hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Destructoid review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Mar 08 // Aaron Linde
Super Smash Bros. BrawlDeveloped by Sora / Game ArtsPublished by Nintendo of AmericaReleased on March 9, 2008 If you'll forgive a little something, here's a favorite quote of mine from the late Douglas Adams, edited for content: [Super Smash Bros. Brawl] is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to [Super Smash Bros. Brawl]. Oddly enough, the most marvelous achievement inherent to Brawl is, quaintly, what makes this review such a pain in the ass to write. The game is swollen with content, bloated by the sheer amount of stuff that Masahiro Sakurai and the gang have packed inside. Sitting down to write a review of a game like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it's hard to find a solid place to start. But since I've already spouted a paragraph pinning down just how massive it is, let's start with that. Brawl is Nintendo's love letter to itself, along with everyone who ever picked up a controller and embraced any number of its franchises. It's a vibrant compendium-in-motion, a playable encyclopedia from which you can draw a wealth of knowledge of the company's history. Over 25 years of history, represented in a single game -- a point worth overstating, if only because Nintendo's really the only company on the planet who could get away with it. There's something compelling about these characters. Matters of playability and function aside, I'd be hard pressed to conjure the name of any other studio whose previous works could be mashed together, made to fight and sell a jillion copies. The combination of memorable characters, boatloads of fanservice, and simple -- as well as deceptively deep -- play mechanics are what made the Smash series what it is today, and Brawl does little to differentiate itself from its forebears. Except, of course, to just add more. In essence, that is what Brawl is. Imagine Melee, multiply it twice or thrice, gussy up the graphics and smooth out rough edges. Similar to the way in which Super Mario Galaxy was a refinement of the 3D platforming genre, so to is Brawl for the party game... fighter... thing. The basic formula originally explored on the Nintendo 64 is examined further, extrapolated, and above all, refined. How you feel about previous Smash titles will directly affect how you feel about the following sentence: the core gameplay remains fundamentally the same. For gamers unfamiliar with the Smash Bros. series, the core gameplay is rooted in multiplayer battles for up to four players, taking control of various franchise characters and beating the tar out of one another with fists, feet, weapons and items across a variety of familiar landscapes. Its simple control scheme—which utilizes basic motions and button-presses rather than the complex combos and special moves of many other fighters—is faithfully recreated in this latest installment of the series. And it's still ridiculously fun. While Sakurai's team has tweaked, rebalanced and shuffled some elements of play, at the end of the day, what you've come to expect from Smash Bros. and Melee, you'll find in Brawl. In an era in which everyone and their grandmother -- yeah, and me too -- cry angrily for innovation, Brawl is a sequel which is above all directly informed by its predecessors. No shoehorned Wii remote waggling, no new HUD elements or power meters. But where the "new" of Brawl really shines is in the roster—not just in terms of new characters, but also in terms of updates to familiar faces. Speaking in broad terms, Nintendo has put in a great deal of work toward further differentiating the roster, particularly in regards to returning characters. One of my issues with Melee was the way in which many of the game's unlockable characters were mere clones of default fighters; a visual swap here, a stat fix there, and voila, Dr. Mario. But those clones that have made the cut have been made quite distinct from their counterparts in Brawl. I could spend all day drilling down the specifics, but let me give you one example: Toon Link, a revised appearance of Melee's Young Link designed with the hero's Wind Waker incarnation in mind, actually plays quite differently than his elder counterpart. Sure, he's still faster and more nimble, but many of his attacks function in fundamentally different ways.  And while Brawl showcases many fleshed-out returning characters, the newbies don't disappoint, either. Again, I'd be here for quite a long time if I addressed each character individually, but what's remarkable about Brawl's roster is that there's very, very little in terms of wasted space. Each character features a distinct style of play -- not just "heavy", "fast", and the gradiants between the two. Wario is beefy, but curiously agile; Solid Snake's explosives bring a new element of strategically-timed attacks; Captain Olimar's Pikmin attacks are utterly bizarre while also absolutely devastating in capable hands. A few exceptions aside (are three Fox-like characters truly necessary?), you'll get an insane amount of milage out of Brawl's roster.  But it's not just the characters that will see Brawl through to a ridiculously lengthy shelf-life. A huge variety of stages featuring a wide array of familiar, uniquely Nintendo settings -- including an Electroplankton stage, which is probably my favorite of all -- bring an element of unpredictability to every round. While the game features the basic and otherwise barebones stages like Battlefield, Final Destination and others, those maps which feature "gimmicks" -- a lava-proof escape pod in Norfair or microgame-esque tasks in the WarioWare stage, as examples -- serve well to shake up gameplay. In terms of content, Brawl is almost overwhelming in what it offers. Sporting 37 characters in all, Brawl provides an utterly insane amount of variant play built upon the basic four-player multiplayer fighting gameplay. The game offers new modes, new items, and new ways to tweak rounds. Event Mode (now with a co-op counterpart!), Target Mode, All-Star and Classic single-player modes all make returns. But what's likely to make the biggest splash is the Subspace Emissary campaign, which might not live up to expectations. Clocking in at a sturdy six-to-seven hours, the single-player Subspace Emissary campaign features a loosely-constructed story of Brawl's various heroes teaming up under bizarre circumstances to battle an omnidimensional evil. Penned by Final Fantasy scenario writer Kazushige Nojima, Emissary contains some truly stellar CG sequences showcasing our favorite heroes' epic struggle against these otherworldly creatures. And while the enemies are well-designed and varied, Emissary suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. The notion of Smash-style gameplay in a side-scrolling, beat-'em-up sort of framework was initially explored in Melee's Adventure mode. But Emissary takes it thirty or forty steps further, crafting a massive campaign out of that basic experience. Unfortunately, Brawl's engine and control scheme seem somehow ill-suited for the sort of gameplay that Emissary shoots for; the camera is too close to get a sense of what's around you, and battling wave after wave of enemies on a shifting plane leads to a lot of problems. Though the story is enjoyable, Emissary tends to drag after a little while, and commits the sin of asking the player to essentially repeat the entirety of the campaign in the game's final level, a giant maze pieced together with elements from the various levels in the campaign, populated with every character and every boss, all of whom must be conquered before the campaign can be completed. Sort of like the Mega Man gauntlet cranked to eleven, deep fried and dunked in glitter. My final half-hour with Emissary bordered on infuriating, but hey -- at least I unlocked Sonic by the game's end. Simply put, the fun of Smash fails to shine through a poorly slapped-together single-player campaign. Emissary is definitely worth a play through for the cinematics, but once will likely be enough for many gamers. Fortunately, Emissary accounts for a ridiculously small chunk of the total Brawl experience, and is otherwise a diversion to the multiplayer-centric bouts upon which the game is built. Power players and die-hard configuration junkies will lose their minds with the level editor, which contrary to my suspicions is actually extremely robust. Creative players will be spending a lot of time in Brawl's answer to Halo 3's Forge, crafting the perfect arena in which to waste opponents.  Online play is also a welcome addition, though performance can be a little hit or miss. As always, the inclusion of an online component on the Wii hardware takes a big hit thanks to Nintendo's ridiculous clinging onto the fundamentally busted Wii friend code system, making getting in touch with friends for a round or two more than a hassle. But with a game like Brawl, half of the experience is being with the people you're playing against, whooping and hollering and shouting profanities. But again, having that option of online play is definitely a good thing. In terms of technical achievement, Brawl is an astoundingly pretty game, though probably not the finest example of the Wii hardware's graphical capabilities as showcased in Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy. But where Brawl's visuals really take off is the ways in which the game's art direction both faithfully recreates and tastefully updates the franchises that it draws upon. Characters are keenly animated -- Wario's comic frame-jumping step comes to mind -- and vibrantly stylized. Beyond the simple utility of being, y'know, a place to fight, the stages offer a similar brand of eye candy. The Shadow Moses stage, which was developed in part by Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, is a breathtaking recreation of an environment many of us are very familiar with. Throwbacks to older games, like the Yoshi's Island stage, are composed with color and form that reflects the art design of the original title. It's an outstanding effort that goes above and beyond what was seen in Brawl's predecessors. Similarly, Brawl's absolutely massive music selection offers enough tunage to keep your ears occupied for quite awhile. Clocking in at over a three hundred tracks, Brawl's soundtrack is the kind of aural fanservice that simply doesn't quit, and each stage has enough variation in sound to ensure that you won't be getting sick of a stage just because of some grating theme for quite some time.  I apologize if I've glossed over elements or features in the game, but trust me when I say that there's a shitload of stuff in this game, and pointing out each and every element of Super Smash Bros. Brawl that serves to further extend the possibilities of gameplay would take a bit more text than I'm sure you're willing to read. With so much to do, unlock, and explore, Brawl will keep players occupied for quite some time -- and beyond that, avid players will continue exploring the deepest depths of the game's mechanics for a long time, as we've seen with Melee. An insane amount of content surrounding what is, at the end of the day, a ridiculously simple and utterly fun scheme of gameplay. In Brawl, Nintendo has handily produced one of the most compelling, rich and densely-packed experiences available on any console. A must-buy for Wii owners and a compelling lure for those who have yet to adopt the system, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of Nintendo's finest efforts yet. Score: 9.5
 photo

Hey, Smash Bros. Dojo? I need a word with you. Though you represent one of the industry's most brilliant marketing tactics I've ever seen, I must confess that I'm a wee bit irate with you. You've made my job difficult. I have...

 photo

GDC 08: Portal devs talk narrative, development, rat men


Feb 23
// Aaron Linde
So, uh -- this Portal thing is kind of a big deal, I hear. I guess that explains the huge, huge goddamn crowd outside the Portal post-mortem at the final day of the Game Developers Conference, everyone giddy like kids on the ...
 photo

GDC 08: Nick and Linde rock Guitar Rising


Feb 23
// Aaron Linde
A week or two ago, I was driving home from the bank and lamenting the fact that I have no artistic skill beyond my mediocre ability to sculpt with moldy mashed potatoes. "Why!?" I cried, nearly plowing into several ...
 photo

GDC 08: Masahiro Sakurai talks Brawl development


Feb 22
// Aaron Linde
I don't think that the buzz surrounding Super Smash Bros. Brawl could be any more intense -- at least, not as evidenced by the colossal line outside of hall 135 in the Moscone Center this morning, packed with ravenous journal...

 photo

GDC 08: Street Fighter IV hands-on impressions!


