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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.