geez, where does the time go? i’ve got a review coming up, but here’s a quick post to catch up a bit. i randomly came across this random italian guy’s blog that collects official renders and artwork. it includes two nice collections of official super mario renders/artwork from the sports and RPG series, most of them high-resolution versions. check them out here and here.
it feels like a while since i’ve finished a gamecube game. i think i first became interested in custom robo (a.k.a. custom robo battle revolution) when i saw the custom robo trophies included in melee. my interest was further piqued by the inclusion of a custom robo as an assist trophy in smash bros. brawl, so despite the mediocre reviews it got i decided to check it out.
custom robo is more of a 3D fighter than anything else. the main gimmick of the game is that you get to customize your robotic fighter with various body, gun, bomb, pod (which are like bombs), and leg parts. most of the reviews are fairly accurate, but only up to a point. this is a classic case of low scores due to the fact most reviewers don’t have time to play through an entire game, and the bad ones don’t even bother to play more than half and thus miss out on getting to parts of the game that would completely change their opinion. (see my comments on drill dozer for another example). so for the first 8-9 hours or so of the game (i.e. the time it’ll take you to complete the game’s story mode) i pretty much agreed with most reviews, such as gamespot’s. all the reviews pan the game’s story mode (required for unlocking all the parts), which just serves as a framework for the game’s many battles, in the same way that the pokemon games are set up. the story is indeed weak, and the story mode’s visuals have a definite pokemon colosseum-like feel, but neither bothered me too much b/c who plays pokemon games for the story anyway?
the biggest complaint, though, is about the shallowness of the gameplay, due in large part to the lack of difficulty in the battles which are real-time and 3D. and here’s where the scores diverge radically: many reviews dismiss the game as a button-masher that requires little strategy or thought and thus give the game a low score. but anyone who’s played to the middle and end of the story mode and beyond will discover a much deeper experience than one would suspect, due in large part to the increased difficulty. and just by glancing through the reviews of the game on metacritic it’s striking how easy it is to tell who played the game past the story mode and who didn’t: the game easily gets scores in the 8’s from the reviewers who played far enough into it, and in the 6’s for those who didn’t. IGN’s review is a particularly egregious example of a reviewer who just didn’t play enough of the game to have an informed opinion.
so what is it about the later parts of the game that makes the game so much more fun? at the beginning of the game since the battles are so easy there’s not really much motivation to experiment with all the different robo parts you acquire. but with the increased difficulty you’re forced to strategize more and more, esp. in the second half of the game which consists of “tournaments”, each with its own rules (e.g. 2 against 1, tag team, no parts used in more than one round). in this mode each round you fight is scored based on time and health remaining, and you earn bronze, silver, or gold trophies based on your scores. winning a round isn’t too hard, but it takes a lot more timing, strategy, experimenting with parts, and familiarity with the wide variety of stages (most quite nicely designed) to win the 5 or 6-round tournaments with a high enough score to get all the trophies.
near the later parts of the game, when you have access to all the better parts, even winning the tournaments isn’t too hard. but at that point it’s more fun to set up challenges for yourself by using the random select function, which randomly puts together a robo for you, instead of just sticking with your early favorites. the majority of the robo parts are different enough that it’s fun just trying each of them out, and the graphics for all the weapons and body parts are nicely designed and look great in battle. there are clearly some parts that take some experience to use effectively, and there are some weapon parts that are much more effective with a certain body part than others. my main advice to anyone who picks up the game would be to start experimenting right away w/ the diff. parts during the easy battles of the story mode to keep things interesting and to get used to all their diff. attributes. the game still has some drawbacks, such as its unmemorable music and its fairly useless optional first person battle view, but even though this isn’t the deepest fighter out there it’s def. a great, underrated game with a surprising amount of variety and depth and one well worth playing.
customize your links!
