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12:30 PM on 09.15.2013

Speed Racer: The Video Game. A love story.

I love the Speed Racer movie.

I'm well aware of it's many, many flaws.

But when I see stuff like that, my inner child just squeals in joy.

The bright colors. The silly cars. The beautiful CG. The sliding heads. The hammy acting and crappy dialog. The story that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The lame jokes. The ninjas. 

Everything about that movie just speaks to me on a level I cannot comprehend. I watch it, and know it's not that good, but I can't help but smile every time I see it. For me, it's that movie. One that brings an indescribable amount of joy. 

But let's not talk about the movie. Let's talk about the video game.

Speed Racer: The Video Game (which on the box is one word but I hate red squigglies) came out a few years back. I remember renting it from my local Blockbuster (which for those of you too young to know, is like Netflix but with the fun of driving to a store), enjoying it immensely for my 5 day rental period, returning it, and then forgetting about it.

Until yesterday.

I was at Gamestop, browsing through the used games section. The Wii Section has been regulated to a single shelf towards the back, stuffed full with games squeezed tight. I'm always drawn to those sections, because you can usually find diamonds in the rough with a little patience. Speed Racer: The Video Game is my diamond in the rough.

And it only cost me five bucks.

While other people my age are there pre-ordering Grand Theft Auto or buying Call of Duty, I'm proudly buying an old and almost forgotten licensed game.

And having way too much fun with it.

Speed Racer: The Video Game oozes licensed game from the moment you turn it on. The presentation is quite bland, first of all. The load screen is white with some barely noticeable darker spots to add texture. The introduction is just badly compressed gameplay footage strung together. The start screen is boring. The menus are dull. 

There aren't many options. Single Player and Multi-Player. Both have championships and single races, with Time Trials to wrap it up. That's it.

That's all you need.

Once you actually get into a race, the game becomes something joyous to play. You can choose to play as one of many Speed Racer characters (who may have been hidden in the movie or part of the anime) and race around on what can only be described as giant Hot Wheels-style tracks. 

Driving is quite easy, with a gas and brake button, and you tilt the Wii Mote to steer. Rather than steering completely around the track, you're more or less sliding left and right, and you can't fall off without considerable back luck.

Doesn't sound so great yet? We haven't talked about Car-Fu.

Yes. Car-Fu.

Car-Fu is basically the game's combat system. By jabbing the Wii Mote in certain directions, you can jerk your car to the side, jump, do flips, use your car as a a homing missile, and all kinds of other crazy moves. And it's satisfying to pull off! You can drive up behind another car, do a backflip and land right on their roof, spinning them out! You can slam into a car next to you.

You can do combos!

You haven't lived until you landed on a car in front of you, shoved into the car next to you (getting a combo) and boosted out of the way to the front line. It's incredibly satisfying, made all the move so by the way the game slows down and the other drivers deliver taunts. Nothing feels better!

The game was released to fairly mediocre reviews, and despite my squealing, those reviews are deserved. The game feels unfinished in a lot of ways. The racing itself is great, but as I said, the menus are bland. Winning a championship results in sliding artwork with little fanfare. Load times are long. There is little artwork for each character. And outside of the championships, there just isn't much to the game.

But it seems like the developers knew where to put their focus--in the gameplay. And that gameplay is some of the most fun you'll ever have. There isn't a lot of tracks, but what's there is quite a blast. 

There are far worse ways to spend five bucks and a few hours.   read

6:24 PM on 09.08.2013

Making scores personal

I'm going to take what is a tired and well-trodden topic and hopefully present some kind of new spin on it. This idea may be suggested elsewhere, but I had the thought while I was showering (where I do my best thinking) and thought it might be worth, if nothing else, sharing it with you all.

Pictured: One Brilliant Idea.

I think that this is a topic in which there isn't one clear side that has the upper hand. Instead, I think that when talking about it, one tends to contradict themselves as they go along. Please bear with me.

I find that many people who consider themselves gamers take the review score number way too seriously. If you're reading this, this shouldn't be news. One only has to look at some of Jim's more controversial reviews (you know which ones I mean) and you can see people typing bloody murder about it (Or at least, that's what it looks like if you can decipher the grammar).

To some extent, it's easy to see why. We get very attached to certain things, in this case, and it's easy to cry foul when things don't go our way. It's a childish behavior, but one that manifests itself so often in the video game reviews.

I'm not going to propose doing away with the number system, because let's face it, we need some kind of ranking out there. Instead, I want to propose something to everyone who has ever gotten upset that a game didn't do as well (or as poorly) as they wanted.

Review scores mean different things to different people.

It sounds like a simple concept, but I do think it's one that goes largely ignored in the gamer communities. However, I do think that in different scenarios, gamers do understand this. Despite the best efforts made of any review site to place specifications and criteria on what a "10.0" game is, the scores are always going to be personal to the reviewer.

Why can't scores be personal to the gamer as well?

Honestly, I just needed a picture to break up the text.

Does that make sense? No? Let me explain.

