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15 July 2010

Obscure: The Aftermath [PS2]

Plot Synopsis: 3/10
Little black flowers sprout up all over a college campus. They emit a spore that turns the whole scene into a bloodbath. Now the main characters have to find each other while looking for clues on what happened and how to fix it, if possible. I'm fairly certain I've seen animés that start off this way.
Plot gets a 3 out of 10. The basic concept has just plain been done before.

Game Play: 6/10
Nothing new to this game, at all, in terms of the game play. Third person point-of-view. Three dimensional movement. You wander around, looking for items and clues about what's going on. There are creepy, bloody monsters, jumping out at you, all of a sudden. Basically, if you've ever played Resident Evil, before, you've played this game. But better.
As far as the controls are concerned, let's just say that it's a good thing the game gives you a tutorial of the controls during the game's prologue. The X button interacts with things, and that's where the intuitiveness ends. Everything else is just awkward. For example, you have to press the L1 button to prep your weapon, during a battle, then, while holding L1, press R1 in order to actually use the weapon. The Select button brings up your item menu, which, in itself, feels weird. But then the triangle button backs out of the menus. Also weird. Oh, well.
The game play is getting a 6 out of 10. Lack of originality in the overall style of the game, and the awkward control scheme make for a low score.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics are clean enough, in that you can easily tell what you're looking at. I have seen more advanced graphics on the PS2, but these were still decent enough.
The graphics get an 8 out of 10. They're perfectly adequate for the game.

Audio: 6/10
The audio is a real mixed bag, on this one. The music is great. No complaints about the music, whatsoever. My problem lay with the voice acting. To say that some dialogue is overacted would be like saying the Hindenburg was a little flammable. On top of that, the dialogue coming from this horrendous voice-acting, during the prologue, at least, is limited to a high quantity of sex jokes, in an attempt to make the main characters sound like they're in college. It's just awful.
I'll give the audio a 6 out of 10. Great music, but the voices and dialogue threw off the score.

Overall Score: 6.75/10
A been-done-before plot, unoriginal game play, awkward controls, and less than spectacular voice acting give this game a low score. On the one hand, fans of the Resident Evil franchise would be more likely to enjoy this game than people like me, who don't generally go for horror titles. But, at the same time, Resident Evil fans would probably be angry at the fact that Obscure plays the same exact way. Anyway, if you don't care for horror titles, look around for other options before buying this one.

12 July 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels [Wii]

Plot Synopsis: 5/10
There isn't a whole lot, in the way of specifics, in the plot to this game. It takes place during the same time line as the Clone Wars show. It involves all the same characters as the show. It is, simply, a number of various encounters between various characters as the Clone Wars progress.
I'll give the plot a 5 out of 10. I can't really score it too high, because there really isn't much to the story. But let's face it. Fighting games tend to suffer a little when there's too much story involved. This is just fan service from Lucasfilm, because he knows fans will buy and play a game where they can pit various Star Wars characters against one another.

Game Play: 7/10
Lightsaber Duels is, simply, a fighting game. The only real difference is that it's a Star Wars title, instead of the usual Mortal Kombats and Street Fighters that come along. As a result, there are lightsabers. That's it. The idea of a fighting game with swords isn't even new. (SoulCalibur, anyone?)
This is the type of game that I have come to refer to as a "flailer". This is basically the same concept as a "button-masher", except with motion controls. There are some rare times when the player is directed to swing the Wii-mote in specific direction to achieve certain things, and you can usually pull it off, with a bit of practice. For the most part, though, you just slip on the wrist strap, grab the Wii-mote, and flail your arm around, occasionally pressing a button, as well, until the fight is over. And, as long as you go through the little training sessions, you should still be able to do fairly well.
I'll give the game play a 7 out of 10. It's just too tough to make a decent game where the player swings the Wii-mote in order to determine how the character swings their sword (or sword-type weapon).

Graphics: 10/10
Since this game is based on a cartoon whose visuals are all computer-generated, already, it was fairly easy for the game developers to make the graphics look exactly like the cartoon. There's no choppiness. No glitches. It all moves quite smoothly. And thus, I give the graphics are rare 10 out of 10. I'm not basing that score on realism. I'm basing it on loyalty to the exact product the game is based on. And these graphics are extremely loyal to that.

Audio: 10/10
Music and voice actors ripped right from the show. This is how we know Lucasfilm was directly involved in the game's production. No complaints. Even the oft-repeated taunts from characters as they perform a successful attack are perfectly tolerable.
Again, due to extreme loyalty to the product the game is based on, the audio gets a rare 10 out of 10. No complaints here, what-so-ever.