– gamefaqs has a nice collection of info, inc. a great walkthrough at gamefaqs that inc. stats of all the robo parts, a weapon damage guide that includes exactly how much damage each part inflicts, and a list of unlockables
– despite the lackluster story, someone typed up the text of the game script
– instruction manual at nintendo.com
– entry at wikipedia
this review’s going to be a bit weird, namely b/c i’m a big dork, i.e. sometimes i can be incredibly dense. so i played through viewtiful joe, a game that seems to be universally praised, particularly for its distinctive visuals, and at the same time universally damned for being old-school hard. i started out fine and really enjoyed the game’s presentation and its great central mechanic of slowing down time (a la the movie the matrix) and speeding up time, despite the fact that the first main boss kicked my *** repeatedly b/c of the game’s significant learning curve. but after that everything was going fairly merrily along, until i got to the later levels, which seemed endless, and the bosses, all of whom just seemed to take forever to beat. and then i got really bored b/c the game just dragged on and on and was taking so long to get through, and then i finally got to the last section and was finding it impossible to beat. so i finally consulted a FAQ online and realized that i’d been a big dork and had been playing the game completely wrong and was making it about 10 times harder on myself than it actually was.
so what was the problem? well if you’ve played the game you’ll prob. laugh when i tell you that my problem was that i’d completely ignored the most powerful move of the game, the slow zoom punch (apparently a.k.a. the slowRHOH, i.e. the slow red hot one hundred), which does twice as much damage as the regular zoom punch. i must’ve learned the move when it was introduced in the game, but after trying it out and not really seeing much difference on the grunts, i had just chalked it up as being a fairly useless move like the “red hot kick” move and the zoom down/up moves and never used it again. so no wonder i’d thought the levels and all the bosses took way too long to beat, b/c if i’d used that move they would’ve taken me 1/2 as long. as it is, once i found out i should’ve been using that move from the beginning i breezed through the last stage of the game, and i’m sure that if i’d used it earlier i would’ve finished the game in a fraction of the time it had actually taken me. i’m not sure how much of this i can blame on the game itself and how much on my own stupidity, although part of the blame may be due to my habit of playing through the first couple of hours of a game and then setting it aside for months before picking it up again, by which time i’ve generally forgotten all the basics of the game. hopefully someone out there will tell me they’ve done the same thing so i feel a little less idiotic. i did feel better when i read about this guy who hadn’t realized that buying the life item actually extended his life meter, which prob. made his playthrough almost as much harder as my playthrough.
b/c of my skewed experience it’s a bit hard to give a fair assessment of the game. there was a lot i enjoyed, and the game would’ve been a pretty good length and not nearly as much of a challenge if i’d played it properly. all in all even if i hadn’t been an idiot i prob. would’ve given the game slightly higher than average marks. it has about as much variety in enemies and gameplay as the average beat ’em up and could’ve used more, although the ranking system and combo system are unique pluses. i’m not overly fond of beat ’em ups, but i’ll prob. play through the sequel at some point. and i should def. check out the cartoon as well sometime.
some viewtiful links:
– guide at IGN
– entry at wikipedia
– this rainbow V challenge in adult mode FAQ at IGN also includes some info on advanced techniques (although it’s not a challenge i have much desire to tackle)
– the only video i could find of gameplay as silvia and a tiny bit as sexy silvia
i’ve started several RPG’s in the past couple of years, but they just take forever to finish and a lot of times there’s just so much extra padding that i find it hard to stay involved. i finally sat down and finished one a couple of weeks ago, baten kaitos on the gamecube. baten kaitos was generally well received when it was released and was noteworthy for being one of the few major RPG exclusives to be released on the system, but the main draw is its unique card-based battle system. RPG battle systems in general seem to have moved away from the old-school turn-based battles, but baten kaitos keeps it fresh w/ a fantastic system that actually grows deeper over time: as you progress through the game you not only get better cards (for attacks, defense, and healing), but you also get to hold more cards in your hand and in your deck which keeps you strategizing all the way to the end of the game. the designers really hit on a great battle system on their first try, and it’s hard to imagine it being improved (and from what i’ve heard about the changes they added to the sequel/prequel, the system may have suffered from people not following the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”). there’s also a combo system in battle where if you play certain cards together you can get a new, more powerful card, but in general the combos are completely obscure and most of the time lead to cards that don’t do anything which feels like a missed opportunity.
