapons with the press of a button, and I would like to see that back.

The Belmonts, we need one:

Even though you could play as Juste Belmont on Harmony of Dissonance, there has been a lack of them as the main character on the Metroidvania games, they just appear as secondary unlockable overpowered characters (see Julius and Richter Belmont). Again, I can see why IGA does this. He rather to have the Belmonts as the main character in a Classic style game, with their stiff controls and basic moves, you can just see how Juste was controlled in Harmony, it felt weird to control a stiff character on a Metroidvania Castlevania for some reason. His vision must be that others should have the opportunities as main characters leaving the Belmonts only as an addition. IGA, it wouldn't hurt to have a Belmont once again in action, and even more if it had slick moves as Alucard or Soma, it would still work.


3D Castlevania:



The 3D Castlevanias...many consider them as the black sheep of the family, or as the annoying cousin who likes to punch you in the nads. Either way, most of them weren't that good, with the almost exception of Curse of Darkness. Again, IGA says that the 3D Castlevanias haven't met so much demand, which is again false, I'm sure that he's just a bit concerned on doing a new 3D one without failing again, though, he already admitted that he will try again and that he knows that the other attempts where just failure. One thing though, I'm going to talk about the PS2 games, since they are pursuing more for that kind of style than the N64 games.

Don't try to be like Devil May Cry:

IGA said this about the first Devil May Cry; "This is how Castlevania should have been in 3D..". After that, the Castlevania Team have attempted to do something like that, which was a big mistake. First of all, the aerial combo style is broken, really broken. It's hard to try to pull out one just to look "rad" for the sake of it. Even though Lament of Innocence had a decent ground combo move set, in Curse of Darkness almost all the weapons feels as the same. It could have helped a lot if they had different move set, combo maneuvers and hidden abilities. I suggest to try a different format of 3D for Castlevania. One could be the whole open castle in as in previous 3D games, just changing some mechanisms in the battle system and a good ability system, like creating weapons, which was actually a really great idea in Curse of Darkness. The other way is to create a 2.5D game a la Rondo of Blood. Personally, I think the latest would work better, since it's a setting that the Castlevania Team are used to and it would work wonderfully as a Metroidvania game and for a console.

Better AI for the enemies:

Something that really bothered me in the PS2 Castlevania games is that the enemies are waiting for you to attack, in other words, it had even less difficulty than the Metroidvania games. Making the enemies a bit more nastier with you would give more challenge and being more fun rather than just hack 'n slash all the way like in a Dynasty Warriors game (yes, I went there). For the next 3D one, do some more programming in the enemies AI, it would really work to make you fight to get to the next area.

Overall:



This is more of stuff that could help to any kind of Castlevania game, more rather, to help to create the story of it.

Story and Timeline:

I don't know you, but I think the Castlevania franchise can actually have a great story. There are a couple that had the "OH SNAP!" moments in the games, like Lament of Innocence or in Aria of Sorrow. The games have the potential to have a good story, or to create new ones, like how did Dracula get some many minions and other demons that are even more powerful than him. The story that many fans are waiting for is the Demon Wars in 1999 when Julius Belmont sealed the castle in a eclipse. There could also be a Castlevania where the main character is Dracula himself, where he has to defeat other monsters to take them as minions.

And the timeline..the timeline is really F'd up. Many games are out of the timeline like Castlevania Legends and Circle of the Moon. There are two reasons why the timeline is so awkward and why it should be changed; One, is that the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker is on the timeline, all dandy right? No. Because of this, there is a huge hole, like for example that John, the son of Quincey Morris, witnessed when his father died. That can't be, because if all the time is correct, John would only have 2 years in that moment. There are other many other holes in the timeline and it wouldn't hurt to change it again. For more information about this topic, go to the best Castlevania fan page, Castlevania Dungeon, here.

Final comment:

Wow, it feels kinda weird to criticize so much the franchise I love, now I can see why Rev. Anthony did this. It was fun to do this and even though I know most of this changes won't occur, but I still have hope on the Castlevania team.

Leave any comment, thoughts or criticism. Did you like the ideas? Why not? I hope you enjoyed reading this.

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8:55 AM on 05.17.2008  

Metal Slug 7 looks amazing in action!