Feb 21
// Aaron Linde
Yes, I got to put Capcom's long, long, long-awaited franchise update, Street Fighter IV, through its paces -- as did several other bloodthirsty journalists at Capcom's suite demonstration. And yes, we're all legendary now. Yo...
 photo

GDC 08: Takao Sawano explores Wii Fit's origins


Feb 21
// Aaron Linde
While I'll admit first and foremost that a landmonster like your favorite Linde wouldn't seem the most apt candidate for a peripheral like the Wii Balance Board, it may make a bit of sense that my geeky dark side lusts for ex...

Destructoid review: Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Feb 15 // Aaron Linde
Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)Developed by Level-5Published by Nintendo of AmericaReleased on February 11, 2007 I'm ashamed to admit that Penny Arcade beat me to the joke, and what a joke it was. It's funny because it's absolutely, fundamentally true -- what is it with a village so hung up on puzzles that they'd set aside concerns like a fucking murder to tease you with riddles and brain teasers? But that's not a question worth asking -- just buy the ticket and take the ride. The village of St. Mystere, its rules and conventions, are built around the mind-bending experience inherent to Level-5's Professor Layton series. And once you're acclimated, it's easy to accept local custom. You've got a job to do, puzzles to solve. But make no mistake, Professor Layton and the Curious Village isn't just puzzles, one after the other. While they certainly serve as the crux of the gameplay, they function within a completely realized and utterly beautiful world crafted by the wizards of Level-5. The setup: when a wealthy baron in the aforementioned puzzle-obsessed village of St. Mystere dies, the family contacts one Professor Layton to tend to the man's somewhat esoteric will, which describes a family treasure with worth beyond measure. Upon arrival, Layton and his trusty assistant Luke are besieged with mystery and, naturally, must get to the root of several mysteries to unravel it all. And what luck -- the village has a total boner for riddles, adding a little spice to the challenge.The game is gorgeous. Lemme say this again: the game is gorgeous. It features an art style resembling a blend of Hergé's Tintin and The Triplets of Belleville -- a lovely cartoon style with outlandish, exaggerated character designs of all shapes and sizes. The game is presented in a static slide background scheme for the areas that make up the village of St. Mystere, and populated with animated sprites that pop up in higher resolution during conversations with the townspeople. Throughout the game, several fully-animated cutscenes are shown that really illustrate the breathtaking art style at its best -- in motion. While the appeal of Layton's visual style is entirely a matter of taste, it's difficult to deny just how much work the art does towards setting the game apart from its peers. Just one of those things you have to see for yourself.I'm surprised to say that Layton also features some of the best voice acting I've heard all year. In a DS game? Fo' serious? Unexpected but true, the voice acting is as charming and appropriate as the characters it represents, and really serve to bring together that previously mentioned aesthetic in an extremely cohesive way. The music, too, fits the tone and mood of the game, with one exception: the ditty what plays during your puzzle-solving, which sadly is the only music you'll hear while tackling the game's many puzzles. And my God, you'll be hearing it quite a lot.  The story gets rolling right quick, and the game swiftly drops a handful of simpler puzzles in front of the player to get the ol' cogs churning in a way that will prepare you for some of the more fiendish puzzles later in the game. The puzzles, designed by Chiba University professor Akira Tago, range from the benign to brain-melting in terms of difficulty, but are paced quite well to help the player get accustomed gradually. Like Brain Age, you'll actually notice an improvement, a change in thinking as you move along -- you'll be learning to tackle things from unconventional angles and shift your mindset to better suit the puzzle at hand. It's a bizarre transition and one you wouldn't expect in a handheld game, but it serves as one of Layton's most compelling features.Pay no mind to the shoehorning of Layton's over 130 puzzles into the goings-on of the mystery at hand -- it wouldn't work any other way. That Level-5 managed to surround the puzzle gameplay with a beautifully rendered story and cast is a marvel, but it comes at the cost of common sense; why would someone ask me to cut up stamps when there's a murderer on the run? But consider the alternative: stripping the puzzles of their aesthetic and circumstantial contexts, down to the puzzle's bare core, and redressing it to fit in the context of Layton's evolving plot -- what possible use could there be of the rearrangement of matchsticks to move along a story? At the end of the day, Level-5 was left with two options in fitting gameplay to plot: a bizarre, quirky world in which everyone loves puzzles, or an abandonment of context altogether, which is -- well, Myst. We're fortunate they took the route they did. Layton wouldn't be nearly as satisfying if it was simply a list of puzzles to be checked off with every success.The puzzles, for the most part, are wonderful; the sort that leave you with a genuine sense of satisfaction after completing one on your own, cutting through the thickest of logic traps and pulling the right answer from the deepest pits of your churning mind. And for those particularly difficult ones, Layton's hint system is gently implemented, requiring the use of "hint coins" -- tokens which can be found by clicking points of interest in the village as you explore -- to reveal up to three nudges to get you moving in the right direction. Rarely, if ever, does the game push you directly towards a right answer; hints are therefore easy to use without feeling wracked with guilt for giving up on yourself. Even if you spend a token or two in a given puzzle, the sense of accomplishment remains.They can't all be winners, however. Indeed, a handful of puzzles fall into that obnoxious word-play riddle category, the sort that make you want to cut out your eyes when the answer finally dawns on you -- or worse, when you look up an answer out of sheer desperation. These puzzles aren't driven by critical thought or logical process, but by a crude sense of novelty -- a "how do you make an elephant float" sort of mechanic. These puzzles, graciously, tend to be few and far between.Gotta-solve-'em-all completionists will appreciate the fact that no puzzle in Layton will be lost to the progressing plot, as every unsolved or undiscovered puzzle is moved to a particular location after the completion of each of the game's chapters. Like Phoenix Wright, it's difficult to wring out a second playthrough of Layton, but the shamelessly addicted can look forward to weekly puzzle downloads via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, which will prove useful in a game which, by its very nature, is a bit limited in terms of replay value. It's expected that Professor Layton will be a big hit with some gamers, but not everyone -- some folks simply don't dig this sort of fare, which is fine. But for those gamers who love the idea of a rigorous workout of the ol' noggin, Layton delivers an exemplary experience wrapped in one of the most stunning aesthetics yet seen on the DS, or any system. Level-5 has proven itself to be one of the industry's most capable and talented development teams, and able to work their magic in any genre, be it strategy (Jeanne D'Arc), action RPG (Dark Cloud 1 and 2), and in fresh territory like Professor Layton. While it's by no means a perfect first effort, Layton is one of the most unique titles we've seen in some time, and definitely worth checking out.Score: 8.7
 photo

I thought the holiday season was supposed to be the most murderous, time-sucking part of the year, but I was wrong. What was once a traditionally lazy span of months before the spring blitz has, in 2008, become a thing of nig...

 photo

Destructoid review: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin


Jan 29
// Aaron Linde
Sorry, I'm a little late. Okay, really late. But a game like Advance Wars: Days of Ruin takes some time to cozy up to. It's an Advance Wars game, baby -- you gotta light some candles, get comfortable, kick back on a plush cou...

