Review – Ninja Gaiden II

Ninja Gaiden 2 is not an earth-shattering masterpiece. As much as the fan in me wants to spout absurd levels of hyperbole that put recent GTA4 and MGS4 reviews to shame, and devote five paragraphs to how this game’s Oscar-worthy story made me regret having even existed before its release date, I feel it’s more relevant to discuss why games like this are so important in the current landscape of the video game industry.

The game represents what I consider to be the “Nintendo Legacy.” Back in the Sega & Nintendo days, games were short. A combination of small development groups, limited resources, and hardware abilities of the time meant that games of the era were around 2-5 hours long. So how do you give a player lasting value to justify the price tag for such a short experience? →  Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Bore me and I sleep.

Review – Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

I have a confession to make. Despite my general crankiness about the game industry, as well as my increasingly picky taste, I have a soft spot for a bane of the industry: World War 2 shooters. Chalk it up to the fact I am a history buff with a desire to compare in-game depictions of certain battles and weaponry to reality. This weakness has led me to play some of the worst Medal of Honor games, as well as to attempt to beat Call of Duty 3 on two different platforms (I finished neither). Finally the genre has provided a diamond in the rough.

When Call of Duty 2 was released on 360 and PC, someone decided to give gamers still using “old gen” consoles a consolation prize. A “bitch game” if you will. →  Keep it warm.

Review – Civilization Revolution Demo

As the name might imply, it’s hard to make a full judgment of Civilization Revolution based on the demo for a few reasons. The game is time limited, you can only play on “pussy” or “Jay” mode (we’ll let the readers decide which is worse), both giving you bonuses significant enough that it’s hard to get a flavor for real balance. The Civlopedia isn’t full, so you can’t analyze all the techs without playing countless times, and you are limited to two civilizations. Despite these limitations, what you can do is get a good feeling for how Firaxis dramatically changed the game-style of Civ while still keeping it Civ–a paraphrased sentence you’ve heard over and over again about the game which is an excellent way to open up this review.

This is unrealistic.

 →  Up to 6 billion readers.

Review – Real Soccer 2008

When I first spotted “Real Soccer” in my local game shop, I was initially under the impression that the game’s name was an indication of a metaphysical breakthrough at Ubisoft labs. Sick of titles stuck with the “virtual” nomenclature, Ubisoft had determined – Matrix-like – that they could decide what is and is not real. I mean, what is “reality,” anyway, right? Yeah.

Sadly, however, the title instead betrays the pathetic lack of sports titles for the DS. Not “this is real soccer,” but “omigosh! Honest-to-goodness real soccer on the DS!!” It makes more sense when one appreciates that the title’s name is Real Football in the UK, and there are probably plenty of British dudes who are sick of us calling our decidedly un-foot-centric game by the name of football, but whatever. →  Read Danger!

Sins of an Innovative Developer

Sins of a Solar Empire is such a complicated game that I felt compelled to write an accompanying editorial with my review. Because Ironclad has tried something new and fresh, there are more than a few kinks to work through. At least in the current infancy of the game, a big issue Ironclad is tackling is whether a developer caters to the larger gamer audience crowd–even if they’re wrong, or the people playing the game the “right” way.

For various reasons, the game is very difficult to learn to play properly. In no particular order, let me throw a few out there:

1. The single player AI is too easy, to the point you don’t need to utilize counter units, so you don’t learn much about units

2. There’s no campaign to make you learn to use different units in different situations to make up for the general AI being terrible

3. →  Hot Shots Post 3

Review – Sins of a Solar Empire

Real Time Strategy games have been somewhat dormant in the past few years. The big expectation, of course, is that Starcraft 2 will re-energize the genre and spawn another wave of imitators. The 4X genre, on the other hand, has been bolstered by Galactic Civilization 2 and is being “dumbed down” for the widely anticipated Civilization Revolutions, due out in June. Speaking of Civ, Beyond the Sword, while excellent, is horribly buggy and has been heavily neglected and unsupported by Firaxis. Seriously, Firaxis, you guys are sell-out assholes, and I will continue to call you out until you patch BTS properly instead of cashing in on Civ Rev.