Overall Score: 8/10
One of the best franchise-based games I've ever played. They got all the same voice actors from the show. Ripped some of the music directly from the show. To my knowledge, they didn't mess with the existing continuity of the Star Wars franchise. Even some of the little details are impressive, like some of Anakin's taunts foreshadowing his eventual fall to the dark side. An impressively well-made and loyal game, from my point of view.

11 July 2010

Ninjabread Man [Wii]

Plot Synopsis: 5/10
It's a gingerbread man who is also a ninja. I have to say that I am a fan of clever puns, and the base concept, here, is definitely one of the more original ideas i've seen in the video game world in a long time.
The story, however, is decidedly unoriginal. A bunch of bad guys have taken over Candy Land, and it's up to you, the Ninjabread Man, to defeat them and save the day. That's it.
I'm rating the plot at a 5 out of 10. And the only reason it's getting that high a rating is because of the fact that the concept started with a relatively clever pun. Ultimately, the minimal story to the game reminds me of the types of games found on the original NES, and I can't help but think this game would have been better if it was developed as a simpler side-scrolling platformer, instead of implementing three-dimensional, 360-degree movement and the Wii's motion-based controls.

Game Play: 4/10
I'm not a fan of the control scheme. The controls require the use of the nunchuck attachment for the Wii-mote. Fitting, since the game is about a ninja gingerbread man. The tutorial that teaches you how to control the main character almost seems like it is designed to make things significantly more difficult. As you play, you are told that jumping, a crucial skill for ninjas made of baked goods, requires an upward flick of the nunchuck attachment. What you are not told, at all, however, is that a quick press of the Z button will do the very same thing, with more reliable results.
Slashing the sword is done by slashing similarly with the Wii-mote itself. This makes sense, as a concept, but the game seems a bit buggy in that something seems to get lost in communication between the Wii-mote and the game, when attempting to actually do this, resulting in your enemies being able to land attacks while you just stand there like a dummy.
Finally, the camera is initially set up from a third-person point of view, just behind you. As you play, you have a full 360 degrees of movement, in any direction you please. The problem, here, lies in the fact that the camera has a real tough time catching up when you change from one direction to another, and I have yet to find a button to reorient the camera angle.
I have to give the game play a 4 out of 10. Discovering, through my own experimenting (see "pushing buttons to see what they may or may not do") that the Z button makes you jump made things a little easier, but there are still too many other issues with the controls for me to be comfortable rating the game play any higher.

Graphics: 6/10
All of the landscapes, in Ninjabread Man, are intended to appear as though they are made of various baked goods and confectionary treats, such as lollipops, chocolate chip cookies, and cinnamon rolls. One almost feels a need to call the dentist for a cleaning, after playing for a while. Unfortunately, not all of the visuals are well-executed. In fact, there are some aspects of the landscape that I can tell are supposed to be something recognizable, but, quite frankly, I'll be damned if I can figure out what they're supposed to be.
The graphics get a 6 out of 10. Mostly, they're adequate, but they fall short in a few places, rendering some objects unrecognizable.

Audio: 5/10
The music isn't bad, but it is, as with a lot of games, utterly forgettable. It is all just a bunch of short loops that repeat over and over until you finish the level. In fact, they repeat so often that, after working on the same level for a while (because the controls are so difficult), I, personally, feel the need to mute the sound on the television because I'm sick of listening to the music.
There really isn't any voice acting, beyond the occasional grunt or groan of effort from your character.
The audio gets a 5 out of 10. I don't really have anything else to say about it to wrap this section up...

Overall Score: 5/10
So far, this is the lowest score I've ever given a game. I really want to like the game. As I mentioned, I really like the base concept that they started with: a gingerbread man ninja. And all because someone realized that the words 'ginger' and 'ninja' sound pretty similar. Fine by me.
But the game itself was just poorly developed. I can't help but feel they should have invested more, by taking the time to work out the issues with the controls, and improving the graphics a bit, or they should have invested less, by making it an older-style side-scrolling platformer, like the original Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man titles. In fact, I'd bet money that, if they had made this game a lower-end side-scroller, and just made it available as downloadable Wii-ware through the Shop Channel, the game would have done far better than this.
Overall, quite a disappointing turnout. I was hoping for much better, when I first heard about this title.

08 July 2010

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony [PSP]

Plot Synopsis: 7/10
Fairly standard RPG material, here. The world is in danger. Someone needs saving. Small town boy has dreams of being a hero. Boy goes on mini-adventure, develops a taste for it, and decides to embark on a bigger adventure. Bigger adventure leads to him actually trying to save the world, while meeting up with new friends and companions, along the way.
Nothing original, here, as far as the basic outline of the story goes, but the story is relatively well-written, for the time period when the PS1 version of this game was released.
I'll give the plot a 7 out of 10. Nothing new, but they made it fun.