Destructoid Q&A: Tomonobu Itagaki

Jan 28 // Aaron Linde
Linde: Was there anything in particular that you wanted to bring to Ninja Gaiden with the sequel, or anything that you're particularly excited about or pleased with?Itagaki: Ninpo, like the one you saw at the end [of the demonstration]. It gets even worse, too.Linde: Any examples, or anything you can describe loosely that'll give us an idea?Itagaki: The enemies will be sliced into pieces, the pieces caught up in a tornado and kind of rain down around you afterwards. [Everyone laughs, because everyone loves bloodshed.]Linde: There's a definite sort of hardcore gamer that Ninja Gaiden appeals to. Was there any thought to try to expand the series to a greater audience, or is this going to be the same fare that hardcore gamers expect from Ninja Gaiden?Itagaki: The first [Xbox] Ninja Gaiden was obviously pretty hardcore, because we wanted to keep some of the essence of the Ninja Gaiden franchise that people know from way back in the NES days. But this time we really want to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to play the game and enjoy it while still satisfying the same audience that have come to enjoy the series.Linde: What changes have you made to cater to that wider audience?Itagaki: Because it's fun. Nobody will play a game -- no matter how easy it is -- nobody will play a game if it's not fun. So the game is ten times as fun as the original, and ten times as controllable and fun to play. Qais: While we're on the topic of playability and accessibility, the Ninja Gaiden series has a reputation of being incredibly difficult. What would you say the difficulty level is relative to the previous title?Itagaki: If you played the first Ninja Gaiden, you can tell how different this is just by watching it. It's called Ninja Gaiden II because it is the next in the series, but we've changed everything all the way from the chassis up to the body, exterior, plating of the game. So there are a lot of differences. And that's the way it should be, you know. There are a lot of action games out there that do things one-two-three-four, just the same thing every time, changing things just a little bit and that's not what I want to do. I want to make a big overhaul with the new game. Qais: Have you toned down the game in response to those who suggested the original was too difficult?Itagaki [To Qais]: How far did you get in the original Ninja Gaiden?Qais: I beat it, it took about six months.[Everyone laughs, because Qais is a weakling!]Itagaki: That's excellent cost performance. I promise not to make the game so hard that nobody will be able to enjoy it. Linde: There's a side of Ninja Gaiden that definitely seems skewed towards Western gamers, and in previous interviews you've expressed an interest in broadening the scope of the game to reach those audiences. What do you think of the current generation of platforms in reaching that broader audience? How are your peers doing?Itagaki: I think that in both Japan and in the west the average age of the great game designers is going up. There hasn't been a lot of new, young game designers in either region. I do think that the Japanese gaming industry is losing to the West right now, and I'm not saying this in a sense of nationalism or anything like that, but I don't think there's enough Japanese developers that can stand up and say "I'm going to create a game that can speak for the Japanese gaming industry". So if you're asking why I made this game the way it is, it's because I looked at games like Gears of War, Halo, the good FPS and racing games out there -- and obviously I think my fighting game is the best -- but I wanted to be able to stand on common ground and have a good rivalry with the other Western developers that are making those games.Linde: Having such a prolific series as Dead or Alive, how do you feel about the recent overhaul of Street Fighter IV? Was such a radical shift in design ever considered for any of your properties?Itagaki: As a fighting game-- first of all, I think we can all agree that Virtua Fighter 5 didn't end up as good as everyone thought it would be. And Tekken -- I really hope Tekken 6 does well for the sake of the genre on the whole, but we can't really expect that much based on what they've done in the past. It's kind of like the space race between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. When the US was able to go to the moon with the Apollo program, that basically ended all further space development at that point. That was about as far as you could get. The reason is because the Soviet Union lost, that was sort of the turning point. Using that metaphor, I believe that Dead or Alive is the only series so far that was able to take people to the moon.I think that Virtua Fighter has been able to achieve -- to get out of the atmosphere, maybe. Unfortunately I think the new Tekken game is probably going to crash and burn after launch. I'm not saying that because I'm happy, I don't want to see the fighting game genre be like that. I want it to succeed more, but that's just the truth. So now you have Capcom trying to start a new space program with their game. The problem is that the 3D fighting games we've done in the past have been the rocket development programs, that's what we're shooting for. Our 2D games are more like supersonic airplanes flying in the atmosphere. So Street Fighter IV is sort of like trying to strap a rocket to an airplane and trying to make it to the moon. I wish them luck for the sake of the game and the industry, but we'll have to see how it turns out. Qais: Recently there's been a lot of controversy with--Itagaki [To Qais]: Are you going to ask about difficulty again? [Everyone laughs.]Qais: Given that Ninja Gaiden II is such a gruesome game -- and excellent, in that it's incredibly violent and gruesome, and we'll all likely enjoy that -- it's likely to cause some controversy. What is your reaction to that?Itagaki: I do think that I'm throwing a big rock into the pond of controversy, and I have thought about how the resulting ripples are going to effect things, but the thing is it's not just me, right? People all over the place -- little pebbles to giant boulders are being thrown in this pond. And it's impossible to predict how that'll turn out. I'm just focused on creating the game how I see fit based on my own vision. There's a group in Italy now who wants to overturn the centuries-old position that black cats are bad luck, so they're trying to protect the black cats, and I'm like 'have you ever thought about what it feels like to be a black cat?' [Everyone laughs. Not sure why.]
 photo

Few developers in the gaming industry have such a carefully crafted image as Tomonobu Itagaki, head of Team Ninja and creator of the Dead or Alive franchise and Ninja Gaiden's next-gen evolution. Qais Fulton and I happened up...

Destructoid review: Omega Five

Jan 16 // Aaron Linde
Omega Five (XBLA)Developed by NatsumePublished by Hudson SoftReleased on January 9, 2008 Topher CantlerIf you were to ask any true shmup fan where to go for a healthy selection of worthwhile shooter experiences, Live Arcade would surely not be his answer. Given the service's fairly decent variety of genres and titles, anything akin to the arcade shooters of the mid-90s was not to be found before last week. At the very least, Omega Five has served as a way to begin patching a void in the XBLA library that's been empty for far too long. It's because of this fact that I find it somewhat more challenging to judge the game than I normally would. Even if I hated it, it's certainly a welcome addition to the library it joins, and a long overdue step in the right direction -- luckily for the good people at Natsume, however, it's not half bad.Omega Five is exactly what we all expected it to be: a fun, addictive shoot-'em-up that takes a lot of the cooler aspects of the games which inspired it, rolls them up into a solid little ball, and polishes that ball to a very attractive shine. It's exactly what it should be. What I'm not sure of is whether the game is everything it attempts to be. One major issue I have with the game is in its level of difficulty and its scoring. Omega Five is relatively easy as shmups go, and I was really hoping for more of a challenge. It has its tough moments, but nothing that stopped myself and several of the people on my XBLA friends list from beating it the day after it came out, and nothing that would stop a lot of players from thoroughly kicking the game's ass with a little practice and memorization. Regardless of how many points you can rack up, however, your in-game score isn't what shows up on the leaderboard; rather, your score is some odd figure calculated by taking into account several different factors, including a flat-rate score for completing the level, a bonus for how many times your special attack was used, how much of your health bar remains intact, and an added bonus for completing the level without taking any damage. This is all fine and good, and still affords you an opportunity for some friendly competition with your buddy list, but I have to wonder why they couldn't just post our real scores, or why they bothered to incorporate a multiplier system if our final result will have a cap on it. The combination of those two things makes it feel a little too much like hand-holding for me. It's almost as if you could cruise through the level using almost no firepower and end up with the same score you'd get if you took the time and effort to destroy everything on the screen. It's the sort of overly-forgiving, soccer mom-ish, "anyone can do it" mentality that has infected video games in recent years, and something I personally feel has no place in a shmup. I want to be angry at Omega Five for this. I want to call it a pussy and stuff it into its locker. I want to be mean to it, but I can't, because it's just so goddamn fun to play. Anything negative I might have to say about this game is overshadowed by just how addictive and entertaining it is. So it's not the hardcore shmup some people were hoping for -- so what? It's got a little something from all across the board to remind you of many of your favorite shooters, it's arguably the prettiest game on XBLA at the moment, the music has a great classic arcade feel to it, and it's more than worth the 800 MS points you'll pay for it. Sure, it's not "hardcore", but let's pretend for a moment that it wasn't trying to be. What better ambassador to the world of shmups for a new generation of players than a beautifully rendered, beatable game whose weapons use the same dual-stickery they've gotten used to with Geometry Wars? For the true old-school shmup fans out there, please be nice to Omega Five. Don't hate on it too much. Enjoy it for what it is, and let's hope it sells incredibly well so that someone at Microsoft will see that shooters are a viable addition to Live Arcade and pick up the pace with porting games like Ikaruga and Trigger Heart Exelica. To anyone who is new to the genre, I hope you enjoy Omega Five. I hope you master it and seek out some of the more rich and complex shmups. To quote Contra, "Good job! Now try a harder difficulty!"Score: 7.0  Mike FerryRemember the old days? The days you spent with your childhood buddies huddled around the NES trying to beat Gradius for the tenth time that week and ultimately resorting to using "The Code" when you got frustrated? Yeah, me neither. But, thankfully, those classic shmup memories ("shmupories", if you will) have finally found their way to XBLA in the form of the much anticiapted Omega Five.Omega Five, to put it simply, is what it is. "It" being an undeniably polished, beautifully-detailed shooter with an overly familiar two-stick control scheme and a few minor hitches that prevent it from being an instant classic. First thing you'll notice straight out of the gate is the now infamous Engrish narrator announcing "Stage 1, The Gracial Fortwess." Once you recover from the initial "What the hell did he just say?" shock, you'll be thrown right into the thick of things and ready to shmup. However, there's something wrong here. Any seasoned player who has dabbled with other shooters will notice that the pacing of Omega Five is downright slow. I mean, really slow. Granted, this is deliberate to lengthen the four very well-designed levels, but, you'll never feel that sense of overwhleming urgency that so many other shooters convey and thrive off of. Never once is the screen blanketed with fire, which will make Omega Five feel like the training wheels are still on for the more hardcore out there.Then again, so what if the game is similar to your average hooker in Vegas; short, cheap, and easy? The game has an undeniable fun factor and, in my opinion, is a breath of fresh air on XBLA in comparison to the plethora of other shooters available. To put it simply, Omega Five's $10 price of admission is a bargain for such a wonderful title that literally oozes production value from start to finish.Oh, and about that whole "no online co-op" thing? I wouldn't worry about it too much. The difficulty of the game doesn't change with a second player, so co-op really isn't even needed. All in all, Omega Five will keep you hooked for a good while and proves to be an excellent title to hold you over until Ikaruga shows up.Score: 8.0----Have questions about Destructoid reviews, our metrics, or our philosophy? Visit the Destructoid Reviews Official Guide to fulfill your every disgusting, perverted curiosity on the mechanics behind the madness. Questions, comments and other detritus can be directed to the review crew at this address.
 photo

Who loves shoot-'em-ups? We do! In fact, we love them so much that this review of Hudson Soft's latest XBLA offering Omega Five is largely irrelevant; sure, we'd love for you to read, argue over the score, maybe even offer a ...

 photo

Undead ninja cyborg gamer makes God Hand's hardest level look easy


Dec 19
// Aaron Linde
I'm utterly fascinated by perfect play videos -- a dude netting a perfect no-death game in Ikaruga  while manning both sticks or a video of someone playing Assassin's Creed without complaining (!). Pitting man against ...

