Retrospective – Killer 7

Killer 7 was one of, if not the most polarizing game of its generation.  I have seen debates in which people are asked to “step on one side of the line” in regards to what they think of a game, but only after Killer 7 popularized the idea.  You must either love or hate this one, with no chance of finding a middle ground.

What could cause such divisive opinions in the first place?  We can start by blaming ourselves.  Killer 7 was announced early in the Gamecube’s life, when users were scrambling for another violent, mature game that could legitimize Nintendo’s place in the console war.  Nintendo’s family first attitude was costing them users and goodwill, so fans of the company felt compelled to defend them, as well as their purchase. →  Read the rest

A Farewell to (Wild) Arms

One of the first RPGs to land on the Playstation in 1997 was an unassuming, Old West-inspired game by the name of Wild Arms. Though it never managed to compete with more mainstream series, it has a greatness all its own; with a solid difficulty balance, a variety of puzzles, and a plot that dwells more on loneliness and a decaying world than on long-haired villains or a large but irrelevant main cast, I consider it one of the best RPGs on the system.

In the past couple weeks, the news got out that Akifumi Kaneko, the lead designer and scenario writer for the entire Wild Arms series, left Media.Vision in 2008. This came a couple years after Michiko Naruke, who had been the primary composer for the first four games, had stopped working on the series due to illness. →  Read the rest

2008 in Review Part 3

Being an optimistic person, I’d like to discuss some of the things I was disappointed with in ’08. Last year must have been the first since I reached financial independence that I played games on only one publishers system; in 2008 I was a Nintendo fanboy.

Oddly enough, I am not adding the Wii in ’08 to my list of disappointments. No More Heroes, House of the Dead, Mario Kart, Boom Blox, Strong Bad, World of Goo, De Blob, and Dokapon Kingdom all came in ’08 and while I may have quirky, Japan-centric (or shitty) taste, I was content.

I am disappointed that I refuse to learn lessons from past game purchases. The following are games that aren’t necessarily bad, just games I should have known I didn’t need:

Endless Ocean – The idea that games can be anything they want and don’t need to fit into a pre-defined mold is noble. →  Read the rest

2008 in Review Part 2

Many folks are saying that 2008 was a bad year for games. I think this is true in the sense that almost no Triple-A release lived up to their hype or potential. However, if you embrace a wide range of consoles and genres, there was a lot to love this year. Here are some of the more remarkable games from this year. Note that I don’t like them all, but each left a mark on my mind.

Burnout Paradise

Don’t let the hate fool you – Burnout Paradise is the future of “open world racers,” or whatever the hell you want to call them. One reason is that it plays like a spiritual successor to Midtown Madness, a game that existed before “open world” and GTA3 were in our vocabulary. Midtown was striking in that it made its city the spotlight of the game. →  Read the rest

2008 in Review Part 1

I like to pretend that my favorite games will always be the classics, but this year has been quite a trial for that facade. Every year more and more games come out, and I have no chance to play just the ones that people recommend to me, much less all of them. The games I have played are good enough that I know 2008 was a good year for games, not just in terms of volume but in terms of quality. The DS has gotten a bunch more good games (even if it still has only a few great ones), the PC, XBox360, and PS3 have been receiving a host of games with a few standouts each, and even the Wii has gotten a game or two I’ll at least be keeping on my shelf if not playing again. →  Read the rest

Retrospective – Phoenix Wright

I rented Phoenix Wright from Gamefly sometime last month. After burning through the game, I added a few brand spanking new games to the queue for the purpose of review. Instead of sending these low availability titles, they saw fit to send me the next two PW games in a row. After a constant stream of Ace Attorney over the last month, I feel it is time to take a look the series – its strengths and weaknesses – and how Capcom should handle it in the future.

The Good
Character art: The character animations convey a lot of emotion in just a few frames. It is striking to see just how much you can understand a character simply by how they move in different situations (for example, Ema Skye’s design and movements perfectly convey the idea that she wants to be an adult, but still looks and acts like a kid). →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Metal Gear Solid series part 5

Continued from part the last.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
What happens when you decide to remake the original Metal Gear Solid using the MGS 2 engine? What if you promise new cinematics and content?

Chill out.

What if you told people it was being developed by Silicon Knights, with the help of Miyamoto and Kojima.

They say if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and the case holds here. I do not know the official story, but I’ll venture to guess that the two Gaming Gods had mere advisory roles. Silicon Knights still manages to deliver on the promise. That promise, however, just isn’t much.

If you have played MGS1 before, all the new goodies and even the upgraded visuals are not potent enough to make it feel fresh, nor is the new content worth seeing. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Metal Gear Solid series part 4

Continued from part 3.

