Sunday, November 30, 2008

I miss RPGs

This weekend has made me realize that I haven't played a good RPG for quite some time. The last one that comes to mind is Final Fantasy 3 and maybe Lost Odyssey before that. Now yes, Final Fantasy 3 was good but I never finished it because the final boss arena required me to go level grinding for a few hours, something I didn't want to do. Lost Odyssey on the other hand - I didn't like.

So this weekend while watching TV, I remembered that Cheap Ass Gamers was saying that all GBA games were $5 at EB. This by the way was very much false (Super Mario World 3 was $45 used!!). This made me think about the GBA games I had missed and wanted to pick up. Earlier in the week I had made a list, it included, Final Fantasy 6, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and more. Those were the big name ones. So since I wasn't able to pick these up earlier this week, I wanted to play Final Fantasy 5.

I had been really hoping to get 6 because I one day want to have experienced all the main numbered ones. But I remembered that I had hardly played 5. So I picked it up, and played it all weekend. And I had a great time with it and will be playing it for a while.

What this has done though is really made me want to get back into RPGs. I haven't really gotten into one for such a long time. Just not many good ones have come out that I've wanted. Now that Chrono Trigger is out, I'll be trying to get that around Christmas time. I really can't wait for it because it'll be for my DS (playing the SP again is a little annoying and I don't feel like grabbing the DS for this) and because it was a huge game when it first came out. I never got to experience it on the SNES so I really want to now.

The next RPG I really can't wait for is Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon for the DS. Why am I so excited for this game? Simple, it is Fire Emblem and I haven't played a good FE game since the GBA games. I actually miss not having a new mission to go into. And there's just something about playing FE in my hands (portable) as opposed to have to set a time in which to sit on the couch and only focus on that.

So those are some of the games I can't wait to get a hold of soon and will throughly throw me back into my old RPG days. And to think that RPGs are my favorite genre.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Review: Shaun White Snowboarding - 4

Shaun White Snowboarding is Ubisoft’s first shot at the snowboarding genre. They teamed up with celebrity boarder Shaun White and came out with an overall bad experience. This game does a bad job of making you really feel like you’re flying down the slopes by its shoddy controls and bad physics. The game was an overall let down and won’t make you want to continue with it.

The graphics in Shaun White Snowboarding aren’t bad. They do a good job of recreating a mountain- scape and the atmosphere included. I generally found the area I was boarding down was nice to look at. One thing though was the character models. I was quite torn about how I felt about them. Normally they looked okay, but I was always looking at my guy from the back. The only aesthetic I didn’t like in this game was the character faces. I thought Shaun White’s character in the game is incredible ugly and looks almost last gen-like when it came to his face.

My favourite part about the game was the music line up. It did a good job on incorporating old pop/classic rock with some new age hits. This wasn’t that big a deal for me and I doubt for many of you since the game other than that wasn’t really fun to play. Though there’s no way to be able to choose which songs you want to listen to out of the selection you have. You can’t make a playlist of your favourites in it.

Now the biggest issue I had with this game was the controls and the difficulty that came along with them. The controls are just awful to work with and they make the game very hard and not enjoyable. Controlling the camera only works if you aren’t moving. You can’t look around you while you’re going down the mountain unless you come to a complete stop. Also you need to use the right trigger for most of your stunts as this is the jump button - it’s also the brake button. This causes you to have to move towards a jump and when you are on the jump, you have to start breaking to that your guy can get more height. All this does is slow you down and you can’t do as many tricks because you don’t have as much air time as you probably would have if you didn’t have to break. Another weird thing is that the right analog stick is for, while on the ground, turning your board. Which if you don’t have any speed, or aren’t landing from a jump, does nothing but help you slow down (giving us now three ways to slow down and stop). These controls just made me dislike playing and ending up getting frustrated to the point that coming back to the game was a challenge.

The next thing I didn’t like was how they made you do tricks. While you are doing a flip or a spin, you have a little meter come up below you to show your chance of landing it. You want to aim for the green middle area of it so that you have the best chance possible of landing the trick. Now when you are grinding something you can control where the arrow is on the meter so you can stay in the green pretty easily. When you are doing an aerial trick, you can’t control it at all. This means you need to judge your landing based on your body’s position, which can get pretty hard as you may not be able to tell the best angle to land compared to the slope below you. This just makes the tricks really hard to do if you’re just starting out which ups the learning curve quite a bit.

The game play in Shaun White Snowboarding is a double sided sword. It does a good job of letting you feel like you have an open environment. You can just mess around with tricks while going down the hill if you don’t feel like doing anything significant or you can move to these floating objects that let you get into a competition. The competitions can range from things like “most points received from only grinds” to “highest multiplier achieved”.

