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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 clich├ęd.

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.