Metal gear Ghost Babel

I remember when I first learned of, I looked to see what the highest rated games were in its database. Ocarina of Time was number 1 (and remains so), but one of the games in the top 3 was Metal Gear Solid on the Gameboy Color. I always laughed at this one; while the game deserved all the high scores and praise it received, I loved the idea of a simple handheld game trumping some console classics in ratings.

Ring around the rosie.

While it may not be the best thing you’ll ever play, Ghost Babel, which is the subtitle for the game that was removed in the States, is an easy vote for my favorite game on the Gameboy/Color. The concept is simple; take the overall depth and feel of the first two 2d Metal Gears, and spruce them up with the polish, style, and features of Metal Gear Solid. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Metal Gear Solid series part 3

Continued from part 2.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Metal Gear Solid 2 is impossible to discuss nowadays without at least establishing what the game is “about”; the message that Kojima intended for the player. First, we need to understand that Raiden, everything about the character and his experience, represents the player (more specifically, the modern Japanese gamer/otaku, but it works well enough for Westerners). Second, the game’s surreal nature, crazy AI and double crosses are all commentary on the Information Age, which has made information not only more widespread, but has changed how one can wield it. The final message from Snake (the hero we aspire to, but cannot control for long) is clear; just believe in something, and pass your beliefs and your genes on to the future. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Metal Gear Solid series part 1

Because this is a discussion of the game series there will be significant spoilers. Read and weep.

I have a strange relationship with MGS. If you take away a few enhanced releases, I have played (or am playing) just about everything MGS related, from the mainline trilogy to Twin Snakes and even the Game Boy Color game. Something tells me I’ll have finished MGS4 within four months of release, even if I have no PS3. I seem to be an absolute whore for Kojima. And yet, I’m not sure I entirely love MGS. In fact, I know I don’t.

The only game in the series that I would consider truly brilliant is 3. The rest may simply be problematic postmodern experiments. Everyone heaps praise upon the stories and storytelling present in MGS, yet it seems to me to be mostly anime fueled sci-fi schlock. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Halo Single-Player Campaigns part 3

In this continuation of the Halo single player retrospective I will look at…


Again, the most enjoyable Halo in regards to story and presentation is Halo: Combat Evolved. In 2001, we didn’t know what a “Halo” was or meant. With the first game, we were introduced to the Forerunners, the Covenant, and the Flood for the very first time, and it feverishly sparked our imaginations, with the player trying to figure out what kind of universe Master Chief was living in. This happens a lot with games in general. The first game is far more potent in terms of story than the sequels, as you’ve already experienced the same style of storytelling in the first game. From our perspective, the most innovative is the first one. All the rest are just walking down the road that the first one paved. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Halo Single-Player Campaigns part 2

In this continuation of the Halo single player retrospective I will look at…

Level Design

Halo has never been one to “wow” a player with its level design. One of the core examples of why Metroid Prime was cited as being better than Halo was its superior level design, which, in retrospect, is not a huge accomplishment. Levels like The Library seem to be a test for the level designers to see how many times they could use the Copy-Paste function in their level editors.

To be truthful though, Bungie makes really good outdoor environments. This seems to be because it is usually devoid of any Forerunner architecture. When Master Chief travels through a Forerunner structure, there is very little in the way of detail. It’s an artistic choice, but it doesn’t lend itself to variety. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Halo Single-Player Campaigns part 1

When people think of the Halo series, they’re quickly reminded of the college dorm-room deathmatch. Halo is the quintessential multiplayer experience on consoles, but it wasn’t always like that. Before 2001, Halo meant nothing to people. It was just another FPS game that Microsoft was using to launch their first console, the Xbox.

To really get players talking (and ultimately spending their hard-earned money), Bungie had to create a compelling single-player campaign. If the core game was bad or run-of-the-mill, no one would care about multiplayer. And a launch game’s success is usually dependent on word of mouth. Look at Wii Sports. The more people that enjoy it, the more they talk, and the better it sells (which basically means more people to play multiplayer with).

Contrary to popular belief, Halo was originally all about the single-player, story-based campaign, which is the complete opposite of what it is now. →  Read the rest

Retrospective – Metroid Prime 2

Continuing our look at the fabled Metroid Prime series, we now delve into Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. It’s a common occurrence in the video game medium that a franchise peaked early in its life time. When a game is as stellar as the first Metroid Prime, it’s going to be very hard to create something better. And this is an apt description of Echoes. It’s definitely a good game, but sadly, with nothing new to show, and a few problems introduced, Echoes doesn’t live up to expectations.

