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12 August 2009

Opoona [Wii]

Plot Synopsis: 8/10
Opoona is about a family who's spaceship is attacked, at which point they crash land on a nearby planet. The three children (incluing Opoona, the main character), having gotten into escape pods at the last moment, came out of the wreck with relatively light injuries, but their parents were in worse shape. Thus, they set out on a quest to try to get what they need to heal their parents, while trying to contribute to society on the planet they find themselves on.
I'll give the plot an 8 out of 10. It's a refreshing variation on the usual "I have to save so-and-so!" type of story that pollutes video games. It also seems to have a bit of a message about contributing to society as a whole instead of just acting with just your own interests in mind.

Game Play: 7/10
A lot of the controls are handled by the Wii controller's nunchuck attachment, but I feel like they didn't need to be. It almost feels like they programmed the game that way just for the sake of including the attachment, even though it wasn't entirely necessary. Even the main characters' attacks, in the battle scenes, are controlled with the joystick on the nunchuck.
Beyond that, the controls are pretty intuitive. Nunchuck joystick controls your movement. B-trigger and the Z-button both bring up the menu screen. The only thing tricky is getting the camera angle to revert back to looking at things from behind Opoona, as you have to press the C and Z buttons on the nunchuck at the same time, which occasionally results in bringing up the menu screen by accident.
The battle sequences are nice, because they're not always just aim-then-fire. Occasionally, you find yourself in a situation where you have to send your attack around an obstacle to reach your enemies. There is also a 2-minute limit on each battle. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem, but there will occasionally be bombs on the battlefield that will detonate and damage you if you damage them, thus preventing you from using an attack that damages everything on the battlefield. It presents an interesting challenge, and keeps things from being too easy and boring.
I'll give the game play a 7 out of 10. The controls are relatively intuitive, but I don't think the nunchuck attachment was really necessary. Also, there are a couple of battles where the 2-minute timer becomes downright problematic, but for the most part, it isn't an issue. Most battles are usually decided within about 15 or 20 seconds, once you're really into the game.

Graphics: 6/10
The graphics are very stylized, and a bit cartoony. I think that helps offset the relative darkness of the "we have to help mom and dad before they die from their injuries" aspect of the story. It's clear, from the graphics, that in spite of the story, the developers were not going for a dark and gritty über-serious game. The graphics are also fairly easy to read. I don't remember any instances where I couldn't tell what something was supposed to be, so they clearly did their job well enough.
I'll give the graphics a 6 out of 10. Admittedly, I'm letting my own personal opinion of the graphics weigh in on the score, here. I just didn't like the visual style.

Audio: 5/10
No voice acting in this game. The music is just your standard, forgettable, looped video game background music. Nothing spectacular about it at all. It isn't so horrible that I feel a need to set the TV to mute, but it's not great, either. The sound effects work fine. They do what they need to do, and don't sound weird or out-of-place. Although, the sound of the hoverboard does remind me a bit of the Jetsons.
I'll give the audio a 5 out of 10. Some of the points lost for the boring music were regained by the adequate sound effects.

Overall Score: 6.5/10
I don't really know what else to say, here. The game was mediocre at best. I highly doubt I'll ever bother playing through it a second time. It was fun enough, but it has little to no replay value, in my opinion.

09 August 2009

Dementium: The Ward [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 2/10
In Dementium: The Ward, you play a character who has awoken inside a bloody, seemingly-abandoned mental institution. Outside the building, it is night time, and there is a thunderstorm going on. Oh, and of course, the power has gone out. So, instead of getting the hell out of there, like a normal person would, you decide to try to restore the power and find out what the hell is going on. Which, of course, is a good thing, since otherwise, we'd have no game. As you explore the building, you begin to encounter horrifying monsters that just shouldn't exist. Unfortunately, the basics of this concept have not just been done before, but were done better (Resident Evil, anyone?). The end (don't worry, I won't give it away) left much to be desired. I'm still not really sure what was supposed to have happened.
As a result, i have no choice but to give the plot a 2 out of 10. Just not impressed.

Game Play: 7/10
Dementium is a First-Person Shooter. A lot of the basic movement and weapon selection were handled via the DS's touch screen. The rest is the same basic mechanics as many other FPS titles out there. In other words, shoot the creatures that jump out at you as you walk around.
I'll give the game play a 7 out of 10. In my opinion, there are still some bugs to work out, but I really appreciate that the game developers took the time to work the DS's touch screen in to something tried and true like a First-Person Shooter format.

Graphics: 8/10
I have no complaints about the graphics. Generally speaking, the times I couldn't tell what something was, it was either because it was a monster, or it was an item that, for the sake of progressing the story, I was supposed to get closer to and examine anyway. Otherwise, it was pretty easy to figure out what I was looking at, at any given moment.
I'll give the graphics and 8 out of 10. They did their job, and did it well. As I said, no complaints.

Audio: 8/10
The voice-acting was good. The only characters that sounded over-the-top were the ones that were SUPPOSED to sound that way. Everyone else just sounded normal and natural. The music was unfortunately a bit cliched and overdone. You had your typical minor-key piano melodies over distorted guitars. The occasional creepy sound effects. Basically, your average horror game music. There was some good placement of sound effects throughout the game, though, that added well to the creepiness factor of the game.
I'll therefore give the audio an 8 out of 10. I probably would have scored it higher if the music, itself, wasn't cliched and overdone for this genre.

