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Flower, Sun, and Rain Review: It’s Happening Again

July 7, 2009

Flower, Sun, and Rain

It’s not every day that you see a port of a PlayStation 2 game to the Nintendo DS; it’s just not a natural jump to make for so many different reasons. It’s even more surprising to see a game released by the now infamous game designer Goichi Suda, better known as Suda 51, on Nintendo’s little portable, especially one that doesn’t center around the player killing people. And those are just a two of a handful of things that make Marvelous Entertainment USA’s latest release, “Flower, Sun, and Rain” an anomaly, but it’s also unlike anything else found on the handheld. [Read more]

Elite Forces: Unit 77 Review: New Strategic Action… Emphasis On The “New”

May 28, 2009

Elite Forces: Unit 77

It’s a great thing when a new developer hits the gaming scene, but new games by those developers can sometimes be hard to judge. You aren’t always afforded the ability to look at the developer’s depth of work to really understand where they were coming from, or where they were going with their new creations. For example, “Elite Forces: Unit 77″’s developer Abylight, only has a handful of games listed on their website - most of which were targeted at the European market. Luckly the games co-publishers have a good amount of games under their respective belts; including Gammick’s “Animal Boxing,” and “Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ” (a game where Red Riding Hood decides to roast hordes of the four-legged undead on the barbie) and Deep Sliver’s “Gothic” series, “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.,” “The Guild.” Gammick and Abylight are located in Barcelona, Spain, and have joined up with German co-publisher Deep Silver, and to create an all new property in “Elite Forces,” and while it is wonderful to see other countries getting involved in the industry besides the U.S, Canada, the U.K., and Japan, the question remains: how can a new, international company create game that appeals to a broad audience? By going back to a “timeless” precedent; modern squad-based war. [Read more]

Gardening Mama Review: Electronic Martha Stewart Meets Home & Gardens

May 4, 2009

Gardening MamaOkay, okay, okay, before we go anywhere with this “Gardening Mama” review, I want to quell some fires right off the bat. First, I’ve never watched Home and Garden (HGTV), but if it was anywhere remotely as cartoony, or cute as this game is, I’d be a fan. Especially if the humor translated to the real world; not to mention the sparkles and delightful gold medals that pretty up a room with prettiness and sparkles… wait, this doesn’t sound right. I’d better just start the review.

Majesco’s “Gardening Mama” comes courtesy of Japanese developer Cooking Mama Ltd, who has supposedly earned enough street cred from Mama’s original DS game, as well as the subsequent successors for the Wii, to build a company and branch out as a franchise. Much like the first games series, the aptly named, cooking-centric “Cooking Mama,” “Gardening Mama” includes several minigames involved with planting, germinating, and growing flowers and produce to progress through the game. The gameplay is completely controlled by the stylus as well as the DS’s microphone, and the player is asked to follow the onscreen instructions to complete tiny tasks, which are relayed by simplistic, colorful arrows within a surprisingly small time limit. [Read more]

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars Review: The Adventure That Doesn’t Die

April 14, 2009

Broken Sword: Shadow of the TemplarsBack in the middle of the 1990s, adventure games were still going strong, at least when they weren’t made by failing companies like Lucasarts (who forgot their SCUM engine and decided to stick with the Science Fiction money-maker, “Star Wars”) and Westwood (who had good reason with solid strategy games to get moving on). Nowadays, adventure games are a largely a niche genre and make up only a small percentage of the gaming market, left to the wayside for independent developers and occasionally the re-creation of older titles with new detail. “Broken Sword” is one of them.