The above video is the Japanese commercial for Metal Slug 7, and I have to say, I'm really impressed how the game looks for a NDS game. The frame rate looks perfect and it looks like the sprites are working really well (comparing let's say..Metal Slug for PS1, where the movements where awful). Also, there are even more Slugs to use, even giant robots and the bosses looks really good.

I'm already hyped for this game, since I'm a fan of run and gun games, specially when it's about Metal Slug and it seems this one will be a good one.

Thoughts?

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1:29 PM on 04.28.2008  

Passionate Review: The World Ends With You.

First of all, sorry for the silly header, since I think that this review isn't passionate enough.

Square has been known on the last years to keep milking their franchises and to make more remakes than anyone. But what happens when they drop their swords and the familiar settings of medieval-esque from their games and go for a present day location? Something completely different? The World Ends With You (or just TWEWY for short), brings more than just a change of settings, it's a RPG completely new, fresh, addicting, with style and unique. This is a game where Square-Enix and Jupiter are betting for all or nothing. Do they deliver another great RPG experience? Just keep reading.



The story is really different than other RPG's, since as I mentioned before, it takes place in a present location, that is the district of Shibuya, Tokyo. It centers on a boy named Neku Sakuraba, a 15 year old whipper-snapper who thinks that people are below him and only cares for himself and doesn't like society. He finds himself in the middle of the scramble of Shibuya, without clue why he's there and suddenly realize that he has a weird pin with him and gives him the ability to read other peoples mind. He gets a mail at his cellphone, saying that he has 60 minutes to reach 104 or he will be deleted by the Reapers . Trying to delete the message, he can't and gets a timer on the palm of his hand of 60 minutes, just to be attacked by monsters in that moment who are called Noise. Trying to escape, Neku encounters with a girl named Shiki Misaki where they make a "pact" so they can fight the Noise together. Without a clue of what is happening, Neku is told that he is a player of The Game, where they have to complete missions in the 7 days limit, where failure means to get erased. Neku has a hard time to get along with Shiki, since he is really antisocial (and kinda emo), but trusting in his partner is the only way to survive this 7 days.

As you can see, it's a really different story. At the first moment you just the basis of what's happening but as you keep playing, the story gets deeper and deeper, with a lot of twists that will have your attention almost all the time. Of course there are some clichés here and there, and that the main character is kinda melodramatic, but he is the kind of character that learns form the experiences and grows as a human being, making Neku a interesting character. I won't spoil anything, but the story is a bang.



The Gameplay is really fun and addicting, since it uses all the DS's features. The battles are in real time, and kinda fast-paced since you use both screens when battling. You control Neku with the touch screen, you make him move with the stylus by first taping him and then drag the styuls to the spot where you want to be, or dash by doing a longer drag. His main attacks are his pins, which each one has different uses and there are a HUGE array of pins to use and collect. You can also evolve them to get stronger pins, depending by the points you get from battle or by just shutting down your DS. Anyway, back to the gameplay. The pins are used differently; some of them you have to drag on a empty space, like to create walls of flame, others you slash enemies, tap and/or hold on that spot, slashing Neku to a direction to fire bullets or shouting or blowing at the microphone (it feels gimmicky, but the good thing is that to use the pins are optional). You control your partner with the D-Pad (or the XYAB buttons if you're a lefty) in a DDR way. You tap the directional buttons where Shiki will attack, or trying to do combos by changing the directions. You have to do all this in the same time. Sounds complicated? It is at the beginning, specially when using the pins, but as most games, you get used to it. Also, it's better to concentrate more on the bottom screen since you have to move Neku. Also, Neku and Shiki must be in Sync to do even more damage. Shiki can also get a special move with Neku if you get the right cards when doing combos. It isn't as random as it sounds, since you can choose which cards to get when doing the combos with Shiki.

The battles are really fun, and one thing I also liked is that the Noise doesn't appear randomly as most RPG's, you just scan the area when you want to fight the Noise. You can even chain battles up to 4, and if you get to higher levels, you can lower it. Why would you want to that you ask? Because you get better pins and more money from the Noise if you do this, you are rewarded for being risky.