along with the great battle system the game’s production values are generally pretty consistently high. the game has a fairly standard sort of RPG plot, but there are enough twists to keep you interested for the most part. although you’re given 6 characters, there’s really no incentive to use more than 3 or 4 since you can only take 3 into battle at one time. the graphics are pretty good in general, w/ creative use of the pseudo 3D perspective. puzzles generally take the form of mazes, although there are some nice twists thrown in, and there isn’t too much level grinding you have to do. the game element that seems to be unanimously derided is the poor voice acting. it didn’t bother me that much although it’s def. substandard. what would have really helped the game would have been to replace all the voice acting (of which there is tons) w/ at least a few FMV’s instead, esp. since the opening FMV is quite great. and as w/ a lot of games these days there are tons of pointless sidequests, but fortunately there aren’t many that you have to do. all in all this is a solid RPG and enjoyable overall, although i’m def. not going to be tracking down the sequel/prequel anytime soon. i’m also going to have to steer clear a bit more from RPG’s in general and limit myself to just a couple a year; like racers, i just can’t seem to stay engaged with them long enough to get to the end. i still have a few RPG’s i’ve delved into though, so i’ll prob. get a couple more done this year.
dealin’ out the links:
– entry at wikipedia
– best walkthrough i’ve come across: on IGN, spoiler free and covers the sidequests
– zillions of great FAQs at neoseeker.com covering everything, including combos, monster drops, etc.
– gamefaqs.com also has a slew of handy FAQs and a good general FAQ
– boss FAQ at IGN
– good review at IGN
– some guy on amazon has posted good reviews of baten kaitos and its sequel/prequel
– official artwork at rpgfan.com
another gaming first (this year has just been full of ’em) was beating my first sega genesis game, sonic the hedgehog which i played via the sonic mega collection on the gamecube. as you can guess this was also my first sonic game. like super mario world (which in NA came out just two months later) i’d tried out sonic 1 in the toy stores but o/w had never actually played through it. i have to say that i’d never actually even been that interested in sonic, but i got more interested due to a friend of mine in college who was a sega fanboy and obsessed w/ him, so much so that he dressed up as him for halloween. it’s gotta be a pretty rare sight to see a black guy w/ hair dyed blue and wearing red and white shoes running around, bumping into walls and dropping change. and of course my interest took a big leap when it was announced that sonic would be joining super smash bros. brawl, and so being the completist that i am i figured to begin my closer acquaintance w/ sonic i should start at the very beginning.
my mostly unbiased opinion is that overall sonic 1 isn’t a great game. one of the things that i never understood about why people liked sonic so much is that people always talk about how fast the games are, but in fact there actually aren’t that many opportunities to let loose and really zoom through a stage, especially since a lot of the time if you zoom past something you end up having to backtrack anyway. and without the speeding ball of hedgehog gimmick the game pretty much becomes just another platformer. and even after playing through the game i’m still not into the “get hit once and lose all your rings” setup, which isn’t much of a step above ghosts ‘n goblins’ get hit twice and die MO.
there are several “moments of brilliance” in the original, though, such as the bonus stages and some pinball-esque parts w/ sonic bouncing off of bumpers, and particularly the star light zone which does a better job than most of the rest of the game of making sonic’s speediness work w/ the level design. but in general aside from some great character design and graphics and music there wasn’t a whole lot to keep me interested. being a little disappointed i read up a bit on sonic 2, which generally seems to be regarded as the best in the series and seems to do a fair amount to remedy most of the problems i felt were in the original. i actually spent some time taking a “spin” through sonic 2, and already i can tell that i’m going to like that game a lot more. so w/ that said, hopefully the sonic fanboys won’t hate me too much until i post my assessment of sonic 2 and either see the light or give up on sonic completely.