Originally released in 1996, “Shadow of the Templars” followed American tourist George Stobbard, as well as photojournalist Nico Collard, as he goes from nearly becoming an ashen pretty-boy in a pub in Paris at the hands of a psychotic clown into a conspiracy about the Knights Templar. With memorable animation, and the sheer degree of things these characters could do in the game with the hardware limitations at the time proved that the game would not soon be forgotten. The level of depth of everything in “Shadow of the Templars” from the plot, to developing characterization between the two protagonists and their relationship to one another was astounding. The artistry and animation mimicked animated cartoons, complete with an orchestral ensemble and voice acting to create an adventure that easily drew the player in without too much explanation - not that the player every really gets one since the game is a mystery that took place all over the world. “Shadow of the Templars” was a success on the PC, and was ported once before to a hand-held market on the GBA. It didn’t receive the same numbers, but the game has been re-released again on both the Wii and the DS. [Read more]

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix Review: The Final Frontier

April 9, 2009

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix“Puzzle Quest” was one of those games that I never thought I would find myself playing. Simply put, it’s the nerdiest game ever released that didn’t have the word “dungeon” or “dragon” in the title, and I just never expected it to be one of my favorite games of 2007. There was just something extremely enjoyable about the competition of the casual gameplay, mixed with the RPG elements that really drew me in. Sure, the story was bad, but they needed to give you some reason to go to battle to reassemble a dead minotaur. However you slice it, it’s one of the best genre bending games to come along in a very long time, so when “Puzzle Quest: Galactrix” was announced my ears immediately perked up, and I’ve been curiously following the development of the game, hoping that it would live up to its predecessor, and not put this amazing franchise into a sophomore slump by sending the game into space.

Right out of the gate “Galactrix” mixes up the “Puzzle Quest” formula by completely changing … well … everything. Aside from keeping the basic idea of using a “casual” game as a combat system, there’s not a whole lot of similarities between the two games. Sure, both games have RPG elements, and you have to work with other characters, and you have missions, but comparing “Galactrix” to the original “Puzzle Quest” is almost like putting “Mass Effect” up against “Oblivion”; they’re both a similar genre, but they’re galaxies apart. This doesn’t necessarily mean that “Galactrix” is a bad game by any means, but it does mean that fans of the original might get a little more than they bargained for in this iteration of the franchise; it’s most definitely not a sequel. [Read more]

Boing! Docomodake DS Review: Fun With Shrooms

March 19, 2009

Boing! Docomodake

It’s not often that mushrooms get to star in their own game. The fungi tend to play second fiddle to other characters, most often mustachioed plumbers. Ignition’s latest DS title, “Boing Docomodake DS” actually has very little to do with saving a princess, but that’s about all that has in common with Mario. It’s actually a bit more in line with the recently released “Mushroom Men,” since you play as a mushroom on a quest to save its family. However, this unique puzzle-platformer takes a refreshing approach to navigating levels and stylus based gameplay, that set it apart from, not only Mario’s games, but most games on the market as well. What more would you expect for a Japanese telecom mascot?

That’s right, the mushroom star of “Boing Docomodake DS” is Ntt DoCoMo Inc.’s (Japan’s predominant mobile phone operator) mascot, and no matter how you look at it, it’s an unlikely character for its own game, especially one to get localized for U.S. release. It doesn’t matter; you don’t have to care about corporate synergy to appreciate the fun that is to be had on creative DS title. After all, similar synergy has brought us such great horrible games like “Cool Spot,” “Chester Cheetah’s Wild Quest,” and “Chase the Chuck Wagon.” While most of those games may have left a lot to be desired in terms of gameplay and overall enjoyment, “Boing Docomodake” manages to actually be a fun game. So, just sit back, relax, and let the shooms do the work. [Read more]

Retro Game Challenge Review: Turning Back The Clock On Awesome

February 20, 2009

Retro Game Challenge

When “Captain N” was on the air, back in the late 1980s, I used to be a big fan watching it as religiously as an 7-year-old could. However, there was always something I thought was missing from the show – why didn’t Kevin and the gang have their own video game? Granted 19 years later, I now fully understand what kind of licensing hell that would have been, but, ironically, 19 years later, I also feel that something has finally come along to fill that void in my life, which was coincidentally based on its own TV show, “Retro Game Challenge.”