The graphics aren't that impressive, but it gives that distinctive style that TWEWY has. All the characters are done in sprites, while the surroundings of Shibuya are done with different backgrounds, giving a surreal 3D effect while walking, that gives more life to the district. Sometimes the game looks like a GBA game, but sprites are really well detailed. The cut scenes has a vibrant look and with really fluid movements, it's really impressive this part because all is done with just the artwork, and not with coded videos. Also, the artwork for the game is also really good, giving the "rad" and hip style for the characters with their silly outfits, but damn it looks good in the game. In battle, the Noise sprites are also really well done, specially for some bosses and the backgrounds works really well, even though they are kinda simple. Overall, the games looks really great on the DS, with a vibrant style.



The music is simply Amazing! It has a great array of different artists and genres of music, from Hip-Hop to Rock, and a bit of J-Pop. Most of the songs are vocalized, it's incredible that so much music has been inserted on just one DS Card, besides that it is already a huge game. Another great thing is that you can buy every tune, and change the song from your menu screen to one that you like more. Also, when you walk around Shibuya, there will be a different song randomly every time you go to different sectors, the same with the songs in battle, it is always a different song in every battle, it changes depending also what kind of enemy are you fighting. Also incredible, is that the songs sounds in a impeccable quality, really impressive for a DS game. The sound effects are also great, although some attacks sounds like if it was from a GBA game, that sounds out of place. There are many voice samples, but most are used on battle, where they say more phrases than in the actual storyline, which is a bummer because it would have been even more epic.



There is so much to do in this game that is unimaginable. The first thing that probably you may notice are the trends. There are 13 different brands that really makes the difference in the gameplay. For example, in each area of Shibuya there is a brand that has more popularity than others. Using clothes and pins with the highest popularity in that area, you gain bonus stats during battle. Also, the opposite can happen, if a brand is really unpopular, the stats lower or the pins attacks would be lower. One thing though, if you start to use a brand that isn't that popular in a area, and fight many battles over there, that brand will start to gain more popularity, in other words, you can change the "hip" of that place if you want to. When buying clothes, you will obviously gain stats, as any RPG game, but, every clothing has a unique ability. To unlock these abilities, you must get to be friends with the right store clerk, by buying a lot of stuff in a shop, the friendship gets higher and you can do quests to get better items and they will unlock some abilities of your clothes. There is also a food system, where you buy food and give one per character to hold at the moment. They digest it while you are in battle, as it is counted by "bites". Each food has different amount of bites, the bigger they are, you have to battle more so the characters can digest it. The food gives you extra stats, and you have a maximum of 24 bites and if those bites are already used, you have to wait to the next day to give them more food, but, next day in real time.

Grinding here is also fun, since you can choose when to fight, you can even find secret bosses for a challenge and to get better pins. Though, if you want the better pins, you have to set the difficulty as you unlock them and can be changed whenever you want to. There is also a option to change your partner to have Auto Play, but it doesn't work that well.



The game has its problems of course. One thing that I really disliked was that the game only has one save file, so if you got everything in the game, and want to start to zero, you have to erase your file, which is a real bummer. Another thing is that the game can be extremely punishing ins some battles, specially in the boss battles, you must be really concentrated in both screens so you can win. Also, sometimes you will have problems to activate some pins, since if you have 2 that activates almost in a similar way, that gives some problem during the battle.

After all said, The World Ends With You is a exceptional game, it's unique approach of gameplay, setting and style gives the game high standards. It really immerse you into the plot, the game is really addictive and it's really long, you will really have a great time with this incredible title by Square-Enix and Jupiter. This will be a cult-classic, just wait and see.

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4:27 PM on 04.15.2008  

Dyslexic Gamers: How does the experience change for them?



There are many gamers that have physical, audio or visual problems, wherever if they are deaf, color blind people or even blind, they still enjoy video games, no matter their deficit. But what about dyslexic people? How does the experience of gaming change for them because of their discrepancy?

First of all, I think that everyone knows what does this term mean. Still, Dyslexia is a problem that makes the child have reading problems, it doesn't mean that he/she can't read, they just learn slowly and needs a specialist for this problem. This anomaly is neurological , so there is no sensory or physical problems, so even high gifted intellectual people born with it. There are many hereditary factors of why this problem is caused; although it isn't known if it is genetic, cerebral injury, emotional problems, orientation problems or difficulties on pregnancy or at the moment of birth.

Many think that dyslexia is not a major problem, but I disagree. Dyslexia can affect a lot anyone that has this problem, it can change his/her life and any career that one may choose. There was even speculation that it's more of a myth than a real learning problem, but many studies have proven that this problem is the real deal, and differences from other kids. For that study just look out the name John Everatt.

