Monday, June 4, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Now that Gamestop has officially cut off trade-ins on Gamecube games, it's time to go back and look at the best of an era.
Nintendo's Gamecube, originally, code named "dolphin," was a real underdog in the console wars. Even so, there's still so much epic win on this console, that I suspect it will have its fans for quite a while. Let's look back on the best of the best, from a console that hasn't seen a new game in five years.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
5. Christopher (Shadows of the Damned)
Christopher is not so much creepy as he is misunderstood. It's easy to brush him off as another demon at first glance, but he's got his charms. I still can't forget that cut scene when you first meet him. Of all the faces he could have made, why did he have to choose this one?
4. The Merchant (Resident Evil 4)
"Geetings, Strange-ah!" Just the way that he greets you is more than slightly unsettling. When you factor in the firepower he's packing at some of his shops, you really have to worry that this guy isn't going to go on a murderous spree or fund people who will. I dunno about this one, he just seems like a loose trigger.
3. Plasma Man (Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon)
2. Happy Mask Salesman (Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask)
Yeah...this is one guy you don't want to make angry. One minute, he's all smiles. The next, he's about ready to slit your throat. He really needs to relax. Perhaps a cruise to Koholint island would give him the stress relief he needs...
1. Great Fairy (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
I'm not even going to say anything about this one. Just watch the video...
Are you creeped out yet? Good! I'll see you again in two weeks.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
|That's not what I meant by player versus player...|
If PvP is going to work, you cannot have a penalty for dying due to PvP, especially in the open world. Having an arena or specified PvP zone is helpful, especially if the No Death Penalty applies there. Penalizing someone for being killed by someone 40 levels their senior is just not good planning at all. Ideally, PvP needs its own arena. If that's not feasible, enable someone to "flag" themselves as open to PvP, but keep it to players within the same level. I remember hearing a story about a level 1 fighter in Final Fantasy XI, who was challenged by a level 60+ character to a duel. People started stopping to watch, just to see if the underdog could do it. Some white mages started healing the fighter, and black mages stunned/debuffed the higher level character to keep him from attacking. By the end of the fight, the spry little dude had quite the following. So I'm told, he actually won the duel, too.
PvP does not necessarily have to be one on one, either. Before it was shuttered, All Points Bulletin, or APB, had an interesting take on PvP. The duel system, or whatever they called it, would, on occasion, pair three or more level 20 characters against one level 40 character, where the weaker team would have to use smarts, teamwork, and a little luck to bring down the higher level character. Game Informer pointed out that this system was actually surprisingly balanced, and the match would be a fair fight. Go figure. It would be interesting to see more MMOs approach PvP in this way, and give the underdogs an entertaining fight.
One of the main endgame features for many MMOs is the raid system. Usually, this involves gathering a group of twenty or so friends to beat the snot out of a huge "boss" monster. At the end of the fight, the boss will drop a rare item that can only be obtained through that raid. This can add a sense of community to a game, especially if the raid requires a large number of people. On the other hand, it also can be the only place where players can obtain some of the best items in game.
One pitfall that MMOs should avoid in this field is the trope of making the high value drops too rare. If the players need this gear but can't get it in a timely manner, they will get discouraged and give up on playing. In addition to the grind issues that Silk Road Online had, getting the "good" equipment, known as Seal of Star, was an exercise in futility. Seriously, it seemed like the game would drop you one every 16 levels or so, if you're very, very lucky. A mid-30s set of armor would cost 1 Million gold per piece or more, and Seal of Star weapons at the same level would go for 5 to 10 Million gold. Seal of Moon/Seal of Sun armors and weapons would go for two or even three times their Seal of Star counterparts. This wouldn't be an issue if it weren't so blasted difficult to earn gold in the game. You can see why gold farming is so pervasive in Silk Road. This video captures my sentiments.
Thankfully, there's an MMO out there that has elevated this balance to an art form. Phantasy Star Online kept a fantastic balance of rarity and availability. The boss fights were challenging, but the rewards were worth it. They also weren't as ubiquitous as World of Warcraft's current shenanigans. Sega may have shut down its Dreamcast servers back in 2003, but fans have operated private servers ever since, a testament to the staying power of Phantasy Star Online. Even the Gamecube and Xbox versions have numerous private servers available for fans of this classic.
The MMO genre has opened up a new layer of social activity to the average gamer. We've covered a lot of ground over the years, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Developers should learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, or else we will never see progress. This concludes part two of my rant. Do you think there's another trope that should go? Sound off in the comments below!
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
|When in doubt...|
Since there's a wealth of information to cover, I'm going to turn this into a two part series. Part two will go live next week, so stay tuned!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Price : $7.99 at Gamestop, $4.99-$27.49 on Amazon
Rating: Teen: Comic Mischief, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes
Save file size: 4 Blocks*
Other Notes: Progressive scan compatible. Connect your GCN Memory Card to F-Zero AX arcade machine for bonus features.