When it comes to the story line, it’s just dumb and needless. You’re some new shot kid who met up with Shaun White and his friends one day after wiping out on a jump. Shaun figures you have what it takes to make it big and that there’s something special about you. This all ends up with you becoming Shaun White’s errand boy by collecting giant floating coins for him. After you collect a complete set, he gives you a Focus Power. For example, the first one you receive is the ability to break through broken fences of some ice walls. After you get these new powers you now have to go collect more coins for Shaun which will test your ability to use the new Focus Power. After mastering the power and collecting all the coins, you move on... to receive another Focus Power to use to get Shaun more coins.

The last thing that felt really off about Shaun White Snowboarding was the speed of the game and the collision detections. No matter what kind of gradient you are faced with, you always feel like you are going really slow. If you ever do find yourself going fast, enjoy it, it won’t last long because you slow down really fast. But there are a few times that you will find yourself really flying, which is a great feeling. Though of course, you are bound to hit a tree or some sort of obstacle sooner or later. But in this game, when you run into an object at high speeds, or slam into a grind rail, nothing really happens to you. You will just bounce off the object with a slight deduction to any speed you still had.

Overall Shaun White Snowboarding was a huge let down and almost tedious to play. The poor quality controls are terrible when you first get into the game and only become tolerable after you pass through its long learning curve. If you do however get used to the game and find you can pull off tricks with ease, you will most likely get bored of the story line you are faced with. Shaun White Snowboarding does a terrible job of making you want to come back for more and should just be left alone.

Overall: 4/10

Friday, November 21, 2008

This is retarded

Looking up the Midnight Club: Los Angeles achievements, I came across this.

T-Mobile myFaves10
Join an online game with 5 of your friends. Stay Connected with MyFaves from T-Mobile.

This is just dumb. Have we really gotten to a point where Rockstar needs to sell the "achievements space" they have? Last time I checked, GTA4 was doing okay. Also it should note that the image for this achievement is indeed the T-Mobile icon.

I really hope no one actually decides they need to get a new cell phone plan because Midnight Club: LA told them to.


I have a french manual for Midnight Club: LA that doesn't actually fit in the box. Does anyone want it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First Impressions: Shaun White Snowboarding

So I popped this gem into my machine and it's not as bad as I thought. Here's why:
  • Shaun White looks awful
  • Apart from people's faces, I like the graphics of the characters
  • Controls definitely need to be gotten used to
  • Awful controls
  • Very hard
  • Objectives are dumb
This isn't much, so I'll add more over the next couple days. Look forward to a review this weekend.

I'm getting a copy of Midnight Club: LA later this week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is crazy

I should get this up

(That's what she said...)

Anyway, I figured I should write this before it was too late. Talking about the new dashboard for the 360 after everyone has is, that's just lame. So here are my first and lasting impressions:

  • Cool intro video
  • Glad to see that the opening section of "panels" (what are we ever calling those?) can be taken away
  • Everything seems a little to "marketingy". What I mean is that a lot of it just seems like more advertisements.
  • Avatars aren't awful, so if you had a problem with them you may now shut up.
  • Installing games to the hard drive is awesome! I'm not sure how it helps the loads times because I installed The Force Unleashed before ever playing it off disc. So I don't know if it's any fast, but the 360 is quieter! Done. Done deal.
  • An idea (that I am doing) for people who want to install games to the hard drive but only have a 20GB hard drive. Save just the game you are currently playing, or the one you frequently go back to. As I don't go back to many games as I get new ones almost weekly so I save my current game so that each time I get a new game, they run faster and quieter for me. And of course, the old one gets taken off to provide room for the new one.
  • I'm not a fan of the lay out of the Guide after you hit the guide button. I just find it bland and plain.
  • Friends list is cool - even though all my friends have blank Grey avatars - but I think it needs a better indicator if that person is actually online. It took me a while to realize that if they have a little rectangle with either a game or a 360 icon beside the avatars' feet then they're online.
  • I haven't had a use for the Quick Launch yet, but I can't see it being to relevant unless I need to get into an arcade game from my disc game (or vice versa) really fast - which is something that doesn't happen often.
Now for some stuff I'm looking forward to doing once anyone on my friends list gets the update:

  • Party chats, though I can't see myself making a party chat just to chat. And if I'm making a party chat to talk in game, I can just use the in game chat. Though I still would like to try this.
  • Uno Rush! Should be out soon! (Has nothing to do with the dashboard update)
  • Seeing my friends' avatars, hoping there can be something to do with them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Would ya look at that

Turns out I get an advanced look at the New Xbox Experience afterall. I guess they weren't done handing out betas to people. Yay me. I get to check it out tomorrow. I'll post my first impressions about it.