Game Play: 8/10
The basic set-up to the game play is fairly similar to the majority of RPGs out there. You wander around a given area. There are monsters also walking around who will occasionally rush you, if they see you. You can choose to fight the monster, or attempt to dodge it, as it runs at you (sometimes you can dodge it, sometimes you can't). Once brought into a battle, it's just your typical turn-based RPG battle arrangement. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Eventually, as the story progresses, you get the big boss battles. Added bonus: you can save your progress at any time, as long as you are not in the middle of a battle.
The controls are extremely easy and intuitive. TYou can use either the D-pad or the joystick to move. The X button interacts with things. The triangle button pulls up the menu screen. In battle, you use the D-pad to select your options, the X button to choose an option, and the circle button to go back a step. Über-easy.
Really, the game is essentially just walking then fighting, then more walking, then more fighting, over and over, until you finish the game. Nothing new. Really intuitive controls. Easy to figure out what to do. I'll give the game play an 8 out of 10. I'd score it higher, but it's hard to be innovative with the same handful of buttons, especially when remaking an older game.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics are one area that has been noticeably updated, since the original PS1 version. There are smoother animations, during the battle sequences, and the character sprites are a couple of degrees better. The developers kept the original animé-style cutscenes, and so the graphics in the rest of the game aren't all super-realistic. But stylistically, they are consistent with everything else. They are simply an updated form of the cartoon-style graphics the game previously used.
Also, it is still easy to tell what everything is. Nothing is hard to make out or understand.
Thus, for updating the graphics for a newer, more powerful system, while maintaining the animé-style feel of the original game, AND keeping things easy to read, I will give the graphics a 9 out of 10.

Audio: 8/10
The voice acting is actually pretty decent. Mildly over-acted, at times, but not unbearably so. The only actual voices that sound a little bizarre are the voices for monsters, but that's perfectly understandable.
The music is slightly better than average. It always portrays the appropriate mood for the moment. It is never overpowering. My only complaint is that there are never really any sequences, beyond the cinemas, that call for anything other than a loop that can repeat ad nauseum until the next scene starts. But, for the most part, the music is all perfectly adequate.
I'll give the audio, as a whole, an 8 out of 10. It's not perfect, but it could be a whole lot worse.

Overall Score: 8/10
There's a reason this game, after initially being released for the PS1, has been remade for the Game Boy Advance, and now updated again for the PSP. It is a well-written, well-produced game. It's fun, and engaging. It has very likable characters that the player can relate to about as well as anyone CAN relate to a character in a fictitious fantasy setting. Anyone who enjoys RPGs should enjoy this game.

No More Heroes [Wii]

No More Heroes follows the adventures of Travis Touchdown, a horny otaku that loves Japanese anime and pro wrestling. His world is turned upside down when he meets the seductive Sylvia, who makes him an assassin. Travis must fight his way to the top to be number 1. Why? Because he wants to do Sylvia.

The game mostly contains mostly combat with some mini games like rescuing up stray cats, filling up car tanks with petrol and mowing other people's grass. Travis does these things so he can earn money to buy upgrades for his weapon, the beam katana. He can also buy new clothes and buy pro wrestling videos.

Travis must also make his way up the assassin's leaderboard to be number one. First he must make a payment to the Assassin's League so he can fight in the rank fights. These rank fights are basically bosses, and are the best parts of the game. Each boss is very unique and are all very challenging.

Trying to make enough money for that new pair of jeans, or for the next rank fight is where NHM is a little bit weak. The assassin jobs you do are basically combat missions. The combat is excellent, but it does get quite repetitive. For me the repetitive nature of earning money isn't such a big deal because of the game's charm. It is a very funny game, that references many different series, such as Star Wars and Duke Nukem. Infact the whole game is basically taking the piss out of every movie/tv series/game with a serious plotline simply with it's rather silly and hilarious method of telling a story.

While some of the game lacks polish, No More Heroes sheer style and silliness crushes it's minor flaws with a swift beam katana to the back.

Stiener gives this 9 out of 10 THATS!

06 July 2010

Dead or Alive Paradise [PSP]

Plot Synopsis: 5/10
Plot? Seriously? The plot is that Zack resurrected his island paradise and invited all the girls back for another two-week stay, during which, they all strip down to their swimwear and play volleyball against each other, the ENTIRE TIME.
Honestly, I don't know if I should be disappointed that they didn't at least TRY to come up with a little more story, or impressed that they didn't even bother trying to hide what the game really is. So, a 5 out of 10 it gets.