In the meantime, to satiate your 4X and RTS desires all at once, we have Sins of a Solar Empire, the first of its kind: a 4X RTS. →  OutRun 2006: Post to Post

The PC gaming industry is broken

Lately there has been a lot of kerfluffle coming out of the Epic Games camp about the superiority of console development over PCs. CliffyB, as much as I usually admire the man, has hinted that PC games are not exactly a top priority for him, and then turns around (with the help of Epic Master-Spinster Mark Rein) to say that they want to help PC gaming bounce back, if it hasn’t already. It is hard to get a good picture of what their stance actually is. After all, it is Rein’s job to say the right things at the right time, and Cliffy is still surprised and high off of his console successes. Considering that they are now in the public eye, where every word can be scrutinized and taken out of context, it seems we should find a different source for info on the state of PC games (and let Cliffy get back to making Gears 2 =) ). →  Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty article.

Review – Age of Empires: Age of Kings (and Crashing)

I hate to lead with such a petty slam against Age of Empires on the DS, but the fact of the matter is, the game is crash-tastic. I experienced two irritating crashes during campaigns (if you watch animated battles, the game can crash. This is worked around by disabling animated battles, which you will eventually want to do anyway). Another crash came upon completing a particularly long scenario: the screen just went black and never loaded the victory page.

A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir to a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deni’st the least syllable of thy addition.
 →  Jet fuel can’t melt videolamer.

The Trouble with Tactics

As I’m sure you can tell by my previous articles, I love RPGs and strategy games. It should follow, then, that I love the Strategy RPG genre. Just like peanut butter and pizza. Although I like some SRPGs, I have some issues with the genre, particularly the Tactical subgenre. By “Tactical”, I mean finer-scale games where you manage each individual taking part in battles.

For example, I started up Shining Force a couple months ago via the wonders of Virtual Console. I began noticing occasional oddities; enemies with low agility would move twice when my high-agility archers never got a move in, for example (Hans was useless anyways). Levels would either be quite useful or really suck.

You can’t tell from this picture, but the priest and thief are horribly under-leveled.
 →  I'll get a job later, for now I'm going to read this

Tales of Tactility

Remember H.A.L? That evil-genius-space-robot from Clarke/Kubrick’s 2001? It seems like most of the time I hear him mentioned it’s from some miniaturization fetishist from the Church of Jobs (Steve). Something along the lines of “can you believe how big they thought computers would be back in the 60’s?!?!” Nevermind that the ability to create a sentient AI is still far beyond our reach, and that supercomputers still take up entire rooms. Fans of the MacBook Air expect super-intelligent robots to get lost in a container of Tic-Tacs.

But H.A.L’s massiveness underscores a point about machines that gets lost nowadays: that they are composed real objects and are themselves physical as well as intellectual. David Bowman doesn’t defeat H.A.L. by uploading a virus or outrationalizing it until it “cannot compute.” He inserts himself into its innards and takes it apart circuit-board by circuit-board. →  Arc the Post: Twilight of the Spirits

Review – Growlanser: Heritage of War

The third Growlanser game we’ve received stateside, Heritage of War, is actually the fifth in the series. We received Growlansers 2 and 3 as the last games of the late Working Designs (what is Gaijinworks up to, anyways?) in the Generations package. This game is a more than adequate successor.

Similar to the third Growlanser, Heritage of War is a Strategy RPG with leanings toward the RPG side. You move around the world exploring cities and caves, but when a battle starts, you enter a sort of active-time strategy mode in which you can pause anytime to give orders to any of your allies. For those of you who’ve tried Final Fantasy XII, it’s a lot like that with a faster pace and pausing while giving orders. In random battles, your allies’ AI can usually take care of things on its own. →  PaReader the Reader

Review – Assassins Creed

From everything I have read online, it seems that gamers everywhere are split into two camps when it comes to Assassin’s Creed: those who love the game and those who find it painfully repetitious. After beating the game over the course of four days, I found myself graduating from one group to the other. For the first third of the game I was frustrated, annoyed, angry, and bored. (Incidentally, three is an important number in the structure of Assassin’s Creed. There are three cities in the game, each with three sections and three assassination targets – one per section. In order to complete an assassination the player needs to collect three out of six available pieces of information about the target. So, judging the game in thirds seems to be a logical way to go)

And yet, despite all of the initial boredom and general dislike of the game, my final verdict is that I like Assassin’s Creed. →  Welcome to read zone!