Overall Score: 6.25/10
Honestly, the numbers average out to a higher score than I was expecting. The plot is where this game really falls apart. I can't say it would have been a great game with a better plot, but it would have been a step up from this game. By the time I got around to playing this game, the developer had already announced a sequel. After playing this one, I highly doubt I will bother picking up the sequel.

Boing! Docomodake DS [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 3/10
Boing! Docomodake DS is a game based on the mascot character for a Japanese cell phone company. Papa Docomodake's family has gotten lost, and it is up to you to find each member of the family in time for the annual festival in nearby Docomodake forest. Once you've found them all, the game is over.
I'll give the plot a 3 out of 10. It's a fairly cliched concept, and nothing is fleshed out beyond what you're told on the back of the game case. If you've read the two sentences on the case that describe the game, you know the entire story.

Game Play: 7/10
You control Papa Docomodake, a mushroom-like creature who can split into several smaller versions of himself. When you start the game, you can separate into 4. As the game progresses, the number of smaller Docomos you can split into increases. These smaller Docomos, called Roly-Polys, can be used for a number of purposes. They can be stacked to build a makeshift ladder for you to climb. They can be thrown at certain enemies, obstacles, or switches. They can be used to weigh things down. You get the idea. They serve as a sort of all-purpose tool.
Progressing through the game is done by solving puzzles to make your way through the obstacles in front of you. More often than not, this requires the use of your Roly-Polys. Unfortunately, while things do get a bit more complicated, the further into the game you get, the methods are usually similar enough that I tended to get a bit bored, if I tried to play this game for more than, say, half an hour at a time. Any more than that, and the game began to feel tedious and repetitive.
The control scheme was interesting. You simply press Up on the d-pad to jump. Pressing left or right, on the d-pad, twice, in quick succession, would make Docomo roll in that direction. Splitting off a Roly-Poly is achieved by a simple click and drag on the touch screen. Certain aspects of the control scheme weren't quite intuitive, but they also weren't so bad that I couldn't accomplish anything.
I'll give the game play a 7 out of 10. The game is fun, but it is best suited for those times when you are simply bored and have 10 or 15 minutes to kill.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics follow a very cartoon-like style, which, in my opinion, is perfect for this game. The animation is fairly smooth. Everything is easy to read and understand.
For all the reasons I mentioned above, I'll give the graphics a 9 out of 10. They work very well for what the game is.

Audio: 6/10
There is no voice-acting in this game, and the music is, quite frankly, forgettable. It was always appropriately upbeat, and fit well with the game, but there was nothing about it that made me sit up and take notice, at any given point.
I'll give the audio a 6 out of 10. No voice-acting is better than bad voice-acting, and the music was passable.

Overall Score: 6.25/10
This game was fun enough to pass the time at those moments when i needed to kill 10 or 15 minutes, but it wasn't really enough to keep me riveted, playing for hours on end. To be honest, I highly doubt i'd even bother playing through it a second time. I could, but I just don't feel the need.

21 July 2009

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 8/10
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed takes place between Episodes 3 and 4 of the Star Wars saga. It tells the tale of Darth Vader's secret apprentice, who he takes on as a bid to overthrow the Emperor. In the movies, in Episode 3, we see the Emperor's true rise to power, then in Episode 4, the Empire is in the midst of a full-fledged war with the Rebellion. This game addresses some of the gaps between those two chapters of the saga. Unfortunately, there really isn't much more I can say without giving away some major plot points and twists.
I will give the story an 8 out of 10. As I mentioned, the game does address a couple of holes in the saga, as a whole. But, in all, there isn't a lot to the story. In spite of the relative lack of story, there are a few well-placed details that will make any die-hard Star Wars fan question certain elements of the entire mythos.

Game Play: 10/10
The controls are pretty intuitive, here. The directional pad does exactly what you'd expect. The A, B, X, and Y buttons act the same as the directional pad, to compensate for left-handed players. All of your attack functions are handled via a sort of button display on the touch screen. As you progress, you learn combos, where you can press certain "buttons" on the touch screen in a specific order to unleash more powerful attacks. And, in case you forget how to perform those combos, you can pause at any time during your missions and pull up a menu that lists all of the combos you've learned so far with a diagram showing how to perform them.
I'll give the game play a 10. It wasn't buggy. It was very easy to learn. It had easy access to the more difficult aspects of fighting. Most importantly, for me, it actually utilized the DS's touch screen, which not enough games do, in my experience.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics are about as good as one can expect from a handheld. Anyone familiar with the Star Wars franchise will be able to tell what's what. Most of the time. Admittedly, there was one planet whose inhabitants were a bit hard to read, on such a small scale, but for the most part, the graphics were clear enough.
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. I strongly suspect that the size of the screens hurt the visuals, in a few spots.

Audio: 10/10
There was no voice acting in the DS installment of this game. The music was exactly what you'd expect from a Star Wars title. Big, orchestrated pieces that always fit well with the scene.
I'll give the audio a 10. No complaints what so ever. The folks at Lucasarts perfected the blending of background music and sound effects a long time ago, and this game doesn't disappoint.

Overall Score: 9/10
This game is so well-assembled, that I'm tempted to pick up the Wii version just to see how much better it can get, when there are fewer limits on the visuals. I think this is the highest score i've ever given a game, and I really hope that's not just the Star Wars geek in me coming out.