Postpartum Impressions: Super Mario Galaxy

Dec 12 // Aaron Linde
Aaron Linde: As a means of starting us off, here's a question: has the platforming genre faded in recent years, and has Super Mario Galaxy changed your expectations for the genre in either the commercial or creative spheres? Anthony Burch: I dunno if the platforming genre has necessarily faded; I just haven't had that much interest in any of its recent offerings. Even if I had played a metric asston of platformers over the last few years, however, I still imagine that Super Mario Galaxy would trump them all. It hasn't necessarily changed any of my expectations -- it's still "just" a platformer -- but it's the best title of its kind I've played since Super Mario 64. What did you all think of the shift from the nonlinearity of 64 and Sunshine to the straightforward challenges of Galaxy?Tristero: I have played a "metric asston" of platformers over the past 5 years and I'd have to say that the genre is very healthy right now, considering its second-tier status among a lot of videogame fans. We had a bit of a renaissance over the last generation with all of the Sony offerings like Sly, Ratchet, and Jak, with Capcom adding Maximo and Viewtiful Joe to the mix. Super Mario Galaxy doesn't do a whole lot to change the advancements and refinements made recently. It's an amazing game, and almost certainly a shoe-in for my favorite game this year. But I think people are largely excited about it because it brings fun back to front and center for Mario games. It nails everything the whole Mario series has ever done right, from creative and plentiful power-ups to the constant sense of surprise that each new stage brings. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine both seemed focused on displaying and selling the strengths of Nintendo's new hardware, often at the expense of how entertaining the overall experience was. It seems like this time around with Galaxy, the question the designers asked themselves was "How can we design this level to best enhance the user's enjoyment?" rather than "How can we strengthen the industry's impression of our new system?". The irony is, at the end of the day, this focus on fun, above all other goals, will endear it to both gamers and the industry in one fell swoop. Chad "DOLPHINNNNNNS!" Concelmo: I couldn't agree with Tristero more, but I think I will even take it one step further and say that Super Mario Galaxy truly does (singlehandedly) revitalize the platformer genre. While the Ratchet and Jak games are spectacular in their own rights, Super Mario Galaxy is a pure platforming experience through and through. While the gunplay of Ratchet and the -- well -- gunplay of Jak is fun, having a game almost entirely composed of running and jumping just feels so fresh and the perfect representation of what a Mario game should be. I know what I'm about to say may sound extreme (and blasphemous to some out there), but I think Super Mario Galaxy is my favorite Mario game of all time, even trumping the majesty that is Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Super Mario Bros. 3. I've had a few days to take the game in and replay some of my favorite sequences and I have to say: the experience feels completely, 100% perfect to me.   While everyone seems to be focusing on how much fun the game is (which it most definitely is!), I can't help but be mesmerized (even days later) by its flawless level design. And I am not being dramatic when I say "flawless." Everything in the game (from enemies to puzzles) feels perfectly placed, more often than not reaching levels of such design genius that my waking mind can't even take it all in. The gravity mechanic alone constantly overloaded my brain with some kind of giddy euphoria on numerous occasions. Super Mario Galaxy has, hands down, the best level design I have ever seen in a videogame.   To put it mildly, my initial expectations for Super Mario Galaxy (already unrealistically high) were blown out of the water after my first (120 star-earning) playthrough. For me, Galaxy is the peak of what a videogame should be in all departments (graphics, gameplay, creativity, design, challenge, etc.). The bar has been raised ridiculously high and I am filled with as much trepidation as excitement to see what Miyamoto can come up with next.  Colette Bennett: My favorite thing about Galaxy so far is that it seems to have perfected the ability to take you out of yourself. It's a complete experience, like when you see a magnificent movie and you forget the world even exists for a few hours. I think this is what most games are shooting for these days, but I feel most of them miss the mark, whether it's the way the game is structured (for instance, when you come out of the Assassin's time period in AC and back to the real world, it shook me out of the game and broke the sense of atmosphere I was hoping to remain within) or the choices made within the game.  The tone of Galaxy is so effectively realized that you just promptly fall into it. Sure, Mario has a flavor we are all familiar with, so that wasn't the challenge here. Nailing a sense of childlike awe for the player, and then giving it to them, seems to me to be the great achievement here. It's not too often that we get to forget that we are adults and enjoy the experience, and Galaxy perfects that. Leigh Alexander: I like the Mario franchise. I always have, always will, there ain't a gamer alive who doesn't. That being said, I assert there hasn't been a really freaking awesome Mario game since Super Mario World on the damn SNES. I don't feel the franchise ever translated well to 3D, and yet there's a principle in our industry among media and readers alike where we're just so damn fond of the franchise we seem incapable of ever critiquing it honestly. I feel like reception for Galaxy has been insanely sentimental, an emotional response from a generation whose childhoods belong to Mario.Yeah, well I was a Sega girl, god rest. Heehee, that being said, Super Mario Galaxy is indeed a great, fun game, and is the first Mario title in years that feels like a true and proper franchise heir. Buy it, it's great, it's fab, no complaints here, and seeing Bowser steal the princess in next-gen (or close enough har har) will give you one of those little "whoa, we've come so far, yay" sort of breathtaking moments. But best level design ever? Better than Ocarina, or insert-classic-title-here? I'd like to see people wait a bit and see if it stands the test of time before gleefully wetting their footie pajamas over their bowl of Alpha Bits and watching Captain N. We ain't nine anymore.Chad: I don't know. I still stand my my dramatic proclamation. While Ocarina is remarkably amazing, think about Hyrule field: there really wasn't that much to do in it (which is fine by me, but still). To me, what makes Galaxy so perfect (I say it again) is the way each level feels so full. Not once did I feel like I was just wandering around looking for something interesting to do. The entire game is interesting, from one jaw-dropping moment to the next. I truly can't think of the last time I played a game that presented itself the same way. Anthony Burch: I'm inclined to agree with Leigh partially, there: I love the game, and it's great, but it's not perfect. The difficulty never really ramps up in any significant way, and -- although this could just be me -- it felt a heck of a lot shorter than Mario 64. In Galaxy, I got 120 stars in about four or five days; with 64, doing the same thing took me the better part of the month. But I admit, I have a soft spot for 64's nonlinearity that will never be outdoneby a superlinear Mario game, no matter how beautiful or well-constructed its levels. I really got a sense of exploration, discovery and wonder from 64, and -- while Galaxy's levels do include a few bits of exploration in the form of hidden stars -- Galaxy just seemed to be missing that.Dyson: You know, I'm not really through the game all the way (about 20 or so stars), but I have to disagree with Rev's like of the non-linearity. Not because I think that he's wrong in any way, but because I think that return to actual levels instead of wandering around aimlessly is refreshing not only for the series, but for old school Mario fan, too. Although, I wouldn't go as far as to say that the game is perfect, but even after the newness has worn off I still feel that this is, by far, the best Mario game to date.Tristero: The non-linear aspects of the previous 3D Marios always bugged me because I felt like they just didn't know how to do it well. I'd always wander out to the edges of a polygon no man's land that lacked the polish of the central game. I knew I wasn't supposed to be there, but I didn't know how to get to the random location the designers forgot to adequately suggest I go to. All of that's pretty much been chucked out of the window with Galaxy. There are small areas to explore here and there and when you do venture out, there's always something hiding, like a secret planet or power-up, that make it worth the trouble.  Nex: Before I say anything let me state first that I love Super Mario Galaxy. It's fantastic, fun as hell, the best Wii title to date, and is easily game of the year material... Or it would be if it weren't for the ridiculous number of phenomenal, groundbreaking titles that hit during 2007. I guess I'm just getting old and bitter, but running around, collecting stars and turning into a bee just doesn't have the same draw for me that it would have 5 or 10 years back. Now it takes something really original to move me, something that tests the boundaries of human belief and leaves you scratching your head and examining your life once it's over.In the end, Galaxy is amazing and everyone should buy it, but compared to truly inventive stuff like Portal, it's just another platformer.
 photo

We've all been there: a new game is forthcoming and your anticipation has pushed you to the brink of insanity. The wait is absolutely intolerable until that fateful morning rolls around when you haul your ass to the store, pi...

 photo

Hands-on with Halo 3 DLC


Dec 05
// Aaron Linde
Last Thursday I hauled my lazy ass to Bungietowne on an invite from the Halo 3 DLC team to try out some of the new maps to be made available in the Heroic Map Pack, up for grabs next week on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Fortuna...
 photo

In a showing of support for the recent review debacle still underway at CNET, staffers from Ziff Davis including 1UP writers (and that oh-so-dreamy Jeremy Parish) put together a small but profoundly effective demonstration in...

 photo

Bit Blot drops Aquaria next week


Nov 30
// Aaron Linde
After months of beating the game into your skulls, Aquaria is finally on track for a firm release date: Just a week from now, which slips the game into Bit Blot's promised 2007 release. In the week leading up to the drop, the...
 photo

EVE Trinity pretties things up on December 5


Nov 28
// Aaron Linde
Not content to simply remain the prettiest MMO available (and it is, damnit), CCP is set to update EVE Online with their latest expansion, Trinity, on December 5th. The new expansion will make available a host of new features...