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. →  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a gamer against their game.

Review – Crysis

Taking First Person Shooters to a New Level of Suck

After a long day of working, it’s nice to come home, jump on my computer, and blow the living daylights out of people, monsters, hookers, you name it. For me, playing an FPS after a day of work is akin to getting an Oreo Cookie Blizzard on a hot day; it just feels right. I don’t have to think, I don’t have to care about hurting people, I just shoot and all of my stress melts away. As blood sprays across the digital walls and bodies drop, mangled and lifeless to the floor, I grin and become new again. When I heard the news that Crysis was in development, I was happy. FarCry, while not a perfect game, was an ok shooter so I figured Crysis would follow suit. →  You think about everything.

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. →  Lamers so loved the world that they gave their only article, so that everyone who believes in reading won’t perish but will have eternal lives.

Review – Half-Life Episode 2

Half Life 2 Episode 1 was much like the Opposing Force expansion to the original Half Life. Both games were largely similar, but each offered a distinct twist that helped it along. In Opposing Force, it was the concept of playing as a soldier hunting down Gordon Freeman, and the benefits of having a troop of specialized AI soldiers to help you along the way.

In Episode 1, it was the impressive AI of Alyx Vance, which helped you bond with her character as well as giving Valve a chance to create some interesting scenarios for her and Gordon to tackle. Both games also benefited from their incredible set pieces that improved upon most of the things we experienced in the original games. It says a lot when your two expansion packs contain some of the best single player content of the year. →  I'd rather die than not read this article!

Review – Persona 3

The PS2 may have looked as if it were on its last legs – a lame duck with no good new releases. I almost believed this, but Persona 3 has proven it wrong, and because of it, I’m still playing my PS2 more than my Wii.

Granted, this RPG is not for everyone. It’s about 70 hours, sometimes difficult, and very Japanese. But I do recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the genre, for a couple reasons.

First off, this game has a plot and ambiance that surpasses standard RPG fare. Like the original Persona (which didn’t get much exposure), Persona 3 involves modern Japanese high school students fighting demons. It is done in an anime style, but differently enough to separate it from the rest of the pack. Also, like its predecessors, Persona 3 has excellent music (and the soundtrack included has some of the better tracks). →  Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about huffing paint.

PS1 games you may have missed: The RPGs

As you all may be aware, Sony is finally picking up the software side of backwards compatibility for its shiny new system.

Since the PS3 doesn’t have any good RPGs or strategy games of its own yet, I would like to take this opportunity to recommend a few rare games that may actually be compatible with the PS3 by now.

I won’t lie; some of these games are inordinately expensive by used-game standards. But even the most expensive doesn’t cost twice as much as a new PS3 game.

My intent with this is to show you all that the PSX was, in some ways, an incredible system; it may not have had the sturdy character of the N64, but even though I am fascinated with obscurity, I hadn’t heard of several of these games a few years ago – well after the PS2 had taken over. →  Now with fewer vowels.

Xbox 360 demo roundup!

I have no idea if this will be a regular thing. Depends on how many demos come out on a weekly basis. In any case, enjoy this roundup of recent demos.

SKATE – Jay tells me I’m not allowed to like this one because its name is SKATE. Also it is by EA. I don’t really give a damn. If you want to bury Tony Hawk into the ground, this is the way to do it. SKATE opts for a more realistic skating experience, without being too realistic. One joystick manages your body, the other the skatebaord itself. Most moves involve simple flicks of the joystick in various directions, in some facsimile of the motions for performing that trick on a real board. Grinds will vary depending on what angle you approach a rail from. →  Is that an article in your pants, or are you just happy to read me?

Review – Bioshock

About halfway through Bioshock, I had concocted three different introductions to use in a review.

Then I lost my saves.

Word to the wise; don’t transfer your offline gamertag onto Xbox Live at 2 in the morning. Bad things will happen. They did to me, and I had to play the entire first half all over again. Doing this was a blessing in disguise, as it showed me a few things about the game that were not evident the first time around. Then the second half taught me even more. Let’s get right to the point; this is a good game. Is it a great game? Some will feel it is not, as there are most certainly a few problems here. Is it a work of art? This is an even tougher question to answer. →  Postsona 3 FES