16 July 2009

The Dark Spire [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 7/10
A tower has arisen near the town. Rumor has it that within the tower resides a former aide to the king, who has stolen a treasure that was very dear to the king. Many adventurers have tried to climb to the top of the tower to reclaim the treasure, to no avail. As the player, you are tasked with creating a team of four characters to make another attempt at the tower.
Fairly unoriginal, as far as RPGs and dungeon-crawlers go, but some of the side-quests make things pretty interesting. I'll give the story a 7 out of 10, mainly for the side quests.

Game Play: 9/10
The game play is pretty straight-forward. You start by creating your party. You choose every detail from the characters' names and races to their classes and stats. A true old-school RPG. Strangely, though, Atlus did not opt to allow players to choose the characters' genders, but oh, well. Once you create your characters, there's a bit of training, then you're sent off on your own, at which point, you stock up, in town, then head for the tower. Once inside, you make your way around, mapping out each floor and fighting the monsters that dwell within the tower as you go. You generally have to complete certain tasks before you can proceed to the next floor, but once that is done, it doesn't need to be done again the next time you visit the tower. At any time, you may choose to vacate the tower and return to town to heal up and replenish your stock of helpful items, or buy newer, better equipment. Fighting the monsters within the tower will give you experience points that you may use to level up your character class, improve a character's stats, or learn skills that may become necessary later.
I'll give the game play a 9 out of 10. Everything about it is old tried-and-true dungeon-crawler RPG fare. I just wish that, since the game was developed and released for the Nintendo DS, that the developers made a little more use of the touch screen.

Graphics: 8/10
There are two sets of graphics for this game, that you may switch back and forth between. The first is a white-lines and text on black background style from the earliest days of polygon-based video game graphics. Personally, I find it a bit tough to play the game using this set-up on such a small screen, but it's a nice throwback to the early days of gaming. The other graphics are more current, and actually look like whatever you're supposed to be looking at. The visual style is very dark, with a lot of shadows. While, it looks fine after you've have a little time to get used to it, it can be tough, on occasion, to make out what you're supposed to be seeing. Unfortunately, I can't tell if that was deliberate or not, on the part of the developer.
I'll give the graphics and 8 out of 10. While I never use the older-style graphics set, I like that Atlus included it. If the other graphics set was a little... i don't know... less dark, i guess, i'd probably score it higher.

Audio: 7/10
While I can't find anything technically wrong with the music, I do have to admit that the music annoys the hell out of me. But again, on the rare occasions that I try playing WITHOUT the volume turned all the way down, I can't find anything technically wrong with it. The volume of the music and the sound effects tend to be pretty evenly matched, so that neither one drowns out or overpowers the other.
I'll give the audio a 7 out of 10, because it's technically fine, but annoys me to no end.

Overall Score: 7.75/10
This game is an old-school RPG, and nothing more. There's nothing wrong with it, per se. However, in this day and age, with games that have cinema scenes that last for several minutes at a time, and have all kinds of plot twists and big, drawn-out fight scenes, a basic dungeon-crawler RPG like this, while good, tends to fall a little flat.

Patapon 2 [PSP]

Plot Synopsis: 6/10
Patapon 2 continues the story, where the first game left off, of the Patapons' search for Earthend. The game starts off with the Patapons being shipwrecked in a new land, and finding a new enemy tribe to face off against. The basics are just more of the same, really, with the Patapons fighting their way through one stretch of land after another. Some of those areas become hunting grounds, once the enemy tribe is cleared out. The rest become a chance to simply re-fight the same battle again, for crucial items. This continues, mission after mission, until you finally reach the final boss.
I'll give the story a 6 out of 10. It's fun and interesting, but I find other aspects of the game keeping me engaged more than the story.

Game Play: 9/10
Okay. So, the basics of the game play are identical to the first game. Press the buttons in time with the beat to command the Patapons. The commands you give them are what determines their success. Easy enough. However, there are a few differences in other areas. First of all, there are more bosses in Patapon 2 than there were in the first game. Secondly, some of these bosses are FAR more difficult than anything in the original Patapon.
One difference I found myself grateful for is the fact that it seems like Patapon 2 is a bit more forgiving, should your button-pressing fall ever-so-slightly off beat. The game won't let it slide forever, mind you. But if you press a button a fraction of a second off the beat, you won't necessarily screw up your army. There were even a few times, while playing, that I missed the beat so much that I thought for sure I was going to trip up my army, but the game registered it as still being on beat, and they continued on their way as though nothing happened.
Another major difference is the way you construct your army of Patapons. This time around, there's an entire gridwork through which you can evolve existing Patapons to new forms. You do have to create certain forms before you can unlock other forms. Each new form has it's own strengths and weaknesses that can be either an advantage or a hinderance, depending on the boss you are fighting at the moment. Luckily, once a given Patapon has taken a particular form, if you find yourself having trouble with a particular boss, you can go in and change your Patapons back to other forms that may do better in the battle.
I'm giving the game play a 9 out of 10. It seems like they took the ideas they had in the first game, and expanded on them rather well, making for a well-rounded experience.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics are identical to the original Patapon, and, for what the game is, didn't need to be improved at all. Thus, I'll maintain my rating from my review of Patapon and give the graphics an 8 out of 10. Simple and stylized for a unique look. What more do you need, for a game like this?

