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I'm a gamer who's attending Washington State University. Currently floating in Communications major land, I like to play Xbox 360 games and review them in my spare time. (I.E. when I should be studying but would rather play games).

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Being a child of the Pokemon generation, I of course collected Pokemon cards. Being one of the geekier of my circle of friends, I actually liked playing the Pokemon Trading Card game. While everyone else was busy in trading circles on the playground (massive numbers of kids huddled in groups, completely ignoring the basketball courts and jungle gyms immediately come to mind), I was busy formulating strategies with any newly acquired cards. I had decks upon decks of specific types, readily equipped to handle any situation that should come my way. I was well on my way to becoming a Pokemon Master. Unfortunately, the other kids on the playground were too caught up in the actual process of collecting, and never bothered to actually see what those cards were for. I was a lonely Pokemon Master. Enter Pokemon Trading Card Game for Gameboy.

Having this game presented to me on a cool Christmas morning in the year 2000 (no doubt a product of my parent's worry that all my TCG skillz would go to waste), I was ecstatic. I played the game (based on a card game which is based on a game) all morning. I chose a starter deck, and began to build my collection.

Basically, this game was Pokemon, except in trading card game form. You battled 8 gyms with specific Pokemon types (along with their specific weaknesses) and collected cards along the way. There were options to trade with your friends (which, obviously, I had none) and options to trade with in-game NPCs. I amassed a collection on Gameboy that was larger than my collection in real life, until those pesky expansion sets came out to ruin my strategies and allowance.

I learned more tricks of the trade, and built invincible decks on the game that, with the help of my trust Gameboy printer, transferred into my real life decks. Eventually I became champion of my local Toys R Us league, (I like to think) but that's a story for another blog entry.

One of the coolest things about having this game and a Gameboy Color was Card Pop. If you had friends, you could align the infrared port and receive a single, random card would appear. The only caveat was that you had to have A LOT of friends because you could only do it with an individual once. I never got some of the more rare cards, because they were only available in this fashion.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game was a huge success worldwide, while the TCG game didn't even sell enough to warrant a sequel. A Pokemon game didn't warrant a sequel, at least not in the US. I pray that this blog post incites a revival of the TCG so that others can learn the tricks of the trade and become Pokemon Masters themselves.
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So the PS3 Slim was just recently announced with much fanfare. Two of the main reasons someone wouldn’t want to buy a PS3 have been remedied. Number one, the cost of the machine has gone down. This is important because the PS3 is only now reaching the price point that Microsoft and Nintendo have sat at for three or four years. Secondly, it’s slimmer. It’s not much smaller, but it is welcome, for sure.

Now let me tell you the reason I still won’t be buying a PS3: Backward compatibility. I’ve seen blog postings about how “who plays old games anymore?” and things like that. I play old games. They’re often better than the new ones. I know there’s a few great PS3 exclusives, and I’d love to take advantage of that. Those who bought launch 20GB and 60GB consoles were treated to full backwards compatibility, and the later 40GB model was also compatible, at least partially. So it was there, and Sony decided to take it out.

Comparing the big three consoles (as fanboys often do) shows us that the Wii has full GameCube compatibility. This is mainly because it’s just a higher clocked version, but the point still stands. It’s there. The Xbox 360 has a level of BC, and Microsoft hasn’t taken it out to reduce costs.

Let’s be frank here, the PS3 is arguably the most powerful console of this generation. The PS2 is the least powerful console of the previous generation, Dreamcast excluded. How is it that a less powerful system (Xbox 360) can emulate the most powerful system of the previous generation, but the latest version of the most powerful console can’t emulate in software its older brother’s vastly inferior hardware? Something here doesn’t fit.

The argument of “who plays old games anymore?” doesn’t fly. Obviously the people who are complaining about it do. There’s a gigantic library of PS2 games, both old and new, that newcomers to Sony’s brand would love to play. The Persona series is a great example of games that were produced in the PS3’s lifespan that many PS3 players won’t be able to play, because they bought new hardware instead of old hardware. They shouldn’t be punished like that, mostly because the Persona series rocks and nobody should be unable to play it.

Playing games on PS2 vs. the PS3 has certain disadvantages: Lower resolution and wired controllers. The maximum resolution offered on the PS2 was 480p. Not even all games supported it. On the PS3, games can be upscaled to 720p or 1080p. This doesn’t make the textures or anything look better, but definitely gets rid of a lot of the jaggies that a PS2 game being played on an HDTV is often plagued by.

The bottom line is, the PS3 used to have BC. The Wii and Xbox 360 have it, and in order to be competitive, Sony needs to step up on that level. We know the system is powerful enough to do it, so they need to do it. Right now, BC is the main reason I’m not getting a slim PS3. Now, when the choice between buying the new hardware comes down to whether or not it can play the old hardware’s games, what does that say about Sony’s current software lineup? It’s not substantially different enough from the backward compatible Xbox 360. Microsoft has this checkmark checked, and Sony doesn’t. Guess who gets my cash?