In this installment, Samus has accepted a request to find a missing Galactic Federation starship that was last heard from while hunting down a Space Pirate frigate above the planet Aether. All communications with the GF starship have been lost since then. Not one to pass up easy money, Samus accepts the mission and travels to Aether, but as she enters the atmosphere, a virulent electrical storm damages her gunship, leaving her stranded on Aether until her ship repairs itself. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Metroid Prime

I don’t know about you guys, but with all these Metroid videos popping up all over the place, coupled with the release of three Metroid titles in a three week span (Metroid, Super Metroid on the VC, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii), I have developed full-blown Metroid-fever. GameTrailers has an awesome video retrospective on the entire Metroid series, while Nintendo has been so kind as to relay eight preview videos for the soon-to-be Wii masterpiece, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, right to our very own Wiis.

But then I became a little sad. Corruption is going to end the Prime trilogy as we know it. What happens next, no one knows. Would the series return to 2D adventure like SNES’s opus, Super Metroid? Would it continue the First-Person-Adventure legacy? →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Suikoden series, part 3

Suikoden IV

The fourth game in the Suikoden series, putting it kindly, is the “black sheep.” It features more realistic graphics, nicer portraits, good voice acting, and a good translation. It takes place in a vast, thalassic island chain, which you roam on impressive Exploration Era-esque warships complete with rune-based cannon.

The sad part is that nearly everything else has jumped ship, so to speak. Though the game is quite pretty on the surface and has all the requisites to be a Suikoden game, it is highly regressive. Konami realized they had struck a “too complex” chord with its audience and took a few too many steps backward in an attempt to make things right.

Take the battle system of Suikoden 1. Remove two characters. Next, remove the row system (so all characters are in a row). →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Suikoden series, part 2

Continued from part 1

Suikoden 2
Suikoden 2 takes place a few years after the events of Suikoden 1. It is not only the rarest and most expensive Suikoden (sometimes reaching the $100 mark) but is also usually considered the best of the series. I have to agree – it improves nearly all aspects of the first game, develops a more interesting plot and has nicer artwork.

First off, the second entry builds much upon the success of the first plot-wise. The game takes place in an area to the North of the first one, three years after the revolution in the Scarlet Moon Empire. This is the continent of the rival countries of Jowston and Highland.

The young prince of Highland, Luca Blight, is both ambitious and bloodthirsty. He chooses the main character’s army brigade as a sacrifice for the cause of war, and though the main character and his friend Jowy manage to survive, they are still swept into the ensuing conflict between the two countries. →  Read the rest

Retrospectives – Suikoden series, part 1

Imagine, if you will, a role-playing game (of the Eastern variety) which creates a persistent fantasy world for an entire series. This world is so large that, even in the latest entry, there are still entire countries that have been mentioned, but that players have yet to explore. The plot of each game concerns revolutions and wars – the sort of things most RPGs leave to the background – and the player is the architect of these nation-spanning changes.

Suikoden, called “Genso Suikoden” or Fantasy Suikoden in Japan, is an RPG series on the PSX, Saturn and PS2 that has been around since 1996. The “Suikoden” in the name comes from the Japanese name for the Shui Hu Zhuan or (usually) Outlaws of the Marsh, one of the four Chinese Classics (alongside the better-known Three Kingdoms and The Journey West). →  Read the rest

Console logos throughout the ages

This year, 2007, marks the 30th anniversary of the Atari 2600 release, which is what many consider to be the very first commercial video game console. And since then, the gaming populace has been privy to 21 major home consoles. To celebrate this momentous year, I have painstakingly researched and categorized each of the 18 home consoles’ logos. Yes, I have nothing else better to do with my time. So, with that in mind, let’s take a quick stroll through history, shall we?

Atari 2600: Here we have the granddaddy of them all: the Atari 2600. I don’t really understand what this logo stands for, but it must mean something cool, as it can still be seen on t-shirts and stickers everywhere. If you’re trying to convey the fact that you’re a retro gamer, you probably have the Atari logo somewhere in your gaming bordello. →  Read the rest

Series Retrospective: Mega Man

Oh, Mega Man. Do we still love you? Time was we never thought that could be a question. Even when you faltered, you still gave rise to some very quality action-platformers. But you’ve been around for a while now, and almost every console since the NES has been graced — or maybe cursed? — with your round, blue head. As result, many see you as old and stale, surpassing even Street Fighter as the primary symbol of Capcom’s tendency to rehash their most popular franchises (which often overshadows the fact that the company has created some very good new IP’s in the last few years).

But forget what the pundits say. Mega Man was one of my favorite series as a child, and I feel that its sheer longevity earns the Blue Bomber a Series Retrospective. →  Read the rest