Audio: 9/10
Again, not much has changed, in regards to the music. It is all still very tribal and percussion-heavy. The music is still catchy enough to make you bounce and tap your foot a bit as you're playing. The voices and music tend to mix and blend just a bit better than the first time around.
I'll give the audio a 9 out of 10. The sound wasn't mind-blowing, but it was incredibly appropriate for the overall feel of the game.

Overall Score: 8/10
This game is very well put together. I think they could have done just a bit more with the story, but they made up for that with the improvements and changes to the game play. Personally, I think this is a very good game, and well worth the download.

12 July 2009

DS Lite vs. DSi

Okay. For once, instead of my usual game review, I'm going to do a side-by-side comparison of Nintendo's DS Lite and DSi handhelds.

Shared features
Both systems are hinged, so that they can fold closed when not in use, to protect the dual screens. The bottom screen is a touch screen, for which a stylus is included with the system.

First of all, the screens on the DSi are ever-so-slightly larger than the screens on the DS Lite. Honestly, I don't feel that the larger size makes enough of a difference to matter.
The DS Lite has a slot for Game Boy Advance cartridges, allowing the player to play GBA titles on their DS Lite. This slot has also been the focus of developers interested in creating peripherals for use with DS games, such as the guitar controller for the Guitar Hero On Tour franchise, the pedometer included with My Weight Loss Coach, as well as Nintendo's own Rumble Pak, for use with certain games. Unfortunately, the DSi has eliminated this feature, thus preventing users from taking advantage of all of the features of some games, or even preventing them from even playing the Guitar Hero On Tour franchise entirely.
One of the features added, with the extra room made from removing the GBA slot, is a camera. While this could possibly make for some interesting game features, in the hands of the right developers, I'm a bit disappointed in the quality of the camera. My Blackberry has a better camera than the DSi.
The DSi also has access to Nintendo's new online DSi Shop, where you can download apps and games for use on your DSi. I must admit, I like the idea of the DSi Shop, and kind of wish it was possible for the DS Lite to access it. Oh, well.
Another nice addition to the DSi is the SD card slot. This comes in handy when you want to save the apps and games you've downloaded from the DSi shop externally to make room for more downloads, or if, for whatever reason, you want to save the low-resolution pictures you'll get from the DSi's camera. The addition of an SD card slot only makes sense, next to the DSi Shop and the built-in camera, so I have no complaints, there.

Final Opinion
In case you couldn't tell from everything I've said so far, personally, I prefer the DS Lite to the DSi. I like the DSi Shop, and I like that I can save my downloads to an SD card. Unfortunately, I still have some Game Boy Advance games I enjoy playing, and do not like losing the GBA slot that the DS Lite has. Also, from what I've seen so far, I think there is a lot of untapped potential regarding the idea of developing peripherals to be inserted into the GBA slot to make for a more interesting DS game.
In my opinion, I feel that the DS Lite is better for us long-time gamers, while the DSi is better for those who just recently started getting into video games.

10 May 2009

Patapon [PSP]

Plot Synopsis: 7/10
At the start of a new game, you become the new god over the Patapons. It is your task to use your drum to issue commands that will ultimately lead them to their former land-conquering glory, and lead them to Earthend. In order to do so, you must defeat the evil Zigotons, who have conquered the land in the Patapons' absence.
I'll give the story a 7 out of 10. It's pretty simple, really. But then, it's just a music game, along the lines of DDR and Guitar Hero, so the story doesn't need to be terribly complex.

Game Play: 8/10
The most important part of Patapon is the sound. This game is rhythm-based, and you have to be able to hear what is happening in order to get anywhere. In fact, it's so important, that one of my cats started yowling, while I was playing, and I had to calm him down before I could continue in the game, because I couldn't concentrate on keeping the beat.
You play the part of the Patapons' god, armed with a drum with which to command them. As you play, you gain more drums. Playing different combinations of drums will make the Patapons do different things, like walking, attacking, defending, among other things. The catch is, you have to play the drums to the beat of the music that's playing in the background. If your timing is off, the Patapons will trip up, and your command will fail. There is a visual cue, as well, but it can be very hard to sync up with just that. Personally, I have an easier time playing the drums to the beat of the music.
For the most part, the game is a side-scrolling platformer, without the genre's usual jumping. Again, this keeps the game simple so that you can concentrate on keeping the beat to accomplish your goals.
I think the biggest challenge in the game is getting the materials you need to create stronger Patapons. It can be difficult, at times, as well as a bit time-consuming.
I'll give the game play an 8 out of 10. I would have liked to see some of the materials necessary for the creation of certain types of Patapon be a bit more readily available. Otherwise, this is a fun, relatively easy to manage game. Though, admittedly, a good sense of rhythm is necessary to really excel at the game.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics are very simple, which is good. You have characters that are, essentially, just black graphic images on simple, relatively flat backgrounds. This is good because, as the game is rhythm-based, and you have to concentrate on the sound, you don't want to get too wrapped up in the visuals. For what the game is, I think the graphics are ideal, personally.
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. They keep the visuals simple, allowing you to pay attention to what you need to pay attention to: the sound.

Audio: 9/10
The Audio, in Patapon, is very fun. The music has a very tribal, almost primal feel to it, as it is very drum-heavy. You almost can't help but bounce and dance a bit to the music as you play. More often than not, i found that tapping my foot along with the beat helped me to keep the beat better, and kept me in better control of my Patapons. The voices, meanwhile, tended to sound somewhat child-like, which was also quite fitting, for the somewhat immature nature of the Patapons personalities. My only issue is that the voices are a bit loud in comparison to the music, to the point that they can sound a bit grating at times. But for the most part, they're just fine.
I'll give the audio a 9 out of 10. The music and voices blend together to make a near-perfect soundtrack for what the game is.

