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29 April 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword [Wii]

Plot Synopsis: 7/10
According to the official timeline, Skyward Sword kicks off the entire Zelda mythology. In it, Zelda, as always, gets swept away by the forces of evil, and Link takes it upon himself to go find her and, if need be, rescue her. In the process, Link has to travel back and forth between their home in Skyloft and the surface world below, fighting the usual rogues' gallery of monsters on the way.
As much as I love the growing mythology of the franchise, there are only so many times I can save Zelda before I start getting angry with her for failing to take some rudimentary self-defense courses. She is royalty, after all. But, all in all, the story is reasonably well written and executed, so I'll score it a 7.

Game Play: 5/10
Ugh. The more games Nintendo puts out, in this franchise, the more difficult the controls get. I'm having a hard time referring to them as intuitive, these days. I have to admit, I'm downright annoyed that the game won't even let you start playing without a Wii Motion Plus accessory attached to your Wii remote. For those of us who bought a Wii before those were standard equipment, it's just one more thing I have to shell out money for, in order to play the game.
On top of that, some of the puzzles and dungeons in the game are unnecessarily hard. At one point, I said to myself "I'm just going to sit and run through this one next dungeon. It probably won't take TOO long." Right. I like to think I'm a fairly intelligent, advanced gamer. I didn't even make it to the boss of that particular dungeon until four hours later, and that was while using a thorough online walkthrough to help move me along a little faster than I might get through it on my own, otherwise. Four hours. Four hours to get through one stinkin' dungeon. One. Out of god only knows how many. That is a textbook definition of the phrase "unnecessarily complicated", if you ask me.
I have to score the game play a 5 out of 10. The controls are too unintuitive, and the puzzles and dungeons are unnecessarily difficult. Add to that, the fact that I had to buy an accessory I hadn't previously needed, just to play the game, and I should probably be scoring the game lower. I may be letting my appreciation for the series' mythology color my judgement, here.

Graphics: 8/10
Here's where the game starts to redeem itself. The visuals are very nicely rendered. They have a distinct style that is easy to see and understand. Nintendo seems to have backed off of the "HD means lots of lens flare!" issues that were present in some of the earlier games. No complaints at all. 8 out of 10, for this game.

Audio: 8/10
The music for this series is always impressive, and Skyward Sword continues that trend. Even during those times where I was stuck in the same area for an hour or more, the music was never so bland and repetitive that I felt a need to mute the television. Again, no complaints at all. 8 out of 10. I'd vote it even higher if the individual tracks were a little more memorable (aside from the main theme we've come to know and love, of course).

Overall Score: 5.5/10
I know people are going to think I'm nuts, but just remember, this is my opinion, based on my own personal experiences with video games, and preferences. That said, I have to admit that, while the mythology of the Zelda series is very rich, and continually fascinating, the games are just getting too complicated and complex for my tastes, to the point where I just can't enjoy them like I used to. As such, averaging out the scores for each category I rated, Skyward Sword gets a mere 5.5 out of 10. The games themselves, in this franchise, just aren't my cup of tea, plain and simple.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 4/10
You play a stowaway on an airship that was headed to a monster scouting championship of some kind. The airship crashes on an island, and you have to track down the other survivors and find a way off the island. As you do so, you discover that some of the island's indigenous monsters are intelligent, and run a scouting challenge of their own, and you have to get through it in order to get their help in getting off the island.
I have to score the plot a little low, because I really feel like Square-Enix phoned in the plot, here. Considering this is a sequel to a previous game, I was expecting a bit MORE story, not seemingly less. I'm a little disappointed.

Game Play: 6/10
The controls are fairly basic and intuitive. The A button confirms things. The B button cancels them. Press A to interact with things. Control pad to move around. Occasionally, a plot point interrupts the actual game play for a couple of minutes, and then you get back to things. You can save virtually any time you want, outside of battle. One thing that bothers me, though, is the utter lack of touch screen controls, in this game. This isn't even the first game in the franchise to be released for the DS, and yet, the touch screen controls are almost non-existent. Again, I find  myself a bit disappointed.
And so, I give the game play a 6 out of 10. I might have scored it higher if I could've at least used the touch screen to type out the names of my monsters instead of arrowing over constantly to each letter, but no such luck. I don't know what Square-Enix was thinking.

Graphics: 7/10
The graphics are reasonable, but I don't see much improvement over the last installment. We see the typical Dragon Quest style of artwork, so there are no major changes there. I think there are only so many ways that can change before it becomes different from the series' specific visual style, so I can't complain too much about the relative lack of changes, here.
I'll rate the graphics a 7. They have a distinct style, and have hit that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" point.

Audio: 6/10
The music, as is often the case in J-RPGs, is well-produced, but somewhat forgettable. I won't find myself humming any of these melodies when I'm not actually playing the game. Hence, the score of 6 out of 10.

Overall Score: 5.75/10
Square-Enix seems to be doing something that Squaresoft tended to do, back before the merger with Enix. They are phoning in their spinoffs. If you want to play a monster-catching game, stick with Pokémon.