*game save requires 4 blocks. To use the Garage and make custom vehicles, this feature requires an additional 18 blocks.
The F-Zero Series has been around since the Super Nintendo era, and it still packs the same "oomph" that it did way back when. The game is set in the future and centers around high speed (and stakes) hovercraft racing. Racers have different stats based around body resilience, boost speed, weight, and surface grip. As you complete GP circuits, you can unlock up to 30 different characters.
Let me get this out now: this game is blisteringly fast. I cannot count the number of times that I had trouble keeping up with what was happening on-screen. Graphically, the game is gorgeous and the GCN's processor does a good job keeping up with all the action on the track. I don't recall seeing any chopping or pauses while playing the game. Tracks are varied and diverse, and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge several tracks offered. The AI is smart and challenging, and will test even the most seasoned racing veteran. Time trial, GP, and versus modes keep the replay value on this game very high
No game is without its flaws, and F-Zero GX is no exception. Story mode, where most of the goodies are unlocked, is either mind-numbingly easy or so hard it seems broken. I did not like the story mode at all. The garage, where you can create your own custom racers takes waaaay too much space on the memory card for what it provides. Custom racers look like poorly made lego creations, and lack the panache that the pre-rendered vehicles deliver. The Emblem editor is impossible to use for all but those with master's degrees in graphic design. Even then, the emblems don't look all that great in the first place. When left on the system defaults, the controls are inhumanly tight. You need to calibrate the game for your controller each time you start it up, especially if you use a different controller each time. I'm just glad they included controller calibration in this game.
This game sort of reminds me of Star Wars: Episode I Racer for the N64. It has similar challenge while keeping up the fun factor. There's enough diversity in the 30 different racers to give a good romp to any race fan. The learning curve for this game is painstakingly steep, and will require serious practice before newcomers will be able to race with the best. Once you've crossed all the necessary hurdles, this game will keep you coming back for more.
Parent's notes: This game packs a lot of challenge. While there's not a whole lot of questionable content, the steep learning curve will drive away most youngsters looking for a race. It's alright for the teenager, but younger audiences will have difficulty understanding what's going on.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Save file size: 5 blocks
Price: $4.99 at Gamestop
Rating: Teen: Suggestive Themes, Violence
Capcom has a reputation for some absolutely amazing titles in their library. Street Fighter and Mega Man come to mind. They've also had some rather hit-or-miss titles out there, too. Take my first post on this blog, Crimson Tears. It's these lesser know titles that have a very unique flair to them. P.N.03 is no exception.
The Game starts out outside this giant complex. You take on the role of Vanessa Schneider, a bounty hunter for hire. As she progresses through the game, she has several trite conversations with her client that reveal there's more to her than she's leading on. This sets the stage for a rather unique experience. For games of this style, it's rather odd to see them on the gamecube. You'd almost expect this out of the PS2 or the Xbox, but no. This one's a gamecube exclusive.
The music, oh the music! If you like electronica, you'll love this soundtrack. Even if you're not the type for electronic, it's still worth checking out. The BGM (background music) follows more of the trance routine, and stays away from the bizarre. It's good stuff to whet your teeth on, to be sure.
Vanessa's attacks have a sort of rave-ish dance style to them. It's rather fitting, given the soundtrack. Some of the more advanced attacks have a rather unique beauty to them, in the way that she disposes of nemeses with style. It took me a very long time to figure out that special attacks (swan, et al) are activated with the D-pad, and not the analog stick. Anyways, I digress.
As Vanessa vanquishes foes, she gains points, which she can use at the end of levels to upgrade and buy new suits. I found the defensive suits to be severely lacking, and really wish they had a little more variety in customization. If you find yourself short a few thousand points and don't want to trifle with another level, you can do some of the challenge stages in between levels. These stages are essentially random dungeon crawls that yield a few thousand points per run. they're pretty fun, and add at least a little replay value to the game.
Some of the bosses in this game were a little too tough to beat, especially if you didn't have the right suit upgraded to the max. This was more than just a little annoying for me, as I had to start over at least once to get the right configuration to win.
This is another one of those games that's really tough to review. There are parts that I loved, and parts that drove me completely insane. It's got a lot going for it, especially in the environment and music. Balance issues and challenge can tear it down, though. Overall, it's a solid game. Not perfect, but not terrible. I'd say try it out, but the game is really hit or miss. You'll either love it, or you'll want to chuck it out the window.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Found in GameStop's Used GCN games section
It's a generally well-known fact within hardcore gaming circles that video games based off of movie and book franchises suck. I had exactly that impression going into reviewing this game. Looking at the price, I was planning on making this my first “bad game” review. This game both confirmed and rejected my assumptions. Curious? Read on.
Starting off, the opening cinematic is impressive. I laughed at the fact that they included classical music in the game. When you start the game, there's a cinematic in which Harry Potter himself talks to you about what Quidditch is, how it works, and what to expect. It's kinda sad, but his head looks like it's detached from the rest of his body. I couldn't stop laughing about this.