Overall Score: 8/10
This game was insanely fun, for me. I often found myself playing for a couple of hours at a time, as I tried to build up my army between missions. The game designers kept the visuals and the story relatively simple, so they wouldn't get in the way of what the game is really about: the music. It's a lot of fun, and I'd gladly recommend it to anyone.

09 May 2009

Echoes of Time review revised!

Due to updated information pertaining to the game, the review for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time has been revised. This will not be a common occurrence. If you have already read the original review, you need only re-read the Game Play section and the Overall Score section.

03 May 2009

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 5/10
Typical RPG fare. You come from a small village. Undergo a coming-of-age ritual. Go off on your own, and stumble into the game's main adventure. Figure out who the bad guy is. Tragedy ensues. A decision is made to stop the bad guy. Adventure truly begins.
I can't justify giving the plot anything higher than a 5 out of 10. It's not bad, but it has been done so many times, it's becoming clichéd.

Game Play: 1/10
I have a few complaints about the game play. My first complaint is that the game is a little buggy. Specifically, there are occasional issues with the clipping. Occasionally, at least when playing as a Selkie, there will be times when you jump, and land on what should be solid ground, but you will instead appear to fall through the ground, as though you were falling off a ledge. Unfortunately, like falling off of a legitimate ledge, this causes you to lose HP and respawn wherever you "fell" from.
My second complaint has to do with leveling up. There appears to be a glitch in the game where, suddenly, for no apparent reason, neither your character nor any of your equipment will gain any more experience, and thus, they will stop leveling up. Obviously, this can prevent the player from actually finishing the game, should it happen at a sufficiently low level. The only way to solve this problem currently appears to be to erase your save file and start over from the beginning.
My third complaint is that, much like Ring of Fates, some areas seem excessively difficult. Normally, when making this complaint about a Final Fantasy game, I am simply referring to how strong the enemies in a given area are, in comparison to the enemies in the previous area. However, this time, I am referring to the actual puzzles the player needs to solve in order to proceed. Some puzzles are very unintuitive, and have a lot of steps to complete. Frankly, there were a few areas that I couldn't get past without consulting an online walkthrough.
In addition, there is the omnipresent problem with Square-Enix games, in that there are areas where one must spend a frustratingly long time leveling up in order to proceed.
Because of these factors, I have to give the game play a 1 out of 10. Excessive difficulty, major leveling glitches, and clipping issues, on top of the other downsides to Square-Enix games, make for a frustrating game.

Graphics: 8/10
I don't have any real complaints about the graphics, generally speaking. But I am a bit bothered that they look exactly like the previous DS installment of the Crystal Chronicles series. I'm torn between feeling like Square-Enix was following a sort of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, with the graphics, and feeling like they were just being lazy, and couldn't be bothered to try to improve the graphics at all. Because of this, I'm tempted to score the graphics a point lower than I did for Ring of Fates, but since I can't think of any actual problems with them, I can't justify doing so.
Therefore, the graphics still get an 8 out of 10. No change in graphics quality. No change in score.

Audio: 8/10
Much like the graphics, there were no major changes to the quality of the music or the voice acting. And so, there will be no change to the score I offer the audio, from how I scored Ring of Fates. Thus, the audio gets an 8 out of 10.

Overall Score: 5.5/10
A mediocre plot, clipping issues, leveling glitches, unbalanced difficulty, and absolutely zero improvement on the graphics or audio since the previous installment point to a rushed game. And things never turn out well when they're rushed.

01 May 2009

Professor Layton and the Curious Village [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 9/10
I don't really know how much of the plot i can explain without giving away some decent twists and turns. The game starts off with Professor Layton and his assistant being summoned to the isolated town of St. Mystere, at the request of a recently widowed aristocrat whose husband appears to have hidden away a treasure somewhere in the town. Of course, everyone is trying to find the treasure, to no avail. While attempting to find the treasure, more serious developments occur, and suddenly, solving the case becomes a race against time for Professor Layton and the citizens of St. Mystere.
I'll give the plot a 9 out of 10. The story is pretty decent. There were twists and turns that I didn't necessarily expect. A couple of them were a little easy to figure out before the game actually explained it, but they were still unexpected.

Game Play: 6/10
The basic game play is okay. It's a basic point-and-click adventure. Nothing overly innovative. As you proceed through the story, you have puzzles to solve. I have two complaints about the puzzles, though. My first complaint is that the puzzles, most often, did not correlate to whatever was going on in the story at the time. I'd have appreciated the set-up more if they did. My other complaint has to do with the difficulty ratings. Each puzzle is worth a different number of points, based on how difficult they supposedly are. Personally, I had a pretty easy time with some of the "difficult" puzzles, and a tough time with some of the "easy" ones. I suspect the difficulty ratings were not determined by a well-rounded grouping of people.
I'll give the game play a 6 out of 10. The puzzles were just a bit too jarring, sometimes.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics are alright. Stylistically, they have a more hand-drawn look to them. They are fairly simple-looking, and cartoony. Personally, I'd have preferred a little more detail in things, but the game is geared toward a younger audience than me, so they're fine. Also, the style carried over well, in the few cinematic scenes that popped up throughout the game.
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. I can't think of anything wrong with the graphics, per se. But they didn't blow me away, either.