some sonic links:
– walkthrough at IGN that includes the info on how to get continues
– cheats at IGN
– recent reviews on IGN of the XBLA release and the wii VC release, the latter of which also has a good review at vc-reviews.com
– endings at vgmuseum.com and video of the good ending at youtube
– list of the xbox 360 achievements for the game
– entry at strategywiki.org including a guide to the badniks
– entry at wikipedia
so i’m sure i’m not the only one who worked his way through fire emblem: path of radiance in preparation for the release of fire emblem: radiant dawn, its sequel. this would explain my hermit-like state for however long it took me to finish the game, a state that was uncannily similar to when i was playing fire emblem: the sacred stones and when i was playing the first US GBA fire emblem. by now i’ve learned my lesson that i should only start playing these games when i have a lot of free time.
despite being my 3rd fire emblem game (in some six months no less!), i found the experience to be as compelling as ever. the support conversations are still one of my top motivations for playing, and there were enough minor changes to the already compelling gameplay to keep me obsessed. i particularly liked one of the bigger changes, having half-beast characters with their advantages and limitations, although i can easily see why most people don’t seem to be fond of them. one area that i think the series could improve on in general are more ingenious level design, perhaps with different goals. but otherwise, even though it was pretty easy overall (maybe b/c i’m so far from being a rookie nowadays but also i think b/c of the addition of bonus experience), i had a great time. and if you were wondering, my dream team was: soren, boyd, kieran, nephenee, ike, ilyana, rhys, marcia, mia, and rolf. i’m def. chomping at the bit to play the new game, which was just released this week, but four fire emblem games in six months might be a wee bit much … you think? in any case i’m def. looking forward to seeing ike in brawl.
links of radiance:
– serenes forest: an amazing, amazing site. i don’t know how i missed this when i was playing the other games, but maybe the site was temporarily down at the time. so much great info here, including translations of the “ancient language”, info on in-built support bonuses (not mentioned in the instructions at all), wallpapers, sprites, bonus tables, the works. will be coming back to this again and again.
– good guide at gamerhelp.com
– FAQ at IGN
– guide at IGN
– marimbamonkey14 has some fantastic fire emblem fan art on deviantart.com
– the official site doesn’t have much, but it’s there if you’re obsessed with everything fire emblem (ahem …)
– there were some other fire emblem sites i mentioned in my previous posts that also have some good info, most of which can also be found on the aforementioned serenes forest
one of the main complaints about the wii is that the current library of must-have titles is fairly small, which was one of the gamecube’s biggest problems. the wii has only been out for a little less than a year, but just when i was starting to get worried more developers have announced wii titles, hoping to capitalize on the wii’s phenomenal success. from a business standpoint it makes sense for them, since wii titles will be significantly quicker and easier to make. in any case hopefully we should see some big changes soon.
regardless, this holiday season isn’t looking too shabby, which for the wii includes the release of fire emblem: radiant dawn, the sequel to fire emblem: path of radiance. there was a minor ruckus on IGN’s fire emblem message boards due to bozon’s egregiously rushed (and in my opinion completely unprofessional) review in which he dismisses the game on the grounds of it being a sequel and provides little to no detail about the game itself. in fact, the conspicuous lack of detail has led more than one reader to wonder whether he even played the game, which for such a respected site is just, in a word, pathetic. i am in no way exaggerating when i say it’s one of the shabbiest reviews i’ve ever read on a professional site. hopefully this doesn’t indicate IGN is jumping the shark, but this has been a big blow to their credibility and has lead me to a conveniently apt nickname for bozon, provided by simply removing the last letter of his name. i’ve been getting more and more disappointed in IGN’s reviews which seem to confuse aesthetic preferences in game design with unique and quality game experiences. the radiant dawn review reflects this, and casamassina in particular keeps complaining about games like zelda not featuring voice acting when the creators have made it clear that it’s an aesthetic choice. time will tell how loyal i stay to IGN, but in the meantime i’ve already started spending more time at other sites like 1up.com and i’ve always enjoyed the reviews at gonintendo.com. i also find myself often agreeing with the reviewers at nintendo power, so i may spend more time reading that as well.
well, that was a longer editorial than i’d meant it to be. i’ll split off what i was actually going to write about to make archiving more convenient.