The entire plot of “Retro Game Challenge” is charmingly ludicrous: since you’ve become so good at modern day games, you’re sent back in time by an insane “Game Master” who forces you to complete challenges in old-school games in order for you to return to the future. (If that doesn’t interested “Captain N” fans, I don’t know what would.) Top that off with the fact that the child version of Game Master is your unwitting playmate – in fact, the old-school games you have to play, and the magazines you have to read for tips are actually all his. While the basis for “Retro Game Challenge” is a 50 on a 1-10 bizarreness scale, the story isn’t really why you need to play this game; it’s the retro games that you’re forced to play to complete challenges that makes it a true gem. They’re utter 1980s bliss packaged for your Nintendo DS. [Read more]

Big Bang Mini Review: Boom Goes The Dynamite

February 11, 2009

Big Bang MiniWho would have thought that fireworks, of all things, would provide so much inspiration for video games? Aside from their obvious celebratory implementation in sports games, the firework has recently become a key gameplay element in more than one game, the latest of which is SouthPeak’s DS title, “Big Bang Mini.” This time around, the firework’s role has been expertly crafted for Nintendo’s touchy portable, providing the most fun I’ve had playing with fireworks since that time when I was a kid, and I almost had to go to the hospital.

At its heart, “Big Bang Mini” is a shooter, and, in a genre that’s known for its difficulty, “Big Bang” can hang with the big boys. Each level in the game has ten stages, a boss, and an overall theme based on the location of the level. The point of each stage is to collect enough stars by shooting your enemies down to fill up your meter, once the meter is full the stage is over, and you get to take a shot at a bonus level. While that may sound cut and dry, there is one added element to contend with; a small orb that you have to, at all times, keep out of harms way, or else you game comes to an immediate end. Additionally, moving the orb around is vital, as it is the only way to collect the falling stars you need in order to advance. Of course, your shots aren’t coming out of the orb – that would be too easy - they can originate from anywhere on the touch screen, just as long as you can keep the orb safe, which is a daunting task, especially in the later levels. [Read more]

Moon Review: Intergalactic, Planetary

January 26, 2009

MoonThe first time I saw “Moon,” I had a very private demo of the opening of the game from Mastiff’s “Big Dog” in the back hallway, upstairs at the Nintendo World Store. While the demo didn’t last that long, since there was an entire other even that was about to happen (it involved professional eaters), I got a small taste of what was to come for the new FPS from Renegade Kid – the small team that graced the world with the twisted “Dementium: The Ward” a few years ago. Needless to say, when I finally got my hands on the final version of “Moon,” I was impressed by the intergalactic game that was crammed into the tiny DS cartridge; one of the best FPS games for Nintendo’s handheld.

“Moon”’s story is a pretty standard piece of video game fiction – the military is brought in to explore some extraterrestrial unpleasantness in space, something goes wrong, and you have to shoot it. Even though it isn’t that groundbreaking, it’s still compelling enough keep you playing through the game, and to want to continue on to find out just what is happening on the “Moon” (that last part is best read in a deep and foreboding voice). While the overall story is just okay, but there are some really entertaining highlights found throughout the game on the informational panels found throughout the base on the Moon. My personal favorite was about how multiple religions were created to cause conflict amongst the earthlings… well played Renegade Kid, well played. [Read more]

Chrono Trigger Review: Turning Back The Clock

December 19, 2008

Chrono TriggerRereleasing a 13-year-old game, with only minimal updates had to be a risky proposition for Square Enix. The original Super Nintendo version of “Chrono Trigger” is a title that is held near and dear to many gamer’s hearts, and, updating it, much like they have begun to do with the “Final Fantasy” series, could have really offended some diehard fanboys. However, releasing a game with outdated 16-bit sprites on the DS might turn off even more of the gamer population, leaving them looking for a different portable RPG, with better graphics or even touch screen gameplay. Well, for once, the fanboys win, and thankfully Square Enix adhered to the old adage – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Chrono Trigger” was released (mostly) as it was back in 1995, it does, however, include the movies that were added for the PS1 rerelease, as well as some additional dungeons and a multiplayer mode. Is that enough to carry a game whose technology can’t compete with what’s currently available on the market?

The answer, in one word, is, yes. [Read more]

Metal Slug 7 Review: Heavy Metal 4-Ever

December 2, 2008

There are very few franchises that have survived as long as the “Metal Slug” series has, without fundamental changes to their gameplay. For example, if you put “Metal Slug 7” up against the original Neo Geo “Metal Slug,” your average gamer would most likely be able to play both of them, without being able to tell the difference. However, “Metal Slug 7” is different, for a host of different reasons… but is it better?