Review: Gears of War 2 - 9.5

Gears of War 2 brings the same game play elements from the first but adds new factors to keep you interested and coming back for more. You play as Marcus Fenix, leader of the Delta squad, six months after the events of the first Gears of War. We can see that the humans struggle against the Locust has gone from bad to worse. You must fight and gun your way through various different terrains in order to try and save the planet Earth from enslavement.

The biggest point that hit me with Gears of War 2 was that I actually enjoyed it a lot. What made this shocking to me was I quite disliked the first game. It should be noted that I only did about the beginning act on the first one, but that was all it took for me to decide I don’t need any more of this. On the other hand, Gears of War 2 started off big and kept me thinking about it and wanting to come back over and over to continue. It had a great beginning that, unlike its predecessor, got me intrigued.

The biggest difference you will probably notice about Gears of War 2 is its inclusion of a deeper plot. Along with this, you will find more emotional scenes tied to the characters. You start the game out knowing that there is a war going on, but you also are told of a side plot in which your teammate Dom is trying to find his captured wife Maria. Throughout the bloodshed you will ensue upon your enemies, you’ll keep being reminded of this extra story going on and begin to feel a connection to Dom. The game causes more emotional relationships with some of its other characters too, such as Tai. This is such a good aspect to the game because unlike the first one, you have more to think about. The first game had you going through it and just killing anything, your objective was clear. Gears of War 2 has you doing the same, but adds in more reasons for you to fight through the Locust army. To some this may seems as almost a letdown or unnecessary part to the game considering it’s so different to the first. Though it actually helps the game quite a bit by connecting us to the characters and trying to make us realise how awful our enemies really are. Overall, it makes the game more engaging and a generally better experience.

The graphics in Gears of War 2 are also incredible. You can just see how much detail Epic Games put in through all the subtle aspects like Tai’s facial tattoo or Marcus’s grotesque face scar. Also the color works so well considering much of the last game was manly shades of grey. Underground you will find nicely glowing mushrooms in fluorescent greens and blue, while the fire and blood have a vibrant and sharp red or orange to them. Gears of War 2’s graphics are definitely top notch and one of the best to date on the system.

Besides the absorbing storyline, the next best thing about Gears of War 2 is its online multiplayer game modes. The newest addition to the Gears of War franchise, online wise, is Horde mode. This was by far my favourite part of the game to play and was actually sad when I had finally completed it. In Horde mode you and up to four other teammates take on horde after horde –or wave after wave - of enemies. Each wave gets harder and harder because the enemies swarm in bigger quantities and their stats begin to increase. You may find that on the first wave the enemy only takes fifty bullets to kill, though on the tenth wave you can see he takes 200. What makes this mode so fun to play is you actually NEED to work as a team to get through it. If anyone decides to hang by themselves and take on some of the Locusts solo, you can bet that he or she is going to die sooner or later. This makes you need to strategize and figure out the best spot on the map to set up a ‘base’ in which you fight off all the monsters from. By far this was an incredible addition to the various online modes offered.

The other online modes also add huge variety to the game in ways you choose to play it. There are the standard warfare modes where your goal is to kill everyone and be the last one standing. Apart from that is modes like Annex in which your team needs to stay in a certain spot for as long as you can before your opponents come and kill you in order to claim it. They also have a capture the flag like game in which the flag is actually a human with a shotgun, so he’ll try to fight you off before you can grab him and drag him around. Overall the multiplayer adds much more diversity to the style of game play you’ll need to use in order to win these games. Just shooting blindly won’t always work for you.

Though the online multiplayer is a bit of a double edged sword. You will find a lot of the time it will be very hard to get into a game; the matchmaking is really bad. The problem is that it takes so long to find you a full team and then find another full team to play against. There were times I had to wait around five minutes from the time I hit “Find Team” to actually getting one. To make things worse, when I got fed up with waiting to get in a game and decided to cancel it, it actually took a good ten to fifteen seconds at times to cancel the searching. This is a real let down considering the online play is so damn fun, luckily it only happens about half the time.

The only other downfall Gears of War 2 has is a collection of technical bugs here and there. I can’t count how many times I saw either a team mate or an enemy appear as if they were floating a few inches off the ground. The other bug I saw happen the most was when someone was knocked back by something. For example, when you’re hit with a smoke grenade (a grenade used to cause a cloud of smoke around the area) your player will be sent flying to the ground due to the shock. Most of the time when my character was hit, I would either slide across the ground like there was no friction at all or my body would twitch consistently until long after I had died.