finished resident evil 4 last week. i’d read in a lot of places that a lot of critics regard this as one of the best gamecube games and one of the best games ever, and although i enjoyed a lot about the game, overall i def. don’t count this among the best games i’ve played this year. i’m not at all familiar w/ the “survival-horror” genre, and it seems that a lot of the praise for the game comes from capcom’s decision to break the conventions of the other games in the series and move in a different direction. but just coming into it as a newbie i found the game, while atmospheric and quite excellent during the first two chapters, really dragged its way to the finish. this was largely due to the fact that by then much of the enemy variety had been exhausted, the difficulty lessened somewhat, and some of the showiest environments were packed into the beginning (e.g. the village, swamp, and besieged shack). there were also some areas in the castle section that distinctly reminded me of castlevania 64, which i had played earlier this year, including one place where the music was eerily very similar.
one thing worth noting is the excellent voice acting. kudos to paul mercier as the hero leon, and carolyn lawrence as his whiny sidekick ashley. and how’s this for a bit of trivia: carolyn lawrence is also the voice of the squirrel “sandy cheeks” on nickelodeon’s spongebob squarepants. awesome.
anyway, i won’t be replaying this anytime soon, although people have been raving about the wii-make which might be worth a playthrough. it’s interesting to note that on the IGN resident evil messageboard it seems that many fans prefer resident evil 2 or the remake of the original resident evil, both of which i’m interested in checking out. eventually!
one li’l link:
– good guide at IGN
finished prince of persia: the sands of time a week or so ago. yet again i find myself disagreeing with the popular opinion. i enjoyed the game elements that others have praised the game for, including good graphics, fluid animation, well-designed controls, decent story, and good gameplay mechanics. and i didn’t mind one of the main complaints people seem to have, which is that the fight mechanics (which, with their “finishing move”, reminded me a lot of eternal darkness) are too repetitive.
what most people don’t seem to find fault with, however, is how utterly repetitive the game is in general, and how it’s not enough of either an adventure game or a platformer to maintain much interest. the game, with its fluid controls, feels like it could’ve been a great platformer, but it lacks most of the things that make platformers interesting. instead the game is set up to be a sort of hybrid “puzzle” platformer, in that you’re supposed to figure out how to progress from one place to another. however, because there’s only one way to progress and there’s such a tiny number of things to try, it’s pretty much always immediately clear what to do. so most of the gameplay actually boils down to typical “pick up key, put in lock” mechanics, but as a platformer, where it’s “run along this wall to that ledge” or “climb the ladder” or “swing from this pole to that one”. where’s the puzzle in that? the majority of the rest of the “puzzles” are of the mind-numbing “push block to fit in this slot” variety and are hardly worth mentioning. in true platformers like super mario bros. at least you get to collect coins and powerups along the way, interact w/ enemies, and, more importantly, actually have to have some skill and good timing to get to the goal. in this i rarely felt like there was such skill required, although there were moments scattered throughout where i felt there were glimmers of the brilliant game this could’ve been.
so all in all not really a keeper, despite the high scores i’d seen. apparently the second of the trilogy wasn’t as well received, but based on what i’ve read the third might be more worthwhile. i guess i’ll have to work my way through the second before starting the third, although it’s going to be a good long while before i’m willing to pick it up and have to suffer through pushing more blocks around. may give the original game a go some time though (included as an unlockable in this version). oh, and apparently there’s going to be a movie from disney??
another quick soundtrack review from another game somewhat recently finished, pokémon colosseum, with music by tsukasa tawada. tawada is not among the team of composers of the handheld games, but his score is definitely enjoyable.
to accompany the desert setting of the game, tawada’s score has a strong country and western bent with some nice tunes for the harmonica. he effectively uses jazzy/bluesy music for the baddies (complete with fingersnaps) which gives them a kind of superior, aloof characterization that adds a lot to the game. there’s also some salsa-flavored music thrown in for some of the zanier bosses. and perhaps most importantly the battle music not only fits the mood well, but it doesn’t get old (which given how much you’ll be hearing it is definitely a good thing).