So how does all this affect for anyone that has dyslexic and enjoy gaming? Just keep reading.

First of all, imagine that you are a dyslexic person who is trying to read something, it would look something like this:



Or like this:



Well, you get the idea. Still, the games that someone with dyslexia would have problem to play, are story driven games, like RPG's and most adventure games. There are other of course, let's check them out.

For a dyslexic person, playing a RPG would probably be a living hell. All of them are story driven and require full attention by reading and knowing the story which would be really difficult for that person. Of course he/she would get frustrated since a RPG the gameplay is not the strong point of most RPG's and they would get bored pretty easily. Many would say that they could play a RPG, but it wouldn't make any sense, and they would get bored by just focusing on the gameplay. Not just that, the gameplay it self requires essential reading, since you have to know which is Attack and which one is for Magic. But since dyslexia just causes the reader to learn more slowly, they can learn the rules of the game, but there is another problem, which is the Menu system. Now, there are a lot of customization done for every character, whatever if it is equipments, magic or other stuff that would help for the quest. Those type of customization would give a hard time for that person, since it requires more than just basic reading.


It's a shame that many people can't play RPG's like Chrono Trigger.

Speaking of Menus, let's take another look where it's essential. Most of metroidvania style of games are great for dyslexic persons to play, because you are most worried about your surroundings and what to do next than anything else, like in Super Metroid. There is a series where it's kinda different, and it's not because of story telling, but because as said before, of the Menu system where it is used constantly, and that series is Castlevania. In most of the metroidvania style of games from this vampire killing series is that you will use the menu constantly, whatever if it is to change relics, equipments, or simply to change the options. Of course they can just guess what every item or spell do, but still it would be kinda difficult to know which item is which. But then again, with practice and reading it again and again, they will get use to it.


This would be kinda frustrating if it's difficult to read it.

There are other types of games that could get really difficult for a dyslexic person to enjoy, like brainteasers, for example Big Brain or Brain Age. OK, first of all, the games such as Brian Age not only requires reading, but also writing, which is kinda related with dyslexia, in fact, many times the problem of having writing issues has been linked with dyslexia. Now it is known as Dysgraphia. Although, dyslexia and dysgraphia are closely related. With that said, games like Brain Age would be another big frustration for a dyslexic reader. But here is something interesting, although it can be hard for them these type of games, they could help them practicing the reading since you can taker your time to decipher the teasers. But then again, if someone also has dysgraphia this would be really hard, since most of the questions are written down on the DS, and since writing down is already frustrating, it's not such a good idea to give this type of game for them.


If it wasn't already frustrating to write down on the DS, imagine someone with dyslexia/dysgraphia.

With that said, most of other games are enjoyable for them, specially ones that doesn't need for a storytelling or need to read that much..still, one question must be answered:

Is there someway that a dyslexic person can enjoy a good storytelling from a game?

While yes, there is actually. You see, this idea on writing about dyslexic persons trying to enjoy gaming and how different it could be for them was inspired from a Thai gamer/otaku that I met the other day who suffers dyslexia, and we talked a bit how this reading problem has affected him in his passions. He happens to be a big Metal Gear Solid fan, and it's one of the perfect examples that I will use for great storytelling that most can enjoy.

Let's take a look at this series how it works, OK? Besides it's fun to play mechanism about sneaking, it also has one of the most exciting and at the same time twisted storyline that this series offer. So how can they enjoy the story? Simply, thanks to the exceptional voice acting that the series is also well known for, and it's used to every line of the script, even on tiny ones. The other good thing is that the games have voice acting and subtitles, which helps a lot to practice reading, at the same time being interested in something that may one like. When he mentioned about this series, he also talked about Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, since he couldn't enjoy it as he hoped to. The main problem is that the game has a different approach than the others entires of the series. It has more customization like choosing soldiers, weapons and trying to read the missions and the codec conversations, since it didn't offer voice acting, just because of space capacity of the UMD.