Everyone has their own unique and special idea of what exactly a 10.0 video game is. Same goes for 9.0, 8.0 and so on. And that applies to video game reviewers too. Jim's 10.0 is very different than Jonathan Holmes'. Destructoid's 10.0 is very different from IGN's. And it goes on.

So, why isn't it different for every person as well? 

My 10.0 is almost certainly going to be different than yours. And your friend's. And your grandmother's. 

And we see evidence of this all the time.

Think about it. Think about that time that you found a game you loved so much you wanted to share it with the world. You wanted your best friend to try that bad, so you loaned it to them and they played. You waited, breath bated, for them to join you in your squeals of excitement. Finally, they finished the game. And their response:


What you love in a video game is not always going to be what your friend loves in a video game. Simple as that. And that's the same thing for game reviewers. The only difference? They get paid for their opinions and have played far more video games than you have. You may tell your friend how wrong he/she is for not liking the game the way you did, but it's their opinion. 

And it's the same for reviewers.

"But Ryoma," you're saying, "Aren't there some games that are always considered bad?"

Of course there are. Bad mechanics, poor programming, glitches, and so much more can mar game experiences. However, the level that those problems can bother someone varies from person to person. Example. I hate Fallout 3. I found it to be a glitchy nightmare that cheated me out of a ton of experience points because of shoddy programming. Lots of people love that game and aren't bothered by the glitches. I was.

Therefore, my score of Fallout 3 would be very different than the score other people would give it. I was more bothered by things.

So, game reviews are opinions. And should be treated as such. Seems simple enough.

But shouldn't game reviews also be objective? Can they be?

This is where the dilemma of game reviews manifests itself. Should game reviews, on some level, be objective? To some extent, I believe they can. For example, give me a first-person shooter, and I won't like it. My tastes don't lie in shooters. I'm bad at them, I don't like not seeing my character and so on. However, if I was a video game reviewer assigned to review the next Call of Duty, should I try and understand the view of people who like these kinds of games? Can a person who doesn't like JRPGs be trusted to review them properly?


I don't know the answer to that, actually. I like to believe that those who do reviews professionally have a wide range of video game expertise, and can appreciate other games for what they are, even if the mechanics don't appeal to them directly. It may not be a 10.0 game to them, but they should try to see if the mechanics and ideas present make the game a 10.0 game to a fan of the genre.

But the only way to find out is to read the review. A good, well-written review should address all aspects of a game clear enough so that a person reading it can determine if they will be bothered by the mechanics. In a game such as Disgaea, where level-grinding is a big part of the experience, a reviewer who doesn't appreciate level-grinding should at least mention how it's woven into the game itself so that the reader can determine if the game appeals to them.

Because, after all, every game out there is a 10.0 to someone.

Except maybe E.T. 

As I hinted at the start, I don't necessarily have a solution to any of the problems or questions I raise. I just think that gamers should not be hung up too much on the score of a game. Instead, they should read the review, get an idea of the reviewer's thoughts, and then choose for themselves if the game is worth it. You never know until you try.   read

7:48 AM on 02.21.2013

Games Coming to Both PS4 and PS3? Good? Bad?

Welp, Sony did their press conference thing. And as I predicted in my previous blog, I wasn’t super impressed. The games looked pretty, but they were hardly awe-inspiring like when we first saw the PS3. What gameplay that was shown did have a crisp, clean look to it. Hardly a reason to drop a ton of money on a new console, but there was an improvement.

Even if it’s a small one.

This is going to be a short blog post, because I lack the time to do something longer, but I’d like to address one fairly innocuous point at the conference. Both Bungie’s Destiny and Diablo 3 will be releasing on the PS4, but they will also be released on the PS3. At first, sounds great! “Yay!” you might say, “I don’t have to run to the store and buy a new console for these games!”

But wait. Isn’t that what Sony would want you to do?

Pictured: Sony Execs in suits.

Think about it. Consoles sell because they have exclusives. And yes, the PS4 will have games on it that are exclusive. But there are also these two (and maybe more, down the road) that will be available on both consoles. The idea is to get you to throw money at the cashier until they hand you the big box with the new toy in it. And the reason you want that new toy is for the new games on it.

Isn’t having them on both kind of…counter-intuitive?

Wouldn’t this lead to sloppy PS4 ports of PS3 games that might look better, but not by a huge margin? Or, perhaps create an unplayable PS3 version of the same game? Even if the game is inferior on the PS3, would the general public see the game for both consoles and wonder if they really need the “latest and greatest?”

Do I need the latest and greatest?

Lastly, does this speak of lack of developer confidence in the system? I don’t have the answers, though wouldn’t it be nice if I did? I know that I am still getting plenty of mileage out of my PS2 and PS3, so I, for one, don’t feel any need to drop money on a new console.

Am I completely out of my mind? Do you agree with me points, or think they are a non-issue? Let’s talk.   read

2:04 PM on 02.17.2013

Sony's New Console Won't Impress Me...Guaranteed.