When we last left our hero, Steve Tomson, we had three days left until the full moon. As we all know by now, full moon means shit's getting real. This month, we went to a Japanese Love Hotel in order to cleanse it of the large shadow inhabiting it (though I'm sure it could use cleansing of another kind, as well). Some stuff happened, and soon people's minds were being manipulated into doing things they wouldn't normally do. Like, for instance, Yukari taking a shower. Our protagonist was totally about to get in there with her too, until the spell was broken.

Academically, we excelled (of course, we gotta boost that popularity up) and got all of the answers right in class, further boosting our grades. This week was finals week, which meant that we had to study pretty hard, since Steve wants to get in Mitsuru's pants by the end of this. We Googled our way through the finals questions, but I don't recall if we ever actually checked what the grades were. Regardless, I'm sure they were awesome.

Next in line came some pretty startling plot revelations: Apparently, Gekkoukan High School was the scene of an accident ten years prior, in which all involved were promptly dispatched by the explosion. This explosion was the result of an evil corporation (of course, this is a JRPG that isn't complete without an evil corporation) doing experiements on Shadows. It also just so happens that almost everyone in our party has family that was involved in the accident. Hmm, this is very interesting. Yukari throws a bitch fit because Mitsuru knew all along and kept it from us, but Fuuka didn't seem to mind. As usual, Steve was ambivalent, and Junpei just didn't seem to care.

Speaking of Junpei, he was a real dick this time around. After defeating the big Shadow at the Love Hotel, he decided he was suddenly going to get jealous. He was being very short with us, and that was lame. He later apologized, and since Steve is such a cool guy, he totally forgave Junpei for being a douchebag.

Since finals were over, it's now summer vacation time! Since Mitsuru's family is super rich, she just so happens to have a house on the beach that she brings her friends to. Junpei was very excited (as he should be, the beach is home to many hot babes.) and couldn't wait to go. Steve played along as usual, putting up with Stupei's usual crap.

Eventually, we got to a point where Akihiko and Junpei wanted to go "babe hunting." With a battlecry of "Look at those babes! Let's hit on them!" Junpei led the pack, getting shot down by a total of three women in the first round. Spearheading a sarge towards another group (I believe it was a lovely two-set), Akihiko was also shot down. Before Junpei could pull his ADD out and suggest another activity, we saw her.

A beautiful girl, sitting on the dock. Quiet, but nice, Akihiko and Junpei both approached her and were shot down with a "You aren't the person I'm looking for." Ouch. That's the way to the friendzone. Of course, when approached by Steve, our fair maiden instantly took a liking to him. A very robotic liking. It's later revealed that she is, in fact, a robot, and belongs to the leader of our shadow fighting group.

We ended back in the dorms after a nice week long vacation. It was hinted that there could be a possibility to build a social bond with this robot girl, but she'd need to learn more about being human. At this point, we saved and quit. Most of today's run was plot exposition about the accident causing the release of shadows and being the root of the Dark Hour as well. Twelve big Shadows were released (one for every full moon in a year) and I'm assuming our story will end when all twelve are defeated. So far, we've defeated three, leaving nine big shadows left.

I'm sorry for the poor writing of this blog post, it's late at night and I seem to have misplaced my notes as to what went on today, so this is all the best I can remember. Stay tuned to this spot and Teknodwarf's blog, because tomorrow we'll be embarking on yet another foray into Tartarus, and perhaps we'll find out even more about this mysterious accident at Gekkoukan High.

In another of what seems to be an unending supply of updates regarding our progress through Persona 3 FES, we’ll take a thrilling look at the character Steve Tomson and his tag-alongs in Tartarus. We played for a good five hours this time, accomplishing much in that timespan. Aided by Diet Coke and a sweet fan to cool down the sweltering heat in my upstairs game room.

This time we see the stunning conclusion to our current BFFL Kenji’s story of love and forbiddances. While at the mall, we noticed that Kenji’s lover, Emiri, was standing at the stairs with another guy. We overheard her conversation with him about leaving the school and running off to marry him. A brokenhearted Kenji was consoled by Steve Tomson, and our social link for the Magician Arcana was complete, though with an unhappy ending for our friend Kenji.

With that social link complete, we began on a quest to become Best Friends Forever ™ with the manager of the swim team, Yuko. At first she seemed a little reluctant to engage in any sort of flirtatious activity, but after some careful poking and prodding (and possibly a little stalking) she gave in to our “would you please walk home with me and stop and get something to eat” request. Also, we hung out with the swim team captain, so we’re quickly on the road to becoming best friends with that guy too. All in all, a pretty successful run as far as friendships go.