I also talked if he had played other games that could have great storyline, good acting and fun gameplay, and he didn't know anything else. I had to tell him about the Half Life series, specially Half Life 2. I explained him that besides creating a great physics and a friendly approach gameplay, it has one of the most memorable stories/endings and characters. Not only that, but it also has a great voice acting that demonstrates many emotions from the gamer, specially because of Alyx. Dyslexic gamers would enjoy this game

As you can see, thanks to the rapid evolution of gaming, voice acting can help a lot besides creating the ambiance for the story, it helps to people with reading problems to stay focused and entertained in the story, besides the actual gameplay. Even RPG's are getting voice acting, as in Final Fantasy XII, but the customization problem is still there. Other great examples are Bioshock and Portal, which immerses anyone with their storytelling.

In the future, I would love to see more voice acting in games that has a great story, it would help more dyslexic to enjoy games besides than just getting to control and having fun. That's why gaming is here, they are here to entertain, to makes us dive in this ocean full of great stories or just to have a blast playing, and I hope that everyone can do that, no matter what kind of illness one can have.

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12:17 PM on 04.07.2008  

Musical Attack Monday: Dale North.



Video games and music has always formed a great union, classic melodies and incredible compositions has been one of my favorite things on gaming. On Musical Attack Monday I will present people who do covers and remixes from video game music and I hope you enjoy it. If you have any suggestion or any idea to improve this series, just let me know.

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In the past week I have found a lot of great remixers, but I just discovered that our good editor Dale North is one as well! I don't know the man himself or what he does or bla bla bla, but I've been pretty impressed by his work, that I can tell. As reading his myspace, he has been doing music since he was a preteen, and have many other projects.

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Ok, let's get into what he does. Mr. North doesn't have a pre-determined style when doing gaming remixes, but, if I had to define a style, that would be experimental. One of my favorites is the song "Needles", a collab between many other remixers, which is a remix of the Stage Theme of Needleman from Megaman 3. It has a latino groove with a touch of salsa that is simply genius.

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Another favorite is Super Mario Sleigh's Ride, which is another collab, with a X-mas theme. This remix is a great Christmas Jazzy style, but with many Mario songs, specially Super Mario World. He can also create sweet melodies like the song "Dale of the Wind", that is, a remix of Valley of the Wind from Xenogears, where the strings and piano will touch your heart with this pro work. Mr.North can get a little bit to experimental at times, as in the the song "SwinginPornoMix", from Super Mario Bros.3, delivering the comedy in music, adding some moans and..other stuff, just listen to it.

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If you want to check his work, go to his page at Ocremix that can be found here. He is also the co-founder of The Oneups, another gaming music band, which also have an approach to different styles and many of their works are incredible (just check Castlevania 3 Clockwork rendition, just do it). Their homepage can be found here. He is also a singer, with a contemporary pop (at least that's what he says on his MySpace). His latest album was "Right Out of the Blue". If you want to hear a bit of his project go to his Myspace that is here.

Mr. North has a prominent future, even though it seems he's more focused on his singer career now, I would love to see more remixes (after all that's what this article is about). Still, I hope he get to his goal, whatever it is...

....More remixes plz.

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12:54 PM on 03.31.2008  

Musical Attack Monday: Zelda Reorchestrated.



Video games and music has always formed a great union, classic melodies and incredible compositions has been one of my favorite things on gaming. On Musical Attack Monday I will present people who do covers and remixes from video game music and I hope you enjoy it. If you have any suggestion or any idea to improve this series, just let me know.



First of all, I'm really sorry to use Youtube videos and not Mp3 widgets as the last time, because eSnips is being really lame lately and can't upload without getting a denial, so if anyone knows a good mp3 widget for dummies, let me know please.

Now, for my second entry of MAM it will be about the Zelda Reorchestrated team, or Z.R.E.O. As the name implies, this team arranges many songs from most of the Zelda games and make them fully orchestrated, giving this songs a more realistic sound than the games counterparts. It's a big project, but they don't seek any profit for it.



The project started on 2004 by FireGS, and as time passed, more people joined the Staff such as Enzuru and FruityFire. Even though the orchestra sounds real, it isn't. All the songs are first created on MIDIS and then the sounds are re-created on various sequencer synthesizers to make the sounds realistic. Some of the songs have been redone and called "Redux". This was done because of the re-open of the website after a dark time that it had in 2005.



I've started to listen to ZREO since last week, and I have been really impressed. Even though it's not a real orchestra, they still have done a incredible job to recreate this songs and started to be one of my favorite music remixers. They have won some awards (not real awards per se). Many of their songs have been noticed to have too much reverb (reverberation), but it has been really well explained on their web page, and it's also one of the reasons why many songs have been "redux".