Audio: 9/10
The music was good. It gave the game a very old-Europe kind of feel, with French and Italian influences, specifically. Anyone who knows me knows I have pretty high standards, when it comes to voice acting. For the most part, the voice acting in this game was decent. Nothing struck me as being obnoxiously over the top, as happens in a lot of games, so I have no major complaints.
I'll give the audio a 9 out of 10, for putting together a nice, cohesive package of a game.

Overall Score: 8/10
This game is fun. I think my biggest issue with it is the fact that the puzzles don't correlate to the story. The plot makes you want to keep playing. The music fits well with the look of the game. The graphics are a good fit with the story. Overall, just a very well-assembled game.

02 April 2009

The World Ends With You [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 8/10
You are a young man by the name of Neku. At the start of the game, you wake up face down on the ground with no memory beyond your name and a vague idea of where you are (the Shibuya district of Tokyo). Suddenly, your phone rings as you receive a text message telling you to go to a specific location within a designated amount of time. The message is punctuated by the sentence "Fail, and face erasure." What follows is a week-long "game" involving one mission per day that you must complete, if you want to live. Of course, this is all just the beginning of the story as Neku slowly regains his memories and gets to know the other players of the game.
I was moderately impressed with the story, here. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, the writers threw another legitimately unforeseeable plot twist into the mix. It's hard to discuss what I liked and didn't like about the story without giving away some of its secrets. But I will say that the story, for the most part, kept me guessing. For a Square-Enix game, that was a very welcome surprise.
I'll give the plot synopsis an 8 out of 10. It's nice to see Squenix trying something that isn't just another predictable Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest title.

Game Play: 7/10
The game play in The World Ends With You heavily relies on the Nintendo DS's touch screen. Personally, this makes me happy. I mean, why bother making a game for a system that has a touch screen if you aren't going to incorporate that fact into your basic controls? Some of the controls are fairly intuitive, and the rest are easy enough to figure out if you just look around the menu screens and read what the game has to say about things.
I'll give the game play a 7 out of 10. It can take a little while to get used to the finer points of the controls. However, once you do get used to everything, it's like riding a bike.

Graphics: 8/10
I'm a big fan of the graphics in this game. They have a look that is heavily inspired by urban graffiti-style artwork. At first, I was annoyed by the fact that the various characters in the game are always only seen as still images, and never animated. But then I realized that you never see moving, animated graffiti, and, since the graphics style is based so heavily on that, I think the lack of movement works for the overall visual style.
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. They're interesting and different, but not mind-blowing. They also worked very well for the very urban environment in which the game takes place.

Audio: 8/10
The music, a mix of hip-hop and dance music, worked very well with the graffiti-style visuals of the game. There wasn't a lot of voice acting to get in the way of everything else that was going on.
I'll give the audio an 8 out of 10. It added an ambience to the game that could have been missed entirely, if done wrong.

Overall Score: 7.75/10
At 7.75 out of a possible 10, The World Ends With You officially has the highest score I've ever given a Square-Enix game. The plot kept me guessing. The audio and video all made for a very consistent package. The controls actually made use of the DS's one unique feature. See, game developers? It really doesn't take much to make me happy!

18 February 2009

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 6/10
The story, here, isn't bad. But it won't be winning any awards, either. You've got your good guys fighting your bad guys. The good guys witness the bad guys doing something particularly heinous, one of their loved ones is affected by it. They decide that their quest for revenge will be their reason for being the ones to actually stop what the bad guys are trying to do. Just another variation, really, of the typical Final Fantasy story.
I'll give the storyline a 6 out of 10. The characters are well written, but overall, everything gets a bit predictable.

Gameplay: 5/10
I have mixed feelings about the gameplay. On the one hand, there is an in-game tutorial for just about every aspect of the game. It seems like it's programmers wanted players to understand what they're doing. Unfortunately, the specifics of the controls are just not quite intuitive. At least, not for old school, life-long gamers, like me. I've had over 20 years to get used to the A button making you jump and the B button making you attack. In this game, it's the other way around. I often find myself jumping when I want to attack, and swinging my sword when I want to jump.
Also, I'm a bit irritated that there are two different buttons to pick items up off the ground (one allows you two carry items and put them down elsewhere, one adds the items to your inventory), but out of the A, B, X, and Y buttons, not one of them pulls up the menu screen. Ever since Final Fantasy 7, one of the four buttons available to the player's right thumb has been designated for the menu screen, but not this time. It's rather frustrating.
Adding insult to injury, this game falls victim to the same irritating problem as so many of Square-Enix's other titles. Eventually, you will reach a point where you have no choice but to spend some time leveling your characters up, and saving up your money and materials for better weapons and armor than what you have already. I understand that nobody wants the game to be TOO easy, but Squenix tends to take that mentality too far. Having to take relatively so much time to strengthen your party between parts of the main story can make it difficult to maintain continuity, when playing. With Squenix games, I often find myself looking up an online walkthrough just to figure out what I have to do next, once I feel my party is strong enough to continue again. Sadly, this game is no exception.
Finally, there are a few dungeons in the game that are unnecessarily difficult to get through. If there weren't already walkthroughs posted online for this game, I probably would have given up about halfway through it. I understand that puzzles should be a bit challenging, but a few areas are just plain ridiculous.
I'm giving the game play a 5 out of 10. The control scheme is too unintuitive for me to feel comfortable scoring this game any higher than that. I'm constantly jumping when I try to attack, swinging my sword when I want to jump, and pressing the X and Y buttons when I want to pull up the menu screen, forgetting that I can only do that with the Start button.