The start of the game is rather simplistic, though very helpful. You choose a house (all from Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin) and meet the team captain. Knowing everyone else is just going to take Gryffindor, I chose Ravenclaw as the first team to play as. Cho Chang greeted me, and got the training underway. You complete challenges that help you get better at the game, while earning Quidditch Cards in the process. Quidditch Cards determine what game modes, special moves, and what-not are unlocked. It's a rather engaging process that has you working to get matches unlocked to work your way up to the house cup. I felt that the training mode was very slow moving, though I can't speak for everyone. Given that this game is marketed at kids and not at adults, I suppose I should be more understanding.
Once you complete the challenges, you can start matches for the Hogwarts House Cup. The early matches are simplified down, and really easy to win. After a period of time with passing and scoring with the quaffle, the chase for the golden snitch starts. The snitch will produce a yellow trail that will increase your boost meter when you fly in it. Your seeker's goal is to boost close enough to the snitch that you can press the “catch” button and end the game. My first three matches against the other Hogwarts houses were utter slaughters. 300+ points to 0, in most cases. I think my match as Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff was 440 to 0.
Once I finished the Hogwarts cup, I moved on to the Quidditch World Cup, which, in my humble opinion, is where this game really shines. Personally, I love the Quidditch World Cup mode. You have three teams available at first: England, USA, and Japan. There are four different difficulty modes to unlock: Comet , Nimbus 2000, Nimbus 2001, and Firebolt. My first league was on the Nimbus 2000 difficulty, which was a welcome challenge compared to the sweeps of the Hogwarts cup. Each of the teams has their own unique feel to them, which was entertaining to watch. The stadiums are nothing short of beautiful in QWC mode. I loved Japan, Spain and the Nordic Team's stadiums. It was nice to see random weather conditions in the stadiums, where applicable. At a few matches in England's stadium, the sun was shining brightly, other matches were rainy with a bleak gray sky.
There is a lot more going on in the QWC mode, to be sure. Bludger attacks can steal the quaffle from your opponent, but you have to work up to them. The special moves have to be charged up to use, which means you have to play them wisely, not just flippantly. I should also note that the combo system is a lot of fun to use, especially when you can link it into a special move. Dodging, steals, and power shots all add to the cinematic experience. All special moves are named in the inventory, as well as how to pull them off. I noticed that several moves were mapped to a particular button press, which simply randomized what special move was completed. Kind of annoying, especially if you wanted to try to pull off a particular special move.
Some of the Team special moves seemed a little too clichéd for my taste. For example, the USA's team special move looked way too much like basketball, and Japan's looked like something out of a Kung-Fu movie, which would have been more of a Chinese convention, anyway. Most people aren't going to care, but it irked me for some odd reason.
Every so often, there will be a cinematic after a goal, in which the one who scored the goal does some sort of cheer, high five with a teammate, etc. The animations are all the same, but the character models switch out regularly. I would've liked to see a beater come out and high five a teammate once or twice, but that's nitpicking. A lot of the game-ending animations seem recycled, and by the time you hit the QWC, you're wanting to skip the ending animation because you've seen it so many times already.
The GameCube version of HP:QWC sports a co-operative mode with a second player who has a GBA and HP:QWC for the GBA. Linking the GBA to the GameCube brings in some new options for each player. I do not have a copy of HP:QWC for the GBA, so I've had to miss out on this part. There's also a 2-player competitive mode, in which two people can play against each other in any stadium unlocked. Gaining more Quidditch cards will unlock more teams and stadiums to play in. Players can use Hogwarts teams or QWC teams, but the two cannot overlap. I didn't enjoy the multiplayer as much, it just didn't have a good feel to it. Having a four player mode would've been nice, too.
I really wish there was more unlockable content besides the extra difficulty modes. It would've been cool to see more stadium options, characters, or even secret teams. I can't see hardcore gamers staying at this one much beyond the Firebolt difficulty and completing the league challenges. Some of the steals in this game are blatantly overpowered, and really unbalance the game.
It's interesting to see a game based off of J.K Rowling's Harry Potter universe that's not closely tied to the story lines of the books. I enjoyed the harder difficulties in QWC mode, though I suppose that younger gamers would enjoy seeing Harry Potter in action, especially winning the Hogwarts Quidditch Cup as the hero. For $3.99, the price is definitely right. If you can handle the slow pace of the training mode, you'll enjoy the later game modes. I wouldn't recommend this title as much to people who didn't enjoy the books. A lot of the game's pizazz comes from reading about the game in the books. Overall, it's not a bad game, but it's not fantastic either.
Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup is aimed at a younger audience, and this game has little that most parents should object to. Parents concerned about the use of magic will find little of the sort in this game, if at all. This game focuses on the popular sport in the wizarding world, and any magic involved would be in levitation or bright sparkles. I say that this game is more than appropriate for children, and while parents would probably tire of it faster than the kids, this game gets my thumbs-up as a game that the whole family can enjoy and even play together.