And the definitive answer is … Kinda?

“Metal Slug 7” takes the long-running franchises standards and carries them through into the new game. SNK and Ignition don’t try to add in anything to the story, gameplay, graphics, etc. It’s all pretty much the same game that everyone should know and love – shoot your way through the levels, toss a few grenades, stab some bad guys, and save the hostages. After all, it it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it. For that I thank SNK for a worthy addition to the “Metal Slug” series, and, possibly the best portable version of the game (I can’t say for sure because I haven’t played “Meal Slug Advance” or either of the Neo Geo Pocket titles). The series has become reliable – in a very good way – especially since its’ closest relative, “Contra,” went so far askew, for so long. [Read more]

Legend of Kage 2 Review: Back From The Dead

November 11, 2008

“The Legend of Kage” - the original is remembered as a bad port of a great arcade game, which was pretty much the norm back in ’85. Who would have thought that game was going to ever see a sequel, much less a sequel 23 years later. Even by today’s lenient standards, releasing a sequel 23 years after the original is quite far from the norm, in fact, “Legend of Kage 2” might stand alone at the top of that category. Many things about the games industry have changed over the last two decades, but one thing has always remained true; there’s always room for another ninja game - especially a good one.

“The Legend of Kage 2″ starts off by offering two playable characters, Kage and Chihiro, each with their own story, which unfolds as they try to rescue the Princess Kirihime. There hasn’t been a story in a ninja game that has really pulled me in since the original “Ninja Gaiden,” and “Kage 2” is no different. While there are a few characters that get really fleshed out as the story unfolds, it’s your basic ninja-themed plot; save the princess, and/or save the village. I’m fine with that. I don’t play ninja games to become engrossed with the story – I play to be a ninja, which is something that “Kage” definitely lets me be. [Read more]

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Review: A Whole New World

November 3, 2008

I’ll admit it. I was wrong. A few weeks ago when I previewed “Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia” I was concerned that Konami was stepping too far away from many of the elements that make a “Castlevania” game a “Castlevania” game. I cited some of the many changes, like the weapons system, female character, lack of a Belmont, and the fact that the game took place outside of Dracula’s castle. However, after spending many, many hours with the DS game, I will be the first one to admit that I was wrong. “Ecclesia” definitely steps away from many of the conventions that have made “Castlevania” titles so memorable over the years, but the changes and tweaks to the formula really pay off in the end, and Shanoa’s journey is worthy of comparison to anyone with the last name Belmont.

Pretty much everything about “Order of Ecclesia” is different from all of the “Castlevania” games that came before it. The weapons system, the magic items, the characters, the setting, even the goal of half the game (hint: it isn’t to take down Dracula) are vastly different than everything from “Simon’s Quest” to “Dawn of Sorrow.” [Read more]

Prey The Stars Review: Get In My Belly!

October 27, 2008

What happens when you mix hungry monsters with a need to save the world? You somehow get Koei’s newest DS game, “Prey the Stars.” It’s one of the oddest, and most unique titles to grace the portable platform in a while. As an added bonus, it can also be a lot of fun, and a really satisfying experience, especially for anyone looking for a new multiplayer game to play with their friends.

“Prey the Stars” starts off with a rather wacky, slightly humorous, and, overall, pretty random story line where you, the aforementioned hungry monster, need to eat everything in sight to save the world. You play as one of four creatures looking to devour everything in their path, and not let anything get in their way as they do so. The single player campaign is full of goals and missions to complete as you make your way through the game, moving on to bigger and better meals along the way. As you advance you collect spirits which take you to new areas, and unlock power-up skins, and basically help you save the world.

The power-up skins that are unlocked as you complete each area not only allow for you to customize your character, but also help increase your monster’s ability in three different areas, all of which are vital to the gameplay. If you need a little help with biting power, spirit sucking, or element licking, the skins are the only way to go. Each monster has different strengths, and correctly using the unlockable skins can either compensate for your character’s deficiencies, or really play up your character’s strengths. [Read more]

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