Let me begin this blog by saying, yes, I am a cynical bastard at the worst of times, and at best, I am immensely difficult to impress. And let me follow that up by saying that I really wish that wasn't the case. I wish I could see a lot of the new technologies and games and movies and whatnot and be super excited about them. And, in rare cases, I am (Persona!), but for the most part, I keep my enthusiasm toned down.

Nope. That'll never be me.

With that said, I don't think that anything Sony will reveal in the next few days will get me excited or fill me with any kind of childish glee. Certainly not to the level of Nintendo's reveal of the Wii (remember when we all thought motion controls were cool?) or when the PS3/Xbox 360 were announced and their graphics just wowed. Maybe I'm getting worse in my immensely old age of 23 years, but I just don't think Sony'll do much for me.

Here's why.

Let's start with the graphical prowess of the console itself. Generally speaking, when a new console is released, the jump in graphics is huge and jawdropping. Think about the NES. Then, think about how big a jump the NES was to the SNES. And then the jump from SNES to the PS1/N64 era. And that jump to the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era. And then to the current generation. The jump in sheer graphical might was intense! It made it hard to go back to old consoles

But, this was clearly the high point of graphics. Looks just like....whatever it's supposed to look like.

But if people like Michael Pachter (of GT's Pach-Attack) are to be believed, the jump in graphics won't be nearly as huge. And I'm inclined to agree with that, for a number of reasons. When you buy a brandy-new PC that can generate the best graphics, they are certainly impressive, but they aren't the jump we had from 2D to 3D. In fact, I would argue that it isn't even close to the jump we had from PS1 to PS2. And, once again going to Pachter, the graphics will probably be what high-end PCs could do two years ago. Impressive, but certainly not pick-my-jaw-off-the-floor worthy.

That reason is enough for me to calm myself over this big console reveal. But wait, there's more!

Let's talk pricing for a moment. I am almost certainly going to be making big generalizations here, but hear me out. Triple-A games cost an absolutely stupid amount of money to make today, right? To the point where games such as Resident Evil 6 can sell 5 million copies and be considered a failure. If we move to more expensive consoles to make better looking games, won't the price of developing go even higher? Will that force games to be even safer, and force the difference between big budget and small budget games get even larger?

Honestly, I don't know. But I really don't think developing games needs to get any more expensive than it already is.

Let's keep throwing our money into development costs. We'll just need to sell every family three copies to break even!

But here's the last thing that doesn't impress me. It may seem trivial at first glance, but I think once I break it down, you'll understand why this has me worried. This final reasons is, of course, the controller. Or, at least, the prototype controller that has been leaked.

I hate it.

At first glance, this controller looks like a slightly wider Dual Shock 3. But there are a number of changes with it. The Analog sticks have these new indents, the whole thing feels rounder and heavier, and the D-pad is much different. But that's not what worries me.

The touch screen in the center does.

"But Ryoma," you ask, "why is that so worrying?"

Because it's useless. Plain and simple.

Let's think about the touch screen's use. It's not big enough to really serve as it's own independent screen a la the WiiU, so it's not like you'll be able to switch off the TV and play on it. So, it's probably more supplemental information, like maps. I once again don't see that working out too well, since the screen is still quite small. The map would be hard to read from a distance, so a quick look down during a fight may be more trouble than it's worth. And if you can't read it quickly, you'll have to pause the game, negating any benefit of having the map down there.

Unlike this, which is much more readable at a quick glance.

Well, maybe it's just used for buttons, right? Game specific buttons?

No. Just. No.

Let's say it's a glorified pause button. You can't reach it. It's farther from the D-pad and analog sticks than the Start and Select buttons would be on a normal PS3 controller, so you wouldn't be able to reach it quickly if you need it, especially if you need to keep your thumbs on the sticks. Not only that, but let's assume that each game can place its own buttons there. What if they move the pause button? Imagine one game having the pause button on the right, and the other having it on the left. Switching back and forth would be a nightmare!

As Nintendo showed with its DS, either the touch screen should be used exclusively or not at all. Switching around from buttons to touch screen just tends to cause little more than hand cramps and smudges on the screen. Well, thank god Sony put that on the controller. Now my gaming experience is far superior!

I do like Sony, and I really do hope the PS4 is better than I think it will be. But, Sony seems to have this thing were they copy Nintendo, but only halfway. Sony made motion controllers with balls on the ends that no one cared about. They made a hand-held console that couldn't capture the kind of experience and charm the DS (and 3DS) can. And now they are copying the WiiU's controller screen, but not going far enough as to make it something actually useful. It seems like they don't know what they are doing, so they are copying what Nintendo does and seeing what happens.

I plan to watch their event on the 20th closely. I just don't plan to be impressed by what I see.   read

2:52 PM on 02.08.2013

Let's talk about Reboots. And yes, let's use DMC.

The new Devil May Cry game has been released to the tears of thousands of fanboys (myself included) and to the praise of many game critics (including our beloved Jim Sterling). Much has been said about the game, how it destroys or reinvigorates the Devil May Cry franchise, how it waters down or improves the combat, and how it no longer turns straight men into gay men.