Graphics: 8/10
I have no complaints about the graphics. The Crystal Chronicles games have developed a certain look to them, and the developers did a great job of continuing that style within the DS's graphical capabilities. Occasionally, some of the creatures can be a bit hard to read, but you already know that they're the bad guys, so it's not a big deal.
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. The graphics do their job just fine. This category is really only losing points due to the fact that there is only so much you can do with the visuals on a game designed for a handheld system.

Audio: 8/10
As far as voice-acting goes, this game wasn't too bad. More often than not, when vocal dialogue is being translated from Japanese to English, the voice actors get a little too... enthusiastic. I have yet to see a case where that didn't happen at all, but it was at a minimum in this game, so I can't really complain.
Regarding the music, I never have any complaints about the music in Final Fantasy games. Nobuo Uematsu is a great composer, and he really knows how to capture the emotion of a moment. The music always fits in well with the scene that is playing out, and never overshadows the game itself. It serves as a perfect accent to the visual aspects it accompanies.
I'll give the audio an 8 out of 10. The voice acting is among some of the better that i've heard, and I have absolutely no complaints about the music.

Overall Score: 6.75/10
The story is fine. The characters are all well-written, and clearly have their own personalities. The music blends well with what's happening on-screen. The game's biggest downfall is the control scheme.

15 February 2009

Locoroco [PSP]

Locoroco tells the emotional and heartbreaking story of how the Locoroco’s home planet was invaded by the evil Mojas. To be honest the story doesn’t really matter here sadly but I’m sure it could pick up an Oscar for best use of penguins.

Looks wise it is a very colourful and pretty game. Levels always look varied and vibrant. It’s not "may I do dirty things to you?" pretty, but it’s certainly good looking.

The music is a key factor to the game. You may either find it cute or extremely annoying and will want to kill those little bastards. I personally found almost all of the songs very catchy and adorable.

Using the R and L buttons you are able to tilt the Locoroco left or right, and pressing them both at the same time makes your Locoroco jump. If you eat flowers, then your Locoroco gains another Locoroco and gets bigger. You can also split your Locoroco into smaller ones so that you can go through gaps and such. If you find Mui Muis, who are the Locoroco’s friends, they will give you parts of the Locoroco house, where you could create a house for your Locoroco I guess. I didn’t really see much point to it.

It’s a very easy game to complete but incredibly difficult to find every last collectible. It’s good, decent fun. It’s not engrossing or epic. It’s just a good platformer with a few good ideas. It only has 5 worlds and is over pretty quickly, unless you want to collect every last thing.

Overall I would give Locoroco a 7 out of 10. It’s a pretty innovative and memorable platformer. My only real gripe with the game is that it is way too short and way too easy.

14 February 2009

A New Challenger Approaches!

Great news, everyone! The review corner has taken on a new author, to contribute some reviews! Hopefully, now the site will have new reviews a bit more often than it currently does. Also, I am labeling the hell out of the various review posts, in an effort to keep things as organized as possible. The labels will allow viewers to look at reviews for games for a specific console, or reviews written by a specific author... I'm sure I'll figure out even more labels to add, later.

12 February 2009

Animal Crossing: City Folk [Wii]

Plot Synopsis: 6/10
Well. You play as a character who is just moving into a new town. You're the only human. Every other character in the town is a walking and talking animal. Beyond that, there really isn't any specific story to the game. You basically do whatever you want. If you want to landscape your town a bit, you can. If you want to work on filling your catalog, to have access to all the furniture the game has to offer, you can. It's all up to you. Animal Crossing is a VERY open-ended series.
Some of the characters have a slightly more developed background story, but that's the extent of the story to the game. As such, I'll have to give the story a 6 out of 10. The game loses points for only minimally developing only a handful of characters, but gains some back for being so open-ended. For all intents and purposes, the game is about what you want it to be about, within reason.

Game Play: 6/10
There's isn't a whole lot to talk about here, either. There are tools your character can use to do different things, and there is a brief, but thorough, explanation on how to use them, as you acquire them. The joystick moves your character around. The A button allows you to either use a tool that you are holding or talk to another character. The B button allows you to pick up items on the ground or to run, if you hold it down while walking. Pressing up on the control pad allows you to look up at the sky above you. There are occasional event in your town that will require some of the aforementioned actions. Beyond that, the game play is very open ended. The game has WiFi capabilities, to allow you to invite friends to your town, or to visit your friends' towns. What you do when everyone's in the same town together is up to you.
I'll give the game play a 6 out of 10. Frankly, this series isn't for everyone. It has the potential to get real boring real quick. Especially if you've played either of the other two games in the series already.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics are, stylistically, virtually identical to the previous two installments of the series. There are some slight differences and improvements, as can be expected from making a title for the most recent generation of console. The cartoony, almost "super-deformed" style is very fitting, and I suspect the developers were taking an approach along the lines of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. Given my personal preferences for graphics, and the cartoony style used for this game, I don't feel right giving the graphics a 10. But the style fits very well with the concept. I have yet to notice any graphical glitches, and things seem to work pretty well.

