Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: etc, etc, etc

In a sentence, imagine Street Fighter II with slightly nicer graphics and hyper combos.

In more than a sentence, why is it that Capcom’s fighting games are allowed to be so lazy and yet get relatively good reviews? Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and the 1.1 versions of both of those. Shallow and lazy. Particularly the versus series. Great potential for some kind of interesting story mode reduced to a handful of cool cutscenes.

So. What do you get in Tats vs Caps? Not a lot. Punch people in the head on seven stages in Arcade Mode. Punch people in the ahead against the clock in survival mode and punch as many people in the head before your life runs out in Survival Mode. Even for a Capcom game there is a paucity of unlockables. →  Read the rest

Monster Hunter Tri

If at first you don’t succeed ha ha ha ha. This is now the third attempt at a review of Monster Hunter Tri. Before I start can I just say that it isn’t actually a review. My inner critic has been blinded by adoration. It is more of a love letter? Hmmm. Maybe more of a state of the union of gaming as exemplified through this one game? Who knows what it will be? I don’t. But it begins now in any case.

I wasn’t a fan of Monster Hunter on the best PlayStation. I remember playing the demo that came with Devil May Cry and being a bit underwhelmed by it. Then later I was given a copy of the game and still not really swung. I’ll be honest though. →  Read the rest

Review: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

Presumably, there is a design doc at Square Enix that defines what defines a Crystal Chronicles game.  A character called Cid, cactuars, marlboros, flans, chocobos, airships, trains and magical jewelery are all borrowed from the main series. What makes a Crystal Chronicles game seems to be an obsession with talking about crystals, carrying things above your head, real time combat and a world populated by four different races. What I didn’t know until I hit the Final Fantasy Wiki is that all of the Crystal Chronicles games are set in the same universe but thousands of years apart. Which is nice and explains the obsession with crystals.

In my little world at least, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles titles are always released with little in the way of fanfare, especially when compared to the main series of games, and often received a mixed reception. →  Read the rest

Review – Fragile Dreams

I had high hopes for Fragile Dreams. It seemed to have an unusual story, focused on post-apocalyptic loneliness and exploring a more or less empty, shattered world. And, even after moderately bad reviews, I looked forward to trying out what I still hoped would be a good game. After all, Opoona and Baroque both got worse reviews, and in my opinion they are a couple of the best third-party titles on the system.

Then I started the game. And therein lies the problem. Fragile Dreams, despite its nifty artwork, decent plot, and great music, purports first and foremost to be a game. And although it does not completely fail at being a game, it does come pretty damn close. It has a decent atmosphere – chilling, occasionally with that edge of tension that only decent survival horror games can manage – and then you get into combat and everything turns awful. →  Read the rest

Review – No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle

No More Heroes was a fine game, but it was one that worked best as a solitary experience. Parodies of gamer, geek, and otaku culture are a tricky business, and the game managed to address this issue well. Going for it a second time around would be pushing it, and having to reconcile the true ending of its predecessor would probably cheapen it in the end.

But really, it was the pessimist inside me that made me most concerned about NMH2. One of the E3 trailers indicated that the protagonist, Travis Touchdown, was going to start fighting as only the 50th ranked assassin. I knew there was a snowball’s chance in hell that Grasshopper Manufacture (or any developer, for that matter) was going to come up with fifty new boss battles to fight. →  Read the rest

Review – Another Code: R A Journey Into Lost Memories

Another Code:R A Journey Into Lost Memories (herein abbreviated to AC:RAJILM) is from the same developer behind the rather excellent Hotel Dusk. So I was somewhat excited when AC:RAJILM was announced for the Wii.

After an extensive playthrough, it seems that this excitement was altogether misplaced. This is not necessarily to say that the game is bad, or that this review will be negative, but just don’t expect to ever get excited in AC:RAJILM.

It seems that CING, when mixing up AC:RAJILM in the laboratory, accidentally got some of the quantities of the point ‘n’ click ingredients wrong. They have definitely made an adventure with pointing and clicking but some of the elements aren’t optimally balanced.

So, for example, a staple technique used in these kinds of games is to give players lots of things to investigate, the payoff for throroughness being hidden items, secret bonuses, hints or extra flavour. →  Read the rest

Review – Muramasa: The Demon Blade

“An ancient pond. A frog jumps in. The splash of water. Hmm… Not a bad haiku.” -Old Man living in Sagami

Muramasa is like a haiku. It’s simple and concise. It comes from an ancient era where a direction pad and a button or two were all anyone needed to escape into virtual reality. Its three metric phrases are its combat, its art and music, and its role playing. Games like this are rare these days in the retail world, having been mostly contained into digital distribution and indie divisions. I don’t know how this one managed to make it onto store shelves, but I commend whoever was responsible.