Game Play: 8/10
If you've played Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, for the Xbox, you've essentially played Dead or Alive Paradise, too. The differences between the two games are so minimal, they're not worth mentioning. This was basically just a chance for Team Ninja to make their premiere pure fan-service title portable.
Over the course of your 2-week stay on the island, you have four opportunities per day to play a match (assuming you're paired up with a second character). There is no big boss-battle type of match at the end of the two weeks. You simply stay for 14 days, then leave. You win money for winning the volleyball matches, which you can then use to buy more swimsuits, accessories, or random other items. You can also take your hard-earned money to the hotel casino and play blackjack. In addition, there are a couple of mini-games that can be played at the hotel's pool area.
I'll give the game play an 8 out of 10. Bonus points for having über-intuitive controls, but loses a couple points for not challenging me at all. Sometimes you win the match, sometimes you don't. Plain and simple.

Graphics: 7/10
I'll give the developers credit. They concentrated hard on making sure they rendered fit, well-endowed women as realistically as possible. Except in one particular area…
Now, I understand that the Dead or Alive franchise, as a whole, is rife with fan service. And I also understand that a game that consists of a number of almost unrealistically-built women running and jumping around, playing volleyball in swimwear that could never, in the real world, withstand such strenuous activity, is the very definition of "fan service". But seriously. The jiggle mechanics, in this game, are downright absurd.
I'll give the graphics a 7 out of 10. Everything is fairly well-rendered. I'd even say it's a notch or two above the original DOAXBV. But the jiggling… Good god, the jiggling…

Audio: 9/10
The voice acting is perfectly acceptable. A tad over-acted, at times, but what do you expect? Par for the course, in the realm of video games, unfortunately. For the most part, it's fine, though. I was a little disappointed that they couldn't secure the rights to a handful of songs, or include a feature where the game would simply play selections from the music the player has stored on the system itself, like the original game did. But, oh well. The developers did include some fairly generic upbeat original compositions that go well with the whole "let's relax and have fun on the tropical island getaway" vibe, though.
I guess I'd have to score the game's audio an 9 out of 10. Everything works fairly well, for the game, with very minimal issues.

Overall Score: 7.25/10
You don't go to Hooters for the quality cuisine. You don't read Playboy for the articles. And you don't play Dead or Alive Paradise for the compelling story and challenging gameplay. Anyone who says otherwise is in denial. That being said, the game can still be fun, as long as you don't take it too seriously.

05 July 2010

Rune Factory Frontier [Wii]

Plot Synopsis: 6/10
Rune Factory Frontier is, for all intents and purposes, the same as the original Rune Factory, for the Nintendo DS. Part of the game is spent building a home and a life for yourself in the town you find yourself in, building friendships and romances along the way. The other part involves crawling into the various dungeons nearby to defeat the problematic monsters that inhabit them. As you work your way through the dungeons, you find and acquire items and materials that allow you to make weapons and armor to make you stronger, or tools to make life on your farm just a little easier. Nothing drastically different.
I'll give the plot a 6 out of 10. it's not overly complicated. If you've played the other two Rune Factory titles, for the DS, it's pretty easy to figure out what to do.

Game Play: 7/10
Game play is fairly straightforward. My only complaint is that the game insists on making you use the nunchuk for the Wii-mote, but it seems rather pointless and redundant. The joystick is the only part of the nunchuk you even use regularly, and the directional pad on the Wii-mote itself does nothing, outside of the menu screens.
Barring that issue, the controls that are crucial to getting through the dungeons are fairly intuitive. It takes a bit to remember which button pulls up the map of the town, and which looks up at the sky, but since those aren't things that will affect whether you live or die, it's not a big deal.
So, the game play will get a 7 out of 10. The controls aren't perfect, but the issues aren't really all that problematic, in the grand scheme of things.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics here are fairly decent. They aren't going to blow anyone's mind, any time soon, but you can easily tell what you're looking at, at any given moment. There was never a moment where I couldn't tell what something was supposed to be.
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. Perfectly adequate. They were as good as they needed to be.

Audio: 5/10
First things first. The opening theme irritates the hell out of me. It is your typical bubbly, upbeat J-pop song, and doesn't really seem to fit with the overall feel of the rest of the game. Quite frankly, I've lost track of how many other J-pop songs I've heard that sound exactly like it.
The music in the rest of the game, while adequate, is largely forgettable. Sure, it does a good job of setting the mood, but when I'm not playing the game, I can't even remember how any of it goes.
What very little voice-acting is in the game, is, again, very typically, over-acted. As a result, it can be a bit grating.
I'll give the audio a 5 out of 10. I feel the game would fare better if the opening theme and voice-acting were a bit more subdued. Otherwise, everything else is acceptable.

Overall Score: 6.5/10
Honestly, I'd have to say that only real die-hard fans of the franchise will really enjoy this game. It doesn't really bring anything new to the table, other than being the first game in the franchise that was developed for the Wii, instead of the DS. I don't dislike it, but I can think of other games I'd prefer to play, over this one.