Earlier in the game there was mention of a character named Fuuka. She came back into play this time, as someone who’s been captured. Well, we managed to save her (she was trapped inside Tartarus due to a prank played on her. Not very nice.) and she joined our team, taking the place of Mitsuru as the spotter. This gave us with five characters, and only four slots to place them in. Junpei fans will be angered to hear that we did in fact replace him with the newly combat ready Mitsuru. Sorry, dude. Yukari was making fun of him anyway, calling him “Stupei, Ace Defective” when he insisted he be called “Junpei, Ace Detective.”

As far as stats go, we boosted our charm level to “Confident,” and our academics to “Above Average,” assuring our place as the coolest kid in school. After seeing a few Steven Segal and Jean Claude-Van Damme movies, we managed to get courage to a level defined as “Ordinary.” Not too bad, and we’re definitely on the road to improving all three of those.

We gained many levels and fused many Personas in this time. The Jack Brothers spell proved devastatingly effective when used on man enemies at once, since it knocks them all down and leaves them vulnerable to an all-out attack.

Our epic play session came to a close as once again, real life came into play. We’ll be back shortly though, after these messages.

Click Here for part one!

Continuing our Persona trek from Teknodwarf, it’s my turn to take control of the controller and keyboard.
We picked up right where we left off (funny how that happens after using a save point) and headed back into the real world, where, just like real Japanese high schoolers, we had to go to high school. It’s weird how this game can make going to school enjoyable. It was here we would begin to forge our friendship with Kenji, the teacher loving ramen connoisseur.

At first, Kenji appeared to be pursuing Yukari, better known as “the girl who’s pants we’re totally getting in by the end of this game.” Not wanting to draw TOO much attention to the fact that we're going to put the moves on Yukari, we tried not to let him know that there was definitely something going on. Once we were assured that this cougar chaser wasn’t competition for Yukari, he began to fill us in on his “master plan” to sweep one of the teachers (who’s name I can’t recall) off of her feet. Surprisingly, his plan went well. She asked him to come to her house for a private lesson (more like lesson on privates amirite?) and last we heard, he was doing fairly well. We’ll see if that holds up.

Our forays into Tartarus proved fruitful, and allowed us to progress in the game. Besides the passing of days, progress can be easily measured by how far into Tartarus we get. The highest floor we got to was the 11th, fighting a few bosses along the way. We haven’t died yet, which is nice. This can probably be easily attributed to the fact that we’re playing on easy mode. Nevertheless, our abilities have been sufficient enough to keep us from faltering.

We acquired two more Personas (of which I can’t recall the names. Japanese names are hard to remember.) and many stat boosts along the way. We’re now able to summon Personas up to level five! We also acquired a magic spell that fuses two personas together in order to heal the party for 50% of it's health as well as raise evasion.

Joining student council was something that was seemingly forced upon us, but we haven't done much there yet. We also haven't joined any other clubs or sports teams. Because we're cool like that.

We studied every night except for the night we were sick, so our academics skill has increased to Average. I don’t know about you, but I’d say the average student doesn’t study every single night. Nevertheless, we were assured in the beginning that people who pay attention and get good grades are cool. Since this didn’t work for either of us in real life, we’re determined to see it work in Japan, where everything is backwards.
After our last adventure into Tartarus, real life again fell between world domination and us. Using the same save point we used last time, we saved our progress and departed.

Keep watching this spot and Teknodwarfs spot for more updates on the ongoing Persona 3 playthrough. Find out what happens to Steve Tomson, not to mention the ongoing saga with Kenji and his teacher, next time!

50 Cent: Bulletproof was awful. Supposedly based on Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's life, the game was a horrible montage of crappy AI, crappy gameplay, and overall general crappiness. So when glimmers of a sequel started shining out of the rumor mill, I had to wonder: Who the eff bought the original game to warrant a godforsaken sequel? Either Fiddy's got some real hardcore fans, or him and his G-Unit posse ponied up the cash to buy all of the copies that were (and are still) sitting on store shelves. Either way, I couldn't believe it, but like any good reviewer, I went into this game with an open mind. What surprised me was that this game, while by no means spectacular, is actually a fairly solid third person shooter, and is a pretty fun experience.

The game starts out with G-Unit finishing up a concert in some unnamed Middle Eastern country. As Fiddy and the crew walk off the stage (complete with bulletproof vests and grenades at the ready, presumably for defense against unruly concert-goers and weapon wielding helicopters) they mean business. It's payday, and if the show promoter doesn't cough up the dough, then he'll be sleeping six feet deep tonight. As expected, the promoter doesn't have the $10,000,000 promised to G-Unit. Probably not more than 15 or 20 seconds in, and Fiddy has already pulled a shotgun on the man. This sets a precedent for the entire game, as neither 50 Cent nor his G-unit cohorts set the guns down for the rest of the experience. The promoter offers up a diamond encrusted crystal skull as collateral while promising to get the performers their cashola soon. Of course, the skull is stolen, and Fiddy, along with a member of G-Unit traverse across a "diverse" landscape of the middle east in a campaign of bloodshed and bullets in order to get this skull back. It's a little ridiculous, but I might argue that the story is the best part of this game, as long as you don't take it too seriously.