The web page of this project is here, and their MySpace here. Even though you can download their songs, they have a special page to listen them immediately thanks to their flash player, which is over here.

Hope you enjoyed this one, it's not that much, bur I hope for the next time I have a proper mp3 widget.

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4:03 PM on 03.25.2008  

Ninja Review: Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword.

After more than 15 years since the last debut of the Super Ninja on a Nintendo system, Team Ninja has delivered some love to the fans and creating Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword for the DS. The control scheme has caught the attention to many, since the gameplay is solely based on the touch screen of the NDS like in Phantom Hourglass. Not only that, but you also must hold the portable like a book, like in Brain Academy or Hotel Dusk. Will the new control scheme succeed? Does Itagaki & Co. deliver the same frantic hack 'n slash as in the X-Box games? Let's find out.



The game centers 6 months after the events of the first Ninja Gaiden for the X-Box, and starts telling how the Dragon Sword was created and that how it's passed from generation to generation. It also tells the tale how the Dragon Sword destroyed the Evil Dragon. After that, the story continues when Ryu and Momiji, a kunoichi, are training on the rivers, near their village. For a action game, the story is OK, but not as great as the past games, but it works well for a portable game and after all, it's a action game. The way the story is presented is in form like in a Manga book, giving it a different style but fitting, for this game.



Now here comes the important aspect of the game, that is, the gameplay itself. Somehow Team Ninja managed to fit most of the things that makes the past Ninja Gaiden games great, it's fast paced and really brutal. All your actions is solely driven via the touch screen, you drag your stylus to make Ryu run, point at a enemy various times to throw his shurikens or arrows and you literally slice the DS to attack the enemy. The control scheme works almost perfectly on the DS, since doing this actions are forgiving, specially trying to do specials like Izuna Drop or the Flying Swallow techniques. The buttons or the d-pad is used only to block, and START to open up the menu to see your stats and abilities. There are some flaws of course, specially trying to jump it's a bit hard, it feels kinda stiff and hard to pull it at the first time, but nothing that practice can do. Another thing is throwing the shurikens, sometimes you feel it doesn't go where you want to throw them, making it a bit hard to hit the enemies. Also added is to use Ninpo magic, where you use Ninja Spells to kill enemies more efficiently or to simply resolve a puzzle. All this, the gameplay is really fun, and it's one of the strongest aspects of the game.



Graphically the game is just beautiful for a NDS game. Sure, the background is pre-rendered, but it does a good job to barely notice it since the game runs in a incredible 60 fps, making it as fast as the other games. Also, this pre-rendered backgrounds helps the game in another way, that it would be that the graphics wouldn't be so choppy. Even though the backgrounds are pre-rendered most of the time, in boss battles it will be full 3D with constant changing the camera angle to look always at the back of Ryu, and works really great. Again, there are some faults though, one is that sometimes you can't see Ryu and what's attacking him when they are out of focus in parts when Ryu is trying to get to the next area, but this is just sometimes so don't worry. It doesn't have videos, but as I said before, the Manga style fits really well to the game, since you are holding the DS as a book.



One of the things I noticed from reviews from other pages, is that they don't or barely mention the music and sound effects, since personally, I think it is also one of the strongest points of the game. I simply just loved the music, it's great as most of the other Ninja Gaiden games, it has a arrange from orchestral, bit of techno, rock and of course, some Japanese folklore, it wouldn't be a ninja game without the folklore style. Most of the tunes are really catchy, and every boss have their own song, which makes the soundtrack even wider. The quality of the music can be expected as games as Elite Beat Agents or Taiko no Tatsujin, which is using almost at full power the sound chip. Most of the sound effects are recycled from the Xbox games, like Ryu's cry attacks, grunts and the slashing and blocking. Also, there is no full voice overs, just some words and names that are said, and it could have been even more epic.



For a Ninja Gaiden game, must of the "purists" will feel the game easier than the NES or the Xbox versions. It is indeed a bit easy, specially the boss battles, and maybe you will have some rough time with them and even more because there are many save points to refill your life bar. But what is a Ninja Gaiden without selectable difficulties? After Normal mode, you can get more settings that is beyond hard, so for you gamers that is seeking for a challenge, this is it. There are many other things unlock, but I won't spoil it. The game also has a leaderboard via Wi-Fi connection, a leaderboard for each difficulty settings, and don't get surprised if the leaderboard is hacked, since nobody can get over trillion of Karma in just 2 hours. The games is a bit short, from 5 to 6 hours, but then again, the difficulty settings and the stuff to unlock makes for it, and maybe you will play this game more than short sessions.