Ohhhhh yeaaaah.

Don't worry--this blog isn't going to me bashing the game for the next XXXX words. I plan, instead, to use the game as something of an springboard into a bigger topic. As my title implies, that topic is reboots.

We seem to be in a time where reboots are almost as common as new ideas these days, and growing dangerously close to being as frequent as sequels. At first glance, the logic for a reboot makes sense. A new franchise is created, and people love it. But, as the franchise goes on, a number of things can happen. The audience for the game can grow limited in scope, for example, or the crazed continuity of a complex plot could alienate newcomers. Or, they just released a shitty sequel that essentially drove the game into the ground. Whatever the reason, attempting to start fresh in any of those scenarios seems not only like a logical course of action, but also a damn good one. Let's strip away the parts of the game that didn't seem to work, and go back to the basics. Or hell, scrap everything and start fresh.

It sounds good. But is it really?

Honestly, my views on reboots as a whole are mixed, and I think many people will agree with me on that idea. For example, let's take the new Star Trek movie. I am the opposite of a Trekkie, but I really enjoyed the movie for a lot of reasons. It took Star Trek, gave it a kind of mass market appeal, and made it into a fun action film. In that case, the reboot worked, and worked quite well.

Plus, it made lens flare a thing!

"But Ryoma," you say, looking up at this blog ever-so-eagerly, "when are you going to talk about DMC?"

Right now.

I think there is a point where a reboot stops being a reboot and instead becomes wholly different from the original source material. And this where I think the new DMC game runs into its trouble. You look at the new DMC and it barely resembles the old one. Like, barely. Not just that Dante looks different, but the game itself is just so incredibly different in tone, art style, gameplay, etc. that if you didn't slap the title DMC on it, no one would've believed it was a DMC game.

Which brings me to a question. Why is it a DMC game?

I wish I knew.

I feel that if the game didn't have the DMC title slapped on its box, it wouldn't've gotten nearly as much controversy. Think about it for a second. What does this game have in it that makes it DMC? A fighting engine?

Not really, if the fans are to be believed. The new game is far easier than the past games, and runs at a lower framerate. It is no longer controller-shatteringly difficult, and SSS's are handed out like candy.


Not only that, but plenty of games have fighting engines similar to DMC. Bayonetta, Ninja Gaiden to name a few. They aren't Devil May Cry games.

Okay, so the fighting doesn't make this game feel like a Devil May Cry game. What about the characters? I think you all know where this would go. I'm not even going to bother linking to new Dante, just because you all know what he looks like by now (and if you don't, why are you reading this?). Dante and Vergil don't look anything like their original selves, and really don't act the game either. They are, in a lot of ways, the characters in name only. Same applies to Dante's weapons.

I could go on, but I think the point is made. DMC really isn't a DMC game if nothing about it resembles the past games. So, why bother called it a DMC game at all? Like I said above, I really don't know. I suppose it would have something to do with name recognition, but as far as I can tell, it only served to make people angry. Very angry.

If the game wasn't called DMC and associated with that series, would it have received nearly as much hate? Honestly, I doubt it. In fact, it might have been praised as a promising new IP. Especially since the game itself is considered by many to be well worth it. It's almost a shame that a game that is well put-together isn't selling as well as it probably should/could because people who are fans of the original are outraged.

I believe that if the only thing changed about the new DMC was the character names and the title, it would've been far better received. What do you think?   read

9:56 AM on 07.05.2011

Take away my Freedom! Or, why I think Linear Gameplay is Superior

Wow, I haven't updated this blog in a long time. Like, over a year. Maybe two. I point the blame squarely at college and real life sucking up all of my non-video game time, and even having the gall to cut into said video game time.

I know. How dare I let something so petty as college cut into precious video game time? But, that's another tale full of sighs, sorrow, and things that are best left unsaid in a public blog. We are here today to talk about Freedom in video games! And talk about it we shall!

Let me first say that I'm quickly finding myself to be an old-school gamer more and more. I'm finding much of today's gaming world to be a frustrating affair full of dark greys and grizzled men shouting unfunny one-liners. I know that this isn't wholly accurate to say, but I sometimes feel that we are more or less stuck in these bland areas, and I feel that gaming can be so much more than that.

But I digress. Again. Freedom. Yes! Let's talk about Freedom!

Or rather, how I don't want it in my games. I realize that this is a somewhat backwards way of thinking, but I don't like when games more or less plop me in a sandbox and expect me to go whilly nilly. I'm not exactly the most creative person when it comes to these things, and I often find myself running out of silly things to do. Sure, it's fun to run around with a bazooka and shoot people for a while, but it only lasts about one play session or so before I move onto the story mode, rarely going back to the sandboxy stuff at all.