Audio: 7/10
There's not much I can really say, here. If you've ever played any Animal Crossing game, you know what the voices sound like. If you ever played Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS, you've heard all the ambient background music present in ACCF already. The only thing different is the overall quality of the sound, which is obviously a bit better in ACCF than in previous generations of Animal Crossing.
Overall, I'm going to give the audio a 7 out of ten. It's all fairly nonintrusive, for the most part. The only time it becomes problematic is when you play for long periods of time every day, at which point, it can get a bit repetitive. Luckily, the music changes every hour on the hour, so it's not as much of an issue.

Overall Score: 6.75/10
Honestly, if you have played Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS, I would recommend spending your money on something other than City Folk. The differences just aren't enough to be worth it, in my opinion. I'm not saying the game isn't fun. But, having played Wild World extensively, myself, I find City Folk to be a bit underwhelming, at times.

06 February 2009

CrossworDS [DS]

I wouldn't normally write a review of a game based solely on playing a demo of it... But I feel like I am justified in doing so, when it comes to CrossworDS.

You know those workbooks you can buy at stores like Walgreens and CVS, or from the magazine rack at bookstores, that are filled with all kinds of crossword puzzles for you to do , when you're bored? Well, CrossworDS is kind of like if one of those mated with your Nintendo DS. There's a whole mess of puzzles to choose from, with varying degrees of difficulty. It seems like it was a given that someone would take the initiative to make a DS game based on something like crossword puzzles. It's a no-brainer, really. You've got a system with a touch screen. Why not use it? Right?
Well, there's a problem. A couple, in fact. In normal crossword puzzles, you have to make words that read across, and you have to make words that read from top to bottom. However, in CrossworDS, whenever you write a letter in to a specific spot, the game will automatically move you to the next open spot to the right, if it's able. This becomes rather annoying, when trying to write out an answer that reads from top to bottom.
The other problem is a biggie. The writing recognition software in this game is awful. Writing a straight line up and down, as most people would for the letter I, results in the letter L. I'm willing to let this slide, since a lower-case L looks like an upper-case I. There were many times I attempted to write the letter O, and the game interpreted it as a T. And don't get me started about the adventure that was trying to write the letter G. I'm telling you, the writing recognition software is completely terrible. It ruined an otherwise good game.

Overall Score: 4/10
There's not really much I can say about this game. It's a crossword puzzle. Does anybody NOT know how they work, by now? Overall, I have to give this game a 4 out of 10. Decent enough idea. Poor execution, in my opinion. I wish the developer had taken more time to work out the bugs before releasing this game. Personally, I would not recommend buying this game.

30 January 2009

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 6/10
This game is considered to be part 1 of a story arc called The Zenithian Trilogy. You take turns playing the part of each of the chosen heroes accomplishing some individual goal. Once each goal is accomplished, the heroes unite, and embark on their quest to beat down the bad guy once and for all. Generally speaking, I felt like this game wasn't much of a departure from your typical RPG story line. But then, what should I really expect from a game that was originally produced for the original Nintendo Entertainment System? They had a limited amount of memory to work with back then, and there's only so much you can change the story when making an updated version without the fans getting upset.
I feel bad doing this, but I'm going to give the story a 6 out of 10. And bear in mind, the only reason the score is that high is because I'm factoring in the fact that this is an update of an old NES game, back when they had less memory space to work with.

Game Play: 6/10
The basics of the gameplay are no different from the original. You roam the World Map form one location to another. You bump into random encounters along the way. Battling these monsters gives you bother experience points, for leveling up, and gold for buying better weapons and armor, which can be purchased in the various towns you will visit throughout your travels.
Each character has a separate chapter. As such, you have to start from the beginning for each character, right from level 1. I understand why the game was done this way, but it kind of irritated me, having to start new with one character, play through their mini-story, and then start fresh with another character, play through their mini-story, and then start fresh with another character... you get my point. I much prefer the RPG standard method of starting as one character, meeting up with other characters along the way, and leveling everyone up together, as one cohesive unit.
One fact particularly bothers me. This is an old NES game, re-released for the DS. Yet, it doesn't even incorporate use of the DS's touch screen. Squenix knew that they were redeveloping the game for the DS, but didn't even try to figure out a way to use the DS's most well-known feature.
I have to score the game play pretty low, at a 6 out of 10. Basic top-down view of everything. Walk on the world map until you come to a city. Then, you're in the city, where you can enter buildings and look for stuff. My main gripe about the game play is the lack of use of any features that make the DS worth playing. The action takes place on the bottom screen, while the top screen alternates between a view of the world map (when exploring) or a status screen (when in battle). There is absolutely no touch screen support. I feel like Squenix should have made this a GBA game instead of a DS game.

Graphics: 4/10
When I first started playing this game, I was really turned off by the graphics. I don't know if maybe I'm subconsciously comparing this game to Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, or what. I understand that this is an update of an NES game, and if you update the graphics too much, the game play may start to stray too much from the original. But I feel like Squenix could have done more with the graphics. It's a game for the Nintendo DS, but I feel like they're only a degree or two better than SNES-quality graphics. And that's disappointing to me.
I have to give the graphics a 4 out of 10. If you're going to make an updated version of a game from at least 20 years ago, at least update the graphics so they look more recent than at least 10 years ago, please.

Overall Score: 5.33/10
With a $40 price point, I was really expecting more from Squenix. The graphics and gameplay were a good fifteen years behind. I don't want to say that I feel ripped off by Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen... but I kind of do.