Destructoid review: Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Nov 23 // Aaron Linde
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings (DS)Developed by Square-Enix / Think & Feel, Inc.Published by Square-EnixRelease Date: November 20, 2007Square-Enix's renewed focus on Ivalice was an unexpected but not at all unpleasant change in direction for the RPG giant. Developing and evolving the fledgling universe originally depicted nearly ten years ago in Final Fantasy Tactics, Ivalice has expanded rapidly from its one-shot roots into a world with characteristics all its own. There's a neat sort of cyclical nature to it -- informed by Final Fantasy characters, themes and motifs, Ivalice itself informed and inspired the development of Final Fantasy XII, one of the most wild departures in the series to date and perhaps the most detailed glimpse into the universe we've yet seen. Expanding upon the foundations established in Final Fantasy XII, Revenant Wings is just as surprising a departure from previous standards as its forebearer while managing to capitalize on the magic of its surrounding universe.Taking place a year after the events of XII, Revenant Wings puts players back in the shoes of Vaan, XII's protagonist and arguably the most underdeveloped character in the game. Inspired by Balthier, Vaan and fellow XII alum Penelo secure a ship of their own to pursue dreams of becoming fully-fledged sky pirates like their comrades. On their first treasure hunting expedition to retrieve the Cache of Galbados, Vaan stumbles across an airship which takes him and Penelo to the sky continent of Lemurés. They meet the denizens of the sky continent, a winged race called the Aegyl, besieged by other less-than-noble sky pirates hunting for the treasure the continent is said to hold. Vaan and crew vow to rid their land of these swarthy bastards, setting them along a quest that will unravel the mysteries of the sky continent and (of course) risk the catastrophic ruin of everything that is, y'know, good. This is Ivalice, after all.Shirking the tactical RPG roots of the Ivalice world, Revenant Wings takes Final Fantasy XII's real-time battle system a step further, taking the form of a sort of RTS-lite gameplay model. Those of you familiar with the unfortunate failure of this year's Heroes of Mana, take heart: Square-Enix did some homework and created a fun and functional spin on the RTS genre that actually fits the platform. Using the stylus (natch), the player can control Vaan and crew as well as their summonable cannon fodder, the Espers, with a variety of conventions we've come to expect from the genre. It has its ups and downs, but we'll get to those in a minute.  Like a certain other alternative RTS released this year, combat in Revenant Wings is remarkably simple, boiling down to what is essentially a rock-paper-scissors sort of arrangement with its controllable units. Vaan and his cohorts, designated by the game as "group leaders", as well as the Espers they summon are all dumped into one of three categories: melee, ranged, and flying. As you might expect, each is strong against one and weak against the other, but Revenant Wings  complicates things further by tossing elemental alignment and special abilities for team leads and the bigger, burlier Espers into the mix. Espers are unlocked via the Ring of Pacts, a curious spinoff of the licensing board in which weaker Espers (chocobos, bombs, et cetera) lead to stronger ones and, ultimately, the beefy Shivas, Ifrits and such that we've come to expect from the Final Fantasy series.The control functions for the most part, but isn't without its share of shortcomings. Most of your time with Revenant Wings will be spent with the DS firmly gripped in one hand and the stylus in the other, using the digital pad to navigate the camera's perspective over the field of battle while doling out marching orders with the stylus. Team leaders and the Espers in their command are represented by icons in the HUD, and the player need only click on one to select each member of that group and send 'em off to fight, scavenge the battlefield for items and treasure, and so on. But the limits of the control scheme makes it difficult to achieve complete mastery of your units -- selection is limited to everyone, individual groups, or whoever you can grab via a drag selection tool. I can't hold a button and make precise selections -- two diablos, a chocobo and two tonberry, for example -- as units are always paired with a group leader of the same type.Unit coordination becomes a bit difficult on some of the maps featuring tighter terrain or corridors, which Revenant Wings features fairly regularly. Often times you'll find that your units crowd and glom together, making the selection of a particular ally or enemy for a quick heal or devastating spell a bit difficult. The alternative, of course, would be to send your troops in calculated waves, but often times sheer numbers is the best offense, and tossing three or four Espers at a pack of six to twelve enemies makes for a swift slaughter. Creating custom groups on the fly -- all flying espers, all group leaders and no espers, or all fire-elemental espers, that sort of thing -- would've been an absolute godsend in the more heated battles later in the game, and is the sort of feature that is standard in RTS for a reason. While you'll certainly get by without it, when you lose hard it likely won't be for lack of proper planning or underdeveloped stats, but rather a giant pit of fury and hell in which an inability to designate attacks or use unit types to your advantage is constant. Frustrations aside, there's a load of crap to do in Revenant Wings, including optional monster hunts and weapon crafting on top of the plot-advancing main quest. Mission objectives remain fundamentally simple throughout the bulk of the experience (capture summon points, defeat enemy group leaders, destroy all the monsters), and for many of the game's early battles, victory is as simple as selecting the right elemental affinities and sending your horde at opposing forces to take 'em out brute force style. But at the end of the day, Wings plays pretty well and can be loads of fun, especially when the battles get interesting in the latter half of the game and the player is granted access to the optional missions.  Revenant Wings' closest ties to its predecessor is wrapped up in the aesthetics, particularly the music. The game features plenty of familiar faces, locations and references to the events in XII, but the music was lifted outright from the game -- hardly a detraction, really. Unlike the absolutely soul-destroying dischord featured in Final Fantasy X-2, it was actually refreshing to hear songs that I was already familiar with from the original XII, if only for the way in which it carries the themes and emotional gravitas to the new title. The transition is made pretty well, so much so that it's almost surprising to learn that the music was rearranged and not just piped through crappy speakers at lower bitrates. But there's something of an absence in the original game's epic scope, which is to be expected in a jump to a portable platform, but I believe it to be more closely related to the art style. Ryoma Ito's character design resembles what we've seen in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and the upcoming DS sequel Grimoire of the Rift, and though the world is certainly an expanded Ivalice as presented in FFXII, a fair bit of emotional weight is lost in the transition to these softer, cuter sprites. I wouldn't mark this as a detraction unless you play Wings expecting the same sort of epic scope as the original; there's a lot at stake in the game's story, but pre- and post-battle dialogue is often spent scrolling adorable exchanges between adorable sprites representing characters we only recently watched unravel a massive plot to destroy an entire kingdom. It's a preference thang, but might irk some gamers the same way the lighthearted shenanigans of Tactics Advance burned gamers looking for another bloodthirsty political epic like Tactics. At the end of the day, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is a fine alternative RTS that expands upon an already fantastic universe and one of Final Fantasy's most compelling stories and casts to date. But while their grip on the gameplay end of things has improved dramatically over Heroes of Mana, Wings makes a few mistakes that keep things a little less strategy and a little more mob slaughter. Look past the shortcomings of the gameplay, however, and you'll find a limited yet worthy sequel that stands as one of the better RPG/RTS/WTF experiences on the platform.Incidentally, did you know that it's been just over a year since I published my Balthier mancrush article? Oh, I still swoon at the very sight of that son of a bitch. Score: 7.8  
 photo

If you're feeling bloated and half-retarded from eating enough starch to make a crude cement mix, a strategy RPG might be the last thing on your mind. But don't let something like feeling disgusted with yourself for stealing ...