Muramasa is set in mythological Japan, where mortal life rides upon the outcome of conflicts between the gods and demons, and human civilization sprawls across the countryside. →  Read the rest

Review – Cursed Mountain

Cursed Mountain is the latest game in the survival horror mountain climbing genre. It really wants to let everyone know that it’s scary, it has angry contorted faces all over the place, deep dramatic music, and lots of dark shadowy stuff everywhere. It also really wants to recreate the feeling of climbing up a mountain. You will have to literally climb every inch of this huge mountain. Except for a few parts where they jump you ahead a little, since only so much mountain can fit into a ten hour game.

This videogame is less “survival horror” (most noticeably absent from the game is the whole “survival” aspect) and more of a genre that I made up after playing Gears of War, which I like to call “on rails but not really.” →  Read the rest

Review – Rune Factory Frontier

Farmer’s Diary, Day 1
I have no knowledge of my past. I found myself in a town I had never heard of with only a half-dozen denizens. They told me I could have the farm. How kind of them to take me in for a while.

Now I just need to get some seeds, plow some spaces of earth, and water ’em. No sweat!

Farmer’s Diary, Day 2
Some giant stone whale-shaped island in the sky is blocking the sun. My crops demanded retribution, so I shouldered my hoe and readied my hammer. Climbing a convenient beanstalk, I reached the whale and it spoke to me! It told me to explore it and find out why it’s slowly dying. What the hell am I supposed to do? I don’t know the first thing about whales. →  Read the rest

Review – Klonoa: Door to Phantomile

Poor Klonoa. The plucky little dog/cat thing has appeared in two well regarded platformers and five spinoffs (two of them well regarded GBA platformers). Yet he has always dwelled in relative obscurity. With the release of the Wii remake of the original Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, nothing much has changed. Klonoa is still unable to light up the charts (and with a cover that looks like a budget release, I can understand why), and he is still able to make a damn fine platformer. Short, sweet, thoroughly gorgeous, they don’t make them like this anymore.

I say that because this is a very strict remake, helmed by many of the original team members. They decided to keep the core game intact, including the levels, story, and even the jibberish Phantomilian language. →  Read the rest

Review – Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut

The Knights Templar were an order of Christian soldiers from western Europe who gathered substantial influence and wealth during the Crusades. Many were tortured and/or executed in France in the early 14th century, primarily because King Philip of France owed them money and felt it was more expedient to kill them and disband the order than it was to pay. Of course, he did this under the pretense that they were not in fact true Catholics but rather practitioners of any number of bizarre rituals. As a result of these probably false accusations, their previous military prowess and influence, and the massive fortune they acquired through donations and the early bank-like system they developed, the story of the Knights took on mythic proportions.

Just like in real life.

Unfortunately, they are also an overused trope in movies and pop literature, either as grand puppeteers that actually rule the world from behind the scenes, or as the source of some treasure beyond all of our wildest dreams. →  Read the rest

Review – Baroque

Baroque has been wronged. There is no other way to put it.

I held off on getting this game until fairly recently, when I saw it for sale at $20. I wasn’t willing to buy it at $50 because I had heard all about how terrible the game was; crippling difficulty, a complete lack of story, no carjackings or Nazis, and so on.

A few months ago, RPGamer ranked it as the best Wii RPG of 2008. Granted, I don’t always agree with RPGamer – but then, I like Opoona, so my tastes are already pretty weird. Plus, look at the competition. Tales of Symphonia 2, Opoona, maybe a couple others. None would rank best RPG of the whatever on any other system. But my interest was piqued enough to consider Baroque. →  Read the rest

Review – Uncharted Waters: New Horizons

Ahh, the Virtual Console. A wonderful vault of games long forgotten, chock full of titles from a simpler time. We didn’t have to manage inventory, talk to the right townspeople to progress, perform stupid fetch quests or deal with purposefully vague objectives. Back in those days, men were real men, women were real women, and games were all about jumping from platform to platform. Or so you might believe.