I'm speaking primarily about Grand Theft Auto IV when I say this. The game literally has a button you can push to activate sandbox mode, and while that's all well and good for a while, I eventually just stopped pushing it, and just went through the story missions. And I had a great time doing it. The story missions were great fun, well varied, and the story of the game itself was strong enough to carry me through them all. And yet, despite one or two sessions, I was essentially playing what boiled down to be a linear experience. Sure, I could choose the order of the missions I went on, but because the city was so big I often just chose the one that was closest to where I ended the last mission. Traveling from mission to mission added an unnecessary hurdle (and time) between missions.

That might be a bit unfair to say. The open-world aspect is what makes a game like GTA work, and just because I chose to play it linearly does not mean that everyone wants to, nor should they have to. GTA is practically its own genre, and everyone plays each genre differently. And that's fine, and doesn't bug me. What does bug me is when non-linearity affects the game as a whole.

Some game reviewers tend to cycle linearity as a negative aspect. Personally, I don't think it is. Some people may disagree with me, but I like to play a game and be led down a story path. Let the game lead me through situations, meet characters, get involved with them, and come to a conclusion. Essentially an interactive movie in a lot of ways. And that's fine by me. In fact, I tend to prefer it.

People that know me will immediately raise a red flag here. But since I haven't been on here in ages, let me walk you through their reaction.

Ryoma: I like linear games.

Everyone else: BAWHAT? But you hates teh Final Fantasy XIII. And that game is the King, Queen, and PRINCE of linear! YOU ARE A LIARSX!@#!$!@

That is true. I hate Final Fantasy XIII. With a passion. But not because of its linearity. Honestly, I think in the right hands, an RPG where the party members are assigned in each battle can be kind of interesting. It would force some interesting battle situations on the player, and in turn get the player to experience each character in full. I don't think this would appeal to everyone, but this kind of "work with what you have" motif might turn into a challenging experience. Imagine going up against a boss designed to be strong against the characters you currently have in your party, so you are forced to think in new ways to defeat the foe, and new ways for the characters to work together.

It's a thought.

In brief, my hatred of Final Fantasy XIII comes from its stupid battle system that is neither challenging nor interest (and barely counts as playing), from it's terrible cast (Snow needs to be lit on fire) and from the poorly way it's told (datalog isn't a nice feature, it's required reading). That topic can be explored in a later blog if I choose to, but not now.

Also, sometimes I think forced non-linearity can hurt an experience. For this example, I turn to 2008's remake/reboot/re-whatever, Prince of Persia. In this game, which actually has a lot going for it, you play as the titular Prince, save a girl, and travel with her to stop a bad-guy. The game is split into four worlds, and lets you choose the order in which to go through them. This sounds delightful on paper, but it actually (in my opinion) mars the experience. Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation pretty much hit the nail on the head here when he reviewed the game, and I agree with him 100%.

But, for those of you who don't watch Zero Punctuation (What is wrong with you?), here is basically what Yahtzee said. Because the game lets you play in the worlds in any order, the game's difficulty never increases. It doesn't build on itself. Each level can be played first and therefore has to be of roughly the same difficulty for newcomers. So, that means the level you played first will be as difficult as the level you played third. While the game does try to make it more difficult with (I forget the actual name) black stuff on levels that can kill you, it does little to shake the feeling that the game really is not gaining any difficulty or momentum.

The game has you learn powers, and each level is designed around a new power. That's all good, but they never cross over and get used in tandem until the game's final act. Only then, since the game knows you've completed all the other levels, does the difficulty increase and you get to use all the powers together.

It not only affects gameplay, but the storytelling as well. Once again, because each area can be viewed in any order, the characters make little to no progress. The whole game centers around the dialogue between Prince and Girl (Elika, I think), and to the game's credit, the dialogue is fairly witty and well done. You'll go through an area, Prince and Girl seem to make some progress, only to have all of that development be dropped in the next area. Girl seems to get nicer, only to grow cold again in the next area. Once again, only in the final act do you get to see these characters grow to trust each other. What should have been a slow, gradual change becomes stark and sudden. And it just doesn't work.

I'm a bit of writer in my spare time (What a concept) and I know what it's like to try and craft a tale. And I can't imagine trying to do so when a reader can read any chapter in any order. It's certainly non-linear, but it will also feel like it's spinning its wheels a bit.

I do think of video games as interactive stories, and I realize that that tag might not be entirely accurate to every game. I think that, with that thought in mind, most games should have some linearity to them. Being led along isn't always a bad thing. In fact, sometimes, it can be a very good thing.

Thank you for reading if you managed to get through the wall of text I just typed. I might keep this updated more regularly in the future. We'll see.   read

10:02 PM on 07.25.2009

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Review!