You can just tell that 50 Cent played Gears of War for a few minutes and decided that this game would be much better with a little G-Unit flair. A rule of thirds inspired over-the-shoulder camera places 50 (or a member of G-Unit) in the left hand side of the screen. Pulling the left trigger brings up the aiming mode so you can better put a bullet through the enemy's head. Pulling right trigger fires the weapon, and the right bumper throws grenades. The D-pad switches between four types of weapons: pistol, assault rifle, close-range weapon, and special weapon. Each of these weapon slots have upgraded weapons that can be purchased by talking to an arms dealer (a not-so-cool version of Drebin from Metal Gear Solid 4) on a phone that rings off the hook whenever you're near it.

Being near an enemy brings up the option to Counter-Kill. Pressing the B button sends you into a quick time event which has you pressing a whole one button over and over in order to take the enemy out. You ALWAYS press the B button during these events. More Counter-Kills are available to buy at the payphone, but I don't see any way to use them. Even adding the new purchases to the Counter-Kill list still sees Fiddy doing the same two or three over and over. While they're pretty cool ways to kill people, it's gets boring seeing the same knee to the face or knife in the chest schtick time after time.

Pressing the Y button activates "Gangsta fire mode," a sort of bullet-time that slows everything down for you and your partner allowing shots to more easily be lined up. It's ripped straight out of F.E.A.R, and doesn't do nearly as good of a job making you feel just like Neo.

One of the cooler parts of Blood on the Sand is the inclusion of a co-op partner. There are a lot of games coming out that use this mechanic of getting a friend in on the action, and BotS delivers only a bit of mediocrity in this area. The main player is always 50 Cent, while an Xbox Live equipped homie is a member of G-Unit preselected by the game's host. Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, and DJ Whoo Kid all return from Bulletproof, and they're largely the same as 50 Cent. Same weapons and controls, the only difference is their taunts. The co-op is drop in and drop out, so if you're running an open game on Xbox Live you'll occasionally see a gamertag above your G-Unit pals. However, if you're in the middle of a heart wrenching, tear jerking cutscene and someone joins, you skip right to the gameplay. Come on, Fiddy doesn't cry in front of people!

All of your kills are racked up in a global score and bonuses are given for headshots and explosions. Similar to Gears of War but a little bit more annoying is the cover system that has been implemented. Pressing the A button will either have Fiddy dive roll or stick to a wall, and it can be hard at times to tell which he's going to do. Unsticking from a wall can be just as hard, causing problems at times for major firefights. Taking cover isn't even necessary, nay, you're given points for being exposed! While this seems like a cool way to show off your skills as a gangsta, it really just makes the cover system almost irrelevant.

50 Cent's visuals are standard for this generation and type of game it is. Character models are detailed and do a great job of showing off Fiddy's muscular physique. It also appears that the actors have been motion captured to provide accurate movements during firefights and cutscenes. Textures are fairly good, except in the beginning of levels and after loading a checkpoint. There's some pretty nasty pop-in going on here, and it's very noticeable. I suspect installing the game to the hard drive alleviates some of these problems, but they shouldn't be there in the first place. Explosions are pretty cool, and the developers love to throw them in and make them as over the top as possible. Bottom line: BotS isn't winning any graphics awards, but everything is as it should be for a game like this.

If you're a 50 Cent fan (and who else is picking up this game, honestly?) then the soundtrack leaves nothing to be desired. Over 18 never before heard tracks make their way into the playlist, along with most of 50 Cent and G-Unit's hits. There's a playlist editor located in the pause menu for lining up your favorite tracks to pop caps to, though, like the Counter-Kill list, it doesn't seem to do much. No matter how many tracks were added to the list, I couldn't get it to play more than five or six of them in a row. So hearing all these new tracks while playing the game could be a little bit hard to do.

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand boldly goes where every other third person shooter has gone before it. The storyline is awful (at times it's so awful it's amazing) and the gameplay is fairly mediocre to match. It's not a terrible game by any means, but for the $59.99 price tag it's fetching at retail, there are plenty of other games that would be much more enjoyable. The campaign is short at only 5-6 hours long, without much replay value unless you're looking to get all the achievements. Even then, it's only recommended as a rental. The third person firefights are occasionally broken up by vehicle and helicopter levels, but it's easily apparent that these levels are just tacked on to add some variety. Bottom line: if you're a fan of 50 Cent and Gears of War and you'd just love to see a game combining the two, give Blood on the Sand a rental.
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