The achievements in Gears of War 2 are also very well laid out. Of course they have the certain ones for going through the story and beating it. They also have ones for going through a number of chapters in co-op play. The best ones though are the ones that require you to do certain things with your opponents. For example, in one, you must use a downed (crawling) enemy as a meat shield ten times. This forces you to focus on shooting your enemies legs so as to cripple them instead of kill them, then you’re free to grab them. There is also the one for having to kill a down enemy eleven different ways, which causes you to always keep in mind which weapons you should be holding onto for just such an occasion. Then there are the multiplayer ones that are spread out evenly through all the forms of it.

The replay value in this game is through the roof. Once going through all five acts of the story mode on any difficulty level you unlock the Insane level (hardest). That alone gives you four different levels to play the campaign on, as well as the option to play through any of this with someone in co-op. And of course there are all the different kinds of multiplayer options to choose from. Even if you just want to play online and work on your rank you’ll have reason to come back, especially since it shows gameplay level beside your gamertag when online (which is totally awesome).

Overall Gears of War 2 does a great job of continuing the series, especially since fixing the issues the first one had. The game starts off big and continues strongly throughout. It does a great job of keeping the player interested with not only the gorgeous graphics but the storylines weaving through it. The campaign mode also feels like a great length and even when it’s done you will always have the online to go play, if you can get past the annoying wait times it requires. This game does a good job of making sure you will enjoy your time with it and always want to come back for more.

Overall: 9.5/10

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Review: Wii Music - 4

Wii Music combines over sixty instruments and four different game modes for you to wave your wii-motes at until you’re bored. The four modes open to you are Lessons, Jam, Videos and Games. At first glance this seems like you’re getting your money’s worth, but in the end you’ll just be doing the same arm movements to the beat of every song.

The game play revolving around Wii Music is all about making you feel like you’re in a band. It does a good job of recreating the mass amount of instruments you’ll get to play such as a violin, drums, guitar or even bark like a dog; though, each will have you just waving your arms or pressing buttons in no set order. Unfortunately, that’s all there is to the game.

Once starting up the game you will be instructed on how to work some of the most basic instruments. As every other type of instrument to play works off the same mechanics, this is a good way to make sure you know how to play anything in the game.

The game has four game play modes that are all unlocked for you from the get go. The most basic of these is Jam which is like a ‘quick play’ mode. In Jam you get three choices, Instrument Improv, Quick Jam and Custom Jam. Instrument Improv has you picking one of the available instruments and just messing around on it. After a few seconds ‘Tutes’ (computer players) will join you until you have a full band. It does a good job of making you feel like, all together, you’re making music since the computer players will play their instruments at the same pace you are. This won’t last for long though as you don’t have any task or goal to this besides just play until you’re done. Quick Jam is exactly what it sounds like; you get set up with a random instrument and song and go right into it. Custom Jam is similar except you get to choose which instrument you want and which ones you want the Tutes to be playing along with you.

The next mode is Lessons which is just what it sounds like, tutorials. It contains the lesson you had to go through at the beginning and another for harder skills.

The third mode is Games, which I personally found to be the best of the four choices since it contained the most in terms of varying game play elements. In this you can choose Mii Maestro, Handbell Harmony or Pitch Perfect. Mii Maestro is the least enjoyable of the three. You get to be a conductor. This includes waving your wii-mote up and down as the virtual Mii band plays along at your speed. The difficulty here goes up by the addition of a percentage at the end. You get a higher (better) percent if you played at the correct speed and hit A or B to make the band play a special note at the right times. The downfall here is that there is nothing to tell you when to play these notes or the correct speed to go at. You have to guess whether you’re going at the right speed or not; and finding out when there are slow parts can be impossible if you have never heard the song before. Handbell Harmony was my personal favourite part of the game by itself. It’s the closest to a average rhythm based game where you can see the notes coming across and what the correct time to swing your “bell” is. Each song is made up of eight different bell sounds and you control two of them. When you see your color of bell coming, you either swing the numchuck or the wii-mote in time with the song to play it properly. To make it harder, the game throws in special notes that make you have to hold a button down while swinging to hit the note. However, this mode is generally too easy and since you only control two of the eight bells, there will be times where you’re either just the back beat or you might not even play that often because you might be an uncommon bell pitch. Pitch Perfect is small mini game that is taken a bit too far. You get eight levels of difficulty, fittingly titled Level 1 though 8. In this game you need to match tones and pitches by singing or playing Mii’s to one another. You will encounter things like “match the Mii that has the same pitch as the speaker” which will require you to listen to each Mii sing and then select one. This mode gets boring quickly and you won’t enjoy every minute of the eight levels if you feel the need to go through them all.