Other than that, the game is great, it is also a great achievement made by Team Ninja, they did something that many developers don't, making the game from scratch to create a new and exciting form to play Ninja Gaiden. Please, buy the game so we can get more Ninja goodness for the DS once more.

Score: 9.0

BUY IT

I hope you have enjoyed mi first review on Dtoid, haven't done one in a while so I hope this is good.

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11:34 AM on 03.25.2008  

Japanese killed 2 people because of..Ninja Gaiden?

Or at least that's what Fuji TV says. Following the trend as the Americans, Fuji TV tries to link the murder with the last game of Team Ninja, Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword. The suspect, Masahiro Kanagawa, has murdered 2 people.



There is one problem though, the game was released the 20th of March, and his first crime was on the 19th, killing one civilian. On the 23th, he stabbed 8 people, killing one in the process.

Hmmm, this guy is surely a wacko, but since Jacko can barely work on the US now, He should move to Japan, maybe he can trash talk on Fuji TV!

Source: Kotaku.

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10:45 AM on 03.24.2008  

Musical Attack Monday: Goat.



Video games and music has always formed a great union, classic melodies and incredible compositions has been one of my favorite things on gaming. On Musical Attack Monday I will present people who do covers and remixes from video game music and I hope you enjoy it. If you have any suggestion or any idea to improve this series, let me know.

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Welcome, to the first episode of Musical Attack Monday, a take similar to Art Attack Friday, only about video game music (duh). For this episode I will talk about Goat, one of my favorites remixer out there.

Goat is known at VG Music and at OC Remix for his metal renditions of Castlevania songs, particularly the NES ones. His style ranges from Progressive Rock to Heavy Metal, since his influences are from Metallica, Megadeath, Pantera and Sepultura. Not much is known from him more than he's from Texas and that he's "A guitar playing Goat".

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Although he can make great Rock remixes, he can also make beautiful sounds like in this remix of the Prelude theme from Final Fantasy IV, where most of the song is accompanied by a harp and then the orchestra kicks in, with of course, a little bit of guitar which it's his favorite instrument. He has also collaborated with Stemage and Dan Taylor to the metal rendition of The Tunnel from Metroid 2, you can here it here.

One of his first projects was "Unchosen Paths", were it was the Rock and Metal renditions to the NES Castlevanias games, specially Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse. One of my favorite songs of this project was "Creeping Dusk", which was a medley from all the songs of Castlevania 2, most of the song of Castlevania 3 and some songs from Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness with a little easter egg from Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. To view his full project, you can go here.

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If you want to listen to more of his songs, like songs from Metroid, Kid Icarus, Contra, or even Ninja Gaiden, you can go to his Home Page or just go to OC Remix and listen to the tracks at his page.

I hope you've enjoyed my first entry of Musical Attack Monday, and there will be even more for the next week, so check it out.

Thanks to The^Loner for the mini banner, you rock.

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2:25 PM on 03.18.2008  

My life in gaming and how it inspired me to the future.

I was reading Phoenix Gamma's and Nessie's blogs, it got me the inspiration to write about how was my life as a gamer and how much has it changed thanks to it. I hope you enjoy this.

As same as Phoenix, when I got to study over here in Norway, many asked how did I decided to be a English teacher. I boldly respond "Because of Video Games". The same people look at me weird, but then again, most people would do that but I really don't care. Why because of gaming you say? Well, let's start from the beginning.

It was a summer of 1990, my first time I hold a NES controller and I was just 3 years old. Me and my mother where exiled from Chile because of the political problems over there, and we got to live in Norway. I was invited to one of the neighbors house, and in there there was a girl 2 years older than me, and she wanted me to play with her. The first game was Megaman 2, then with Castlevania 3 and to finish, a bit of Super Mario Bros. That day we became the best friends for a long time and she was like a "Master" for me in gaming. Not only that, little did she know that she would change my life thanks to that.