A few Mondays ago, the only Virtual Console release (a thought that saddens me; even three would be too few) was one Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. This led to mass disappointment, as everyone was hoping we’d get some stupid Zelda game (please don’t kill me) that everyone has already played before. On the other hand, I was ecstatic because I got a menu-filled, exploration-heavy Age of Exploration sim with multiple interweaving plot lines and tons of freedom. →  Read the rest


It’s been 37 years now since Pong became the first commercially successful videogame. 37 years isn’t very long in the grand scheme of things, so with gaming still so young it’s not surprising that only recently there has been a popular interest in its history. Although the medium owes its existence to computer technology, games are unlike most computer software in the sense that the latest versions aren’t always the “best.” Every game offers its own unique experience.

Unfortunately most games don’t manage to transcend time completely, and large aspects of them are trapped as artifacts of their era. Essentially no one today could enjoy Pong the way its first audience did in 1972. This is why remakes are not just popular, but essential for most games. And sometimes someone will make a completely new game that borrows the best qualities from games of the past, and integrates them with the best qualities of today. →  Read the rest

Review – Orbient

I love puzzle games. I don’t mean that I love most puzzle games, but that I love the puzzle genre. This actually leads me to hate most puzzle games because of the unreasonably high expectations I set for them. But when I do find one that I like, I really like it. Orbient is one of those games.

The gameplay is simple. You are a planet wandering through a two dimensional universe filled with other planets. Most planets just follow their orbit patterns, but for some unexplained reason you have the ability to control gravity’s effect on you. There’s a button to activate regular gravity, and a button to activate anti-gravity. As you wander you’ll have to use these strategically to control your movement. Unlike most games, there are no buttons for moving an exact direction. →  Read the rest

Review – Wario Land: Shake It!

I have been trying to figure out the “new” Nintendo ever since the Wii launch, and a game like Warioland Shake It! both enlightens and confounds me. It is perhaps the best picture of what Nintendo can do (as opposed to what they may want to do) with their traditions, yet I cannot find a reviewer that sees it the same way as me. While in all likelihood this is a clue that I am going off on a wild tangent, I cannot help but feel that Shake It! is a sign of a community that at times has an ass backwards opinion of Nintendo, or in some cases is having a hard time adjusting.

I am going to put it bluntly – Shake It! is a kid’s game, a description which I do not use pejoratively. →  Read the rest

Review – LIT

LIT’s brilliance is not in the game itself (though it is a great game, to be sure), but in its ability to illuminate what makes a game fun and how developers ought to make use of the opportunity to make small games – an opportunity afforded by the Wii Shop Channel, PSN, etc. Set in an undead-filled school, LIT is a puzzle game that spans 30 levels, including 5 bosses, with each level being represented by a classroom. When I say puzzle game, however, I mean puzzle game like Zak and Wiki was a puzzle game, or perhaps even Wario Ware is a puzzle game; LIT is a metapuzzle game, the puzzle is figuring out how to solve each puzzle.

This is the first way in which LIT shines (for those playing the home game we’re up to three light puns now). →  Read the rest

Review – World of Goo

What a strange and intriguing little beast this is. I’m hesitant to call it a game. It most certainly is a game in the sense that it places a series of challenges before you, with rewards meted out along the way, and then a credit sequence plays. But in some ways that are intangible, and other that are, it doesn’t quite feel like a game. Before I go off on some bizarre experiential recollection of my time spent with it, I will give you a more straightforward recounting of what I felt about the game. I believe in times past they were called “reviews”.

There is a lot to like about World of Goo.

I’m going to get the look and feel out of the way first, because it’s pretty much perfect. →  Read the rest

Review – No More Heroes

No More Heroes came out a little more than a year ago, but I’m reviewing it now since the current economy is helping me appreciate older games I already have lying around my room. I remember playing it soon after it came out and thought it was fun at the time. Once I beat single player story mode though I essentially lost interest in ever picking it back up because that was all there is to it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a game simply having a twenty or so hour long single player mode, but once you beat it you’re through. There’s no way to select levels afterward and replay your favorite parts, so you simply have to make the whole twenty hour investment all over again in order to get the full experience. →  Read the rest

Review – Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World

Tales of Symphonia is one of the Gamecube’s greatest RPGs. I only got around to finishing it a couple of months ago at the urging of several friends. I was further encouraged to play through it by the impending release of its sequel, Dawn of the New World. Unfortunately, DotNW does not live up to its predecessor’s legacy and instead spends much of the time in its shadow.

Some of this is inevitable. Tales of Symphonia ends with the merger of two worlds, and much of the sequel deals with what happens afterward. The two lands of Sylvarant and Tethe’alla do not really get along, and bizarre weather events trouble the entire world. A lot of blame is naturally cast at the heroes of the first game. Lloyd, in particular, seems to have gone off the deep end as he instigates a massacre of a town during the game’s beginning. →  Read the rest