((Note: Yes, I know I haven't been updating lately. Summer job has been keeping me busy, preventing me from playing as many games as I want. But, I managed to finish this one! :D))

My history with the Shin Megami Tensei series has been somewhat mixed. I've always been intrigued by the ideas, but I guess I've never been "hardcore" enough to finish any of them. Or rather, I never learned to think like the game wants me too. What does that mean? Not really sure, but it sounded good. :P

I've been able to get my hands on Nocturne, but I wasn't able to really get into it. The idea of the game," It's the end of the world, now what?" intrigued me at the time, along with the nice demon designs, but the story wasn't able to hook me in. So, I sent it back to gamefly. I got my hands on Persona 3, as the concept intrigued me, but I got to a boss I couldn't beat, gave up, and sent it back. (There was more frustration than just a boss battle, but I digress).

So, here I am. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (henceforth known as SMT:DS) once again drew me in with its interesting concept. Tokyo is in lockdown when demon show up. Now, armed with your demon-summoning DS's (Called COMPs in game) you and your pals have to survive the chaos. And I am proud to say that SMT:DS is the first SMT game I completed, and I'm eager to look back into other games in the series.

Box Art showing off the characters, tho in game they are far more colorful than just red.

The set-up is above, and I won't go into detail about the story. Suffice to say, it's really quite good, quirky, but realistic, and lots of fun. A wide cast of characters with nice portraits do a great job. I only wish there was some voice acting, and maybe a few more portraits. Character art, while expressive, is quite limited. Maybe 5 different poses for each character.

Graphics are also well done. SMT games have a history of looking slick and this game is no different. Everything fits together nicely with a lot of thought clearly put in. The menus seem a little cluttered at first, but after about a half hour or so you'll be surprised just how much they display in a very logical manner. In battle, the character sprites that move around the grinds are well-done, but when attacking all you get is still shots of the (kickass) demons.

Speaking of battle, this is where the game really shines. Playing like a combination of Final Fantasy Tactics, EarthBound, and Pokemon, the game feels old and new at the same time. You move your group of up to four parties around a generally small grid, attacking groups of demons. Your parties consist of one human flanked by two demons. Here's the pokemon element. There are well-over 100 demons in the game, and you can use them in battle. You don't have to "catch them all" however, you can just go to the "Demon Auction" and buy them.

When you attack another group of demons, battle switches to a first-person perspective where you select your attacks EarthBound style. You fight three-on-three battles against evil demons. Battles have a variety of missions too, ranging from the general "Kill them all" to "protect person X" and many others. And they are difficult too! Not for the faint of heart!

The game is divided into 7 days, and each day you only have around 10 in-game hours to do tasks. This may sound like a lot, but just about every action you take, with the exception of leveling-battles, consumes a half hour of time. So, you'll have to choose how you spend it wisely, and it's impossible to see everything on one playthrough, giving the game quite a bit of replay value.

And that's really the surface of the game. There is a lot more to it that I just didn't cover here (Cuz I'm sleep-deprived). Basically, go out and buy this game. It's awesome. :)   read

8:28 PM on 07.05.2009

BlazBlue: First Impressions

So, a bit of personal backstory. I never had 2D fighters as a kid. My parents were the "Fighting is violent and wrong and you can't see it" Type, so fighting games were completely out of the question. I'm lucky to have been able to play Sonic the Hedgehog. The first fighting game I ever owned was Power Stone on the ill-fated Dreamcast (very much the opposite of 2D fighters). Then came Power Stone 2, and from there was Smash Brothers. Then, Soul Calibur 2 for my gamecube.

In a sense, I've never played any 2D fighters...

I picked up Guilty Gear X2 on the PS2 (Which I still have) and got completely and utterly lost in it. Being a youngster, I had no idea how difficult those motions could be to pull off. The game was played about 3 times, and to this day continues to collect dust in my collection. I rented Street Fighter IV, and still don't know my Hakoukens from my Shoriukens. (I'm sure I butchered the spelling on those...).

Now, on a trip to Gamestop to sell some old games I'll never, EVER play. (Things like Lego Racers, Harry Potter) I got some good cash, and decided to give 2D fighters a last hurrah. I purchased the limited edition of BlazBlue, almost solely because of the beginner guide included, and I must say...

I've fallen in love...

BlazBlue is the shit.

I'll start with my favorite part. The characters. I know they aren't for everyone, but if you're ANYthing like me, you can at least appreciate all the details in their designs. Plus, I'm a sucker for anime designs, so this game already has a win in that category.

Fighting seems to be fairly standard fare for the genre, at least to my experience. However, at least for me, it feels better. More responsive. And I think that has to do with it being more forgiving with your actions. Granted, it's not a button masher by any means, but doing the quarter-circles seems easier (meaning I can pull them off with some consistency)

I've only had the game for about a day so far, and I must say that the guide disk is incredibly helpful. It takes a few viewings to really absorb what they say, as it does kind of go kind of fast, but I've watched it about 3 times for the characters I wanna learn and it's very helpful.