As I got 5 years old, I learned to read almost by myself, since my mother was never at home. A day when I want to her house to just play as always, I tried to figure out what I was reading in The Flinstones game. It wasn't Norwegian so I was completely lost and then she told me that language is English. It was pretty weird for me, but as I got older, I got more into it and started to say the same things as in video games and some movies. Dunno why, but I was really attracted to that language that wasn't Spanish nor Norwegian so I decided to read more in English.

A faithful day, and I got my NES, but at the same time she got the SNES with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was the first game where I tried to use as much I knew in English but it was still not enough, I was just 7 years old by that time. Still, we played it and decided not to use the Official Guide, since it would ruin us the surprises. Sometimes when we played Street Fighter II (she handed my ass a la oránge in a silver plate), many of the kids thought that "KO" was just "OK" backwards. It was kinda hard to try to explain that it really means "Knock Out", but for them it was just "OK".

Back to my Homeland.

I was 10 years old, and my mother decided that we would live at Oslo, the capital of Norway. My grandmother thought it was a really bad idea that I should go with my mother so both decided that I should live in Chile again with my grandma. Both of the options was bad for me, because I wouldn't see my best friend again. What happened to her you ask? Let's just say that she is happy in a better place. Anyway, as I got to the land where I was born, the first thing I did was to plug my NES because thankfully, someone really nice decided to change my PAL NES for a NTSC one. At the same time I decided to save money to get a SNES, since they were cheap because of the new generation of consoles. It was 1996 when all this happened.

I got my SNES as I desired, plus a Sega Genesis with some great games, and was really hooked, not just playing, but try to read even the instruction manuals that came in the package. I got into school already and I was a bit surprised that they didn't have English classes until the last two years of school. I was a bit disappointed, but I got to knew other persons and got to love science somehow.

The last years in school was coming, and I was 14 years old. At that time I still had a Genesis and my SNES, plus all the Game Boy's until Advance and a PC that I used a lot. Many had Play Station One at that time, and the next-gen was coming and I was always going to gaming places, just to look at the games or to play any console paying 400 pesos for hour. Since I had good grades in school, my grandmother gave me money so I can buy anything. My PC had a PS1 emulator (I know, sad), but I saw a game that I really wanted and wanted it original. That was Castlevania Symphony of the Night. I played that games for HOURS, never getting bored of it and I still have it as my most cherished game.

At the ceremony, I was surprised, I won a medal for the best English grades in the school in years. The funny thing is that I never studied for English.

As came high-school, still gaming and I was confused, since the last two years you have to choose if you want to be in the section of Spanish and History, or in Science, with different sections, that is, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. I choose Biology, since I was starting to like it a lot, and at the same time I had English, so I wasn't going to lose.

Many has problems in English in this country, and in many other Latin American countries. So I decided to perfect it in a British Institute that the city had, and it had a direct connection with the Cambridge University. On the three years I've been studying in that institute, the three exams, KET, PET, and FCE were all pass with merit. I was really surprised that I was achieving so much just because what I have been learning from Video Games since my childhood.

I have seen many people with English problems, and as English is integral to get a good job position, I decided to be a English teacher. Also, in all that time, I have been working in many Latin American web pages as the Gaming guy, but all of those communities weren't that much fun.

Now, I'm back here at Norway, studying what I want to do and trying as much as I can to get a scholarship so I can study in England, hopefully in Cambridge.

Thanks to video games, I have learned the language that I love, meted many great people, formed clubs, to meet my fiancé, and to do many other things, as to get over here at Destructoid.

I may be new on the community, but I have met awesome people over here and on the IRC Cartel, this is the first time that I really like a community and that is thanks to Video Games and English, I'm here right now and want to be for a long time.

I hope you enjoyed this piece, a bit to personal maybe, but I really wanted to share this with you guys. Cheers for this awesome community, because it's helping me a lot to write better things and to practice even more my English.

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11:52 AM on 03.16.2008  

My salute to Niero and Destructoid.(Edited)

I know it's not that much, but something is something. Sorry for not being a full high definition blue-ray vhs video, and it was all improvised (you just can see how many times I said "thank you" or "ahmm").

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One thing that I wanted to say but didn't want to sound so emo, is that since I have been here in Norway, I always come to this place to have a good time and to make friends when I can't communicate with my girlfriend.

I thank you very much to Niero and of course the staff of D-toid.

Thank you!

(Again, sorry if it isn't so much).

Edit: Here's a link to download it for those who can't play it (sorry because it's Rapidshare @@)

You can do it here.

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