Videos is the final mode. This is more of a music video like option where you can watch any of the past performances you have saved. In modes like Custom Jam, you’re able to save the performance you just did in order to watch it later here. This is also where the online aspect of Wii Music comes in for it allows you to share your video with friends who own the game. The downfall to this is it’s just for watching. Most people would rather go and play that song than sit there and watch their Mii(s) play it by themselves(s).

The graphics in the game are fine but you shouldn’t expect them to be bad since we’re dealing with almost Lego like detail for the Miis. Apart from that everything is just a video played behind your own personal character so you don’t control too much of it.

The biggest thing of course in Wii Music would have to be its library of songs. The game contains over thirty songs that range from Happy Birthday To You all the way to Material Girl by Madonna. Nintendo has even thrown in some of its own songs like F-Zero’s Mute City Theme and The Legend of Zelda Theme. The Nintendo songs are personally my favourite to play and I had the most fun with them. The majority of these songs are fun to play, especially since you can customize the instruments playing them to themes like “Galaxy” which makes everything sound all techno like. However the overall selection of music probably isn’t what most people really want to hear/play. The bottom line is does anyone really want to play O Christmas Tree that badly?

The worst part of Wii Music is that it has no replay value. Any replay value you will find will just be because you most likely didn’t play it for very long at your last gaming session. The basic game play element is so linear that you won’t find much of a need to continue with it for too long. After you get the just of how every instruments mimics a good portion of the others, there’s nothing really new to experience.

Unlike most music rhythm games, there’s no “note chart” that is scrolling across the screen. You’re left to play the notes in whatever way you like. Though it does try to mix things up a bit, for example, hold the A button down when swinging to hit the drum so you make a different noise. These don’t really have much of an impact to the game as it plays the note it has to in order to complete the song properly. This means that if you’re not playing outside the original song chart, no matter what special notes you’re playing, they won’t sound different. This gives you the feeling that you don’t actually control too much.

Overall, Wii Music feels more like a full priced mini game collection that had a lot of work put it in; despite the fact that this work didn’t help make it a game worth the money you’ll put down. The repetitive game play will make you wish for more and the short extra modes will only be fun for an hour at tops. The game does offer four modes, but only two of them let you actually play parts of the game. And the game play you’ll be faced with is either vertical arm waves, or hitting the two buttons when you think it would be a good time. The game is just too linear.

It should be noted that Wii Music can be played with the Balance Board for use with the in game drums. This allows you to not only swing your arms to hit the notes, but tap your feet for uses such as a foot pedal. I however didn’t have access to a Balance Board and was unable to test out this factor.

Overall: 4/10

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chunk some bullets

So on Wednesday, along with Wii Music, I also received a review copy of Gears of War 2. Lucky for me, I don't have to review it. Many of you probably know that I didn't like the first Gears and quite after the first two acts (or whatever it had). The second is different for me, I'm actually feeling an urge to go over and play a few more minutes before I'm off to start my day. I had planned to make up a review for this site alone but then I was informed of another game I will be recieving this weekend: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows for the PS2. So yes I'll be lugging out my PS2 from the closet this week. This game has come as a complete surprise sine I originally hadn't asked for it, but it's a game and it's Spiderman so I'm glad to have it.

This weekend will consist of Wii Music wrap ups/review. Play more Gears 2, if you pick it up tonight - and I'm sure many of you will - we should get some multiplayer on, Horde mode is very fun! I'll definitly get my first impressions of it up soon and if I don't do a review due to time, I'll just make a huge point form post about it. And Spiderman. Woah lots of games!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wii Music first impressions

So it's pretty dumb.
  • I don't think there's enough to do, especially if you're planning to sit down for an hour or so of play.
  • The difficulty goes from very easy to some way hard parts; though, I would imagine it wouldn't take to long to master these.
  • Playing the instruments isn't really that fun, maybe it's cause I'm a "core gamer" though.
  • Playing the Zelda theme was fun.
  • Co-op is either just as lame or very hard.
  • Nothing really there to unlock except harder tasks, not enough songs to unlock per game play mode.
  • Does anyone really want to play 'O Christmas Tree' that badly?

Monday, November 3, 2008

100th post!

So Wii Music should be arriving at my door step in the next couple days. Look forward to my thoughts on that because I'm sure I'll have choice words for it.

Also now you can find this blog site by searching the name on Google.