I haven't tried story mode yet, tho I am incredibly eager to. :D

And, I went online. There is some lag leading up to the match, the pre-fight animations seem to skip a little, but during actual fights, I have to admit, I'm almost completely lag free. Which is such a plus. :)

I've only really tried one character (Noel) and I intend to stick with her for a while until I learn the fighter better. And that's it. I'm off to play some more. See you online! (PSN: Ryoma90)   read

12:17 PM on 06.13.2009

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin Review

You may wonder why, with games like Infamous and Punch-Out, I would be playing a DS game, an older DS game, in a series like Castlevania. With such high-profile, incredibly exciting titles on the more advanced systems, why would I play an old-style 2D platformer? Because gamefly didn't have anything more interesting to send. :P

In all seriousness, I've never played a Castlevania game before. Never. This was my first foray into the realm of Dracula-slaying. So, this review is not from someone who knows Belmonts from whoever else, this is the review from someone who never picked up a Castlevania game before, didn't know anything about the series. I added it to my gamefly as an afterthought, surprised to find it in my mailbox.

But, holy crap, what the hell have I been missing out on?

I know it's not the official NA box, but I like this one more. :D

Castlevania begins with Dracula's castle rising out of the ground for some reason, and two people, Charlotte and Jonathon are apparently the only two that can do something about it. Who are they? Why are they in the Castle? What makes them so special? Well, the game kind of explains this, but the story isn't really that interesting. Jonathon is a member of a family that isn't Belmont, but knows the Belmonts, and he has the Vampire Killer for some reason but can't use it...or something. I don't really know, the cutscenes were very brief and uninformative. But, what was there was fairly smartly written and at times humorous, which I found surprising.

Needless to say, it's the gameplay that really drives the game. At first, I was kind of disappointed with the gameplay. You don't really have any fighting combos, you just kinda hit a button for one strike. And you jump. Charlotte has magic, Jon has weapons, and you can switch. That's about it, at first. But then, I got more stuff, could perform more actions, and gameplay took off.

This was helped immensely by the awesome music. I had no idea Castlevania's tunes were so dang catchy. I found myself humming the songs long after turning off the DS, something that -very- rarely happens. I started searching for the soundtracks, and everything. It's great.

Graphics in the game are 2D, but very nicely done and well animated. The smoothness of the sprite's animation varies depending on the character, but for the most part, they are very fluid. Monsters are all beautifully rendered in a great art style. The character portraits are generic anime, but the actual monsters you fight are far more original.

Speaking of monsters, Castlevania has really awesome boss battles. They followed a kind of formula, at least I found. You would fight, die twice, on the third attempt get the hang of it, and win on your fourth. Otherwise, the game isn't really overly difficult, but not exactly easy either. It was the perfect difficulty, just challenging enough to keep things interesting.

I do have some complaints. There has to be a better way to switch specials then pausing the game each time, and going through the menus. It's tedious, and more than a few times in epic boss battles I would think I had one special equipped only to have a different one. Also, the two-character idea isn't very useful. I played most of the game as Jon, and switched to Charlotte in very specific circumstances.

But that's all nitpicky stuff. Overall, Casltevania is one of the most fun games I've played in a while. I'm definitely a fan, and now I'm going to search out the others. :D   read

5:52 PM on 06.02.2009


So, I know that there will probably be a -ton- of posts like this one on the site from now until the end of E3, and I will probably get swept aside with all the rest, but even still, I figure it's worth a shot, see if anyone wants to see what I thought.

I didn't watch the Microsoft Conference just because I don't own an Xbox and don't really care about what they are doing. However, I was really intrigued by the "Milo" project. The idea of a virtual kid that read your tone of voice and see your facial expressions is a certainly interesting idea. However, I can't see this getting added to games without the game just having you say key words...I don't know, but it seems like it can't be much more than a tech demo.

I did watch the Nintendo one, and it seems like it was an improvement over last year's. At least they had some games that we actually cared about this time, not just Wii Music. the Motion plus seems interesting, but I hope it's not too expensive to buy, that would be such a pain in my wallet. I don't know how I feel about the new Metroid...Samus is talking? But, Mario Galaxy 2 (Despite looking almost identical to the original) Seems excting and worth playing, and the New Super Mario Bros. Wii looks like Mario + Four Swords, so hopefully that will be fun too.

One thing that Nintendo seemed to tone back on was the casual games. However, their presence was still clear as day. There's nothing wrong with casual stuff, the problem comes with having them at E3. The people who will be playing these games ARE NOT watching E3, so stop showing them. :)

Lastly, I watched only part of the Sony Conference, because life did its best to get in the way, but I saw a few games. Uncharted 2 looks lots of fun, like an action movie. God of War 3 looks like a glorified Beat-em-up, but I haven't played the others (Yet, they are on my list) so I can't say for sure. Sony has it's own WiiMote now, and it looks somewhat impressive, the 1-to-1 tracking was very accurate judging from the videos. However, it's a blatant WiiMote, so I don't know if it'll ever take off.

I still miss Sly Cooper and Jak and Daxter...Hopefully they come back soon. :D

And, that's my rant.   read

3:52 PM on 05.29.2009

Prince of Persia (The New One) Review

My first experience with the Prince of Persia series was, like many people, The Sands of Time. I got it for my gamecube somewhat later in the lifecycle, I think Warrior Within was on it's way, but I still played it. And fell in love with it. The Prince was a fun character, Farah was really lovable, the platforming was excellent and the fights cinematic. It was short, but it was hugely enjoyable.