Destructoid Reviews: The Official Guide

Nov 19 // Aaron Linde
Our Great and Glorious MissionWe at Destructoid are like you -- we play games by the boatload. We live, breathe, eat, sleep, and write our experiences, and though the focus of the site proper is spread across the great expanse of topics related in one way or another to gaming, when you get right down to it, we're in it for the playing. Accordingly, we take our Destructoid reviews very seriously, and strive to be your number one destination for raw, brutally honest opinions on the games that we feature every week. We love games, and we want them to be as great as we're led to expect -- more than that, we want them to be better. So we believe that no matter how much we love a developer, a publisher, or a concept, the finished product must be held responsible for its failings and praised for its successes. Our commitment to honesty is fierce, fierce like bear, a bear which mangles any fanboyish tendencies that might spring up in the process of reviewing a product. It's our hope that by adding our voice to the already crowded arena of game reviews, we might affect some change in the way that games are played, reviewed, and made. Most of all, we want to give you the best, most honest and informed opinions on the games we play as possible.The Team, the Games, and How We ReviewOur core staff is Rev. Anthony, Nick Chester, Brad Rice, Leigh Alexander, headed up by me, your snuggly and lovable reviews editor. While reviews are open to the entirety of Destructoid staff, you'll likely see the bulk of them handled by the aforementioned crew, who've made regular reviews part of their personal responsibilities as Destructoid staffers. Regular review staff were selected for their diverse taste in games, varying points of view and keen eyes for technical and creative excellence in games. They all look damn good in lingerie. Games reviewed on Destructoid are selected on a per-case basis. In addition to marquee releases, we often review games that fly under the radar or might go otherwise ignored by many gamers, and we try to distribute our attention evenly among both camps of games. Sometimes we get copies sent to us, sometimes we pay for them ourselves, but regardless of the source our dedication to brutal honesty remains our primary goal in our reviews. If a publisher sends us a game that makes our heads explode into joy-joy rainbows, we'll tell you. If a publisher sends us an overhyped pile of crap, we'll tell you. The only thing that bugs us more than wasted money is wasted time, and we're not interested in letting our readers waste either when selecting games to play.When reviewing a game, we judge a title against similar games already released, genre peers, and the title's success in accomplishing what it sets out to do in respect to overall fun -- in other words, our reviews aren't meant to be directly compared to one another. If one author reviews Big Nick Chester's Gun-Totin' Bitchslap Adventure and gives it a 7, and a day later another reviews Brad Rice's Block-Droppin' Hootenanny and scores it an 8, this doesn't mean that Destructoid is unilaterally firm in the belief that block-droppin' is always, always better than bitch-slappin'. What it does mean is that Block-Droppin' Hootenanny reached a higher level of block-droppin' achievement than Gun-Totin' Bitchslap Adventure had in its own respective genre. When in doubt, read the text. I'm going to repeat that: please read the text. If our scores confuse or frighten you, try to figure out why we gave it such a score before you look up our addresses and firebomb our homes. That being said, let's move on to the 400-pound gorilla--Our Review MetricsIf you haven't noticed by now, Destructoid takes issue with the handling of game reviews, or specifically the scores that accompany them. By and large game reviews are handled like academic grades, which has led to an overwhelming glut of games falling in the 7-9 range, with reviews declaring a game virtually unplayable often receiving scores of 5 to 6. When our reviews content was overhauled in May of 2007, those of us committed to bringing more reviews to Destructoid's front page agreed to try to break our habits and adopt full use of the 1-10 scale, as initially described by our own Reverend Anthony in one of his features. Here's a rundown of our scores and what they mean:1 – Unbearable. Practically unplayable. An exercise in absolute madness.2 – Awful. Maybe the idea was kind of clever, or you may have fun accidentally, but everything else is horrendous.3 – Bad. Some aspects are terrible, others are either so-so or kind of fun.4 – Poor. An admirable effort with a sliver of promise, but essentially mediocre.5 – Average. Half of the time the game is fun, half of the time it isn't, for whatever reason. This game is absolutely average in every single way -- neither exceptional nor face-melting awful.6 – Decent. Slightly above average, maybe a little niche. But you wouldn't recommend it to everybody.7 – Good. Replayable, fun, but nothing innovative or amazing. The game potentially has large flaws that, while they don't make the game bad, prevent it from being as good as it could be.8 – Great. Very fun -- its essential gameplay aspects are cool and interesting, but may not be implemented in the best way.9 – Fantastic. Negligible flaws. Otherwise very, very good; a fine example of excellence in the genre.10 – Incredible. As close to perfection as we've yet seen in in the genre or gaming on the whole. A polished, unparalleled experience.Going by this standard, bear in mind while reading Destructoid reviews that a sub-7 score doesn't mean terrible. It can mean a lot of things, and is usually the product of a variety of failings on the part of a given title. But unlike many publications, a 6.5 or 5.5 never means unplayable, it doesn't mean awful -- it means flawed. But many of the games to which such scores are assigned are fine experiences for a particular group of gamers, be they fans of the genre or the series or simply someone looking for an experience that only the game in question can offer. Once again, when in doubt, read the text.Moreover, the reviews editor does not police scores given to games by the reviewers. If a writer believes a game deserves a 7.0 and the spirit of the text reflects the score, it remains in the hands of the reviewer to determine an appropriate point value. As such, reviews published on Destructoid are the opinions of the individual author or authors and not the staff as a whole. As stated earlier, the review crew is made up of a diverse cast with varying opinions on which games are fun and which are not -- find a writer you agree with and look for his or her opinion. If you've read this far, we congratulate you. Keep an eye on this post; we'll be linking to it in every Destructoid review, and making amendments as this great trainwreck lumbers ever onward into infinity. Thanks for reading our reviews, and if you have any input on the state of things, don't hesitate to let us know.  
 photo

There's been a general consensus among Destructoid staff and readership alike that clarification of our reviews process and metrics has been sorely needed for some time, and it's something that I've been wanting to do for awh...

Destructoid review: Super Mario Galaxy

Nov 12 // Aaron Linde
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)Developed by Nintendo EAD TokyoPublished by Nintendo of AmericaReleased on November 12, 2007 I remember thinking while I played through the opening hours of Super Mario Galaxy that Miyamoto and crew were making my job easy. I was having a gas. Zipping from planet to planet, dispatching baddies and collecting crap along the way, having an amazing time -- but as it turns out, this is one of the most difficult reviews I've ever written, and I hope you're all real happy that I'm still awake at six in the morning trying to articulate what I love about this goddamn game. Slap yourself in the face. That's my pay.  Trying to drill down an experience like Super Mario Galaxy to its most essential components seems somehow contrary to its nature as one of the most complete, well-constructed games I've played in recent memory -- it truly is more than the sum of its parts. But since the parts and the discussion thereof is the stuff of reviews, I'm more or less obliged to dig into it rather than take the easy route, mumble "holy shit awesome" and haul my ass to bed. So what is it about Galaxy  that makes it such a compelling, engaging game? Just about everything. If your hyperbolometer just went off the charts, well -- blame EAD Tokyo. Those jerks.In a lot of ways, we've been here before. The game's plot is more or less lifted straight from every previous Mario title ever, gussied up and tweaked to suit Galaxy's interstellar digs. Bowser and a fleet of airships interrupt the otherwise peaceful goings-on in the Mushroom Kingdom (you'd figure they'd form up a military or something by now, wouldn't you?) to nab ol' Princess Peach by cutting a hole in the very earth beneath her castle and whisking her away to the deepest reaches of space. Mario takes after them, meeting a cast of helpful characters along the way and exploring a series of galaxies to collect stars and eventually unlock the path that will lead him to Bowser and a mighty final battle. The common conventions don't end there, but Galaxy's appeal and worth aren't about innovation or reinvigoration of the series with a heady dose of unnecessary gravitas; it's about adopting the successes of previous 3D Mario titles and pushing them to the limit. Super Mario Sunshine wasn't a bad game -- far from it, I'd say. But those of us who yearned for an entire game stocked with the sort of fun packed into those all-too-rare and insanely difficult stages in which Mario ditched the FLUDD in favor of some pure platforming action will find a lot to love about Galaxy. This is platforming bliss, the genre at its finest. Spot-on control of Mario makes an anticipated return, fleshed out and refined to best fit the spherical level designs featured in the game. Mario moves, jumps, maneuvers and attacks with startling accuracy; Galaxy controls so well that it's hard to imagine anybody, veteran gamers or Wii-era newbies, having trouble getting the hang of things. Galaxy also has the honor of being one of the few games developed specifically for the Wii that actually makes damn fine use of the controller without feeling forced or tacked-on. Pointer action is limited strictly to menu navigation and collecting star bits by hovering over them anywhere on the screen with the cursor, which can be used to knock away approaching enemies in a point-and-shoot fashion. Mario's trademark spin, his primary and most useful attack in Galaxy, is performed by shaking the Wii remote. There are a couple of levels that make further use of the Wiimote, but these tend to be extremely few and far between and serve as clever diversions as opposed to shoehorned Wii shenanigans so often observed in the platform's exclusive titles. Having established that, what makes the control really shine is the fantastic (and at times, utterly insane) level design, most often structured in the above-mentioned spherical orientation. The emphasis on gravity provides ample opportunity for Nintendo to screw with your expectations and create some truly inspired moments in gameplay with creative twists, turns, traps and tasks to keep you busy. One star in the Toy Time Galaxy, for example, requires that the player scale a massive Mecha-Bowser and dismantle the robot as you move up its body. The game is chock full of "holy crap!" moments like this, and a consistent "wow" factor presses you ever onward rather than lulling between set piece battles or encounters.  The combination of these new and unusual schemes of gameplay alongside the now-standard control makes for some of the most compelling platforming action yet available. The game is challenging -- particularly in later stages -- but never unfairly so, though you can expect to lose a number of lives (no biggie, though; the game deals out 1UPs by the truckload). With 120 stars to find and a massive variety of stages in which to hunt 'em down, you can bet that newbies and seasoned vets alike will find a lot to love in Galaxy. Maybe it's Nintendo's keen eye for a cute, colorful game, but despite the Wii's limitations as a not-quite-powerhouse in the graphics department, Super Mario Galaxy is one of the most beautiful games I've seen in years. The enemies are extremely well designed, the animations are fluid, and the environments (particularly some of the deep space vistas) are simply gorgeous. But one of the biggest aesthetic surprises in Galaxy is the music, which stands as the best in the series -- really epic orchestral tunes built to match the scale of the game.  What details detract from the experience are minor, but worth noting in that damn near perfect but not quite sort of way. The camera, though very much cleaned up and refined versus previous installments of the 3D Mario titles, still has a couple of issues, namely in the areas in which camera control is scripted to focus on the action. While it's a godsend to not have to worry about camera orientation in these areas and focus instead on precision platforming, you're often put a little bit too close to the action and can't get a good grasp on what's very nearly ahead of you. The various suits are a welcome addition to the game and shake things up similar to those found in SMB3, but Spring Mario -- though graciously uncommon in appearance -- serves as a jarring break in an otherwise excellent control scheme. The others are so well implemented that it feels as though Galaxy could've done without the spring suit altogether and not missed a beat. This is the first game on the Wii that I can recommend without hesitation to gamers of any stock, from any background -- a truly must-own title. In creating Super Mario Galaxy, Nintendo had the unfortunate task of besting itself at what it does best: platforming. To say that they've succeeded almost isn't enough; Super Mario Galaxy is so incredible that it improves upon flaws in Mario 64 that I hadn't even noticed until, y'know, Galaxy did it better. And though there's little in the way of "innovation" of the genre, it's the refinement of the genre that solidifies Galaxy as the most essential platforming experience yet created. Score: 9.6  
 photo

Given the hour, I'm assuming that a lot of you are likely waking up to this review. Perhaps some of you have fancies of Nintendo's latest flagship title Super Mario Galaxy dancing in your heads, holdovers from the dreams cult...

 photo

Super Mario Galaxy touches down in Lindevania [Update: Impressions!]


Nov 09
// Aaron Linde
After days (weeks? [months!?]) of painful anticipation, Super Mario Galaxy finally showed up on my doorstep, thanks to a kindly ol' FedEx delivery driver who knew not the bounty of wonder that he carried. Nintendo also sent a...
 photo

Pew-Pewin' at the top of the world: EVE Fanfest 2007


Nov 08
// Aaron Linde
I've gone on record more than once over my distaste for MMOs, but EVE Online has always been an exception, an asterisk slapped on an otherwise lengthy list of games I'd sooner rip my toenails off than play. Its single-shard, ...
 photo

EVE Fanfest 2007: What the hell time is it?


Nov 01
// Aaron Linde
After two hours by shuttle, twelve hours by plane and an hour cab ride into the city, I've finally arrived in Reykjavik for this year's EVE Online Fanfest 2007, CCP's yearly get-together at the top of the world for players, d...
 photo

Restructuring, layoffs forthcoming at EA, Mythic Studios


Oct 24
// Aaron Linde
Owing to sagging profits and and a less-than-firm grip on their once invulnerable spot at top of the third party heap, Electronic Arts is looking to make some changes in their corporate structure, starting with Mythic and the...
 photo

Podtoid 34: My Cube, Let Me Show Him To You


Oct 23
// Aaron Linde
What's inside The Orange Box? Sex. Sex and heroin. And with those contents firmly tucked in our pants, we embark upon Podtoid 34, in which two editors of Destructoid (plus one Weekly Geek) cover some news, answer some questio...
 photo

Podtoid 34: Cakes and Cubes


Oct 21
// Aaron Linde
While some of the staff is off in LA meetin' important people and playin' lots of games, the rest of us are here holding the fort, left home because we're just not pretty enough to represent Destructoid publicly. So us fuglie...

My balls are lethal: Super Dodgeball Brawlers announced for NDS

Oct 19 // Aaron Linde
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAKSYS GAMES ANNOUNCES SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS
FOR RELEASE EXCLUSIVELY ON THE NINTENDO DS IN SPRING 2008The playground favorite returns with a twist!Torrance, CA (October 19, 2007) – Aksys Games, a publisher of interactive entertainment software has announced Super Dodgeball Brawlers for the Nintendo DS™ for release in the spring of 2008. Based on the classic Super Dodgeball released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Dodgeball Brawlers brings back the old-school Kunio characters with an all new arsenal of super throws and attacks in an all-out war for playground supremacy."Super Dodgeball Brawlers maintains the great pick up and play feel of the classic Dodgeball series while adding in over 100 new super throws, as well as melee combat--a first for the series," said Akibo Shieh, President, Aksys Games. "Fans of the original will be pleased that the fantastic versus mode of the original game has returned along with an all new 8 player ‘Brawl’ mode. If you’re a fan of the old-school Super Dodgeball, you have a lot to look forward to in Brawlers."Key Features:• Over 100 ball-busting special attacks! Dish out a variety of pain with over 100 special attacks with their own special animations and effects, like the Cactus Attack, Panda Shot and Spear.• Finally, an open season for violence! There are some new rules on the playground this time around. If the old-fashioned way doesn't work for you, you can now use punches, kicks, and even weapons against the opposing team.• Introducing the Super Gauge System! Activate a “Team Upgrade Attack” with the Touch Screen when your Super Gauge reaches its maximum level. Boost a team member’s status or unleash an “Instant Kill” special attack to turn the tide of battle.• Create-a-character mode! Create and customize your own dodgeball dream team.• The perfect game for multiplayer mayhem! Compete in a traditional game of dodgeball against a friend or take part in a multiplayer street brawl with up to 8 players.Super Dodgeball Brawlers has not yet been rated by the ESRB and has an MSRP of $29.99.
 photo

I swear to God I won't let this degenerate into a nostalgia-fest, but c'mon -- Super Dodge Ball was awesome. It taught me two lessons that I reflect upon almost daily in my adult life: first, always run and leap before hurlin...

 photo

Beautiful Katamari DLC announced; 800 points will buy you a complete game


Oct 19
// Aaron Linde
Being a fan of rolling, nonsense, and the rampant homoerotic gestures of intergalactic regents, I picked up a copy of Beautiful Katamari earlier this week, eager to sink my teeth into the latest installment of one of my favor...