Then, Warrior Within was released and killed everything I liked about Sands of Time. I won't go into the details, but to this day I have never touched that game.

Then, Two Thrones. I heard it fixed the issues of the previous game, but for one reason or another I didn't get around to playing it until it was released on the Wii under the title Rival Swords. I played it, it was good, but it wasn't Sands. It still had something missing, something that was lost.

Now, there's a new PoP game. This one looked different from Sands but not in a necessarily bad way. So, I played it. And while it's nowhere near Sands, there's a lot to like in this reboot.

Prince has a whole new look!

From the outset, it's clear this game is quite different from any previous version. The game has a more distinct art style, not quite anime, but far from realistic. We meet Prince in a Sandstorm looking for his donkey Farah (A clever nod that made me happy) and he literally runs into love interest Elika. About five minutes later the world hangs in the balance of Prince and Elika's actions.

Immediately the game is obviously trying to get a lot of the charm of Sands back into the series. Prince and Elika have good chemistry together when they argue and bicker, and the voice acting is very good. The story itself is as complicated as you want it to be, with lots of optional conversations filling out the backstory. The graphics are very very nice, and the animations are smooth.

However, story and graphics are the best part about this game. Gameplay is incredibly repetitive in this version. You can choose the order you explore the many areas, but this presents a problem. Since you can choose, the areas never get any harder than any other. Granted, they're all run to a certain point, but there's no difficulty change. Because if there was, the difficulty curve would be thrown all over the place if you chose the hard area first. It's a tradeoff, but I'd much prefer something more linear.

Graphics are nice. :D

However, the main repetiveness of the game isn't the running sequences. Those are actually quite fun throughout. The game has 4 main bosses. And you fight them, 5 times each! Every time you go to finish a world, you have to fought the boss of the area. And there are four sections of a world, with a final face-off at the end! The bosses don't really change up each time you fight them either. Same strategy each time. This gets REAL old, REAL fast.

However, the game is still fairly enjoyable. Prince and Elika are a good pair, and I didn't mind the fact you couldn't die. (Elika prevents it, you will NEVER die). What really ticked me off was the fact that ubisoft didn't finish the game. You have to pay an extra ten bucks for the 'real' ending! Really? You're not going to let me finish a game, gotta pay extra for it? No thanks!

With that said, there is certainly plenty to dislike about this new Prince of Persia. However, there is also plenty to like, if you let yourself get immersed in it, which it does do numerous times. I eagerly await a sequel.   read

10:45 AM on 05.19.2009

Eternal Sonata Review!

It can be easy to view today's games as all rather dark and dirty, consisting of mainly grays...and more grays. So, it's quite refreshing to sit down and pick up a game that isn't afraid to show bright colors, but at the same time, has a mature storyline with some deep themes hidden within.

Eternal Sonata is my first PS3 RPG, and I must say, I was very impressed by what I played. It wasn't a perfect game, not by any means, but I always found it enjoyable to play because of it's battle system. But, I'll get there in a minute.

Frederick Francois Chopin lies on his deathbed in Paris, and his last and final dream is certainly a doozy. This dream is far more vivid that anything I could ever have dreamed, with lots of characters, and a world that feels quite magical. As the game goes on, it begins to feel something close to a Disney movie. Sure, the characters can be annoying at times, but they are all endearing, if a little generic. The story can be slow, but it keeps you going regardless, eager to see what happens.

Nice graphics! Somewhat annoying characters

It doesn't take long to really appreciate the graphics of the game, which are beautiful. Half of the fun it seemed was moving from one beautiful location to another, just to see what kind of strange worlds the game would take you too. The subtle music references (Every character has a musical name for example), and the very bright and colorful worlds make this game certainly nice looking.

Cutscenes are also well done, though the lip-syncing, like many RPGs, is pretty off. The voice acting is decent during the scenes, with mostly familiar anime actors providing the voices, but some characters (*Cough* Beat and Salsa *Cough) have voices that can just be grating. The game does provide the option to listen to the Japanese voice work if you choose, so that is good.

The gameplay consists of running through linear worlds, with monsters on the map that you hit to fight, like many RPGs out there. The Battle System is a lot of fun however. You are taken to a world, and then your character will have four or five seconds to act before it goes to another character's term. There's a lot of depth here, such as light and dark areas, special moves, etc.

The battles move quickly and always keep me on my toes, however, they never really seemed to be much more than pound away at X and then hit triangle. I mean, there is more to it than that, but that strategy seemed to work a lot of the time.

One of the MANY battles you will face

Anyway, overall, I really liked Eternal Sonata. I can't quite place my finger on why, but it was enjoyable all the way through with it's light and fun characters, slow storyline, and fast battles. It wasn't perfect, but it was very enjoyable. Chopin would be proud.

GRADE: B+   read

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