Destructoid review: Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions

Oct 14 // Aaron Linde
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP)Developed by Square-EnixReleased on October 9th, 2007I've poured a lot of time into FFT, as evidenced by my somewhat rotund physique. Hours upon hours that might not rival even the most casual MMO player, but a substantial sum of time nonetheless -- probably in the two to three hundred range. The only notion that keeps that figure from being the most depressing goddamn thing I've ever typed is thus: it was worth every minute. Sure, I didn't do the things that most blokes did in high school like study, socialize or date, but fuck it. There was JP to be earned. It's been nearly ten years since Final Fantasy Tactics was originally released in the states. Old though it makes me feel, a span of a decade is the kind of time that usually merits a look back -- hell, in our cash-hungry remake-fueled industry, ten years might even be considered late. The original game was a triumph; it introduced scores of gamers to the tactical RPG within a universe that they could feel comfortable with while still finding room to innovate the genre. It became the gold standard for the tactical RPG, and informed development for leagues of games to follow. Tactics was a damn good game.  But much like your brother who plays a mean game of basketball but can't quite spell basketball, Tactics' advent was early enough that it fell victim to the same weak-sauce standards of localization that the industry had back then, which is to say that it read like the booze-fueled ramblings of an aging historian struck with dementia. Not all of it, mind -- just enough that the story, already quite complicated, was made more difficult to follow (names changing randomly, some awkward wording, etc). The tutorial and battle cries were so bad, in fact, that they stood alongside some of the earliest "A Winner Is You"-level writing as the dumbest shit ever realized in text. If there was any part of Final Fantasy Tactics that demanded an overhaul in War of the Lions, it was the translation. Tom Slattery, who previously worked on the Final Fantasy V and VI Advance retranslations, really went above and beyond with his work in cleaning up War of the Lions. The backdrop of Ivalice and the middle ages sort of tone inherent to the world (further developed in the Ivalice-centric Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII) prompted language appropriate to the period, which in short terms means that War of the Lions reads like a Shakespearean drama -- a little heavy-handed at times, but very interesting to read. Everything's been changed, from the ability names to the battle cries, the intro movie text and the job reports. Though Slattery's work on VI Advance got some purists up in arms over a distinct lack of submariners in the new script for that particular game, it's hard to imagine much upset over War of the Lions' new script. A game with a story this complicated demands text that can keep up, and the new script is a rousing success.Also new to the PSP port is a collection of cinematics which replace some of the more important cutscenes in the plot. It's likely you've seen these before as part of Square-Enix's marketing campaign, but I can't overstate just how beautiful they are -- managing to capture Akihiko Yoshida's character designs (read: noseless kids with swords and guns) in full motion while maintaining a sort of storybook aesthetic. It's almost hard to believe it's actually 3D when you see it in motion. Shitting one's pants over CG cutscenes in a Square-Enix game seems a weird throwback to 1997 when we gave a crap about that kind of thing instead of flaring our nostrils and threatening brutal dismemberment, but War of the Lions introduces some of the most tasteful, appropriate FMV in recent memory, so it earns a pass. Beautiful stuff. But there's a game here too, y'know, to play. And where previously mentioned improvements turned your faithful reviewer from a thinking, reasoning being into a stuttering lovestruck buffoon, the romance comes to a halt from the first battle, due to a bit of slowdown. This is different from frame rate issues; the game actually slows to a grinding pace during certain sprite animations in battle, causing a desync between the audio you're hearing and the sprite effects you're seeing. It happens for just about every ability that isn't a basic attack like sword skills, summons, Cure spells, items, et cetera. And though a small minority of previews, reviews and PR companies have said different, this is not something that happened in the original PSX version. Just isn't. Go back and play it. It's not there. The game is still fun, mind. But while the lag itself isn't game-breaking, it is showstopping, and will smack you out of your "holy crap this is awesome!" trance the minute it gets rolling. Load times are to be expected, as they go hand-in-hand with the UMD medium, but once a match is queued up I was hoping things would go a lot smoother. This sort of technical screw-up is inexcusable, particularly when working with a ten-year-old game that was relatively visually simplistic even when it was new back in 1998. The first rule of the re-release is to repair the failings of the original, not add to them.  As far as fresh additions go, War of the Lions doesn't stop at cinematics or translations -- there are new battles (most of 'em brief and almost always winnable, but still pretty neat), new characters and new job classes. Luso from the forthcoming Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and FFXII's dreamcake Balthier show up well into the plot's progression, but not so late as they can't be whipped into shape before the climactic string of battles that make up the endgame. To accommodate War of the Lions' burgeoning list of unique playable characters, the party roster has been boosted to 24 total members, meaning you won't have to ditch Rafa and Malek (now Rapha and Marach) as soon as you get them. Except that you'll probably want to anyway, because they still suck. Jerks. Mainstays of the series Onion Knights and Dark Knights make a return as new classes in War of the Lions, neither of which you'll be seeing much of without some serious grinding. Moreover, the best items for both classes are usually only to be found as rewards in the game's multiplayer component, in which you can play versus or cooperative missions via ad hoc wi-fi mode -- no internet play here, unfortunately. Should you be so fortunate as to find a partner, the available matches are livened up with a slew of options to make things interesting, including some Paper Mario-esque timing and button-mashing commands that allow you to lock swords with an enemy, knock them back and lay traps that must be disarmed with complex button sequences. It's a nice diversion, but sort of broken if both parties aren't pretty evenly matched -- a disparity in levels means a quick and crushing defeat in versus or enemies ranked as high as the team's biggest character laying waste to the weaker characters in co-op. With no option to level the playing field, it's hard to recommend the multiplayer beyond wasting time or collecting those hard-to-find items for the new classes. And speaking of the items, I'd like to make a plea to Square-Enix: stop it. Similar to some of the new additions to Final Fantasy III for the DS, Square-Enix makes the mistake of restricting content to circumstance, and much like how I didn't want to send a bunch of Goddamn letters via the Nintendo WFC to unlock dungeons and classes in FF3 DS, I don't want to rely on having a readily-available second PSP to get my hands on all the new stuff War of the Lions has to offer. It's a stupid trend that Square-Enix needs to abandon outright, or at least find some decent "I Don't Have Friends" kind of alternative.I'll say this again: Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the best titles in Square's catalog, and one that most certainly merits a revision. But War of the Lions' technical issues and lackluster multiplayer component represent a missed opportunity to make this the truly definitive version of Tactics. I can't recommend this game enough to newbies -- it's likely that the game's failings won't sting quite so much for all y'all, and the game itself is an amazing experience that simply should not be missed. For us veterans, the new translation alone merits the price of admission, but like the original, War of the Lions falls short of what it rightly could have been with a little more time in the oven.Score: 8.2Verdict: Buy It!
 photo

Oh god, Final Fantasy Tactics. What I knew in my youth as the Bane of Academia, the Unholy Timeslayer. It's on a shiny new platform and has a nifty subtitle now, some additions and new job classes, but it's the same game and...

Destructoid review: Portal

Oct 11 // Aaron Linde
Portal (PC)Developed by Valve SoftwareReleased on October 10th, 2007Ever seen "Cube"? We were made to watch it in my Canadian Literature class, the last literature course I took as part of my English major requirements. I had seen it before, but not in such a way where I was expected to, y'know, think about it. From the film we were supposed to cull some sense of Canadian identity or aesthetic, but I struggled -- all I could see was a bunch of anxious folk stuck in a deathtrap and killin' eachother slowly. Thinking about it academically gave me a nosebleed. Having endured the film in such a way, you can imagine how warped my fragile li'l mind was going into a game like Portal. Incorporating the same sterile, clinical sort of aesthetic and limited understanding of the circumstances surrounding the character's involvement in the Aperture Science Enrichment Facility's testing program, this was a game that I knew I was going to overthink. The constant disorientation of moving through portals into different parts of a map where my view has to adjust to compensate for the new direction of Goddamn gravity doesn't help, either. Fortunately, there's quite a bit in Portal to overthink and dissect. Dumped into small quarters containing little more than a toilet, a sleeping pod, and a radio, the player isn't given much information as to what exactly is going on in Portal. The vaguely feminine mechanical voice of GLaDOS, the only other character in the game, rings out over intercom and informs you that the test has begun. Nineteen test chambers to acclimate you to the use of the portal gun await, along with some... less than desirable consequences should you fail. And that's it. You're off. The mechanics at work in Portal's gameplay are similarly simple. Once you pick up your Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (zee gun), you have the ability to plant a portal on any flat plane available to you, with some exceptions. Certain walls and floors can't be portal'd (usually those which are darker or textured in particular ways), and any planted portals will dissolve the moment the player passes through certain fields. Though these restrictions might sound stifling on paper, there's actually quite a bit of freedom to be had once you're granted use of both orange and blue portals. Your weapons are your portals, weighty objects like storage cubes, and your mind. No guns, no explosives, no nothin'. Just you and your portal-slingin' device.Portal includes nineteen test chambers, the first 13 or 14 of which you'll blaze through in less than an hour. Designed to acclimate you to the subtleties of portal-based gameplay, these initial chambers are almost embarassingly simple. The final five chambers will be where you spend most of your time, and demand a good two and a half hours versus the preceeding 14's thirty-plus minutes. Once things get rolling you'll be doing some truly amazing stuff with your portal gun, particularly with the momentum puzzles -- using gravity to slingshot yourself out of a portal at high speeds. The puzzles demand not only a keen eye for solutions but a quick finger in pulling them off, confirming Portal's "action-puzzler" status. Perhaps most noteworthy about the game in this respect is the way it gets you to really think differently about a level; like Crush before it, Portal demands review of how we associate with level design, particularly the first-person variety. The game is short, though -- almost cruelly so. It spends much of its content just getting the player rolling, and while the remaining puzzles do take a bit of time to complete (particularly the last -- I'll say nothing, but trust me, it's the bulk of the experience), I was really hoping for more time to screw around inside the testing facility. Once the game is completed you're granted access to "advanced" versions of some of the levels, which are frightfully difficult and should take a bit of time to work through. Portal's brevity will hopefully be remedied by future map expansions and additional content, but for now the game feels just too short. Hopefully we'll be seeing some exceptional user-created content in the near future. Valve's trademark storytelling makes an unexpected but undoubtedly exceptional appearance in Portal. It's a hilarious game, chock full of some of the darkest humor I've ever seen. GLaDOS, the mechanized voice which reports on your progress and offers backhanded pick-me-ups and promises of cake at the test's conclusion, is the source of just about all of it. She's condescending and mockingly bureaucratic; her lines begin with an informative tone and become more sinister and malicious as the game goes on. By the game's end you won't be able to imagine Portal without her voice ringing in your ears, and the credits solidify GLaDOS as one of the best antagonists to appear in a game in ages. Though the game itself is remarkably sparse in exposition and environment design (again, sterile and clinical testing facility), there's a surprising amount of context and story information to be drilled. I won't say much, but there are moments -- you'll know them when you see them -- that the environment makes huge reveals about what's going on at Aperture Science. Though the game itself is heartbreakingly brief, Portal adds a great deal to the Half-Life universe thanks to these particular moments, the game's conclusion and GLaDOS' contributions to the narrative. This brand of storytelling is uniquely Valve's. Portal is a fantastic game and well worth the price of admission, particularly for those netting the title as part of The Orange Box. Valve has put together a remarkable title with intriguing and ultimately rewarding gameplay as well as some of the funniest writing in gaming today. But much like GLaDOS, Portal might strike some as huge tease -- an insanely promising play scheme cut short by criminally brief length. If the game was miserable this wouldn't sting so badly, but unfortunately for Valve Portal is one of their most brilliant titles among a catalog of brilliant titles. Buy it, play it and pray for map expansions.  Score: 9.0Verdict: Buy It![Look at me still talking while there's science to do!]  
 photo

[This is just one of the new games available in The Orange Box. Don't forget to read our reviews of Episode Two and Team Fortress 2, and keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming console reviews.] It's no big secret that I've bee...

 photo

Podtoid 33: Satellite Delay


Oct 09
// Aaron Linde
I think I totally jinxed us when I was talking about, y'know, delays when soliciting requests for questions this past weekend. Turns out our recording software was listening and said "Hey, I got a crazy idea -- let's mak...

Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...